Indigenous knowledge and techno-scientific modernity: ‘hierarchical integration’ reconsidered




Journal Title

Journal ISSN




Volume Title


Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.



Peer reviewed



With growing awareness of the urgent need for action on environmental problems, increasing attention is being given to how wisdom traditions and Indigenous cultures might usefully inform and engage with western scientific knowledge. However, a significant barrier to this for many western scholars – including environmental scholars – remains the problem of scientism: the assumption that western science offers the definitive account of nature and reality.

This paper seeks to re-examine one approach to tackling the problem, developed by Abraham Maslow and Theodore Roszak in the 1960s and 1970s. To address the problem of scientism, these authors developed the idea of ‘hierarchical integration’: a project that seeks to harmoniously and psychologically integrate modern scientific knowledge with other knowledge styles. In its mature form, it suggests that while western scientific styles of knowledge undoubtedly provide invaluable information about the natural world, modern science requires integration within a much grander conception of knowledge and reality that also encompasses a magical apprehension of nature: that experienced reciprocity and felt ethical relationship with the animate Earth to which Indigenous and wisdom traditions have long borne witness. It is suggested that among many Indigenous people and cultures such experienced relations and sense of ethical reciprocity with the Earth have tended not to be so ruthlessly severed or diminished as they have been among many people in western modernity.

Hierarchical integration offers insights into the problem of scientism e.g. by proposing that when scientific objectivity monopolizes people’s conceptions of knowledge at the expense of other experiential modes of knowing, then science becomes a cognitive pathology: a neurotic flaw that not only vitiates the humane potentials of western science but which may also be profoundly implicated in ecocide and the rape of the Earth.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.


Indigenous, scientism, objectification, Earth rape, Maslow, Roszak


Coope, J. (2020) Indigenous knowledge and techno-scientific modernity: ‘hierarchical integration’ reconsidered, Ecopsychology,


Research Institute

Mary Seacole Research Centre