The Ways We Are in This Together: Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos
by Ken Wilber
In "An Integral Age at the Leading Edge", we summarized the evidence suggesting that a cultural elite, representing less that 2% of the adult population, was entering psychosocial waves of development that could best be described as integral, and that this 2% might very well be the harbinger of integral waves of consciousness to follow in the culture at large. It is a paradoxical situation, in a sense, in that this "elite" is the first to actually embrace a radical inclusiveness, an inclusive not shared by the other 98% of the population at this time (although they, too, might develop into this inclusive and integral orientation). But the integral waves of consciousness, however conceived, have at least one thing in common: an understanding that "Everybody is right."
This means that the chief activity of integral cognition is not looking at all of the available theories--whether premodern, modern, or postmodern--and then asking, "Which one of those is the most accurate or acceptable?," but rather consists in asking, "How can all of those be right?" The fact is, all of the various theories, practices, and established paradigms--in the sciences, arts, and humanities--are already being practiced: they are already arising in a Kosmos that clearly allows them to arise, and the question is not, which of those is the correct one, but what is the structure of the Kosmos such that it allows all of those to arise in the first place? What is the architecture of a universe that includes so many wonderful rooms?
One such suggested architecture of the Kosmos is called AQAL (pronounced "ah-qwil," short for "all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types..."). The pragmatic correlate of AQAL metatheory is a set of practices (or meta-paradigms) referred to as Integral Methodological Pluralism, which attempts to honor and include the many important modes of human inquiry already arising in this spacious Kosmos.
We particularly focused on the quadratic aspects of this methodological pluralism, where "quadratic" refers to four of the most basic dimensions of being-in-the-world, dimensions that are so fundamental they have become embedded in natural languages as variations on first-, second-, and third-person pronouns (which can be summarized as "I," "we," "it," and "its"). As we saw, these represent the inside and outside of the singular and the plural: hence, the four quadrants ( subjective or "I," objective or "it," intersubjective or "we," and interobjective or "its"). A few aspects of these four dimensions are indicated in figure 1.
We also saw that human beings, over the decades and sometimes centuries, have developed time-honored methods of inquiry that enact, bring forth, and illumine these basic dimensions of being-in-the-world. For example, phenomenology and introspection enact, bring forth, and illumine the first-person singular dimensions of being-in-the-world ("I" or subjectivity, the UL quadrant); hermeneutics and collaborative inquiry enact, bring forth, and illumine the first- and second-person plural dimensions of being-in-the-world ("thou/we" or intersubjectivity, the LL quadrant); empiricism and behaviorism enact, bring forth, and illumine the third-person singular dimensions of being-in-the-world ("it" or objectivity, the UR quadrant); and ecology, functionalism, and systems theory enact, bring forth, and illumine the third-person plural dimensions of being-in-the-world ("its" or interobjectivity, the LR quadrant). Of course, there are many other important modes of inquiry, but those are a few of the historically most significant, and certainly ones that any integral methodological pluralism would want to address.
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NOTE: This is Excerpt C of draft material Wilber released a number of years ago. For more such excerpts go to Wilber's Shambala website.