"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Friday, October 24, 2008

Transpartisan Values 2: Measuring Them

In Part 1 of this post I noted that Jonathan Haidt's "Real Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives" fueled my belief that conservative and liberal values converge as we mature, birthing integral transpartisans. If that's true, the historic opportunities of Obama's presidency require us to recognize this new animal. For starters, let's see how we might use data like Haidt's to identify integral conservatives.

Caveat 1: My Political Bias
To understand my bias, see my post Why I am a Recovering Libertarian.

Caveat 2: Fools Rush In
I don't know much about tests to measure your level of development; what I know is from a conference call in 2007 with David Zeitler of Integral Institute. My impression is that the available tests are big, complex, and expensive. So this post is a case of fools rushing in where the really smart guys advise caution.

Sorting most conservatives from most liberals
The questions in Haidt's Five Foundations survey are simplistic, but as such they are perfect for filtering most liberals from most conservatives. For the moment I'm going to go with Karl's assumption that most conservatives are at purple-red-blue-orange (in Spiral Dynamics), while most liberals are at blue-orange-green. But I also suspect that some liberals are lower while some conservatives are higher. And remember, according to Integral Theory, "higher" means having a broader perspective that encompasses more experience.

The preamble to all questions in Haidt's Five Foundations survey is, "When you decide whether something is right or wrong, to what extent are the following relevant to your thinking? " One of the questions asks "Whether or not someone showed a lack of respect for authority." It seems likely that
  • A conservative at blue is going to choose "Very Relevant" fast enough to make your head spin.
  • A liberal at green is going to be just as fast to choose "Not Very Relevant."
  • But everybody else is going to pause. Any liberals at the conventional level may well think, Most conservatives respect authority too much; I don't want to be associated with conservatives, so I will downshift my answer a notch or two, perhaps to "slightly relevant."
  • And anyone at the yellow level or above is going to start asking questions about the context.
    • Is it a legitimate authority?
    • Did the authority violate its trust?
    • Were all respectful options exhausted?
    • Was the system itself at risk of harm?
In other words, persons at the integral level are going to feel they do not have enough information, and thus they will answer either at the middle "Slightly Relevant" or at the bottom "Not at All Relevant." Thus we get the deceptive appearance that respecting authority is not an integral value, when, in fact, respecting appropriate authority gets a great deal of attention at yellow.

Human guniea pig: my own results on Haidt's survey
Considerations like these show up in my own test results shown in the chart below:


  • With liberals, I ranked low on loyalty. (I'd only die for my country if I thought we were protecting someone from harm)
  • With conservatives I ranked high on purity/sanctity. But I'm a libertarian on purity (e.g., not only are laws against homosexuality wrong, but laws against drugs and prostitution are wrong, too). So what's up with that ranking? Could it be the hour I spent trying to decide my answer to the weight on "what God wants"? (For more on purity and sanctity, see my One chart that Explains Religion.)
  • With conservatives I ranked a bit lower than liberals on harm and fairness. Regarding harm, I can remember the exact day I down-shifted. Someone had to be removed from a team to keep from holding the team back. I agonized over the decision as someone I respected said, "I see why you have to do this, but she will be hurt." I did it anyway and hoped I never had to make a decision like that again.
  • On respect for authority, I ranked half way between the liberals and conservatives, perhaps largely because of the experience I just mentioned
Of course, I consider my ethics to be at yellow or higher. (And please, if you see evidence that I'm backsliding to blue, do tell me. Maybe I've got Stockholm Syndrome from my two years living among the fundamentalists.) So of course what I'm interested in is a means to distinguish the way people like me weigh all five values from the way somebody at blue weighs them.

Screening for Transpartisans

How do we enhance a survey like Haidt's to make such a distinction? I think Karl is right (see his comment on my prior post); Each level has a primary value against which it filters or screens all other values. Thus, liberals at green or ornage screen out value on place on purity, loyalty, and sanctity to avoid any possible conflict with their primary values of fairness and protection from harm. Thus, our questions would need to screen for
  • the person's primary ethical value (e.g., those for whom fairness and care always trump purity, loyalty, and authority.)
  • the scope of the ingroup to which loyalty, fairness, and care are applied (family, tribe, or world)
I am imagining a survey that does this in two stages.

Step 1: find the liberals who hold all five values
Our first test would use questions like those in Haidt's Five Foundations survey and simply pad them with qualifiers.
  • A generic qualifier at the start that would reassure the libertarians that "These questions do not concern the passing of laws or use of punishment. They deal solely with how you personally feel about what is right and wrong."
  • A qualifier specific to each question for anyone at post conventional, e.g., "In a situation in which you personally believe that someone showed a lack of respect for legitimate authority..."
This should move some of the liberals into the group who claim to weigh all five values. In fact, anyone who doesn't move, according to my thinking here, is basking in a pure experience of orange or green. They do not proceed onto the next survey.

Step 2: Filter out the blue
Presumably we now have a pool of blue, yellow, and beyond. The next step is to sort out those at blue: those who will always prioritize purity, loyalty, and authority as predicted by the spiral, and those whose scope of care is less than worldcentric. This sorting so would require questions carefully designed to get at the motives or perspectives behind the answers.

If these two steps indeed filtered blue, orange, and green, I suspect they would also filter out most of those with a strong political identification as liberal or conservative. Those left will identify themselves politically as independent, libertarian, or "other." These are our potential transpartisans. And I believe that if you ask them how they identified themselves previously, you will get a mix of those who have transcended both "liberal" and "conservative" labels. (More about why/how in a future post.)

Know it when I see it
But the more I look at this, the more I realize the big boys are right: no test can sort the levels adequately--partly because nobody could be trusted to score it. For me it boils down to having conservative friends whose behavior over an extended period tells me they're at integral--or higher. They take big risks to prevent harm to people outside their ingroups; they agonize over questions of appropriate authority; and they realize that whatever form salvation comes in, it must be available to all.

Can we reach out a hand to these transpartisans whose path to integral may have been so different from our own?

13 comments:

Karl Higley said...

While Haidt's survey does seem to sort out most liberals from most conservatives reasonably well, I think one could probably do a little better and write a very similar survey that would sort out the so-called “first tier memes” (purple to green) without too much trouble. Beyond that point, and even with green to an extent, it becomes very tricky because the values of successive memes become meta-values, as I pointed out in my comment to your last post. Maybe the sort of caveats on the questions you suggested would help, but I'm not even sure that would do it. I think it would take a more complicated test to suss out yellow thinking and values (which are really two distinct things, although they're related.)

While your screening scheme might work, I'm not sure exactly what end result we're shooting for. OK, you have a pool of people with yellow values....now what? Does that just confirm for us that there is a yellow value? I'm already reasonably convinced there is a yellow moral value, although I suppose demonstrating it scientifically is a different ball of wax. In both Haidt's survey and the potential survey we're discussing here, there's an interplay between what questions you ask and what values you find exist. That's why I find it so aggravating that Haidt asks questions (like those about fairness) that allow for a wide range of different interpretations. Maybe he finds that everyone in his study values fairness because he's made it such a broad category! If that's the case, then his results tell us almost nothing about whether or not fairness is a fundamental moral value. The same may apply to any attempt to demonstrate a sixth (yellow) moral foundation.

On the issue of “lower liberals, higher conservatives”: it's worth pointing out there are multiple kinds of liberals and conservatives. There are, for example, social conservatives, economic conservatives, and foreign policy conservatives, and similar groupings on the liberal side. Sometimes these groups overlap, and other times they don't. I would guess that you're much more likely to find those “lower liberals, higher conservatives” in the economic and foreign policy spheres than the social sphere, because economics and foreign policy are less directly tied to moral values than positions about society and culture are.

Even so, regarding your comment that you've known conservatives that you'd consider “integral,” it bears mentioning that a big chunk of Wilber's model concerns the various lines of development. Two of these lines (among many others) are cognitive and moral development, which can proceed at different rates. Wilber makes the claim that cognitive always leads or develops faster. It seems intuitively reasonable to me –- I don't see how you can hold values you can't conceptualize -- but I can't necessarily back it up.

In any case, this forces us to ask a lot of questions: What does it mean to be “at integral”? Does it mean having developed cognitive capacities associated with yellow? Does it mean holding yellow moral values? In either case, how much of my life would I have to apply that to for it to count? What if I think yellow but my values have only developed to blue? Would that make me an integral conservative? Or would I have to think yellow, have developed through orange and green values, and subsequently gained a yellow appreciation for the merits of blue (and orange and green) values? Then am I an integral conservative?

Given that I think I mostly understand post-modernism, and I think I understand most of Wilber, I'm reasonably convinced that I can think in a yellow fashion (though of course I'm biased.) I don't know if my values have caught up to my thinking yet, or if they ever will. If you look at my thought you might label me one way, but you may label me somewhat differently if you're considering moral values. I guess you can draw your own conclusions from my results to Haidt's survey.

Even if I hold yellow values, but stress the importance of blue values in a certain context, or feel that blue values are generally underrated, can I be considered a conservative? I'd be holding blue values from a meta-perspective -- I could equally feel that the values of other memes are more important in other contexts, or that other memes are also underrated, or that both memes are important but their interaction is currently unhealthy. Does it make sense to label me according to values I hold conditionally and contextually? I have to say no -- not if the label is meant to be anything more than conditional and contextual. And if we were to limit it in that way, it would become a pretty poor label.

The whole point of integral thought is to transcend and include, right? It seems to me someone demonstrating yellow thought and yellow values ought to transcend these sorts of labels, including aspects of both liberalism and conservatism, holding them lightly, and using each when appropriate to the situation at hand. Often, that will mean adjusting depending on the other people involved, particularly to how they think, and what they value.

Teri Murphy said...

Hey Karl from Kansas,

Everything you say is good stuff, but I'm not sure if I've failed to make you sympathetic to my point or I've failed to make my point.

First, of course you are right about all the caveats.
--Yes, I am speaking only about the ethical line of development, not the entire level.
--And yes, a person can be at a very different level on the cognitive line from the ethical line. (Boy, can they.)
--And yes, it's important that we take very lightly all these rankings--using them, I would say, only to bring harmony, never as a weapon.

But I really have no interest in the mere exercise of sorting for second tier. My goal is ameliorating liberal disdain for conservatives by showing how it can be that, contrary to liberal perceptions, some conservatives are at second tier. And when I use these labels I am referring only to how people self-describe themselves.

So yes I agree that when our thinking and our ethics are at yellow, we're likely to become uncomfortable with labels--which is why I suggested we'd ask the "independents" and "others" what labels they formerly claimed. But people move at different rates, so there could well be some integral folks who haven't yet shed the label "conservative." When in fact, their values are now so close to those of former liberals at second tier, that the two groups could make great bedfellows for progress.

Peggy Noonan is a good example to keep an eye on. Formerly Reagan's speechwriter and a brilliant conservative analyst, her writing began to sound more and more transpartisan to me as this campaign wore on. She was willing to say that she originally gave Palin the benefit of the doubt as a diamond in the rough, but lost faith in her as Palin failed to articulate the intellectual underpinnings of conservative philosophy. Noonan wrote this knowing it would alienate her conservative fans. If I were Obama, I'd hire her.

Karl Higley said...

Two questions running through my head:

First, what's a post-modern conservative look like? Theoretically, if we believe Spiral Dynamics, we ought to see some of those before we spot integral conservatives. I don't see how one can have their values develop through green and stay socially conservative, but I may be missing something.

Second, how do we tell the difference between non-partisan and trans-partisan? From orange, there are a lot of reasons to seek an "objective," non-partisan perspective. Such a position does not necessarily transcend and include the positions of the ends of the political spectrum -- in fact, it eschews them. At the same time, yellow, seeing the development of perspectives and being able to use each worldview as necessary, can be intensely partisan.

Teri Murphy said...

Ah, Karl,

Now THOSE are really, really good questions. I'll take the first one if you'll take the second one.

Karl Higley said...

That's a deal I can live with. As always, curious to hear your thoughts on my answer.

Teri Murphy said...

What does a Postmodern Conservative look like?
By an eyebrow-raising coincidence, a mutual friend just sent me links to a set of blogs by postmodern conservatives, including one by an integral guy. This makes it easy for me to respond regarding the intellectual line; wherein the definition of postmodern is the ability to take multiple perspectives, right? So let's hold off for a moment on the ethical line, and tell me if this is enough to persuade you.

Helen Rittelmeyer says in Postmodernism is Conservative: “You may not be an old-fashioned girl, but you’re still gonna get dated.”

"A good play can change not just a man’s life but his identity, but only if he "believes" it in a very particular way. He can’t really believe it—if he does, he’ll rush onstage to try and stop Oedipus from blinding himself!—but neither can he keep in the front of his mind that it’s just his friend Jeff in an Oedipus mask. That’s the kind of belief I have in my traditions, especially those that can’t be traced back to divine revelation."

If that's not enough, I have another that's quite a bit more technical.

Karl Higley said...

I'm curious to see that second quote.

My general impression of the “PoMoCo” blogs I've looked at so far is that they seem to be attempting to use the trans-rational truths of postmodernism (green) to defend the pre-rational truths of old (blue) from the demythologizing onslaught of rationality (orange.) In that regard, some aspects of postmodernism are more conveniently useful than others.

Wilber names contextualism, constructivism, and pluralism as postmodernism's central truths. As I understand them, those respectively mean something like “Meaning depends on context, you can choose your own context and thus build your own meaning, and all meanings are equally constructed and equally groundless, therefore equally valid.” “Postmodern” conservatism seems to take the first two truths to heart and largely ignore the third. Sure, you can choose your own meanings and values, but from an pluralist green standpoint, how could you choose a meaning that denies the validity of someone else's meaning or imposes your own?

Even though I find this approach to resolving the problems of green to be a contradictory and less than healthy expression of green (and blue), it still seems eminently reasonable in a certain set of circumstances. Namely, that one has stared into the void of meaning that green creates, and can't see a way out by going through (i.e. by transcending and including green.) In that situation, if you wish to avoid total meaninglessness, it makes sense to justify blue and orange values as best you can.

Teri Murphy said...

OK, good Karl. I love the way you make me think more and more precisely. I like your definitions of transpartisan well enough to adopt them officially.

So regarding my task of finding postmodern conservatives, it looks like we've handled the first two aspects of postmodernism. If you need any more evidence on those I suggest Bill Kristol, Pomo: A Case Study in Metaforce and the Logic of Therapeutics.

So I have only yet to persuade you that a conservative can hold a pluralist view, which you've defined as "all meanings are equally valid." And of course, "valid" doesn't mean correct--which would be aperspectival madness, it only means legitimate, "not crazy," right?

If so, I submit next this quote from C.S. Lewis, who I think most non-Christians would label at mythic--though his theology did have a waffle or two in it.

"If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth…As in arithmetic—there is only one right answer to a sum, and all the other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others."

And if that's not enough for you, I'm working on a bigger project, an interview with someone I think might qualify as a "pomocon."

Karl Higley said...

I still don't buy it, for reasons that have a lot to do with orange universal truth vs green contextual truth. C.S. Lewis is advocating a universal truth -- something postmodern green doesn't believe in.

Clarifying the relationships between contextualism, pluralism, and aperspectival madness seems to shed some light on this "postmodern conservativism" stuff.

Teri Murphy said...

If you believe the sun rises in the east, you believe in a universal truth, right? I actually offered the CS Lewis quote as an example of a form of world-centrism. Ethnocentric believes all the others are wrong. Those of the Lewis persuasion seem to have moved at least a step beyond that.

The whole purpose of this line of inquiry is to identify a segment of conservatism that might already be post conventional or could easily be drawn to post conventional in fulfillment of this quote from
One Taste
.

"So there are our political choices in today's world: a healthy lower level (conservative) versus a sick higher level (liberal). A refurbished, postliberal awareness is therefore, I believe, the only sane course to pursue. This would combine the very best of the conservative vision—including the need for growth to goodness, the importance of holarchical relationships and therefore meaning (self, family, community, nation, world, Spirit), the stress on equal opportunity instead of mindless equality. But all of those conservative values need to be raised up into a modern, postconventional, worldcentric awareness."

Karl Higley said...

None of the things Wilber listed are traditional conservative values -- growth to goodness, holarchical relationships, and equal opportunity are all values of post-blue memes. There's no need to lift them up; they're already up there.

If by conservative values we mean blue/orange values, there will be no easy lifting to get them to yellow. I am firmly convinced that you don't get past green without going through green. The path to yellow values will necessarily involve going through, and therefore transcending and including, green pluralist values. I have yet to see a segment of conservative thought that transcends or includes pluralism. Postmodern conservatism seems to fail that test, and I haven't run into any other promising candidates.

The reverse approach is somewhat telling: if we look at integral types and look for some that are drawn to aspects of conservatism, there are plenty. The only catch is that they're also drawn to aspects of liberalism and libertarianism and all sorts of other things. Which one they highlight seems to depend on the context.

On a different but related note, the sun also rises...

Teri Murphy said...

I think we have a definitional problem here, Karl. If you define "conservative" as "one who hasn't transcended blue," our exploration has to stop there. Suppose we use as definition instead the set of tendencies in my One Chart that Explains Politics?

Course, I suppose it might take us a conversation or two to straighten that out. ;>

Karl Higley said...

I don't particularly disagree with anything on the chart, so I'm willing to accept those definitions, at least provisionally. In order to be recognizably liberal or conservative (or have any other political label applied to you), you'd have to identify with some set of poles on that chart.

Wouldn't identifying with any of the poles on the chart be sufficient to debunk a claim of transpartisanship?