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The Lineage of Developmentalism

This Week on Integral Spiritual Center....

Kant, Hegel, Fichte - Ken Wilber
God as God IS - Fr. Thomas Keating

Kant, Hegel, Fichte (audio)
The Lineage of Developmentalism

In many ways, the German Idealists were able to reach incredible heights of philosophical realization, rarely since matched.  Even the term “idealistic” connotes to us a lofty—if ungrounded—approach to reality.  But, lacking solid injunctions for reproducing its insights, the movement quickly came unraveled in the wake of later postmodern thought.  They were brilliant indeed, says Ken Wilber in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, “and yet….”

Which aspects, if any, of the Idealists’ legacy are still with us?  Just as any spiritual lineage can be traced back to its founder, so, too, can the lineage of any particular current of thought.  It is fascinating to see how some of the most valuable insights of our time have their roots in Idealism.  In this week’s featured audio, Ken discusses structure-stages, prefigured in the chakras and sheaths of the ancient East, but given enormous clarity in the light of the modern West.

The modern concept of development, which received its best early formulation in the work of American philosopher James Mark Baldwin, begins with the groundbreaking work of Immanuel Kant.  His elucidation of a priori structures (knowledge which is based not on experience but on the form of all possible experiences) was pivotal.  Kant devised a brilliant synthesis of the two major schools of thought of his time:  the rationalists, who suggested that our understanding is derived primarily from reason, and the empiricists, who held that it is based mostly on experience.  Hegel built on the Kantian notion of structures, reasoning that “they can only be conceived as ones that have developed.”  Fichte added brilliantly that genealogy was the key to an authentic hermeneutic of the Kosmos.  What is required, Fichte tells us, is a “reconstruction of the pragmatic history of consciousness.”

The “pragmatic history of consciousness” is precisely what James Mark Baldwin endeavored to reconstruct.  His early work on development coincided with the births of his own daughters, Helen and Elisabeth.  In 1894 he published Mental Development in the Child and the Race. Methods and Processes, a book that was highly influential for Jean Piaget (his student in Paris) and Lawrence Kohlberg, who subsequently set the stage for the approaches of today.  Thus, the lineage of developmentalism can be traced from Kant’s early breakthrough, down to the brilliant contemporary work of theorists such as Susann Cook-Greuter and Robert Kegan.

The contributions of the Idealists—their integration of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and their attempts to bridge the Cartesian dualism—are enduring, though in the end, their soaring thought collapsed under its own weight.  But we have Kant, Hegel, and Fichte to thank for “all levels”—the “AL” in AQAL—the cornerstone, or perhaps the very bedrock, of the Integral model.               

God as God IS (video)

Father Thomas Keating explains how centering prayer, as it deepens into contemplation, helps us to approach God as God IS.  This excerpt is taken from the autumn 2006 Integral Contemplative Christianity seminar.

Published Saturday, April 12, 2008 4:51 AM by rollie


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