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Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980)


Swiss developmental psychologist, famous for his work with children and his theory of cognitive development.
Jean Piaget
A second prefatory question faces us: that of society and the individual. We have sought to contrast the child and the civilized adult on the ground of their respective social attitudes. The baby (at the stage of motor intelligence) is asocial, the egocentric child is subject to external constraint but has little capacity for cooperation, the civilized adult of to-day presents the essential character of cooperation between differentiated personalities who regard each other as equals.
There are therefore three types of behavior: motor behavior, egocentric behavior (with external constraint), and cooperation. And to these three types of social behavior there correspond three types of rules: motor rules, rules due to unilateral respect, and rules due to mutual respect.
But here again, one must beware of laying down the law: for things are motor, individual and social all at once. As we shall have occasion to show, rules of cooperation are in some respects the outcome of the rules of coercion and of the motor rules. On the other hand, coercion is applied during the first days of an infant's life, and the earliest social relations contain the germs of cooperation. Here again, it is not so much a question of these successive features themselves as of the proportions in which they are present. Moreover, the way in which conscious realization and the time-lag from one level to another come into play is a further bar to our arranging these phenomena in a strict sequence, as though they made a single appearance and then disappeared from the scene once and for all.
Piaget quotes
Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality. They are more or less isomorphic to transformations of reality. The transformational structures of which knowledge consists are not copies of the transformations in reality; they are simply possible isomorphic models among which experience can enable us to choose. Knowledge, then, is a system of transformations that become progressively adequate.
Piaget
One must have felt a real desire to exchange thoughts with others in order to discover all that a lie can involve. And this interchange of thoughts is from the first not possible between adults and children, because the initial inequality is too great and the child tries to imitate the adult and at the same time to protect himself against him rather than really to exchange thoughts with him. The situation we have described is thus almost the necessary outcome of unilateral respect. The spirit of the command having failed to be assimilated, the letter alone remains. Hence the phenomenon we have been observing. The child thinks of a lie as "what isn't true," independently of the subject's intentions. He even goes so far as to compare lies to those linguistic taboos, "naughty words." As for the judgment of responsibility, the further a lie is removed from reality, the more serious is the offense. Objective responsibility is thus the inevitable result of unilateral respect in its earliest stage.




Piaget Jean quotes
Generally speaking, one can say that motor intelligence contains the germs of completed reason. But it gives promise of more than reason pure and simple. From the moral as from the intellectual point of view, the child is born neither good nor bad, but master of his destiny. Now, if there is intelligence in the schemas of motor adaptation, there is also the element of play. The intentionality peculiar to motor activity is not a search for truth but the pursuit of a result, whether objective or subjective; and to succeed is not to discover a truth.
Piaget Jean
Before games are played in common, no rules in the proper sense can come into existence. Regularities and ritualized schemas are already there, but these rites, being the work of the individual, cannot call forth that submission to something superior to the self which characterizes the appearance of any rule.
Jean Piaget quotes
The child is a realist in every domain of thought, and it is therefore natural that in the moral sphere he should lay more stress on the external, tangible element than on the hidden motive.
Jean Piaget
Between the various types of rules which we shall give there will therefore be at once continuity of function and difference of structure. This renders arbitrary any attempt to cut mental reality up into stages. The matter is further complicated by the "Law of conscious realization" and the resulting time-lag. The appearance of a new type of rule on the practical plane does not necessarily mean that this rule will come into the subject's consciousness, for each mental operation has to be relearned on the different planes of action and of thought.
Piaget Jean quotes
Alongside of the rare cases of true conversation where there is a genuine interchange of opinions or commands, one can observe in children between 2 and 6 a characteristic type of pseudo-conversation or "collective monologue", during which the children speak only for themselves, although they wish to be in the presence of interlocutors who will serve as a stimulus. Now here again, each feels himself to be in communion with the group because he is inwardly addressing the Adult who knows and understands everything, but here again, each is only concerned with himself, for lack of having dissociated the "ego" from the "socius".
Piaget
Considering that the square game is only one of the five or ten varieties of the game of marbles, it is almost alarming in face of the complexity of rules and procedure in the square game, to think of what a child of twelve has to store away in his memory. These rules, with their overlapping and their exceptions, are at least as complex as the current rules of spelling. It is somewhat humiliating, in this connection, to see how heavily traditional education sets about the task of making spelling enter into brains that assimilate with such ease the mnemonic contents of the game of marbles. But then, memory is dependent upon activity, and a real activity presupposes interest.
Piaget Jean
As far as the game of marbles is concerned, there is therefore no contradiction between the egocentric practice of games and the mystical respect entertained for rules. This respect is the mark of a mentality fashioned, not by free cooperation between equals, but by adult constraint.
Jean Piaget
The motor rule. In its beginnings the motor rule merges into habit. During the first few months of an infant's life, its manner of taking the breast, of laying its head on the pillow, etc., becomes crystallized into imperative habits. This is why education must begin in the cradle. To accustom the infant to get out of its own difficulties or to calm it by rocking it may be to lay the foundations of a good or of a bad disposition.
But not every habit will give rise to the knowledge of a rule. The habit must first be frustrated, and the ensuing conflict must lead to an active search for the habitual. Above all, the particular succession must be perceived as regular, i.e. there must be judgment or consciousness of regularity (Regelbewusstseiri). The motor rule is therefore the result of a feeling of repetition which arises out of the ritualization of schemas of motor adaptation.




Jean Piaget quotes
If mutual respect does derive from unilateral respect, it does so by opposition.
Jean Piaget
I am convinced that there is no sort of boundary between the living and the mental or between the biological and the psychological. From the moment an organism takes account of a previous experience and adapts to a new situation, that very much resembles psychology.
Piaget quotes
As you know, Bergson pointed out that there is no such thing as disorder but rather two sorts of order, geometric and living. Mine is clearly living. The folders I need are within reach, in the order of frequency with which I use them. True, it gets tricky to locate a folder in the lower levels. But if you have to find it, you look for it. That takes less time than putting them away every day.
Piaget Jean
Every observer has noted that the younger the child, the less sense he has of his own ego. From the intellectual point of view, he does not distinguish between external and internal, subjective and objective. From the point of view of action, he yields to every suggestion, and if he does oppose to other people's wills a certain negativism which has been called "the spirit of contradiction" this only points to his real defenselessness against his surroundings. A strong personality can maintain itself without the help of this particular weapon. The adult and the older child have complete power over him. They impose their opinions and their wishes, and the child accepts them without knowing that he does so. Only and this is the other side of the picture as the child does not dissociate his ego from the environment, whether physical or social, he mixes into all his thoughts and all his actions, ideas and practices that are due to the intervention of his ego and which, just because he fails to recognize them as subjective, exercise a check upon his complete socialization. From the intellectual point of view, he mingles his own fantasies with accepted opinions, whence arise pseudo lies (or sincere lies), syncretism, and all the features of child thought. From the point of view of action, he interprets in his own fashion the examples he has adopted, whence the egocentric form of play we were examining above. The only way of avoiding these individual refractions would lie in true cooperation, such that both child and senior would each make allowance for his own individuality and for the realities that were held in common.
Piaget Jean quotes
In certain circumstances where he experiments in new types of conduct by cooperating with his equals, the child is already an adult. There is an adult in every child and a child in every adult. There exist in the child certain attitudes and beliefs which intellectual development will more and more tend to eliminate: there are others which will acquire more and more importance. The later are not derived from the former but are partly antagonistic to them.
Jean Piaget
For the fundamental fact of human psychology is that society, instead of remaining almost entirely inside the individual organism as in the case of animals prompted by their instincts, becomes crystallized almost entirely outside the individuals. In other words, social rules, as Durkheim has so powerfully shown, whether they be linguistic, moral, religious, or legal, etc., cannot be constituted, transmitted or preserved by means of an internal biological heredity, but only through the external pressure exercised by individuals upon each other.
Jean Piaget quotes
When the child imitates the rules practiced by his older companions he feels that he is submitting to an unalterable law, due, therefore, to his parents themselves. Thus the pressure exercised by older on younger children is assimilated here, as so often, to adult pressure. This action of the older children is still constraint, for cooperation can only arise between equals. Nor does the submission of the younger children to the rules of the older ones lead to any sort of cooperation in action; it simply produces a sort of mysticism, a diffused feeling of collective participation, which, as in the case of many mystics, fits in perfectly well with egocentrism. For we shall see eventually that cooperation between equals not only brings about a gradual change in the child's practical attitude, but that it also does away with the mystical feeling towards authority.
Jean Piaget
If a baby really has no awareness of himself and is totally thing-directed and at the same time all his states of mind are projected onto things, our second paradox makes sense: on the one hand, thought in babies can be viewed as pure accommodation or exploratory movements, but on the other this very same thought is only one, long, completely autistic waking dream.
Piaget Jean
There is little mysticism without an element of transcendence, and conversely, there is no transcendence without a certain degree of egocentrism. It may be that the genesis of these experiences is to be sought in the unique situation of the very young child in relation to adults. The theory of the filial origin of the religious sense seems to us singularly convincing in this connection.


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