October 10, 2008

The Depth of the Exteriors - Part 1

The Depth of the Exteriors
Part 1: Wilber's Flatland

By Mark Edwards

This is the first part in a series of essays on Integral theory's treatment of the Right Hand exteriors of behavioral and social development. As always my intention in working through the following issues is to strengthen the internal consistency and overall validity of Integral Theory. Often my essays focus on rather minor aspects of the model, but sometimes they do look at central features of the Integral framework that have broad implications for its theoretical development and practical application. And this is particularly true for the present topic of the exteriors of development.

Ken Wilber, of course, has been the driving force behind all of the development of the Integral model thus far, and his works have always and continue to be an inspiration for me. To this point (to my knowledge) Ken is still the sole Integral thinker who focuses on the development of the theoretical framework of the model. As a consequence, my aim of critically clarifying and offering alternative views necessarily involves the specific critique of Wilber's writings. The ongoing targeting of critical comment towards Wilber's writings (always constructive though I hope) can become rather tiresome for me as I am sure it can for those who read these essays. But there seems no way around this issue, if my purpose in offering alternative ways of interpreting Integral Theory is to be pursued. If there were other Integral thinkers working on the theory side of the model (as opposed to its applied utilization in various fields, of which there are many), I would include their work in these critical essays as much as Wilber's. But, unfortunately, this isn't the case.

Those who do offer critiques of Wilber's writings, such as the contributors to the "Ken Wilber in Dialogue" book, Kirk Schneider, Albert Ellis, Andy Smith, and Jeff Meyerhoff (see Fischer, 1997 for an excellent, if rather out of date review article) almost always do so from outside of the model. These authors have their own theoretical models that they work from to comment on Wilber's ideas. However, I take a very different approach to these critics in that I work from within the Integral theory framework itself. I utilize Integral Theory concepts to consider the internal coherency of the Integral framework itself. I not only identify problematic aspects of the theory but I also try to show, as Michael Zimmerman puts it, "how integral theory has the resources needed to address the problems".

Typically, I try to reveal some aspect of the model I find unclear or problematic, trace this back to some interpretive inconsistency and offer alternative constructive suggestions for improving the coherency of the theory that is in accord with, what I believe to be, its definitive principles. And so it is with this present issue of exteriority and Wilber's treatment of the behavioral and social aspects of reality. This area of exteriority, behavior and social development is one of the most fundamental aspects of any over-arching model of reality. It has also been for me the topic where Wilber has articulated some of his most puzzling statements.

In this opening essay of this series on exteriors I will try to identify problematic aspects of Wilber's definition and conceptualization of holonic exteriors and of the Right Hand side of the AQAL model in general. In the following installments I will look at other depth models of the exteriors and finish with a alternative suggestion on how Integral Theory can better conceptualize the behavioral and social domains of existence.

Read More: Here

See Also: Part 2 / Part 3

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