- Summarize the historical and emerging state of the field of human development;
- Explore key theories and practices that have emerged from each philosophy, and;
- Synthesize disparate perspectives into an integrated approach to personal and collaborative growth.
The mechanistic philosophy attempts to explore questions about what makes people the way they are (Goldhaber, 2000). Those who see through the mechanistic lens see humans as machines (Pepper, 1970) that passively react to internal and external forces over which they have no control (Goldhaber, 2000). Literally, mechanism is "the physics of motion or the study of mechanics", that describes how parts of a system work together to produce phenomena (Hunt & Ellis, 2004, p. 23). The Human Machine section explores the human through the mechanistic lens, including the following theories:
- Watson's behaviorism: The human as S > R connections
- Operant conditioning
- Skinner's radical behaviorism: External forces drive behavior
- Bandura's social cognitive theory
- Maslow's revolt against the machine
The organismic perspective of human development attempts to explore why people are the way they are (Goldhaber, 2000, p. 32). Using the "integrated whole" (Tsoukas, 1994) as its metaphor, Organismic theory is an extension of Gestalt psychology, which views the human being as a synergistic organism (Hall & Lindzey, 1959). Those who view human development through the organismic lens see people as living organisms that actively make choices about how they will react to and control the internal and external forces of their lives, and that have inherent growth potential. Major theories in the organismic perspective include:
- Freud's psychodynamic theory
- Goldstein's organismic theory
- Piaget's cognitive-developmental theory
- Labouvie-Vief's theory of pragmatic thought and cognitive-emotional complexity
- Fischer's dynamic skills theory
- Maslow's holistic-dynamic hierarchy of needs theory
- Roger's client-centered therapy
The contextualist philosophy attempts to explore what people are (Goldhaber, 2000) and advance agendas to define and shape reality (Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, 2007). Contextualism taps as its metaphor the "historic event" (Pepper, 1970, p. 232), referring to how individuals experience and understand the things that happen in life (ACBS, 2007; Pepper, 1970). To the contextualist, every behavior is a historic event that results in change (Lerner, 2002, p. 71). Contextualism attempts to understand what a person is doing and what meanings ascribe to his or her actions in relation to surrounding events (Goldhaber, 2000, p. 48).
Postmodern philosophies that fall under the contextualist lens include "Marxism, critical theory, critical multiculturalism, critical race theory, postcolonialism, queer theory, and feminist theory" (Merriam et al., 2007, p. 272). Articles from the contextualist perspective include:
- The human context
- Labouvie-Vief's theory of pragmatic thought and cognitive-emotional complexity sees adults as adaptable problem solvers
- Lifespan developmental perspective shows how the interaction between individual and environment drives change
- Vygotsky's Cognitive-Mediation Theory shows learner as an apprentice
Human development "is a very messy affair" (Wilber, 2000, p. 7) that may not be sorted out by staring through a single lens. As new lenses emerge, the competing perspectives in the academic and scientific community seem no different from the quarrels over philosophy and religion that seem to have been a fundamental part of the human equation throughout history.
Arguably, the academic and scientific communities seem to be attempting to answer the same questions that have plagued humans throughout history, excitedly publishing "discoveries" of insights that have been known for centuries in religion, philosophy, and common sense.
The human synthesis section will include the following articles:
- Eclecticism: Transcending myopia for a fuller understanding of human development
- Integrating disparate lenses to see the elephant
- The enduring mystery of consciousness
- Science of nature and nurture