Beyond Ontology & Epistemology (and The Logic of Biospiritual Energies)

Just gave birth to twins!

New articles on my "The Midriffs" websites. The first will be obviously pertinent to this forum.

DOES ANYBODY HEAR? Beyond Ontology & Epistemology

It enters and tries to overcome the basic divergences in attitude which are possibly concerning the relationship between Being & Knowing. Especially those which surface in IT vs. CR debates. I mobilize MOA-3 (and illuminate some its pragmatic tactics) to give preference to the comparative differential between alternate modes of holding the epistemology-ontology couple. These alternatives are taken a complementary specifications concerning the nature of the differential "splice".

Also covered are:

-the difference between philosophical and mystical approaches to gross, subtle, causal and nondual domains

-retroactive attribution of subsistence to newly perceived existents

-similarities between Wilber & Badiou

-minimum vs. sufficient conceptualizations of pre-cognized or a-cognized existential entities.

The other, shorter article may also be of some interest:


It is a postmetaphysical analysis of the three basic subtle energy systems in the human individual (associated with mental, emotional and bodily intelligence) and the four combinations/blends/hybrids which can be generated out of these. Peak experiences and developmental breakthroughs are treated as "productions of new blended energy". 

The terms "chi", "virtue", "animal magnetism" and "beingness" are deployed to connect popular sentiment to these four diverse hybridizations of the three energy systems.

Now to convalesce...

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Nice work, Dad!  After you've gotten some rest, pull up a chair outside the nursery and we can chat.

I appreciated your first article both as a creative work in itself and as a clear attempt at clarification, following some of our recent discussions.  (I haven't read the second paper yet).

In your diagram at the opening of "Does Anybody Hear?", do you intend for there to be two MOA-2s listed in the left-hand circle, or did you mean to label the bottom MOA perspectives (critical realism, pluralism) with a 1?  I'm hoping you really did intend for it to also be a 2, since critical realism / meta-Reality is not (just) a postmodernist / pluralist orientation and definitely has strong MOA-2 (integrative) leanings as well, but it seems like you probably did not intend that (since your complementary right-hand circle depicts both MOAs).

As you know, I've been quite interested myself in some of these same questions recently, and had hoped (egotistically) to come across some reference to my own ontological  typology and model-building (as in Sophia Speaks).  The first part of your paper explores territory, in fact, that is very close to my original plans for my recent Wilber-Bhaskar paper (though you couldn't know that):  the relation of Bhaskar's stratified ontology to the gross, subtle, causal, and nondual distinctions of Integral Theory (and its perennial philosophical predecessors).  In the end, I followed a somewhat different thread in the Bhaskar-Wilber paper (which I haven't shared here because it is pre-publication), and now I may not need to return to that project because you've done such a nice job here.  Except perhaps to trace some points of contact between your four (IT-near) ontologies and Bhaskar's model.

Following Bhaskar (and your own inclination to hold all four ontologies together), we could describe your model as a 'stratified ontology' as well.  Bhaskar's stratified ontology includes nonduality (as identity-in-difference, the non/differential that capacitates all that follows), and then three decreasingly inclusive 'levels':

1) The Real, which encompasses generative, if usually hidden, mechanisms, laws, etc; events, whether observed or not; and experiences

2) The Actual, which encompasses events, observed or not, and experiences (causal generative mechanisms are pre-actual and pre-enacted)

3) The Empirical, which encompasses experiences, empirical phenomena, "detections," qualities, etc.

The actual domain of events can and does exceed the empirical ("known," "detected"), as generative mechanisms are also frequently "withdrawn" from (and in excess of) the actual.

Bhaskar sometimes uses "the Real" just to refer to generative mechanisms (akin, I think, to your recognition of the attractive temptation to declare syntactical ontology fundamental), and in this sense it is close to "causal" ontology (though, again, Bhaskar ultimately uses "the Real" to encompass the whole stratified ontological realm).

Events, in Bhaskar's model, are both real and actual (meaning, active manifestations in the world, whether observed or not), and are found in multiple spheres -- physical, social, psychic, etc.  In this sense, they appear to overlap both gross and subtle ontologies -- as concrete or subtle happenings or interactions or formations, with beings expressing and "impacting" one another through force, allure, etc.

Bhaskar's empirical domain, consisting only of the ontological stratum of 'experiences,' is of course the domain of detection -- of detected detectables.

I've noticed the babies have started crying, so I'll stop here.

Heya Baldz,

Diagram now corrected --  thanks. You'll definitely get a shout-out in my next comparably-themed text. Perhaps it was not quite right to put CR alongside pluralism under MOA-1... although hopefully it is abundantly clear that MOA-1 is not designating "pluralism, per se" or "critical realism, per se". Those terms are meant to be a compressed invocation of theories commonly associated in discussion with an ontological alterity position that offers an alternative (and an alternativeness) to Integralism. But, obviously, there can be an MOA-1 holding of Integral Theory and an MOA-2 holding of Critical Realism, etc. MOAs do not designate particular schools of philosophies. 


Do you think that's clear? I do find I usually get some initial flak from people trying to protect the deeper aspects of things like CR from anything that resembles minimization to "mere pluralism". There is perhaps something a little unnecessary and reactive in that response pattern... but at the same time perhaps a tweaked phraseology could streamline things a tad.

Now -- is "stratified ontology" appropriate?

I don't mind the phrase. What concerns me is the notion of "decreasingly inclusive". If all four ontological domains are necessary, in some form, perpetually, for any Reality -- then notions of spatial, quantitative or complexity-based "inclusiveness" would not exactly apply.

From my view, the nondual does not capacitate the others any more than they capacitate each other. Its peculiar all-encompassing appearance seems to depend upon its appearance as the blending element between the others. To think nonduality as "blend" is to determine it as existentially complementary with whatever gets blended rather than as senior. The unfolding track laid down by human integration of levels naturally moves f

The Layers of Bhaskar that you present seem to work best in depicting gradations along the epistemology-to-ontology axis which, I claim, applies to all four domains of ontology.

Gross, Subtle, Causal and Nondual can be:

1. Not approached (in-different)

2. Approached as minimized, dynamic-differential, operational syntax (real)

3. Approached as inaccessible processes (actual)

4. Approached as detected detectables (empirical)

Orthogonal to both sets of factors is issue of what I called "sufficient ontology" (incl. at least the quadrants & the will-to-power). So, for example:

  • a community of entities can empirically observe gross, subtle, causal or nondual experience.
  • Another community of entities is effecting and being effected by unobserved events.
  • Yet another community consists of laws themselves detecting each other -- and these laws describe the structure of all four domains.
  • And finally, an indistinct communal multiplicity blurs the boundaries and blends the beings in particular ways for each domain.

So we need an X,Y,Z axis.

But I'm sick of cubes! Bucky Fuller would recommend a Tetrahedron...

If you look at CR by itself, prior to the emergence of Dialectical Critical Realism and then meta-Realism, then yes, it could be slotted into MOA-1 since its emphasis is on alterity or non-identity.  But CR is also used as a blanket term for the current state of Bhaskar's project, which includes DCR and mR, the latter of which especially heavily focuses on nonduality and integration, and in that case it is decidedly not an MOA-1 approach.  I do think there is good reason to protect deeper aspects of things like CR from arguments which appear to minimize it, at least in Integral circles and relative to IT, since more often than not those criticisms are 1) uninformed about the actual claims of CR/mR, and 2) situated within a fairly long history of Integral practitioners protecting IT from critical evaluation by assigning critics to lower stages of development.  In some cases, those assessments are accurate, but not always.

Anyway, overall, yes, I think your use of MOAs as styles of thinking (which can each be applied to particular philosophies) is clear.

About the concept of increasing (or decreasing) inclusiveness of terms: I don't think the connotations you're concerned about are implied.  Basically, what is meant is this:  the "Real" is the most inclusive term, encompassing all of being or reality at any level or form or mode, including actual and empirical realities; the "Actual" is the next most inclusive term, since what is actually manifest at any given time does not exhaust the potential of reality for actualization or manifestation (there is an "excess" to the Actual); and the "Empirical" is the least inclusive term, because it basically only names what is detected, sensed, known, at any given time (which is exceeded both by what is actualized at any given time, and by withdrawn causal/generative mechanisms, laws, syntactical elements, etc). Experience is an important element in all domains:  experience is at once Real, Actual, and Empirical.

The word "capacitate" was my own, and probably it isn't the best one.  What I was meaning to convey is Bhaskar's idea that nonduality is a necessary presupposition even for ontologies which focus on alterity, since things have to be the "same enough" to really "differ."  He also argues, like Wilber in SES, that knowing must involve an immediacy of contact as much as it involves a gap, and this slippery in/differential is for him one manifestation of "everyday nonduality."


One of the main things an MOA-3 argument needs to do is to transition people's comments and complaints from the apparent content (i.e. whatever they think about Theory A, B or C...) to the styles of holding theories. I think the "instinct to defend" must be established with progressive clarity relative to shifting versions of the same apparent theories within AND between individuals. 

We need a relatively quick language that reminds people

(1) alterity/integration are complementary function of the same basic insight

(2) they are relative to anyone's holding of any model no matter what its ostensible content

(3) the full intensity being honored by each must be incorporated by the other.


I really like the word "capacitate". It has a lot of potential (sic).


My concerns about inclusion were related to my "axial" distinguishing:

IF "Real, Actual, Empirical" are used as synonymous or parallel to "causal, subtle, gross etc" then the inclusiveness is not entirely justified insofar as all those domains are necessary for each other's being.

BUT if "Real, Actual, Empirical" is laid orthogonal -- as a graduation of intensities between the detectable and detected, moving from trans-ontological (real enough to be ontological or epistemological) to nominally ontological to an encountered epistemological reality -- for each then it is not problematic. 

In the original Bhaskar-Wilber paper topic I was exploring, I had thought that I might be able to relate Bhaskar's domains to gross, subtle, causal, etc, but I found quickly that that wouldn't work and began to think of an intersecting -- orthogonal -- relationship among them as well.  The only one at which there is any apparent homeomorphic equivalence or coincidence is possibly the relationship of the causal (esp. your framing of it) to the Real (in the limited sense, at the level of generative mechanisms, laws, etc).  As I've reflected this, I've found it difficult to establish a neat orthogonal relationship between Wilber's and Bhaskar's domains, but it seems an integration of their perspectives would involve something like that -- maybe with some modifications of one or the other (which I haven't worked out yet) -- rather than a one-to-one identification, which just won't work.  More on this later.  And there are other parts of your essay that I also want to discuss, when I have the time.

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