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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].
Justice, Evolutionary Dynamics, and Spirit
Justice is an actually existing relation of functional fit between the parts of a system, not an abstract ideal or intersubjective consensus.
Plato talks about Justice as an interobjective relation of the parts to the whole within society and the self. Whether it is between different classes in a society or between the different aspects and developmental stages of the self, Justice is an actually existing relation of functional fit between the parts of a system, not an abstract ideal or intersubjective consensus. It is a negotiated and strategically positioned balance of forces that must be in constant play for a (social/self) system to maintain a dynamic equilibrium.
Too much imbalance or inequality between the parts, and the system will break apart into chaos; too much balance or equality, and the system will stagnate and collapse under the weight of its own suppression of individual difference and initiative among the parts. Unfettered capitalism and totalitarian communism come to mind as paradigmatic examples of these two alternatives. Obsessive-compulsive schizophrenia and catatonic depression as well as other self-disorders would be examples of injustice (or actually existing Justice) at the level of the self.
In physics, chemistry, and biology the interobjective relation of the parts to the whole, what I am defining as Justice and designating as the archetype of the LR quadrant of the AQAL, plays a central role in the self-organization of systems, or autopoiesis. The interobjective relation of atoms and molecules and their dynamical feedback and “negotiations” on a moment to moment basis is what shapes and maintains the forms that emerge in nature and in biological species in particular. The environment in which these forms take shape constitutes the sum total of these interobjective relations, and it is on the basis of the functional fit of each part with respect to the whole that each part is either selected for (and into), or against (and out of) that environment.
Dynamic equilibrium, or what is sometimes called far from equilibrium, rather than stagnant equilibrium or chaotic disequilibrium, is what all systems need in order to maintain themselves sustainably. Sometimes far from equilibrium systems become so far from equilibrium that they become chaotic and disordered, whereupon they either disintegrate and disappear or re-emerge under a new and different set of dynamical equilibrium rules and parameters, forming an entirely new system with unique and novel forms. Whole societies, the self, and theoretically even whole species may be said to emerge under such a process in what is known as punctuated equilibrium.
Thus, the parts of a system come together under certain conditions in an interobjective set of relations to form a sustainable existence, and this is what we can refer to as Justice. As these relations continue to interact and negotiate their relations under changing circumstances, their initial equilibrium may come to be too far from equilibrium to be sustained any longer, and what we might call Injustice emerges on the scene. But this injustice will only be temporary, and necessarily so, for the dynamic equilibrium of the system demands Justice, dynamic balance between the parts, which sometimes means making the whole into a part of a larger whole, in order to be sustained.
This is how ALL systems have evolved and will continue to evolve as nested and increasingly complex self-organizing wholes, from atomic to molecular to cellular to self and society. The 4 quadrants of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice are themselves parts of the whole AQAL. They combine and interact to create the forms of the Kosmos, which are sustained for a time until changing circumstances and imbalances trigger the emergence of new formations from the tetrameshing fields and forces they embody.
In other words, the AQAL as a whole is itself a system of interobjective relations that not only demand but continually enact and re-enact Justice as its primary directive. And in this sense, the LR quadrant isn't just an archetype of Justice, it is an archetype of Spirit itself, the ever-present action of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice as they give rise to the Kosmos from moment to moment. We might conclude by saying that wherever there is Justice there is Spirit-in-action, and wherever there is Spirit there is Justice-in-action.
 Of course, Justice is also an intersubjective notion of what is right and wrong and how social goods should be distributed, but this is justice as a subset of the Good, not Justice as the archetypal quality of impersonal dynamical balance and harmony between the parts of a whole, indeed, as the scales of justice symbolize. Just as we can say that at the individual level the mind is a reflection of how the brain works, and the brain is a vessel or medium for the mind, so we can say that at the collective level the Good is a reflection of how Justice works, and Justice is a vessel or medium for the Good. Thus, all 4Qs interpenetrate and overlap, yet each retains a unique archetypal marker according to Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice.