chapter  2
Concept and Method in the Study of Human Development
Pages 10

As biological concepts, growth and maturity are legitimate, exact, and useful. But as means for designating the processes by which behavior of human beings gets organized into patterns which distinguish them as persons, the same terms are misleading organic analogies which hinder more than they help. Wittingly to reinstate the discredited though persistent body-mind dualism would not be a satisfactory solution, since behavior is not classifiable into two neat kinds, physical and social. At best, a dim line-and getting dimmer-can be drawn analytically between those aspects of behavior which seem biologically given and those which are potentially modifiable through experience. In the study of aging, as an example, while holding rigorously to the aim of generalizing in terms of identifiable sequences of personal change, we recognize that the behav­ ioral variation possible within almost any given biological limits remains infi­ nite. If we are to understand the way in which adults come to label each other as "ma tu re" and " immature , " therefore, we are not likely to get far by taking these epithets at face value. We need a set of methods and concepts adapted for

referring precisely to a wide range of common research problems, for identifying and ordering the sequences of development observable in personality, family, society and history at large. 1

The contention here is that the only vocabulary clearly appropriate for the study of human development in a scientific manner is not, by the nature of the subject matter, biological or physical, but dramatistic, as proposed by Kenneth Burke. 2 As a literary critic, Burke has never been misled into recognizing as science the unconfessed poetry of those partisans of biologese who liken social actions to homeostasis, genotypy, organic evolution, plant ecology, contagion, blood circulation, or health and disease. Fondness for organic analogy in some writers seems to occur at the expense of genuine interest in the actual physiologi­ cal substrates of interpersonal transactions. 3 Neither has Burke found it as plausible as the sycophants of physics to reduce some baffling human complex like Communist Party membership to entropy, equilibrium, cybernetics, val­ ence, warmth, molding, freezing, or the hydraulic and visual analogies so dear to psychoanalysts and gestaltists. Poor old Isaac Newton would blush in his grave if he knew how his outworn intellectual garments get refurbished for stylish wear in the social science. These inappropriate metaphors are so tempting, however, that considerable literature is devoted solely to justifying their continued indulgence as " m o d e l s . " Eventually all this debris must be swept out of social psychology, as was done, for example, with the idea of personal magnetism (still hiding out in sociology as charisma).