An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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Michael Zimmerman Michael Zimmerman is author of Environmental Philosophy, Heidegger's Confrontation with Modernity, and Contesting Earth's Future. He is a member of the Integral Institute's Ecology group, Professor of Philosophy at Tulane University, Clinical Professor of Psychology at the Tulane Medical School, Director of the Environmental Studies Program and Co-Director of the Asian Studies Program, and can be contacted at Here, he gives a summary of the essays by Mark Edwards, posted in the Reading Room of the Integral World website. Revised and expanded, August, 2003

Summaries of
Mark Edwards'
Constructive Criticisms
of Integral Theory

Michael Zimmerman

Edwards is a very sympathetic, insightful, and constructive critic of integral theory. He does a great job not only of revealing problems, tensions, contradictions of integral theory (and often these tensions have to do with how it is being understood by others, not as how it was originally formulated by KW), but also of showing how integral theory has the resources needed to address the problems. In other words, Edwards manages to use integral theory to improve integral theory. At times, he may ascribe to KW or integral theory a position that is KW doesn't hold, but usually Edwards is on target at least in the sense of pointing out what is at least a perceived problem in integral theory. In what follows, I summarize the major criticisms and insights from the essays published in the Reading Room of The Integral World website:

"Pushing for the Collective in Wilber's Integral Philosophy"

Claims that W. tends to overemphasize the UL or individual/personal forms of spiritual practice, while underemphasizing how spirituality shows up in the other three quads. W. tends to emphasize personal spiritual practice, because of tendency of group or social practices to reflect pre-personal, mythic dimensions of spirituality. Edwards emphasizes, however, that there are authentic and post-personal modes of spiritual practice in the other quadrants. Collective injunctions need to be included with individual injunctions. Individual practice needs to be grounded in larger social/cultural context of practices and practitioners.

"The Integral Cycle of Knowledge: Some Thoughts on Integrating Ken Wilber's Developmental and Epistemological Models"

Ken himself posted a positive comment about this essay, which he evidently admired, even though he took mild issue with certain aspects of it.

The major effort in this essay is to integrate the quadrants with the three-step model of experimental knowing, which is well developed in KW's The Marriage of Sense and Soul. There, KW claims that all rigorous forms of knowing follow a three strand process, 1) injunction (engage in some specific practice), 2) apprehension (perceive first-hand the consequences or results of the stipulated behavior), and 3) communal evaluation (submit your experience to the community of investigators for verification or falsification).

Edwards argues that a fourth strand is needed to establish a truly "integral cycle of knowledge." This four-strand cognitive process would include:

  1. injunction
  2. apprehension
  3. interpretation and
  4. communal verification.

Throughout the essay, Edwards emphasizes that this interpretative strand is clearly present in KW's discussion of postmodern theory, according to which all evidence/experience must be interpreted according to the (finite) socio-cultural context or perspective of the experiencer.

By adding this fourth strand, Edwards says that we can then achieve a full correspondence between KW's quadrants and the integral cycle of knowledge.

  1. Injunction corresponds to UR
  2. Apprehension corresponds to UL
  3. Interpretation corresponds to LL
  4. Communal Evaluation corresponds to LR

The cycle of knowing is rather flexible in terms of direction. One might begin with UR, moves to UL, then to LL, and finally to LR. dwards insists that this cycle pertains to all sciences in all ontological domains. If so, then KW's recommendation that we divide science into monological (eye of flesh) and dialogical (eye of mind) domains is not really accurate, although KW's intention (to emphasize that so-called monological science denies interiority) is understandable and laudable. Even so-called monological science involves all four strands of cognitive activity.

Edwards, trained as a social scientist, goes on to make the intriguing and controversial claim claim (recently made by Wilber as well) that empirical (so-called monological) science does not restrict itself to studying the external aspect of phenomena, but can be and has been used to provide rigorous insight into interior aspects. Phenomena that manifest in the UR and LR domains can be systematically studied in a way that reveals insight into the character of the interior domains. The so-called monological sciences do not have to be reductionistic. Instead, they can be employed in a way that assumes the existence of interiors, while approaching interiority from perspectives that focus on how such interiority manifests itself in or correlates with externally observable phenomena.

Hence, Edwards claims that a "transpersonal behaviorism" is possible!

Edwards shows that thinkers such as Piaget and Freud, whom KW cites as examples of pioneers in the UL quadrant, were often either empiricist (monological) or reductionistic in their methods. Hence, the "monological gaze of neo-behaviorism can result in depth models and understandings of subjective human experience." Likewise, contemplative paths are not just about the UL quadrant, but apply to all quadrants.

The crucial factor, according to Edwards, is the interpretive framework in terms of which the scientist makes sense of the data that s/he experiences in connection with following a set of injunctions. If the scientist supposes that there are interior domains to be understood, and also supposes that certain injunctions will yield insight into those domains, then the generated data will be understood in terms that will be closed off to someone (such as a Skinnerian behaviorist) who denies in principle the reality of interiority. Edwards: "the problem is not that science uses monological methodologies but that science uses shallows (Flatland) interpretive frameworks when explaining that [sic] data."

Near the end of his essay, Edwards offers an interesting chart showing how the monological focus and the dialogical focus can provide valid insights at the ontological levels of matter, body/life, mind, and spirit.

To a one-page summary of this essay, KW offered the following reply:

Hi Mark,

This all sounds very promising to me, and I am glad you are posting this on Frank's site.

I am not completely convinced, but I like your approach a lot. But I am not sure that the four strands break into the four quadrants exactly (e.g., there are many injunctions that are almost purely Upper Left: vipassana, for example, and contemplative prayer). And Popperian rebuff can occur with data from any quadrant.

Also, remember that for me, all referents exist in a world space (the Lower Left), so that all data always come with an interpretive component (so the Lower Left is not getting left out; it is built into all data; and thus a postmodern component is built into all knowing).

When we make conscious interpretations, that is just another, distinct round of application of the three strands, applied to data generated in the first round (so I have a cycle of knowledge as well).

Still, I think what you are doing is one way to relate the modes of knowing, levels of knowing, and verification procedures, and it certainly deserves a careful hearing. Thanks very much for this thoughtful feedback.



September, 1999

"What Ken Wilber Has Brought Together Let no Postmodernist Bring Asunder"

Explains why Jorge Ferrer has attacked KW's work so vociferously, even though apparently having a good understanding of it! Ferrer fears that the three-strand approach to knowledge formation (injunction, apprehension, verification) reduces spirituality, etc. to the monological scientific method. Edwards emphasizes that KW knows an interpretive component is involved in all knowledge generation. See Ken's reply above: "for me, all referents exist in a world space (the Lower Left), so that all data always come with an interpretive component." As Edwards indicates, however, even though KW is well aware of the existence and importance of this interpretive component, that component is not fore-grounded sufficiently in the three-strand model. Hence, Edwards wants to introduce the fourth strand, discussed in the essay above.

"Integral Sociocultural Studies and Cultural Evolution"

The major point of this essay is to highlight and address the claims of critics (such as Jürgen Kremer) that integral theory has an evolutionary-developmental and Western bias that inevitably undervalues indigenous and other non-Western societies.

(This was a particularly instructive essay for me, because for some time I have been concerned about how to talk about indigenous peoples in a way that doesn't make them seem inferior to or lacking when compared to modern and postmodern societies. My students have really pinned me down about this, and until reading Edwards, I have not been able to reply effectively to them in a way that is true to the authentic impulse of integral theory.)

KW has three defenses against such charges:

  1. Integral theory is not simply progressive-linear, but includes the good news/bad news about all waves of development, including modernity. Cf. KW's emphasis on the dialectic of progress, distinction between differentiation and dissociation, capacity for higher structures to repress lower ones, difference between healthy and pathological hierarchies, and how higher structures can be overtaken by lower ones.
  2. Charges that those postmodern relativists who deny that there are any hierarchies engage in a performative contradiction, that is, they favor (as being superior) a world without marginalization, repression, etc., even while claiming that there are no superior or inferior positions.
  3. KW emphasizes distinction between average and most advanced modes of consciousness. Not everyone in an era or a specific society is at the same level.

While acknowledging the force of these replies, Edwards insists that integral theory tends to overemphasize the evolutionary while not giving enough emphasis to the involutionary, even though the grounds for such emphasis are already present in integral theory. What Edwards does, in effect, is simply to draw out or to make explicit what integral theory genuinely intends in the first place. Crucial is to emphasize the Kosmic egalitarian dimension of integral theory without ending up in the morass of postmodern relativism.

Edwards warns that we should be very cautious in attempting to assign hierarchical ranking either to individuals or to cultures. Why? Because both individuals and cultures involves many different developmental lines, and because both individuals and cultures develop in idiosyncratic ways. For example, an individual might be very advanced spiritually, as KW has pointed out, but in terms of another developmental line — such as the socio-sexual — might be woefully underdeveloped. Hence, we have the all too frequent examples of spiritually highly developed gurus ending up having highly inappropriate sexual relations with followers.

At times, Edwards claims "a society's or culture's overall development follows no set sequence whatsoever." This may be the case, and KW himself often insists on the “idiosyncratic” character of development, but in some developmental lines—such as moral and cognitive development—some sequence seems to be followed. Just as an individual must unfold in moral development from level three to level four to level five, and cannot simply leap from level three to level five, so too a society cannot simply leap from the agrarian to the postmodern level.

. Late in his life, Marx was attempting to convince himself that Russia—a largely agrarian society—could successfully make the transition to a communist society. Engels' attempt to carry out such a revolution in Russia, and Mao's effort to do the same in China, had horrendous consequences, as is well known. (For documentation of Marx's late reflections on the prospects for a successful Russian revolution see:

The overall scheme of historical development — in terms of magical, mythical, modern, postmodern, etc. — has considerable validity, but we must exercise great caution in claiming that this or that contemporary society is at the magical or mythical stage. Edwards states: "[T]here is a vast difference between the valid activity of identifying collective evolutionary epochs and the inappropriate categorization and ranking of contemporary cultural forms, particularly indigenous ones."

In a way completely consistent with KW's own assertions, but in a way that makes explicit what KW does not always articulate, Edwards insists that we not represent indigenous or native cultures somehow as evolutionary "dead ends" that are cut off from the rest of an evolving humanity. As KW has argued, regarding — as some cultural studies types do — contemporary indigenous societies as virtual "throwbacks" to ancient tribal societies ignores the fact that all humans have been evolving for the past 25,000 years. Hence, a tribal society today will not be the same as one 25,000 years ago.

Edwards succeeds in arguing that whereas Western societies may be more advanced in terms of some developmental lines, some indigenous societies may be more advanced in other lines. For example, some indigenous societies may lag when it comes to development of individual "autonomy," as defined in terms of respected developmental models, but may be well ahead in terms of the development of non-regressive communal sensibility and capacity for being in touch with the natural world. How to "rank" societies with such different developments in different lines? Over-reliance on the Spiral Dynamics model, with its emphasis on stages of moral/political development, can lead one to rank many indigenous societies far down the totem pole, whereas if other developmental lines are taken into account, those same societies might be ranked higher.

Integral theory must honor not only the ascending path of evolution, but also the descending path of involution. The good news of indigenous societies is that they may have both retained and developed "spiritual, technical and social practices that may be central to the survival of all human societies over the coming years."

Edwards wants to avoid romanticizing indigenous societies, many of which have their own problems, but he also wants to emphasize the extent to which their insights need to be embraced and integrated as part of the descending and integrative movements of spirit:

The good news of the descending drive is immanence: "The higher becomes manifest which permits integration and embodiment of preceding levels." The bad news of the descending drive: "Regression/Dissolution: The higher becomes identified with the lower and reverses growth and halts developmental potential."

Modern culture is very dissociated, dualistic, power-oriented, cut off from nature and the body, etc. Indigenous societies may have a lot to tell us about overcoming these problems, if — I would add — we integrate indigenous wisdom in a way that doesn't involve personal, social, and cultural regression in terms of the developmental lines wherein the West has achieved authentic development.

Edwards warns against (in his principle 8) against confusing the communal forms of contemporary indigenous cultures with the qualities that characterize archaic/magical worldviews. Communal capacities are at work in all waves of culture; don't confuse contemporary with earlier modes of community.

In section six of his essay, Edwards makes the interesting point that just as healthy individuals always have access to and must integrate appropriately the earlier stages of their development, so too healthy cultures have access to and must integrate earlier stages of their development. Tribalism, then, in the sense of having involvement in local communities, supportive family and kinship systems, and being involved in community rituals and gatherings, "is not the 'Regress Express', but an integrated understanding of tribal life as present in modern community and familial forms." Tribalism, in other words, is not always bad and wrong, but instead involves a positive aspect that deserves respect, acknowledgement, and nurturing, not only in so-called purple societies, but in healthy modern and green societies as well.

[Here, I would add that the "prime directive" of Spiral Dynamics, as endorsed by KW, takes a step in the right direction. All societies will always have people occupying all prior waves, because individuals start from scratch and have to move up through the developmental waves, lines, etc. Needed from integral theory, however, is a more positive and explicit endorsement of tribalism, so that the term isn't used primarily to describe sick societies like Nazi Germany, which "retribalized" while armed with Messerschmitts.

Edwards both affirms the value of a holarchical framework for interpreting human and kosmic development, but also emphasizes kosmic egalitarianism, that is, everything is perfect and complete just the way it is, a totally adequate manifestation of Spirit. Again, all this is in KW and integral theory, but Edwards wants to highlight it in order to remind integral theorists that when compared with the Nondual insight that all phenomena are adequate manifestations of Spirit, "Concerns about the relative position of various collective forms of existence come a very poor second..."

Through AQAL Eyes

We now come to Edwards' seven-part series, Through AQAL Eyes . Here is his summary of the main points of each part.

  • Part 1 - The series begins with a critique of the Wilber-Kofman model of holonic categories. It's proposed that there is no need for objective categories of holons to solve the "mixing problem". The holonic tenets already do precisely that.
  • Part 2 - It is proposed that the AQAL matrix and holon theory are exactly the same theoretical framework and arguments presented to support that proposition.
  • Part 3 - The unified version of Integral holonics is applied to the example of individual, collective and global health and pathology.
  • Part 4 - Some inconsistencies in Wilber's representation of holons are identified. These include plugging holons into quadrants, mixing individual and collective holons in the same holonic system, and problems with terminology.
  • Part 5 - Some weaknesses resulting from Wilber's application of his "mixed-up" holon model are explored including his representation of the exterior quadrants, the privileging of interior quadrants and his definition of social membership
  • Part 6 - Explores further the implications of Wilber's "mixed-up" holon model for his new Integral theory of subtle energies.

A Critique of the Wilber-Kofman Model of Holonic Categories"

Through AQAL Eyes, Part 1

In this essay, Edwards criticizes the Wilber-Kofman (WK) solution to a genuine problem, the tendency of some to form Holarchies based on invalid heuristics such as size or quantity, rather than true developmental progressions. Confusing or mixing individual and social holons, e.g., by portraying human individuals as mere parts of a larger social whole (nation, for instance) justifies fascism, just as depicting human individuals as mere parts of the biosphere or ecosystem can justify ecofascism. The concern is legitimate, according to Edwards, but the solution is not consistent with Integral theory's own tenets.

Edwards contests, first of all, the tendency to interpret holons as "building blocks" of the Kosmos, instead of the reference points revealed by the AQAL lens. (Wilber himself in recent work emphasizes — much like Leibniz, Nietzsche, and Whitehead--that all reality is essentially perspectival. Hence, the otherwise enticing notion of holons as "building blocks" is in fact clunky and misleading.) Holons are not just interpretations, of course, because they somehow are aspects of the reality toward which we turn our interpretive, cognitive, and sensory capacities.

Edwards resists the WK attempt to distinguish between sentient and insentient holons. All holons, according to Edwards, are in fact sentience. Even so-called heaps and artifacts have some (however meager) sentient capacity. The vast unorganized heaps of atoms left after the Big Bang had the sentient and transformational capacity to generate molecules and ultimately the entire Kosmos as it subsequently unfolded. [Edwards' discussion here reminds me in a way of Holmes Rolston III's discussion of the generative capacity of ecosystems, as he presents this in his excellent Environmental Ethics.]. Hannah Holmes book, The Secret Life of Dust, demonstrates that even this humble phenomenon has significant transformational capacities!

Edwards also counters the view that artifacts are not holons. Even if something is built by others, he argues, it must have the internal capacity (however meager) to hold itself together thereafter. Again, we are talking about vanishingly-minute capacities, but Edwards makes an important point here. His major concern is that with the introduction of a rigid category of non-sentient phenomena, WK are unwittingly reintroducing Flatland into AQAL.

Acknowledging that there are individual and social holons, he emphasizes that there is much social in the individual and much individual in the social holon. A holon is individual or collective, based on the "holarchic context in which is subjectively experienced and/or objectively observed. It is the developmental holarchy itself that proves whether a holon validly belongs to it or not. And it is the AQAL framework together with the twenty holonic tenets that together provide the analytical tools that provide the proof."

Edwards provides a strong critique of Kofman's attempt to define holons primarily in terms of their interior level or depth. In so doing, Kofman fails to integrate into such definition information drawn from the other quadrants of the holon.

On pp. 16-17 of my printout, Edwards gives five examples of how the twenty tenets can be used to address the "mixing problem" that WK sought to solve by introducing the notion of sentient vs. insentient holons, by concluding that heaps and artifacts are not holons, etc.

In figure 5, Edwards depicts how the WK model distributes into the quadrants different kinds of holons: sentient individual holons are in UL, insentient individual holons are in UR, sentient collective holons are in LL: and insentient social holons are in LR.

In figure 6, Edwards offers his alternative, which attempts to integrate the Holon construct with the AQAL framework. All holons, he says, involve interior and exterior, and agency and communion. Each holon has an experiential aspect, a behavioral aspect, an interpretive aspect, and a communicative/social aspect. Very intriguing proposal that merits a lot of discussion.

In March, 2003, Edwards offered the following helpful commentary on the artifact issue:

“I didn't put into the essay my hunch that the real thing about artifacts is not whether they have interiority or not but how we draw our holonic boundaries around them. Artifacts, by their nature of endowed complexity are those things that are best studied as part of the holonic system that includes the source of their complexity. There are better and worse ways of drawing holonic boundaries. Drawing a boundary just around the artifact and studying just it is a poor way to study it. Drawing a boundary around the artifact and the sentient being that created it is better. Let's draw a boundary around an axe. It's a holon with a very low level of interior development. That doesn't get us very far to understanding axes. Now let's draw our holonic boundary around the axe and its human user. We now can study this human-axe holon as a single coherent holon, and as a sentient active cultural entity. We can then place it within a holarchy that outlines the stages of tool use starting with birds using twigs to catch ants all the way up to humans using computers to write speculative essays on Integral theory.

“Cultural centres, sewage services, road systems, high rise buildings do not lie outside of the holonic boundary that circumscribes the collective holon of the city. In the same way tools, computers, language systems all lie inside of the human-artifact holon. Consequently, artifacts are really best seen (and more coherently seen from an Integral theory perspective) as part of the behavioural dimension of the holon – the exterior of the holon. This is why the Wilber-Kofman model ends up defining so many individual and social behaviours and activities as artifacts. As examples of artifacts Kofman includes, “poems, songs, novels, dances and other artistic expressions”, “philosophy”, “language”, “living things”, “mythology and theology”, “spiritual systems”, and all “organizations” in both their “physical” and “conceptual forms”. All these things are, in fact, just the exterior aspects of their respective holons. It just takes a bit more imagination and discrimination (and less unconscious reliance on a reified AQAL framework) to draw a holonic boundary around the human-artifact holon. We create holons “Through AQAL Eyes” and we draw up holonic boundaries around whatever makes most “sense” to treat as a holon in a particular situation.

“Integral theory has been too limited in recognizing only individual and collective forms of holons. When we see the holon/AQAL model as a methodology (IMP), that involves the drawing of boundaries, then it becomes a more flexible tool of understanding rather than an unseen filter. This way of seeing artifacts as part of the exterior dimension of holons ties in beautifully with Vygotskian ideas about tools, language development and the mediation of interiority through social means.”

Integrating Holon Theory and the AQAL Framework."

Through AQAL Eyes, Part 2

This essay elaborates on themes taken up in the previous one. The mixing problem is solved by applying the twenty tenets. AQAL is not a structural model of reality, but rather an interpretive one, that is, AQAL is a lens not a map. Likewise for holons. They are not literal building blocks, but instead the reference points that show up in relation to a point of view or perspective that searches for holons. Holonic boundaries are not fixed, but instead are provisional, depending on the perspective in which the holons is apprehended and interpreted. Hence, there are no fundamental " types" of holons. Instead, holons are always defined according to arbitration based on very complex contexts that form the perspective in question.

See the diagram below.

[p. 3 of 22: "A holon (or holonic system) is what we see when we look at reality through AQAL eyes."

p. 4 of 22: "A holon is an arbitrary reference point that helps us to read the unfolding nature of holarchic reality through applying the tenets of integral theory. it is arbitrary because the delineation of any coherent and useful boundary [...] will result in a holon."

[p. 15 of 22: "Individual holons can be excluded from collective Holarchies, not because they inherently belong to a separate holonic category from social holons, but because they don't meet the criteria required to fit into a social hierarchy." ]

[p. 16 of 32: Five traits of a valid holarchy.]

The holon concept is important because it helps us see that AQAL is not only a "theory of everything", as represented in KW's famous four quadrant and evolutionary axes chart, but also a "theory of anything." Any phenomenon can be analyzed as a holon, which means examining it in terms of the twenty tenets and AQAL. As a theory of anything, Integral theory carries out a demythologizing mission, in which it undermines the sacred reductionisms and absolutisms practiced by many different methodologies.

AQAL is divided into inner vs. outer and many vs. one, whereas holons are defined in terms of drives called transcendence and immanence, and agency and communion. How do these categories relate to one another?

According to Edwards, by conceiving of this relation correctly, we will conclude that holons cannot exist only in certain quadrants. Every holon manifests itself in all quadrants. Hence, there are no "mental" holons that exist exclusively in the UL quadrant. This is a misconception of the nature of holons. This approach ends up re-instating Cartesian dualism in holonic dress; Edwards quotes Wilber:

"If you look at the four-quadrant diagram, the Cartesian (and eventually Kantian) ego can be pictured as a little person standing in the Upper-Left quadrant completely disconnected from the other three quadrants. This is the major epistemological mess that the downside of the Enlightenment leaves us with." (Wilber, "The genius Descartes gets a postmodern drubbing." Sidebar E)

In other words, KW himself would seem to agree that there couldn't be a mental-egoic "holon." Rather, mental-egoic refers to the UL quadrant of the totally interpenetrating holon called a human being, a being that also includes cultural, organic, and social aspects.

Edwards insists that the quadrants are not a snapshot, a map, or a model of the space-time universe, but instead a way of interpreting why the Kosmos feels and behaves the way it does.

Holons must not be seen as building blocks, as quasi-objective entities that compose the Kosmos.

In figure 3, Edwards shows how the AQAL explanatory framework can be depicted at the Kosmic Level (as a Theory of Everything) and at the Common Level (Theory of Anything). In the latter approach, the UL is the holon's I/consciousness, the UR is the holon's me/mine as behavior or action, the LR is the holon's it/you/your as societal/environmental activity, and the LL is the holon's We/Our as interpretive/worldview.

Table 20 (p. 14 of 22) is excellent. It shows concordances between the twenty tenets of holonic qualities and the main principles of the AQAL model at the Theory of Everything level of application.

The remainder of the essay addresses the topic of the internal dynamics of holons. Holons involve internal dynamic relations that both stabilize holons at a given level and also make possible the shift to more integrated levels. Edwards, like Goddard, emphasizes that agency and communion are the core drives of holons, drives that emphasize the mutuality of individual and communal identity. Edwards prefers to speak of individual and collective holons, and prefers to reserve the agency and communion terms to describe holonic dimensions.

"Applied Integral Holonics: the Example of Developmental Health and Pathology in Personal and Social Holons"

Through AQAL Eyes, Part 3

This essay examines in detail personal and social holons, in healthy and pathological manifestations. There are many excellent charts and diagrams that clarify the discussion. Edwards again reminds us that the basic unit of analysis of Integral theory is the holon, as analyzed in terms of AQAL. The AQAL structures of quadrants, levels, lines, etc. are basically the same as the structures and dynamics of holons. Edwards reviews Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP), highlighting three key elements:

  • non-exclusion
  • en/unfoldment
  • enactment:

Edwards uses what he calls "integral holonics" as an example of IMP. Integral holonics examines holons in terms of:

  1. Structural/dimensional features, primarily relating to AQAL quadrants, levels, lines, etc.
  2. Internal dynamics of the holon
    1. the unitive dynamics that unify various dimensional structures
    2. between-quadrant dynamics constituting the Integral cycle of development
    3. within-quadrant drives and motivational dynamics
  3. External-situational dynamics of holonic systems
    1. Intra-holarchic dynamics can be analyzed in terms of twenty tenets
    2. External dynamics can be understood in terms of cross-level analysis

Integral Indexing for human holons:

  1. Four quadrants
  2. three levels — pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional
  3. three streams/lines per quadrants (many more are possible!)
  4. two vertical dynamics — evolution and involution
  5. two horizontal dynamics — integral and translational cycles
  6. external dynamics — holonic systems dynamics

Too much focus on Spiral Dynamics, which deals with one or two developmental lines, overlooks other important lines.

The rest of the essay describes in great detail the AQAL structure of individual and social holons. I include two of Edwards' diagrams.

  1. Personal holon and its key developmental structures
  2. The communal holon and its key developmental structures

"Where Ken Goes Wrong on Holons"

Through AQAL Eyes, Part 4

This chapter continues to challenge the Wilber-Kofman tendency to separate holons into specific types, e.g., insentient individual holons, and insists instead that a) holons arise from the framing activity of interpretation and b) every holon may and indeed must be understood in terms of all quadrants, lines, levels, etc.

He cites Ken:

"The four quadrants are not four different occasions but four different perspectives on (and hence dimensions of) every occasion [i.e., every holon]." From Excerpt C, paragraph 11.
"Of course, there are not different holons in the four quadrants; the four quadrants are the four dimensions of every holon." Excerpt C, paragraph 57.
"But it is easier and simpler to say things like "holons in the UR quadrant," and so on, which is fine, as long as the tetra-nature of any holon is remembered." Ibid.

Edwards replies that it is not "fine" to do so, because speaking of UR or LL holons is misleading and leads many people to conclude that there holons can be located on the quadrants, as if it were a map of reality, rather than the interpretive grids in terms of which major aspects of any holon/occasion may be disclosed.

By locating (even if merely in a casual manner) holons in specific quadrants, Wilber ends up with what Edwards regards as untenable mixing of individual and social holons, precisely what KW wants to avoid.

Below, I provide charts from Edwards, who depicts three version of KW's mixing of individual and collective holons:

Here is Edwards' alternative diagram:

A key Edwards' claim is the following:

Individual and collective do not correspond to agency and communion. Every individual holon has both agency and communion, as does each social/collective holon.

"Matter, Membership and Mutuality: Where Ken Goes Wrong on Applying His Understanding of Holon Theory"

Through AQAL Eyes, Part 5

The major point of this essay is that the KW attempts to pack too many different phenomena into the UR quadrant, such that he ends up reducing behavior to material structure. Edwards strongly contests such a reduction. He insists that the exterior quadrants, in both agentic and communal aspects, are not material, but behavioral.

According to Edwards, KW tends to describe right-hand quads as "correlates" of the interior activities of the left-hand quads. Right-hand quads are factual, lacking in depth, and external. KW's laudable intent is to save the interior left-hand quads from being reduced to the exterior right-hand quads, as in subtle and gross Enlightenment reductionism. Edwards maintains, however, that the right-hand quads involve very complex forms of behavior that cannot be understood merely as material phenomena. Edwards insists that in regard to the individual human holon, behavior cannot be reduced to brain states! What is needed, according to Edwards, is an adequate depiction of behavior in all its enormous complexity, including the fact that behavior involves agency. KW understandably wants to resist assigning such agency to the right-hand quads, because he fears various forms of fascism or totalitarianism that want to reduce left-hand agency and interiority to reflexes of behavioral or social structures. But Edwards replies that such reductionism is pathological, whereas an all-quad understanding of individual or communal holons must acknowledge the power and complexity of the agentic capacities of right-hand quads, even if those capacities can sometimes go astray.

Here is Edwards portrayal of an Integral approach to holonic agency and communion.

Notice that the material element, usually found in the right-hand quads, is not explicitly mentioned. Edwards insists that in connection with human holons, the right-hand quads are not "its" but "us," just as the left-hand quads are "I" and "we." Following the research of the early-twentieth century developmental psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, Edwards insists upon the remarkable agentic power of the collective/communal in regard to individuals, including their consciousness, which is largely mediated and constructed by social-cultural symbols. Indeed, "Collective holons do possess super agency, because they always include lesser social holons. Because Wilber mixes up individuals and social holons and quadrants his collectives are sometimes left in the lower quadrants without any agency." According to Edwards, agency of the community does not somehow exist in individuals, but in the community itself viewed as a collective holon.

In this essay, Edwards also contests KW's notion of social membership. KW tends to define social membership exclusively in terms of shared interiority, but Edwards maintains that membership is also very much a social phenomenon, and thus must be represented as involving the right-hand quads as well as the left. "A cultural event is not just the interior intersections of a group of individuals. It is an emergent holons with all qualities of a holon. Water is not defined by the intersections of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. It is define by the emergent holonic qualities that arise in the AQAL matrix of water. In the same way social holons are not defined by the intersections of individual holons but by the AQAL matrix of that emergent social entity." (p. 10 of 24) Cultural and social, interior and exterior, always arise together. The social-exterior is not merely a "correlate" of the cultural-interior; or at least, one should also be able to say that the cultural-interior is a "correlate" of the social-exterior. Better, of course, is to say that they "tetra-evolve" interdependently, without privileging any quadrant.

Edwards provides an extensive discussion of how communication can occur between complex human holons, but I do not go into this here.

"Unpacking the Behavioral Quadrant and the Proposal for a New Energy-Form Holonic Dimension"

Through AQAL Eyes, Part 6

KW's very interesting essay on subtle energies attempted to pack even more (in addition to behavior and matter) into the UR quadrant. The diagram below depicts what Edwards regards as the material and energetic phenomena that KW tries to include in what is supposed to be the "behavioral" quadrant.

Attempting to unpack and disentangle the UR behavioral quadrant, Edwards makes his most provocative proposals so far: to add a form-energy dimension to the existing dimensions of agency-communion, interiority-exteriority of AQAL.

The following is from pp. 2-3 of 13:

  1. "The Behavioral quadrant must be represented as the quadrant for describing the spectrum of holonic conduct/activity in both its individual and collective forms. This spectrum of conduct/activity is as definitive of holonic agency and identity as the Consciousness quadrant and includes preconventional behaviors, conventional behaviors and postconventional behaviors. The Behavioral quadrant is not the domain of the complexification of matter or energies or anything other than that of behavior.
  2. The spectrum of matter-energy complexification that Wilber has recently outlined is a separate facet of holonic development that needs to have its own holonic space. This new spectrum of complexification needs to be separated from the behavioural quadrant and situated into new holonic domains that are defined by a new form-energy dimension.
  3. The form-energy dimension should be regarded as a new holonic dimension similar to the agency-communion and interior-exterior dimensions. Consequently, new quadratic sets will be opened up and made available for more detailed analysis of holonic energies, forms, and structures (bodies).
  4. The introduction of a new energy-form dimension disentangles behaviour from its current tendency to be reduced to simple mass-energy permutations. A more balanced Integral theory of behaviour can then be described.

    These propositions are intended to give greater explanatory power to holon theory and to retain all the wonderful ideas that Wilber is developing in Volume Two of the Kosmos Trilogy. Hopefully, at the same time, the introduction of an energy-form holonic dimension will help rid Integral theory of the reductionist interpretation of the behavioural quadrant that has plagued Wilber's descriptions of it for some time. This approach of identifying a new form-energy dimension also gives many new possibilities to Wilber theory of subtle energies. "

By "form" Edwards means a structural body or manifest shape, topology or pattern. By "energy" he means a holon's dynamic power. Energy is dynamic power, form is structural power. Energy is arena of motivation, whereas form is enduring stabilization. Energy empowers and enlivens a holon, whereas form substantiates and structures a holon.

The next two diagrams show how form-energy intersect with interior-exterior and agency-communion.

This final diagram depicts the form-energy dimensions overlapping with the interior-exterior of a collective holon.

"I" and "Me" and "We" and "Us" and "You" and "Yous": Sorting out Ken's Holon of Mixed Perspectives

Through AQAL Eyes - part 7

Continuing his constructive critical engagement with Wilber's work, Mark Edwards now addresses two important issues: first, a missing link in the quadrants: the place of the "you," both singular and plural; second, how the right hand quadrants reduce the singular third person "he/she/it" to "it," and the plural "them" to "its." According to Edwards, the positions of "you," singular and plural, must be occupied and described if integral theory is adequately to depict the full range of how beings (including persons) experience themselves and other beings. Moreover, the depiction of everything in the right-hand quadrants to the status of "its" is needlessly reductive, and is out of synch with the fact that the right hand side of "I" is not "it," but "me." Likewise, the right hand side of my friend is not "it," but "her." Edwards maintains once again that a more sophisticated understanding of behavior is needed to avoid the kind of reductionism to which Wilber must resort in order to compress everything into the existing quadrants.

Before going further, it is worth noting that in a recent (June, 2003) meeting with Ken Wilber, he agreed with my contention (based in part on Edwards' postings) that the quadrants as currently constituted do not address some important phenomena. Singular and plural "you" should in fact be included somehow, he indicated, but this is not possible without expanding the quadrants. (In Excerpt C, _ 60, Wilber reiterates the importance of the "you" perspectives, but claims that it can be adequately understood as a dimension of the "we.")

Likewise, Ken recognized that the upper right quadrant of "it," currently defined as brain and organism, does not adequately include a number of phenomena, including behavior. Ken has frequently pointed out that there are at least four perspectives (quadrants) from which to interpret phenomena, so that in principle the existing four perspectives could be expanded to include six, eight, ten, or more. Other integral theorists can and should continue to show why such expansion is justified. I speculate that Ken resists engaging in such expansion in part because it would complicate the admirable simplicity of the existing model. A case can be made for the claim, however, that at least in some respects that same simplicity stands in the way both of descriptive and theoretical adequacy. It is up to informed readers to draw their own conclusions about this issue.

Holonic Perspectives: Wilber's introduction of "integral mathematics," a brilliant innovation that formalizes the possible perspectives of holons to one another, motivated Edwards to highlight the missing "you" in the formalism. Edwards' own first-person fascination with the uniqueness "I-ness" of individual consciousness led him to be particularly attracted to Wilber's perspectivalism. Edwards' quotes Wilber (from Excerpt C, Appendix B _13) to show the centrality of perspectives in Wilber's latest thought:

"the Kosmos is constructed of perspectives, not perceptions, not events, not processes, not webs, not systems, for all of those are perspectives before they are anything else."

In light of this assertion, and given that in earlier publications Wilber emphasized the centrality of holons, we may legitimately draw the conclusion that holons are essentially constituted by perspectives. Edwards emphasizes that one value of the holonic approach is that it lets us symbolize perspective in both its intentional (left hand) and behavioral (right hand) aspects. For Edwards, "the holon is " the perfect non-reductive unit or method of seeing into the multiple perspectives that frame any human social encounter." Holons offer a way to make sense of "how felt and inferred consciousness can relate to one another." I would add that the self-other relationship, including the famous (or infamous) problem of the existence of other minds (that is, minds other than my own!), continues to be a topic of conversation in philosophy.

Edwards maintains that the lower left "we" quadrant does not include the perspective of the plural "you," any more than the upper right quadrant includes the perspective of the singular "you." The LL is not where self meets other, but instead is "the place where the self is a shared self and where identity is about relational communion." Edwards traces the problem here back to one discussed earlier in this review: namely, Wilber's tendency to ignore his own claim that all holons (individual and social) must be understood in terms of all quadrants, and instead to insert both individual and social holons into one quadratic representation. According to Edwards, this confusing mixed-up or schizoid holonic representation stems from the fact that Wilber has not adequately clarified the relation between the quadratic Theory of Everything space and and holon theory. See figure 1 below:

Moreover, according to Edwards, Wilber tends to offer a dualistic view of the relation between interior and exterior dimensions of holons. Calling my behavioral aspect "it" instead of "me" is an example of this dualism. When discussing the perspectives occupied by human holons, Wilber continues to follow the same pattern, as in figure 3 below.

Edwards poses the following series of questions about this representation:

"This mixing of perspectives makes it very difficult to interpret what Wilber's perspectives holon is actually depicting. Are we to take it as an objective view of a conscious holon? Are we to imagine that we are the holon being observed? Is it both inside and outside from the subjective holon's perspective or inside and outside from an observer's perspective? Are we to think of it as one holon, many holons or one collective holon? Are we to think of it as a holon with four quadrants or as holons within a Four Quadrants framework? The reason for this uncertainty in the "I, We, It, Its" model is that it is a mixture of several different theoretical principles of Integral theory. It mixes individual an collective holons. It confuses first, second and third person holonic perspectives. And it reduces the holonic view of the exterior to monological surfaces. These are all combined in the one representative depiction and the result is a holon that does not systematically represent any of these various aspects of the Integral holon."

One of the major problems with this representation (figure 3) is that both "we" and "thou" perspectives are squeezed into the same quadrant.

Edwards proposes to solve the problem by providing a representation that includes all the holonic perspectives, including those omitted in Wilber's diagram. Crucial here is the following assumption: That every holonic perspective (e.g., my own first person perspective) is itself a holon, and not merely a part of some other holon. "Holons don't belong to quadrants, quadrants belong to holons." Type of Holon Individual perspectives (singular) Collective perspectives (plural) first person singular perspective- I, me , my, mine, myself first person plural perspective - we, us, our, ours second person singular perspective you, your, yourself, (archaic forms such as thou, thy, thine, thee) second person plural perspective you(s), your(s), yourselves third person singular perspective he, she, it, his, her, its, him third person plural perspective their, them, these, those indefinite singular perspective - one, another, anybody, anyone, anything, everybody, everyone, everything, nobody, other, somebody, someone, something indefinite collective perspective - both, few, many, others, several, all, any

Edwards writes that "Every perspective is a different world and requires its own holonic [quadratic] representation to unravel its various orientations to the world." Edwards proposes that Wilber is well aware of this fact, but doesn't always follow through on it in some representations, which are simplified for the sake of clarity. In figure 5, which I cannot reproduce here for technical reasons, Edwards offers a remarkable chart depicting the six quadratic/holonic spaces necessary to represent first, second, and third person perspectives in both singular and plural modalities. (Matters quickly get more complicated, however, because of the reflexive character of consciousness, which allows each of us can take a perspective both on ourselves and on other holons. How do I make sense out of another person's perspective, and how does that person make sense out of my own? Edwards comes up with 42 possible perspectives, which are represented in tables 3-7 at the end of his posting.)

In an amazing diagram (his figure 7, technically irreproducible here), Edwards lays out the relationships among the basic six perspectives: first, second, third person in individual and plural modalities. He then elaborates upon each of these basic perspectives.

My perspective of the first person singular holon -- me, myself, I. The UL quadrant is the "existential I," the UR quadrant is the behavioral or the "doing" me, the LL is the meaning-making "cultural I," and the lower right is the social-roles and public persona me, the "performing me." (See figure 8.)

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of figure 8 is its assertion that the communal dimension of the I is still an individual I, and that the social dimension of the me is still an individual me. Whereas Edwards maintains that communal interiority is inherent (always already) in every individual I, Wilber maintains that such communal interiority results from interactions with others. Edwards asserts: "We are born cultural beings in the same way that we are born conscious, behavioural and social beings. We are instinctively cultural and we go on developing that cultural interior. The idea that our cultural consciousness comes about only when a part of our interiors intersects with parts of the interiors of other holons is fragmented and partial to say the least".. 'I' is cultural of, and by, itself without qualification. An 'I' does not have to become a We to be cultural." To discuss and evaluate Edwards' contention would take a separate essay. The whole topic of intersubjectivity -- its origins and makeup -- has been hotly contested for many centuries! Does the communal or cultural domain "generate" or "constitute" the I, as many social theorists contend, or is each human always already endowed with a communal capacity, an openness to relationship, the specifics of which are spelled out in actual encounters with Others?

The UR quadrant of the first person holon refers not to an "it" somehow foreign or external to my identity, but instead to another component of my identity: to me defined as my behavior. Edwards states that: "Holonic identity is not an interior quality. It arises as a result of the quadratic mutuality of both interior and exterior aspects of the holon. Identity is an "I/Me" phenomenon and not solely the result of the development of consciousness"" Following up on Wilber's recent discussion of the fact that each of the quadrants can be differentiated into an inside and an outside, Edwards maintains that the possessive pronoun"my" refers to the outside of the interior quadrants, e.g., my idea, my experience, my world, my culture), and the possessive pronoun "mine" refers to the outside of the exterior quadrants (e.g., these actions are mine, this role is mine, etc.)

My perspective of the second person holon -- you and yours. Edwards rightly emphasizes that when I encounter another person, "you," I immediately assume that you are a person, that is, a social agent with reflexive consciousness like my own. I assume that you have a complex interior that resembles my own in important respects. I do not encounter you merely as an ambulatory "it," that is, a zombie without interiority. The capacity for ascribing personhood to others develops over time; some never really achieve it, as in the case of some autistic persons. My first person perspective of you is represented in figure 11:

Edwards contends that "Wilber's relegation of 'You' to the 'We/Thou' quadrant does no justice at all to the fact that it is an instinctive human quality to automatically infer interiority on others even when they are not members of our own cultural group or social network. We even infer interiority on animals." According to Edwards, Wilber argues that a person is an "it" before he or she becomes a "We/Thou." Wilber states:

But what if George is from Russia? Or Mars? Or is in a coma? Then George is a third person who, under those circumstances, can only be a third person--can only be somebody we talk about, not somebody we can talk to or with. In effect, George is then nothing but an "it," or a third-person with whom we cannot enter into a relation of "we." George cannot become a real second person (with whom we talk), and therefore, in those instances, George cannot become part of our first-person plural "we." Excerpt C, _ 66

Edwards argues strongly against this position, to which Wilber is driven not because he really believes that we experience strangers as "its," but because he collapses the "you" dimension into the "We/Thou" quadrant. Edwards proposes that the Other does not start out as an "it" who has to earn his interior stripes, as it were, but instead people innately assume that strangers, foreigners, and so on, are human beings, although they might be threatening, different, etc. The fact that soldiers have to be taught to dehumanize or to demonize enemy soldiers testifies to the fact that under healthy developmental conditions people have a strong and natural predisposition to recognize the personhood of people whom they don't know, including those who are not part of their cultural community.

My perspective of the third person singular holon -- he, she (and cousin it). My perspective on the third person holon is represented in figure 12:

In part five of Through AQAL Eyes, Edwards remonstrated against the reductionism at work in Wilber's view of the two exterior quadrants. Such reductionism, we are told, is nowhere more apparent than in Wilber's use of the terms "it" and "its" to refer to the behavioral and social quadrants. Wilber views the right hand quadrants as the domain of the "other," "alien objects," what is seen from the "exterior viewpoint," including matter, physical laws, and anatomy. The external or right hand quadrants are reduced to "surface worlds of monological and material shallowness." Edwards maintains, however, that the exterior quadrants of holons contain their own kinds of depth, including behavioral depth. The big problem comes in using "it" terminology to refer to a person or to persons. Hence, "The world of the third person is not best described in "it language," but instead in 'he/she/it' language. Criticizing Wilber's view, Edwards writes:

"I am not quite sure where Wilber will lead us if we follow him down this unhappy flatland road where "he" and "she" are reduced to the shallow world of neurology and rocks, but, wherever it is, it will not be a place where Integral theory adds significantly to our understanding of the "other" in any form. Wilber's obvious humanity and perceptive insight may safeguard him from falling into some of the most obvious dangers. But even he proclaims that the unknown third person, our dear friend George the Russian, "is then nothing but an "it". If Wilber's schizoid holon can lead him to such a bizarre place, then, in the hands of less perceptive writers, there's no saying where this "Integral" theory of perspectives might end up."

My/our perspective of the first personal plural holon -- we and us. Edwards begins this section with a long paragraph praising Wilber's enormous insight regarding human interiors and the holonic domains of consciousness and culture. Such remarks remind the reader of the constructive character of Edwards' critical engagement with Wilber's work.

In this section, Edwards attempts to correct Wilber's tendency to depict the collective holon as including only the lower two quadrants. "[Wilber] has not yet grasped the idea that collective holons are defined by all four quadrants because he confuses the collectivity of a holarchic series with the holonic dimension of communality." As a result, he omits the agentic aspect of the collective holon. In part Six of this series, however, Edwards explores the agentic aspect of collective holons (see figure 13, below). Edwards maintains that

"[T]here are centralized, agentic forms of collective interiority - our collective agentic, consciousness of the Upper Left - and there are communal and more dispersed forms of collective interiority - our collective, communal consciousness of the Lower Left. Our collective consciousness extends over both the agentic and communal quadrants of the interior domains. The collective voice speaks out in the form of public laws, national constitutions, social regulations and customs, cultural rules and taboos, social standards of behaviour, conventions, mores, communal expectations and prejudices, and popular culture and mass media. When the collective voice does speak, it does so in the full range of developmental levels of collective identity. In the preverbal form it speaks in terms of mythologies such as the Genesis myth of Adam and Eve story. In the normative form it speaks out in the form of legal pronouncements such as the "We the people ..." opening of the American constitution. In the post-normative forms its speaks out in terms of sacred texts such as the Pauline ideas of the church as the communal 'body of Christ' "

Regarding the LR quadrant of the first person plural holon, Edwards reiterates his claim that Wilber gives a flatland. reductionist reading of right hand quadrant phenomena, which Edwards insists have a depth and complexity of their own. "To put it simply, the exterior of the cultural world of 'We' is the social world of 'Us' and not the flatland world of 'Its'". The exteriors of social holons develop in holarchical modes exactly as do the interiors". They are complementary, janus-faced dyads that cannot be other than full developmental reflections of each other." My/our perspective of the second person plural holons -- You(s) and Your(s) Edwards points out that how I and we regard the plural or collective You -- in the form of corporation, tribe, nation, and all other human social formations -- is the source of most conflict and the also the source of resolution of such conflict. "In considering the identity of the plural "You" ("Yous") we enter the multifarious worlds of multiculturalism, corporate life, international relations, ethnic conflict, community development, migration, race relations, social communications, negotiations and mediation, class relations and the institutional and political worlds in general." Edwards again points out that we usually do ascribe interiority to the collective You, who cannot be understood adequately as Its. The collective You may be understood in terms of all quadrants, as in figure 14 below.

My/our perspective of the third person plural holon -- Them and Their How we as individuals and as a group are able to relate to foreigners, strangers, and other Others reveals much about our culture. This perspective is often shaped by our fears, projections, and so on that arise in encounters with Others. Given the dehumanization campaigns resurrected in recent decades, as in the Balkans and elsewhere, Edwards insists that Integral Theory avoid at all costs the tendency to reinforce the notion that foreigners, members of other religions or races, strangers, etc. can be understood as "Its." See figure 15 below.

Here is Edwards conclusion to Part Seven:

"I have identified in the foregoing some basic inadequacies in Wilber's "I-we-it-its" model of holonic perspectives. These inadequacies all flow from the problematic model that Wilber has of the holon. Although Wilber states that there are six fundamental perspectives he reduces these to four so that they can fit into his "schizoid" holon model. In fact, the perspectives of a holon have nothing essentially to do with the four quadrants of a holon. Wilber confusing of the quadrants and holonic perspectives means that he drops off the fundamental perspective of "You" singular and "You" plural. In addition because of the reductionist view he has of the exterior quadrants he reduces the perspectives of the third person singular and plural from "he/she/it" and "them" to "it" and Its" respectively. These confusion, omissions and reductionisms will have ongoing implications for Wilber's analysis of social dynamics and leave his model open to considerable criticisms from his social critics. "To help overcome these problems I have offered a more systematic way of depicting holonic perspectives and offered a summary model that includes all six fundamental holonic perspectives. I have also presented a few very rough ideas on how this revised model can be used to better analyse and represent the perspectives involved in complex social dynamics."

Comments on Spiral Dynamics

In March, 2003, Mark Edwards asked me to append the following helpful remarks about Spiral Dynamics:

"Could I add here a few further points about my concerns with Spiral Dynamics. I'm sure that the SDi has a lot going for it but it has some serious limitations that don't seem to be recognized or at least openly acknowledged. You know about the lack of lines stuff. There are a couple of other major problems.

"First, because SDi has no theoretical space for the complexity that developmental lines introduce into collective development it often tries to squeeze a whole line of vertical development into a horizontal level. It does exactly this with the line of business and corporate affairs. SDi labels the whole of the corporate world of commerce and economics as the "orange"vMeme — that is the world of rational self-interest, of "strive-drive", and the need to perform and analyze to attain for peer group status and prosperity. To me the world of business is actually a developmental line or even a family of lines. There are many forms of pre-conventional or survival level "businesses"and commercial activities. For example, there is simple subsistence, cottage industry, community fundraising activities and simple bartering. These activities can be on a very large scale. The pathological forms of pre-conventional commerce are basic forms of organized crime centered on family and gang sub-cultures, subsistence prostitution, the indenturing of children. The level of conventional business includes all those normative business organizations, small and large, that meet the legal obligations, regulatory and moral standards of the mainstream culture. The trans-conventional business world includes those Integral organizations such as not-for-profit businesses, ethical investment financial organizations, environmentally and socially responsible companies who aspire to high moral and behavioral standards. So we have pre-, normative, and trans forms of business, i.e. a developmental spectrum of commerce NOT a developmental level of commerce. But because SDi only has the vertical uni-scale of values it has nowhere to put the vertical world of commerce and stuffs it all into the orange level.

"There is also the issue that large business organizations have many different departments/elements that themselves may vary over a wide range of developmental levels. For example, the overseas operations of organizations often operate at significantly lower level of moral or ethical behavior than they do at home. This is again made more complex by the fact that organizations can appropriate technologies that come from very high levels of technical advancement (usually orange levels) and they can use these as means to make money in very morally corrupt ways. For example, many corporations use internet banking technologies to avoid taxation on a massive scale this impoverishes nations and citizens and is responsible for a lot of communal poverty and developmental stagnation. Another example is where multinationals move production facilities offshore to countries with no labor laws or regulatory regimes where wages are paid at subsistence levels and then import the goods at low cost. So we have a corporation operating at red (at the best) appropriately orange technologies, management and legal methods to make profits but you could hardly see their behavior as orange. Then again there are many corporations that pay their taxes, develop local and national and international economies, and produce worthwhile goods and services. And also their are others that go beyond the mere meeting of legal obligations to develop goods and services that meet higher ethical considerations. SDi ignores all this level of analysis.

"So we have a number of factors that SDi either conflates together or lacks the modeling power to incorporate into its analytic method. These include:

  • various organizational lines and power structures,
  • different branches of a corporation operating at varying levels of moral, ethical, development (as well as many other line types)
  • differentials between national and international behavior
  • appropriation of orange and even green technologies and management styles by red/blue corporations

"All combining to produce business and corporate behavior and SDi characterize all of it at an "orange"level or values development.

"You already know of my criticism of SDi that it doesn't take developmental lines into account. They merely assess some static trait - "the level of values/consciousness"— and work from that basis. In reality people and organizations are complex they have many different lines through which development can progress or not as the case may be. On the organizational front there are economic lines, environmental lines, educational lines, social-relational lines, governance lines (this is the quadruple bottom "line"idea). An organization can be at different levels on each of these lines. Of course this introduces another dimension of complexity into the whole thing but that the reality. There may be ways of identifying the critical lines within an organization that will stabilize growth, or accelerate growth, or that are impeding growth so that a simpler focus for addressing problems/opportunities can be found. But I see no evidence that this issue is addressed by the SDi approach.

"My second criticism of SDi relates to the old debate between trait/state approaches to personality theory. The end result of SDi's uni-dimensional approach to assessing developmental growth is a stage/level label that the individual, team or organization is attributed. This is similar to the discredited trait approach to personality theory of the 50's and 60's where individuals were seen to have stable traits that characterized their personality. At first glance (i.e. superficially) this seems a reasonable approach but it disregards the importance of situational factors in explaining behavior. Traits only make sense when they are seen as situation ally dependent (and then they are not traits). The trait approach to personality was caricatured as the .3 personality coefficient because so many traits were only found to be present in individuals 30% of the time. It was finally so discredited that chapters on personality theory have been virtually dropped from all undergraduate psychology textbooks since 1980. (Walter Mischel is credited with starting all this with his brilliant hatchet job on trait theorists in his book, "Personality and Assessment"(1968). People can be quite reserved, compliant and conservative at work and quite something other outside of work. In organizational terms this means that the same team, organizational branch or corporation will "behave"and respond differently to changing work and business environments. The stable trait approach cannot account for these different patterns of response."

Concluding remarks by Michael Zimmerman.

Mark Edwards raises thoughtful criticism and shows how answers to such criticisms can be drawn from the resources of Integral theory, as originally devised by Ken Wilber. Edwards provides a great deal of food for thought. I am convinced at this point, anyway, that he is right in claiming that Integral theorists ought to emphasize that the AQAL structure is the interpretive lens through which to frame and analyze holons. Hence, he is right to emphasize that all holons involve all quadrants, lines, levels, etc. Holons cannot be conceived as spread out over the AQAL grid, but instead each holon may and ought to be interpreted in terms of all the components dimensions of AQAL. Whether or not his proposal about the new dimension — form/energy — is adopted, Edwards is right that some such addition is needed to disentangle the phenomena currently assigned to the UR quadrant. Finally, his MIP index provides a very useful roadmap for anyone trying to analyze phenomena as they show up holonically through the AQAL lens.

© Michael Zimmerman, May, 2003

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