Thursday, June 21, 2007

Integral Politics

In a recent Integral Naked dialogue, "Escaping Flatland, Part II", Wilber discusses the contours of Integral Politics as he sees it. He gives a good summary of the points he has made in the three chapters published so far of his The Many Faces of Terrorism manuscript. These chapters, unfortunately, lack focus. If this, after all those years, is Wilber's choice of genre for conveying his vision of integral politics, we're really lost.

Wilber's conclusion and implicit advice to presidential candidates of the Democratic Party: if Green attacks Orange, Blue wins. Decrypted into normal political language: if left-wing politicians alienate the rationalist, industrialist, secular sections of society by their anti-America rethoric, they will turn to the Republicans and cause them to win the elections. Or as Wilber says it in his usual caricaturistic way: You can't win the elections by saying "I hate my country, vote for me".

However, with all its claim to universality, it is still very much directed at the context of US politics, which has a two-party system of Liberals/Democrats and Republicans. It's high time to turn to other countries for a wider view. In the Netherlands, for example, the liberals are on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, and usually conservative. On the left-hand side we have, of course, the socialists (and even communists). And in the middle, we have the Christian party. Currently we have a Christian-Left government.

A few years back, we had a "purple" cabinet, which was a joining of both left (red) and right wing (blue) parties (our socialists and conervatives) -- integral politics in action! Its architect was a very small party called Democrats '66, which, led by the charismatic Hans van Mierlo, had starting arguing in favor of such a venture since the sixties). It lasted for 2 terms, until the Dutch population got tired of the rationality of the whole construction (yes, half-truths generate more passion!). When the death of Pim Fortuyn occurred, the Christian party took hold of the vacuum and presided over 4 terms.

So integral political analysis has to move from a US based 2-party to 3-party or multi-party analysis. It also seems to have no realistic idea of Left Wing politics. Does the US really have a Left? The democratic party would still count as conservative over here (and the Republicans as ultra-conservative). And as to the US situation, a bigger problem seems to me that, given the 50/50 nature of the division between Democrats and Republicans, as evidenced by the last election, any third party arriving on the scene wil only weaken the one closest to it, and so give victory to the opposition (e.g. a really Left wing party will weaken the Democrats, by stealing their votes). Same story on the Right wing of the spectrum (who remembers Ross Perot?).

And please, please, please, when can we finally read about these parts of integral theory WITHOUT having to wade through adolescent prose, giggling dialogues, and self-congratulatory praise ("we are decades ahead of everybody")? Can this be fleshed out in a serious way, that attracts the attention of those who really know about politics, both in theory and in practice? Without the AQAL jargon, endlessly discussed, summarized and explained, the color coding terminology, which doesn't make sense to and even offends outsiders, and the inside jokes?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Eros or Oops?

On the first page of Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995) Wilber sets the stage for what is to come by comparing his philosophy to the prevailing scientific outlook.

To Schelling's burning question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?," there have always been two general answers. The first might be called the philosophy of "oops." The universe just occurs, there is nothing behind it, it's all ultimately accidental or random, it just is, it just happens--oops! The philosophy of oops, no matter how sophisticated and adult it may on occasion appear--its modern names and numbers are legion, from positivism, to scientific materialism, to linguistic analysis to historical materialism, from naturalism to empiricism--always comes down to the same basic answer, "Don't ask."
On wonders, isn't the very nature of science to continue to ask and investigate how things have happened and evolved? Wilber continues:

The question itself (Why is anything at all happening? Why am I here?)--the question itself is said to be confused, pathological, nonsensical, or infantile. To stop asking such a silly or confused question is, they all maintain, the mark of maturity, the sign of growing up in this cosmos. I don't think so. I think the "answer" these "modern and mature" disciplines give--namely oops! (and therefore "Don't ask!")--is about as infantile a response as the human condition could possibly offer.
Or, is science just saying that it is fine to ask such questions, but that it is not within the competence of science to answer them? Note the strong emotional tone of Wilber's comparison of the two viewpoints. Meyerhoff's psychological analysis of this key passage is illuminating.
Wilber continues:

The other broad answer that has been tendered is that something else is going on: behind the happenstance drama is a deeper or higher or wider pattern, or order, or intelligence.... Something else is going on, something quite other than oops…. This book is about all of that "something other than oops.
Throughout his subsequent works, Wilber will refer to that mysterious force that turns atoms into molecules, molecules into cells and cells into organism as Eros. For example, in his recent book Integral Spirituality (2006), giving his current take on neo-Darwinian evolution (and Intelligent Design), Wilber writes:

That drive—Eros by any other name—seems a perfectly realistic conclusion, given the facts of evolution as we understand them. Let's just say there is plenty of room for a Kosmos of Eros.
But does Wilber really understand the facts of evolution? First read Lane, "Wilber and the Misunderstanding of Evolution", again Lane,"Wilber on Evolution Revisited", Chamberlain, "Wilber on Evolution" and Falk, "The Age of Wilberius".

Isn't the proposition of a Kosmic force which magically accomplishes everthything that asks for explanation, as much, if not more, a philosophy of Oops? Of not asking and investigating further? I believe the answer to this question determines one's outlook on life.

As Richard Dawkins has reminded his audience on many public occasions when science and religion are compared, and religious objections to the coldness of science were raised, the question to ask is not "Does it appeal to me?" or "Is it comforting?" but "Is it true?"