I began writing this compact book four years ago as a brief digression at the beginning of an article on my particular formulation of integral economics, wherein I thought it might be appropriate to clarify what I meant by the integral that I was using to reconstruct this economics. That article was being written for an academic audience at the First Biennial Integral Theory Conference, so my digression to explicate the critical integral praxis that had long resided inchoate, in the back of my mind, was written in a formal academic style. Two years after that first draft of an article, which was incompletely satisfying enough to encourage further effort, I began writing once again during intermittent pockets of time between projects. My intent was to write a long academic article, or perhaps a series of articles, but certainly not a book, and I think that creative tension between what I wanted this to be and what it apparently needed to be accounts for the relative density and directness of the resulting presentation.
The ideas articulated in this book are precisely the same as those I introduced at that conference, and although this articulation is not as comprehensive as some scholars might prefer, or as accessible as some practitioners might like, I do hope it is sufficient to foment the sort of action-oriented discourses I have in mind. It should come as no surprise that I don’t anticipate a large audience for a rather speculative book of philosophy by an unknown author who didn’t even have the good sense to secure the services of a reputable academic publisher or a brazen literary agent. Nevertheless, I do anticipate a savvy audience of scholar-practitioners who recognize that the worldly challenges in response to which these ideas are being proposed simply will not wait two more years while I take the standard route to publication. Consequently, I have chosen to self-publish this first edition and to do so with a Creative Commons license that relieves you of any financial cost to read, discuss, and share this book as widely as you choose.
Should you choose to read, discuss, and share this work, it will help to remember that its primary purpose is to seed derivative applications in such real-world fields of human action as economics, business, politics, governance, sociology, journalism, and activism. While I have already been doing so in economics and business, there is no shortage of opportunities for critical integral reconstruction of established theories and practices within, between, and beyond disciplinary and institutional boundaries. If you would like to apply Awareness-in-Action in your particular field, please let me know. I would be glad to help in any way I can.
Daniel J. O'Connor
Bainbridge Island, Washington
This is from the Introduction:
As a distinctively integral reconstruction, my intent is to emphasize those insights that appear to be essential for a philosophy of human action that honors the full potential and variety of the human experience, which necessarily includes our experience of the worlds beyond humanity. Just as the adjective integral offers us two complementary definitions—comprehensive or essential—so too does the process of integral theorizing offer us two complementary approaches with two corresponding results.3 In contrast to a comprehensivist approach to integralism characterized by the construction of an inspiring, encyclopedic meta-narrative, I prefer an essentialist approach characterized by the distillation of a compelling, universal meta-paradigm—a paradigm of paradigms, if you will. Nevertheless, by focusing deeply on the quintessential features of all human action in real-world contexts, I propose in this work the broad contours of a meta-paradigm—an integral aperspectival/a-practical meta-paradigm, to be precise—with the potential to enact a seemingly infinite plurality of differential perspectival/practical narratives at least suggestive of a comprehensive meta-narrative, the specifics of which are by definition beyond anyone’s sole capacity to articulate. It is therefore so much the better that I, at least, won’t be enticed to try.
Therefore, this work actually represents two mutually implicating lines of inquiry into the possibility of an integral philosophy of human action and an action-oriented integral philosophy, both of which are centered on the essential perspectives and practices that appear to be governing the actions of all people in their efforts to realize their full potential in real-world situations. In pursuing these lines of inquiry, I gratefully incorporate and, where necessary, carefully reformulate the extraordinary insights of three primary theorists—Jürgen Habermas, Ken Wilber, and Chris Argyris—whose collective body of work already contains much of the content needed for this initial reconstruction. Having engaged with this collective body of work since 1994, both in theory and in practice, I bring to this effort a commitment to help realize what I see as some of the latent potential in each of their brilliant philosophical programs.
Granted, in my preliminary effort to articulate a form of integral philosophy that is as realistic as it is idealistic and as fallibilistic as it is humanistic, with a pragmatic focus on the way people can, should, and already do act in the world, my contribution may be little more than a clarification of my own novel vision of the nexus between Habermas’s critical theory, Wilber’s integral theory, and Argyris’s action science. Nevertheless, the logic of this vision and its demonstrated capacity to reconstruct established views within these fields should justify the effort required of you, the reader. More to the point, the real promise of the critical integralism I call Awareness-in-Action is in its potential to (re)define the common core of all the various forms and fields of human action, so that those of us concerned with such matters might learn how to respond more effectively to the interdependent political, economic, social, and ecological challenges of our time.
Beginning with the self-evident reality of human action—that people act—the question arises as to the ideal conditions that must be presupposed by all people in order for them to act in any situation. Is it possible to articulate any fundamental presuppositions of human action that can withstand our efforts to invalidate them, through logic and other direct experience, and at least approach a believable universality?