Re: MF Define the intellectual level

From: Mark Butler (
Date: Sun Jun 18 2000 - 07:27:41 BST

Hi All,

Earlier this month I suggested that Bloomís Taxonomy,
a classification of levels of intellectual behavior,
might help in our discussion of the MOQís intellectual
level. The 3 overlapping domains; the cognitive,
affective, and psychomotor, seemed to relate to the 3
upper levels of the MOQ. Since then I have been
reading Jean Piaget (1896-1980), the French ìgenetic
epistemologistî (his label). Piaget, like Pirsig is
something of a synthesizing polymath. He is highly
regarded in education for his theory of intellectual
development in children, which he terms ëdialectic
constructionismí. In this post I will attempt to show
where Piagetís theory fits into the MOQís intellectual
level, and in doing so can help to define it.

The developmental flavor of dialectical reasoning
(thesis + antithesis = synthesis) is, Piaget believes,
inherent in human learning, and indeed in all the
sciences involving an evolution or becoming. Simply
put, a childís intellectual development begins at the
sensorimotor stage (birth-2), where practical
intelligence is based in action and observation, and
formed by the infantís nascent concepts of permanent
objects, space, time, number, and cause. In time these
sensorimotor actions will be integrated with symbolic
and operational systems. Piaget uses the term
ëschemataí to refer to the existing structure of an
individualís intelligence. The schemata consist of
relatively stable (but inherently dynamic) structures
such that they can accept and adapt to varied input
without any essential change. When a dynamic stimulus
interacts with an individualís schemata it either
connects with an existing schema (assimilation), or
forces the construction of a new schema

Compare Piagetís theory to the following recent
contributions to this monthís MF discussion (I have
added the Piagetian terminology, of course!):

"If new information or insights are gained (for
example the 'theory of
Relativityí), the present scientific expression of the
named subject <schema> has to be adapted
<accommodation> and expanded <assimilation> in order
to integrate this new information."

John Beasley:
"Intelligence is the leap beyond the matrix <schema>
in the encounter with dynamic quality, which can lead
to the creation of new words and concepts
<accommodation>, or the redefinition of existing ones
(e.g. gravity) <assimilation>."

Hereís an example to illustrate the cognitive process
described by Jean, JoVo, and JohnÖ

Imagine that a European tourist, first time visiting
the United States, is traveling in her hire car
through a rural town in Central Illinois when she
notices a white mushroom-shaped tower in the distance.
In an attempt to make sense of this stimulus, she
first tries to assimilate it into her existing schema
for ëhuman-occupied towersí (watch towers,
lighthouses, traffic control towers, futuristic office
buildings, etc). As she nears the water tower, she
observes an absence of windows, antennae, access
points, lights, platforms, and thus concludes that the
tower could be for some type of storage purposeÖ
grain? Later, after asking a friend about the ëgiant
mushroomí and learning of its true function as a water
reserve, she is able to assimilate it into her
existing water supply schema along with ëwellsí,
ëreservoirsí, and ëdamsí.

Piagetís schemata theory may well be an ìunfalsifiable
theory which is metaphysical rather than scientificî,
(Margaret A. Boden in Piaget) but it serves as a
powerful heuristic in directing prescientific
conceptual speculation. According to William
Greenoughís biological theory of cognitive
development, experience-dependent learning combines
both additive and subtractive processes. The additive
component involves the blooming of new synapses in
response to the individualís attempt to control
aspects of a new, complex environment. The brain need
not know which particular connections to make, but by
forming a large variety and number of new connections,
it can select the combinations that work best. The
long-term result is an overall addition to the number
of synapses. But the actual selection process that
fine-tunes the connections is a subtractive one in
which the useful connections are selectively retained
and less useful ones eliminated. This ëfine-tuning of
connectionsí sounds very much like the ongoing
restructuring of schemata through assimilation and
accommodation of new stimuli. Cells that fire
together, wire together.

But intellectual development does not always proceed
so smoothly and effectively, especially when ëstatic
filtersí interfere. Marco brings up this point in
_his_ formulating of Piagetís schemata theory:



The two bracketed functions are also more complex as
there are other inputs: reality (1) is not the only
input our perception uses to create the perceived (2)
and similarly also intelligence needs something else
to create 3). Mistakes of senses, memory of past
perceptions, cultural lenses, language, prejudices...
All these static filters are there at the same time to
help and condition the intellectual pattern

This process of static filters interfering with the
intellectual patterning of incoming stimuli is well
illustrated in Lilaís response to the dynamism of the
New York City streets (Chapter 16?). Some of her
observations mirror those of Phaedrus in the
proceeding chapter. But whereas P. (once he has
adjusted to the initial culture shock) experiences his
surroundings primarily at the intellectual level, Lila
is unable to process fully incoming stimuli
cognitively- there is too much emotional (social)
interference. In ZAMM, when John fails to see the
underlying form of the beer can, and its usefulness as
a fix for his loose handle bars, these static filters
are at work preventing the assimilation of ëbeer caní
into his ëshimí schema.

On now to Horseís questions:

ìOf all the levels, the one that seems to create the
most confusion or appear most obscure is
the intellectual level. What exactly is it?î

In Piagetian terms, the intellectual level is the
level of experience whereat stimuli (ideas, concepts,
words, perceptions) is processed effectively into
either existing schema (assimilation) or newly created
schema (accommodation).

ìWhat are its values?î

Intellectual values are the outcome of stimuli
interacting with schemata. They are expressed as some
structural modification (thesis + antithesis =

ìWhat are its goals?î

Its principal goal is to evolve though the ongoing
assimilation and accommodation of new stimuli.

ìHow does it manifest itself?î

The initial manifestation of the intellectual level
can be observed in sensorimotor actions in infants. As
the child matures these actions develop into abstract
operations which are interiorized actions carried out

ìWhy should intellectual level values prevail over
social level values?î

Piaget would most likely agree (if heíd read Lila)
that intellectual level values are more highly evolved
patterns than social level values, and as such, in
accordance with evolutionary morality, should prevail.

ìAre intelligence and intellectual value the same

No. Intelligence is the existing schemata, the
structure of ones knowledge of things. Highly
developed schemata, through ongoing assimilation and
accommodation of dynamic stimulus, is equal to ëbroad
intelligenceí. Conversely, poorly developed schemata,
perhaps due to a lack of sensorimotor experience as an
infant, or constant static filtering of stimuli, is
equal to ënarrow intelligenceí. It follows then that
the more intelligent a person, the more likely she
will process effectively new stimuli.

Piaget remarked that îstructuralism is the opium of
the polymath.î I suspect, had he been alive to read
Lila, he would readily have embraced the 'structure of

Finally, on to Boís ëlast wordíÖ

ìAs long as you go on considering the MOQ just another

intellectual pattern it's (the "mind" of) SOM
resurrected and you will
continue to have this impossible situations.î

In my slowly unfolding view I begin to see the MOQ as
not just another intellectual pattern, but more of a
'meta-intellectual' tool for constructing first that
high quality intellectual pattern which says "there is
an external world of things out there which are
independent of intellectual patterns," and then for
realizing that "this highest quality intellectual
pattern itself comes before the external world, not
after." I now see how the MOQ can serve as ìa
'machine code' for something beyond Intellect" (Bo)- a
consolidation of all 4 levels into ultimate reality. I
believe this is where John Beasley is heading now with
his "primacy of action". Personally speaking there is
still some intellectual game play needed to master my
static biological and social patterns, before marching
onward to the final showdown with intellectÖ kapow!!

Mark B

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