Monday, December 19, 2011

What is critical integral theory?

This is the name of a new article by Daniel Gustav Anderson at Integral World. Following are some excerpts reminiscent of our recent conversations at IPS on OOO. I'm also starting a thread at IPS to see if this will generate some discussion. Excerpts:

"You need to specify an ontology, a set of concepts that account for the stub-your-toe world of experience and limitations.

"I proposed to read Nagarjuna's central concept of dependent origination through the diction of Marxist and post-Marxist categories.

"The world is understood holistically, as a whole and by reference to the relation of the parts to the whole. The category of contradiction is of particular importance here, as it toward ways in which the totality of relations is conflicted.
"What does it mean for something to be a form (a coherence) that is 'empty'? Its arising, persisting, and decaying, and the forms these take (the particular ways in which something comes up and sticks around), are contingent on causes and conditions external to that thing. It does not emerge Providentially from World-Spirit, but instead is produced mechanically (dependent origination, the authentic meaning of 'emptiness').

"Any coherence at any level is a totality, which is to say it is structured in relation to the parts that compose it, that the form those relations take is itself historically contingent and thus capable of becoming transformed, and that the totality typically takes a conflictual or divided form.

"These amount to a preliminary attempt to think the Buddhist concept of dependent origination through Marxian or at least post-Hegelian categories: a co-constitutive dialectic of consciousness and conditions, subject and object, where 'consciousness' is itself a product of causes and conditions, and 'conditions' are as well.

"Integral studies has, historically, emphasized the transformation of consciousness. People change their minds, and this is said to produce or induce other changes. However, these developments are rarely specified except in terms of consciousness, in terms of spirituality. Such transformations are of first importance in my view. I am committed to such a practice. However, in my experience it is just not enough to just change your mind about something, to experience a 'paradigm shift.' Kensho and satori are interventions, they mark beginnings, but they are not ends in themselves.

"The second intervention is a long, long salmon-swim upstream, a commitment to a path of compassionate and conscious action, to the end, without compromises. And it is done with others because it cannot be done properly on one's own. It allows one to create situations in which the first intervention may be possible for others. This is called “teaching” or 'pedagogy.'"

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