Sunday, September 14, 2014

flexible perspectivity

I mentioned a notion of “flexible perspectivity” in my discussion of Habermas’ essay on Putnam’s “pragmatist virtue ethics,” but I didn’t introduce the notion carefully. I discussed it briefly, but that was unfair to the value I find in the notion.

Worse yet, I introduced the notion as if it was transparent, out of the head of Zeus, then mentioned more-accessible aspects later, which would better have been mentioned first (discussed in detail first). After some more preliminaries here, I'll quote all I mentioned earlier, in better order (giving it salience); and include some discussion.

I hadn’t begun my discussion of Habermas’s essay intending to introduce a notion of flexible perspectivity, though I’ve been privately growing into the notion for years. During the beginning of my earlier discussion, the notion popped in felicitously (for my thinking at the moment), so I exploited that (self-servingly), in the manner of notes shared, not fairly explicated.

It was a matter of creative process, expressing a difference between sharing and presenting that is with me regularly, as I enjoy sharing inspiration, while guiltily knowing well that it’s “unfair” to just do it, as if what I’m doing is supposed to be clear, and if “you” don’t “get it,” that’s that. But no; I’m just sharing what’s interesting, doing my best to articulate it, fair to my thinking, but not taking time to do reconstructive presentation.

What I earlier wrote about flexible perspectivity was almost entirely at the beginning of my discussion, rather than far into it. The most accessible feature was my mention of “cognitive capabilities that are flexibly pluralist in perspectivity” [part 1]. Capabilities, rather than singular capability, anticipates an analysis of a complex that would find, for each aspect resulting from analysis, a correlate capability that would (may) form in one’s development (individuation of manifold cognitive maturity), such as capability for fair representation, for good contextualization, for effective reframing, for sensitive recontextualization, and for creative metaconceptual moving among perspectives comfortably, which I called “a capability for fruitfully managing flexible perspectivity” itself [part 1].

My unstated presumption was others’ interest in cognitive development in the spirit of Piaget, where maturity is associated with postconventional thinking (though I wouldn’t press a Piagetian view of cognition, just as contemporary theorists of intelligence would not). But maturity of thinking in a formal sense is not maturity in a holistic sense. For example, teen-aged college students may be impressively adept with “fluid” intelligence, shown by academic prowess (e.g., coding talent), but emotionally clueless.

This is why some leading theorists of intelligence think in terms of multiple intelligences. A formal sense of postconventionality may apply across multiple modes of perception and understanding, showing well in more than one mode, not yet so well in others.

The notion of postconventionality is neutral to modality of perception / understanding / appreciation. Postconventionality as such is relative to a standard of conventionality, normally understood as what’s commonly accessible to late childhood, i.e., what’s “age appropriate” to late childhood. But it’s hardly the case that most teens gain a postconventional grasp of any mode of understanding before early adulthood, if then. Many persons sort of top out in adolescence, for some modes of understanding (not due to aptitude, but due to motivation and happenstance).

So, it’s very nebulous what “postconventional” should mean. Yet, in psychology of ethical development, it’s rather clear: One’s thinking is no longer dependent on standard normativity; rather, showing an independence of deliberation, thoughtfulness, appreciation, etc. that is highly individualized, if not exemplary of a self-directed life that knows how to balance differences between situation and ongoing self interests.

But I doubt that any "moral" developmentalist reading this would agree that postconventionality is that. Their standard sense is universalist: One orients one’s ethical deliberation relative to what can be most generally found to be acceptable, which is a meta-normative Normativity, accessible ideally and enacted ideal-typically, i.e., by doing one’s best to apply an ideal notion to given, time-limited situations. The guiding idea here is some highest-conceivable generalization or “universality.” Yet:
The flexible perspectivity of mature autonomy doesn’t aspire to embody universality; it aspires to be exemplarily open and appreciatively grounded in actuality, where ongoing development is everywhere. [part 4]
So, my rendering would likely be found wanting, because it’s not readily generalizable: We can’t formulate the procedural character in a way that can be impartially applied to evaluation of given situations. I may seem to be associating to classical virtue ethics, which is a matter of privileged cultivation. But actually, I’m not associating to that.

Firstly, this is not primarily about ethics. Flexible perspectivity pertains to cognitive inquiry and interpersonal interaction generally, i.e., across modes of intelligence or understanding. It’s important to science, art, and to highly adaptive reason generally. Flexible perspectivity is about a pragmatics of reasoning, not especially to ethical reason.

I earlier wrote that “flexible perspectivity has a tendency to situate one’s activity appropriately, which is a hallmark of reason itself.” A hallmark of highly capable reason is to fit well—a fit-ability that works well—with variability of situations during the day, “the average condition of flexible shifting of modalities,” which some persons find confusing, wanting to simplify to their “comfort zone.” A hallmark of highly flexible perspectivity is easy perception of another’s comfort zone, such that interaction easily maintains rapport, though the other may have no idea why interaction stays “natural.”

Secondly, only relative to conventionality is flexible perspectivity postconventional. Flexible perspectivity itself is not based in its relativity to conventionality! It’s based in itself—which must seem obscure to say without explication. Analogously, insight into a new way of thinking would seem, relative to the old way, to be post-old-way, when actually its based in the capability for insight that disclosed the new way. Discovery expresses what seems to be a post-ness that becomes evident as the discovery, just as an original composition discloses an originality that isn’t explicable in terms of what preceded it (or, at least, not directly).

However, I mostly rendered the notion (or introduced it) in an ethical-theoretical discussion as broadly postconventional. And I didn’t “unpack” what I wrote (though I assured myself at the time that this was the way I saw—and see—the matter):
Gaining good capability for flexible perspectivity is indeed very postconventional because it’s a capability for multi-conventionality, so to speak, relative to a given situation. In conventionality, a given situation is “supposed” to have one best constraint. In flexible perspectivity a given situation can be about cohering multiple constraints, which may be complementary, contrastive, or conflictual. Being flexibly re-adaptive vis-à-vis ongoing change is integral to mature autonomy. Conventionality needs the situation to remain constant and controllable. Flexible perspectivity may desire to look first for new kinds of interaction; and seeks to improvise appropriately with respect to desirable change. [part 1]
I mentioned that “a flexibility of framing stays near to [our] normativity” [part 1], because Habermas’ discussion was about normativity.

Obviously, unpacking is called for. But I began my discussion as if that unpacking had been done (or wasn’t needed):
Good pragmatism is forever flexible in balancing ideality (e.g., ideal-typical prospecting) and reality (e.g., prudent appreciation of time-limited circumstance).

Ethically, [a] “right way” [of navigating between dogmatism and skepticism] could be aptly called an optimism about what seems appropriate (idealism framing prudence); or an enabling appropriativity that’s not demanding (not dogmatic), but hopeful; not discounting (not skeptical), but expectant. In ever-changing reality, that “search” [by Putnam for balance]—be it epistemic or ethical—is frequently renewed (flexible perspectivity, I’ll call it) and always, in principle, continuing, because it’s a balancing act vis-à-vis always-developing lives. Appreciation of living others calls for sustained flexibility in the balance. [Intro. page]
So, the unpacking, the warranting isn’t done. But you have my confession of recognition about what’s not done.

And you see how it happens that thinking may evince from its background horizon toward its elements relative to a contextual horizon, out of a background horizon of sense that results from unexplicated experience or unreconstructed thinking. The warrant may be there, though unpresented. Good faith reading is a fair generosity. The warrant is “there”; it's available. But I need to take the time to show it.

Sharing is at the same time a note to myself about what calls for explication and reconstruction. But in the sharing, I’m more interested in exploring than mapping where I’ve been. It’s not just self possession that causes me to enjoy sharing travels without taking time to arrange and caption all of the points of view. Also, I wish you were here.