The word “integral” connotes wholeness or completeness, like an integer. What interests me is that, etymologically, integral also means un-touched. The prefix “in” has a negative force (like “un-“ or “non-“), and “teg” comes from the Latin tangere (“to touch”).
An integral philosophy would be a philosophy of untouched unity or untouched units. How, then, can we philosophize about that which exceeds the limits of our touching, grasping, and reaching. Theorizing the untouched is a way of paradoxically touching the untouched. Jean-Luc Nancy has a lot to say about touching, including the way touch makes contact with that which is intact, untouched. If you touch too much, then the intact is no longer intact. If you touch too little, then you haven’t made contact. The question is how to touch with tact, making contact in such a way that a connection is made without assimilating the intact core of the other. It’s important to note that I am not referring to human touch exclusively, but to all kinds of contact, human, nonhuman, and otherwise. I’ll have a lot to say about this in the future, as the name of this blog indicates. For now, I want to talk about a kind of light touch, dabbling.
Dabbling touches without penetrating the depths. The dictionary definition of dabbling describes it as an act of moving one’s hands or feet around in water. In other words, it is an act of getting partially wet. It also refers to movement in shallow water (ducks that feed in shallow water dabble therein).
From this basic definition comes the extended definition of dabbling as any kind of partial involvement in something. Like dabbing or daubing, dabbling is a partial touch, a slight and light touch. That partial involvement connotes superficiality in some cases, as if one is “merely” dabbling and not “really” doing it, like a hobby as opposed to a career. However, dabbling is not necessarily superficial. It might be a very effective way to forge connections with the untouched cores of things. Perhaps touching things any deeper would just slow down the process of making and breaking connections. Even worse, it could do violence to the one touching or to the one touched, or to both of them.
What is this effective kind of dabbling? Integral dabbling. I think Jean-Luc Nancy practices integral dabbling, but it is not to be found only among philosophers. I think you can also find integral dabbling in pop culture. I’ll post more later on a pop analysis of integral dabbling.