Excerpt A: An Integral Age at the Leading Edge
Part V. Integral Methodological Pluralism





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    PART V


  • Notes 1-8
  • Notes 9-19
  • Notes 20-30
  • Introduction

          I believe we now have enough background information to take a quick tour of the some of the more commonly-used methodologies that light up, enact, and bring forth the various dimensions of holons. In each of these cases--from empiricism to phenomenology to hermeneutics to systems theory--we can ask, what is being disclosed or brought forth by the injunctions of the particular inquiry? That is, when we pursue those particular inquiries, what is it that we actually find? What does the inquiry show us? And why is this important?

         Several items are being enacted and illumined in the clearing created by a particular inquiry, including past actuals, present actual occasions, and future potentials:

         (1) We just discussed one of the most important--namely, some of these inquiries (such as physics, biology, developmental psychology, systems theory, ecology) can disclose many of the enduring features of past actuals that are still active in the present as givens, as facts that pre-exist this moment's interpretations of them (even if inescapably colored by this moment's interpretations, and even though, when they were first laid down as facts, they themselves had an intrinsic moment of interpretive freedom).

         (2) Some of these inquiries (such as hermeneutics, collaborative inquiry, meditation, artistic creativity) can also highlight the actual occasions (or facts-and-interpretations) that themselves emerge in this moment.

         (3) And--just as important--some of them can disclose various future potentials that are just emerging with their own wild creative jolts. These emergents are not givens--certainly not yet--but are just coming to be in this moment of indeterminate playfulness. If any of these creative emergents survive the selection pressures in all quadrants and are subsequently repeated by more and more holons in that class, they might eventually settle into deep patterns and ingrained Kosmic habits handed to all members of that class in the future.

         Those are some of the occasions open to our present forms of inquiry. In an important endnote, we will discuss some of the other items that might be discovered through human inquiry (items such as involutionary givens, or those truly archetypal patterns that might reasonably be supposed to exist prior to the start of evolution itself).26 And remember, what we are exploring now are various forms of inquiry, or ways that we look for truth, or meaning, or information, or feelings, or insights, or collaborative sharing, and so on. In all forms of inquiry, in any quadrant, we are looking for something. So we are asking: in the various quadrants, what forms of looking or inquiring are there? And what do they bring forth? Needless to say, inquiry is not the only form of human feeling, knowing, being, or desiring--it is simply the form most open to reproducible methodology.

         Let's look at the contours of some of these methodologies by giving a very quick, generic, simplistic account of some of the more commonly-used inquiries and a little bit of their recent history.

    Upper-Right Inquiry

          Perhaps the simplest of any sort of inquiry is sensory empiricism (which, given theoretical puffing, appears as behaviorism and, with more puffing, positivism--I will treat them generically as one). Sensory empiricism is also the most naively appealing, based on a series of facile assumptions: I see sensorimotor objects out there; those objects (and probably those objects alone) are real; therefore true knowing consists of following the behavior of those objects as carefully as I can: that is, true knowing consists of making an accurate map of a pregiven objective territory.

         It's not that those assumptions are entirely wrong in every way. It's that, even if we grant their true aspects, they are a very small slice of the Kosmic pie. But the true aspects of that approach (which we are focusing on now) revolve around this:

         When I attempt to take up the stance of an impartial and scientific viewing of objects, I light up the third-person dimensions of being-in-the-world. Those third-person dimensions are there, they are real, they are relatively objective (i.e., many of the aspects of present occasions are handed to the present as Whiteheadian past actuals factually inherited or prehended by this moment. This is why a diamond will cut a piece of glass, and it will do so in a premodern culture, a modern culture, and a postmodern culture: so much for cultural relativity). Those facts stand, but they do not stand alone, nor do they constitute a reality divorced from, or unmolded by, the other quadrants and dimensions of being-in-the-world. The disaster, needless to say, occurs when the investigation into this quadrant (the Upper Right)--or inquiry into the objective behavior of sensorimotor occasions--is taken to be the only type of investigation that yields true knowledge (an immature assumption that occurs only when I presume, contrary to the entire web of available evidence, that the only occasions that are real are sensorimotor occasions--which amounts to an absolutizing of the naive stance of unreflective awareness. "That we deny reflection is positivism"--Jürgen Habermas). This blindness is simply another instance of quadrant absolutism.

          Still, a third-person inquiry into the behavior of the sensorimotor dimension of holons is an important tool in any integral kit. This empirical mode of inquiry lights up the third-person dimensions of being-in-the-world. It is therefore instrumental in helping to disclose some of the factual aspects of this moment (which means, the inherited forms of the quadratic past still active in this moment, AND the objective or Right-Hand correlates of the Left-Hand consciousness and interpretations arising in this moment). The existence of this important quadrant, of course, is denied by postmodernists, but only because, as we will see, they are involved in a quadrant absolutism of their own.

         Important inquiries here include most of the natural sciences focusing on individual behaviors, such as physics, chemistry, molecular biology, biochemistry, evolutionary behaviorism/psychology, neurophysiology, neuroscience, and cognitive science.27 However limited they are in covering the Kosmos, they form an important cornerstone of any truly integral methodological pluralism.

    Upper-Left Inquiry

          Upper-Left inquiry, or inquiry into first-person modes of being-in-the-world, is the most immediately available inquiry for everybody: I simply look into my own mind, my own awareness. Of course, things then get very complicated very quickly--what I call "my own mind" is partly a product of culture, social systems, a bit of undigested meat, you name it (which only means, once again, that no quadrant is divorced from the others). Still, "introspection" in any of its numerous forms is not entirely an illusory game; just as with empiricism and all the other quadrant inquiries, it can disclose many important occasions--past actuals, present occasions, and future potentials--not disclosed or enacted by any other mode.

          The simple fact is, when I take up a stance of feeling into myself, I light up the first-person dimensions of being-in-the-world. Of course, what I find depends on a host of variables, including--most importantly--both the wave of consciousness and the stream of consciousness that I am feeling into. But generic first-person inquiry is behind a multitude of important methodologies across the entire spectrum of consciousness--including various types of meditation and contemplation, introspective psychology, psychoanalytic endeavors, shamanic voyaging, phenomenology of awareness, dream analysis, and body work.

          Most of the conflicts between approaches in this quadrant concern an argument as to which one of the many levels of awareness is the one and only true level--a case, we will see, not of quadrant absolutism but of wave absolutism. And we will also find a heated argument among theorists who believe that only one stream in this quadrant is really real--e.g., those who believe that the Piagetian cognitive stream, or the Gravesian values stream, or the vipassana meditation stream is the only really deep stream against which all others are but surface currents--an example of stream absolutism.28

          Nonetheless, first-person phenomenology, in many of its forms--spiritual, mental, bodily--shorn of any wave or stream or state or type absolutism, is clearly an important resource in any integral methodological pluralism. We will investigate its many crucial contributions in a subsequent excerpt.

    Lower-Right Inquiry

          Of course, both Upper-Left and Upper-Right inquiries are, in one sense, naive. They both tend to assume that individuals stand alone. I look into my own mind (UL), and nothing I see there suggests that those contents are profoundly molded, sometimes even created, by my culture. And I look at objective things out there (UR), and they seem to be real objects existing by themselves--nothing in my senses suggests that they are intrinsic parts of larger wholes.

          The first move beyond the stance of naive individualism generally occurs (and historically occurred) by understanding that the visible organism (UR) is intrinsically interconnected with the visible environment (LR) in systems of mutual interaction. In other words, a sophisticated tracking of the sensorimotor behavior of single objects soon discloses (to second-tier cognition) that individual objects are following systemic patterns of behavior that are not given by anything in the individual objects themselves. Individual objects appear to belong to wider systems that to some degree govern the behavior of those objects that are components of the system. The evolution of an individual organism, for example, cannot be understood apart from the ecological system in which it is embedded. In some sense, individual organisms do not exist on their own; what actually exists is an organism-environment system, an ecological web--itself embedded in even larger webs--and it is an understanding of these systems and webs that constitutes significant knowledge. Thus, it is not the behavior of objects but the behavior of systems that becomes the focus of this mode of inquiry.

         Historically, this perspective resulted in everything from developmental structuralism to genealogical anthropology to evolutionary systems theory to the ecological sciences and Web-of-Life theories to the wide variety of dynamic systems theory (from cybernetics to general systems theory to functionalism to chaos and complexity theories). All of those are still an essentially third-person inquiry, but now executed with an eye on the plural and the collective, not the singular and atomistic. In systems theory you find no first-person accounts of desire, feelings, impulses, visions, poetry, dreams, satori, and so on (not in their own nonreductionistic terms); and you find no authentic (or nonreductionistic) second-person accounts of mutual understanding, hermeneutics, collectively shared horizons; nor any account of the interior of states of consciousness, stages of consciousness, streams of consciousness, and so on. Those items are sometimes acknowledged, but all of them are reduced to their exteriors appearing in dynamic systems of interwoven its.29 Despite attempts to introduce a "soft systems theory," the vast majority of influential systems approaches--starting with von Bertalanffy and running through Parsons and Merton to Maturana, Varela, Luhmann, Prigogine, Goertzel, Warfield, Laszlo, Wolfram--are all primarily forms of third-person plural inquiry, which, relieved of any quadrant absolutisms, are crucial resources in any integral methodological pluralism.

          In other words, when I engage in systems-theory inquiry, I am lighting up the third-person plural dimensions of being-in-the-world. These dimensions are real, they are there, and they are--exactly as systems theorists claim--relatively objective facts about systems in the world. They disclose the Lower-Right quadrant, or the objective dimensions of communal holons.

          The more leading-edge schools of dynamic systems theory acknowledge that the Upper-Right organism does not merely reflect its pregiven Lower-Right environment but rather enacts it and co-creates it (the enactive paradigm). This is surely true; but it is still a third-person account of those realities, as we will see in detail in Excerpt B. This does not invalid autopoietic theories, but merely situates them in the larger scheme of an integral methodological pluralism.

          All of those interobjective approaches--there are literally dozens of others--are tapping into the fact that all holons have a Lower-Right quadrant, a holistic web of mutually interpenetrating patterns across space and time that can be described in a third-person plural perspective--and which, although far from the whole story, are a crucial aspect of a more integral view.

    Lower-Left Inquiry

          Historically, and coming right on the heels of the discovery that individual organisms exist only as inseparable aspects of webs of ecological interaction, it was discovered that those interobjective webs actually have interiors that cannot be reduced to, or explained by, the webs themselves. That is, social systems (third-person its) actually possess interiors of first- and second-person realities that escape detection by ecological and systems sciences. Worse, the objective and interobjective sciences themselves arise only as an inseparable aspect of extensive fields of cultural interpretations: intersubjectivity touches all other endeavors. Thus, modern systems theory gave way to postmodern contextualism--both of which are now being transcended and included in integral theories at the leading edge.

          But to focus on the great postmodern discovery: every holon has an intersubjective dimension, every holon has a Lower-Left quadrant. Moreover, this intersubjective field is truly irreducible; it is not some sort of product of the interaction of priorly separate subjects that somehow come together, interact, and form a shared intersubjective horizon. Rather, intersubjectivity is there, from the start, as an intrinsic aspect of the tetra-arising of this and every moment.

         Even evolutionary sciences support this conclusion, in that they all agree on (even if they cannot explain) the fact that there are no first instances in evolution. When the first instance of a new species arises--for example, the first mammal--it never arises by itself; what first shows up is an entire population of mammals. It makes sense if you think about it. For a new species to arise, there must occur dozens of major beneficial mutations. The odds against that happening are of course astronomical; but worse, the same dozen mutations must occur in another animal of the opposite sex; and then, on the entire world-wide planet, they must find each other, and then mate, and then their offspring have to survive and mate--and the odds of all of that happening are of course off the scale of the believable or even the possible. No, in some mysterious way, entire populations simply show up--and that means, the insides and outsides of the singular and the plural arrive on the scene together: the four quadrants simultaneously arise and mutually tetra-evolve, as we have been saying all along.

         (How do entire populations simply show up? What "mechanism" can possibly account for that? The short answer is: Eros. See the endnote on involutionary givens.30 But whatever we decide on the "how" of it, the factual "what" of it is that the inside and the outside of the singular and the plural arrive on the scene simultaneously: the quadrants tetra-evolve.)

          By the time the Lower-Left or intersubjective dimension flowers in self-reflexive humans, entire modes of inquiry have also evolved that help to enact, disclose, and illuminate this intrinsic dimension of being-in-the-world. Foremost among these modes of intersubjective inquiry is hermeneutics--the art and science of interpretation--in its many forms. Of course, hermeneutics in its prereflexive mode exists "all the way down"--holons, even at the subatomic level, are engaged in interpreting their environments. Signal systems and exchanges of particles/energies/forces exist at even the most fundamental of levels. Unfortunately, because the creative novelty of the most fundamental holons approaches (but never reaches) zero, it mistakenly appears that interpretive freedom is completely absent at the ground levels, whereas, as Whitehead knew, it is merely at its nadir. The intersubjective dimension of evolution can be followed from its humble beginnings in the most fundamental holons (as systems of proto-prehension), through its more elaborate forms in plant and animal signal systems (chemical, biological, hormonal)--but all of them involve not just exchanges of signifiers in a system of syntax but the evoking and enacting of signifiers in a shared semantic: the four quadrants arrive on the scene simultaneously and tetra-evolve. (For syntax and semantics, see Excerpt B, section "Integral Semiotics.")

          In humans, this shared semantic appears as extensive networks of cultural backgrounds, prereflexive shared prehensions, mutual understanding, and overlapping horizons of intersubjectivity. These shared interpretive moments constitute an essential ingredient not only of mutual understanding between subjects, but of the arising of subjectivity itself: such is the essence of the great postmodern discovery. Agency is always agency-in-communion, in both its exterior or ecological forms, and its interior or cultural forms.

          The explicit investigation of the many nuances of cultural intersubjectivity is the key ingredient in the methodologies of the Lower-Left quadrant. Hermeneutics, collaborative inquiry, participatory pluralism, and action-inquiry are a few of the many modes of this enactment and disclosure. The important point is that when I engage in hermeneutics and collaborative inquiry, I am lighting up the second-person (and first-person plural) modes of being-in-the-world. Those modes are real, they are there, and they constitute a crucial ingredient in any integral methodological pluralism.

          All of those intersubjective approaches--there are literally dozens of others--are tapping into the fact that all holons have a Lower-Left quadrant, a holistic web of mutually interpenetrating prehensions across space and time that can be felt and described in a second-person (and first-person plural) perspective--and which, although far from the whole story, are a crucial aspect of a more integral view.

    Integral Operating System (IOS)

         Those are simply some of the major, time-tested, widely accepted quadrant inquiries. In a later excerpt, we will focus on wave, stream, state, and type inquiries (there are abundant existing examples of all of those).

         But in each of these discussions of some of the more important modes of human inquiry, we are not discussing them merely as an academic item of historical interest. We are driving towards a practical, hands-on, integral methodological pluralism, or what we are also calling an Integral Operating System (IOS), which specifically combines the very best of the time-tested modes of inquiry (from empiricism to phenomenology to hermeneutics to systems theory) in order to produce the most balanced and comprehensive approach to the Kosmos.

         IOS, when mastered, combines the strengths of all of the major types of human inquiry in order to produce an approach to any occasion that "touches all the bases," that refuses to leave some dimension untouched or ignored, that honors all of the important aspects of holons in all of the their richness and fullness. IOS, as we said, is itself merely a third-person system of signifiers (i.e., it is nothing but a system of abstract ideas, symbols, and concepts, all of which are merely third-person symbols, not first-person or second-person realities).

         However--to continue the computerese--if IOS is properly downloaded and installed, it essentially activates the first-, second-, and third-person dimensions themselves, simply because those are the active signifieds of the IOS signifiers. The result is that any brain hardware system operating on IOS automatically scans all phenomena--interior as well as exterior--for any quadrants, waves, streams, or states that are not being included in awareness. IOS then acts to redress this imbalance and help move the system toward a more integral and inclusive stance. IOS acts as an autopoietic holism, if you will.

         To repeat: IOS itself does not deliver first- or second-person realities, nor is it meant to; rather, it simply alerts the system to the fact that those realities exist, and urges the system to directly take them up. But that means that the person then has to actually engage in those other modes of inquiry, whether contemplative phenomenology, body work, intersubjective group processing, interobjective institutional organization, meditation, collaborative inquiry, and so on.

         We will continue to discuss IOS in subsequent sections. But don't let the third-person signifiers mislead. What we are talking about are the contents of lived, felt, breathed awareness. We are talking about what aspects of the Kosmos we will allows ourselves to feel. Can we allows ourselves to feel deeply into all dimensions of the self-disclosing Kosmos, or we will recoil, contact, pull away from the Kosmos, and from our Self, and run instead into one partiality or another, one absolutisms or another, one broken fragment or another? IOS, although a third-person operating system, simply acts as a reminder, a self-scanning alert, that there might be more feelings than are presently being allowed to surface, and points one in the direction of a more integral embrace.

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