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On eagles wings: our recovery from Coronavirus (XLII): An Integrity conceptual framework

The month of September represents freedom from Spain for the majority of Latin American countries. Many independence celebrations will take place all over this region, from México to the Patagonia. Also we will be free of this saga by the end of the month. We are planning to finish it before September 30th.

“Pío, Pío, Pío, cantan los pollitos”. An aquarelle by Eleonora Escalante. Handmade with love on Fabriano 5 paper.

This week we will cover the last virtue of our list, Integrity. From rich wealthy individuals to poor; from Christ-centric religious to muslims, to buddhists, to jewish, to any religion you may profess; from erudit scientists to humble technicians or non-educated vendors; from studious researchers to experienced practitioners; from the highest of the top directors to the lowest rank position of janitor; from professors to students; from the pastor or priest to any churchgoer… There is not one millimeter of distinction between humans, when it comes to the application of Integrity.

What is integrity? This word comes from the late middle English period. It was coined between the year 1,400 AC to about 1500 AC; a period “which was marked by the spread of the London literary dialect and the gradual cleavage between the Scottish dialect and the other northern dialects of what we know now as United Kingdom”.  The roots of the word come from the French intégrité or the Latin integritas.

As usual, we start with the dictionary definition, the most simple and universal that we can find: “Integrity is the steadfast adherence to a strict ethical code; the quality or condition of being whole or undivided, completeness”. “The state of being un-impaired; soundness”. One synonym used to describe integrity is honesty.

But do we want to stick to the dictionary definition? Hmmmm. No. No. No. So, let´s continue.

There is a bunch of theories about integrity. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has posted an interesting piece of work about the meaning of Integrity. I have tried to summarized it here. Let´s begin. The word integrity can be linked to people, projects,  products, services, objects, systems and so on.  When the word integrity is applied to objects, integrity refers to the wholeness, intactness, non corrupted status of the thing. For example a wilderness region has integrity when is a virgin jungle that has not been corrupted by human development since its creation. A database has integrity as long as it does not show mistakes. A website transaction system has integrity as long as it is not breached. We will study the term “integrity”when is related to a “quality of a person´s character”.

What is it to be a person of integrity? When exploring the answer to this question, philosophers have landed in 6 views, which we will describe concisely.

  1. Integrity as the Integration of self. For these scholars, integrity is a matter of each of us integrating various parts or components of our personality into a harmonious, intact whole; with the purpose to primarily keep the our self intact and non-corrupted.  Each person has a list of needs (necessities) and wants (desires or wishes) which trigger our volitions (acts of making conscious choices or decisions). According to Frankfurt (1987). acts of will are those needs, desires and volitions. These are arranged in a hierarchy of layers. To organize “acts of will” requires first to identify, discriminate, prioritize, arrange and avoid/resolve conflicts of interests in between them. A person of integrity is knowledgeable in integrating all these “acts of will” according to his or her individual prioritization ranking that help to endorsing first order “acts of will” and outlawing others.
  2. Integrity as the identity of holding steadfastly true to personal commitments. These philosophers view integrity as the maintenance of identity-conferring commitments.  Here we understand “commitment as a term covering intentions, promises, convictions and relationships of trust and expectation. In addition each of us can be committed in many different ways to different kinds of things, people, entities, traditions, causes, ideals, principles, projects, etc”.  Regardless if our commitments are explicit or implicit, private or public, superficial or profound. The identity view of integrity is associated with Williams (1973), who states that our integrity comes with our actions that accurately reflect the sense of who we are, by keeping our commitments, instead of ordering and endorsing desires.
  3. Integrity as Self Constitution. For these group of scholars, a person of integrity is stamped in his/her identity that develops interacting with others and ourselves. We constitute ourselves when our identity has consistency, is unified and whole; and in that process we develop our own integrity.  Korsgaard (2009) states that to live with integrity is to act in a way that is rationally endorsed both by oneself as one acts and one´s future self. To do this, one must act on principles that will be kept over time.
  4. Integrity as Standing for Something. In this view, scholars argue that integrity is primarily a social virtue, defined by socialization, or in our relations with others. This view is associated mainly with Calhoun (1995). For her, persons of integrity are measured in actions that are consistent with their endorsements, and stand for their best judgement, within a community of people, trying to discover what in life is worth doing. Calhoun states that any fanatic lacks integrity, because it integrates its actions in an intimidating disrespect for the deliberations of others. Another philosopher Scherkoske (2011) expands this view with an epistemic definition of integrity, linking it to cognition.
  5. Integrity as a Moral Purpose. Another way of thinking about integrity places moral boundaries or constraints upon the several kinds of commitments to which a person of integrity must remain true. Scholars as Ashford (2000), Halfon (1989) and McFall (1987) have offered their contributions in this regard. Ashford conceptualized the term “objective integrity”, in which a person of integrity has real moral obligations, therefore can´t be morally mistaken. Halfon  defines integrity in terms of moral purpose; describing it as the dedication of a person to the pursuit of a moral life, with intellectual responsibility in seeking to understand the demands of such life. For Halfon, a person of integrity is concerned by chasing a commitment to do what is best. Persons of integrity must be conceptually clear, logically consistent, apprised of relevant empirical evidence and careful about acknowledging as well as weighing relevant moral considerations. For McFall, a person of integrity is identifiable because of the nature of the constraints or boundaries that holds. McFall states, for example, that a person of integrity can´t be a self pleasure seeker, or an approval of others (pleaser) seeker, or a selfish ruthless seeker of wealth. Following McFall view, she draws a distinction between personal and moral integrity. To my understanding, a person of integrity can´t hold a professional integrity not aligned with a personal integrity. I.E. A democratic president acting in public as a freedom activist detected practicing modern slavery at home with her/his relatives or employees; or a human rights leader that does morally abhorrent things with his wife at home; or a church women leader that speaks of love, peace and generosity meanwhile she is gossiping and mistreating others with lack of consideration and respect.

We will stop here. On my next post I will continue with the sixth theory of integrity, which is the one that relates with Eleonora Escalante Strategy philosophic domain: 6. Integrity as a Virtue,

See you before the end of the week. Until then, thank you for reading to me.

Sources or reference utilized to write this article:

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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