Hegel and Integral Philosophy?



Several months ago I finished reading Ken Wilber’s book A Theory of Everything. I have often been skeptical of Integral Philosophy and Spiral Dynamics. I can’t say I was very impressed by the text and while I still remain unconvinced and very suspicious of Integral philosophy there were a few glimmers of interest within Wilber’s book.

In the preface to A Theory of Everything, Wilber writes the following:

“‘An integral vision’ – or a genuine Theory of Everything – attempts to include matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit as they appear in self, culture, and nature. A vision that attempts to be comprehensive, balanced, inclusive. A vision that therefore embraces science, art, and morals; that equally includes disciplines from physics to spirituality, biology to aesthetics, sociology to contemplative prayer…”

Wilber is aiming at articulating a holistic and polyvalent experience of all the nuances, complexities, intricacies, and eccentricities of lived reality.

This book is a brief overview of a Theory of Everything. All such attempts, of course, are marked by the many ways in which they fail. The many ways in which they fall short, make unwarranted generalizations, drive specialists insane, and generally fail to achieve their stated aim of holistic embrace. It’s not just that the task is beyond any one human mind; it’s that the task itself is inherently undoable: knowledge expands faster than ways to categorize it. The holistic quest is an ever-receding dream, a horizon that constantly retreats as we approach it, a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that we will never reach.

Wilber seems to begin the project of his text with the assertion of its failure. He not only states that the work falls short but, seems to allude that its inadequacy is actually an integral feature of the project. Failure is, in effect, part of the system. The short-comings are an implicit part of the structure. Wilber, then, goes to say:

So why even attempt the impossible? Because, I believe, a little bit of wholeness is better than none at all, and an integral vision offers considerably more wholeness than the slice-and-dice alternatives. We can be more whole, or less whole; more fragmented, or less fragmented; more alienated, or less alienated – and an integral vision invites us to be little more whole, a little less fragmented, in our work, our lives, our destiny.

Wilber is calling for the utter embrace of the impossible, a fractured holism, an alienated inclusion, and a fragmented integration. Wilber suggests that a good theory is defined as “one that lasts long enough to get you to a better one.” A Theory of Everything, then, as Wilber proposes, “is not a fixed or final theory.” It is, in fact, “simply one that has served its purpose if it helps you get to a better one.”
Is this not, in many way the Hegelian vision of speculative philosophy and history?
Is not this alienated inclusion and fragmented integration, in many ways, a depiction of Hegel’s dialectic?
Is not this fractured attempt at an impossible wholeness a description of the process by which Hegel’s Absolute Spirit or Geist ‘unfolds’ into self-realization, an open-ended dialectic that knows no ultimate or conclusive synthesis?
What if Integral Philosophy, as Wilber explains it, an incredibly useful reading of Hegel?

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