Myth Busting & Metric Making: Refashioning the Discourse about Development in the Integral Community
By Zachary Stein
Last month  I presented a couple papers at the first Biannual Integral Theory Conference. They were well received. However, as much as I flapped my lips to whoever would listen, I felt that I returned to the Northeast with a great deal left unsaid. Human development is one of the key foci in the discourse we are building. But over the years I've come to see a real need for the refashioning of this focal point. Roughly speaking, we are not as developed as we should be in our thinking about development.
While I did what I could to remedy this by flapping my lips out in California, I've decided to start writing things down. With the help of the editors at Integral Review and Integral Leadership Review I'm working on a set of articles that will allow me to get some things off my chest. What I offer here is a kind of preamble to that project, which will unfold over the next 9 months or so.
[So] what do I mean when I say we are not as developed as we should be in our thinking about development?
If we look at college-educated adults, the first level is abstract mappings on our metric (roughly Orange in Wilber's colors). At this level, developmental levels are treated like simple stereotypes. Whole persons are classed as being at a level, which is typically understood in terms of a single developmental model (e.g. Spiral Dynamics). Development is understood as a kind of simple "growth to goodness", with ignorance at the bottom, science in the middle, and spirituality at the top. Particular levels gain more attention than others and function as more or less entrenched stereotypes, expressing preferences that are not necessarily developmental (e.g. "you are so green").
The next level is abstract systems (roughly Green in Wilber's colors). At this level, reasoning about levels involves giving some primacy to the construct of altitude, which frames and organizes a variety of developmental models. Persons are understood in terms of their relative development in various lines, which are identified with different developmental models and theorists. The concept of a center of gravityIntegral Theory becomes explicit; the relation between states and levels complicates the simple notion that spirituality is "at the top." Generally, there are elaborate ideas about how developmental levels are implicated in all kinds of issues (politics, religion, ecology, etc.) supplements this differentiated view and justifies whole person assessments. The relation between levels and other aspects of
Then there is reasoning at single principles (roughly Teal in Wilber's colors). At this level, reasoning about levels involves explicit ideas about the limits and affordances of different developmental methods and models, which are framed in terms of arguments about the conditions enabling their valid use (i.e. scoring systems, interview procedures, etc.). The idea of "growth to goodness" is problematized both by concerns over issues of horizontal health and intra-personal variability, and by concerns about the accuracy of different assessment methods. These complexities of method and application temper and complicate speculation on how developmental levels are implicated in a broad range of global problems.
The top of what we can accurately measure is principled mappings (roughly Turquoise in Wilber's colors). At this level, reasoning about levels involves the adoption of a post-metaphysical stance toward the task of evaluating people. The provisional, bounded, and multi-perspectival nature of all models and methods is admitted, and a set of meta-theoretical principles guides a recursive process of continually refining developmental models and methods in terms of both theory and practice. A broad and explicit philosophical discourse comes to supplement evaluative discussions concerning the notion of "growth to goodness," as the human potentials that characterize the highest levels and the future of civilization are seen as collective constructions for which we are responsible.
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Zachary Stein is currently a student of philosophy and cognitive development pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. He is also the Senior Analyst for the Developmental Testing Service where he has worked for years employing cognitive developmental models and metrics in a variety real world contexts.