by Jeff Salzman

I received a critique from a reader regarding my previous posting, “Maureen Dowd and Liberal Flaccidity”.  It represents a very common criticism of integral theory, so after responding on the comments section, I thought I’d publish it here.  First the letter:

“it’s safe to say she’s green” “She also appears to be Enneagram Four.” “So everything is a psychodrama for her.”


Statements like these are why I cannot take as seriously as I might the simplistic, sweeping categorizations and the overly chart-dependent nature of integral understanding and language. You make statements like this with such confidence and, I presume (I may be wrong) that you’ve never even met Dowd or had a one-on-one conversation with her. How do you know “what” she is on any one of your charts or diagrams (assuming that any one of them actually mirrors or accurately captures anything as complex as human nature)?

I write columns/blogs for a large metropolitan paper and I get this kind of simplistic feedback all the time. People fail to remember that, as writers, we are a “persona” and that all our columns, blogs, etc. reflect not our actual selves in their fullness and nuance, but the persona we have constructed for the medium for which we write. At best, the critics are dealing with a “character” or “spin-off” of the actual person – not the person herself.

So, if you said “Dowd’s column here represents Enneagram 4 or “green” that would be more accurate in my view – also more sophisticated and less presumptuous.

But, the drive to categorize and locate on a scale and place in a quadrant blah blah blah is so strong . . . . What is that about? Is it because you want a theory of everything and everybody?

This doesn’t seem very “evolved” to me.

Here’s my response:

No, I’ve never met Maureen Dowd, or spoken to her. I guess I am responding to her writing “persona,” which is well-established, and floridly, brilliantly crafted after many years. I doubt it represents an actual person who is substantially different typologically. At any rate, she’s a public figure, well-celebrated, and part of my goal here is to make integral theory more useful by pointing out its manifestations in real life.

And no, of course integral charts and diagrams don’t “capture” anything as complex as human nature, any more than any map captures the territory it represents. But they sure are useful! And the higher the resolution of the map, the more useful (go to a Google map and move the cursor toward the plus-sign, and you’ll see what I mean). Thus integral’s “drive to categorize and locate on a scale and place in a quadrant blah blah blah…”

Finally, I disagree that a theory of everything is necessarily not “very evolved”. If it helps us see more deeply and clearly than before, it certainly is.