Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I want to re-open some previous discussions we've had with and about Greg in the previous forum, as well as this one. Here are the links to the prior Gaia threads on Derrida and synergist spirituality. In this post from the OOO thread I introduced his new book, Radical Atheism and New Spirituality. Therein I linked to an Integral World article that highlights a few excerpts of the book. I will include the referenced passage from that post below in some more lengthy excerpts:
"The nature of being may be such that it can only reveal itself partially...there are alternative economies of order, economies that see partiality and limited perspective as a consequence of the nature of being itself.
"Derrida...calls such an alternative economy of order a general economy. A general economy features the necessity of interrelation and dissemination of information or meaning as exceeding all measures of control and recuperation. It forms a law of irrecuperable loss.... Arkady Plotnitsky explores Derrida's use of general economy in great detail alongside parallel developments in theoretical physics.
"A restricted economy imposes a structuring principle that establishes a strong polarity of opposites and clear lines of choice. The structural tension between opposites such as true and false or fact and interpretation operates with a clarity that facilitates either/or alternatives and simplified decision-making. In a general economy, however, every oppositional structure submits to a reversal and a displacement. This displacement involves an extraordinary reconfiguration of the structure or dynamic play between opposites.
"General economy displaces discrete and essential difference between opposites with a new structure that sees the opposition as presenting a tension between elements both different yet connected, both penetrated to the core each by the other yet irreducible one to the other. Plotnitsky calls this structure complementary—after Niels Bohr and the quantum theory of wave/particle duality.
"Applying the principle of complementarity to any oppositional pair yields a structure in which the two sides of the opposition penetrate each other in every instance such that there is no pure instance of either. As will be discussed in the next section, this complementary structure of oppositional relations has profound consequences for the concept of transcendence.
"In a general economy there is no crossing over from one pure instance to another pure instance since no clear boundary separates one instance from the other. This circumstance of structure supports the notion of a universal law of contamination. This universal contamination cannot be explained in simple degrees of mixture, gradation, or shades of difference. Instead, this law of contamination presents the circumstance of superposition—superposition of continuity (irreducible dependence) and discontinuity (irreducible separation).
"The possibility for unique and irretrievable loss inherent in a general economy is theorized at the philosophical level by Derrida in his notion of the trace—a term he uses to describe the nature and quality of being. The trace is an absenting presencing, disappearing as it appears.
"From the language Wilber uses in characterizing his view of Spirit and his view of enlightenment it becomes clear that his spirituality remains within what Derrida calls a restricted economy. There are two primary indicators for assessing Wilber's approach to spirituality as consistent with a restricted economy: 1) the implicit assumptions about the deep structure of basic oppositions such as Emptiness and Form, timeless and temporal and 2) the dominant role of notions such as unity and union.
"Wilber speaks of the overcoming of this dualism in the union of Emptiness and Form and time and timelessness as if each side in the pair were in some sense separate, as if the Emptiness and Form aspects of Spirit could be approached separately in paths that then lead to partial enlightenment. The mere notion of the possibility of partial enlightenment in the sense Wilber suggests is symptomatic of an organization or structuring of oppositional relation in a manner consistent with a restricted economy."
In the “essence and identity” thread I introduced Gregory Desilet's essay “Physics and Language.” From that essay he said:
"As both the one and the many, the continuum does not require, and in fact precludes, a thorough merging of opposites. Where there is a tendency to see unity as fundamental the continuum asserts that difference is equiprimordial with unity. Oddly enough...[this is] consistent with descriptions Derrida gives for the term differance" (349).
In this post quoting the same article he says:
“Contexts are not absolute, [they] are in motion and continually changing within an infinite, changing net…. The reality that emerges though particular contexts is not objective reality in any traditional sense of the word. Reality as a superposition does not conform to the idea of objectness or thingness. This way of thinking places it in a conceptual category for which adequate metaphors are difficult to find—thereby necessitating terms such as ‘continuum’ or ‘differance,’ ‘superposition’ etc.
“Yet the contextualization that limits interpretation does not function with the closure of totalization; its boundary remains open. This lack of closure entrails, paradoxically, that reality both is and is not what it is interpreted to be. It is, at one level, what is interpreted to be but also always exceeds, at another level, what it is interpreted to be. This ‘exceeding’ means that at every point of capture reality escapes calculation and thereby admits construction” (352).
Also recall the following, originally posted in the “what 'is' the differance?” thread:
Let's now look at his article "Misunderstanding Derrida and Postmodernism." He says:
"But by embracing any form of absolute transcendence in his philosophical outlook, Wilber necessarily retains traditional metaphysical distinctions between emptiness and form, the real and the manifest, and Being and time."
Desilet gives Wilber credit for his exposition in IS (Appendix II) on the relative side of the coin and agrees with much of it. But W still maintains an absolute in clear distinction with the relative and his nonduality is a higher synthesis and reconciliation between the two. Whereas for Desilet (and Derrida):
"Time (as difference or change) and Being (as sameness or permanence) interpenetrate each other all the way through and at every point....At certain places in his discussion Wilber seems to grasp the postmodern approach to oppositional tensions as interpenetrations simultaneously essentially different and essentially related."
And in other places W maintains the divide with his absolute Spirit apprehended via nirodha meditation as the other side of the equation. W's version of the myth of the given only applies to the relative side.
Desilet then goes into this "witness" business, which relates to the other thread on Shinzin Young. It is distinguished form the ego in that the latter is again only relative whereas the witness is pure, absolute consciousness. Particularly relevant to this discussion is that Derrida's "undeconstructable" (like khora) should not be confused with the likes of this transcendental absolute:
"Every instance of consciousness...is necessarily already divided. Consciousness and Being are split by difference all the way to the core.... The 'other' functions as an 'absolute' for Derrida only in the sense of presenting an absolute 'opening' as the 'yet to come' (what Wilber might regard as the 'unmanifest'). The 'yet to come,' as that which can potentially come into awareness and experience, cannot be absolutely alien to the self yet neither can it be absolutely known or comprehended at any moment in time. As such, the 'yet to come' retains a quality of essential difference from and essential relation to 'what is.'”
And Desilet's concluding remarks make a point I've made several times before, that retaining the absolute (as metaphysically defined) maintains notions of superiority and hegemony, something we've certainly witnessed in the kennilinguist integral community.
"Traditional metaphysics and its construction of notions of absolute transcendence that easily slide, however unintentionally, toward authorization of modes of certainty that do little more than contribute to predispositions of non-negotiation and systems of exclusionary discrimination."
Granted Wilber does move away from traditional metaphysics, per both my and Desilet's comments above, at least on the relative side of the street. But he still retains it for his absolute.
P.S. I forgot to add that I know Bryant says much of this in the essay Time of the Object, which is essentially a repetition of Derrida and Hagglund. So I don't see any sign of OOO in that essay, despite Bryant being associated with that in the past and having coined the term. And although Bryant mentions Harman in this essay as seemingly consistent with its (the essay's) views, I see little evidence in Harman of Derrida, but my reading on Harman is not extensive.
There is an alternative logic of time offered by Einstein's general relativity. In this view time is an illusion and succession is an illusion. All past, present, and future are simultaneous as if time were simply another dimension of space. This view of time, however, plays havoc with our experience and suggests a kind of determinism that is spiritually unsettling (everything that will happen has already happened). Nevertheless, it is a logic worth exploring further on its own merits in addition to the challenges it poses for the Derrida/Hagglund view of time.
Whether Bryant is or is not OOO by any definition is moot for me. As you note, everything you said in the previous post is in his essay on time and objects. My involvement with nominal OOO is mostly through Bryant and less through Morton. I know little of Harman or the rest.
Except for perhaps DeLanda, who seems more in the general speculative realist camp, of which OOO is a sub-species. I referenced him extensively in the "complexity and postmodernism" thread, particularly his book Intensive Science and Virtual Philosphy (starting here and following). He discusses something like you reference about the simultaneity of space/time, with which Bryant disagrees, as does Prigogine and others. Otherwise though there is a lot of consonance with Bryant and the SR/OOO crowd generally. DeLanda and this book are significant sources in The Democracy of Objects.
In our desire to embrace an open-ended reality we must risk many explorations but, ultimately, we cannot accept any model which is self-cancelling... for this is the criteria which determines whether something can or cannot be one of our models.
We cannot sustain the view that Time is illusion. Not any kind of cognitive model can operate with a beginning, end, absence or suspension of "becoming" (time). However that does not preclude the experience of Eternity (a necessary experience if one were to be identified with Time Itself... for not "other" Time would stand out as an object). Nor does it discount frames and scales of Time in which the typical human clock is at a virtual standstill. However both the notion of "no changes" and the notion of "a space beyond space in which past & future co-exist" are unthinkable. So we must seek models that explain the phenomenology of these experiences without violate our thinkability parameters.
I take your (Ed's) point about whether Bryant is OOO or not in his views as being moot, and I share that view. Throwing in an additional thought concerning my own orientation, I guess I don't much like philosophical positions to which the phrase "object oriented" could be applied. It seems like a philosophical dead end, or, better yet, a U-turn in the direction of Kantian terminology and too easily gives rise to versions of neo-Kantian metaphysics. I favor getting rid of the terminology of subject and object altogether. This is why I think "trace" is a useful concept for replacing object terminology. Thereby it also becomes easier to theorize both subjects (consciousness) and objects (substance) as manifestations of the trace and to escape somewhat the constraints of the subject/object dualism. I understand that OOO does this also to some extent by viewing everything, even subjects, as objects, but the term "object" still connotes too much in the direction of "thingness" IMO whereas the term "trace" does not.
Nevertheless, it seems the SR/OOO and deconstruction all lean in the direction of a neo-materialism in which the contingencies of space/time figure prominently (massively?). And here I also agree with Layman that the logic of time as illusion throws thinkability into such realms of chaos that the (wo)man on the street cannot wrap his/her mind around it. So, at least at this stage of human cognitive development, that logic of time seems ill-suited as background for creating a meaningful and relevant spirituality.
Getting back to Andrew's question about "how should we live?" personally I like very much the idea of developing a spirituality that embraces the plexus of space/time/motion that constitutes the phenomenological world of our daily lived experience. I like the idea of taking life straight up, so to speak--maybe with a couple of rocks to chill it out somewhat but no mixers, sweeteners, tonics, or chasers. Take life straight, meet it on its terms and not on the terms of some "other world" or parallel world against which it is compared and found wanting. In this respect, I side with Leibniz and against Voltaire and say, yes, this temporal/spatial maddening, exciting, tragic, intoxicating, whirling, heavenly horroshow of a world we live in may just be the "best of all possible worlds." What we need to do, perhaps for the first time in the history of the human race, is to refuse imposing a spirituality on this world that does not fit it and instead fashion a spirituality that loves and embraces it as precisely the world necessary for the possibility of any life whatever. I believe these metaphysical positions of SR/OOO and deconstruction are confronting this task, although, as you may have guessed, I give the edge to deconstruction in this regard.
Having said all this raises the question: what kind of spirituality do these metaphysical options give rise to? What kind of community do they promote and what kind of ethical contours do they suggest? More on this later.
Balder and I also had reservations about the term object as a focus in OOO, because as you say there is so much historical, metaphysical baggage attached to it. Perhaps that is why Bryant's term is now machine, but again, that too has historical and dehumanizing connotations. Hence I, like the Derridude, tend toward neologism for this reason. So I've coined the term suobject to bridge the subject/object split. The word deconstruction also has negative connotations, as the kennilinguists have made much hay, accusing it of only being destructive with nothing positive to offer. Hence I call this sort of metaphysics de/reconstruction (de/re for short).
As to your last questions, that's what we at IPS are about. (Pronounced aboot if you're from Canada.)
I'm of French Canadian ancestry, so aboot it is. Here's a take of the moment aboot how we should live. Concerning its take on the nature and limits of language, the de/re metaphysical position gives rise to a communication ethics which I suggest consists of a set of protocols of the following sort, which, by the way, have relevance to the communication (or lack thereof) in the responses to critics by Wilber and Perez.
1) language-using assumes the form of description but every description should to be regarded as interpretive and therefore also necessarily, even when unintentionally so, strategic. (lesson: be aware of what values words may promote even exceeding what intentions may be).
2) language-using assumes the form of hierarchy by necessarily placing, asserting, imposing one set of distinctions over another but particular distinctions should never be assumed to be necessary or natural. (lesson: nothing is self-evident and everything is open to correction; the myth of the given).
3) language-using assumes the form of communication but communication should never be assumed to have taken place. (lesson: humility in communication; never be certain you have been adequately understood and never be certain you have adequately understood someone else; this prevents dismissive judgments).
4) communication assumes the form of the agent (in intentionality) but subjects should never be strictly identified as agents (which is not to say that in all cases actors should escape being socially treated as agents). (lesson: as a community we often must hold each other responsible for actions but this necessity need not require understanding ourselves as full-blown agents freely choosing who we are and how we behave).
5) community, as the consequence of communication, assumes the form of various types of consensus but consensus should always be taken as mere appearance. (lesson: that people behave as a group need not be taken to mean they do so for the same reasons; the appearance of commonality may not mean commonality and it remains with each person to judge and evaluate these appearances in each case).
Overall upshot: we can't help but make assumptions but should do so provisionally and sparingly and with a strong inclination to adjust them in the face of evidence but also sometimes just for the sake of experimenting. Assumptions are our necessary companions but sometimes they turn out to be our worst enemy.
All of these protocols probably come as no great surprise to this group, but sometimes stating things for the record can be useful. I should take on Andrew's topic of capitalist neoliberalism, but I'm still mulling over some of the issues.
"I should take on Andrew's topic of capitalist neoliberalism, but I'm still mulling over some of the issues."
If interested, we've discussed this topic in numerous threads, most recently in "integral anti-capitalism," parts one and two.
Note: the embedded linking doesn't work at work.
okay, thanks. I'll take a look at these threads and see if I have anything different to say.
Hey Gregory, neoliberalism works hand in hand with neoconservatism.
The return of the kings! In Muhammed Ali language: the proverbial one/two punch. Or, the neocons are shock and the rhetorical verbiage of the neoliberal's is awe.
Wake up and smell the doom Ed! lol
I read through a good part of the threads on capitalism. A very informed and interesting discussion! But I'd like to add a brief take from a highly pragmatic perspective. Rather than trying to imagine an economy along integral principles and what that would look like, I wonder how our current American economy, such as it is, can be manipulated in a more integrally compatible direction--that is to say, a direction that would yield greater fairness and opportunity to all. In that spirit, I don't believe the discussion of capitalism vs. socialism is any more productive than the discussion of subject vs. object in philosophy. We need to get away from this terminology as much as possible.
In that regard, I would think this: forget capitalism and socialism--there is only the market and the exchange of goods and services. And there is no such thing as a "free market"--only markets regulated in one way or another. The secret to keeping markets fair and full of opportunity is to keep them well regulated. Currently in the U.S., markets are not well regulated. Regulation is dominated by an elite group that controls too much wealth. Since in the U.S., market regulation is by default in the hands of government and government is now controlled by elite money, regulation favors the elite at the expense of the majority. In a democracy this makes no sense. But, of course, we do not have a democracy worthy of the name in the U.S.
The way to fix this is to get money out of politics. But this can't happen as long as we leave this to politicians--who do not now represent the majority but instead represent the elite. Significant campaign finance reform has consistently failed for this reason. But there is a way around this impasse: place campaign finance reform on state initiative ballots. The initiative process has been a proven method for bypassing legislative gridlock on issues that would benefit the majority. By way of a state by state initiative process, campaign finance reform could eventually sweep across the country and thereby make it possible to sweep out politicians who dance to the tune of the wealthy. This process could eventually change the representation of interests at the national level and thereby make possible the institution of market regulations benefiting the majority rather than the wealthy.
Part of this process could also include government taking greater control of all infrastructure--since infrastructure is a key to well functioning markets. Just as roads are largely government maintained and regulated for the benefit of all, so also should all communication infrastructure be government maintained and regulated. No one should be allowed to make a profit from providing or maintaining infrastructure. Infrastructure would be defined as anything providing a pathway for a significantly large community of people (and communities would vote to determine whether some means of access constitutes infrastructure or not). Search engines (google), knowledge bases (wikipedia), and social networks (facebook) would need to submit to a collective vote to decide if they are to be designated as infrastructure. If the vote is "Yes", these companies would be taken out of private control and placed in public control and all expenses and profits from operating these companies would be owned by the community (education would be a good place to deposit the profits). Similarly, all utilities, cable, and internet providers would become publicly owned and operated (a direction several U.S. cities are already moving).
All these kinds of changes could become possible if money were not the primary source of control in politics. And a very real path to this possibility exists through the initiative process within each state. Granted, not all states currently have a direct initiative process but those who do could lead the way and this would place great pressure on other states to eventually conform. Oligarchs move out of the way. Integral economy, here we come.
The GOP has been very busy at the state level for the past six years; that effort will most likely put the kings back in the White-house. Perhaps, though, the progressive Dem's can use some of the same tactics as per your pragmatism ( what else do they have to do for the next 8 years ?).
I've been saying for some time that neoliberalism suffers from very poor boundary issues. If they could have just kept their greedy little hands off education, health care, infrastructure; then, to me, neoliberalism wouldn't have been so destructive. Also, the neoconservatives have to take the brown paper bag off their heads when it comes to environment.