INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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H.B. Augustine graduated from Denison University in May 2012 with a degree in Communication and Philosophy. He is now working on a number of social innovations, including Taggle, Ubiquity University, and Integral Publishing House. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in connecting.
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An Expansion to
In “Integral Life Practice,” we are briefly informed as to what “Integral ethics” entails. I believe that this definition of Integral ethics is quite necessary but is also insufficient. We can grasp only the gist of the logical structure outlining Integral ethics – but we are not able to sink our intellectual teeth into the more specific and linear relations concerning what morality is, how we should act, and why we should do so, as according to Integral. We are essentially told that Integral ethics involves a healthy combination of masculine and feminine approaches to choice and action. This yin-yang- esque relationship between masculine and feminine moral perspectives is indeed the cornerstone of morality, since morality concerns all humans and since all humans includes both men and women. In this paper, I will present my specification and attempt at normatization of Integral ethics, deducing from this unsatisfactory account provided in the book.
In philosophy, just as the one fundamental division marking the school of epistemology is that between rationalists and empiricists, so the one fundamental division marking the school of ethics is that between deontologists and consequentialists. Not surprisingly, we can see that in the other two primary schools of philosophy (constituting a total of four) we get this perspectival distinction. In metaphysics, we have the divide between monists and pluralists, or idealists and materialists. In logic, we have the divide between those who favor deduction and those who favor induction. Fortunately, with Integral, we are able to understand why, in these four primary schools of philosophy, the significance of their binary divisions has to do in each case with the significance of the quadrant system. Let us examine what we mean by the latter statement more closely.
As we know, the quadrant system is s so perfectly ingenious and Certainly ultimate way of structuralizing the Kosmos as holistically as logically possible. One way we can see the Kosmos is that it is a synthesis between two distinct realities: the “Reality of Subjectivity” and the “Reality of Objectivity.” From Big Mind comes the Taoistic dualism between the One (causal body) and the Many (bodymind perception). We can regard reality in terms of its subjectivity, in terms of our interiority, in terms of our feelings, thoughts, intuitions, and consciousness. We can also regard reality in terms of its objectivity, in terms of “our” exteriority, in terms of all sensations and “commonsense” perceptions. We can see why the four primary schools of the one primary way of “mathematicizing the Kosmos” (philosophy) each are seemingly equally divided in terms of monism/idealism versus pluralism/materialism, in terms of rationalism versus empiricism, in terms of deduction versus induction, and in terms of deontology versus consequentialism. Let us examine each of these dualisms and see why what we have just asserted is True.
The primary dualism of monism/idealism in metaphysics exists because one half of the equation sides exclusively with the Reality of Subjectivity, with the leftmost quadrants, while the other half instead sides exclusively with the Reality of Objectivity, with the rightmost quadrants. We can see that the same principle applies to rationalism versus empiricism. Rationalists hold that knowledge is an interior a priori phenomenon that invokes Absolute Certainty in any philosophic or scientific Idea (just as we would know and understand something as aesthetically and logically perfect as Euclidian geometry). Empiricists, on the other hand, contend that knowledge is an exterior a posteriori phenomenon that allows us to believe something to a Certain degree, but Certainly not ever with the Absolute Certainty that rationalists claim and treasure. Moving along, “deductionists” likewise correspond to the leftmost quadrants since deduction aligns with rationalism (and we have already seen why rationalism itself aligns with the leftmost quadrants). Finally, and most importantly for this paper, we can see that deontological ethics pertain to the leftmost quadrant or Reality of Subjectivity because it claims morality depends on intentions rather than on consequences – and consequentialist ethics claim just the opposite. For deontologists, what matters most is the interiority of the individual as moral agent, while for consequentialists, what matters most instead is the exteriority of the environment or individual affected.
With everything in mind, we can pause and conclude that at this point, we can agree with Certainty that at least one-half of the quadrant system explains the fundamental nature concerning the philosophic school of ethics.
Above we see a depiction of the quadrant system, which we have labeled “Quadrant System AQAL.” Let us now reconsider it as follows, and label this particular mode or version “Quadrant System Ethics.”
This latest model is our initial attempt to explain Integral ethics using the most fundamental tenet of the most fundamental paradigm of Integral (which is indisputably AQAL). If we are to tackle Integral morality, it seems logical to begin explaining it by seeing how it pertains to the quadrant system. With this in mind, let us continue and see whether we can find a fundamental concept applying to the realm of ethics that is also perfectly in line with the remaining category of the quadrant system (the relationship between the individual and the group, or entity and system, etc.) In fact, we can find that there is such an additional fundamental concept – which would give us Reason to believe it is the only additional fundamental concept, since this last feature is the only one remaining in relationship to the quadrant system.
Returning to the way we began this paper, we can agree that morality further remains so fundamentally divided in terms of the masculine or “justice” perspective and its counterpart, the feminine or “care” perspective. Perhaps we can agree with this concept far more readily and intuitively. Masculinity, from an archetypal standpoint, aligns itself most with autonomy and the individual, whereas femininity in this regard instead contrastingly aligns itself most with communion and the group. Masculine morality values rules. Feminine morality values relationships. Masculine morality values theoretical choosing. Feminine morality values practical choosing. Masculine morality emphasizes thought. Feminine morality emphasizes feeling. Perhaps we get the picture. Let us now see the following completed depiction of Quadrant System Ethics.
As indicated, we can cite four primary schools of ethics, not just two. We have masculine-deontologists, masculine-consequentialists, feminine-deontologists, and feminine consequentialists. A masculine-deontologist is someone such as Immanuel Kant because he emphasizes masculine morality (the value of autonomy) over feminine morality (the value of communion), and because he sees it as a matter of “Absolute Laws of Goodness” in accordance with “Absolute Laws of Reason.” A masculine-consequentialist is someone such as John Stuart Mill because he emphasizes masculine morality over feminine morality, but because he instead sees it as a matter of results as opposed to one of intention, a matter of environment rather than one of character. Moving along, a feminine-consequentialist is someone such as Nel Noddings because she normatizes care ethics solely in accordance with care for relationships (feminine) and response to environment (consequentialism). Lastly, a feminine-deontologist is someone such as Aristotle because he normatizes care ethics solely in accordance with care for relationships (feminine) and obedience to the Absolute golden mean (deontology).
How are we to have any kind of logical explanation of morality if these four primary schools of ethics are each legitimate, which is the case according to the ideal principle of Integral (“transcend and include”)? (Ironically, this logical explanation will seemingly itself align with deontological morality, but only for the fact that this is philosophy and philosophy operates by means of theoreticality, calculation, and Reason. Nonetheless, we will still have a moral philosophy that transcends and includes all four schools). Anyway, let us cite a quote by Deepak Chopra regarding the nature of choice and its connection to Goodness, Beauty, and Truth alike: “There is only one choice, out of the infinity of choices available in every second, that will create happiness for you as well as for those around you.”
This notion of choice, as described by Chopra, is interesting because it implicitly transcends and includes the metaphysical-ethical archetypal concepts of “Freewill” and “Fate.” If choice is infinitely available in every second, and if only one right choice exists for the individual to make, then it would seem that the necessary Truths of both Freewill and Fate are included in the doctrine. If choice infinitely and always exists, then Freewill is True, and if only one right choice exists for the individual to make in any relative moment, then Fate is True, as well. Let us accept the significance of this statement by Chopra as a maxim from which we will deduce the following explication on Integral ethics.
Let us agree that the Kosmos in its Totality is a Holarchy. This Holarchy Consists of holons. Take one particular holon – say, a human being. A human being has the capacity to choose, no doubt. Furthermore, however, this holon has the freedom to choose anything – potentially, of course. Let us see that relative to this person, to this “body-core-mind-soul” (“sensation-sentiment-reflection-intuition”), he or she faces a “Holarchy of Choices.” We can define a choice as it pertains to a particular relative, finite event. We can define an event as “going to the mall,” as “eating breakfast,” as “accepting a job offer” – the list could go on infinitely for as many possible events of which we can conceive. We can see that the magnitude of a particular event is in direct accordance with its placement along the Kosmic Holarchy.
Let us now see, and agree, that the “Holarchy of Holons,” “Holarchy of Events,” and Holarchy of Choices are each directly aligned. To support the latter claim, I will cite Baruch Spinoza and remind us that the order and connection of “ideas” (perhaps “Ideas” would be better for the latter term) is the same as the order and connection of “things” (perhaps “holons” would be better for the latter term). In a given moment “M,” we have a hypothetical number of choices. Theoretically, we have an infinite number of choices. However, let us see this plurality of personal possibility as represented by a logarithmic line graph approaching the infinite, Absolute asymptote.
At moment M – as defined by a “commonsense,” waking, nontranscendent perception of space-time – the nearest choices available are those that are relatively furthest from this hypothetical asymptote. Thus, in relation to all other choices, some are more available and more relevant than others are. Let us say that at moment M, the holon or human being is in the process of choosing whether he or she should sit and meditate or work on homework. These two choices are the most immediate ones the person considers. Naturally, a number of other choices exist – in fact, theoretically, infinitely many choices exist, other than just these two. However, relative to the imaginary “point” on the logarithmic graph depicting all potential choice, we can agree that the situation must always boil down to two most obvious or prominent choices (and before that, three, and before that, four, and before that, five, and so forth ad infinitum). Naturally, as well, one choice is closer to this point, is most obvious or prominent (however subtly that may appear), for he or she to make. Let us call the faculty of selecting the right resultant situation relative to the right relational holon(s), Chopra's “right choice.”
We can summarize all that we have just articulated with the following principle: At any given moment M, a right choice – out of the theoretical infinity of other choices – always exists for the person to make. We may be wondering how this particular discussion of right choice relates to the four primary schools of morality as outlined with the quadrant system. Let us now see and agree that every right choice is an alignment with one particular moral perspective, one particular ethical quadrant, and only that one. Sometimes the right choice is to act with masculine-deontological morality. Sometimes the right choice is to act with masculine-consequentialist morality. Sometimes the right choice is to act with feminine-consequentialist morality. Sometimes the right choice is to act with feminine-deontological morality. “Sometimes we must always” abstain from doing something because the intention of doing so is blatantly too wrong, e.g. killing. “Sometimes we must always” calculate the consequences in order to make the right choice, e.g. whether to sit and meditate or do homework. “Sometimes we must always” act on immediate impulse and response to the particular situation, in order improve the most relevant relationships as efficiently and effectively as possible, e.g. stop the car if we see one that has crashed and nobody else is on the road. “Sometimes we must always” act in accordance with the intangible external scenario, and calculate not what would necessarily bring the best results but would instead demonstrate the perfect amount of character, e.g. embody a healthy mean or balance between “Divine Pride” and “Divine Humility.” Sometimes we must act according to Kant. Sometimes we must act according to Mill. Sometimes we must act according to Noddings. Sometimes we must act according to Aristotle.
What allows us to know what the right choice is for any given moment M is that one faculty of the soul, which allows us to appreciate when something is Beautiful and grasp when something is True. This psychic faculty is that of the intuition. Intuition is the essence of knowingness and Certainty, whether this Certainty concerns itself with what is Good, what is Beautiful, or what is True. In the case of what is Good (morality and ethics), we are able to know with Certainty what choice is the right one, out of all others, because intuition tells us. Perhaps this expansion of Integral ethics tells us nothing – perhaps it tells us more on the contrary. Regardless, we can end our discussion by reminding ourselves of the four primary schools in ethics outlined, as well as the significance of making the right choice and knowing how to do so by means of “listening to the soul,” or simply intuition.