October 19, 2009

Belief systems are sometimes sutured together by appeal to science

Part of the point I am trying to make is that Wilber's iteration of "integral thought" or "integral theory" is neither integral, really, nor theory or thought. At least it is not theory or thought in the way it presents itself, and in the way people interact with it.
Why do I say "not integral"? A complete or (ha ha) "integral" answer to that question would involve a rather detailed definition of what the word "integral" means in this context, and then a lot of textual analysis. For now it suffices to point out that there are certain gaps in Wilber's education. Jeff Meyerhoff and David Lane review this elsewhere.

The more important-for-present-purposes claim I want to make, one that I have been making for years now, is that Wilber's integral theory is not theory, it is not a means of making knowledge in the first instance (although it is advertised as such). It is a commodity that functions as a belief system. Wilber sells it; people buy it in order to believe in it. Belief systems are sometimes sutured together by appeal to science, Wilber's especially so. Take a prosaic archive: review the comments made in a Facebook group dedicated to Wilber's work, and you will find personal testimonials to the coming of a new age, a new paradigm. "I feel," "I believe," are the operative verbs. Not "I think," or "there is this or that evidence" such a new age is on the way. These are aspirational, emotive declarations. This is how people use Wilber's integral thing, as something to put their faith in.
If you attempt to use it as theory, as Meyerhoff did, you are directly confronted with the logical fallacies and other errors that riddle the project from soup to nuts. Where in actual knowledge disciplines this kind of critique is welcomed, because it makes your work more effective and responsible, this kind of criticism, of pointing out the obvious, is dismissed out of hand by Wilber and his followers. How best to explain this? Because it undermines the sales pitch (the commodity function); because it appears to be slander and bigotry to a true believer (the faith function).
Wilber built a response to this kind of criticism right into his project: an appeal to the "transrational." Wilber claims, loudly and proudly, that his thing includes and transcends all previous thought-forms, and is therefore in a sense beyond the reproof of reason: "already thought of that." The trouble here is that every transrational appeal I have encountered among Wilber's followers can more plausibly be interpreted as simple emotion, as an expression of faith, or simply bad reasoning. I want something to be true; I believe it to be true; therefore I know it to be true. This is how Wilber establishes his scientific model in SES as well. People find the results of science dissatisfying; therefore, we should invent another kind of science that yields people the results they want to believe in, and build up a myth (the "descenders") for dismissing the work of those who would have grounds for critiquing this thing we are about to do.
I should also say that it is not uncommon for subcultures to fashion a cult out of a commodity. Ever hang out with Oakland Raiders fans? This is something of a dark night of the soul in Alameda, but there are many who keep the faith, and a few who profit from this.
Out of curiosity: where on the Spiral Dynamics color wheel would one locate one who willingly follows an irrational authoritative figure, circles the wagons and defends the in-group against good-faith criticism from the Infidels... while pretending to be the cutting edge of spiritual evolution?
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Unfortunately this guys progressive evolutionary view is -according to his notes- anchored in Ken Wilber which with all its ideological underpinnings cast doubt on Zimmerman's entire argument of progressive evolution. He would have been much better served to introduce Sri Aurobindo into the mix. Re: John D. Caputo: A Postmodern, Prophetic, Liberal American in Paris by Michael E. Zimmerman Tony Clifton Sat 17 Oct 2009 04:06 PM PDT
However, if one feels the need to put things in such terms as the evolution of consciousness then perhaps best to look at Jean Gebser. In Gebser's construction his mental rational structure that results in Liberal Society is not viewed as superior or progressive (as in the Wilberian perspective Zimmerman adopts) since the development of the rational is also a move away from Origin. But to the extent it is prioritized is to the extent it is part of a movement toward verition in which all (his) structures of consciousness archaic, magic, mythic, mental will be (re) integrated.
While I am not sure I embrace this perspective myself, because Gebser also couches several unsubstantiated metaphysical claims within it, IMO his -non-progressive- view of cultural evolution leaves itself more open for embracing a view of non-Western Post-Enlightenment societies the is able to integrate the creative pre-modern nuances of their indigenous resources that you reference in Partha Chatterjee and Dipesh Chakrabarty view of India's "archive of fraternity".. Re: John D. Caputo: A Postmodern, Prophetic, Liberal American in Paris by Michael E. Zimmerman Tony Clifton Sun 18 Oct 2009 09:21 AM PDT

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