Interactivism maintains that much of mainstream psychology is dominated by substance and structure ontologies in contrast to process ontologies (Bickhard, 2002, 2003a; Bickhard & Christopher, 1994). In the natural sciences, substance and structure ontologies such as phlogiston theories of fire, caloric theories of heat, and fluid theories of magnetism have all been superseded by process models in which substance models have been replaced by process and patterns and organizations of process. Psychology has yet to develop a generally accepted process ontology. One implication of this is that much of psychology is left trying to establish relationships between “things” that have been reified such as mind and body, culture and self, inner representations and external realities, facts and values, and so forth (see also Adams & Markus, 2001; Hermans, 2001; Sawyer, 2002). Once split by these reifications into substantial domains, entities or realms of entities, however, it has proven to be impossible to reintegrate them. Interactivism’s process ontology is an attempt to reconceptualize psychological phenomena in such a way that these “things” and the dualities among them, are overcome. In particular, they are reconceptualized as poles or aspects of process, and of organizations of interacting process, rather than as entities in any foundational sense. In other words, structures are emergent stabilizations of process.
Building on the philosophy of pragmatism and formed in dialogue with Piagetian principles, the interactivist view (Bickhard, 1980, 1992a, 1992b, 2000; Bickhard & Christopher, 1994; Campbell & Bickhard, 1986; Campbell, Christopher, & Bickhard, 2002; Christopher & Bickhard, 2007) considers development at its heart to be characterized by the ability to abstract from or transcend the patterns of interaction and thought that we are currently engaged in so that we can move to a “higher” level where we can reflect upon what we had previously taken for granted. Piaget (2000) referred to this ability as “reflective abstraction.” It can be defined as “the relationship between adjacent levels of knowing…in which properties resident in a given level, implicit in the organization or functioning of that level, are explicitly known at the next higher level” (Campbell & Bickhard, 1986, p. 85).