MWP 1.6: Integration

Chapter outline level

a.      Ego-identification

The ego can’t be assumed to be an identity, but is rather a set of identifications. These are only contingently identifications with our bodies as individuals, and may also be directed towards other individuals, groups, or possessions. The variation in these identifications is in inverse ratio to our integration, as left-hemisphere dominated conflicts between motives leads to denial of this variation. The theory of the unconscious can help to explain the repression of conflicting identifications, but they can also just be observed as conflicting over time. Metaphysical beliefs tend to absolutise the identifications of the ego at a given time rather than integrating them.

b.      The psyche

It’s important not to accept an egoistic perspective as the final word on ourselves, and this can be avoided by seeing ourselves as psyches. The psyche contains the whole set of desires, meanings and beliefs that we could potentially integrate in our experience, viewing ourselves diachronically rather than synchronically. The psyche has ambiguous boundaries and an ambiguous relationship to an individual, but it becomes incrementally clearer as it comes closer to immediate experience. It may or may not be shared with others to a varying extent – but does not require belief in a ‘collective unconscious’.

c.      Conflict models and integration models

A conflict model develops when the ego seeks to deny and expel desires opposed to its current ones, using metaphysical beliefs as an absolutizing weapon. This can happen both in individual repression (e.g. to fulfil a duty) and at a socio-political level where all compromise is rejected. This can be replaced by an integration model when the provisionality and incrementality of beliefs is recognised. The two mules picture provides a strong example of the move from a conflict to an integration model.

d.      Integration in relation to objectivity

Integration is related to objectivity because delusions are also conflicts. The unintegrated ego focuses only on the conditions that support the fulfilment of a current set of desires, ignoring others. We may not notice the alternatives, or we may describe them in a way that maintains conflict. Factual, moral and aesthetic aspects of objectivity can all be impacted by the repression of alternative possibilities, alternative values, or alternative perceptions. At the point of judgement, alternatives may need to be suppressed, but they do not have to be repressed.

e.      Integration in relation to justification

The process of justification constructs a model of the world in which the conditions for action are clear and goals an be reached. Positive (or negative) foundationalism and coherentism are thus both tools for the ego, and it is only agnostic foundationalism that introduces a recognition that there may be other justified beliefs beyond our current identifications. Since we cannot abandon the ego, we still need coherence, but because the ego is not the whole story, we also need agnostic foundationalism to help us recognise and integrate alternative perspectives.

f.       Group integration

A microcosm-macrocosm comparison between the individual and society is appropriate to the extent that the same psychological conditions apply at both levels. However, the integration of groups is much more complex because it includes the integration of each individual, between individuals, between individuals and groups and between groups. As at individual level, though, awareness of fallibility is crucial to group integration. It is relatively integrated individuals who are better able to challenge a group view. Groups operate at many different scales, with ever-greater complexity at larger levels, but it’s still important to consider the integration of even the largest levels, which influence the smaller. Group integration is the basis of political justification, as discussed in 2.6.

g.      The three types of integration

The integration of desire is the extent to which desires identified with by the ego are consistent over time. The integration of meaning is the sharing of symbols in which those desires can be expressed, out of which beliefs can be formed. The integration of belief is a consistency of beliefs (about conditions, goals and values) over time. Each of these three types of integration (which form the basis of volumes 2 to 4) is dependent on the others, and can only be developed without the others to a limited extent.