I'm not sure about the term 'post-metaphysical' - does it mean trying to find a ground for 'spirit' without appeal to unknowable special qualities. Or does it mean finding a place holder for that mystery other than 'God'. Or what? I'd appreciate a straightforward explanation of what is meant by the term. Or, a link to such a discussion. 


I should say I come with the bias that I believe the height and the core of being alive is to surrender to mystery, that, indeed, the world is unknowable in any final sense. That said, I'm prepared to entertain other views. Or, it may even be that my views and 'post metaphysical' are compatible? 



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Hi, Dial,

We've discussed this a number of times, particularly back when this forum first opened back on the Zaadz/Gaia website.  I can look for some links to prior discussions later, if you'd like.

Here is one brief description I have offered in the past: 

Post-metaphysical thinking, according to a number of authors, involves a move a way from metaphysical philosophies of reflection towards a greater emphasis on intersubjectivity. It is a critique of the many (ancient and modern) variants of the “philosophy of the subject,” which assumes that the subject is simply and directly aware of phenomena as they are in themselves, and which underlies the many metaphysical ontologies that have been proposed.

About the world being knowable in any final sense: post-metaphysics offers a critique of metaphysical closure.  In a relatively recent thread, I posted a few comments by David Loy which touch on this (and which I believe you may find consonant with your views).

Best wishes,



Hi Balder, 

I wonder if you could briefly expand on the following, in particular what is meant by 'a greater emphasis on intersubjectivity' - thanks.


Post-metaphysical thinking, according to a number of authors, involves a move a way from metaphysical philosophies of reflection towards a greater emphasis on intersubjectivity. 

Hi Dial,


I wonder if you could briefly expand on the following, in particular what is meant by 'a greater emphasis on intersubjectivity' - thanks.


It isn’t helped by the fact that the term “metaphysical” has several different meanings depending on the context, but generally speaking metaphysics is any attempt to work out the truth about reality.


I like to think of it this way: pre-modern metaphysics refers to traditional religious thinking or the sorts of philosophy that thinks metaphysics is not too problematic.  Examples include Christianity, where metaphysical knowledge is a matter of revelation (e.g. directly via inspiration, or indirectly via interpreting the Bible), or Plato, for whom metaphysical knowledge is a matter of intellectual exploration.


In modernity, people begin to realise that metaphysics is more problematic.  For example, if God tells me something, how do I know that’s true?  Or if I verify the truth of something empirically, how do I know my senses can be trusted?  Nevertheless, modern metaphysics still thought it could get around this problem by appealing to some self-evident truths that are beyond doubt, e.g. Descartes’ cogito.  Science also does this by using experimental methodology.  With such axioms, we can begin to carefully tease out metaphysical truths.  This means we have a sort of meta-paradigm where an individual/subject can look at reality/objects directly (literally, objective).


With postmodernity, however, we begin to realise that even these axioms are not truly basic; they are shaped in various ways, most notably by society.  We no longer have direct access to reality, because perception itself is influenced by language, concepts, culture, etc.  This means that philosophy (in the widest possible sense) cannot accept axioms or perception as given, but must question everything, which in turns means looking at intersubjective relationships.  This means we have no direct access to metaphysical truths, and that truth is a socially constructed consensus, not just an axiomatic interpretation of given experience.


For people who still want absolute true/false distinctions, this postmodern insight seems horrible.  Ken Wilber is like this sometimes.  He’s astute enough to realise that postmodernity has brought enough insights with it that we cannot just ignore it and regress to pre-postmodern metaphysics, so he tries to create a new post-postmodern metaphysics (which he calls “integral postmetaphysics”) that keeps the postmodern insights whilst retaining the traditional search for absolute truths or of meaning.  That is more or less what we do here, though we are typically less enamoured with the idea that postmodernism can be completely transcended.

But again our language confuses the issue, as we're calling it intersubjectivity, emphasis on the subject. As is my wont for neologisms that transgress the dualistic divide I suggest intersobjectivity, the "sob" being the subject-object interaction. Or perhaps just eliminating the sob with interjectivity? To interject not only means to insert something between but connotes insinuation or interpolation, and this is in line with Tom's mode of inference in apprehending the whole. And of course there is the already existing succinct and sufficient "interactivity," but I like to make up shit so that doesn't work. Maybe interjactivity? Then I get the "jack" sound, which interjects the word "interject" (at least the j) and connotes jacking off? But then it should be interejactivity? (But only if performed to climax; it doesn't have to.) Whatever.



Thanks for that great run-through - it snaps post-metaphysics into perspective for me -and the emphasis on the intersubjective. I see those speculative materialists I so like fall into the category of post-metaphysicians who want to go beyond a philosophy of the subject without entirely leaving metaphysics behind. 

Post-metaphysical > after metaphysics i.e. the time for the belief in metaphysics (in any form) is over.

Huh? I am saying I don’t believe in improvable metaphysics…you said so yourself, it is an unfounded assumption. What proof do you need for that? Do you believe in the literal existence of Santa Claus? Do you or I have to go to the North Pole and see if he has a toy shop there to say he does not exist? Really?

Thomas said:
That's a metaphysical belief, e.  It cannot, per Godel, be demonstrated or proven.  Feel free to offer proof for what you say.

Let me get this straight, the Theist is trying to intellectually “prove” that which he never ever nor ever will have experiential proof for creates a Theorem in which that experiential proof is no longer needed and that proves the existence of their unseen assumption holding up his house of cards? Sounds rather desperate to me. Besides this intellectual dishonesty is 100% unnecessary if you follow where the truth leads you.


I don't have a metaphysical belief...comprende?

It might (or not) behoove us to explore Habermas' Postmetaphysical Thinking, since Kennilingam gets a lot of his ideas on the topic from him. Chapter 3 in particular focuses on what he terms the 'metaphysical' and the 'post' response to it. As I've pointed out in several times and places he uses G.H. Mead as an exemplar par excellence of the 'post' variety which grounds his own communicative action theory.

Also, bear in mind that we on this forum tend to use the word "metaphysics" in two ways (at least).  First, in the strict sense, where metaphysics means ideas about the true nature of reality.  In this case, e does indeed have metaphysical views -- we all do.


In the more lenient sense, however, "metaphysics" refers to old-fashioned ideas about the true nature of reality, e.g. of having, in some sense, privileged access to truth.  In this sense, e can indeed claim to reject metaphysics without contradicting himself.



I get it, logical contradiction again.... you "are" right.  I was just trying to diffuse the tension.  I'll switch tactics and say it directly: maybe you should just leave it alone now and let social cohesion trump truth in this situation?

Here are a few more thoughts on metaphysics and post-metaphysics.  First -- since we've discussed this a lot around here -- I'll start with something I posted on the old Gaia version of this forum back in 2008:

What is metaphysics?  Is it possible to go beyond metaphysical thinking altogether, or if not, is it necessary rather for us to reformulate how we go about it?

In discussing the need to move beyond metaphysics, Wilber identifies it primarily with belief in, or unconscious adherence to, the myth of the given – “the belief that reality is simply given to me, or that there is a single pregiven world that consciousness delivers to me more or less as it is, instead of a world that is constructed in various ways before it ever reaches my empirical or phenomenal awareness.”
But this is somewhat of an idiosyncratic definition of metaphysics.  It is based, in part, on Habermas' work; and it endeavors to take account of de/constructivist and poststructuralist critiques of traditional metaphysical perspectives.  But a number of philosophers consider metaphysics not to be adherence to the myth of the given, but rather, simply, the study of being (or ultimate reality).  And it doesn't seem this is something an Integral Spiritual movement would be strictly opposed to.
Importantly, in Integral Spirituality, Wilber qualifies his call to move beyond metaphysics by offering the alternative strategy of “completely rethinking it.”  I think this is important.  A number of strong and weak arguments against the possibility of metaphysics have been put forward, but notably, the strong versions of these arguments tend to fall prey to self-referential incoherency:
“Put very abstractly, the case against proponents of the strong thesis may be put like this. Dr. McZed, a 'strong anti-metaphysician,' contends that any piece of text that does not pass some test she specifies is meaningless (if she is typical of strong anti-metaphysicians, she will say that any text that fails the test represents an attempt to use language in a way in which language cannot be used). And she contends further that any piece of text that can plausibly be identified as 'metaphysical' must fail this test. But it invariably turns out that various sentences that are essential components of McZed's case against metaphysics themselves fail to pass her test” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
A similar charge has been made against some of the arguments in Integral Spirituality:  Wilber doesn't appear to have been able to go altogether beyond making metaphysical-type arguments, either, or appealing to a priori forms.

In my current understanding, post-metaphysics should be considered an extension of metaphysics – a (post)-postmodern turn toward integral self-awareness within mature metaphysics – rather than a movement completely beyond it. 
What do you think?  How do you understand metaphysics, and what does post-metaphysical spirituality mean to you?

I am still in general agreement with my conclusion above -- that post-metaphysics should be considered an extension or further development of metaphysics, not a complete repudiation of all metaphysical thinking.  As I've mentioned in several posts in our recent discussions, I see post-metaphysics, particularly in the current integral context, as a critique of a particular historical form of metaphysical thinking -- which we might call monological metaphysics.  In its place, a dialogical (or, in Integral-speak, perhaps even a tetra-logical) metaphysics is developed: one which responds to and "digests" the modern and postmodern critiques of older metaphysical systems.

To open this up a bit more, I want to post a definition of "metaphysics" from the Integral Glossary: 

Traditionally, metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with issues of ontology (what is being or reality?) and epistemology (how do we know it?).  In Integral Theory, any assertion without injunctions is considered metaphysics, or a meaningless assertion (i.e., postulating a referent for which there is no means of verification).  The term is also used in its traditional sense given the lack of alternatives.

I believe this definition may be a little misleading, because technically, epistemology arose out of, and partly in reaction to, metaphysics -- as part of a broad critique of ungrounded metaphysical speculation.  But in any event, the key point (relevant to how the term is used in Integral thought) is that a metaphysical statement is a statement "for which there is no means of verification."  The claim that such a statement is 'meaningless' is interesting. It reads as a derogatory comment (and could be taken as stemming from a 'positivist' orientation), but the meaning-elusiveness and non-establishability of certain (tacit) elements of a meaning system, as Tom has been arguing, is not a 'fault,' and in fact is vital to any meaning system.  In this sense, metaphysics cannot be escaped, and it does not need to be.  Wilber made this point in SES (in a footnote on Godel), and I don't think he has significantly moved away from it. 

What, then, is the "target" of (Wilber's) integral postmetaphysics?  Not all 'non-verifiable' claims or beliefs are on the same philosophical or epistemological footing, and a significant target seems to be the vast 'spiritual metaphysics' that has developed within the world's religious traditions:  on a gross level, the narratives about various planes of being, the heavens and hells, the disembodied or supernatural entities (angels, dakinis, etc), and so on.  In this area, Wilber sometimes seems to follow Jung's lead: sidestepping traditional 'metaphysics' by bracketing out questions of the ontological 'reality' of these realms and beings and accepting them, at the least, as valid (and potentially valuable) psychological (UL) experiences.  But sometimes he seems to leave the door open to the possibility that at least some these various 'subtle' realms or beings may have more than a UL existence.  But in either case, he would argue for subjecting these sorts of 'metaphysical' claims about spiritual worlds and entities and so on to empirical verification, wherever possible, and either dropping those claims that cannot pass (post)post/modern muster, or significantly reinterpreting them in light of (post)post/modern understanding.  'Metaphysics,' here, refers not just to the technical, philosophical meaning of the term, but more broadly to that body of 'spiritual knowledge' about unseen worlds, planes, beings, creation stories, which has long been held in esteem in the religious traditions.

And on a subtler level, Wilber targets various ancient and modern religious traditions' elaborate and sophisticated philosophical systems which are nevertheless still monologically framed.

Here is how the Integral Glossary defines monological:

A descriptor of any approach where an individual conducts a 'monologue' with an object and apprehends their immediate experience of that object, usually without acknowledging or recognizing cultural embeddedness and intersubjectivity.  Monological approaches, in themselves, are sometimes referred to as subscribing to the "myth of the given," "the philosophy of the subject," "the philosophy of consciousness," or what Integral Theory would describe as the belief that the contents of the Upper-Left quadrant are given without being intertwined in the remaining three quadrants.  Monological approaches are typically associated with phenomenology, empiricism, meditation, and all experiential exercises and therapies.

Metaphysical systems in the past have tended to be monological, so the post- in post-metaphysics indicates, among other things, a development beyond that monological orientation.  But, as I noted above, this does not mean a repudiation of metaphysics altogether (when metaphysics is understood in its more refined philosophical sense).  For instance, we've explored David Michael Levin's hermeneutic phenomenology as a promising and viable postmetaphysical approach (which also could be called a 'dialogical metaphysics').



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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.

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