Integral Meta-Studies Blog

This blog is about big picture science. It's a place for reflecting on the emergence of integrative varieties of meta-level science and how they can be practiced in research activities and inquiry settings of all kinds. The notion of "integral" is used here to refer to all those meta-level knowledge traditions that have an integrative purpose.

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Resilience – a useful "one word answer" to the recent increase in crises? An integral approach

Karim Fathi

The presentation "Resilience – a useful "one word answer" to the recent increase in crises? An integral approach" during the IFIS Online Colloquium on November 30, 2016, was part of my ongoing reflections within the frame of my postdoctoral lecture qualification.

The purpose of this presentation was, first, to provide a brief overview over the very different contexts and systems levels the notion of "resilience" is currently used. Second, this presentation was and is an invitation to jointly and critically discuss the resilience concept in a transdisciplinary fashion. An open key question for me was in how far this notion could be transdisciplinarily applied as a "one word answer" to different types and contexts of crisis.

Brief summary of my presentation: Resilience can be defined as “… The capacity of a dynamic system to withstand or recover from significant challenges that threaten its stability, viability, or development.” (Ann Masten et al. 2013). There are different types of resiliency: Prevention (before the crisis), reaction (during the crisis) and bouncing back (after the crisis). Furthermore, this notion is applied to different system levels, like individual, organizational and societal resilience. Each level itself refers to very different resilience factors and crisis types, i.e. societal resilience may refer to natural disasters, cyber terrorism, economical crises, the refugee crises etc. One might rightly criticize that referring to resilience as a "one-word-answer" to all of these very different crises might be like comparing apples and oranges. However, in today's highly complex world one might argue that all of these different systems levels and crises contexts are interrelated requiring a cross-contextual concept.

Closing my presentation, I formulated the following three summarizing statements:

1. Against the background of a highly complex world and cross-disciplinary manifesting crises, there is an increasing (theoretical and practical) relevancy of a “broadly applicable” notion of resilience.
2. Resilience as an “umbrella-term” may be only useful in terms of a transdisciplinary approach, but should carefully distinguish between different sub-concepts and definitions of resilience.
3. The application of AQAL and other transdisciplinary approaches (including various concepts of systems thinking) leaves open questions for further research.

The subsequent discussion included a lot of contributions inspiring me for further research:

- What does resiliency mean with regard to the AQAL dimension Levels: Are there different development levels of resiliency? From a cybernetical point of view: the higher the level of complexity, the higher the competency to deal with complexity. But from the other hand, high development and complexity might also lead into higher and more complex vulnerability.
- Similar questions also with regard to development lines and states...
- What does resiliency mean with regard to the AQAL dimension: Types? Given the fact that contemporary resilience studies is highly Western-centric, it would be interesting to consider inter- and transcultural dimensions. I.e. Japanese and German organizations and the whole society proved to be highly resilient in the aftermath of WWII. However both societies appeared to show very different cultural patterns of resilience.
- With regard to the "panarchy of adaptive cycles" model contrasting the concept of evolutionary resilience: In how far can the resilience concept be related to already existing models of evolution and development? And in how far is this useful?
- What does a cross-disciplinary concept of resiliency mean in terms of "transformative science" (mode 3 science)? An aspect making this question very challenging is the fact that transformative science has ethical and normative implications, whereas this is not necessarily the case for the resilience concept (i.e. resiliency can also be inspired from and implied by amoral actors like the mafia or IS).
- What does systemic resiliency imply in a trans-anthroprocentric (or metaphysical) context? I.e. if humankind does not prove to be resilient and dies out in the face of an utimate crisis - what does this mean for the planet (and its resiliency) and the emergency of an adapted post-human species in terms of "evolutionary resiliency"?

With these and other reflections in mind, I came off the colloquium with more questions and inspirations than in the beginning of my presentation. Thank you all very much for the fruitful discussion and your highly enriching contributions!

The problematic relationship between integrative science and integrative spirituality

Mark Edwards

Meta-studies are integrative endeavours. But when does the search for integration and integral become a colonising endeavour? Where are the boundaries that distinguish a holistic integration from and a totalising meta-narrative?

Science, philosophy and religion are all very different realms of human endeavour. They have some things in common but they are not the same thing. They are constructed, evaluated and experienced in fundamentally different ways. They have very different institutional bases and their constituent communities behave in different ways and follow different cultural norms. There are shared characteristics but these commonalities are best seen within the context of core differences that each contribute uniquely to the human story. Given this when we derive scientific metatheories what is their relationship to the domains of religion and philosophy? In particular, what role might scientific meta-frameworks play in the world of religion and spirituality? I think it a great mistake to take the metatheories and meta-philosophies developed within the discipline of science and rational learning and apply them to spirituality. Many dangers lie in this indiscriminate application of metatheory to the way we experience religion.

What is of particular relevance here is the application of integral approaches like AQAL that purport to be "all embracing" to other domains of human experience. Can an integral theory be used to structure and develop spiritual practices and techniques be used to guide spiritual development and growth, be used to promote one form of spirituality over another. It seems to me that that the exportation of scientific models into other territories of human experience needs to be very consciously and cautiously done, and the due regard for the dangers and fragilities of that process be clearly kept in mind. If not then the no boundary assumptions that I see as plaguing the development and use of AQAL in the scientific domains will be reproduced within the spiritual domain with disastrous impact. I see the ongoing parade of scandals (including the very recent dramas) involving several spiritual teachers associated with forms of integral spirituality as being closely linked with the “all-embracing” myth that surrounds AQAL and with the lack of domain boundaries that accompany this form of metatheory.

When the scientific map of and “all embracing” “theory of everything” form of AQAL (which makes strong claims that it possesses scientific validity and that it has been developed on the basis of scientific theories and empirical evidence) is exported into the spiritual domain all kinds of relational boundaries can get lost – interpersonal, philosophical, and cultural. That some spiritual teachers who take on the boundaryless AQAL map may also lose a clear sense of boundaries does not surprise me. The wholesale and uncritical transportation of scientific meta-studies into other, very different, domains of human experience is not a good thing. When those meta-theories claim and all-embracing relevance and application, their transposition onto other areas of cultural life is doubly problematic.

There need to be many conversations around these issues if the relationship between scientific big pictures and their use in such areas as spiritual practice are even begun to be understood. Without those conversations and critical investigations the relationship between metatheories and how they inform spiritual models and practices will continue to be an area of ethical concern.

Explaining the current developments in the Middle-East

Mark Edwards

Why is there an outpouring of energy for democracy and freedom in the Middle East, in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen? Trying to explain this is difficult and there are obviously many factors at play into what has led up to the public demonstrations against undemocratic and tyrannical governments throughout this region. An integral meta-studies approach is useful in providing an analysis of these explanations because it flexibly employs multiple lenses and is conscious of the limits on the range of theoretical lenses it can use to develop explanations of complex social events.

Spiral Dynamics and AQAL-informed thinkers will probably move straight to the developmental levels for their analysis of the events occurring in the Middle East. AQAL-inspired explanations might propose that it is those more advanced individuals from the educated sector of these communities who are leading the demonstrations. Their needs, desires, levels of awareness and core purposes enable them to harness the pent-up frustrations and aspirations of the great mass of people. Theorists who rely on developmental levels, degrees of education, or stages of complexity to explain dramatic change often employed a lens that sees elite individuals or very skilled groups in the population planning, managing and leading revolutionary change through strategic processes of communicating to and even manipulating the less educated or less cultured desires of the majority. It is almost invariably the case that the use of developmental stages lens will come up with analyses and explanations that are based on issues of leadership or the strategic intentions of elite minorities. This is why Wilber always explains successful revolutions in terms of the actions of developmentally advanced individuals and groups. This is why he also advocates interventions to transform society at the level of leadership and the education of influential elites.

Using a mediation lens, however, helps us to come up with very different possible explanations. These not only complement developmental explanations but recontextualize them into completely different forms of explanation. It is was not only highly developed individuals who have led this uprising but the ordinary aspirations of common and simple people inspired by such mediating means as television, mosque services, word-of-mouth, internet and mobile communications and conversation with neighbours, friends and family.

Let me explain this mediational lens in this way. Within each person there is a full range of developmental potentials and capacities. Some lie dormant and latent within the individual while others are expressed in words and behaviour. What is dormant and what is expressed changes moment by moment depending, at least in part, on such factors as situational context, social modelling and ethical climate. To put this more simply and to generalize, when we are with good people we do good things and when we are with bad people we do bad things. When we are immersed in a mediating environment of violence and oppression we become violent and depressed. When we are surrounded by good people and wonderful opportunities then we can express our lives through those means. Mediating agents within social and technological environments can inspire and resonate with our highest and most aspiring needs and desires and when those agents tap into people's personal and interpersonal needs for freedom and self-expression and democratic expression they get out on the streets and they march against the tanks.

It's all about the mediational environment rather than the developmental centre of gravity. Elites and charismatic leaders come into the picture only as part of this mediating sea that constitutes a social environment. Democratic transformation is not led top-down by saintly leaders of the third tier. It emerges through the leadership of individuals from across all developmental profiles and capacities. Each of us plays a role in the emergence of democratic possibilities because each person has these potentials and can resonate with the dreams of freedom that are communicated to us through the mediational links that surround us and through which we move moment by moment.

The ordinary "first tier" people of Egypt and the Middle East are the real leaders of this change, it is not only or even primarily the educated and thoughtful members of the upper middle classes. The millions of Egyptian citizens who hunger for something more generous from their political leaders and systems are listening to something singing away deep in their hearts and they want to start singing that song with others in their community. How this will turn out in the long run is not the issue here. What is the issue in question is this: If we propose explanations that rely on developmental levels as their central analytical tools we will never understand how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Metatheorising and Climate Change

There have been a number of papers presented recently dealing with the topic of climate change and metatheorising. Papers by Sean Esbjorn-hargens and Michael Zimmerman and the recent 2009 special issue of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice come from the AQAL informed streams and there are others from more general metatheoreitcal perspectives (see for example literature quoted in the call for papers by Wittneben, B, Okereke, C, Banerjee, B & Levy, D (2009)). This is a natural topic for meta-level studies to deal with.

First, it's a global issue and the relevance of metatheorising is directly connected with the emergence of global cires and the problems that are confronting us as a planet.

Second, it is an area of great contention and of varying theorietical, emotional, political and economic interests. Contentious topics are great areas for working with meta-level theories and methods because there is so much potential for connection and differentiation - the key activities of metatheorising.

Third it's an area that is intimately concerned with our visions of the future and how we can plan for and design inteventions that are multifaceted, integrated, holisitic, and pluralistic.

The reality is that climate change will be the most crucial event of the 21st century and it may already be too late for us to avoid the mass extinctions and environmental changes that appear now to be unavoidable. In his recent speech on the topic to the Royal Society of the Arts "Is It Too Late to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change?"
Clive Hamilton pointed out that: "One of the most striking features of the global warming debate has been how, with each advance in climate science, the news keeps getting worse."

It appears now that 4 degree increase in global temperatures is very likely and this will trigger bioshere changes that are irreversible and profound. So we have a situation where integral metatheorists and other big picture researchers are saying that some form of meta-level studies is crucial for the dealing with this phenomenon - either for adaptation or mitigation. But metatheorising is also about the balancing and inclusion of multiple views. My question is where can that balance be found given the dramatic actions that will need to be taken to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Should metatheorising try to include all views even when those views may be endangering human sustainability? Is the task integration endangering the responsibility to advocate particualr visions. And what does that mean for the goals and methods of doing metatheory? Are our ideals of being "integral" rendering us impotent to present a particular way forward? Is the maxim of "true but partial" reducing integral visions to "balanced and irrelevant"?

The Luxembourg Symposium

I expect that, in the wake of the Luxembourg Symposium called "Research Across Boundaries: Advances in [meta]theory Building", there will be the beginnings of a new climate around the whole notion of developing integral and integrative big pictures.

The connections and understandings developed between participants in the symposium will seed the emergence of a broader view on meta-level studies. There are many different researchers working on metatheorising activities of all kinds who were present at the gathering. It was a feature of the event that the shared interests and perspectives of people from many different resaerch traditions resonated so strongly.

It is events like this that will lead to the establishment of meta-studies as a formallly recognised pursuit in universities and research centres.

Metatheorising development - Let's take the student-teacher relationship for example

One of the starting points for an integral and integrative approach to meta-studies is the recognition that many different lenses exist for studying a topic. Those lenses can be applied at every level in the sense making holarchy - in understanding and intervening at the empirical level, in understanding and intervening at the middle-range level and at understanding and intervening on the meta-level.

When we study development for example, we can use a stage-based lens, a mediation lens or a learning lens. The stage-based lens sees development as the unfolding of structures (usually interior structures in consciousness). The mediation lens sees development as a mediated movement from the social exterior to the psychological interior. The learning lens sees development as the incremental acquisition of knowledge through the lifespan.

If we adopt these different lenses towards the development process we come up with different explanations and understandings. An integral view is one that brings each of these lenses into focus. I don't see Wilber's AQAL as an integral model of development because it does not use these three lenses but only the stage-based lens (sometimes in conjunction with other AQAL lenses).

To unwrap this a little let's take the student-teacher relationship as an example. From the stage-based view the teacher is at a higher level and the student is at a lower level. The relationship is one of expert to apprentice. There is a qualitative difference in their identities such that the student does not understand what the teacher is taking about until some dramatic mysterious transformation occurs. We see this, for example, in stage-based model of spiritual development where we have the wise guru teaching and assisting the development of the devoted student or disciple. This is an ancient model that goes back thousands of years and is the prevailing model of the he student-teacher relationship used in the AQAL-informed writings and research. There are however, other more contemporary models that have very different models for exploring and representing the he student-teacher relationship.

The mediation lens sees the student-teacher relationship in terms of peer learning and the scaffolding of individuals within social-cultural contexts. The relationship is not one of the learned and the ignorant or the higher and the lower but of situation and activity, of actor within a scene, or a role within a social context. Hence the learning focus is on what happens between teacher and student rather than what happens within the student.

The learning lens sees the student-teacher relationship as one of communication and the incremental accumulation of knowledge rather than dramatic transformation. The analogy here is more one of conversation between equals rather than conversion of the (unequal) student/devotee to the ideal of the teacher/guru.

Each of these three lenses offers a unique and powerful window onto the reality of the student-teacher relationship and, naturally, they each have their shadow sides and weaknesses. The weakness in the stage-based view is that the teacher can all too easily become the master and the student becomes the servant or slave. This relationship can obviously go very astray very easily and, by itself, this lens is an inadequate model to use for the development process in contemporary society. In my opinion, there is far too much reliance on this model for explaining the he student-teacher relationship in AQAL-informed circles. Particularly when applied to the area of spirituality the stage-based model suffers from serious shortcomings. First, the use of the stage-model needs some serious updating to contemporary views about stage-based development. Gurus and teachers who support evolutionary and stage-based view of development are very prone to overestimating the importance of the guru-devotee model and the qualitative differences that they assume exist between teacher and student. When practices within insular settings and non-traditional environments, these kinds of gurus often fall into all the traps of abusive power that many of us are aware of.

The mediational view can suffers from an overestimation of the place of socio-cultural factors in development. According the teacher becomes defined out of the social role rather than any particular expertise or actual mastery. Mediational development then becomes subject political manipulation and the power of legitimate structures can overwhelm the power of authentic structures. Here the teacher becomes the mouthpieces of the politburo or the corporation or the bureaucracy and the student becomes the subject of propaganda.

The learning lens can suffers from a lack of transformational power and can fall into a bland kind of incrementalism and ecclecticism that does not engage with peoples' vision or potential for extraordinary change. Here the teacher becomes the mechanical follower of the curriculum going through the incremental motions of low expectations. Using this lens the student take on the role of the one to be tested and anlysed to see if incremental learning has occurred. The student-teacher relationship becomes one of plain boredom and regimented regulation.

An integral view will take each of these lenses and combine to develop a more adequate and more enabling story of development and of the relationships that occur in that learning process. My view is that the archaic view of the teacher-guru and student-disciple has done its dash and can only be defended by those who are so immersed in stage-based development that they see no other meta-level possibilities for articulating growth (this is one of the many forms of altitude sickness that I wrote about in my last blog). I see development and learning relationships moving way beyond these limiting views of guru and student and engaging much more with the language of relationality, situational choice, shared play, communal learning, distributed intelligence, collective wisdom, reflexive learning, and action inquiry. The defence of the ancient models of student-teacher relationship, particularly where development is focused on the stage-based lens, seems to me to be a sign of regressive rather than evolution.

I see the pursuit of critical and integral meta-level studies as a scientific means for exposing and discerning these kinds of reductionisms and ideologies.

When does size matter?

A metatheory is a theory about other theories. Those other theories and their constituent elements are the "data" on which metatheorising is based. So, in building metatheory we need to draw a boundary around the kinds of data (other theories) we are interested in exploring. This boundary defines the domain of the metatheory. It doesn't matter how big or small that domain is, as long as we draw it and clearly describe it. Without any boundary around the range of relevance of the metatheory it cannot be tested and it cannot be validly argued that it accurately represents its data. No domain boundary equals no science.

The size of the domain doesn't matter in the building of metatheories. They can be really big, e.g. a metatheory for human development, or relatively small, a metatheory for behavioural approaches to treating phobias or a metatheory of green building design:

This point gets lost on lots of people who discuss metatheory. See this post for example:

The author of this blog decides what is a metatheory based on how big its domain and almost conflates that with the spatial reference of the theory. This is a very common misunderstanding of the nature of metatheorising. Under this misconception Big Bang theory and Darwinian evolutionary theory count as metatheories because they are so big in their domain of relevance but they are not metatheories. They do not meet the central definition of metatheories - They are not theories of other theories. They are theories of the empirical world of physical matter and biological speciation respectively. The size, i.e. the scope or domain, of a theory is not a criterion for acceptance as a metatheory.

Size of domain does not matter when figuring out whether a conceptual framework is a metatheory or not.

Where size does matter is when metatheory is developed that is specifically intended as applicable to a large domain of disciplines and fields of scientific study. This is usually the case with what have been called integral theories and metatheories. I use the term "integral" in reference to the long tradition of meta-level thinkers and researchers (Roger Bacon, Vladimir Solovyov, Pitirim Sorokin, Jean Gebster, E. F. Schumacher, Ken Wilber, Bill Torbert, Ervin Laszlo and many others) who have tried to develop overarching big pictures through the accommodation of many other theories and systems of thought. Integral metatheories have very ambitious domains of relevance - all theories of personality, all theories of change, all theories of human development, all social science theories, all theories of spirituality, etc.

The problem with integral metatheories is that they often lose sight of the necessity for drawing any domain boundaries at all. They become a little too ambitious in the scope of relevance for their frameworks. They generalise their ideas way beyond the domain boundaries that define their data set (if they ever collected any data, i.e. sampled other theories/metatheories).

So size of domain does matter when we try to build integral metatheories. However, when we set out to build these huge integrative frameworks we need to be extra attentive to the issues of domain and boundary setting. We had better make sure i) we have clearly identified the domain of the metatheory, ii) we have sampled data across the whole range of the domain, iii) provided a rationale for our sampling process, and iv)know when we are making solid claim about the generalisability of the metatheory and when we are making more speculative meta-conjectures.

As far as I can tell Wilber's AQAL metatheory falls short on all these counts. For example, how can an AQAL-informed researcher respond to the question - "How do you know that AQAL accommodates all the major theories of human development?" The only answer that they can give to this point is that "Wilber says so". Any metatheoretical system that relies on this kind "argument-from-authority" response is not scientific. (See Wikipedia's page on this:

So domain size doesn't matter when we want to define a metatheory and it does matter when we want to define an integral metatheory. But whatever the type of metatheory we are researching, we had better pay special attention to defining its domain if we want our metatheories to be based on scientific evidence as well as idiosyncratic insight.

Altitude Lens Sickness

One assumption for developing an integral metastudies approach to big picture research is that there are multiple lenses that have been used to develop those overarching schemas. All of these lenses need to be included in a comprehensive view of complex social realities. One of the most enduring of these lenses is the altitude lens. This lens looks at temporal complexity through the discourse of stage-based development.

Altitude lenses have been a common element of big pictures for many thousands of years. They typically map out some set of qualitatively different stages of growth and they propose that the changing nature of complex processes can be understood as a series of unfolding stage potentials. Altitude lenses come in a variety of forms, soft, hard, spiritual, cognitive, interpersonal, individual and collective but they all share this element of a vertical shift from one level to another. Wilber's levels, Spiral Dynamics colour stages, Fowler's stages of faith, Piaget's cognitive stages, all these are examples of the application of the altitude lens to various domains.

As with all lenses the altitude lens is subject to different kinds of truncations and reductionisms. I call these reductionisms the varieties of altitude sickness and, in a spirit of playful finger-pointing, I will briefly describe a few of these here:

1. Lens absolutism: This is the general problem of relying solely on one lens to explain vertical development.

2. Stagism: This is where all developmental capacity is thought to be function of the whole-of-system movement from one stage to another. This ignores the evidence that incremental learning and evolutionary process can result in transformative development.

3. Developmentalism: This is the view that transformative change is the result of changes in an individual's own structures rather than the structures that exist in their social and material surrounds.

4. Immediatism: This is the lack of awareness of the role of mediation in vertical development. For example relying on Piagetian models of structural change to the exclusion of Vygotskian ones.

5. Pigeon-hole(ism): This is the tendency for stage-based theorists to assume that those who are critical of stage-based models are relativists.

6. Vertical co-dependency (student variety): This is the assumption that only those at a higher stage can teach those from lower stages.

7. Vertical co-dependency (teacher variety): This is the assumption that those at a lower developmental stage need to be taught by those from a higher developmental level.

8. Communal altitudism: This is the assumption that a community of the adequate can only be constituted by those of requisite altitudinal level.

9. Individual altitudism: This is the view that you must know the altitude of your critic to judge whether their criticism is valid or not.

10. Altitude metricism: This is the seriously mistaken view that we need to be able to measure the altitude of individuals to be able to help them develop.

11. Lack of oxygenism: This is the syndrome of delusional symptoms that the human mind suffers from when it reaches a certain altitude.

12. Altitudinal fascism: This is the illness that besets a country when those who wish to take or maintain political power view all of its history in terms of the stage-based development of an elite group.

13. Altitudinal collectivism: This is the illness that besets a country when those who wish to take or maintain political power rationalise any action in terms of the stage-based development of the collective.

14. Altitudinal leaderism: This is the assumption that we need enlightened leaders to have enlightened communities.

There are many other varieties of altitude lens sickness. These are a few of the most damaging ones. They warn us that over-relying on any single lens for describing growth, development, evolution, progress, improvement, or advancement is dangerous. When they are closed to scientific criticism from any source, all forms of big picture research are susceptible to the many malaises that can infect meta-level studies.

Meta-level research, crossing boundaries and appreciating differences

Boundary crossing is one of the essential characteristic of performing meta-level research - boundary crossing within disciplines, between disciplines and across disciplines and of, course, within, between and across other non-disciplinary related boundaries as well. When we play with conventional boundaries with a little awareness we get to see a broader picture. Meta-studies is largely about how we move across different conceptual, methodological and cultural (meaning-making) boundaries and what we do with the results of that movement. Creativity and fecundity flow from meta-level boundary crossing in the same way that natural systems thrive when their ecologies are diverse and rich in difference. Without diversity and difference meta-level research stagnates and turns more towards ideology than any kind of authentic science. My colleague Dr Wendelin Küpers brought to my attention this week a paper by Philipa Rothfield (2005) on the issue of universalism and its tendency towards the homogenisation of diversity. Here’s a few snippets:.

The concern expressed here is that universalism is liable to overstep its brief, that the desire to universalize is itself vulnerable to corruption.

In light of the many forms of social inequality inherent in social life, it appears that the universal impulse is all too readily co-opted towards hegemonic forms of utterance and appearance. In these instances, the universal becomes homogenized, and difference is thereby effaced according to dominant norms of articulation.

Dr Rothfield writes from a particularising perspective, one that values diversity and difference above all else. Her world is not one of the meta-studies researcher. She is not interested in finding universal patterns, generalising orientations and underlying architectonics. But her point is even more valid because she writes from the other side of an important boundary - that which lies between the universal and the particular, between the integral and the diverse, between the local and the general. She says to watch out for the domination of one over the other. All metatheorists, integral theorists, transdisciplinarians and systems theorists need to be mindful of this danger. Where when and to what extent do we, as big picture researchers and practitioners, promote diversity, look for the differences, find problems with our meta-frameworks. Do we systematically question our generalisations and test them against the plurality of theories that are our data? Do we occasionally remind ourselves of the dark history of metatheories and big pictures and unifying philosophies? Do we build these questions into our methods and designs? And if we don’t, why don’t we?


Rothfield, P (2005), 'Differentiating Phenomenology and Dance', Topoi, vol. 24, pp. 43-53.

Boundaries and no boundaries

Defining boundaries are essential for the development of any person or any field of human endeavour. There is no exterior place and no interior state that does not have boundaries. As a parent, I know the crucial importance of setting and observing boundaries in bringing up my children. I also know that the first thing to do in setting a boundary is not to lay it out straight away, but to work out what to do when, not if, those boundaries are crossed.
Science too has its boundaries and it is an essential aspect of creating any conceptual system that domains, key terms and constructs be delineated and defined. Defining boundaries in the creation of metatheories can be a tricky business but this makes it even more important to do so. Because metatheories often cover a lot of territory the task of setting the domain of that metatheory can often take a back seat to the issue of integrating lots and lots of stuff. The big picture building aspect of constructing the meta- can subsume the more humble task of seeing where the limits to these ideas may be. At the most basic level the science of metatheorising needs to be very aware of the central importance of boundary setting so that it can remain humble in its work.
Humility is important in science because humility allows for doubt to arise. Humility allows for questioning to emerge in the face of mystery rather than answering when we may not have all the answers. We set boundaries out of the recognition of our limitations and the need to communicate those limits to others.
When integral metatheorising does not set the limits to its knowledge, when it does not define the domain of its expertise, when it does not describe the contours that mark out its place in the world of knowledge and ideas then it is no longer a science. It is an exercise in aggrandisement, of self exaltation and ultimately, if no boundaries are ever acknowledged of delusion.


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Nr. 1 (Dezember 2009)
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