The Move into Irrealism and How to Counter-Act It

The Move into Irrealism and How to Counter-Act It

By Otto Laske

The signs of a mutation of human consciousness since 2000 are becoming more and more clear: The real world disappears behind subjective screens propped up by objective social forces seeking profit. What the profit is meant to be used for is less than clear, and one can fear that it will serve psychological immaturity.
The fact that consciousness overlays “itself” with screens signals a shift in the relationship in which empirical, actual, and real world are seen. Ontology, almost forgotten, is clubbed over the head once more. The disdain for empirical data, long in coming, and visible in the denial of global warming as well as integral speculation, seems to gain a stronger and stronger foothold. In Twitter, the links to the network of screens become shorter, and what was already short, like attention, is further shortened.
What are the social consequences of this trend?
Piaget thought of adult development as an increasing move out of ego-centrism, that is, the focus on “my little personality”. This hypothesis, followed in empirical research into the evolving self, is still on target, but the people using it are no dialectical thinkers. They are only codifying the social status quo projecting a “potential” less and less realized.
The mature individual of Piaget, Erickson, Kegan, and even Commons had one essential dimension missing: a space for untrammeled thinking that, being untrammeled, was close to reality, including an understanding of the finitude of life. By “untrammeled thinking” I mean the ability to observe oneself thinking and be critical of the thought forms one finds oneself using.
Has untrammeled thinking simply vanished? Not quite. It is still alive in what is called dialectical thinking. Dialectical thinking is the attempt to transcend downloading and screen flipping by developing an awareness of how the human mind works in uncensored speech. How thinking works through speech can be captured by what at the Interdevelopmental Institute we call “cognitive interview” in which a dialectical thinker listens to a speaker in terms of the “dialectical thought form framework” (DTF).
The dialectical listener’s hypothesis is that it makes sense to “see the world” from four aspects called moments of dialectic each of which unfolds as a set of thought forms that transcend formal-logical thinking. It is thus a Piagetian hypothesis which assumes that mature thinking is critical systems thinking: systemic, holistically specific, capturing emerging change as transformational.
It is this hypothesis around which the Interdevelopmental Institute was built in 2000, when the shift to irrealism already begun. Our mission is still to move people away from irrealism, not only subjectivism, and make them see (not face, but see) the real world from inside out. People have a precious but fragile link to the real world, namely their dialectical thinking.
Our culture has a diminishing link to reality because the ability of dialectical thinking is not nurtured, whether in individuals or teams. Even referring to dialectic is thus strongly counter-cultural (downloading and setting up ideological screens being now the norm). We invite you to visit

If you are team leader you might to check out for an April workshop in Mechelen, Belgium, I lead together with Jan De Visch, a major thinker in the field of irrealism in business.


Author: Otto Laske

I am the founder and director of IDM, the Interdevelopmental Institute. My background is in philosophy, psychology, consulting, and coaching based on developmental theory to which I have mightily contributed myself. See the blogs at

4 thoughts on “The Move into Irrealism and How to Counter-Act It”

  1. Otto,
    Ironically it seems that several of your leading propositions are not grounded in empirical data — at least not ones referenced here. I think you over reach to make a point and in so doing illustrate the phenomena you hope to avoid. These include:
    * Mutation of human consciousness since 2000
    — I suggest it’s safest to assume that the major change is in the perceptions and objects attended to by the observer.

    * “Our culture has a diminishing link to reality”
    — History of western culture illustrates similar assessments being made at many points of time going back to classical Greece.

    * Denialism of global warming.
    The denialism theme is troubling because the label itself is not defined but I think it can be shown that the label holds a diversity of meanings that are salient to global warming.
    Many public figures use the denier label without bothering to define it. This indiscriminate use of the label appears to me to reflect the kind of “disdain for empirical data” that you decry, It can be shown, for instance, that person who have been publicly labelled as deniers in fact hold a long expressed concern about global warming and advocate policy responses such as carbon taxes.

  2. Here I would heartily disagree with you, Cortland!.
    I think, contrary to your posivistic statement, that no cultural discourse, especially critical, would be possible if it became a requisite to follow the Vienna School positivists as you seem to do. There would be no concepts left that would not have to be proven empirically, like “mutation of consciousness”, a term I use not to describe a physiological set of facts but rather as a metaphor. In other words, empirical proof is not the point here in this text, but the purpose rather is to stimulate thinking and create controversy, as I seem to have done successfully.
    Thank you for your comment.

  3. Otto
    I find a tension between your use of the terms “empirical data” and your (apparent) rejection of positivism. How does one distinguish between the “real”, “actual” and “empirical” worlds, except arbitrarily?

  4. I found it difficult, in a 1-page text, to explain all the terms, including “reality”, and thus the text is rather provocative. For me, there is a wide gap between honoring empirical data and positivism, that latter being a very narrow version of “empirical”, as you know. Here again, dialectical thinking would advise not to treat terms as logical opposites but to spell them out in terms of the hidden elements they contain. Right off, your reaction is of course well taken.

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