Mind Is An Extension Of Natural Structure


Mind Is An Extension Of Natural Structure For Piaget

The Developmental Stages Of Children And The Accommodation/Assimilation Process That Allows For the Intelligent Navigation Of Our Environment

From his experiments and observations with children Piaget accumulated evidence that tends to support his belief in the mediating and developmental effects of the interaction of a child with his/her environment. Piaget identified three developmental stages that a child must pass through before a child can attain a mature state of psychological development. The first stage, as has already been pointed out, is the sensorimotor stage. In this stage the infant encounters a resistant environment and, in the process, is made aware of objects, space, time, and causality. At this stage the infant acquires what Piaget calls a “practical intelligence.”

In the preoperational or representation stage of development the child evolves toward the possession of concrete operations. At this stage of development, up to and including the elementary years, the child learns the implicit nature of concrete operations, that is, the child no longer has to “go through the movements” in order to coordinate its own activities in a recognizable and ordered world. The term concrete signifies that the matters of fact materials that a child uses to measure his/her world are real “things” e.g., people, physical objects etc. It is only after the child has reached the stage of formal operations, sometime between the ages of twelve and fifteen, that the child is able to conceptualize what is not perceived (e.g., principles of conservation, reversibility, transitivity, etc.) in his/her capacity to invoke reasoned judgments and deductive thought.

Piaget believes that he can specify the logical operations which occur at each of the three developmental stages i.e. sensorimotor, representational, formal operative. To my knowledge the evidence for the validation of this claim is still inconclusive, however, it seems to me that Piaget’s theory is so well articulated that it is only a matter of time before it will be conclusively rejected or confirmed.

Before I move on to Michel Foucault, the last structuralist I want to talk about in this paper, I believe a few words are in order concerning where the “self” is located in Piaget’s constructivist structuralism. In so far as Piaget locates intelligence in structure and understands structure to arise from a constructive process of continual assimilation and accommodation of an organism in its environment, you could say that Piaget was taking a transcendental Kantian perspective on self. But, in so far as Piaget locates structure in nature as much as he locates it in the mind, and in fact understands mind to be an extension of natural structure, he dissociates himself from Kant as he takes a more holistic position on self. This position separates Piaget from the structuralists I have dealt with previously in this paper. This expanded holism, however, does not come without a price.

The person who we identify with as being “the person who we are” becomes a person only in so far as he/she accommodates and assimilates his/her environment. Accommodation is herein understood to be a change in the assimilated product of environmental interaction i.e., acting on the past to create a present. In the same way assimilation is herein understood to be an action actively reproduced in such a way as to incorporate new (accommodated) objects into one’s own assimilated experience i.e., actualizing the potential to intelligently navigate a course through an uncertain future.

Piaget’s Self Is Located In The Interdependence (RM) Of The Activity Of Content/Form

The Continual State Of Structuring Structures

The locus of this “constructionist self “ is called by Piaget the center of functional activity. The center of functional activity is not, according to Piaget, located in the traditional “me space” that we so often take for granted; nor is it located in the “lived space” that is described in the works of various phenomenologists and existentialists; nor is it located in the positivists physico-chemical brain activity, Nietzsche’s will to power, Marx’s economic determinate or Durkheim’s normative order. Rather, Piaget locates the “constructionist self,” in general terms, “somewhere midway between the nervous system and conscious behavior (because) ‘psychology is first of all a biology.’” [Piaget, 1970, p. 138] In more specific terms, Piaget locates the “constructionist self” in the structure of content/ form interdependence. Piaget explains:

“But what manner of existence is left, then, for the mind, if it is neither social, nor mental in the subjective sense, nor organic?
…If it is, as Levi-Strauss says, necessary to “reintegrate content with form,” it is no less essential to recall that neither forms nor contents exist per se: in nature as in mathematics every form is content for “higher” forms and every content form of what it “contains.”’ [Piaget, 1970, p. 112]

We see in this “double movement” of form and content the real location of Piaget’s self. In this situation it becomes tempting to identify Piaget’s self as the structure of structures but this conclusion is prohibited, as Piaget points out, by Godel’s proof that the ideal of a structure of all structures is unrealizable. Therefore, Piaget retreats into the only description of self that is left, given the limiting conditions set down in his constructionist philosophy:

“…(T)he subject’s activity calls for a continual “de-centering” without which he cannot become free from his spontaneous intellectual egocentricity. This “de-centering” makes the subject enter upon, not so much an already available and therefore external universality, as an uninterrupted process of coordinating and setting in reciprocal relations. It is the latter process which is the true “generator” of structures as constantly under construction and reconstruction. The subject exists because, to put it very briefly, the being of structures consists in their coming to be, that is, their being “under construction.” [Ibid. p. 140]

Piaget’s structuralism must be considered as a positive force in the structural movement but, my “being,” when considered merely as a being in a continual state of “structuring structures,” seems to me at least, a somewhat sterile notion, especially a moments like bedtime when I tuck my children in for the night. As the lyrics of that gorgeous song by Peggy Lee suggests, “Is that all there is? Is that all there is my friend? Then lets…” If that is all there is, then perhaps we should hope Anthony Giddens was right when he declared structuralism to be a dead movement!

In addition to having an ahistorical and apolitical bent, structuralism also is criticized for its lack of aesthetic and moral values. Structuralism underestimates the significance of dialectics and social determinism. At times, structuralism brutally depersonalizes the individual and, in some cases, lacks the content that can be submitted to empirical confirmation. Levi-Strauss’s structural interpretation of myth comes to mind as an obvious example of an untestable theory. Having recognized structuralism’s flaws, however, there still must be something there to induce all this intellectual activity. I happen to believe there is. I would not have chosen structuralism as a paper topic for this class if I had thought otherwise. In the third part of this paper, I will describe what I believe this something is as I hope to address the above criticisms. But, before I get to the third part of the paper I want to briefly consider the structuralist (some might say post-structuralist) thought of Michel Foucault. Ironically (once agai
n), it is in the thought of a man who found little or no value in self that we might find the bridge to an unlimited resource of value and significance.


4 Responses to “Mind Is An Extension Of Natural Structure”

  1. kiwidutch Says:

    Much food for thought on a topic I have never given too much thought to before… well written Bwinwnbwi.

  2. bwinwnbwi Says:

    Thanks for the nice comment kiwidutch. Actually, after even more thought on this subject, I believe that, indeed, the self is located in the interdependence (RM) of the activity of Content/Form. Here’s how I described in just a few days ago in my other blog:

    Reality grows in complexity until it becomes alive, or, in other words, ~~b reality liberates ~bb, i.e., life. Increasing complexity continues to move life forward until, once again, at a sufficient level of complexity, life liberates reason, which, in turn, liberates “civilization.” Bottom line here is that as just as Sartre says, “the human project, suspended in nothingness, projects the self ceaselessly outside of itself,” i.e., into a higher dimension of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In this new dimension, ~bb represents Sartre’s for-itself consciousness, which, in turn, is discovered embedded in b~b, or the aesthetic continuum/nature. In the aesthetic continuum/nature one discovers emotions, beauty and truth—the medium where the confirmation of scientific hypotheses occur, i.e., physical events.

  3. noreenheath333 Says:

    Are you a student writing a doctoral thesis or a professor, doing groundwork for a course?
    It has been many years since I was in college and haven’t read discourse this intellectually composed in quite awhile. I will have to read this series again with the mental preparation that this is serious thought and argument. Well researched and articulated and not just the light hearted, mental bubble gum I have come to expect from blogging.

  4. bwinwnbwi Says:

    Thanks. I appreciate that noreen..,but no, I’m none of the above. I’m a retired janitor after working 35 years at a university. For fun I picked up a couple degrees while working. The above came from a rejected thesis topic that I submitted as a topic for my Masters. I finally received my MA but my thesis topic was different.

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