Lakoff & Johnson, in Philosophy of the Flesh (Basic Books, 1999), make some bold statements that challenge many of our preconceived assumptions about not only spirituality but the very nature of consciousness itself. Often for us integralists the latter is intimately tied to the former, as if through consciousness or awareness practice we attune into the nature of existence. Here is their challenge:
“The very existence of the cognitive unconscious…has important implications for the practice of philosophy. It means that we can have no direct conscious awareness of most of what goes on in our minds. The idea that pure philosophical reflection can plumb the depths of human understanding is an illusion. Traditional methods of philosophical analysis alone, even phenomenological introspection, cannot come close to allowing us to know our own minds.
“There is much to be said for traditional philosophical reflection and phenomenological analysis. They can makes us aware of many aspects of consciousness and, to a limited extent, can enlarge our capacities for conscious awareness. Phenomenological reflection even allows us to examine many of the background prereflective structures that lie beneath our conscious experience. But neither method can adequately explore the cognitive unconscious—the realm of thought that is completely and irrevocably inaccessible to direct conscious introspection” (12).
The cognitive unconscious operates via embodiment, and as such through differentiation and categorization. They continue:
“Living systems must categorize. Since we are neural beings our categories are formed through our embodiment. What that means is the categories we form are part of our experience. They are the structures that differentiate aspects of our experience into discernible kinds. Categorization is thus not a purely intellectual matter, occurring after the fact of experience. Rather the formation and use of categories is the stuff of experience…. We cannot, as some meditative traditions suggest, get 'beyond' our categories and have a purely uncategorized and unconceptualized experience. Neural beings cannot do that” (19).
L&J spend considerable effort providing numerous empirical neuro-cognitive studies supporting these theses. It seems odd to me that neither the integralists nor the more general developmental researchers take this work into consideration, much less how it challenges many of the assumptions and premises of their theoretical models and experiential practices of “everything.” Given that 95%+ of our mind-bodies are unconscious perhaps we should rename our endeavors as “theories of less than 5%”?
Tom Murray is an exception in the integral community in that he specifically addresses this issue, which he calls “epistemological indeterminacy.” He has an article in Integral Review, 2:6, 2006 called “Collaborative Knowledge Building and Integral Theory,” and he provides an abstract and summary at this link. Here are a few excerpts from the latter:
The sources of EI include:
The cognitive nature of concepts, claims, and models
• The fuzzy or graded nature of concepts (terms and categories);
• The metaphorical nature of abstract concepts and the radical interdependence of the meaning of one or idea with that of many others, such that none of them is unambiguously primitive (to identify some as primitive is to take a perspective);
• That statements (propositions or claims) are indeterminate because their constituent concepts are indeterminate; claims are true "to the extent that" the situation referred to corresponds with the most typical or representative exemplars of the conceptual categories used;
• Models, theories and frameworks are indeterminate because their constituent concepts and claims are indeterminate; and because they, by their nature, are approximate, abstractions, and simplifications over actual occurrences, and the choice of what to leave out depends on one's perspective;
• The meaning of abstractions depends on references to real examples (positive, negative, near, extreme, boundary, etc.); yet real examples can never be fully described (again, what properties are ignored depends on one's perspective); there is a dialectic process of refinement between an abstract idea and the set of examples used to explain it.
Psychological and social sources
• Individuals bring a variety of distortions to their interpretations, including their goals, values, knowledge, history of experiences, and unconscious motivations and biases, making "pure" objectivity impossible;
• The brain creates a "society of minds" in that people can entertain or even believe conflicting things or use conflicting models (as conscious beings we are not of "one mind");
• The meaning of a concept, belief, or model is constructed intersubjectively and idiosyncratically; meaning evolves in and through individual interpretation and social processes of meaning negotiation; meaning is dynamic, fluid, and distributed.
Philosophical or truth-related sources
• There are many meanings of truth, and many criteria for determining validity, and the truth or validity of a claim or model depends on which of these is used (usually these choices are not articulated);
• Validity has procedural, communal, dialectic, and perspectival elements, which together can make determining the validity of a claim or model a complex and indeterminate process.
• Integral theories are primarily organizational or explanatory, making their validity depend more on issues of meaning-generation and practical usefulness than on empirically determined truth. (In the section "Validity Criteria for Integral Theories" I listed a number of criterion).
“I have introduced the construct of ‘epistemic sophistication’ to unify a set of skills, attitudes, and knowledge, because they are closely intertwined. As used here epistemic sophistication is not as a precise aptitude that can be measured or calibrated against developmental models.
“For developmentally structured skills you can't skip steps, i.e., you can't bring someone from A to D without helping them fully experience B and C. A corollary to this is that there are certain kinds of tasks, thinking or perspectives that are not accessible at each developmental stage (but are accessible at higher stages). Development through stages is a gradual process of personal construction that cannot be forced but can be supported. One reason that it is important to consider developmental issues is that a person will interpret a state or experience according to the stage (technically ‘structure stage’) that they are at (Wilber 2006, p. 115).
“Though developmental research has discovered important principles about human behavior in general, caution must be taken not to pigeonhole or limit people when applying these theories to individuals. Research shows several reasons why such level labeling is too simplistic. First, each developmental "line" is composed of a number of constituent capacities that may develop semi-independently. For example, Schommer-Aikins’s(2002) has discovered that there are at least five semi-independent factors in ‘epistemological understanding’ (a subset of epistemic sophistication), each of which can evolve at a different rate.
“Second, individuals do not maintain one average level of intellectual or epistemological skill, but rather show different levels of skill in different contexts…. Kurt Fischer states, that ‘the skill level that a person displays…cannot be considered independently of the context in which that skill is assessed’ (Fischer & Farrar 1987, pg. 647).
“Even though I agree that epistemic sophistication is acquired developmentally, I propose that the issue is sometimes more one of un-learning and of letting go than of learning.”
"the limitations of models and relate that to hierarchically structured formal developmental models. Constructs such as reflective abstraction, hierarchical integration, subject-object transformations, and hierarchical complexity assume a particular... 'mathematics' of developmental growth" (343-4).
While he accepts that hierarchical complexity might suffice for certain measurements, he also wonders is things like wisdom and compassion might need a different type of modeling.
"We may need to rely more on human gestalt reasoning, which can recognize more complex or subtle patterns than current mathematical and computational tools can assess" (352).
Let’s look now to how the cognitive unconscious makes an appearance in philosophical discourse before it was reiterated in neuro-cognitive scientific terms. Martin Morris (cited below) discusses the notion of Habermas’ lifeworld:
“The lifeworld reveals only a portion of itself in any dialogue because it exists as a phenomenological ‘background’ of pre-theoretical, pre-interpreted contexts of meaning and relevance….the vast proportion of lifeworld convictions always remain in the background during any discussion…. The lifeworld itself cannot be the proper them of communicative utterances, for as a totality it provides the space in or ground upon which such utterances occur, even those that name it explicitly….it remains indeterminate” (235-6).
Speaking for the lifeworld as if one could step outside of it and know it directly inevitably leads one to “invoke a cosmology,” a “metaphysics of the thing-in-itself” (239).
Morris, Martin. “Between deliberation and deconstruction” in The Derrida-Habermas Reader, U of Chicago Press, 2006, 231-53.
Interesting, heres a thought , the possibility that the cognitive unconscious has a collective category (dimension , I would have said , on another day)
So to access the 95% it obviously is not available locally. The nature of matter which cannot be understood separate from creativity , which leads back to understanding which *originates* some place that is not local and is local at the same time. Again obviously a simultaneous arising of multiple perspectives which is like perception.
Whats interesting from the humanoids angle is that it could reconfigure local potential. So it points to a movement away from the center, or spatial axes to interdimensionality. How about everything starts *getting* stuff about everything else , instead of I get to figure what I am all about. hahahaha
So we don’t have direct conscious awareness , but direct unconscious awareness as the realm of possibility. Not to mention that conscious awareness is an oxymoron. Since consciousness, has become the veil rather than the window to awareness. The cognitive unconscious operates via embodiment, and as such through differentiation and categorization.
Does cognitive unconscious operate via embodiment at large ? it couldn’t possibly be restricted to a categorized and differentiated body. Which is possibly why the limitation to the 5%. There is irony in that category or embodiment is likely less separate than some loose or unhinged entities. Also consider that matter, is discernible , measurable , predictable, and therefore not very disparate , as a thing in itself
So are you proposing disembodied (un)consciousness Valli? If so that is exactly the type of metaphysics that L&J, Habermas, Wilber (to a degree) and postmetaphysics generally seek to leave behind.
Here's Habermas on the lifeworld from Postmetaphysical Thinking (MIT Press, 1992):
"This background...constitutes a totality that is implicit and that comes along prereflexively--one that crumbles the moment it is thematized; it remains a totality only in the form of implicit, intuitively presupposed background knowledge. Taking the unity of the lifeworld, which is known only subconsciously, and projecting it in an objectifying manner onto the level of explicit knowledge is the operation that has been responsible for mythological, religious and also of course metaphysical worldviews" (142-3).
hi Ed, iam not suggesting disembodied unconscious, more like the other extreme as the approach at least. where this leads to is interesting to follow. will take some earnest reflection for sure :-)
The other extreme in the sense, the body in question is not restricted to categorization or differentiation, beyond the content of consciousness where unconsciousness lies . Another way of saying it is consciousness is local to a body, unconsciousness is a movement that is not specific to a particular body, but a wider embodiment. Of course the implication is awareness is transconscious.
Also Iam thinking unconsciousness is a psychological movement that unravels the subconscious, which is layered and organic. Effectively has the potential to unravel the subconscious which consciousness does not have. Its interesting that this movement is inward with very specific embodiment, interzonal, as against spanning a larger body.
Opposing movements possibly to a similar end, through the same instrument of potential. So you have a kind of interdimensionality. Apparently opposing movements, but the movement itself has greater synergy than the outcomes which are in the paradigm of constructs.
another thing, the outcomes are not necessarily the result of the movements, if at all, in any linear fashion. since the latter isnt a time and space phenomena.
I don't think I understand you. Are you suggesting some type of Gaia body that interconnects us like a collective unconscious? Sort of like in Avatar where the planet had the interconnecting roots of the trees as a physical network that stored memories etc.? It seemed the movie tried to ground the alayavijnana with a physical body and scientific explanation.
Ok, Embodiment isn’t restricted to the biological body. The psychological deconstruction of the subconscious ought to refer to these different bodies, bio, eco, phenomenal and sociocultural. Actually I would add or could contain these through a memory body. The memory body in effect translates to organic structures and the other way around. Anyways before I get into this I'll have to read, meaning of the body
I got a term for that extreme stuff, how about extraphysical ! that’s quite post metaphysical or equally diametrically otherwise :-)
The contrary movements I spoke of are impressionably embodied, lateral and inward or across and through. instead of seen from without as in meta-physical.
I can see from this approach why the metaphysical projections are a problem. there is this lingering absurdity that there is something literally existent outside the physical, when it is fairly well understood that the given universe is a construct to start with. Like if we reach through the vast blue skies, expeditiously, at the end, there ought to be something else discernible .
Its more abiding to think of a macrocosm as a space within spaces, an involution which then expresses itself spatially without limits, reflexively or as the same instance. Another parallel for dual synergy, inherent oppositions, to make a case for interdimensions.
“…embodiment means not just the physiological body…but the body-in-space, the body as it interacts with the physical and social environment….we are born into social and cultural milieus that transcend our individual bodies in time” (5).
In section 2 of the article Rohrer goes on to discuss the various meanings of embodiment depending on the context, from philosophical to phenomenological to socio-cultural etc. In section 3 he even has a chart illustrating which domains the different methodologies investigate, similar to Wilber’s zones. Section 4 shows how the diverse methodologies are linked and integrated.
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?
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