Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Mark EdwardsMark Edwards has an M.Psych in Developmental Psychology and a PhD in organisation theory from the University of Western Australia. He now works at Jönköping University in Sweden where he teaches and researches in the area of sustainability and ethics. Before becoming an academic he worked with people with disabilities for twenty years. He is the author of Organizational Transformation for Sustainability: An Integral Metatheory (Routledge, 2009) .

"The separation of good ideas from critical thinking is, quite simply, not possible."

Some comments
on Ken's message

to the readers of critical essays
on the "World of Ken Wilber" site

Mark Edwards

Ken Wilber posted a letter to the readers of critical essays on Frank Visser's site some months ago. The following are my considered reflections on that letter. First I'll make some general comments and then some responses to specific points in Wilber's letter.

General comments

Critical thinking must not only be independent it must also appear to be independent.

Frank Visser's site – Integral World - provides a forum for the free and open discussion of all things Integral (and this, of course, includes all things written by Ken Wilber). The great diversity of viewpoints represented on Frank's site reflects the gloriously anarchic and democratic nature of the internet. Overall I think that the essays on Frank's site are an important body of integral literature and they include contributions by very respected scholars in the Integral community.

Having said that, it's an important point to remember that the great majority of essays, however insightful, interesting and stimulating they may be, have not been tested by peer review. As such they simply don't meet the minimum level of validation to warrant serious consideration by Ken. Consequently, I see no need whatever for him to read or to assess the value of the essays posted there.

As to how others might read this critical material, well, that's a very different question and one that is clearly the real concern of Ken's letter to the readers of Frank's site. Ken's concern relates to the broader issue of how readers can assess the adequacy of essays that are critical of his theoretical propositions. From one angle the answer is quite simple: readers of Frank's site, or of any ideas critical of Integral Theory, can surely make up their own minds and form whatever opinions they choose. On another level it's a bit more complex than that. Ken is saying that scribblers like myself are actually “distorting” his ideas and “mis-reading” and mis-stating him and that we aren't following the complex development of his ideas because we aren't in dialogue with him. Readers are thereby being led astray. That's a much trickier issue for Ken, as well as those who write and read about Integral Theory, to deal with. I want to say from the outset here that I understand Ken's concerns with this problem and I can see how this can be a very problematic issue, especially in a forum that lacks any formal peer-review process.

The problem is this. How are readers to assess the validity, quality or accuracy of any material that critically interprets Wilber's complex and extensive writings on Integral Theory. To this important question Ken offers two means whereby readers can assess the value of critical material. His first solution relates to the authenticity of the author. He says that if readers really want, “to know what Ken Wilber's view is about a topic, better listen only to either Ken Wilber or people who are in dialogue with Ken Wilber”. This proposal has it's merits. Obviously, this method means that the reader gets their information straight from the horse's mouth so to speak. But this solution of direct dialogue is based on some very dubious assumptions and also has some unfortunate implications. These include that:

  • readers will be able to know whether a piece is authored by someone who is in dialogue with KW or not as the case may be;
  • independent critics can't accurately represent the complexity of KW's ideas;
  • personal “mutual dialogue” is the best way to validate critical material;
  • that KW has enough time and energy to enter into mutual dialogue with everyone with valuable criticisms to contribute;
  • all critical work of real value will come out of personal dialogue with KW;
  • critical writings can't be judged on their own merits (i.e. without knowing whether the author has been in dialogue with Ken);
  • KW's books don't communicate the complexity of his ideas and that critics must be in personal dialogue with him to understand the complex details of his writings;
  • only those in direct dialogue with KW can add to the basic theoretical improvement of IT.

Even if Ken's solution of direct mutual dialogue with him actually implies or assumes none of these things, that it appears to is still a very major problem. Critical thinking must not only be independent it must also appear to be independent. Critical independence lies at the heart of this whole issue and Ken's solution of requiring direct dialogue with him in some ways exacerbates the problem and doesn't solve it.

This still leaves the question of how to validate critical work unanswered. Even if a critic is independent, how are we to judge the value of their work. Traditionally in academic circles (and in fact in all fields of specialised knowledge) this problem has been tackled through the device of peer review and social validation through such means as publication. This means that the community of the knowledgeable can and will, and without fear or favour, independently evaluate the critical material and attest to its worth through the process of publication. The value of the critical material is then assessed through the social validation process (does that sound familiar?) that occurs following publication in the process of critical debate. At the moment this process of open publication via peer-review does not exist within the Integral community and it's a major problem. It seems that this will change in the near future. I certainly hope it does and I look forward to developments in this area. However, up to this time there have been no peer-reviewed journals or forums where critical material can be presented and made open to the judgement of the community of thinkers in this field.

I see the absence of such avenues for judging the value of critical writing on Integral Theory to be a major contributing factor behind the current issue that Ken's letter tries to address. Up to this time there's been nowhere for people like me to go other than web sites like Frank's. Frank has been immensely generous in providing the “World of Ken Wilber/Integral World” forum for the open discussion of matters Wilberian and Integral. However, there's no peer review of material on Frank's site (not that this has ever been his intent in developing the site, he's just wanted to provide a forum for discussion and the dissemination of ideas).  So the constructive criticism stuff that might have some merit is mixed in with the "off the wall" stuff and the run-of the-mill stuff.  The poor reader just has to assess the value and quality of the critical ideas on their lonesome.

I might add that the confirmation/testing of the value of all critical materials through peer review and publication is the task and indeed responsibility of the Integral community in general and not solely of Ken. The "dialogue" that is essential for the emergence of the Integral vision should really be happening at the social level of the community of peers and not simply "in dialogue" with Ken. I can't stress this point enough. It is crucially important that academic criticism of Integral Theory be not only assessed through an independent peer-review process but that it also publicly be seen to be so. In the world of organisational decision-making this is called “transparency”. Critical material that is worked out in dialogue with Ken will obviously perform a valuable role in the development of the model, but it will still require the vital steps of being tested under independent peer-review and the subsequent social validation through publication. Ken's solution of direct dialogue is useful in many ways but it does not fulfil the basic requirement for the process of independent peer-review. If the Integral community leaves the burden solely on Ken to validate the critical interpretation of Integral Theory ideas then it is it abrogating its responsibility to ensure the independence of scholarship in this area.

Ken's second solution to the criticism problem is that critics should “try to separate the two very different tasks: (1) presenting their own good ideas in themselves, and (2) criticizing mine”. Apart from assuming that good ideas and critical ideas about Ken's writings are mutually exclusive categories, there are some serious limitations with this solution. First, new ideas are always intimately connected with critical analysis. The evolution of Ken's writings is a wonderful example of how constructive theory building can occur in partnership with critical evaluation. The Pre-Trans Fallacy was proposed through the critical analysis of inadequacies in previous models. The AQAL framework was proposed through the critical evaluation and comparison of many other developmental models. Identifying the truth and the partiality of ideas is part of the Integral approach and Integral Theory itself is not above this process. Consequently, it is not only preferable but requisite that, when I present my ideas on how to improve the Integral model, I also show why these improvements are needed. The separation of good ideas from critical thinking is, quite simply, not possible and not desirable from any viewpoint that recognises the intimate connection between critical analysis and constructive contribution.

The other problem with Ken's separation solution is that it supports the fragmentation of views that might actually enhance the development of the model as a whole. While some critics want to create their own personal holistic models, others, such as myself, do not. It is anathema to my whole intent to present my ideas as something separate from the development of Integral Theory. I am a critic of Integral Theory who wants to constructively improve its internal consistency and theoretical scope. I am an advocate for and practitioner of Integral Theory. I have presented on the topic many times and applied the model in my professional work for many years. I definitely do not want to separate my ideas into an alternative model or have or have my ideas regarded as such. I want to add, in my own modest way, to the emergence of Integral Theory as Ken Wilber and the community of Integral Theory scholars wrestle with it coming into being. In summary, critical thinking and constructive contribution are both important aspects of the role of being a member of the Integral community and the idea of quarantining one from the other is not the way to approach the problem of evaluating critical material. The way to deal with this issue is to leave the internet to its own anarchic devices and, at the same time, develop forums for the independent peer-review of critical material so that the social confirmation of that material's truths and falsehoods can be openly and fearlessly pursued.

Some specific comments

I'll respond to each of the points that Ken made in his letter. Ken's comments are in bold.

“I read the first page of Edwards's latest essay on exteriors posted on the Frank Visser "World of Ken Wilber" site, and again I am struck by how little it relates to what I have actually said, as a dozen students of mine have already told me.”

On the first page of my latest essay (The Depth of the exteriors – part 3), apart from providing one quote, I don't try to represent Ken's views on the exterior quadrants. My introduction to Part 3 raises some questions about how we are to understand the exterior quadrants. I make the point that it is not precisely clear from Ken's present writings what they refer to. This precision is essential given that the exteriors identify a very fundamental aspect of the model.

I actually try to represent Ken's position in the first part of the series (The Depth of the Exteriors – Part 1). In that essay, which Ken hasn't read, I present 42 quotes which are directly related to his definition or characterisations of the exterior quadrants. Do these 42 quotes relate to or represent Ken's views on the exteriors? Is my interpretation of these quotes “false”? Well, that's a matter for debate and discussion among those who've read the essay.

“My recommendation to theorists like Edwards is that they try to separate two very different tasks: (1) presenting their own good ideas in themselves, and (2) criticizing mine. When somebody like Edwards tries to do both things in one piece, often in one sentence, it places a double burden on the truth value of the sentence. I find very little truth in Edwards's work, although I find much truth in his own ideas (which usually happen to agree with mine more often than not, a fact that cannot be seen under the double burden). “

Most of my essays on Frank's site are an attempt to critically improve the internal consistency of Integral Theory. My approach as a constructive critic has been to first identify the relative omissions or inconsistencies in the theory and then offer suggestions on how to improve it. Of course, because at this point Integral Theory and Wilber's presentation of it are virtually synonymous, any critical analysis of Integral Theory means being critical of Wilber's ideas. The two are not separable. They depend on each other. The “double burden” I have taken on is the burden of rationally identifying as well as I can, i) a particular area of inconsistency in Integral Theory and, ii) proposing something constructive to overcome that inconsistency.

I have always tried to carry out both these important functions. For example, in my series on the exteriors, the first essay presented the critical evaluation of Wilber's position, and the following ones presented constructive alternatives to that position. In my AQAL Eyes series the first essay listed my criticisms of the Wilber/Kofman model of holons and most of the following ones presented my constructive views for a more consistent theory of holons. Often, these two tasks do fall very close to one another and sometimes in the one sentence. But I always try to make it clear which is which by saying that, “Ken proposes that ...” or, “According to Integral Theory ...”. I could begin every sentence with, “It is my interpretation of Wilber's writings that he thinks that ...” but this redundancy is removed by the claim of authorship under the title of the essay.

It is not possible to present critical comments by themselves without referring to the source material. This is simply not the way critical writing is done. To present a constructive alternative without referring to the problems of the existing position is not a useful or even appropriate way of presenting critical work. The way I do it is to connect the identified criticism of Ken's work with a constructive alternative. I could split them into different essays but then the poor reader would be lumbered with twice as many essays to go through and would need to refer between them all the time. It's much better to stay with the usual academic method of presenting the critical stuff and the constructive stuff in the one piece (or one series, or in one paragraph or sentence) and to follow the usual quotation and referencing rules, clear structure and argument etc. (All up there are about 250 direct referenced quotes from Wilber's writings in my essays.)

Ken says that my ideas are, “often very important and illuminating in their own right”, and that he finds, “much truth in [my] own ideas”. He also says that he can, “find very little truth in Edwards's work”, that my, “overall sentences and presentations are FALSE”, and that “so many of Edwards's points [are] categorically false and virtually worthless”. The former complimentary remarks probably refer to my constructive suggestions. The latter, rather harsh, comments refer to my interpretations and representations of Ken's own work. Ken's obvious ambiguity towards my ponderings is due, he says, to the “double burden”. The difficulty I have with this is, as I have said previously, that my constructive ideas are firmly based on my criticisms of Ken's ideas. For example, throughout his writings Ken says that the exteriors are “all material”. I say that they are not. The two views go hand in hand and cannot be artificially separated. My constructive idea that the exteriors possess depth cannot be clearly presented without reference to my criticism of Ken's position. How can my view, for example, that the exteriors possess ontological depth be “illuminating” without accepting the veracity of my criticism of Ken's view that they don't. My constructive insights are founded on my critical insights. If my own original suggestions for improving the model are of any value, it is only because there is some accuracy to my critical interpretations of Ken's presentations of Integral Theory. As to the style of my own writings, yes, I can see that perhaps my little essays have been directed too much at Ken (even if in a friendly manner) rather than towards Integral Theory as a whole. I'll try to rectify that matter.

“In the first page of the aforementioned essay, Edwards does not fully or carefully define what I actually mean by "exteriors," a fact he himself acknowledges before ignoring it. Based on that crucial misreading, a series of further misreadings follow.”

I have already mentioned that I try to “carefully define” Ken's view of the exteriors in Part 1 where many quotes (approximately 42) of his are presented and discussed.

“Among other things, in my actual view, the "we" is not the end product of a series that starts with separate "I's" that are somehow added up into a "we." This is a staggering distortion of my work. In the one particular instance that he refers to, I was discussing one type of vertical building up of a "we" from its predecessor quadratic occasions. But the "we" itself is essentially the LL quadrant, and as such it arises simultaneously with all four quadrants in any given moment. To break the process into quadrants to discuss it, we can say that each "we" is a dialectic of development of its/thems, he/she/it, I/me, and thou/we. The "we" goes all the way down, it doesn't pop out at the end. Sheeeesh.”

Here is the quote Ken is referring to (Excerpt C, Part IV, ¶ 3),

The transcendental growth of "we's" (to ever-wider circles) is the history of an unfoldment of "it" to "you" to "thou" to "we"--where I first meet a strange, alien, or foreign holon (human or nonhuman) only in its outside-exterior dimensions (UR) and thus treat it like an "it" or instrumental object; but then advance to the understanding that this holon (all the way up, all the way down) is a sentient being which therefore possesses a real interior, an "I" or proto-"I" (UL), and thus this "alien" holon, or this holon merely in its otherness, is starting to be perceived ... in its second-person dimensions ... If that resonance succeeds at any level, then this foreign "you" (or outside-interior) has become a "thou" which is part of the newly-disclosed "we" (or shared-inside-interiors; first-person plural [LL]).

Am I committing a “staggering distortion” to conclude from this passage that for Ken, the “We” comes out of separate “I”s meeting each other as “aliens”, “foreigners” and “strangers” and then communicating to (hopefully) develop some sense of cultural connectedness. I interpret Ken's use of the words “aliens” and “strangers” to mean that he sees the initial meeting of I's as one of separation. Is that “a staggering distortion”? It certainly is my interpretation of Ken's words but I don't see that I am distorting his views. I am merely making a reasonable interpretation of a very relevant quote. Ken says that the “we” is the result of the unfoldment of "'it' to 'you' to 'thou' to 'we'”. Isn't it reasonable to conclude from this that the final "we" is the result of an “unfoldment” that starts with “its”? I fail to see any distortion at all here. I understand that Ken sees the “we” as going “all the way down” within its own interior collective quadrant but this was not the topic of my criticism. I was considering the relationship between Ken's UL quadrant and his LL quadrant – between the “I” and the “we” -and not how Ken related the present “we” to some former “we” within the LL.

That Ken's writings on fundamental aspects of the AQAL framework can be inconsistent is exemplified in this very letter. Ken says in the above that,

“the "we" itself ... arises simultaneously with all four quadrants in any given moment.”

Elsewhere in this letter he says that, “a social holon does NOT itself possess four quadrants”. But a “we” is a fundamental aspect of a social holon. How can it arise with “all four quadrants” if a social holon “does NOT itself possess four quadrants”? This is not a matter of semantics nor I am not trying to trap Ken here for the sake of some fault-finding exercise. I am trying to point to underlying inconsistencies in the model. I have explained in detail why these problems remain unaddressed and Ken's response here does little to resolve those inconsistencies. Alternatively, if my interpretations of Ken's words on these matters are indeed “false” it may be because the model as it currently stands is not as coherently expressed as it might be. Either way my criticisms have value.

“Further, the idea that I don't draw on exterior social development (of its, them, and they) is absolute nonsense. George Mead, for instance, was one of my earliest and most extensive influences (among others). But Mead isn't really exterior per se, he's zone 2.”

The exterior social developmentalists that I refer to in my essays on the Exteriors include Vygotsky, Harre, Luria, Leontiev, Cole, and Wertsch. These are some of the greatest theorists of human development in the social and behavioural worlds. None of them are discussed in any of Ken's writings. It is noteworthy in particular that not one mention or reference is ever made to Vygotsky or the Cultural-Historical Activity Theorists in any of Ken's works. Every postgraduate student of developmental psychology will know that this is a significant omission for any theory that wants to integrate all major theories of human development.

I also say that there is, “very little reference to, or discussion of, many of the American social theorists of development” in Wilber' writings. These theorists include Cooley, Mead and Blumer and there is indeed “very little” discussion of Cooley, Mead and Blumer in Wilber's writings. I know that Mead was an influence on Ken in some way because he mentions this once or twice in the context of long lists of many other authors who influenced him. There is one very brief reference to Mead's concept of the “generalised other” in the on-line material to Boomeritis. There are also two or three passing references to Mead in Ken's books. For example, this is the only reference to Mead in SES,

At the same time this would open Grof's model to the vast amount of research (clinical, experimental, dialogical and therapeutic) on the formation of these intersubjective structures of competence (Piaget, Austin, Searle, Selman, Loevinger, Kohler, G. H. Mead, Heidegger, Gadamer, Habermas, etc), research that, after all, covers an enormous amount of ground, which no comprehensive model can afford to ignore (SES, p. 778-779)

Mead was a theorist of the exteriors (zones 3 and 4) who was well aware of the existence of the insides and outsides of the interiors (zones 1 and 2). He described himself as a behaviourist, and indeed as a social behaviourist. Take the following quotes from his book “Mind, Self and Society” (Mead, 1934, section 14 and 15) and judge for yourself if their author is a theorist of the exteriors, as I claim, or of the interiors, as Ken claims.

Consciousness is functional, not substantive; and in either of the main senses of the term it must be located in the objective world rather than in the brain-it belongs to, or is a characteristic of, the environment in which we find ourselves.

The opposition of the behaviorist to introspection is justified. It is not a fruitful undertaking from the point of view of psychological study ... it is true that introspection as a means of dealing with phenomena with which psychology must concern itself is pretty hopeless. What the behaviorist is occupied with, what we have to come back to, is the actual reaction itself, and it is only in so far as we can translate the content of introspection over into response that we can get any satisfactory psychological doctrine. It is not necessary for psychology to get into metaphysical questions, but it is of importance that it should try to get hold of the response that is used in the psychological analysis itself.

This doesn't sound very interiorist, does it? It is from the viewpoint of the “actual reaction itself”, i.e. the social communicative gesture and act, that Mead wrote mostly on social, political, institutional development and the development of self. This is why I regard him as a theorist of the exterior. That Ken regards Mead to be an interiorist actually confirms the basic thesis of my series on the Exteriors.

The work of Cooley and Blumer is not discussed in any of Ken's books that I am aware of. I find no evidence that the views of these pioneers of the exterior social and behavioural world that I refer to in my essays have had any influence on Ken's conceptualisation of the exterior quadrants. They may have influenced his work in other ways, but in these essays I was concerned with how Ken views of the exteriors relate to those of the great theorists of the social and behavioural worlds.

“Anyway, let me repeat (and further explain) the double burden that renders so many of Edwards's points categorically false and virtually worthless. Consider two sentences:
(1) "Water contains 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom."
(2) "John believes that water is made of 3 hydrogen and 1 oxygen atom."
The first sentence is true. But let us imagine that John also believes that water is composed of 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen atoms. In that case, the second sentence is false (but the first sentence is still true).
But if I make those two sentences into one sentence: "Water contains 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom and John thinks it is made of 3 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom," then that overall sentence is FALSE. (In order for it to be true, both propositions must be true, and only one of them is).”

On the question of Ken's story about the oxygen and so forth. Well, if I state that “water is wet and water is also dry” then part of that statement is true and part is false. It is not all “FALSE”. After all there's this thing about “true but partial”. Where are my ideas true and where are they false? That's the real issue. Ken says that everything I write is “virtually worthless” and “false” because of the “double burden”. I guess that logic saves people the hassle of going through my musings and trying to find the “often very important and illuminating” ideas that are in there somewhere. It might also stop people from finding out where my criticisms of Ken's ideas might have some modicum of validity.

“Anyway, as students of my work know, people coming to the Visser site should understand that virtually all of the critics on this site are critics that I have not been in mutual dialogue with. Hence, most of the actual statements about my views, as far as I can tell, are usually way off the mark, sometimes outrageously so. Yet their own views often contain important contributions. But by combining (1) their true propositions with (2) false interpretations of my work, their final presentation is accordingly false. This is truly unfortunate in so many ways.”

Do Ken's words represent his ideas? I assume so. I assume that if I study the ideas that he has written down then I will achieve some measure of understanding of his ideas. Of course, Ken means by “mutual dialogue” the “face-to-face” conversations/communications that occur when people meet in direct discussion. Although it seems that there are hundreds of people in such dialogues with Ken, I have not been one of them. While there are obviously many disadvantages to that, there are also some advantages. Like most of Ken's readers and students I rely on his written word to find out what he is thinking. My understanding of his ideas comes from his books. If I am so very “false” in my understanding of Ken's positions on these matters then others may be as well. What does this say? If I am accurate in my criticisms and my constructive suggestions are useful for the development of the model, then that may actually be the result of a certain independence that comes with distance.

“My work is so complex at this point, I offer the following advice: if you are interested in my work per se, trust few critics who have not discussed their criticism with me. Critics that I am in dialogue with—as we will see, there are hundreds of them—do what happens in any truly dialogical situation. Dialectical exchanges like the following occur:”

This is followed by an interesting exchange between Ken and someone else on holons.

I have already alluded to the fact that this passage itself has some very confusing implications for holon theory. These include, i) that social holons don't have four quadrants, i.e. have no behavioural or consciousness quadrants (and yet they arise quadratically), ii) that even single molecules each have a dominant focus of (proto)consciousness while social holons, e.g. totalitarian governments, do not, iii) that a molecule has intentional and behavioural agency while a human social holon does not, iv) that social holons don't tell their members “what to say” (in fact the research on collectives and groups shows clearly just how powerful the agency and consciousness of social holons can be and that on many, many occasions that agency can be expressed as a “dominant monad”, (see for example, the new literature on organisation identity, team consciousness, group mind, collective consciousness, etc. (Nooteboom, 1989; Bronn, Von Krogh & Vicari, 1993; Isaacson, 1994; Brown, 1997; Whetton, 1998; Meyer, Bartunek & Lacey, 2002)). Such issues are the critical subject matter of my series on holons. Ken hasn't read any of that material.

I am NOT saying that people can't criticize my work without talking to me. Of course they can (and have and do). I am saying, if you want to know what Ken Wilber's view is about a topic, better listen only to either Ken Wilber or people who are in dialogue with Ken Wilber. Otherwise, please read critics like Mark Edwards, NOT to find out what my view is (although they constantly claim to know), but rather for any insights about their own views that they might offer, which are often very important and illuminating in their own right (and, of course, are often actually quite similar to mine). But please keep these two items separate, and judge them independently. That truly is all I am saying.

If you want to find out Ken's view on a topic, yes do indeed read his books and listen to his recordings as I have done. Then some of you might like to read one of my essays (I still find it difficult to believe that many people do) and see if my critical comments and constructive suggestions have any validity. I don't think you'll have any trouble spotting the difference between Ken's writings and my own humble offerings.

I would like to see critics such as Mark Edwards simply write essays like, "This Is How I, Mark Edwards, View Social Development," and not mention me at all. That way we could at least hear his important work not saddled with the double burden. But then, it wouldn't get posted on "The World of Ken Wilber" would it.

Under the title of each of my essays there's my name in nice big bold letters and I think it adds a little something to the usefulness of my musings about Integral theory if I actually refer to Ken's writings and try to interpret them.

And therein lies the entire problem with this site: it is burdened with the double burden. The Visser site remains the greatest concentration of distortions of my work that I am aware of, for the simple reason that virtually all of the critics on the site are not in dialogue with me in any fashion. (The rare exceptions are pieces like those of Fred Kofman, which came out of a direct dialogical criticism and extensive discussion with me, and hence ones that truly reflect my position and cogent criticisms of it.)

Frank's site may well house the “greatest concentration of distortions” of Wilber's work. It does a lot of other things as well. It has opened up the discussion of matters Wilberian to the non-English speaking internet world for one thing. It's been a source of dialogue and contact for another. It might just host some very important critical work on Integral theory. That's the “double burden” of the internet for you. Frank's generosity has given me the opportunity to discuss my ideas with some wonderful people and very respected scholars from many parts of the world and I thank him sincerely for that.

We are about to launch There are over 20 domains in it—from integral psychology to integral politics to integral ecology to integral spirituality to integral art. We are posting over 2000 pages of written material on the integral/AQAL approach to all of those domains, written by over 80 domain hosts and cohosts, with several hundreds of theorists in the dialogue. In other words, all of this IU material was developed with theorists who are in constant dialogue with me and each other in various ways. Frank Visser and Mark Edwards are not among them. Nor are Ray Harris, Andrew Smith, nor ...

I wish the Integral University all the best and, in all sincerity, am sure that it will be a place of great work and intense critical exchange.

For the very same reason, as many people know, I have strong disagreements with Frank Visser's book about my work (Thought as Passion). Frank has monologically studied my work a great deal, but dialogically very little (and with regard to Wilber 5, there has been zero dialogical study or understanding). In part this is due to unfortunate geographical distances. I hope, however, that in the near future, Frank can become more involved with Integral University and thus enter the hermeneutic circle of those adequately reflecting my views before disagreeing with them, but we shall see. He is certainly welcome to do so.

Frank's book is a great read and full of excellent scholarship, Ken's foreword is a delight – get a copy and judge for your self.

Of the hundreds of theorists who are in constant dialogue and dialectical interaction with me, their sharp criticisms of my position always hit the mark because they are always sure that they are criticizing my actual views. If Mark Edwards and I were in dialogue about his essay, I would not let him get beyond the second paragraph without correcting a deep misperception he has of my view about exteriors. Failing that, virtually everything else he says is false, simply because of the double burden. Truly a shame that both he and I come off looking false under that burden, when both of us have so many true things to say on the topic.

If Ken and I were in dialogue about my latest essay, I'd ask him to read Part 1 before reading the first page of Part 3. And if I have deep misconceptions about Ken's views of the exteriors then that's because the 42 quotes that I provide in Part 1 support those misconceptions.

I am the first to admit that, because I am not in dialogue with Mark Edwards, I might not be understanding his actual position. If so, it just goes to show you...

In forming my opinions about Ken's ideas I have the advantage of having read all his books and writings. Because it seems that Ken has read only the first page (or two) of one of my essays he will probably not understand my “actual position” about his work. This probably shows that you need to read someone's work to be able to say anything substantial about it. It is quite possible, of course, that Ken could read all my essays and still find that they are “virtually worthless” and “false”.

I realize that some of these critics will say, "Well, I can't get in touch with Wilber, so I can't dialogue with him, so does that mean that I can't criticize anything he says?" No, of course not. I am simply saying that the further removed from actual dialogue with me that a critic is, the LESS LIKELY that they will correctly represent my view before they begin to criticize it, and that under this double burden, the less likely the criticism qua criticism is valid, as most of the essays on this site demonstrate.

For my own personal understanding of Integral Theory I have needed to be highly questioning and critical of its fundamentals to be able to think about and apply the model to my satisfaction. This critical perspective often moves into a more accepting approach when I apply Integral Theory in my work.

For those who would like to know my real position on these issues—as well as for criticism from aggressive critics who are actually in dialogue with me and therefore are at least seeing the target they are aiming at—I suggest people check out We expect to go live sometime early this summer (2004). In the meantime, have a look at

I finish with the point that I am in dialogue with the Integral academic community in various ways. I might even say that I am in dialogue with Ken through the written page. That's one reason why my papers on Frank's site are so full of direct quotes from his writings (around 250). That's also why I sometimes swing between interpreting his views and then stating my own alternatives. It's a vicarious process, of course, but such dialogues have a long and respectable tradition in the history of ideas.

It might well be that I have misinterpreted Ken's ideas on many occasions. That can only be decided by the community of integrally informed peers who have read my work and understood it. Constructive critics carry out an absolutely crucial role in the development of any social or cultural endeavour. I always offer my own critical insights them with the intention of assisting, in some small way, the emergence and development of the integral vision.

© Mark Edwards, July 2004


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