Applications of Integrative Cognition
OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE COMBINED
As a college student at University of Virginia, I worked at a restaurant called the Tree House. All other employees were local black people, and I noticed one thing especially: They were all referring to each other by nickname. I asked why they did that, and the answers were such as "What do you mean, why?" and "That's just how it is, dawg." One woman with intelligent eyes said, "That's a good question."
And indeed it is a good question to ask, one that is not limited to the Tree House. The statements like "that's just how it is, dog" reveal a common problem that is had by people who have lived in a single society all their lives: Lack of objective insight into its workings. Clearly referring to everybody by nickname is not the case in Long Island or in Sudan or in China. "That's how it is, dawg"? Not exactly.
Similar is the case with referring to things as "normal" or referring to one or another clique as speaking for "everyone." What's normal in one place (calling people by nickname in the Tree House) is not what's normal in another (who does that in CIA?) And of course there is nobody who speaks for everyone (6 billion people), most of whom do not believe in anything similar to what is believed by the social set under consideration - and whose claims to speak for everyone is of course the heights of arrogance. The arrogance that it claims to be fighting but which it shows to a far more complete and far more overbearing extent, with frequently less to justify it and far more ugly results for the people inside of it.
The results being, that people can't leave the ghetto because they feel that would be selfish or arrogant; that people can't go into business or long-term work because they feel that would be collaborating with the white man; that people can't study science or engineering or teaching or literature because they feel that would be being posers; and what's left? Thuggery. Parasitism. Oppression.
I need hardly speak that dynamics similar to these, but in different forms, take place in different cultures besides the ghetto.
Alexis De Tocqueville, a Frenchman who lived in America, came up with a balanced and highly insightful work into the nature of the United States. He did that because, as both an outsider and an insider, he was able to combine the external and the internal and thus to understand to a far more complete extent than is afforded by either mode of perception alone. As both outsider and insider, he was less subject to the error that is functional of either: The error of insider of failing to see the nation in its external effects and its workings - and the error of outsider of failing to experience it from within and thus failing to understand it in its experience. He was able to combine the objective and the subjective - to combine the experience and the analysis - to combine mind and heart, the two functionalities in which people discern and experience human reality. And the result was analysis that was insightful, compassionate, thorough and intelligent all at once.
Both the subjective and the objective modes of understanding give part of the picture. But both are capable of error. The error inherent in first method is that of failure to either quantify external effects or see inner workings - with the result that the people practicing the merely subjective perspective (both cultures and individuals) are constantly, and rightfully, accused of lack of understanding of world outside of them or regard for it. The error inherent in the second method is that of failure to understand the experience - with the result that the people practicing the merely objective perspective are rightfully accused of cruelty, coldness, emotional violence and being out of touch. I am of the belief that complete understanding is that of understanding things in both in their external effects and their inner workings; a perspective possessing both objectivity and subjectivity - both intelligence and compassion - both mind and heart - both discerning from without and experiencing from within.
The error of merely objective is as follows: failure to experience a phenomenon, resulting in lack of emotional insight. When people say they want someone to understand them, what they mean is that they want someone to feel how they feel rather than simply analyzing it, and certainly not analyzing them in reference to an external value set or a normative function or a psychological theory. When cultural and social and political entities say that they don't want outsiders telling them what to do, what they mean is that they want to first be understood in their experience before any agenda can be found that would be workable for them. But to do that and merely that is not adequate; external effects have to be quantified likewise and directed toward their greatest possible outcome. In combining objective observation and subjective experience, and then in interpolating between them, is arrived a more complete - more integrative - picture of culture, religion, mindset or social locale, in which both the experience and the external effects are quantified.
Doing that, I refer to as integrative cognition.