Integration and objectivity

Integration, which is derived from Jungian psychology, is often thought of either as a therapeutic model or as a model of personal growth. However, in Middle Way Philosophy it can be combined with the Middle Way to create a criterion for objectivity. Here it must be borne in mind that the objectivity we are talking about is incremental (see objectivity page).

Science and philosophy have been in the habit of absolutising objectivity, but the point when objectivity appears for a flesh and blood creature is at the point of judgement. We always judge between alternatives, some of which may be better than others, but none is absolutely right. At the point where we judge, some of the possible alternatives will address conditions better than others. One way of understanding how they do this is by avoiding metaphysics (which will be discussed on another page). However, one can also apply the integration model to judgement to assert that a more integrated judgement will be a better judgement.

The level of integration that is applied to judgements is integration of belief. There are two ways of judging integration of belief that need to be applied simultaneously. Our beliefs are, on the one hand, coherent representations, and on the other, fallible models that may be compared to other possible beliefs. We can assess them both by checking that they are consistent with our other beliefs (including beliefs about things we have observed), and by checking that we are open to alternative possible beliefs and that no equally helpful ones are available. For example, if I am considering the belief that my cat has been kidnapped by reptilians, this may be consistent with the disappearance of my cat and with conspiracy theories about reptilians. However, if I am open to alternative explanations I will probably recognise that there are much better explanatory hypotheses about why my cat has disappeared, such as that it has got stuck up a tree, been invited into someone else’s house etc. The belief that my cat had been kidnapped by reptilians would not be a very integrated belief, because there would be lots of other pressing alternative beliefs. The alternative beliefs would be even more pressing if the belief was not even coherent with other evidence (e.g. if a neighbour had told me he saw the cat stuck up a tree). I would have to be in a pretty rigid, intractable state of mind to continue to maintain this belief, with my belief tightly armour-plated against the opposition.

Whether my belief can be integrated will also depend on other levels of integration. If I do not even understand the meaning of possible alternative beliefs (cognitively or emotionally, then I will not be able to even formulate or consider alternative beliefs. For example, if my neighbour who saw the cat only speaks Hungarian, I might have trouble understanding what she said about the cat. If my desires are not even integrated sufficiently to form beliefs about what has happened to the cat, too, I will not be able to integrate my beliefs. Each integration of belief is dependent on layers of integrated desire and meaning beneath it (see desire, meaning and belief page).

But what makes more integrated beliefs more objective? Basically because conditions for delusion that come from conflicts of belief are removed. Conflicting beliefs do not allow us to create clear representations on the basis of which we can act effectively. Those conflicting beliefs could either be present unconsciously, sabotaging our judgement, or they could lead us to change our minds a bit later.Cracked_glass_surface

A metaphor that might help illustrate this is that of cracked glass. Supposing that for some reason, everything you see has to be through this sheet of glass. You could have a very small piece of glass, which would correspond to an incoherent belief. Alternatively, you could have a large piece of glass, but it is so badly cracked that you still can’t see through it very clearly. This would correspond to having divided beliefs in conflict with each other. People who are just ignorant have small pieces of glass, while people relying on metaphysical views that involve repressing alternatives have big pieces of glass, but they’re badly cracked. Only by having a large enough sheet of glass that is not cracked will you be able to see a fair enough section of the world to have reasonable confidence in your view.

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