concept pages: copyright Robert Ellis 2010


'Integration' in Middle Way philosophy is a term taken from Jungian psychology. It refers to the way in which divided forces or energies in the mind can become unified. This process of integration is understood as the psychological correlate of non-dualism and the Middle Way in philosophical terms. Metaphysical beliefs are pragmatically unhelpful because they entrench psychological conflict, whilst Middle Way philosophy gains its pragmatic helpfulness from the way in which it helps us to mediate and transcend psychological conflict by re-conceptualising the philosophical dualisms that it depends on.

The process of integration can be graphically represented by the two mules:

The two mules begin with opposed energies, which support incompatible desires. At the beginning their whole conception is that these desires must be incompatible by their very nature. After developing greater awareness, however, they come to recognise that the incompatibility is not a necessary aspect of the situation, only of their way of understanding it. Their previously opposed energies then become integrated, because they share goals which benefit them both.

The concept of integration generally depends on several broadly Jungian assumptions:

Acceptance of this theoretical basis, like that of any other, can only be justified by its relationship to experience and its fruitfulness for further investigation. One important outcome of this model, however, is the way in which it allows a psychological explanation of moral objectivity in terms of integration. The more integrated we are, the more moral we are, because the less we are subject to delusions created by psychological conflict, and the more effectively we are able to address the conditions around us as a consequence.

All forms of integration are incremental and non-absolute. This means that we can be more or less integrated in particular (perhaps unbalanced) ways, and that integration as an incremental concept does not depend on the possibility of complete integration. Experience suggests that we can become more integrated by overcoming conflicts, but this does not necessarily imply that all conflicts can be overcome (whether this is meant psychologically or at a social or political level).

In Middle Way philosophy the process of integration is understood as occuring at three inter-related levels: desire, meaning, and belief. Integration of desires makes the motivation our actions more consistent and creates the necessary conditions for integration of meaning. Integration of meaning makes a greater variety of symbols consistently intelligible, uniting openness to new experience with cognitive capacity, and creates the necessary conditions for integration of belief. Integration of belief makes our beliefs both more coherent and more in accordance with negative foundationalism. For more on these three types of integration see the separate concept articles for each:


Links to related discussion

The psychological basis of belief (thesis)

The psychological basis of the Middle Way (thesis)


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