Saturday, March 3, 2012

No, it's not "in" a quadrant

I'd like to debunk a simple mistake that some early enthusiasts of Integral Theory tend to make: the idea that we can sort actual things in the quadrants. It's not what Integral Theory says, even if Wilber himself can often make this linguistic shortcut.

The mistake is to consider the quadrants as reified categories within which one can sort things:

  • ideas are in the Upper-Left quadrant (UL), 
  • my body goes into the Upper-Right (UR), 
  • our culture in the Lower-Left (LL), and 
  • our political system is Lower-Right stuff (LR). 

This simplification is useful at first to explain the quadrants, but really it's more complex. For Integral Theory, quadrants are dimensions of holons, and every holon has four - except for groups, which have only two. So it doesn't mean anything to say that an entire object "is in one quadrant." Saying that is a reification of our own perspective on that object. It is reducing the object to only one of its dimensions, and reifying this dimension as if it was a thing in itself.