Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
The leading cause of death for males in the civilized world is (arguably) prostate cancer. Several medical recommendations exist to help to prevent this abominable scourge that is slaying my gender in droves. Prominent among these recommendations is broccoli (and similar vegetables) whose chemicals are uniquely nourishing and supportive to cells in this region of the body. And ejaculation. Men who ejaculate more frequently, it turns out, do not leave tiny clumps and semen-derived crystals in their system. These unused objects weaken us and leave us statistically more vulnerable to degenerative diseases in this region of the body.
This is only one of many pieces of modern data which directly opposes the old spiritual notion that we should "conserve" the release of our sexual fluids. The old notion is metaphysical.
The sense that spiritual improvement and health are likely to be related to conservation and purity seems to be based on a mixture of legitimate insights & cultural ignorance. Most metaphysical schemes have (something like) "conservation" at their heart.
Metaphysics usually believes in an initial condition of natural or divine perfection, or authenticity, which is corrupted by the world and squandered by our bodies. Our duty is to return to the source and protect our purity. As Nietzsche observed (I'm paraphrasing) "The quintessential metaphysical assumption is that qualities must originate in things that are like themselves -- never from their opposites."
He also said: We will never be free of God as long as we have faith in Grammar. One of the meanings of that sentence is that our sense that a subject must condition a predicate (that "doing" must be done by a doer).
WHAT IS "METAPHYSICS"?
These two notions -- that qualities depend upon their original condition & that prior intentional agents are required in order for activities to occur coherently -- are hallmarks of metaphysics. To them we might add that totalizing activities of the mind, which propose to fix the universe in a single interpretation that will never be out-of-date, are also dangerously metaphysical. But these are very high-level investigations! For most people metaphysics means something more basic, simpler. It means, perhaps, the acceptance of angels, ghosts, voodoo, crystal power and the mythological tales of ancient books. All these entities were used almost like science (physics) by our ancestors. The seem like metaphysics only in comparison to modern rationality. And modern rationality itself can be subjected to high-level abstract complaints about the lingering metaphysical assumptions in its grammar, cosmology, etc.
An integral definition must operate equally well at the "levels of the Spiral". Thus we cannot take up a fixed position in the usual sense. While we hope to make philosophy and spiritual practice into something which can live (and flourish) beyond the criticism of explicit and implicit metaphysics we have to explain how our position operates equally well in every cultural operating system. Here is a simple way to do that:
(INTEGRAL) METAPHYSICS:The array of entities which previous cultural operating systems did not feel it necessary to prove.
Each "level" of socio-cognitive system enfolds its predecessors. Thereby it observes that they believed too much, accepted too many unjustified things. It stands out to the new system, very obviously, that its necessary precedents included types of entities which inhibit the expansion of consciousness, empathy & understanding. Any integral notion of metaphysics must affirm the phase-like structure of organic relativity.
The Aboriginal Cultural Operating System treats as "metaphysics" whatever implied humanimal beliefs are not provable in the dreamtime-clan system.
The Barbarian (Village/Horde) COS includes Aboriginal "totem & taboo" in its definition of metaphysics. The shamans, chiefs & matriarchs who have discovered that emotional-muscular self-assertion can violate the hypnotic boundaries established by Lore & Elders must then experience that lore as unsubstantiated. The animal or half-animal spirits can be dominated by rebellious human gangs and subordinated to the to local man-god.
The Traditional COS includes Barbarian entities in its definition of metaphysics. The local humanoid gods are understood as unsubstantiend, misperceived -- ontologically exaggerated. They may be treated as demons, saints, etc. but their deityhood is unjustified before The Great Law.
The Modern COS includes mythic-orthodoxy in its definition of metaphysics. This is the popular notion of metaphysics. The Great Chain (One Legal Order) appears unsubstantiated, merely presumed.
The Pluralist COS includes implied modern assumptions in its definition of metaphysics. Many basic points of modern reasoning appear to preserve uninspected patterns which resemble orthodoxy. Singularity. First Cause. Cause & effect. Doers. The "right way". Realism. All these become dubious, yet to be confirmed.
The Integrative COS includes pluralistic presumptions in its definition of metaphysics. The alterity and apparent limiting influence assumed by ecologists, revisers, sensitives, tolerators, etc. is not necessary what it seems. Its nature is called into question. The implications of contextual shifts and multiple lenses are not as ontologically obvious as the pluralist feels them to be. Etc.
Thanks for being a good sport Edward! Best wishes to all in 2015:)
Re-reading the opening post, these questions arise for me:
1) Are we here unnecessarily emphasizing a negatively skewed definition of metaphysics (as ancestors' or predecessors' excessive beliefs [in unjustified things])?
2) Is it really necessary for integral thought to posit the presence and operation of its ideas across all past reality frames? Certainly we can retro-read many of our findings and discoveries into past (and 'outside') worlds, but this seems different from anachronistically talking about Aboriginal and Barbarian "definitions of metaphysics."
1. No. It is a necessary skewing! Virtually every instance of postmetaphysical critique presents us with somebody who is inquiring into the potentially unnecessary, unconscious or pre-given presumptions which they are inheriting from their already existing participation in culture. Whether in a very short range (one post to another) or a very long range (one episteme to another) the inherited presumptions implicit in discourse are being challenge as being "not as given as they seem".
2. It is necessary. Unless we forgo any analogy to a vertical dimension we require developmental incidents and phases in order to begin a post-relativistic analysis of diverse values and worldviews. How involved we want to make that it variable but, in principle, it is a necessary -- as well as symbolically central -- feature.
Our humility also requires it. How do we maintain a context which prevents us from being trapped in our current presumption about the post/metaphysical distinction? We have to consider it alongside (next to!) other roughly isomorphic moments in which a epoch, individual, community or type of being takes critical possession of the meta-physical elements of their inheritance.
The meaning of metaphysics must differ according to the meaning of Reality -- and these are the differences organized by phases of growth and/or becoming. Insofar as we affirm a trans-worldview, trans-phase definition of metaphysics we must be elucidating a common function which occurs in each of these movements operating from within their own local definition of what is REALLY REAL.
I am concerned about two things here: One, defining metaphysics essentially as excessive belief in unjustified things impugns metaphysics from the outset as a 'mistake' and something to be avoided wherever it is found. Yes, we must acknowledge that at later stages, much or at least part of what we take to be true will likely be challenged, scrapped, revised, etc. So, I'm with you in acknowledging the 'unfoldment' aspect (as Wilber would put it, re: his three heuristic principles for integral metatheory). But there are good positive definitions of metaphysics that I think we would be wise to preserve as well, as a valuable activity in the present: such as "metaphysics is inquiry into, and reflection on, the nature of being, reality, or 'what is'."
Two, applying our distinctions universally, as if they have always been in play, would seem to undermine emergence or genuine novelty. It would seem to render everything just a surface variation on the same. On the one hand, yes, I do see value in framing some aspects of development as the actualization or realization of an 'always already': but in the stage-specific realization of an always-already, it becomes also what it never-yet-was. Perhaps we can do this with metaphysics vs postmetaphysics, if we want to abstract them from their historical contexts, but to me it is jarringly anachronistic to talk about Barbarians offering definitions of either metaphysics or postmetaphysics.
Maybe I'm just being picky here, though. I have no problem acknowledging that Aboriginals and Barbarians had metaphysical beliefs, or that they likely called into question certain ancestral constructs and narratives. But personally I'd like a different word for this, not to water down the meaning of postmetaphysics simply to 'suspicion of past narratives,' and metaphysics to 'mistaken narratives.'
What do we need from a definition of metaphysics? It must be flexible enough to appear, in some form, as valid even when we are sympathetic to post-metaphysics. And it must also explain the pejorative instinct that commonly arises in toward "metaphysics" in the annals of modernists, postmodernists & integralites.
The 1st concern is addressed by conceiving that metaphysical presumptions are necessary even for postmetaphysical viewpoints -- although presumably in a more refined and limited form than in previous worldviews. The 2nd is satisfied by an unfoldment model in which every stage performs a revaluation of previously tolerable assertions that is analogous to the critique of metaphysics.
To a large or small degree, the model of growth suggests that currently presumed metaphysics (i.e. VALID at our worldspace) are being superceded by the objectification inherent in our cognitive analysis of them. Like the present moment they are always passing into the past, always associating themselves, a little or a lot, with a previously uninspected set of assumptions. Even when we observe their current validity -- although in a minimal degree.
In all this we are not impugning metaphysics as error (although it does and must explain why that is such a natural impression).
What it does is reveal the previously unsubstantiated nature of the presumptions. They may well turn out to be substantiated! A Jehovah-like space demon might still turn out to be a "real fact". Yet his status as the pre-time creator of everything, previously widely accepted, is now an untenable supposition.
The critique of metaphysics is always metaphysics empowering a refinement of itself. That refinement always proceeds out of a less refined and historically prior condition. Our observation of currently valid metaphysics cannot be separated from our observation of the non-necessary of some "other" metaphysics.
Even to say "I cannot prune this branch right now because I am standing on it -- and may always be standing upon it" occurring as a pragmatic situation within the activity of pruning.
Now, obviously, we could manipulate the terminology differently.
Bucky Fuller used metaphysics for any real phenomena that are not specific to particular physical entities. And it is also pretty clear that a massless science of energetics is emerging/necessary. But I would define the latter as "subtle" and the former as "abstract".
If abstraction is defined as metaphysics then we face the obstacle explaining the abstract identity of physical objects. If subtle forms are defined as metaphysics then we misunderstand the need to treat them scientifically and file them as philosophy -- which it become difficult to technologize them. Additionally neither of these popular options validate the critique of metaphysics (for which there is an analogy at every developmental level).
And, along these same lines, we have (thanks to Heidegger) the word Ontology to describe the inquiry into "what is" and the quasi-pejorative use of metaphysics to describe ontic suppositions. If we take physics in the broadest sense of scientific philosophy it means whatever can be energetically validated as an ontic phenomenon with consequences for other ontic phenomena.
The "jarring anachronism" of discussing Barbarian metaphysics and postmetaphysics is precisely an element that we should be embracing. To affirm a "whole spiral" or "developmental" model means reaching out from pluralism to include and integrate the pre-pluralist realities in order to form a trans-pluralist reality. That absolutely requires us to embrace the counterintuitive and uncanny presence of suppositions analogous to our own operating in prior epochs. This should not seem jarring but it does. It should not seem any more jarring than the fact that we suppose a "worldview" or 'beings" to operate equally at every phase.
By saying the have both a metaphysics and an embodied cognitive-contextual critique of metaphysical assumptions inmplict in Aboriginal reality is not merely to define postmetaphysics a suspicion of past narratives.
Postmetaphysics: The enacted (though not necessary articulated) capacity to objectify, and to intensify the validation parameters for, ontological assumptions implicit in one or more emergent worldviews and thereby refine by contrast the functional validity of the ontological assumptions in which we are currently embedded.
Nice - I like this, LP. Here's my feedback.
LP: What do we need from a definition of metaphysics? It must be flexible enough to appear, in some form, as valid even when we are sympathetic to post-metaphysics. And it must also explain the pejorative instinct that commonly arises in toward "metaphysics" in the annals of modernists, postmodernists & integralites.
Yep, I'm with you on this (with one caveat, below).
LP: The 1st concern is addressed by conceiving that metaphysical presumptions are necessary even for postmetaphysical viewpoints -- although presumably in a more refined and limited form than in previous worldviews. The 2nd is satisfied by an unfoldment model in which every stage performs a revaluation of previously tolerable assertions that is analogous to the critique of metaphysics.
The way you address the first concern (and I agree with how you address it) seems to contradict what you say further on in the letter. When you talk about the admission of metaphysical presumptions in a postmetaphysical context necessarily being more refined and limited than in previous worldviews, this seems to treat the postmetaphysical orientation as standing uniquely apart from previous worldviews and previous perspectives on metaphysics. This seems, to me, to be a different stance than the one that takes "post-metaphysics" as the critical moment within any worldview transition and consolidation (when it differentiates itself from prior worldviews and reality-assumptions).
Also, when you say above, “It must be flexible enough to appear, in some form, as valid even when we are sympathetic to post-metaphysics,” this seems to take post-metaphysics as an orientation involving certain perspectives and commitments of its own, with which we can be sympathetic, not just as a phase of a generic process. And I agree with this way of relating to post-metaphysics – as an orientation with a defining set of onto-epistemological commitments. Which is one reason I think we lose something (too much) if we try to turn it into a phase of a generic, transhistorical process.
LP: To a large or small degree, the model of growth suggests that currently presumed metaphysics (i.e. VALID at our worldspace) are being superceded by the objectification inherent in our cognitive analysis of them. Like the present moment they are always passing into the past, always associating themselves, a little or a lot, with a previously uninspected set of assumptions. Even when we observe their current validity -- although in a minimal degree.
As I commented previously, I agree that something like this is necessary when we accept something like Wilber's unfoldment principle. We must assume that our current metaphysical convictions will likely be challenged, are subject to change, etc -- at the least, as we come to recognize the 'unmarked space' we have created (and neglected) through the selection of our preferred distinctions.
LP: In all this we are not impugning metaphysics as error (although it does and must explain why that is such a natural impression). What it does is reveal the previously unsubstantiated nature of the presumptions. They may well turn out to be substantiated! A Jehovah-like space demon might still turn out to be a "real fact". Yet his status as the pre-time creator of everything, previously widely accepted, is now an untenable supposition.
If we define metaphysics primarily in light of a critique-of-metaphysics -- namely, as unsubstantiated beliefs in untenable things -- then I think it is natural to regard 'metaphysics' as a pejorative term. I think Wilber makes a mistake -- is too cautious, too apologetic -- when he emphasizes post-metaphysics as the primary orientation and then admits he has to sneak in a 'minimal metaphysics' through the backdoor. I think this needs to be cleaned up, so we can recognize metaphysics as valuable and necessary ... not just the 'unfortunate crutches' of limited worldviews on the way, presumably, towards greater and greater 'empirically validated' models with as little 'nasty metaphysicses' as possible.... In other words, I think the current philosophical zeitgeist no longer requires us to concede modern and postmodern allergies to metaphysics, even while recognizing some (targeted) validity to their critiques.
LP: The critique of metaphysics is always metaphysics empowering a refinement of itself. That refinement always proceeds out of a less refined and historically prior condition. Our observation of currently valid metaphysics cannot be separated from our observation of the non-necessary of some "other" metaphysics.
I think sometimes, in our cultural meandering, we may not always end up with a more refined metaphysics than those that existed in the past. Sometimes we may find we took an unfruitful or limited turn and come to recognize greater depth and sophistication in a prior view than we had, for whatever contingent reasons, been able to perceive.
But that aside, yes, I agree: I see the post-metaphysical critique of metaphysics as an example of metaphysics empowering a refinement of itself. Post-metaphysics does not leave metaphysics behind. How I relate to post-metaphysics, really, is as “post-MOSP” (to use your terminology): a critique of the metaphysics of (simple) presence and the myth of the given.
LP: [W]e have (thanks to Heidegger) the word Ontology to describe the inquiry into "what is" and the quasi-pejorative use of metaphysics to describe ontic suppositions. If we take physics in the broadest sense of scientific philosophy it means whatever can be energetically validated as an ontic phenomenon with consequences for other ontic phenomena.
Yeah, our discussion here may be mostly a debate about terminology. We can certainly hold these words in the way you are suggesting. But a quite well-accepted definition of metaphysics, in post-Heideggerian speculative realist, critical realist, metaxological, and OOO circles, among others, is as that general field of human inquiry which deals with ontological questions (though it may necessarily involve epistemological ones as well).
LP: The "jarring anachronism" of discussing Barbarian metaphysics and postmetaphysics is precisely an element that we should be embracing. To affirm a "whole spiral" or "developmental" model means reaching out from pluralism to include and integrate the pre-pluralist realities in order to form a trans-pluralist reality. That absolutely requires us to embrace the counterintuitive and uncanny presence of suppositions analogous to our own operating in prior epochs. This should not seem jarring but it does. It should not seem any more jarring than the fact that we suppose a "worldview" or 'beings" to operate equally at every phase.
I'm more comfortable seeing postmetaphysics as one historical expression of a universal process -- say, the process of disembedment from unconscious identifications, the objectification of organizing (subjective) architecture on the way to new levels of integration, etc, as we see described in Intersubjectivist/Object-Relational psychology, or Robert Kegan's work, or Theory U, among other instances -- than as a universal itself. So, yes, let's acknowledge movements analogous to the shift from metaphysics to postmetaphysics in prior eras -- let's name and explore homeomorphically equivalent movements across developmental and historical worldspaces -- but I think we stretch the word's meaning too much, and we also do violence to developmental unfolding, if we describe as 'postmetaphysics' a process which predates the historical and developmental emergence of metaphysical inquiry (e.g., the disciplined inquiry into first principles). To do so would lead us, I think, into a pre-trans fallacy.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the jarring anachronism, for me, isn’t in acknowledging largely implicit and unconscious metaphysical beliefs in Aboriginal or Barbarian cultures, but in talking about an “Aboriginal definition of metaphysics (or post-metaphysics).” That’s not necessary to posit, any more than it is to posit an “Aboriginal definition of science.” We can say, from our vantage now, that we recognize elements of their worldviews which we would define as metaphysical, or even practices which we might describe as a kind of primitive proto-science, but neither ‘metaphysics’ nor ‘science’ were objects in their own worldspaces (so they weren’t offering definitions of these things or drawing these distinctions). Assuming their given ex-istence for Barbarians or Aboriginals is the kind of metaphysical move Wilber critiques (and seeks to remedy with his kosmic addressing scheme).
I'm budding in out of queue again Ambo. It seems to me perfectly acceptable to label the deconsctructive strains of continental philosophy as post metaphysical . I don't see an issue there; however, I think the question to be asked, then, is are those strains of thought the final say on the nature of reality? Wilber, apparently, does not think so. The loving eros of the cosmos is certainly almost complete metaphysical speculation, as is positing an over-arching non-dual pure awareness ass-holon. So, maybe we get to pick, choose, privilege , certain traditional ideas at the integral stage? The point I've tried to make in 2014 ( no matter how poorly) is that it seems strange and somewhat sad/tragic to me that integral stages of development abandons all forms of faith completely. This to me is error and possibly even hubris.
Rereading my post above this morning, I wanted to add that I do really like your offered definition of postmetaphysics, Layman. My preference at the moment, though, is to keep the definition but find another word for it (like metaphysical [or ontological] suspension or metaphysical relevation [to use terms from Bohm's dialogue or rheomode, respectively].)
To distill some of what I said above (since I was basically thinking aloud as I went), I appreciate and agree with the impulse to identify past analogues for the present shift from metaphysical to post-metaphysical orientations. As we have discussed here quite a bit, post-metaphysics is not the best word for what we are up to in integral philosophy, in my opinion, though it can serve as a good-enough shorthand for one important aspect of it. Because post-metaphysics doesn't leave metaphysics behind, though perhaps in its early phases it imagined it did, the 'post-' is a bit misleading. The way I have come to reconcile continued usage of this term is, as I said, to gloss it specifically as post-metaphysics-of-presence (and related metaphysical themes, such as the myth of the given, the view from nowhere, etc), and as affirming instead an alternative metaphysics (of withdrawal, metaxology, adjacency) and a generative partnership with various empirical methodologies.
If we follow your suggestion to posit a metaphysics and post-metaphysics at every cultural stage of development, we can then consider the 'post-' to refer to the objectification and repudiation or refinement of different prior metaphysical commitments, each time without abandoning metaphysics altogether -- which of course is what you are saying, and which, I admit, is a similar move to the one I describe above for my current orientation to this term. I can't object to it for its general structure, since it is basically the same one I am using.
I think my main concerns are these:
1) Extending it to every worldview stage seems to compound the problems with the word (it is only selectively 'post', and so remains a bit misleading, since it suggests a movement beyond metaphysics altogether, when that is apparently never the case);
2) Post-metaphysics, as it is currently understood and used, is intimately related to certain stage-developments in thinking and perception, and so applying it universally dissociates it from these developments and denudes it of its cultural force. Instead, it becomes something like a generic, contentless 'critical turn' -- an act of ontic suspension and relevation -- that is not really something you can identify with... It would be like saying, I'm sympathetic to and I identify with differentiation or objectification.
So, my basic suggestion is to let post-metaphysics remain the imperfectly-named philosophical movement that it is, without compounding the confusion associated with the term by applying it universally, and let's find instead a better naming convention. One might be to find appropriate process terms to track the phases of ontic embedment and objectification, or to be more specific whenever we name an historical phase ('post-X metaphysics,' e.g., 'post-MOSP metaphysics' or 'post-magical metaphysics' [such as 'sympathetic' and 'contagious' magic].)
Happy New Year to you, too, Ambo! And, yes, I think you're on target with your interpretation of my comments. I do recognize, from my modern vantage-point, science-like and metaphysics-like activities in our ancestors: I can retro-read these concepts back into their cultural frames. My point is not that they did not engage in activities that can legitimately be seen as proto-forms of what we call (broad) science or (broad) metaphysics; my point is that it is inappropriately anachronistic to talk about their definitions of science or metaphysics. Neither 'science' nor 'metaphysics' were objects in their conceptual/perceptual worldspaces, so they didn't have definitions of these things.
"Postmetaphysics" is a perfectly good provisional name that evokes a particular theory-friendly dimension of the integralite shift. No reason not to keep using it. Yet within the fumble space of that word we will continue to run into predictable conversations from several angles about the status, utility and validity of metaphysics. In order to address these internal challenges there must be a differentiation between:
(a) tautological ontology (b) general dynamic abstraction (c) subtle forms (d) the phase-related revelation of a refinement/suspension of inherited unverified ontic supposition.
I have put forward a few reasons why I think metaphysics applies most strongly and consistently to the latter. Of particular relevance is the ongoing strength of those who use "metaphysics" as nearly synonymous with Amber mythology and disproven forms of historical physics.
I would argue that it is not the "post-" which is misleading but rather the pre-developmentalist treatment of post- as a kind of contemporary status. Preconventional, conventional & postconventional are operative at every junction and even very sophisticated communities tend to behave more primitively than necessary when they lose focus on their resemblance to prior phases. It is this resemblance which allows us to isolate what is different in the current phase. Not keeping prior phases in the foreground of our definitions... is what characterizes all prior phases.
It is precisely the failure to extend the prefix post- to every worldview that suggests a binary movement beyond metaphysics altogether. Both the naive modernist and postmodernist intellectuals typically behave in this manner... sealing themselves off in their superficially unique vantage point.
In order to secure the present and future utility of the insights appearing as "postmetaphysical" the word must cease to be vulnerable from developmentalist and relativist attacks. Its cultural force depends upon it being the extension and refinement of a general mechanism which it now has a uniquely lucid capacity to recognize. The indeterminate "novelty" and/or "clarification" of more advanced phases means that we cannot precisely take a stand on perennial or emergent truths. Or, rather, we must define novel emergence in a manner that allows to appear virtually identical to a refinement of the creative action of reality at all phases. We have little choice in this regard since "new truths" are retroactively applied to our perception of history as soon as they emerge.
Postmetaphysics is the "new" metaphysics which improve the situation at every stage... but which does not appear in consciousness until one can take a retrospective view of the transition between these stages and their potential structural compatibility.
Well, that's a good explanation, and I'll support your use of 'postmetaphysics' in this way. I have given my reasons why I don't think it's the best term -- I don't find discussion of "pre-modern postmetaphysics" clarifying or compelling, although I do agree with you about the importance of noting and tracking resemblances and resonances between our current phase and prior ones -- but even if I don't adopt this terminology, at the least I'll be able to track you better in your own use of these distinctions.