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In Over Our Heads

Posted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 10:13 am
by daylen
This is a thread for discussing Robert Kegan's book "In Over Our Heads". ... 1529587720

Kegan's book is basically aimed at explaining the "Orders of Consciousness" (I will call it OOC). Kegan uses situational examples related to adolescence, partnering, parenting, working, healing, learning, leadership, and so forth to help explain how humans transistion between orders. Below is a link to a chart that displays some of the characterisics of each order (this is a slightly simplified version). ... complexity

Robert Kegan's wikipedia page also has a chart and some information about the book.

Below is a link to an article on OOC (which links to another article). ... ciousness/

Jacob's comments on OOC:
(*) Kegan's arrangement of orders of consciousness can be used to conclude lots of interesting things about this. This also explains to which degree agency is possible in a person. Deliberate life choices like ERE, WSP, weight loss, ... which are different from the standard world-paradigm (consumerism, SAD diet, "good payin' jobs for hard-workin' people") requires a 4th order consciousness ("self-authoring") and works mainly in positive environments while failing in negative ones. It's also possible for 3rd order consciousness but not as a deliberate ("self-authoring") choice but rather as going along with the paradigm of one's friends, family, school, TV-ads, ... ("environment"). Unfortunately, climate change requires 5th order ("self-transforming") to resolve it. Going by the human adult population, 58% are 3rd order, 35% are 4th order, and 1% is 5th order. The remaining are 2nd order.
A rough schemata of Kegan orders presented in words that we can all understand/relate to here, along with the percentages of adult humans in the total population sample:

Lifestyle dependent (0%)
Lifestyle respondent (14%)
Lifestyle follower (58%)
Lifestyle chooser (35%)
Lifestyle innovator (1%)

I haven't quite debugged the suffixes yet---still converging on the "best terms"---but I suspect those are ultimately generic templates that fit after any prefix such as politics, religion, philosophy, ... not just lifestyle.

However, insofar that the majority of people are followers [of those who choose], and most other people are choosers [of those who invent], societal evolution from e.g. political changes et al. is very much curbed given the innate limitations of ordinary human beings. Most humans are born with a brain/lifespan to follow.
OOC is a constructive-developmental model of humans (or generally agents). The model captures the development of how agents construct existence conceptually. What is subjective in the previous order becomes objective in the next. This is possible by attending to the subjective until patterns can be abstracted from a collection of subjective perceptions.

For instance, by paying attention to differences in how an agent can percieve actuality the agent starts to notice stable patterns. These stable patterns can then be stored in a category Kegan calls "Concrete". In this situation the agent is in trasition to order three where the agent will start to compare hypothetical concrete realities to find an ideal one.

Here are some transistion characteristics that I came up with.

Transistion from order 3 to order 4
- Growing use of abstraction.
- Growing awareness of the distinction between objective and subjective statements.
- Growing ability to formulate arguments derived from axioms.
- Decoupling from any single group ideology.

Transistion from order 4 to order 5
- Deattachment from ideals and identity.
- Beliefs and arguments become more like objects that are separate from self.
- Increasing focus on relations between systems.

I spectulate that a fully actuallized human is independent of past self. The self would be in constant flux with the environment based primarily on current relations (to other agents, institutions, objects, etc); the form/action would be secondary. What do you think of this?

Anyone know of any other sources? Any thoughts on the topic?

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:21 pm
by jennypenny
I like the idea of seeing Kegan's level 5 as detached from our past and transforming each day to meet current needs ... seeing each day as a new book instead of a new page. That means internalizing what we learn in a way that doesn't entrench our past memories and related feelings with the lessons learned (hard to do).

I don't really understand Kegan's obsession with tying these ideas to employment though.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 3:59 pm
by jacob
Here's more ... Note that Kegan=Bateson+1 in the counting scheme (real programmers count from 0 :geek: )

I'm not aware of anyone with a grander theory, but there are several people trying to set up their own frameworks(*)(including yours truly with the silly CCCCCC thing of the ERE book) and they all seem to be talking about the same thing. Bateson is super abstract ... and Kegan is the second-most abstract. He's really into hammering square pegs into round holes to fit the structure of the theory. Maybe that's why I like it. It's easy for a physics-mind to grasp when the same relations hold at every step.

(*) Kohlberg's moral scale, for example, maps pretty well to Kegan's orders:

I do not see the fully actualized human as being unrooted or fluxing in time or space (insofar I understand what you mean correctly), but rather the opposite, namely someone who is rooted not just in a singular past ideology/narrative/authoring but owns (have successfully internalized) several of those.

Kegan5 is someone who has internalized postmodernism: someone who is capable of holding contradictory thoughts in their head at the same time and still retain the ability to function (said F. Scott Fitzgerald) or rather be able to do that and create (there's one of my C's) something constructive (not a C word) out of it. For example, Kegan5 is the epidemiologist who understands both that vaccines save lives and at the same time understands that juju is important to those getting vaccinated and then proceed to level 5 and figure out a solution that incorporates both of these world views. This epidemiologist would not be authoring (=prescribing) a solution to the infectious disease but rather transforming (=organizing) a solution that fits both the needle and the cultural behavior/belief.

Same deal with morality. Kohlberg6 is someone who having gone through the process of following the tribe(Kohlberg3), the law(Kohlberg4), and the political majority(Kohlberg5) ... has realized that there are some principles that transcend this and underly the rest of them even that wasn't previously realized.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:54 pm
by daylen

Thanks for the info. Do you have any examples of Kegan fitting square pegs in round holes?

What I said doesn't make much sense now that I think about it more. I was unconsciousnessly assuming that an individuals relations would be uncontrollable. That has some truth to it, but I can now see that a highly actualized person would be continuously creating relations that stabalize the systems most vital to their existence, so order five humans are like the anchors of society even though they transform it.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:51 pm
by daylen
Yes! I like that link better than the one in the personality evolution thread.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:59 am
by daylen
Here are some more perspectives.

Kegan1: No percpetion of self
Kegan2: Self percpetions are independent (self-concept)
Kegan3: Self percpetions can be reconciled (self-consciousness)
Kegan4: Individual can author an identity by integrating selves (self-authorization)
Kegan5: Interpenetration of selves (self-transformation)

A kegan5 has self-authorship, self-regulation, and self-formation as objects, so a kegan5 has a developed intutition for different ways in which anyone can author, regulate, or form themselves. To the kegan5, these evolve with their relations to the environment. I do not mean just relations to other humans but to society as a whole.

Overtime, a kegan5 will tend to form a connection with all of society, and this leads to a diversification of emotional attachment. The coupling with any single idea, person, object, country, and so forth decrease over time.

At least this is what makes sense to me.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Sat Jun 30, 2018 1:37 pm
by jacob
Round pegs/square holes ... it's just that the 'constructor' for all orders is the same, namely the subject-to-object progression, in which each new level arises when the "Hegelian dialectic"-operator operates on the [class of the] previous level. That is a very nice/rich concept. It's similar to Bateson's Learning Levels btw. The beauty is that you can extrapolate all the way up... to god-level. It's another one of those domains in which everybody has to do their own journey to get there. No short cuts. It's like Wheaton Levels in that sense. Too far ahead, it sounds like woo. Too far behind that and it sounds like a bunch of simpletons.

What's the "Hegelian dialectic"-operator? Basically, for order N, it's
Step 1) Form a framework that explains your way of understanding the world at the Nth order. (What Jordan Peterson calls "Being".) [the thesis]
Step 2a) Begin to realize that there are things that don't make sense within the framework formed in step 1. [the antithesis]
Step 2b) There may be more than one antithesis. At this point, we're at Kegan N+1/2 or so.
Step 3) Create a bigger framework that explains or rather contains both of them. [the synthesis]. Note that if one's strategy is to force step 2a/2b into the framework established in step 1 (e.g. "those who do not understand [me] are obviously idiots, one has not really leveled up"). In order to do that, one has to be ready and willing to break down the framework constructed in step 1. This is like pulling teeth because one builds one's identity based on that framework! Therefore, it often only happens insofar one has either hit rock bottom or some other bottom [wrt one's world view].

For those who don't hate math-abuse, the relation is (N+1)=H^N(1), where H is the operator and () denominates the order.

Plato's Cave allegory actually makes for a fine illustration of this development! Just try to imagine what it takes for prisoners who have remained chained staring at the shadow wall forever. They've formed a framework alright and maybe a good one too, so they're at step 1. Maybe they've begun to notice some inconsistencies as well ... (step2a). I leave the rest as an exercise.

I saw somewhere that Kegan figures that there are practically nobody who consistently operates at order5. (He's never seen a fully consistent specimen in the wild.)

I also suspect that INTJs arrive at order4 at a relatively young age (age 15-25) ... prob. because a big abstracted and logically consistent framework is easier to construct than a big abstracted and internally consistent framework based on feelings.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Sat Jun 30, 2018 7:43 pm
by 7Wannabe5
jacob wrote: a big abstracted and logically consistent framework is easier to construct than a big abstracted and internally consistent framework based on feelings.
If you tie this in with daylen's comments on crystallized intelligence being measurable by vocabulary, the first framework could be construct of denotation, and the second framework could be construct of connotation.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Sun Jul 01, 2018 5:12 pm
by jacob ... interesting exercise in putting some meat on the bones.
In his advice, he touches everything from order 2 to order 5.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:35 am
by daylen
Here is a chart of the orders. Most of this is straight out of the book along with a few added features.


The left triangles represent the subjects (what you are), and the right triangles represent the objects (what you have). The middle diamonds represent the structure(*); I sightly offset them so that the final half-diamond could represent "reconstruction" where multiple systems are deconstructed for parts to be reconstructed into a new whole. This also fits better with transitioning; an agent starts as a single point and has "flashes" of kegan2 type behavior where part of the subject becomes an object to think about. Eventually, multiple objects form a category and can be selected from to form a new identity (or subject).

I also included the descriptive words Jacob wrote about on the left. I figured I could then add some symmetry by adding what dichotomies are the focus of each order on the right. I left this out for kegan1, because I am not really sure what would go here. Maybe predator and prey?

(*) I am thinking that the structure could be related to how memories are formed and stored. This is related to my rambling about whether or not kegan1 is actually conscious in the "A Model Of Cognition" thread. It is possible that kegan1 is conscious (has a working memory), but cannot yet form long term memories? The reasoning is that a hippocampus is required to store contextual information, and I believe that requires some awareness of position. If the agent cannot yet distinguish between self and environment, then perhaps there is no context to be linked. Perhaps this is like having a website without any connections to the rest of the internet.

Relevant Sean Carroll podcast:

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:56 am
by jacob
I think the dichotomy for Kegan1 would be something like pain/pleasure that is, feels-bad/feels-good. At Kegan1 this primarily operates at the strictly physical level. If it feels good, it's good. If it feels bad, it's bad.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:03 am
by daylen
That makes sense.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:10 am
by jacob
It's also in accordance with the morality of Kohlberg1-2.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:29 am
by 7Wannabe5
Right. That's why a toddler likes it when you say "Bad coffee table gave you a boo-boo!" and give the inanimate object a swift swat. With somewhat older children saying "Please do not rock back on your chair!" will usually not work, but something more like "I would hate to see you get hurt when that chair goes out from under you." often will.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2019 1:08 pm
by 7Wannabe5
Absolutely. Another similar technique that works when children are having social behavior issues is to ask them if they think other people will expect their behavior. As in "Do you think the other children will expect you to scream in the library?" followed by something like "Do you think that will be a happy surprise for them?" Obviously, there are also children who will engage in inappropriate behavior from adult perspective which is actually desired behavior from the perspective of many of their peers (class clown, rebel with a cause, etc.) , and this higher level behavior needs to be addressed differently. For instance, give the child some responsibility for leadership so they can get taste for how much that can suck.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:21 pm
by daylen

I had a thought about the relationship between order and the subjective perception of individual differences relative to similarities. I figured that a third-order polynomial could fit with a local max at 3 and global min at 4. Social perceptions at the second order develop into a role at the third order. After the role has been embodied it must cooperate with other roles in an organization until an interpersonal framework emerges to evaluate the differences. I speculate that near the beginning of the fourth order, the relative focus on individual differences is minimized with respect to their similarities. This is partly because the forth order constructs a "universal" framework that works for essentially anyone, anywhere. Then the framework must be fine-tuned for the path-dependent nature of self, so the focus on individual differences increases and amplifies when another framework emerges to account for the limitations/paradoxes of the first.

Perhaps the optimization for individual differences is eventually internalized for multiple frameworks and this leads to another descent. Maybe there is a continuous oscillation after the fifth order as new frameworks are added and internalized.

I do not really know what the hell I am talking about, though.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:54 pm
by daylen
There seems to be a similarity between cybernetics and modernism, and a similarity between second-order cybernetics and postmodernism.
  • cybernetics ~ modernism ~ 4th order { learning, cognition, adaptation, control, emergence, convergence, communication, efficiency, efficacy, connectivity }
  • cybernetics of cybernetics ~ postmodernism ~ 5th order { epistemology, ethics, autonomy, self-consistency, self-referentiality, self-organization }
It is almost as if cybernetics is the study of what is common to study at the 4th order. You can look in just about any field to find people who have popularized it - these are the quintessential 4th orders that try to universalize their understanding(*). They have internalized their field of study to the point where they can use it as a lens through which to "solve" any problem (in principle). Many popularizers get stuck in that worldview, because they only surround themselves with others who can speak their language. This fuels many different bubbles that remain isolated; very few people can cross-communicate between them in a way that makes both sides happy. It appears to me that these bubbles project their specialized understandings onto other levels in a way the conforms to the intuition of their field. When two people from different bubbles try to communicate they inevitably feel misunderstood or ignored. The problem is almost always because each "side" slips in assumptions from their specialized intuitions.

A bridge between fields requires an understanding of how each is "positioned" relative to all possible fields. The 5th order is not only about what you know, but how you know it. In my last post, I talked as if the progression from 4th to 5th order involves the internalization of two separate frameworks in a specific order. For me, it feels a little different. It is almost as if I have been developing two or more frameworks in a non-linear fashion, so it is confusing for me when trying to distinguish what they might be separately. The way I make decisions seems to be more modular if that makes any sense. I imagine this is a common feeling, but the degree to which it is true in an individual probably relates to something like conscientiousness. I also wonder if only two frameworks of a certain kind are required to construct any possible framework?

The most important dichotomy for me when trying to make decisions is something like .. "relations determine individual structure" as opposed to "individual structures determine relation". The first is more coupled to evolutionary theory and social interaction (mostly mid-level systems), and the second is more coupled to mathematics and reductionism. Another way of thinking about it is "does this thing exist because of its components or because of its relation to another thing". This is only one such dichotomy, but the logical implications of each side lead to astoundingly different world-views. There must always be a dialectic between them in my estimation.

(*) They are easy to recognize because they will say things like "everyone should know X" or "to understand X you must first understand Y". They may act as a 5th order elsewhere, but on stage in front of many potential criticizers it is safe to stick to a 4th order meta-narrative.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:47 pm
by jacob
The two world-views you discuss in the last paragraph would be the Eastern vs Western mode of thinking, where the former focuses on relations and actions (verbs(*)) and the latter on objects and nouns. While the world-views are different, they seem operationally equally functional. A mathematical metaphor might be the Fourier transform: whether you describe things in time-space or frequency-space doesn't matter. It's the same thing you're talking about. It's just that some things are easier to describe in one space and other things are easier in the other space.

(*) This is getting more popular in the west, especially wrt naming apps and other online services. Thinking in terms of verbs fosters a unix-type brain where a solution is achieved by verbing something, piping it and verbing it again, e.g. hammering, bending, welding. Thinking in terms of nouns is more conducive to Mac-brains and Windows-brains: Here you have one tool (boxmaker) that finishes the entire chain (as a black box).

As for meta-structure (for both spaces), I find it easiest to use Hegelian dialectics as an operator, that is, for a given level, the next level appears after synthesizing the conflict at the current level. Unfortunately, it's not supremely useful to root out what the highest levels look like because there are no words or known concepts. I mean, I can make a drawing, but that's not going to help me translate it into solutions "at the ground level". IOW, it's not very practical. The sticking point is that it is hard to experience/think about the conflict because its form/shape goes unseen at the current level. So all this tool does is to stipulate that there is a problem (existence) and a solution (of a general form). Not what it is.

As an example consider the [still ongoing] confusion in quantum mechanics (at least at the popular level) where small things are described as sometimes being as a particle and sometimes a wave or perhaps a superposition. The solution to this is to understand that the thing is not "being" but "acting". A synthesis for this dichotomy is Heisenberg's S-matrix formulation. Although as old as the Schroedinger equation, this is not taught, because it's not as "intuitive" as waves or particles are to modern undergraduates or 1920s physicists. However, it completely rises above the dichotomy. Of course, most people [except quantum field physicsts] are uncomfortable thinking of things as scatter fields... but operationally, there's no difference.

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 1:25 pm
by daylen
You provided interesting examples!

This all makes more sense now with the Hegelian operator. If I am correct, then this is roughly what the drawing you speak of would look like for Kegan's model:

As you say, this indicates there is a problem and a dialectical solution, but the actual form is unknown because you are a solution at this level (in some sense).

Re: In Over Our Heads

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:39 pm
by 7Wannabe5
Respect and protect complexity.