Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Postmodern and Integral Thought in Conflict
by R. Michael Fisher - Saturday, November 5, 2011, 03:17 PM

I like conflict. Well, some kinds of conflict. I enjoy a good "truthing" conflict is what I mean. You know when people are equally sincere, acting without conscious pretention or deception, not trying to gain power over the other, but deeply invested in truth, beauty and goodness for all. Yes, we'll have conflict, even when we are pursuing the same goals, like expanding consciousness, critique of ideology, improving justice and seeking non-violence in our worlds.

It is a postmodern era we are in, at least here in North America and a lot of the world happenings. That doesn't mean most people in the world are in a postmodern collective consciousness or even physically live like most of us in North America or other late-industrial and information societies. It's almost impossible to get one definition for postmodern as a historical time period, as a values-set, as a mood, yet, it clearly has become a powerful force of thought since at least post-WWII and especially in the academy since the 1980s. Jacques Derrida's work on deconstruction, is iconic in representing a turn in philosophy and attitude, that has taken off with great popularity for the last 3 decades, though some say it is waning. In other words, we need to deconstruct, says Derrida and many other postmodern (poststructuralist) thinkers, everything we have taken for granted in our world that is actually a lot less real, non-absolute, and basically fluid and unstable, relative and anxiety-provoking. Yes, the last part is the key for me as an integral fearologist.

Postmodern thought, and its has its upside and downside, its strengths and weaknesses (even pathologies), has been interesting to my studies of fear (and 'fear') and what might be fearlessness in this age of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Is postmodern thinking, with its methods, a help or a hindrance to the enlightenment and emancipatory project? Well, a little of both I guess. The point of raising this, is that for several months, and almost a year or more off and on, I have been involved in debate and dialogues with a few scholars (Jim Hanson an adjunct faculty member with CSIIE, and Greg Desilet, an independent philosopher) who are dedicated postmodern critics and followers of Derrida. I think both of them would say Derrida is the ultimate and best philosopher of the age of postmodernity, so far. They may be right, and history will have to be the long-term judge of that. These debates and dialogues, respectful as they are, have revolved around my book (The World's Fearlessness Teachings) at times, but mostly around the friction and deep conflict that exists in integralist thought and poststructuralist thought.

I suggest interested readers at CSIIE, students, or faculty, check out this at my blogsite: You may have to search around a bit to find them all, but the recent ones are easy to find. It has been a growing intellectual conflict that I find productive, albeit, at times frustrating. Why do it? Why put effort into this, and who cares? It is easy to not think such intellectual work is useful, practical to people in difficult times. It is such a privileged discourse, hard to understand, big vocabulary and quite technical at times. Agreed. It turns a lot of people off. It takes patience to enter into. I treasure it however, on a lot of different levels. Most of all, we are interested in the nature of being, ways to know that, ways to understand how to design our knowledge and education processes so as to be the most "accurate" to the real (whatever the real is). I realized today, in responding to Desilet's critiques of my work, that we all are interested in helping to build a more non-violent world. To do that, we have to examine the subtle way we do symbolic violence, or evil, when we are not careful of our ways of using language, of thinking, of acting. I won't give more here, but turn it over to you to check out more if you like.

My research interest, and invitation to potential collaborators, is to keep asking how postmodern and integral philosophy, theory, and thinking can combine, synergize, and produce one of the most potent "tools" for undermining the current growing culture of fear ('Fear' Matrix) and building a truly nonviolent world. I have a vision the combination of these two is "hot" and "ripe" but it is so hard to get to, the conflict and differences intense, and yet, holding an integral perspective on this conflict, I sense small breakthroughs. Come and join this project if it fits for you. I look forward to hearing from you. I can see future CSIIE courses around this topic. Maybe you have suggestions.