Mark Edwards has been a passionate student of integral theory for well over two decades. During that time, Mark has been an enthusiastic and constructive critic of Ken Wilber’s work and of integral approaches in general. Mark is pursuing a Ph.D. on integral approaches to organizational transformation through the Integral Leadership Centre at the University of Western Australia.
In this three-part dialogue, Mark and Ken explore an AQAL approach to relationality, or the various relationships that exist between holons.
Their main areas of agreement, which are many, can be summarized as follows:
1. The validity and usefulness of the general AQAL framework—on this point there is strong and fundamental agreement.
2. AQAL can be used to analyze individual and social holons, and the relationships between them.
3. There are four different kinds of wholes (individuals, groups/societies, artifacts, heaps) and therefore four types of whole/part relations. “Holon” as a term can be used for all four of these if one wishes, but since in practice only two of them have some sort of agency, both authors tend to use holon mostly to refer to individuals and groups/societies—these are called individual and social holons respectively.
In Ken’s work, an individual holon possesses quadrants or four dimensions/perspectives. Each of those quadrants also “contains” other holons. For example, the individual human holon possesses an individual-exterior dimension (the Upper Right) and yet the UR-quadrant contains atoms (which are holons), molecules (which are holons), cells (which are holons), and so on. Each of those holons possesses four quadrants. Therefore it is perfectly ok to speak about each holon possessing four quadrants, as well as the quadrants possessing or containing holons. You simply have to be able to take multiple perspectives to be able to understand this.
4. Individuals have a dominant monad (self or self-system, possessing agency). Societies have a dominant mode of discourse (governing or regulating system, with nexus-agency).
The main areas of disagreement primarily concern the nature and relation of individual and social holons:
1. The simplest but strongest disagreement can be stated thus: Mark believes social holons have at least some consciousness and therefore possess four quadrants. Ken believes social holons do not possess quadrants per se, but can be looked at and analyzed as quadrivia. Ken believes that many of the points that Mark makes are true if you substitute quadrivia for quadrants when it comes to Mark’s analysis of social holons.
2. Most of the other disagreements are variations on that theme. For example: Mark sees the four quadrants as interior and exterior of agency and communion. Stated that way, both individual and social holons possess four quadrants. Ken sees the quadrants as the interior and the exterior of the singular and plural. Seen that way, there’s simply an occasion, which possess four dimensions, one of which is individual, and one of which is collective or social. The four quadrants are therefore four spaces, worlds, or actual dimensions; whereas agency and communion are drives (not dimensions), and these drives are drives that occur in dimensions. So he believes Mark has confused dimensions and drives. Language sometimes forces Ken to say “only individual holons possess four quadrants”—but that is a concession to pre-quadratic language structure; there’s simply an occasion with four fundamental dimensions. This is a radical move that undercuts the duality of individual and social—as well as the duality of interior and exterior.
3. There are subtle disagreements in the ways that that 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person are used as well as 1st-person, 2nd-person, and 3rd-person perspective are used. Ken notes what he believes to be some lack of clarity in this area.
Ken points out that virtually all of Mark’s analysis of social holons is still very useful, and can be brought into alignment with Ken’s view by substituting quadrivia for quadrants. Whether you agree more with Mark or with Ken, Ken urges everybody to study Mark’s work as an example of a terrific AQAL analysis of social holons.
If you’d like to view the PDF version of Mark’s PowerPoint presentation on Integral Relationality, which Mark and Ken refer to throughout the dialogue, right click here and save the PDF to your computer.
Part 2 covers the discussion on altitude and levels of development, and the delicate issue that unless individuals have developed to an integral worldspace—at least cognitively—there is literally no way for them to engage in a critical discussion of AQAL theory in a way that honors the aspects of AQAL that differentiate it from, and transcend and include, mere pluralism. Ken goes on to comment that due to his intense writing schedule he can’t directly engage as many critics as he would like, but that he is in regular dialogue with several hundred scholars and professionals throughout the Integral Institute network who provide extremely compelling critical arguments regarding his work. To suggest, as some do, that Ken avoids critics just because they are critics is simply not true.
Mark and Ken go on to discuss several different models of human growth, and the unique emphasis each model places on various quadrants. In particular, Mark explains the important role of Lev Vygotsky in his own work, a Russian theorist who looked at the effect of social and cultural influences (LR and LL) in developmental growth. Vygotsky is a favorite of Ken’s, as well.
They finish with an in-depth exploration of an integral calculus of primordial perspectives (integral math), and the difference between a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person, and 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-person perspectives. To brush up on the difference between a 1p and 1-p, click here.
This dialogue is recommended primarily for advanced students of integral theory (i.e. there are lots of long and boring details—but with two very cool professors.)