Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Some Important Modern Pioneers: Baldwin, Habermas, Aurobindo, and Maslow

An excellent excerpt from Integral Psychology, my favorite of all of Ken Wilber's books, that was posted at the Integral Life forum.

Some Important Modern Pioneers: Baldwin, Habermas, Aurobindo, and Maslow

In this excerpt from Integral Psychology, Ken Wilber honors some of the forerunners to his own model Integral theory and practice: James Mark Baldwin, Jürgen Habermas, Aurobindo, and Abraham Maslow—intellectual giants upon whose shoulders we all stand....

Some Important Modern Pioneers: Baldwin, Habermas, Aurobindo, and Maslow
From Integral Psychology by Ken Wilber

What I would like to do in this section is introduce several modern pioneers in an integral approach, an approach that, in important ways attempts to be "all-quadrant, all-level." What all of these pioneers have in common is that they were fully cognizant of the important differentiations of modernity, and therefore they were increasingly aware of the ways in which science could supplement (not replace) religion, spirituality, and psychology. All of them, as we will see, used modern discoveries in the Big Three to elucidate the Great Nest. (All of them, in other words, were offering important elaborations of fig. 1 [below].)

Early modern pioneers of an integral approach abound, such as Goethe, Schelling, Hegel, Fechner, and James. The early pioneers increasingly had access to scientific data on evolution, and thus increasingly understood something about the Great Nest that the premodern pioneers usually did not: it shows development not just in individuals, but in the species; not just ontogenetically, but phylogenetically. In this century, although pioneers also abound-from Steiner to Whitehead to Gebser-I would like particularly to mention James Mark Baldwin, ]iirgen Habermas, Sri Aurobindo, and Abraham Maslow.

James Mark Baldwin

Of the four, James Mark Baldwin (1861-1934) is the most pivotal, and history might well find him to be America's greatest psychologist. A contemporary of James and Peirce, Baldwin forged an integral psychology and philosophy that is only now being recognized for its scope and profundity. He was the first great developmental psychologist in modern history; he was the first to clearly define a stage of development; he sought to integrate introspective phenomenology with scientific evolutionary epistemology; he believed that the three great modes of experience were aesthetic, moral, and scientific (the Big Three!), and he proposed detailed developmental stages in each of those domains (in other words, he was one of the first to trace development in all quadrants); he was also one of the first to outline stages of religious development. His cognitive developmental scheme was taken up by Piaget and Kohlberg; his studies on dialogical interaction were furthered by Dewey and Mead; his evolutionary epistemology was embraced by Karl Popper and Donald Campbell; his influence, in short, is almost impossible to overestimate. The only reason his name is a not a household word is that, shortly after his death, the positivist and behaviorist schools would raise flatland to a dogmatic belief, and integral studies of any sort were scrubbed from the curriculum.

Baldwin went through three main phases in his own development: mental philosophy (of the Scottish school), evolutionary psychology, and developmental epistemology. In all of this, he was determined to include and equally honor the scientific, the moral, and the aesthetic, without trying to reduce any of them to the others or privilege any of them unwarrantedly. He included what he called "the metaphysic of intuition, the ontology of introspection" (i.e., the very real realities of the Left-Hand domains), along with a rigorous commitment to scientific experimentation. He at first found that the philosophy of Spinoza could hest accommodate this integration, since Spinoza equally honored the interior/mental and the exterior/bodily; but it was the static nature of Spinoza's system that rendered it incapable of coming to grips with evolution. Baldwin came to the conclusion that "no consistent view of mental development in the individual could possibly be reached without a doctrine of the ...development of consciousness." Moreover, this developmental view had to be constructed without a retreat to mere empiricism, which badly misconstrues mental structures. Baldwin: "The older view of the soul was of a fixed substance, with fixed attributes.... The genetic [developmental] idea reverses all this. Instead of a fixed substance, we have the conception of a growing, developing activity. Functional psychology succeeds faculty psychology." Baldwin made a deep study of the German Idealists, and found further evidence of the importance of a developmental approach.

Baldwin began this second phase (evolutionary psychology) with a reassessment of the research tools necessary: "How can the development of the mental order of phenomena be fruitfully investigated? The quantitative method, brought over into psychology from the exact sciences, must be discarded; for its ideal consisted in reducing the more complex to the more simple, the whole to its parts, the later-evolved to the earlier-existent, thus denying or eliminating just the factor which constituted or revealed what was truly genetic [developmental]." Baldwin added to scientific investigation the tools of philosophical epistemology, or an analysis of the types of structures that could be empirically investigated, and this eventually lead to his third phase, developmental epistemology (represented in his acknowledged classic, Thought and Things: A Study of the Development and Meaning of Thought, or Genetic Logic).

Baldwin came to see consciousness as developing through a halfdozen qualitatively distinct stages or levels of consciousness (see chart II), each of which hierarchically differentiates and reintegrates the lower elements on a higher level: the prelogical (similar to sensorimotor), the quasilogical (pre-operational and early concrete operational), the logical (formal operational), the extralogical (vision-logic), and finally, the hyperlogical, which we might call supralogical or translogical, for it represents a satori-like nondual awareness that transcends the subject and object dualism. This highest stage, as Baldwin put it, is "a form of contemplation ... in which the immediacy of experience constantly seeks to reestablish itself. In the highest form of such contemplation, a form which comes to itself as genuine and profound aesthetic experience, we find a synthesis of motives, a mode in which the strands of the earlier and diverging dualisms are merged and fused ... 'an experience whose essential character is just its unity of comprehension, [wherein] consciousness has its completest and most direct and final apprehension of what reality is and means." This experience is of waking reality as a whole, immediately apprehended (what we would recognize as psychic-level cosmic consciousness, or union with the entire empirical world: "nature mysticism"). As Baldwin often pointed out, in this unity consciousness, all of the dualisms that were created during development (such as inner/outer, mind/body, subject/object, true/false, and good/bad) are transcended and united in an experience of completeness. And he stressed that this was hyperlogical, not prelogicaI. Through those half-dozen or so basic levels of consciousness, Baldwin traced the lines and stages of moral, aesthetic, religious, scientific, and self development.

In its general completeness, it was an integral psychology and philosophy the likes of which have rarely been equaled. Others, such as Aurobindo, would grasp the many stages of spiritual development with greater precision (what Baldwin called "hyperlogical" actually consists of at least four distinct levels of consciousness); others would display a more powerfully philosophical mind (Habermas, for example); still others would make more contributions to an experimental psychology. But few combined all of them with the rigor, depth, and breadth of Baldwin.

Baldwin's influence, as I said, was considerable. His stage-by-stage account of the dialectical development of self and other (in all three major domains-moral, aesthetic, scientific) had a major impact on the social sciences. Kohlberg's account is typical: "As I read more deeply into Baldwin, I realized that Piaget had derived all the basic ideas, with which he started in the twenties from Baldwin: assimilation, accommodation, schema, and adualism, 'egocentricity,' or undifferentiated character of the child's mind. I saw, too, that Piaget's overall enterprise, the creation of a genetic epistemology and ethics which would use epistemology to pose problems for developmental psychology and use developmental observation to help answer epistemological questions, had also been Baldwin's." But unlike Piaget, Baldwin's genius was his integral vision: he refused to reduce all development to cognitive development, which is why, as an overall system, Baldwin's is much more credible and enduring, as John Broughton and others have pointed out.

In moral development, psychologists and sociologists were generally agreed, by the early 1900s, that moralization proceeds through three broad stages. As McDougall put it in 1908: "The fundamental problem of social psychology is the moralization of the individual by society. This moralization proceeds through, first, the stage in which the operation of the instinctive impulses is modified by the influence of rewards and punishments; second, the stage in which conduct is controlled in the main by anticipation of social praise and blame; and third, the stage in which conduct is regulated by an ideal that enables man to act in a way that seems right to him, regardless of the praise or blame of his immediate environment." These are, of course, the three broad stages now most often known as preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. As Kohlberg points out, "The Dewey-McDougall levels [just outlined] are described from the standpoint of the relation of the self to society. They do not clearly reflect the child's qualitative cognitive and epistemological growth. Our data suggested that Baldwin's three-level distinctions [adual, dualistic, and ethical] defined 'stages' (or sublevels) in the basic series, preconventional, conventional, and postconventional (autonomous-ethical)." In other words, by also using Baldwin's developmental levels, Kohlberg was able to suggest a six-stage scheme of moral development, a scheme that research so far has found to be largely invariant and universal.

Baldwin also presented one of the first, and still one of the most sophisticated, accounts of the stages of religious development. In order to do so, Baldwin had first to argue (successfully, I believe) that religious or spiritual interests were an independent domain, not reducible to economic, scientific, or moral interests. Rather, "Religious motivations stand alongside theoretical, moral, and aesthetic interests as one of the irreducible and, when properly understood, ubiquitous motivations of persons:" This pioneering line of research was later taken up most notably by James Fowler.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that Baldwin saw consciousness development leading to, and culminating in, an experience of a type of profound unity consciousness, which was for Baldwin a supremely aesthetic experience that simultaneously united both the highest morals and the highest science. This is, of course, a version of aesthetic idealism (derived from Kant, Schelling, Schiller), but which Baldwin reworked into his own system called pancalism, a word which meant that this cosmic consciousness is "all-comprehensive, with no reference outside of itself."

This unity experience is prefigured in the contemplation of a beautiful artwork. The artwork itself exists in the objective, exterior world, and as an object can be studied by scientific investigation. But the beauty and the value of the artwork is an interior and subjective state, brought to the art by the viewer (although anchored in objectively real features of the work). Thus, when you contemplate an artwork that you love and value, you are joining the subjective and objective worlds—the worlds of values and facts, morals and science, Left and Right—in a unified embrace.
Furthermore—and this is the crucial addition—according to Baldwin, "It is the nature of such synthetic experience to move beyond specific aesthetic objects of contemplation to reality itself as a whole. Such synthetic experience includes the idea of God, but now seen as referring to that organic or spiritual whole within which self and world can finally be known. " This aesthetic strand, too, undergoes stage by stage development, culminating in the consummate experience of cosmic consciousness.

Baldwin, in short, was one of the first great modern researchers who, in essence, took the Great Nest of Being and Knowing—prelogical body to logical mind to translogical spirit—and differentiated each of those levels into aesthetic, moral, and scientific modes of experience, and further, showed the development of each of those lines through each of those major levels. His accomplishment is not likely to be soon equaled.

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]ürgen Habermas

Jürgen Habermas (born 1929) has, in the course of his distinguished career, applied his integral vision across a wide variety of domains—philosophy, psychology, anthropology, evolutionary theory, linguistics, politics (see chart 10). Habermas's overall model has three tiers. First is a theory of communication ("universal pragmatics"), which serves as the starting point for an account of the development of subjective (aesthetic), intersubjective (moral), and objective (scientific) consciousness (i.e., the Big Three; this developmental account of the individual is the second tier). The third tier, based on the first two, is an account of sociocultural evolution as a reconstruction of historical materialism, and a synthesis of systems theory, lifeworld, scientific, aesthetic, and moral domains.

Habermas is the most comprehensive developmental philosopher now working. However, lamentably, he leaves out and totally ignores any of the stages of I, we, and it consciousness beyond vision-logic [and states of consciousness altogether—ed]. As I would put it, Habermas is all-quadrant, but not quite all-level. Moreover, in placing his reliance on linguistically generated structures of understanding, Habermas places an unfortunate wedge between human and nonhuman nature, so that his approach to nature is essentially instrumental. In short, we might say that his integral view is inadequate to both the prerational and the transrational domains—inadequate to both nature and spirit (a major flaw, some would say). Nonetheless, for the ground it covers, his work has already assured him a place in history as being at least one of the half-dozen most important thinkers of this century, and it appears that no integral view can hope to succeed that ignores his profound contributions.

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Sri Aurobindo

Aurobindo (1872-1950) was India's greatest modern philosopher-sage, and the magnitude of his achievements are hard to convey convincingly. His "integral yoga" is a concerted effort to unite and integrate the ascending (evolutionary) and descending (involutionary) currents in human beings, thus uniting otherworldly and this-worldly, transcendent and immanent, spirit and matter. He covered much of the scope of India's vast spiritual heritage and lineages, and brought many of them together into a powerful synthesis. He was also one of the first truly great sages to have access to the evolutionary record (disclosed by the differentiations of modernity), which allowed him to expand his system from a dynamic developmental ism of ontogeny (which all great perennial philosophers possessed) to one of phylogeny as well. Aurobindo's integral yoga, we might say, was India's first great synthesis of the truths of the premodern Great Nest with the truths brought by the differentiations of modernity.

Aurobindo's overall model of consciousness consists basically of three systems: (1) the surface/outer/frontal consciousness (typically gross state), consisting of physical, vital, and mental levels of consciousness (2) a deeper/psychic/soul system "behind" the frontal in each of its levels (inner physical, inner vital, inner mental, and innermost psychic or soul; typically subtle state); and (3) the vertical ascending/descending systems stretching both above the mind (higher mind, illumined mind, intuitive mind, overmind, supermind; including causal/nondual) and below the mind (the subconscient and inconscient)—all nested in Sat-Chit-Ananda, or pure nondual Spirit.

Aurobindo's greatest shortcoming is a shortcoming faced by all theorists, namely, the unavailability of the important discoveries made since his time. Aurobindo was most concerned with the transformations of consciousness (Upper Left) and the correlative changes in the material body (Upper Right). Although he had many important insights on the social and political system, he did not seem to grasp the actual interrelations of cultural, social, intentional, and behavioral, nor did his analysis at any point proceed on the level of intersubjectivity (Lower Left) and interobjectivity (Lower Right). He did not, that is, fully assimilate the differentiations of modernity. But the levels and modes that Aurobindo did cover make his formulations indispensable for any truly integral model.

Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) is well known enough that I will only make a few passing comments. Like all truly great integral thinkers—from Aurobindo to Gebser to Whitehead to Baldwin to Habermas—he was a developmentalist. He was one of the first to gather substantial empirical and phenomenological evidence suggesting that each level in the Great Nest has a different need, that these needs emerge hierarchically and prepotently, and that each of us carries the potential for all of these levels-needs. Instrumental in founding both the Third Force (Humanistic-Existential Psychology) and the Fourth Force (Transpersonal), Maslow's ideas had an extraordinary impact on education, business, and values research.

Maslow's work fell into temporary disrepute during the eighties, when an extreme postmodernism, dominating both academia and the counterculture, made all forms of holarchy subservient to what certainly seemed to be a form of flatland dogmatism. But as the world awakens from that reductionism, Maslow's pioneering works are there to greet all who would genuinely embrace a more integral and holarchical view.

All of these integral thinkers are simply a few of the pioneering geniuses that can help guide us to even further integral visions. No matter how great any of them were, each new generation has a chance to move the integral vision forward in a substantial way, simply because new information, data, and discoveries are constantly being made. Hegel's towering brilliance was utterly bereft of exposure to Asian traditions. Schelling had no access to substantial anthropological data. Aurobindo missed the meticulous studies of modern cognitive science. Habermas is of a generation that never quite grasped the transpersonal revolution. Likewise, whatever contributions any of us might make will only be the shoulders, we can hope, upon which others will soon stand.

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1 comment:

Tusar N Mohapatra said...

It is no secret that Ken's depiction of Sri Aurobindo is highly flawed. Readers are therefore requested to look for authentic appraisals elsewhere. [TNM]