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

Schools of postmodernism

Modernity has naively believed in the stage conception, putting itself at the summit of human development, and measuring all "backward" cultures by that level.

Postmodernity has rejected that approach as etnocentric, and declared all cultures as valuable in their own right.

This has led to the dead end of pluralism and relativism, without any way to evaluate cultural expressions, culminating in extreme postmodernism or Boomeritis.

"All we can do, is gaze in wonderment at the diversity of discursive species, just as we do at the diversity of plant and animal species."
-- J. F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition , p. 84

However, even evolutionary biology does not stop with diversity, it only begins there; it tries to find out how these different species connect in space and time.

Constructive postmodernism or integralism starts with the tolerance of pluralism, so that all relevant views and sources are taken into account, but then proceeds with trying to find the hidden patterns that connect these views.

Integralism avoids the pitfalls of modernist progressivism, by including sources from all of the worlds cultures and religions into the picture. It is a developmental (organic), genealogical school of postmodernism.

To distinguish it from the often "deconstructive" postmodernism, it is called "constructive".

In one of the online "sidebars" to Boomeritis (Shambhala, 2002), Wilber has given a map of the theoretical positions involved in this issue:

    • "bad evolutionism": "the West is best", non-Western cultures are seen as inferior or progessing towards the ideal of western rationality and democracy.

    • pluralism or pluralistic relativism
      • no metanarratives, a culture's self understanding is the ultimate
      • no imposing of your interpretations on the Other
      • derrida, lyotard, later wittgenstein, said, rorty, etc.
    • genealogy
      • "ruptures"
        • early Foucault, early Kuhn ("paradigms are incommensurable"); "stages"/periods are random, not connected; every "stage" has its own self understanding (episteme)
      • developmental (organic)
        • "bad" - see your own stage as the ultimate; impose that on all Others; work from obviously prejudiced ideas of history ("modernity is the devil, premodernity is sacred", "West is bad; East is good") and evaluate everything in human culture accordingly. Early Foucault, Heidegger.
        • "good" - be open to stages higher than one's own; try to arrive at agreement among the participants; any denial of "higher" stages is in fact an invalid metanarrative if the one who denies has no experience of these stages; example of good developmental genealogy: Carol Gilligan's "In A Different Voice"

Source: Ken Wilber, Sidebar A: Who Ate Captain Cook? Integral Historiography in a Postmodern Age ,

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