Kegan-Chapman Developmental Model

One of my various hobbies is collecting models of human development, either on an individual psychological basis or a social civilization basis. In particular, I’m interested in the move between what I once would have identified as modernism (or absolutism) and postmodernism (or pluralism). I very recently stumbled on another example at David Chapman’s “Developing ethical, social, and cognitive competence,” written in October 2015. I’m not wholly convinced by it, but it does seem intriguing. Moreover, it seems to mirror, with significant differences, various ideas I’ve had on this subject; for instance, a while ago I was worried about academia’s ability to shepherd people into the final ideal stage of personal epistemology.

I am writing this post mostly to a) mark that it came into my attention and b) share it with you, in case you want to follow along with my stumbling attempts at improving my epistemology, ethical philosophy, and political philosophy.

Related topics:

Selves as systems
Categories as patterns (and, using Chapman’s terms, nebulous ones)
Ethics as ungrounded

Digital Phylacteries and the Simulated Afterlife

If I’m right to endorse the Hofstatderean idea of the self (that is, that self is a pattern, and any instance of that pattern is an instance of the self), then I probably have to support the idea that if my pattern were replicated in a computer, it would also be a version of myself. Again, as always, it might be a poor-quality or imperfect version, but it would still be a version (instance? copy?). As a consequence, a person might want to extend their lives after death by uploading their consciousness to a hard-drive. If you believe in some sort of essential self that is not contained in any pattern, or if you require some historical continuity in order for identity to persist from one instance to the next,1 then you might not identify with a copy of your consciousness (and sub-consciousness, presumably) on a computer. But if you ultimately accept Hofstadter’s idea, then you should accept that the simulation on the computer really is you, to the extent that it is a faithful representation of your pattern.

So let’s talk about afterlives.


Christian Hendriks 2015; detail of a diorama at the Field Museum

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On Santa Claus and Hofstadter’s Souls

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ear even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
“Of course it is happening inside you head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

—J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows




Source: Chloe Blanchfield,

Whatever else Douglas Hofstadter’s I Am a Strange Loop might be, in its sixteenth chapter, “Grappling with the Deepest Mystery,” it becomes something like a spiritual memoire.

Strange Loop is Hofstadter’s attempt to explain human consciousness and personal identity through many elaborate analogies, the most pertinent being Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, showing that the mathematical language in Bertrand Russel and Albert Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica was capable of making self-referential statements despite the authors’ best attempts to prevent that from happening. His thesis is that human consciousness—or personal identity or what he calls a “soul”—is a self-referential pattern. A representational system that is capable of perception and categorization (in Hofstadter’s view, perception necessarily involves categorization) should be capable of perceiving and categorizing itself, and perceiving itself perceiving itself, and so on, and this self-perception will get “sucked into the [feedback] loop and cycle around and around, like a tree limb picked up by a tornado.” In other words, a soul is a pattern of thoughts that refers to itself, updating its model of itself as time goes by.

A consequence of Hofstadter’s view of the self—a consequence I happen to find convincing—is that a human brain contains more than one soul. Specifically, because I have representational models in my mind of everyone I know, I have a fragment of their pattern in my brain; if a person is their pattern, then in a very real, literal sense they inhabit my brain. His privileged example for this is a married couple, specifically he and his now-deceased wife Carol (content warning: in many cases Hofstadter seems flippant about serious mental disorders, in this case postpartum depression):

…Our oneness-in-twoness started to emerge clearly in my mind on several occasions during the first year of our marriage, right after we’d had several friends over for a dinner party and everyone had finally left and Carol and I started cleaning up together. We would carry the plates into the kitchen and then stand together at the sink, washing, rinsing, and drying, going over the whole evening together to the extent that we could replay it in our joint mind, laughing with delight at the spontaneous wit and re-savoring the unexpected interactions, commenting on who seemed happy and who seemed glum – and what was most striking in these post partyum decompressions was that the two of us almost always agreed with each other down the line. Something, some thing, was coming into being that was made out of both of us.

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Monthly Marvel: Borgesian Conundrum

On the first Saturday of each month for at least the next little while I intend to share here one of the Weekly Wonders from that previous project. This time I am revisiting the Borgesian conundrum, which concerns either the way the writing makes the author or the way authors make their precursors.


This week’s idea is the Borgesian conundrum. Jorge Luís Borges (whom I’ve mentioned before now) was an Argentine short story writer, essayist, poet, translator, librarian, and reluctant lecturer who lived from 1899 to 1986. He contributed significantly to the short story as a form, and to fantasy and magic realism as genres. It is also thanks to his work that translations of South American writing became popular in the English literary market. His work is filled with mathematical references (including anything to do with infinity), metaphysical puzzles, and assorted paradoxes.

I think this image is Public Domain, but I might be wrong in this. Let me know if you know that I am and I will remove it.

I think this image is Public Domain, but I might be wrong in this. Let me know if you know that I am and I will remove it.

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Collected Selves and Bookshelves’ Identities

In response to my “Collection as Identity” post, I received a few questions.

A woman reads in front of bookshelves, with her book mostly obscuring her face.

Source: LollyKnit at

First, from a fellow graduate from SLAIS: is there any aspect to identity which cannot be imagined as a collection?

Second, from my mother: what about bookshelves or other collections that are put together by a group? Do individual circles intersect in this case? I presume she was thinking about a household or a lineage or a similar set of people here. After all, the photograph for the post was from a bookshelf in her home, with books chosen by various family members (including me).

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Idiosyncratic Philosophy?

[Note: An unedited version of this post slipped my notice and was published. The changes were in the order of the material presented, in correcting typos, and in adding links.]

I have another question for you.

Last week I asked about a possible analogy in philosophy for contextual theology; if all theology is contextual, because in different contexts people have different questions and people who ask different questions find different answers, surely the same must be true for other forms of inquiry, like philosophy? And if some theology makes explicit its origins in a particular context, is there or could there be some philosophy that makes explicit its own origins in its own context?

Source: Steve Rhodes at

Source: Steve Rhodes at

Well, now I have a new question.

While describing W. Paul Jones’s 1989 Theological Worlds with my brother the other day, it occurred to me that psychology, personality, or idiosyncrasy might play a role in a person’s philosophy as well. Of course it is obvious to say this in the sense of lay philosophy, of the attitudes and approaches all people carry about with them, but I’d like to think about how academic philosophy might be idiosyncratic as well. Bear in mind, of course, that my experience of academic philosophy is distant at best (I read it now and again, and I took a few courses in my undergraduate: an Intro to Philosophy, the Philosophy of Mathematics, and an Ethics and Social Philosophy course).

Let’s begin with Theological Worlds and then move on to more general ideas. (I am going to describe the Worlds at some length in order to help you get a sense of what Jones means; if it becomes too much, read only the next three paragraphs and then skip to the bottom.)

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On William Blake and Your Own Face

At the same time that I was studying social media (for librarians) and therefore learning about face theory and discussing the ways identity is performative, on my own time I was also researching William Blake’s mythology. That coincidence provided one of those connections which I found helpful as a metaphor, and it has held up: I think William Blake’s idea of emanation is a good analogy for self-expression. Thinking of self-expression like the creation of a second, separate entity has been helpful to me, and maybe it will also be helpful to you.

Source: Adam Purcell at

Source: Adam Purcell at

Let’s begin with face theory: in sociology, face refers to the particular way a person expresses themselves in a specific context. Face refers to the actions you choose, the things you say, and the postures and facial expressions you adopt; it can be thought of as a mask that changes according to audience and to the type of social interaction underway. People work to maintain their face and they feel emotional investment in their face, so that they become distressed when they lose it.

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