Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On being critical

Some recent events reminded me of Edwards' essay "On being critical" at Integral World. It seems the kennilinguists have yet to heed Edwards in this regard, still engaging in the same old story of "you can't criticize if you ain't at the same level." Never mind that they define what a particular level means and then self-fulfill that prophesy, valid criticism on the nature of that level to the contrary by again defining that criticism as a lower level as well. Circle-jerk par excellence. From Edwards in the section called "What level does the critic need to be at?":

"Should the level of development (developmental profile) of the critic be taken into account when judging their criticism? To this question I answer a resounding NO. Here are my reasons. (All of these reasons are based on consistent interpretations of well known integral theory principles).

  1. Development is complex, people are complex, and assessing the developmental profile of any individual is an extremely difficult and, even in settings were it might be possible, it is often inappropriate to do so. It is certainly not possible to do such a thing outside of a clinical, standardised setting by someone who is not professionally trained to administer the suitable tests and interviews. Thinking that we can assess the developmental nature of an individual on the basis of their critical comments or theoretical writings is not only naïve it is also almost certainly bound to be significantly deficient. Consequently we need to move our focus from the critic to the nature of their criticism. What's truly important here is the validity and the accuracy of the criticism itself and how we make use of it, not the developmental nature of the critic.
  2. Integral theory is an integrated model that addresses and includes all levels of development. Therefore, any criticism from any level or relating to any level has the possibility of being valid for the relevant level(s). For example, integral theory deals with many postmodern issues such as pluralism, relativism, and contextualism. Consequently, postmodern critics of integral theory who are experts in these areas can make valid criticisms of the way integral theory deals with this “level”. This means the GREEN theorists can offer very pertinent criticisms that may need to be incorporated into the integral framework. The same is true for experts in the areas of physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, spirituality, etc.
  3. There is much about integral theory that has nothing to do with levels. For example, quadrants, types, perspectives, lines, and dynamics have nothing essentially to do with levels. That's why the integral theory framework is called AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines, All types, All …) and not simply AL (All Levels. Full stop). Consequently, someone who is expert in, say, developmental dynamics might be able to offer very cogent criticisms of how integral theory deals with transitional issues irrespective of what level they are at.
  4. No one is “at” a level. While people may have a general centre of gravity, that centre can change dramatically in any direction in particular circumstances. Mini transformations, peak experiences, sudden insights and flow experiences can overtake us at certain times. Individuals therefore might have some new insight into an integral way of looking at things that is valid and cogent and which might add to the storehouse of integral theory propositions irrespective of their standard modus operandi or developmental centre of gravity.
  5. The inclusion of the ideas of developmental lines in integral theory means that development is idiosyncratic and ideographic. Individuals can be at several levels of development within different domains of life at the same time. They therefore may well be able to connect with a wider range of developmental worldviews than is commonly acknowledged (see APPENDIX for a further discussion on this). This argument simply warns us against making judgements related to the linking of criticism with the developmental profile of the critic. These are complex realms that have no real place in the judgement of criticism and its theoretical cogency."
Note: The appendix is an excellent expansion of the last highlight.

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