Logical contradiction, contrary opposites, and epistemological relativism : Critical philosophical reflections on the psychological models of adult cognitive development
Tuominen, M., & Kallio, E. K. (2020). Logical contradiction, contrary opposites, and epistemological relativism : Critical philosophical reflections on the psychological models of adult cognitive development. In E. Kallio (Ed.), Development of adult thinking : Interdisciplinary perspectives on cognitive development and adult learning (Article 208-229). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315187464-13
© The contributors, 2020
In this contribution, we argue that a philosophical clarification of the discussion of adult cognitive development in psychology is needed in order to get a clearer view of what is at stake in this debated phenomenon. On the one hand, we contend that rather than epistemological relativism, mature adult cognition should be described in terms of integration. Integration means understanding that people have different views with each other and from us, but we still need to respect them as people and take their emotions into account. This does not mean simple acceptance of their views as true, as the descriptions of epistemological relativism would suggest. On the other hand, we argue that rather than calling for many-valued logic as some Piagetian views maintain, an adult way of thinking recognises that many conflicts are not logically exhaustive, i.e., that there are more than two solutions to a problem at hand. This often means confusion between two kinds of opposition: contrary and contradictory. While the latter is logically exhaustive in two-valued logic (e.g., good and not-good), the former is not (e.g., good and bad). Our suggestion is that youthful absolutist cognition tends to see conflicts in terms of contrary opposites and assuming them to be logically exhaustive (there is no other solution). A mature adult way of thinking, by contrast, sees that such dichotomies are not logically exhaustive and even in situations in which we have not been able to figure out the solution, it is still possible to find it. Finally, we explore the possibility of articulating an adult way of thinking which recognises that one’s own conceptions might not be insufficient or incorrect by a historical comparison to Ancient Skepticism. ...
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