THE AQAL HAMMER

The following could serve as the subject of an assignment: What’s wrong at the level of assumptions found in the following argument?

I’ve provided some helpful italicizing.

At the second gathering of the teachers of Integral Spiritual Center, Patrick Sweeney famously asked Ken Wilber, “what can we do to stay out of Appendix III of Integral Spirituality?” In “The Myth of the Given,” Ken surveys some major modern approaches to spirituality, and demonstrates via AQAL their partiality—and how that partiality might be remedied.

It’s sobering to consider that so many of today’s most eminent teachers are partial! But as Ken points out, Appendix III (and the Integral approach in general) is meant not so much to point out that partiality as to highlight expertise in a highly specialized area. AQAL is an incredible tool for both situating various approaches and for understanding how they are related to each other. To the extent that the conclusions of these approaches fall within their area of expertise, they are most assuredly true. But to the extent that their conclusions overstep their area of expertise, a broader context such as AQAL can be enormously helpful.

The potency of AQAL to situate various approaches derives from its own formulation. Take, for example, the field of psychology. Ken points out that there are six major schools of psychology, each advanced by brilliant researchers who pioneered a particular approach to the field. Ken’s approach was to ask “what must be the characteristics of the human mind, such that the major conclusions of each of these schools could hold true?” His goal, rather than to work within one of the major schools to further its particular conclusions, was to reverse-engineer the human psyche—indeed, the entire Kosmos—altogether. source: ISC Editor’s Weekly Blog

Sometime in the near future I will highlight a very fine paper that does employ AQAL to accurately situate various perspectives in the field of organizational behavior. It is one of the few such integral overviews–rooted to a discipline–that is expert enough in a ‘meta-disciplinary’ sense to provide a lot of value.

Ken Wilber’s three main frameworks are: a meta-philosophy and pragmatic philosophy about perspectives, a developmental explication (and schema) about human self-development; and a meta-descriptive system about perspectives, AQAL.

AQAL is utilized in all three areas, yet it strikes it is strongest and most disciplined when it constitutes a way of locating and describing methodologies and categorical instrumentalities with respect to a concrete disciplinary field. This includes AQAL’s ability to support sound critical research focused on constraints, biases, and ‘disciplinary’ over-reaching.

The basic challenge for AQAL oriented approaches is to meet the requirement that any integral research be itself expertly informed about the field under investigation and evaluation. The common shortfall is found in AQAL pronouncements about disciplines for which the integral research itself is inexpert about the subject field. This is also the most galling problem of Wilber’s own books. Unfortunately, a little bit of AQAL training tends to turn AQAL users into little boys with hammers. whacking away at any and all available subjects.

For example, Wilber’s treatments of post-modernism, baby boomer demographics, art, psychology, are encumbered by an intense reductionism and under-revved apprehension of current/olden subject-matter research and expertise. Conclusions tend to read as straw men. Wilber’s treatment of post-modernism is ironically simplistic and reductive. His worst book, Boomeritus, draws a picture of a generic member of my own generation that I have never encountered.

This generates a standard operating procedure, now taken up by many integral acolytes: reduce something complex to something monological and simple, shave away the interesting particularities, and roast this smoothened reduction, all the while while asserting ‘one accepts–too–the true-beautiful-good.’

It’s worth noting also that AQAL itself has not–yet, and in the ‘open source’–inspired any rigorous formal theorizing about its own warrants and operational suppositions. At such point it won’t be possible to speak of reverse-engineering the Kosmos!

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One Response to THE AQAL HAMMER

  1. Bruce Lewin says:

    Hi Hoon,

    Interesting post :-) It really helped me write a piece on leadership!

    I tried to pingback to the blog, but I’m not sure it worked, so I thought I’d say hello the old fashioned way!

    btw, the post I wrote is at http://www.fourgroups.com/blog/archives/15/an-experiment-in-leadership-pratice/

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