What Must We Integrate to Be Integral?
A moment’s reflection will reveal that everyone is always an integralist, or at least trying to be. In other words, no one sets out saying to himself, “I shall spend my life formulating a partial philosophy based upon misunderstanding one small portion of the cosmos.” No, we are always integrating, synthesizing, trying to account for everything. That is what our minds do. Or it’s one thing minds do. As Piaget pointed out, our minds constantly assimilate or accommodate -- they either incorporate new information into an existing framework, or else they alter the framework based upon the new information. In the latter case, a new paradigm is required to account for the novelty.
Now, early in life, we are constantly accommodating -- that is, reorganizing our mental structures in order to incorporate new information or novel aspects of the environment. But it seems that -- at least based upon my experience -- most people simply stop accommodating at a certain arbitrary point and settle on a cognitive schema that they will inhabit for the rest of their lives. Obviously, it’s not just rank and file humans that do this. If anything, it is much more common for intellectuals to do so, since they take their ideas (way too ) seriously, and use thought for all kinds of defensive purposes that normal people don’t. Remember, most of the problems in the world are caused by bad ideas of intellectuals -- including, of course Islamism. Think of all the bad leftist intellectual ideas of the 1960’s for which we will be paying for the rest of our lives.
It is a mistake to think of narcissism as only involving physical beauty. Rather, narcissism is an underlying pathology that will attach itself to whatever the narcissist’s “gift” happens to be, whether it is beauty, intelligence, athleticism, political charisma, cochranesque courtroom treachery, anything. Narcissism will manifest one way in a stupid but attractive Hollywood celebrity, another way in clever lawyer or a brilliant but homely academic. In the case of the latter -- which happens much, much more often than you might realize -- their ideas are not really in the service of truth, but their narcissistic grandiosity. I could name names, but there are just too many. Strutting and preening intellectual popinjays, all of them.
But as I said, a truly open-minded thinker is constantly integrating and synthesizing, or engaging in what Bion called PS<-->D (which we discussed a few weeks ago -- I’ll find the link later). Look at the early Christian fathers, who attempted to integrate Christian revelation with Judaism and neo-Platonic thought, or Aquinas, who did the same with Aristotle. These were men of formidable intellect, much deeper and wider than the typical frivolous wackademic of the sort we discussed yesterday.
Piaget’s theories apply to individual cognitive development, as we move from infancy to adulthood. But what if we apply them to man as such? Obviously, human beings are constantly making new discoveries that must be accommodated or assimilated. For example, a contemporary Aquinas would have to integrate quantum physics -- which, as a matter of fact, Alfred North Whitehead did as early as the mid-1920’s. Or we have to integrate the findings of natural selection, which people like Bergson, Hans Jonas, and Errol Harris have already done.
Now, although I do not identify myself with any “integral movement” as such, my book -- and by extension, this blog -- is obviously my attempt to synthesize all the truth I could find into one big existentialada. The operative word is “truth,” for it can obviously be no part of any integral theory to knowingly integrate lies and truth. That would be a non-starter. For example, there is no need to try to integrate deconstruction, since deconstruction is a philosophy that a priori excludes the existence of objective truth.
Nor is it integral to integrate something on the same level as that which clearly transcends it. Thus, it would be foolish to integrate atheism with theism, or racism and non-racism. Atheism is a philosophy that a priori excludes all of the ontologically real dimensions that transcend the senses, so we needn’t take it seriously, much less try to integrate it. Nor is there any place in my theory to integrate leftist racism -- as far as I am concerned, one cannot integrate the self-evident truth that all men are created equal with the leftist obsession with racial categorization and government-enforced racial discrimination.
In my view, in order to be truly integral, one must first integrate the different modes or expressions of reality, which, at the very least, include matter, life, mind and spirit (hence the subtitle of my book). Any philosophy that ignores one of these modes or tries to collapse or reduce one into another will be hopelessly incomplete.
Each of these modes of existence has a different aspect, which I call objective and subjective, or exterior and interior. For example, as I mentioned the other day, matter has an obvious subjective aspect that we know of as beauty. Matter has a metaphysical transparency that can never be reduced to its mere physicality. To do so is absurd, not to mention non-integral. This is why we needn’t waste any time trying to integrate any philosophy of materialism with ours, because materialism is simply the philosophy of the objective aspect of matter. It cannot even account for the subjective aspect of matter, much less the other modes -- life, mind and spirit.
Nor could we ever elevate natural selection to an all-encompassing integral philosophy. Certainly we take note of whatever truth it contains, but in so doing, we are clearly dealing with a category -- truth -- that cannot be reduced to genetics. At risk of pointing out the obvious, the human ability to know truth is not dependent upon genes. If it were, it wouldn’t be truth.
I’m trying to imagine all of the angry letters they will be receiving at What is Enlightenment? magazine as a result of my interview. What is it about my version of integralism that they will be objecting to? While it’s no excuse to be so pissed off at me, I must be excluding something they think should be included, or including something they think should be excluded. What is it?
Perhaps Integralist provides a hint. In my theory, I find no place for leftism, that is, for any ideas that can trace their squalid genealogy back to Karl Marx. Marx, like every other philosopher, was an ingegralist. In his case, he was trying to integrate Hegel and materialism, or Falsehood with falsehood. In so doing he created many seductive intellectual pathologies that continue to infect the mind of man -- the ideas of class struggle, oppression, exploitation, and collectivism, which have morphed into critical theory, deconstruction, victimology, political correctness, radical environmentalism, gender theory, feminism, afro-centrism, multicultrualism, cultural relativism, queer theory, the designated hitter, etc. There is no place for any of these things in my theory. If that makes me “non-integral” in the minds of some, that’s fine with me. I’m only trying to integrate truth, not lies.
I have much more to say about this, but I'll have to get to it in a later post.
One more quick point: do not confuse our philosophy with a political party. Rather, we simply identify with the party on which our philosophy might have more influence. In the present political mindscape, it just so happens that there is absolutely no place in the Democratic party for people who hold certain foundational truths, such as that the Constitution means what it says, or that racial discrimination is wrong, or that competition would cure the ills of our sick educational system, or that the Judeo-Christian tradition is fundamental to America's identity and character.