Pepper, Stephen - Four World Hypotheses

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

In 1942, the American philosopher Stephen Pepper wrote a book called World Hypotheses in which he described four basic world views or root metaphors which people use to establish truth criteria for the kinds of explanations they will accept. Pepper’s model is thus epistemological, but was never picked up in philosophical circles to any great degree. Instead, it found its way into debates around theoretical orientations in developmental psychology, cross-cultural psychology and behavioural psychology. It has had a diffuse impact on other fields as well. The four world views are given in PAEI order, below.

P – Mechanist Metaphor: People operating out of this world view explain things by cause and effect relationships of parts within a whole.

A – Formist Metaphor: This is a taxonomic or classificationist approach to understanding. Giving everything a label within a system of labels provides the sense of structural fullness that counts as understanding in this world view.

E – Organicist Metaphor: This is a systems approach to understanding, focusing on organic wholes that are more than the sums of their interacting parts. It is a view of forests instead of trees.

I – Contextualist Metaphor: This approach to understanding is embedded in the particular historical and contextual circumstances that make this situation unique. It is a relativistic way of seeing the world.

Pepper schema has much in common with the synthesis of personality typologies by Alan Miller also covered in this catalog, and his categories of: P-Reductionists, A-Schematists, E-Gnostics and I-Romantics.

1. Pepper, S. C. (1942). World hypotheses: A study in evidence. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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