Meta Theories

Meta-Theories and Aging


A meta-theory is a theory which has another theory as its subject matter. In simpler terms, it is a theory about another theory. In a more scholarly definition, a meta-theory is a complex set of rules, principles and stories which are interlocked and does both the actions of describing and prescribing what is acceptable and what is unacceptable as theory. There are various meta-theories that have been presented on the topic of human development and these can be related to aging. This paper will look at three meta-theories of development and how the relate to aging. These meta-theories are the mechanistic meta-theory, organismic meta-theory and contextual meta-theory.

Mechanistic meta-theory

The mechanistic meta-theory looks at all things in nature including adults and how they behave as if they were to become machines. The mechanistic meta-theory states that a machine is a sum of all its parts. In order to understand the machine, it is necessary to break it down into its components up to the smallest then to reassemble it back to the machine. The theory states that there is no intrinsic relationship between the various parts or components of the machine. The theory continues to state that machines do not operate on their own will rather they need to be controlled by some external forces and outputs such as electricity, gas, fuel, etc. The machines react in an automatic way to these forces which makes them run Glennan, 2002()

By taking this view of everything as a machine, the theory elaborates that how people behave is as a result of the operation of the various biological parts which make the complete person and this is in response to existing internal and external stimuli. The theory deals with quantitative development of individuals in terms of how much a person can remember and how quickly the can remember this. The theory does not look at what the memory is or how it operates Glennan, 2002()

The mechanistic theory looks at development as a continuous process that is moving in one direction at any point in time. The mechanistic meta-theory is represented by the information processing theory which explains how the mind of human beings works. The mechanistic meta-theory looks at breaks down the complex processes which are thinking and memory into the parts that are components of these processes. The meta-theory also asserts that there are certain non-mechanistic characteristics which play a huge role in the complex processes of thought and memory. These non-mechanistic characteristics include motivation and emotion Courtright, Fairhurst, & Rogers, 1989()

The mechanistic theory continues to explain that there is very high predictability of the development of human beings and the direction of change is unidirectional and does not change with or without any compensation. The theory gives very low value to old age Courtright et al., 1989()

The mechanistic view when applied to aging conceptualizes the individuals by understanding the various parts which unite to form the whole. The individual is also described as a passive-reactive entity that does not develop within but develops in response to the external forces. The mechanistic view also states that the development is quantitative which means that the changes that occur during again are viewed as the differences in the degree of aging and not the differences in the development of the individual.

By looking at aging from a mechanistic time point, we can see that aging is of low value and that it does not really matter. What matters more are the individual components of aging which would include wrinkling of the skin, sickness, loss of memory and thinking, etc. Looking at aging from a mechanistic view point, we see that aging is a process that human beings only react to and they cannot initiate nor change it.

Organismic theory

The organismic meta-theory views human beings as organisms that are developing. The organismic meta-theory states that development occurs in stages. A good example is the development of human beings from embryos to infants then to maturity. The theory states that there are internally generated development patterns. The theory states that the human beings initiate and conduct events and do not just react as is purported by the mechanistic theory Olson & Byron, 1942()

Various influencing factors from the environment do not cause development neither do they significantly alter it. Rather, they either speed up or slow down the process of development. Organists describe that development after birth is a progressive…