Integral Ecology Reading Group Week #7
by Adam Robbert
Thanks for your response, Nick. I share your enthusiasm for this chapter as integral metholodlogical pluralism (IMP) is to my mind one of the most useful aspects of integral theory. I think you are right to call into question the usefulness of a meta-methodological approach in light of certain postmodern tendencies to aggregate perspectives ad infinitum. However, I think methodological pluralism is one place where E/Z really come out on top: IMP seems to be the type of agile, yet multidimensional research paradigm that ecological issues require. Looking at their description of the research conducted at Hamilton Harbor, Ontario I think clearly shows the value of developing methodological pluralisms (p. 268).Thus having gone this far into the world of integral theory, I think I am prepared to accept most but not all elements of the following aspects of AQAL: the quadrants, IMP, and the 8 methodological families (though I am less convinced of the accuracy in the descriptions of the various disciplines associated with the latter). In the other direction I continue to be skeptical of the lines, levels, and states as described by integral theorists, my critiques of which can be found most predominately in my previous post.
Here are a few other points I found noteworthy:
- E/Z problematize the tension in social science research between qualitative and quantitative methods. In my review of the literature on place-based research (you can find it here) I found this debate to be alive and well, with numerous (semi-successful) attempts at integrating the two. In this regard, integral theory, I think, surpasses much of the extant literature that deals with similar ecological issues (e.g., environmental psychology, place attachment, solastalgia, or social ecology). I think a greater employment of IMP in these areas is to everyone’s benefit. E/Z may be contestable in terms of what approaches they situate where (for example suggesting the phenomenology belongs in the subjective quadrant), but I find this problem of categorization to be common in many areas of integrative ecological research. Again, my place-based research overview indicates that such mistakes are common- particularly when we move from ecological and social sciences and into philosophical systems of thought. This is one area where some clean up is definitely necessary.
- I would critique IMP in one substantial way. Whilst IMP may be an excellent tool for producing research, it raises difficulties for those (perhaps philosophers in particular) who wish to generate a sustained, systematic argument from one point of view. In this sense IMP may come off as pragmatic in a helpful way, but also pragmatic in a negative way in that it may produce too many conflicting points of view. I personally don’t see this as a problem, but I can see the argument being made.
- E/Z, following Wilber, take a “Post-Kantian” position on ontology and apply it to research so that “the compound evolutionary nature of the scientist actually contains that which he is seeking to know. In other words, he has shared depth with the organism [that he is studying]” (p. 264). I think this is a very interesting spin on the problems posed by Kantian philosophies of access. This also, by the way, is the same argument Carl Jung makes with regards to the human psyche in Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious and Alfred North Whitehead makes in Modes of Thought. The common cosmological basis of the human and its subjects of study, I think, is a perspective lacking in many discourses that seek to array research in terms of human “subjects” and extended “objects,” a problem I think postmodernism (in general) has attacked, but has insufficiently replaced with its overemphasis on perspectivalism. In this sense I applaud the call to “shared depth” between entities within the integral framework.
- Following the above point, when E/Z argue for the “shared depth” or “worldspace” between different types of organisms (humans and dogs or wolves for example), I think E/Z are being a little contradictory in that they seem to be arguing simultaneously for the possibility of an “unmediated” experience of an animal’s emotional state (p. 265), but also that such experiences always occur within an interpretative context, regardless of whether the experience is mediated by language (p. 266). If interpretative contexts are inevitable, why then call the experience unmediated? This position seems a little confused. Personally, I am very happy with the idea of the intrinsic mediation of experience. In my mind, all experience is participatory experience, and this in no way requires that we lament the loss of “pure contact” between beings (hat-tip to Harman’s vicarious causation). Participation implies the creative composition of shared world spaces between entities such that each encounter is its own kind of art-form, emerging within the particularities of the moment. This section brings to mind the so-called move to “posthumanism” in some philosophical circles. Donna Haraway’s When Species Meet is an excellent treatment of the problems of animal ethology and what she sometimes calls “significant otherness.”
- Lastly, as someone who is more familiar with Latour’s Actor-Network Theory than Integral Theory, I would suggest the following basic distinction: integral theory strives for a metamethodological approach, whereas I would say Latour’s is an inframethodological approach. The former strives for larger and larger systems of incorporation and perspective, while the latter tries to not build a system of any kind and instead follows carefully all of the actors that are in play in any given scenario. A more thorough detail of the two approaches I think can be very useful. I suspect some kind of meeting between the two is inevitable (and perhaps is beginning in this very conversation).