Integral Review

A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal For New Thought, Research, and Praxis

Vol. 9 No. 2 Jun 2013

Research Across Boundaries: Introduction to the First Part of the Special Issue

Markus Molz & Mark G. Edwards

Abstract: The international symposium “Research across Boundaries – Advances in Theory-building” was held at the University of Luxembourg in June of 2010. It brought together, for the first time, many leading boundary spanning and meta-level researchers from more than 15 countries across all continents and as many different research areas. In what became a set of truly global dialogues, the participants presented and commented an astounding array of contemporary integrative frameworks, as well as inter- and transdisciplinary reviews and research practices across various fields of inquiry of high relevance for the future.

This special issue brings together the contributions of many of the scholars and visionaries that participated in the symposium, plus a couple of complementary papers of resonating researchers who couldn’t make it to the event itself but were keen to make a contribution nevertheless. Our invitation was to deliver summary accounts of sustained boundary-crossing research and (meta)theory-building, often of a lifetime, to colleagues rooted in other research domains. The contributors were called to make the essentials of their sophisticated views, or more focused parts thereof, accessible to the interested public and to provide extended bibliographies for those attracted to explore the original sources of their work. Our guiding idea was to encourage boundary-crossing, on a meta-level, between mature boundary-crossing approaches that, somehow paradoxically, did not yet, or barely, come in touch with each other. The scientific committee of the symposium and its helpers volunteered to identify and invite these boundary-crossing scholars and to facilitate their meta-boundary-crossing dialogues and polylogues.

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Impressions from the Luxemburg Symposium Research Across Boundaries

Jonathan Reams and K. Helmut Reich

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Surprises Ahead: What Will Be Special about the 21st Century? Why Do We Now Need Boundary-Crossing Research?

Ruben Nelson


Varieties of Boundary Crossings

V. V. Raman


Networks of Agape and Creativity: Learning Across Boundaries and the Calling of Planetary Realizations

Ananta Kumar Giri


Toward a Genealogy and Topology of Western Integrative Thinking

Gary P. Hampson

Abstract: Contemporary integrative thinking such as meta-theorising, integral approaches and transdisciplinarity can be productively contextualised by identifying both a broad genealogy of Western integrative thinking, and also a topology regarding facets of such thought. This paper offers one such genealogical and topological reading. The genealogy involves the historical orientations or moments of Hermetism; Neoplatonism; Renaissancism; the nexus of German classicism, romanticism and idealism; and reconstructive postmodernism. Arising from this, an indication of a general topology of Western integrative thinking is offered (with case studies), one involving objects of integration (such as philosophy and spirituality), macro-integrative entities (such as syncretism), micro-integrative entities (such as creativity and love), integrative “shapes” (such as organicism), and processes of integration (such as intuition).

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From Knowledge to Wisdom: Assessment and Prospects after Three Decades

Nicholas Maxwell

Abstract: We are in a state of impending crisis. And the fault lies in part with academia. For two centuries or so, academia has been devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how. This has enormously increased our power to act which has, in turn, brought us both all the great benefits of the modern world and the crises we now face. Modern science and technology have made possible modern industry and agriculture, the explosive growth of the world’s population, global warming, modern armaments and the lethal character of modern warfare, destruction of natural habitats and rapid extinction of species, immense inequalities of wealth and power across the globe, pollution of earth, sea and air, even the aids epidemic (aids being spread by modern travel). All these global problems have arisen because some of us have acquired unprecedented powers to act without acquiring the capacity to act wisely. We urgently need to bring about a revolution in universities so that the basic intellectual aim becomes, not knowledge merely, but rather wisdom – wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides. This is an argument I have propounded during the last three decades in six books, over thirty papers, and countless lectures delivered in universities and conferences all over the UK, Europe and north America. Despite all this effort, the argument has, by and large, been ignored. What is really surprising is that philosophers have paid no attention, despite the fact that that this body of work claims to solve the profoundly important philosophical problem: What kind of inquiry best helps us make progress towards as good a world as possible? There are, nevertheless, indications that some scientists and university administrators are beginning to become aware of the urgent need for science, and universities, to change. This is prompted, partly by growing awareness of the seriousness of environmental problems, especially global warming, and partly by a concern to improve the relationship between science and the public. So far, however, these changes have been small-scale, scattered and piecemeal. What we require is for academics and non-academics alike to wake up to the urgent need for change so that we may come to possess what we so strikingly and disastrously lack at present: a kind of inquiry rationally devoted to helping humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible.

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Towards a New Art of Integration

Ananta Kumar Giri


Against Consilience: Outsider Scholarship and the Isthmus Theory of Knowledge Domains

Mike King

Abstract: The endless proliferation of human knowledge within sub-disciplines represents not so much a tree structure of knowledge from which we can stand back and admire some organic unity as the tentacles of an octopus dragging us down into anguished division. The anguish is genuine and has been expressed since the Enlightenment by many types of thinker. This paper argues however that the anguish does not in fact arise from the nature of human knowledge but from the mistaken belief in the possibility of its unification. The desire for the unitive has been erroneously transplanted from its proper context – the mystical – to the domain of knowledge, as the latter – particularly under the rubric of “science” – has become the only culturally legitimised stance towards the world. Conventional scholarship, while busy creating sub-branches and sub-sub-branches on which the leaves of new knowledge sprout with vigour and abandon, is powerless to avoid this feeling of anguish. It feels compromised in the thwarted longing for a lost sense unity. “Outsider scholarship” – of the type practiced by Koestler, Schumacher and Pirsig – is often preoccupied with just this question, but is free to propose various taxonomies of knowledge, often of an unfashionably hierarchical kind, that cut across conventional boundaries and which provide a basis for an uncompromised relationship with knowledge. This paper starts with a brief consideration of outsider scholarship, including its anachronistic characteristics, and then turns to Pirsig’s meditation on the technologies behind the word-processor, which lead to an “isthmus theory of knowledge domains.” It then considers Steven Jay Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria, and the hint from Ken Wilber about epistemological pluralism. These are then used to show why E. O. Wilson’s consilience is misguided: it represents the final triumph of logical positivism – a takeover bid for the humanities by the sciences – but couched in terms apparently irresistible to fashionable thought.

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Global Knowledge Futures: Articulating the Emergence of a New Meta-level Field

Jennifer M. Gidley

Abstract: In this paper I articulate a new meta-level field of studies that I call global knowledge futures—a field through which other emerging transdisciplinary fields can be integrated to cohere knowledge at a higher level. I contrast this with the current dominant knowledge paradigm of the global knowledge economy with its fragmentation, commodification and instrumentalism based on neoliberal knowledge capitalism. I take a big-picture, macrohistorical lens to the new thinking and new knowledge patterns that are emerging within the evolution of consciousness discourse. I explore three discourses: postformal studies, integral studies and planetary studies—using a fourth discourse, futures studies, to provide a macro-temporal framing. By extending the meta-fields of postformal, integral and planetary studies into a prospective future dimension, I locate areas of development where these leading-edge discourses can be brought into closer dialogue with each other. In this meeting point of four boundary-spanning discourses I identify the new meta-level field of global knowledge futures, grounded in human thinking capacities, such as creativity, imagination, dialogue and collaboration.

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The Transdisciplinary Moment(um)

Julie Thompson Klein

Abstract: There is no universal theory, methodology, or definition of transdisciplinarity (TD). Nevertheless, keywords reveal similarities and differences across explanations. This overview tracks five major clusters of meaning: (a) meta-level conceptions of interdisciplinarity, (b) the changing nature and status of unity in the discourse of TD, (c) new alignments with participatory and collaborative problem-oriented research, (d) the forms of knowledge that TD engages, and (e) a transgressive imperative that interrogates the existing structure of knowledge, culture, and education. These categories of meaning are not air-tight. However, with widening use of the core word “transdisciplinarity,” it is important to be alert to these patterns and their underlying values and priorities.

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Visions of Transmodernity: A New Renaissance of our Human History?

Irena Ateljevic

Abstract: In this paper I will engage with a broad range of literature that provides us with many signals and evidence of an emerging and significant paradigm shift in human evolution. In doing so, I will offer the concept of transmodernity as an umbrella term that connotes the emerging socio-cultural, economic, political and philosophical shift. My research across boundaries of many different fields such as critical economics, philosophy, subaltern and postcolonial studies, social anthropology and psychology, cultural studies, political science and social activism literature will illustrate how an integrated approach and dialogue is urgently needed, indeed more than ever before. Different authors use a variety of terms to capture what can essentially be described as the synchronised phenomenon of emerging higher collective consciousness—transmodernity paradigm (Ghisi); transmodern philosophy of political liberation (Dussel); Hegelian dialectical triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis (Magda); the reflective/living-systems paradigm (Elgin); the partnership model of caring economics (Eisler); the relational global consciousness of biosphere politics (Rifkin); love ethics (hooks); the circularity paradigm of interdependence (Steinem). With a reference to a variety of authors I will argue that the reason we do not hear much about this movement is because it is not centralised and coordinated under a single unifying name. ‘Transmodernity’ ropes together many concepts/tenets of other writings that do not necessarily use the same term, but I chose it in order to communicate the overall idea of the emerging paradigm shift as the next cultural and material development in human history. I have opted to use the concept as a medium to convey humanity’s unified synchronicity, which is part of a transformation that can be claimed to be ‘the new renaissance’ of human history.

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Cybersemiotics: A New Foundation for Transdisciplinary Theory of Information, Cognition, Meaningful Communication and the Interaction Between Nature and Culture

Søren Brier

Abstract: Cybersemiotics constructs a non-reductionist framework in order to integrate third person knowledge from the exact sciences and the life sciences with first person knowledge described as the qualities of feeling in humanities and second person intersubjective knowledge of the partly linguistic communicative interactions, on which the social and cultural aspects of reality are based. The modern view of the universe as made through evolution in irreversible time, forces us to view man as a product of evolution and therefore an observer from inside the universe. This changes the way we conceptualize the problem and the role of consciousness in nature and culture. The theory of evolution forces us to conceive the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities together in one theoretical framework of unrestricted or absolute naturalism, where consciousness as well as culture is part of nature. But the theories of the phenomenological life world and the hermeneutics of the meaning of communication seem to defy classical scientific explanations. The humanities therefore send another insight the opposite way down the evolutionary ladder, with questions like: What is the role of consciousness, signs and meaning in the development of our knowledge about evolution? Phenomenology and hermeneutics show the sciences that their prerequisites are embodied living conscious beings imbued with meaningful language and with a culture. One can see the world view that emerges from the work of the sciences as a reconstruction back into time of our present ecological and evolutionary self-understanding as semiotic intersubjective conscious cultural and historical creatures, but unable to handle the aspects of meaning and conscious awareness and therefore leaving it out of the story. Cybersemiotics proposes to solve the dualistic paradox by starting in the middle with semiotic cognition and communication as a basic sort of reality in which all our knowledge is created and then suggests that knowledge develops into four aspects of human reality: Our surrounding nature described by the physical and chemical natural sciences, our corporality described by the life sciences such as biology and medicine, our inner world of subjective experience described by phenomenologically based investigations and our social world described by the social sciences. I call this alternative model to the positivistic hierarchy the cybersemiotic star. The article explains the new understanding of Wissenschaft that emerges from Peirce’s and Luhmann’s conceptions.

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Listening into the Dark: An Essay Testing the Validity and Efficacy of Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry for Describing and Encouraging Transformations of Self, Society, and Scientific Inquiry

William R. Torbert

Abstract: Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) is introduced as a meta-paradigmatic approach to social science and social action that encompasses seven other more familiar paradigms (e.g., Behaviorism, Empirical Positivism, and Postmodern Interpretivism) and that triangulates among third-person, objectivity-seeking social scientific inquiry, second-person, transformational, mutuality-seeking political inquiry, and first-person, adult, spiritual inquiry and consciousness development in the emerging present. CDAI tests findings, not only against third-person criteria of validity as do quantitative, positivist studies and qualitative, interpretive studies, but also against first- and second-person criteria of validity, as well as criteria of efficacy in action. CDAI introduces the possibility of treating, not just formal third-person studies, but any and all activities in one’s daily life in an inquiring manner. The aim of this differently-scientific approach is not only theoretical, generalizable knowledge, but also knowledge that generates increasingly timely action in particular cases in the relationships that mean the most to the inquirer. To illustrate and explain why the CDAI approach can explain unusually high percentages of the variance in whether or not organizations actually transform, all three types of validity-testing are applied to a specific study of intended transformation in ten organizations. The ten organization study found that adding together the performance of each organization’s CEO and lead consultant pn a reliable, well-validated measure of developmental action-logic, predicted 59% of the variance, beyond the .01 level, in whether and how the organization transformed (as rated by three scorers who achieved between .90 and 1.0 reliability). The essay concludes with a comparison between the Empirical Positivist paradigm of inquiry and the Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry paradigm.

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The Arc from the Body to Culture: How Affect, Proprioception, Kinesthesia, and Perceptual Imagery Shape Cultural Knowledge (and vice versa)

Michael Kimmel

Abstract: This essay approaches the complex triadic relation between concepts, body, and culture from an angle rooted in the empirical cognitive research of the past three decades or so. Specifically, it reviews approaches to how the body shapes conceptualization, reasoning, and communication. One main section examines how the body contributes to cultural learning and another how abstract cultural concepts are grounded in sensorimotor experience, perception, and inner somatic states. Their purpose is to survey and briefly critique different theoretical frameworks, probe into their complementarity, and summarily evaluate to what extent higher cognition is embodied. The third main section outlines elements of an epistemological framework that connects culture, concepts, and the body in a sensible way. The paper closes with a discussion of how the embodied cognition paradigm advances a rapprochement of different areas both within cognitive research and beyond.

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Integrating Conceptions of Human Progress

Rick Szostak

Abstract: This paper applies interdisciplinary techniques toward the investigation of the idea of human progress. It argues that progress needs to be considered with respect to an ethical evaluation of a host of different phenomena. Some of these have displayed progress in human history, others regress, and still others neither. It is argued that it is possible to achieve progress on all fronts in the future, but only if we engage constructively with the true complexity of the world we inhabit. Classification is seen as a critical complement to interdisciplinary analysis.

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New Departures in Tackling Urban Climate Change: Transdisciplinarity for Social Transformation (a critical appraisal of the WBGU’s 2011 Report)

Christoph Woiwode

Abstract: In 2011 the German Advisory Council for Global Change (WBGU) published a remarkable policy document entitled ‘World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability’ in which the authors proclaim the need for a great social transformation at the global scale in order to address climate change. This article builds on and critically discusses the central messages of the report that emphasizes the necessity to pro-actively shape the change of our values and worldviews that underpin our lifestyles and consumption patterns. By arguing for a transdisciplinary approach to implement this challenging vision the report identifies urbanization as a significant dimension in these processes thus shifting away from the dominant focus on socio-technical solutions. This puts the field of urban planning and development and related disciplines at the centre of the climate change adaptation and mitigation debate raising profound questions as to how these professionals, academics and practitioners could respond to the ideas brought forward in the report. The author considers this an opportunity for hitherto largely neglected integral approaches to gain more importance in mainstream urban planning practice and theory. The concluding part sketches out an initial research programme based on the previous discussion in order to illustrate at a more concrete level the implications of an integrative, transdisciplinary framework for planning.

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Transdisciplinary Consumption

Sue L.T. McGregor

Abstract: For the past 100 years, research about consumption has stemmed from two main disciplines: (a) consumer studies/consumer sciences (including consumer policy and education) (a spin off from home economics) and (b) consumer behaviour research (a spin off from marketing). This paper focuses on these two disciplines because the results of their respective research are used to shape consumer policy and consumer protection legislation and regulations, marketplace competition policy and regulations, consumer product and service information, media coverage of consumer issues, consumer education curricula and pedagogy, and insights into an evolving consumer culture. This paper asks consumer studies/sciences and consumer behaviour scholars to embrace the transdisciplinary methodology in addition to the traditional empirical, interpretive and critical methodologies. It provides an overview of the four axioms of transdisciplinary methodology with examples to illustrate how consumer-related research would change to address the complex reality of 21st century consumption.

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