Monday, December 8, 2014

??? Proposition-Conclusion = Individual-Group ???

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Multi-level selection theory posits tension between group-level interests and individual interests.  In some cases group orientation is more adaptive than an individualistic orientation.  In lieu of worrying about fitness, List & Pettit (2011) take a philosophical (logic-based) approach based on List's judgment aggregation theory.  This is used to filter some of the conditions involved in judgement aggregation, bypassing the impossibility theorem (there is no single way to aggregate a single net-judgement when propositions are interconnected non-trivially with 3+ people)/.

List & Pettit's preferred way out of the impossibility trap,
involves prioritizing some propositions over others and letting the group attitudes on the first set of propositions determine its attitudes on the second. (pp. 56)


Now what strikes me as interesting in this approach is its dyadic nature.  This is eerily similar to the dyadic nature of multi-level selection (which is usually operationalized with a two-level view).  While I may be stretching a bit, a little tidbit from List & Pettit is provocative: suppose the group assigns priority either to premises or conclusions... Further suppose the group delegates responsibility to premises to subject-specialists and to conclusions to the laity.  To me, at least, this roughly parallels multi-level selection's individualist vs. group tension.

In my nascent "Education as an adaptive group theory" I've suggested tension between group orientation and individual orientation models the dynamics of education's reform resistance and a slight preference for tolerance creates a 50 year total reform cycle.  However, observations hint that "individual orientation" as used by evolutionary biology isn't a perfect fit.  In education, the "individual orientation" seems to center around what is appropriate for contextually localized, identifiable small groups.

For example, I'd suggest that in education, an orientation for a system optimized for the small percentage of academically oriented critical thinkers is an "individual orientation".  In multi-level selection theory I currently suspect I have to posit 2 group levels within education: the supra "institution of education group" and the sub "special interests in education groups".  While likely feasible, this isn't exactly parsimonious.


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What is interesting though, is thinking about whether special interest education groups tend to operate via premise or conclusion based judgements, and whether Education operates via premise or conclusions based judgments

Education has a historic tension that, since the mid-1800's has cycled between social equality and academic content progression.  I've tended to view the social equality paradigm as based on an universalist based avoidance gradient: i.e. "Do you really believe this person/group doesn't deserve a proper education?"  On the other hand, I've tended to view the academic paradigm as based on contextualized analyses flavoured by return on investment justifications: i.e.  "Let's do what is best for identifiable groups, making sure we scaffold the system for those smart cookies who'll make a real difference for society."

While my gut feeling suggest the social equality paradigm seems conclusion based and the academic paradigm is principle based, however, I suspect there isn't enough information to go on.  Plus I'm not sure how reasonable it is to try, at this level, to differentiate premises and conclusions.  My gut feeling is pretty much based on the hunch that the academic paradigm seems more granular/contextual, thus at a lower organization level, and thus more likely to be based on components rather than a whole. However, this reduction seems logically unrelated to the proposition-conclusion question.

Interestingly enough, List & Pettit do go on to suggest that group agents can allocate premise based judgments to subject experts while conclusion based judgement can remain with the laity.  While this seems to match up with a common-sense intuition of how groups function in practice, it does nothing to get around the impossibility problem.


List, C. & Pettit, P. (2011).  Group Agency: The Possibility, Design, and Status of Corporate Agents. Oxford University Press

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