Saturday, March 17, 2012

Awareness-in-Action: Daniel O'Connor - A Critical Integralism for the Challenges of Our Time

Daniel O'Connor is the mastermind behind Catallaxis! - one of the first generation of integral blogs still around on the web. In his most recent post, A Critical Integralism for the Challenges of Our Time, Daniel (also of Integral Ventures, LLC)is making available a free, creative commons licensed, e-book on critical integral theory.

Awareness-in-Action: A Critical Integralism for the Challenges of Our Time

Daniel O'Connor | Integral Ventures, LLC
Awareness-in-Action DownloadThis work represents an inquiry into the essential nature of human action in all its forms and fields. By human action, I mean to suggest a rather comprehensive scope of inquiry into anything and everything people do, regardless of how conscious or subconscious, purposeful or spontaneous, independent or interdependent these actions might seem. The myriad forms of this human doing—from writing, speaking, and conversing to giving, taking, and trading, to working, playing, and creating to learning, developing, and evolving—serve as creative expressions of, and logical complements to, the equally comprehensive notion of human being. In short, human action encompasses what we do, how we do, why we do, and ultimately who we are as we do.

My approach to the philosophy of human action, or praxiology, might be best described as a process of integral reconstruction. As a reconstruction, my intent is to clarify and formalize the tacit knowledge and intuitive competencies that must, logically, be presupposed by all people in order for them to act in any situation. To whatever extent such universal presuppositions might be validated, these would, logically, serve as necessary premises for all subsequent inquiries into, and hypotheses about, the many fields of human action, from economics and business to politics and governance to sociology and social work to journalism and activism. Thus, my focus of inquiry is that intuitive knowledge without which people could not act as they really do and, correspondingly, those essential premises without which we cannot know what human action really is.

As a distinctively integral reconstruction, my intent is to emphasize those essential premises necessary 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.  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. 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-apractical meta-paradigm, to be precise—with the potential to enact a seemingly infinite plurality of differential perspectival-practical narratives at least suggestive of a 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 interdependent lines of inquiry into the possibility of an integral philosophy of human action and an action-oriented integral philosophy. In pursuing these lines of inquiry, I gratefully incorporate and, where necessary, reformulate the extraordinary insights of three primary theorists—Chris Argyris, Jürgen Habermas, and Ken Wilber—whose collective body of work already contains much of the content needed for such a reconstructive inquiry. 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 fulfill what I see as the latent potential in each of their brilliant philosophical programs. Granted, in my preliminary effort to articulate a form of integralism 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 Argyris’s action science, Habermas’s critical theory, and Wilber’s integral theory. 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 integral praxis I call Awareness-in-Action is in its potential to 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 economic, political, social, and ecological challenges of our time.

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