The Openness of Integrationism
In speaking about his own philosophical ideas, Ferrater Mora once asserted that no one could criticize them more severely than he himself. He could, however, then turn around and soundly criticize his criticism. He saw this ability as a kind of defect because, he said, it had a paralyzing effect. Philosophy, he claimed, might be compared to an animal that eats its own tail. Considering his vast number of publications, Ferrater Mora did not seem to be paralyzed, but perhaps we can see something of what he meant by this remark if we concentrate on his philosophical ideas and note in particular his firm rejection of all absolutes. So open and flexible is his Integrationism that it is almost self-correcting. This flexibility can be seen in his method of understanding an entity in terms of its "distance" between various pairs of opposing, but non-existent poles or limiting concepts. Using his method, a thinker is not limited to any pre-established list of limiting concepts, traditional or otherwise, or even any given number of limiting concepts. In addition, the fact that the number and kind of the various emergent levels of the continuum, although clearly described, are not necessarily limited to those he discussed, allows his system to be open to an extraordinary degree to new discoveries and new ways of thinking.
Francisco Miro Quesada has described this openness in terms of the relationship between Ferrater Mora's own style of thinking and the notion of criticism. "Ferrater Mora's critical tendency," he said, "is so radical that in raising a problem he sees all the possible rational objections. . . . Unlike Wittgenstein, Ferrater Mora . . . preserves his serenity because . . . he never believed that reason could lead to definitive conclusions and thus he never expected to reach them. For him, reason is above all a critical faculty. The power of criticism is seen when criticism is carried to its ultimate consequences, when it criticizes its own presuppositions, . . . Yet we can never know if we have arrived at definitive conclusions. This lack of certainty does not lead Ferrater Mora to nihilism, but rather to a kind of tolerance . . . to a self-limiting 'reason.' The latter is equivalent to a non-arbitrary, continuous, and total criticism. Thus Ferrater Mora rejects all eclecticism and all absolutism by maintaining that no philosophical position can be accepted once and for all save the one that accepts rational criticisms as an abiding methodology. Thus his thought is characterized by theoretical tolerance, by profound respect for any serious philosophical undertaking, and by an open attitude."
From a slightly different angle, Josep-Maria Terricabras has also written about Ferrater Mora's openness and self-criticism. He says," Ferrater Mora rejects, as being excessively simple, both skepticism and dogmatism. . . . In contrast to the dogmatist or skeptic, Ferrater defends a fallible and rectifiable knowledge, subject to change, to falsification and to error. . . . It is not by chance that Ferrater proposes an integrationist methodology. In fact, his own experience of life was as an 'integrationist,' . . . Ferrater was a man of great tolerance, with great respect for what was of value in contrary opinions. . . . Ferrater's position—contrary to the usual practice of philosophers—does not seek to push aside or absorb other philosophies, but instead, by the fact of examining them and working hard with them, to value them and increase their possibilities." Terricabras adds that "Irony is absolutely central to Ferrater's thought and way of being. For him, there were two ways to practice philosophy: the dogmatic and the ironic. Irony is, therefore, antidogmatism, tolerance, critical and self-critical spirit. To be ironic is to know you are fallible and—literally—intranscendent. The classes Ferrater gave in Girona in 1989 were entitled 'Ten Lessons of Integrationist Philosophy,' but for a time he was tempted to call them 'An Open System.'"
Many of the great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel and so forth did not have this dual vision of criticism and criticism of their criticism. They believed not only in absolutes, but that they had discovered these absolutes. They believed they had discovered the Truth. Ferrater Mora hoped he was correct.