The Three Principles of Integral Thinking

Ken WilberCognitive, Integrative Metatheory, Perspectives, Presentations, Video Leave a Comment

Watch as Ken offers an in-depth summary of the three integrative principles, nonexclusion, enfoldment, and enactment, which he uncovered while putting together his Integral Methodological Pluralism framework — a robust meta-paradigmatic scaffolding that seeks to honor, include, and integrate multiple paradigms and methodologies and practices across all domains of human knowing.

Although these three principles are intended to help thought leaders make their particular fields of knowledge more expansive, comprehensive, and complete, they can also be taken more generally by the rest of us as three essential qualities of the integral mind, and can be used as an ongoing micro-practice to help us see more fully, communicate more skillfully, and discover the best and most effective solutions to whatever problems we happen to be facing.

These three regulative principles—nonexclusion, enfoldment, enactment—are principles that were reverse engineered, if you will, from the fact that numerous different and seemingly “conflicting” paradigms are already being competently practiced all over the world; and thus the question is not, and never has been, which is right and which is wrong, but how can all of them already be arising in a Kosmos? These three principles are some of the items that need to be already operating in the universe in order for so many paradigms to already be arising, and the only really interesting question is how can all of those extraordinary practices already be arising in any universe? -Ken Wilber, The Many Ways We Touch

What Are the Three Principles of Integral Thinking?

Principle 1: Nonexclusion — “Everyone is right”

Nonexclusion means that we can accept the valid truth claims (i.e., the truth claims that pass the validity tests for their own paradigms in their own fields, whether in hermeneutics, spirituality, science, etc.) insofar as they make statements about the existence of their own enacted and disclosed phenomena, but not when they make statements about the existence of phenomena enacted by other paradigms. That is, one paradigm can competently pass judgments within its own worldspace, but not on those spaces enacted (and only seen) by other paradigms. -KW

Principle 2: Enfoldment — “Some are more right than others”

Everybody can be right because some views are more right than others. None are wrong; some are simply more inclusive, more encompassing, more holistic, more integrative, more depthed, more transcending-and-including—endlessly. But the fact that molecules are more inclusive than atoms does not mean that we can get rid of atoms, or that atoms can be jettisoned, or that atoms have no real truths to offer just as they are. To be a partial truth is still to be a truth. -KW

The nonexclusion principle goes a long way in helping us to integrate a plurality or multiplicity of paradigms (and thus develop a metatheory that is true to the phenomena enacted by the social practices of an integral methodological pluralism). But even within nonexclusion, numerous conflicts arise, and how to integrate those becomes a pressing issue. This is where the second integrative principle, that of unfoldment, can be of help. -KW

Principle 3: Enactment — “If you want to know this, do that”

Most “paradigm clashes” are usually deemed “incommensurable”—meaning there is no way for the two paradigms to fit together—but this is so only because people focus on the phenomena, not the practices. But if we realize that phenomena are enacted, brought forth, and disclosed by practices, then we realize that what appeared to be “conflicting phenomena” or experiences are simply different (and fully compatible) experiences brought forth by different practices. Adopt the different practices, and you will see the same phenomena that the adherents of the supposedly “incommensurable” paradigm are seeing. Hence, the “incommensurability” is not insurmountable, or even a significant barrier, to any sort of integral embrace. -KW

All quotes by Ken Wilber: The Many Ways We Touch: Three Principles Helpful for Any Integrative Approach

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.