October 19, 2007

Questioning Kazlev's Redefinitions

In a recent blog post, author Joe Perez argues that M. Alan Kazlev’s recent essay and assessment of the Integral Movement leaves much to be desired. Among other criticisms, Perez questions Kazlev’s various definitions of integral culture/thought, and suggests that Kazlev is largely unfamiliar with Ken Wilber’s recent writing on the topic of advanced spiritual development.


You can find Joe’s own definition of Integral (2006)--called STEAM--in his book Rising Up: Reflections on Gay Culture, Politics, Spirit.

This definition is available in a free preview ebook version: HERE.


Anonymous said...

Getting clear on the definition for integral.

"The term “integral” is vague. As a result of the vagueness of talk about the integral philosophy, questions such as these arise: Is such and such integral? Is this or that something an integral person would say or do? How do you know whether or not such and such is really integral?

Defining integral is an important step in being able to have meaningful conversations about such questions. At least the dictionary definition is clear: integral means “composed of integral parts; lacking nothing essential.” If anything’s got the essentials, it’s integral.

Today integral is a word that’s getting a heavy burden placed on it. There are a large and growing number of systematic and evolutionary thinkers in many disciplines whose work is pointing toward new ways of thinking that have many broad, overlapping similarities. Different thinkers describe those connections in different ways.

Understanding Wilber’s comprehensive theories requires a depth of study that has at-tracted many readers since he first started writing books more than 20 years ago. However, many more people don’t have the time or inclination for theorizing; and even among those sympathetic to Wilber’s approach, there are differences of opinion about precisely what is and isn’t really integral.

“Ken Wilber doesn’t own integral,” said someone angrily recently on an online fo-rum. True enough, however that’s like saying that Kant didn’t at one time own German
idealism or that Freud didn’t own psychoanalysis. It seems silly to have to rebut the notion that any individual can own such a vast cultural current as post-postmodernism, and yet Wilber’s influence is so strong that some people apparently feel it is necessary. It is some-times helpful to distinguish between generic integral or second-tier consciousness or post-postmodernism and the specific version offered by Wilber. Some people refer to the former as integral with a “little i” and the latter as integral with a “big I.” I prefer to speak of integral in a relatively generic way, but to reference AQAL when speaking of Wilber’s version of integral theory.

If something like this distinction were commonplace, then every spiritual teacher, philosopher, or writer who writes about the integral phenomenon could have her own integral approach. She could announce, “this is how I’ve fleshed out the details of AQAL,” and nobody need ever get confused. If a controversy arose as to whether or not her work were truly integral, at the very least you’ve got a benchmark that allows you to say, “Well, it may or may not be integral, but it’s definitely not AQAL-compliant.”

My own approach to integral has been to follow the AQAL model closely and then fill in the details as they come to me out of my own practices and observations. Since May 2005, I’ve been using the acronym STEAM as an educational aid in presenting AQAL concepts to a broad audience. STEAM is how I am fleshing out the details of AQAL in my own theory and practice; if others can benefit by building on STEAM in their own work, that’s great.

Why bother making these sorts of fine distinctions? Clarity is good for writers and readers. If I write some juicy nugget that I’m sure is going to make me a load of money—something original like “integral means never having to say you’re sorry”—well, I don’t really want to get into a back-and-forth about whether that’s true about some mythical beast that somebody from a different intellectual orientation is calling integral. Pretty soon no-body’s talking about apologies and everyone’s debating the definition of integral (and that sort of diversion gets tiresome quickly). I think it’s better to simply talk about my approach and ideas and relate them to a broad systematic model (that is, STEAM) in a way that lets readers separately consider the various truth claims. On the one hand, readers can judge the validity of my point about apologies; on the other hand, they can judge whether my point is in integrity with the STEAM model of reality or any other integral model. Right or wrong, at least the conversation can stay focused on apologies and/or the validity of the STEAM approach, not on whose definition for integral we should use."

-- By Joe Perez (Copyright © 2006 Joe Perez)

... said...

Kazlev's Reply

Frank Visser, the webmaster of Integral World, invited M. Alan Kazlev to reply to Joe's critique.


Anonymous said...

It seems endemic that Wilber foes and fans both lack the resources to cite sources, not just Kazlev.

I agree with Joe that Kazlev only gives opinions without providing context or evidence.

Why are people in the "integral movement" so sloppy with both critique and support?

Where is the rigor? Whence the coherence?



Duggan Roe said...

Why "fans" and "foes"? The integral movement does not = Ken Wilber. This type of language obscures the real significance of "integral" thinking as well as the fine work of the people woring it all out, including Wilber.

Upon reading both of the aboved mentioned pieces, I can say two things. First, Perez is right when he points out how Kazlev cites no evidence for his claims, which amount to nothing really of substance; and second, Perez's own integral theory amounts to nothing more than a rephrasing of Wilber's old work.

Two suggestions for both: 1. Kazlev should actually reference Wilber's work with quotes, or at least point out directly what he disagrees with in Wilber's writings. 2. Joe should 'show us the money' with regard to where his ideas differ (if they differ at all) from Wilber's, because if your are simply paraphrasing KW then thanks for nothing, but if you have something new to add to the integral stew then do THAT.

I don't want to be negative, cause both those guys seem like nice guys, but lets get a little more rigor here please: god knows the "integral" culture needs it...

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