On Anselm, Actuality, and the Modal Realism Argument

I had an interesting challenge this week: “Reflect on the LTCA presentation made in class.”  Figure 1 provides the image of Warren’s (2011) Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions Instructional Design Flow Diagram (LTCA ID) underpinned by Habermas’ (1984) Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions” (LTCA) presented last week.

Figure 1. The social constructionist world view of Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions instructional design flow diagram by Warren (2011, Sep 29). LTCA Flow Chart. Unpublished graphic.

Theoretical Review

Question: Does Habermas’ LTCA theory underpin Warren’s LTCA ID flow diagram?

This should be fun, I thought. LTCA is my go-to for embedding evidence-based communication strategies into the instructional design models. Andrews and Goodson (1980) argue weak examples of instructional design lack concern for theoretical validity or cost-utility (Andrews & Goodson, 1980).

Kirschner (2002) and Sweller (2011) argue “advanced” ID should represent the science of facilitating germane cognitive load using tools, tips, techniques, and media with the objective of facilitating learning (Kirschner, 2002, p. 5; Sweller, 2011, p.8).

Using the above theoretical frameworks, I was able to determine that LTCA ID qualifies as an advanced instructional design because it facilitates germane cognitive load and is underpinned by the widely accepted Habermas Learning and Teaching as Communicative Acts (Wakefield & Warren, 2011).

Parsimony Minimum Description Length Test

But, at first glance, I thought the LTCA ID model might fail the parsimony minimum description length principle.

Therefore, my next question had to be: By adding twelve new assumptions to Habermas’ LTCA four communicative action domains (strategic, constative, normative, and dramaturgical), did the LTCA ID flow diagram became an inflated ontological commitment (Wiseman, 2015) that fails the theoretical economy of explanation construct (Doty & Glick, 1994, p. 233).

Anselm, Actuality, and Modal Realism Arguments

Considering the researchers that designed LTCA ID are Habermas LTCA subject matter experts, I decided I needed to dig deeper. I decided to apply Lewis’s (1970) actuality ontological argument.

Lewis argues that the term “actuality” refers to the world in which a given phenomenon occurs. Lewis explains that our interpretations of a thing not present may represent an actual image of the thing in an “unactualized possible world.” (p. 186).


Using the classic premises of Anselm’s ontological argument, Lewis wrote:

  • Premise 1. Whatever exists in understanding exists in reality.
  • Premise 2. If something exists in the understanding, would be greater if it existed in reality.
  • Premise 3. If something exists in the understanding, then there is nothing else greater in the reality.
  • Premise 4. Therefore, if something exists in reality, then nothing greater that it can be conceived (p. 176).

(What the …?)

Okay. Let’s try this again. Solomyak (2013) explains that the notion of metaphysical contingency“the world could have been different than it is” – makes some things not immediately clear (p. 15). Taken in context, it appears Solomyak’s modal realism theory argues, just because Warren’s LTCA ID flow chart does not meet Doty & Glick minimum description length principle, that does not mean Habermas’ LTCA does not underpin Warren’s LTCA ID flow diagram (Solomyak, 2013, p. 17). .

Okay. Now let’s go back to Lewis’ Anselm’s ontological argument in context. 


  • Premise 1. If Habermas’ Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions (LTCA) exists as a reality, …
  • Premise 2. … then there is nothing in any instructional design world that could be greater.
  • Premise 3. Therefore, since nothing can be greater that Habermas’ LTCA, …
  • Premise 4. … Habermas’s LTCA underpins Warren’s LTCA ID flow diagram.

Jennie’s Perspective

In other words, Habermas’ Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions (LTCA) exists as the seminal theoretical construct regarding strategic communications within the body of knowledge. Accepting that LTCA exists as valid theory, then all theories and models based on LTCA would not be greater. But, since LTCA ID provides a view of instructional design underpinned by LTCA and does not profess to be something greater, then LTCA ID is indeed underpinned by LTCA.

Put yet another way, there is nothing out there currently that rivals the logic of Habermas’ LTCA created in 1984. Therefore, anything created after 1984 that relies on the four domains of Habermas’ LTCA is underpinned by LTCA.

Metaphysical logic now leads me to argue the minimum description length principle does not apply to Warren’s LTCA ID because:

There would be no Warren LTCA ID without Habermas’ LTCA because they are one and the same. This means Warren’s flow diagram has to be underpinned by Habermas’ Learning and Teaching as Communicative Acts (LTCA) theoretical framework and that Warren’s flow diagram is a true and actual representation of LTCA with guidelines for instructional designers added.

Proof of Concept

Need proof?

Figure 2. A superimposed layer supporting the social constructionist world view of Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions instructional design flow diagram by Warren (2011, Sep 29) modified by Johnson, 2018. Unpublished graphics.

Figure 2 provides an image of Warren’s 16-item LTCA ID assumptions overlaid by a superimposed Habermas’ four communicative actions domains layer. Goodness of fit?  You betcha.

Assignment done.

(Drop the mike.)


Doty, D. H., & Glick, W. H. (1994). Typologies as a unique form of theory building: Toward improved understanding and modeling. Academy of management review, 19(2), 230-251.Habermas, J. (1984).

Habermas, J. (1998). On the pragmatics of communication. (M Cooke). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Lewis, D. (1970). Anselm and actuality. Nous, 175-188.

Megill, J. L., & Mitchell, J. M. (2009). A Modest Modal Ontological Argument. Ratio, 22(3), 338–349. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9329.2009.00436.x

Rissanen, J. (1978). Modeling by shortest data description. Automatica, 14(5), 465-471.

Sendłak, M. (2018). On Quantitative and Qualitative Parsimony. Metaphilosophy, 49(1/2), 153–166. https://doi.org/10.1111/meta.12286

Solomyak, O. (2013). Actuality and the amodal perspective. Philosophical Studies, 164(1), 15–40. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-013-0096-8

Warren (2011, Sep 29). LTCA Flow Chart. Unpublished graphic.

Wiseman, A. W. (2015, March 16). Theory Testing and Building. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1AnaLa8pisk. Standard YouTube License: Fair Use. Video located on YouTube.

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