An Integral Postmetaphysical Definition of States

Inspired in part by Mark Edwards' dissertation, in which he calls for clearer definition of key Integral terms, I would like to open a discussion on this important Integral term.  In his work, Wilber obviously frequently uses the term, states, and discusses several types of states, but (to my knowledge) he does not give a clear, formal definition of this important concept.  Because it is such a key component of AQAL, and also is held by Integralists to be such an important aspect of spiritual realization, I think it would be worthwhile to really look at what we mean by it, and possibly see if we can together craft a satisfactory "Integral postmetaphysical" definition.  I ask specifically for an "Integral postmetaphysical" definition, rather than the definition, because obviously the term will be defined differently in different contexts, and at different stages.

What do you think?  If you're interested, let's give this a try.

To start, here are a few (relevant) definitions from Dictionary.com:

1. the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes: a state of health.
2. the condition of matter with respect to structure, form, constitution, phase, or the like: water in a gaseous state.
5. a particular condition of mind or feeling: to be in an excited state.
6. an abnormally tense, nervous, or perturbed condition: He's been in a state since hearing about his brother's death.


You can see right off that several "zones" are represented in these definitions.  An Integral definition, or series of definitions, would include even more zone-perspectives, and IMP may suggest ways these various types of "states" can be correlated.  But simple differentiation of zone-specific definitions will also be important, since I believe the failure to do this probably contributes not infrequently to conflicts and misunderstandings in Integral discussions.

As we discussed in an earlier series of threads (The Status of States), Wilber's use of certain states (particularly causal and nondual) seems still to involve certain metaphysical commitments, which we critiqued at length.  But I don't recall that we really arrived at any workable, formal definition of states, or understanding of what is involved in "state training" and "state stabilization" in spiritual development or "realization," so I'd like to return to this question here, if you're interested.

 

One systems-theoretic, naturalistic definition of states has been attempted by Charles Tart:

 

"Now I shall formally define a discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC) for a given individual (and I emphasize for a given individual) as a unique configuration or system of psychological structures or subsystems. The structures or subsystems show some quantitative and minor qualitative variation in the way in which they process information or cope or have experiences, but the structures or subsystems and their energetic pattern of interactions comprise a 'system'. The operations of the components, the psychological structures,interact with each other and stabilize each other's functioning by means of feedback control such that the system, the discrete state of consciousness, maintains its overall patterning of functioning within a varying environment. That is, the parts of the system that comprise a discrete state of consciousness may vary over various ranges if we look at individual components, but the overall, general configuration, the overall pattern of the system remains recognizably the same. As an analogy, you can drive your car faster or slower, with a varying number of passengers in it, or change the color of the seat covers, but it retains its identity as the system we know as an automobile. So one may have variations in consciousness, such as being more or less activated, more or less aware of the environment, etc. that represent quantitative changes in certain subsystems or structures of the system, but they do not change the overall, recognizable configuration of the system as being that of our ordinary [waking] state of consciousness, or, for that matter, of any particular discrete state of consciousness. The way to understand a discrete state of consciousness, then, is not only to investigate the structure of the parts in a more and more molecular way, but also to be aware of the way in which the parts interact and the 'gestalt' system-properties of the configuration that arise that may not be predictable from a knowledge of the parts alone." (Tart, THE BASIC NATURE OF ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: A SYSTEMS APPROACH)

 

One question that I bring to this (among many) is whether we can define states postmetaphysically, but in a way that still respects and accounts for the "profundity" and power of certain state realizations -- that still can serve, in a sense, as a horizon of aspiration, without the metaphysical trappings.

 

I'm exploring a few thoughts in relation to this question and will post more on that soon.  In the meantime, I just wanted to post this initial question and get the feedback of other members here, if you're interested.

Views: 2060

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

One avenue we followed here for awhile was the speculative realist / OOO one -- which brought in the question of the epistemic fallacy, particularly whether Wilber's postmetaphysical approach was an example of it.  We can talk about that if you like.  But one important move of some of the OOO folks, following Roy Bhaskar, is to argue for the importance of metaphysics as a form of transcendental argumentation: asking, what must the world be like, for science (and other disciplines) to work as they do?  What are their (ontological and epistemological) conditions of possibility?  These are not empirical questions, but metaphysical questions about the necessary conditions for empirical inquiry (among other things).  From this point of view, the idea that 'bad metaphysics' is 'ontology without injunctions' (as I discussed in the previous post) is really inadequate...

And now I really probably have muddied the water.  :-)

Very good Bruce, and Andrew -

I'm going to have to read and study more into your summary and related themes and links. May take a while. How you write sounds clear - and I think I may have some mud in my eye :)

As I have alluded in the past, in addition to not having studied and become conversant in some of these philosophical and other ideas, I seem to have a glitch more generally in how language has evolved, morphed, and done fancy dance moves toward new usages. It probably has something to do with my early indoctrinations about language and how it represents a given world of things in reliably fixed ways. Apparently I have some presumptions about etymology being a reliable way to trace how words have come to mean what they mean - various contexts notwithstanding.

The glitches I refer to now are of course around post-metaphysics, but more, starting with meta-physics.

Though I have come to understand in a more educated way that this is not reliably so, I seem to be a bit hooked to the early logics that I have learned. I studied three years of Latin and my dad's family had also learned Greek, and as is the MO for legal and medical thinking, words' meanings ought to be able to be traced in order to reveal original and evolving intents - so went the logic.

You know, root meanings and later derivations, plus prefixes and suffixes and surrounding qualifiers. Like post-modern is easier than post-metaphysical because, I suppose, it is clearer what is meant by modern than metaphysical. Meta-theory or meta-research is more obvious than meta-physical. In the first two instances, the meta adds a relatively clear suggestion that meta means an over-arching, over-viewing, sort of summarizing or getting a new perspective that can go further in some way from the included lesser perspectives of specific theories and research studies.

Meta-physical, not so clear. Does meta suggest what is beyond, what is an overviewing of the physical?

Hopefully, I can learn a new basis for the meaning of metaphysics and not continue to mentally glitch. I will be able to say metaphysical this and that and then get the etymological turn that is post-metaphysical and be on the road to aptly conversant.

As I write this and glance back it all sounds a bit silly, embarrassing around the perhaps obsessive stuckness. Ah, well - one of my lesser foibles and sins :)

Some hope and help has arrived in the form of the online Etymological Dictionary - http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=metaphysics&allowed_in_fra...

Metaphysics
1560's plural of Middle English metaphysik, methaphesik - "branch of speculation that deals with first causes of things," from Medieval Latin metaphysica, neuter pleural of Meideval Greek (ta) metaphysika from Greek ta meta ta physika [HERE IS THE KICKER, GUYS, IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW ALREADY] "the (works) after the Physics", title after the 13 treatises which traditionally arranged after those on physics and natural sciences in Aristotle's writings. The name was given c70 B.C.E by Andonicus of Rhodes and was a reference to customary ordering of the books [HERE'S WHERE THE KICKING BOOT OF HISTORY CONFOUNDS THE EASILY CONFOUNDED, ie, ME] but it was misinterpreted by Latin writers as meaning "the science of what is beyond the physical" [PERHAPS SUGGESTING THE SAME OF ME THAT WHENEVER I HEAR THE WORD METAPHYSICS, I REFLEXIVELY THINK THE SCIENCE OF PHYSICS AND WHAT COMES AFTER OR IS BEYOND THAT IN SOME SEEMINGLY LOGICAL WAY.] See meta + physics...

Oy vey - TMI? Over-sharing?

So discard the many decades of sometimes erroneous logic and habits.

Ambo, metaphysics simply means speculation regarding first causes! Get over it.

Post-metaphysics to be dealt with later - apparently different people think that there needs to be acknowledged a turn, a shift, a qualitatively different signifier for a way of understanding how the world is and how it works with us possibly Post-metaphysical thinkers. Hah.

:-)  I was going to say the same thing as is said in the etymological passage you quoted:  apparently, the 'meta' in the original coining of the word had to do with the order in which the books were written, not with any special meaning of the topic at hand.  So, perhaps it is the somewhat misleading origin of the word that tends to cloud things up a bit.  Because a common colloquial understanding of metaphysics has to do with what is 'beyond' physics in an ontological sense, as in occult and psi phenomena (going by the "Metaphysical" section of most book stores...)

The banal origins of META- are perfectly appropriate.  Where else would we think our ancestors got their notions of "beyond" and "including more" and "what comes next" other than from simple situations in which something (i.e. the works of Aristotle) was followed some more/other stuff? 

While we're on the subject of prefixes:

TRANS- goes across, or through, to the "other side".

PARA- sits next to, is adjacent to, is beside.

ULTRA- goes so far that it virtually becomes its opposite. 

---------------------------------------------------

So METAPHYSICS adds an additional set of entities to PHYSICS.  It goes beyond the original set and enlarges its scope of comprehensiveness.

TRANSPHYSICS is what happens to former physicists!  

PARAPHYSICS is a functional system that operates in tandem or in parallel with physics.

ULTRAPHYSICS is so devoted to materialism that it becomes idealistic fantasy. 

-----------------------------------------------------------

Now here's the trouble.  And it is the reason I started the broccoli and masturbation (integral definition of metaphysics) thread.  Each successive layer of cultural consciousness adds a new demand to its predecessor.  The metaphysics (entities added to physics) of each level seems natural at that level.  At the next level we demand proof and skepticism about their metaphysics.

To say that postmetaphysics gets over speculation regarding first causes is only to say that there exists a level at which first causes are looked back upon as unproven elements of someone else's metaphysics.  To keep this in the picture I often use Metaphysics of Adjacency instead of Postmetaphysics.

What is misleading is the binary notion of metaphysics and physics, or metaphysics and postmetaphysics.  When the definition itself becomes level-dependent then a lot of these quibbles vanish.



Ambo Suno said:

Very good Bruce, and Andrew -

I'm going to have to read and study more into your summary and related themes and links. May take a while. How you write sounds clear - and I think I may have some mud in my eye :)

As I have alluded in the past, in addition to not having studied and become conversant in some of these philosophical and other ideas, I seem to have a glitch more generally in how language has evolved, morphed, and done fancy dance moves toward new usages. It probably has something to do with my early indoctrinations about language and how it represents a given world of things in reliably fixed ways. Apparently I have some presumptions about etymology being a reliable way to trace how words have come to mean what they mean - various contexts notwithstanding.

The glitches I refer to now are of course around post-metaphysics, but more, starting with meta-physics.

Though I have come to understand in a more educated way that this is not reliably so, I seem to be a bit hooked to the early logics that I have learned. I studied three years of Latin and my dad's family had also learned Greek, and as is the MO for legal and medical thinking, words' meanings ought to be able to be traced in order to reveal original and evolving intents - so went the logic.

You know, root meanings and later derivations, plus prefixes and suffixes and surrounding qualifiers. Like post-modern is easier than post-metaphysical because, I suppose, it is clearer what is meant by modern than metaphysical. Meta-theory or meta-research is more obvious than meta-physical. In the first two instances, the meta adds a relatively clear suggestion that meta means an over-arching, over-viewing, sort of summarizing or getting a new perspective that can go further in some way from the included lesser perspectives of specific theories and research studies.

Meta-physical, not so clear. Does meta suggest what is beyond, what is an overviewing of the physical?

Hopefully, I can learn a new basis for the meaning of metaphysics and not continue to mentally glitch. I will be able to say metaphysical this and that and then get the etymological turn that is post-metaphysical and be on the road to aptly conversant.

As I write this and glance back it all sounds a bit silly, embarrassing around the perhaps obsessive stuckness. Ah, well - one of my lesser foibles and sins :)

Some hope and help has arrived in the form of the online Etymological Dictionary - http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=metaphysics&allowed_in_fra...

Metaphysics
1560's plural of Middle English metaphysik, methaphesik - "branch of speculation that deals with first causes of things," from Medieval Latin metaphysica, neuter pleural of Meideval Greek (ta) metaphysika from Greek ta meta ta physika [HERE IS THE KICKER, GUYS, IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW ALREADY] "the (works) after the Physics", title after the 13 treatises which traditionally arranged after those on physics and natural sciences in Aristotle's writings. The name was given c70 B.C.E by Andonicus of Rhodes and was a reference to customary ordering of the books [HERE'S WHERE THE KICKING BOOT OF HISTORY CONFOUNDS THE EASILY CONFOUNDED, ie, ME] but it was misinterpreted by Latin writers as meaning "the science of what is beyond the physical" [PERHAPS SUGGESTING THE SAME OF ME THAT WHENEVER I HEAR THE WORD METAPHYSICS, I REFLEXIVELY THINK THE SCIENCE OF PHYSICS AND WHAT COMES AFTER OR IS BEYOND THAT IN SOME SEEMINGLY LOGICAL WAY.] See meta + physics...

Oy vey - TMI? Over-sharing?

So discard the many decades of sometimes erroneous logic and habits.

Ambo, metaphysics simply means speculation regarding first causes! Get over it.

Post-metaphysics to be dealt with later - apparently different people think that there needs to be acknowledged a turn, a shift, a qualitatively different signifier for a way of understanding how the world is and how it works with us possibly Post-metaphysical thinkers. Hah.

I wonder if this proposal  may be of utility. I wonder if it would be helpful if we were to think this way: that there was a time of pre conventional metaphysics where anything and everything was once thought of as an explanation for existence/reality/being; that this era had early, middle and late phases. This transitioned to the times of conventional metaphysics where empiricism, reason, logic, scientific method, became  the tools and criteria used to discern existence/reality/ being. This era also had its early and late phases. This era is slowly transitioning to a post conventional metaphysics wherein the previous conventional era is examined and deconstructed . This era has its early phase (MOA1) and potential late phase ( MOA 3/4) . Perhaps there are already a few people that are perceiving an even newer era and are intuiting today a deconstruction of the present era. Perhaps the early phase of a post conventional metaphysics reconsiders some of the strict knowledge claims posited by the conventional metaphysicians ( that existence/reality/being is strictly material and physical). That the post conventional  metaphysicians have more flexibility and less stiffness when dealing with conventional orthodoxies. This would put Wilber squarely in the post conventional metaphysics era and explain his proclivity to endorse  spiritual hypothesis ( a reconsideration of some of the better spiritual explanations from previous eras ). This era may even introduce new spiritual ideas or proposals. Under this proposal Tart would be categorized as a post conventional metaphysician positing a systems approach to various states of being.

Anyway, my brood very much enjoyed the last Hobbit and everyone agreed that this final film of the triage was the one we all liked the most.

Hi Lay - your prefix play brought a smile.

How you describe the evolution of and ongoing challenges to the usage of "metaphysics" and someone's assertions about metaphysics sounds right to me, and I think the apparently inexorable process can be well looked as 'layers'.

Btw, Layman, in case I wasn't clear in one of my comments, when I said "Get over it." I was talking to myself, with a little humor and irony. Get over the fact that the more commonly shared definition of metaphysics (speculation on original causes) was not going to conform to my old glitchworthy fixations.

You said, "To say that postmetaphysics gets over speculation regarding first causes is only to say that there exists a level at which first causes are looked back upon as unproven elements of someone else's metaphysics." I couldn't tell if you got where my voice was pointed. And luckily, it doesn't matter - your point still stands.

Skipping to the side a little, now, I want to share a phrasing I just read in a semi-fluffy news piece that also conveys the sometimes messy and capricious and inexorable process of 'meaning'.

"Hygge, originally a Norwegian word for "well-being," first appeared in Danish near the end of the 18th century, according to Denmark's tourism bureau. It has evolved into a big part of Danish life since then, absorbing connotations over time like a semantic snowball." [I embolden the metaphor that amuses me]



Layman Pascal said:

The banal origins of META- are perfectly appropriate.  Where else would we think our ancestors got their notions of "beyond" and "including more" and "what comes next" other than from simple situations in which something (i.e. the works of Aristotle) was followed some more/other stuff? 

While we're on the subject of prefixes:

TRANS- goes across, or through, to the "other side".

PARA- sits next to, is adjacent to, is beside.

ULTRA- goes so far that it virtually becomes its opposite. 

---------------------------------------------------

So METAPHYSICS adds an additional set of entities to PHYSICS.  It goes beyond the original set and enlarges its scope of comprehensiveness.

TRANSPHYSICS is what happens to former physicists!  

PARAPHYSICS is a functional system that operates in tandem or in parallel with physics.

ULTRAPHYSICS is so devoted to materialism that it becomes idealistic fantasy. 

-----------------------------------------------------------

Now here's the trouble.  And it is the reason I started the broccoli and masturbation (integral definition of metaphysics) thread.  Each successive layer of cultural consciousness adds a new demand to its predecessor.  The metaphysics (entities added to physics) of each level seems natural at that level.  At the next level we demand proof and skepticism about their metaphysics.

To say that postmetaphysics gets over speculation regarding first causes is only to say that there exists a level at which first causes are looked back upon as unproven elements of someone else's metaphysics.  To keep this in the picture I often use Metaphysics of Adjacency instead of Postmetaphysics.

What is misleading is the binary notion of metaphysics and physics, or metaphysics and postmetaphysics.  When the definition itself becomes level-dependent then a lot of these quibbles vanish.

Andrew, yes, I've framed it in similar ways in past discussions.  I can't find the original discussion, but here is a briefer comment getting at the same thing.  Basically, postmetaphysics is not opposed to metaphysics -- it is how metaphysics shows up post-critically, post-postmodernism...

Reply to Discussion

RSS

What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2019   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service