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Previous: 22.4 Order of production vs order of growth Up: 22. Discrete Degrees in the Mind Next: 22.6 Stages of emotional development

22.5 Substructures

Much work in developmental psychology provides good evidence for sub-degrees that are the external mind, the scientific rational, and the higher rational and also for intermediate levels within each of those. Our scientific theism predicts that there will be three sub-sub-degrees in each case, and that eventually we will see evidence for three sub-sub-sub-degrees of each of the sub-sub-degrees. Let us begin with the first claim.

The early observations of Inhelder and Piaget (1958) led to a theory in which children go through four stages of cognitive growth: the sensorimotor stage (0-2 years) and the pre-operational stage (approx. 2-6 years), followed by the concrete-operations stage (approx. 6-12 years) and the formal-operations stage (12-18 years and beyond). Comparison with the three sub-degrees defined above indicates that the sensorimotor and pre-operational stages are part of the ‘external mind’, and that the concrete and formal operations stages occur successively within the ‘scientific mind’. However, there are only two stages within each sub-degree, not three as predicted. Furthermore, Piaget’s stages were taken as rather sudden system-wide transitions within the mind over all cognitive domains, but Goswami (2001) and others have shown that there is often evidence for there being precursors to higher-degree cognitive functioning even at much earlier ages than Piaget would allow. Brainerd (1978) asks whether there is any independent evidence for a causal basis of Piaget’s stages, because, if not, the stage labels would be merely descriptions of successive kinds of behaviors and not themselves explanatory.

The missing third substage within the scientific-mind degree was found by those developmental theorists examining post-formal stages: stages beyond Piaget’s formal-operations degree. Commons (2008a) makes a hierarchical classification of task complexity following the proposals of Fischer (1980) and indicates evidence for a ‘systematic’ stage after the formal degree of complexity. Commons also has a later ‘paradigmatic degree’, but that does not map easily into the beginning of the ‘higher rational’ proposed above.

The case of the missing substage within the external mind is more complicated. In fact, Commons (2008a) has six degrees in the external mind whereas Piaget has only two. Commons groups his degrees in pairs in order to compare with Piaget’s stages. In that case, the Commons theory does postulate the required number: three sub-degrees in the external mind. He calls these the ‘sensory or motor’ sub-degree, followed by a ‘nominal’ and a ‘sentential’ sub-degree, all of which are pre-operational in Piaget’s sense. We will talk of degrees or levels rather than stages when they refer to classifications of interior mental content or refer to the tasks performed by that content. We use ‘stages’ to refer to historical eras or periods in the development of individual persons.

More work is needed here to confirm or refute my claim that these sub-degrees have the relationships to each other predicted by our theism. In our theory, the three sub-degrees should be related (in developmental order) as images of effects, thoughts, and intentions (more generally, as images of action, wisdom and love). The fact that Commons (2008a) has two (rather than three) sub-sub-degrees suggests to me that a third such sub-sub-degree should one day be found. Further empirical investigations are required to confirm or deny this hypothesis and also to fill in many missing details.


Previous: 22.4 Order of production vs order of growth Up: 22. Discrete Degrees in the Mind Next: 22.6 Stages of emotional development

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