A first lesson in meta-rationality | Meaningness

Always worth sharing this classic – can’t believe it wasn’t on here – must have been on model.report 🙂

A first lesson in meta-rationality, or stage 5 cognition, using Bongard problems as a laboratory.

Source: A first lesson in meta-rationality | Meaningness

My comment and David’s response:

Read as philosophy, this is mind blowing stuff – thank you

Thanks for curating and presenting this. I have been exploring, as a practitioner with a slight romantic yen for academia, ‘systems thinking’ for some time. In that universe, like Terry Pritchett tree frog, the moment you think you have got it sussed, you see a new ring of leaf-edges on the horizon. This has now opened up huge horizons for me, and as a meta model for meta cognition, explaining for example why consultants shouldn’t codify method (and, perhaps, why method /can’t/ be codified). As a teaching tool I think it could be one of the best.

It was fun and slightly punctured my bubble to read some of the comments, with the technical discussions over the rule base for the game and the possibilities of human-created non-human ‘intelligence’. I think, though worthy and meaningful, they miss the point. The point, for me, is that the rules are contestable. This post is like the inflection point between the early Wittgenstein (‘the world is everything that is the case’ and the bit about the ladder we climb and pull up after ourselves, and ‘whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must pass over in silence – the logical absolutist sucked into dualism by the mystical) and latter Wittgenstein – word games and language acts (basically a meaningful reassertion of ‘it’s tortoises all the way down). Cool.

Philosophy & management consulting

Thank you, glad you liked it! I expect to write much more about meta-systematic cognition in coming months. If you haven’t already seen it, this post is an abstract overview, and most of the other recent posts in the metablog are also relevant.

I didn’t mention in this post that I am drawing heavily on Robert Kegan’s adult developmental theory, which makes meta-systematicity “stage 5” of cognitive development.

Kegan was an academic experimental psychologist at Harvard, but for the past 20 years seems to have put most of his energy into management consulting for executive development. I know little about that work (although I intend to learn more soon). You might want to look into it.

why consultants shouldn’t codify method (and, perhaps, why method /can’t/ be codified)

Right. This is a key to “stage 5” in Kegan’s scheme. Everything in reality is both nebulous (vague, ambiguous, constantly-changing) and patterned. Systems and methods rely on patterns, and tend to break down in the face of nebulosity. Skill in working with nebulosity is meta-systematic “fluidity.”

the inflection point between the early and later Wittgenstein

Right, exactly. Wittgenstein was one of the first people to begin to understand these issues (in Philosophical Investigations). Heidegger did so also, a bit earlier, and perhaps in greater depth, although considerably less clearly.