Welcome to the World of Integral Philosophy w/ Steve McIntosh

Steve-McIntosh-225x300Integral Philosophy has come up a few times on Homebrewed Christianity.  A bunch of friends of the show have dabbled in it including Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, Shane Hipps, and Rob Bell & the Deaconate have asked repeatedly “what’s an Integral?”  Well the wait is over.  Steve McIntosh, an Integral philosopher and Jesusonian (follower of Jesus), is here to introduce you to the ideas and how it could connect with the teachings of Jesus.

After going over some of the ‘big ideas’ Steve attempts to demonstrate the usefulness of the philosophy by tackling a couple present predicaments – Global Climate Change & Political Partisanship.  As part of a new think tank Steve is working to use his theory to change our practice as a species to one that is more hospitable to the planet and our neighbors.  For more details on this work check out The Institute for Cultural Evolution.

Steve recently introduced Integral on a guest blog, Deacon Tony Jones responded and then Steve gave a holla back.

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8 comments
johnboy sylvest
johnboy sylvest

The strategies for building political will are interesting and can likely be supported in various ways by certain more enlightened schools of thought in the social sciences. While an aesthetic teleology can be constructed consistent with good descriptive science (e.g. modern semiotics) and rigorous normative philosophy (e.g. evolutionary epistemology) , presently, it takes an epistemic leap beyond them as an existential orientation, worldview or meta-interpretive stance. There is an important distinction in play, which is that between being "constructed consistent with" and being "proven and demonstrated by." Neither a philosophical naturalism nor an aesthetic teleology are scientifically probable, philosophically demonstrable or metaphysically necessary. An aesthetic teleology is an eminently defensible interpretive stance, one I take myself, amplifying my epistemic risks justifiably because of a concomitant augmentation of value realizations - yes, of truth, beauty and goodness. It goes beyond good science and philosophy but not without them, consistent with them because, while transcending them, they're included. Descriptive sciences, evaluative cultures, normative philosophies and interpretive traditions all probe reality asking distinctly different questions and are thus methodologically autonomous, but each method is indispensable and contributes to every human value-realization as part of a hermeneutical spiral so, all such methods, together being necessary while alone being insufficient, are, at the same time, axiologically integral. If we conflate things methodologically, resulting category errors lead to such as scientism. Finally, reality remains far too ambiguous for us and ambivalent toward us to coerce us into any universally compelling metanarratives, empirically or rationally. Existentially, given otherwise equiplausible stances toward reality, the most actionable to me remains the one that is most life-giving and relationship-enhancing, augmenting truth, beauty and goodness, requiring no other justification than the intrinsic rewards that accrue to the path of love, polydoxically articulated by our great religious traditions - to Whom else can we turn? That's the apologetic I offer ... not proving too much but maybe, at least, weakly truth-indicative, should truth ever fly in on the wings of beauty and goodness, lifted by love.

JeffStraka
JeffStraka

A perfect example of a post-post-modern Christian author Steve is pointing towards would be Cynthia Bourgeault (Wisdom Jesus, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene). She is an integral enthusiast and has been interviewed by Ken Wilber on several occasions.

David Miller
David Miller like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I've taken a look at the Amazon preview of McIntosh's book, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution, where he says, "Although I have respectable academic credentials, I'm not a professional philosopher. . . . I use the word 'philosophy' very loosely, but in general accord with the dictionary definition of philosophy as 'the investigation of causes and laws underlying reality.'"I've read a moderate amount of integral material, starting with Wilber's A Theory of Everything over a decade ago.  In fact, I have two such books beside my recliner in my den right now: Integral Spirituality and Integral Life Practice.  I have found value in integral thought.  Otherwise I wouldn't keep reading it.It has to be more rigorous, though, to be considered actual philosophy.  Grousing about the state of academic philosophy is insufficient.  Make your stuff better, if you want it to be taken seriously by actual philosophers.  McIntosh's latest book, as evidenced by the Table of Contents, does actually talk positively about philosophical concerns such as epistemology, ontology, and metaphysics.  But it spends only a very short section on phenomenology, philosophical hermeneutics, existentialism, and deconstruction, sweeping away as "[f]utile" in only a few sentences their bracketing of and critique of metaphysical systems.  Such a mere assertion with no supporting argumentation is indicative of the lack of rigor endemic in integral thought.  Continental philosophy of religion and continental philosophical theology has a considerable vitality right now, as seen by such disparate thinkers as Caputo, Marion, Zizek, Rollins, Milbank, and so many others.  To dismiss them (not by name but en masse) in a cavalier manner without actually engaging them is insufficient.  (I'm not suggesting that every philosophy must take these people into account.  I'm saying that such a broadly dismissive stance does them a disservice and diminishes what McIntosh is trying to say.)In the podcast, McIntosh rightly criticizes Wilber for his lack of philosophical rigor.  McIntosh does seem to want to help rectify that.  In order for integral thought to be taken seriously, it has to seriously critique what it is currently simply passes over.I recognize I cannot have a full understanding of McIntosh's thought by persusing the Amazon preview, but these are my preliminary thoughts. 

johnboy sylvest
johnboy sylvest

@David Miller - agreed. While there may be some helpful departures from some of Wilber's more egregious errors, such a cursory dismissal of academic philosophy recapitulates one of Wilber's vintage ploys, which I call the gnostic tautology: For example(s), The reason you can't access my truth is because 1) you haven't transcended the spiral dynamic level below mine 2) my nondual perspective transcends your dualistic take 3) your epistemology is flawed and mine has better access. Now, those reasons may very well be true but they are not apodictally true, a priori, but require inductive inference and empirical & practical demonstrations beyond mere logical consistency. Wilber thus too often relies on an otherwise nonvirtuous cycle of abductive hypothesizing and deductive reasoning that doesn't much correlate to our actual lived experiences.

David Miller
David Miller

Hmm, I had paragraphs in the above comment.  They have disappeared, making what I wrote more difficult to read.

tknh
tknh

I learned about Catherine Malabou's concept of plasticity from a previous episode and subsequent reading.  Seems like this idea would 'brew' well with McIntosh's nuanced understanding of integral philosophy - we're inheritors of forming elements that shape us, but aren't deterministic.  Evolution and personal development work the same way, it seems. 

willhouk
willhouk

I have a question for you guys. I forget the name of the analogy, but you guys have discussed the analogy of religion where different people are feeling/describing different parts of an elephant. Your criticism of this analogy is that it seems arrogant to say that you can see the elephant so to speak. How do you know there is an elephant? I was wondering if this same criticism can be applied to integral philosophy? How can we say that we have the perspective to talk about these different levels from an evolutionary point of view? For the record I am fascinated by integral philosophy, I like what I've heard and read so far.