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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I was editing my response above while you were posting, so I'm calling attention to that in case that impacts in any way what you have just written.

Tom: What's the opposite of context?  That opposite, like dog to tree, gives context its meaning.


Yes, and that indicates to me that meaning is contextual!  "Context" depends for its meaning on its "not."

Yes, that is what I asked you above, and I also asked you to say something about your appearing to be speaking from a place of free-floating reasoning, without regard for what makes such reasoning possible. I'd like to hear where/how embodiment plays a role in this for you, for instance.


Tom:  The "non" stops the deconstructive slippery-slide into infinite regress (which is the same result, if the deconstructionists be honest).


Infinite regress -- conceiving of infinity as a problem -- is typically a concern of foundationalists, no? 

If conceptuality is polar, as I think you are arguing, then it is relative and contextual.  As I mentioned above, not all words have an exact polar opposite (like light and dark, hard and soft), but I agree they nevertheless depend on their polar not- (which in the case of something like tree, can't be linked to a single opposite pole, but which finds its definition in opposition to everything else -- i.e., contextuality).  The Absolute, conceived as the polar opposite of the relative, is non-relative, non-conceptual, non-contextual (because no-thing at all), but epistemically it provides 'context' for the relative/contextual play of conceptuality via contradictory identity -- the identity of opposites, 'in' or 'against' which conceptuality can unfold and develop.

What do you mean by "provides non-context"?


Tom: ...provides, to whatever extent, contrastive knowledge of tree.


That is what I mean, in part, by 'context': field of contrastive knowledge.


Tom: It is the non-foundational whateverness that gives foundation meaning.


"...that gives foundation meaning" reads like 'context' to me, and that's not a problem (and why I emphasized epistemically): meaning is contextual and a field of polar-play, and so the absolute, to the extent that we set it over against the relative, functions epistemically as part of that contrastive polar-play.


I am not saying 'non-context' is the same as 'context'; but when set in polar opposition to context (because ultimately inseparable from its opposite), it serves a contrastive -- context-setting -- role in conceptuality.


Tom:  If conceptuality is polar, then it is relative–Absolute and contextual–non-contextual.


Relative/conceptual is polar opposite with absolute/non-conceptual, so conceptuality is not Absolute.  I'm afraid you're trying to get language and concept to play the role of absolute, which looks problematic to me.  If you have time, check out the section (or at least the first several pages of the section) of SpinbitZ called, "Embodiment, Knowledge, and Meaning," starting on page 596.

Tom:  Our views differ considerably, Bruce.  Non-context does not serve a context-setting role.  Again, you've mixed and confused categories by saying that.   Non-context is not a context, period.  It is the infinite, absolute, absolutely undifferentiated implicatory backdrop in which context appears as context.  Even to say context is to speak from this undifferentiated backdrop-field of implication.

Do you see that you are describing non-context contextually when you use this sort of language:  "the infinite, absolute, absolutely undifferentiated implicatory backdrop in which context appears as context"?  I am not saying that non-context is contextual, in itself (it is undifferentiated), but when we are making conceptual differentiations, the absolute serves as 'context-for' the contextual play of language, conceptuality, etc.

Tom:  Try this: meaning is non-contextual and absolute, and a field of identity-play.  That, too, is implied by "context."  Of course, adopting any such saying would terminated the post in post-metaphysical.

Do you recall saying earlier on this forum, a couple weeks back in a post to Dial, that language is 'relativity play'?  Are you taking that back, or do you hold that in both/and fashion with what you are saying above?  In my case, I recall elsewhere stating that concepts 'bleed into the tacit,' and I still hold that, so I agree that concepts are inseparable from the 'infinite,' from unbounded wholeness (to use metaphysical language), but concept as concept implies and requires boundedness, differentiation, etc.  Drop boundedness, differentiation, etc, or expand concept out to an 'absolute' pole, and (either way) you get non-conceptuality, no-meaning.

Bruce:  Relative conceptuality is polar opposite with absolute non-conceptuality ...

Tom:  Wrong. 

Your face is wrong.   (Sorry!  Couldn't help that -- my son gets me with that come-back all the time.)

Seriously, you've quoted me differently than what I wrote.  I think that's what I wrote in my initial post, before I edited it a few minutes later, since I didn't think that phrasing was clear enough.  Your quotation of me should say, "relative/conceptual is polar opposite with absolute/non-conceptual."

Bruce:  ... so conceptuality is not Absolute.

Tom:  Yes it is.  The relative aspect of concept implies absolute, in other words, the absolute nature or aspect of concept.  Concept implies non-concept, thus inherent in concept is an absolute aspect.

Do you hold the reverse true as well, that the non-contextual and/or non-conceptual is relative, since non-conceptual implies conceptual, non-contextual implies contextual, and absolute implies relative?

Tom:  Btw, I disagree with what Joel says in those pages.  There is, for me, no interface between absolute and relative as Joel describes.  Nor is the absolute scope outside the real world of form.  My hundreds of posts on quantum physics show my understanding that form and formless are one.

Joel doesn't hold that the absolute scope is really outside of the real world of form, either.  He says that initially, we may differentiate the two, to clearly distinguish them, but that 'ultimately' form and formless are one (describing the 'real' as infinite relationship and infinite difference). 

Tom:  Boundedness itself implies non-boundedness, so boundedness needn't be dropped.  Boundedness self-dissolves.


I'm not saying boundedness needs to be dropped.  I'm just saying, absent boundedness, absent meaning.


Oral question:  What's the meaning of /ī/ ?


Written question:  What's the meaning of “sow”?

Taking a few step backs -- sometimes I think we're just getting in a rut of disagreeing with each other, for whatever reason -- I want to ask you what your main objection is to my claim that meaning is contextual (i.e., relational).  To say meaning is contextual or relational is to implicate wholeness: it is to say that meaning isn't a simple property of individual concepts but rather opens into, inheres in, wholeness.  The ambiguity or indefiniteness of meaning testifies wholeness.  I recall your having made a similar point about identity in multiple threads: that the wholeness insight is that I am I because you are you; or, more fully, X is X because Y is Y, but also X is not X because Y is not Y.  As I see it, the suggestion that meaning or 'conceptual identity' is relational -- Saussure's insight, which others have developed; and Nagarjuna's before him -- is not significantly different from what you have been saying about the co-identity, the co-implication, of I and You.  So, honestly, I'm perplexed why you have been criticizing me for voicing this, and calling me (pejoratively) a deconstructionist.  Can you spell out your objection to this central claim more clearly?
Yes, okay, I do think we have a difference here.  In your description above, it sounds as if you are saying the word itself has, and must have, a direct referent or meaning, independent of or without regard for the "speaker" or user of that word.  Is that the case?

So all speakers are subject to and expressors of all's universal meaning?

Tom:  Yes.  It's either that, or they're subject to your version of all. "There are no universals."

Are you saying that I actually mean something different by "all" than you do?


Are you familiar with the Pirahã people?  I blogged about them a few years ago on Integral Life.  They've got a very peculiar language, which lacks numeracy, recursion, most temporal distinctions, etc.  Of relevance here is that they lack words for "all" or "every" as well.  Here's an excerpt from an article on their language and culture.


This study began as a description of the absence of numerals, number, and counting in Pirahã, the only surviving member of the Muran language family. However, after considering the implications of this unusual feature of Pirahã language and culture, I came to the conclusion defended in this paper,  namely, that there is an important relation between the absence of number, numerals, and counting, on the one hand, and the striking absence of other forms of precision quantification in Pirahã semantics and culture, on the other. A summary of the surprising facts will include at least the following: Pirahã is the only language known without number, numerals, or a concept of counting. It also lacks terms for quantification such as "all," "each," "every," "most," and "some." It is the only language known without color terms. It is the only language known without embedding (putting one phrase inside another of the same type or lower level, e.g., noun phrases in noun phrases, sentences in sentences, etc.). It has the simplest pronoun inventory known, and evidence suggests that its entire pronominal inventory may have been borrowed. It has no perfect tense. It has perhaps the simplest kinship system ever documented. It has no creation myths its texts are almost always descriptions of immediate experience or interpretations of experience; it has some stories about the past, but only of one or two generations back. Pirahã in general express no individual or collective memory of more than two generations past. They do not draw, except for extremely crude stick figures representing the spirit world that they (claim to) have directly experienced.

Tom:  There's no independence in all, Bruce.  All is all.  Nor is there a direct referent. 

Tom:  It indicates an experience, that experience is an experience of precisely everything to which all refers, which is all.

Tom: Nor is there a speaker. 

Tom:  For me, the word includes the infinite...

I point out these contradictions in your speech to remind you I'm not the only one using this sort of language -- you are also appealing to speakers, and defining 'all' in terms of a referent.  It is convenient and familiar to talk in these terms, even if they don't convey the subtleties of our respective post/metaphysical or epistemological commitments.

I do understand the metaphysical argument that, in the All -- i.e., at the absolute 'scale' or 'scope' -- there's no distinction, no speaker, no history, no particularity, etc (Heart Sutra:  there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no name, no concept, no knowledge...).  But with no distinction at the absolute scale, there's no (particular) word, "all," either.  I'm not saying the entirety of existence -- the infinite -- can be reduced to a particular category: conceptual.  That's incoherent, in my view.  But the words we use to refer to that entirety -- "All" or "One" or "Being" -- are in my view high-order abstractions, growing out of our embodied experience.

I believe you are saying that "All" is not an understanding growing out of embodied experience, but tacitly underlying it.  My take on that is, Yes and No.  It seems to me that there are certain conditions for even being able to apprehend or appreciate the sensibility of 'All,' which supports the 'growing out of' perspective.  For instance, while the Piraha's non-generalized, always-situation-specific use of the word "big" might be seen, from our vantage, to contain a primitive, dim echo what you or I might mean by "The All" (say, as tacit wholeness or positive infinity), I don't think it makes sense to say that the Piraha's intended meaning of "big" is ultimately the same as "The All."  "The All" does not appear in their worldspace.

Now, when our powers of abstraction are sufficient that we can begin to articulate and appreciate a notion like "The All," we might at the same time recognize this presently intuited sensibility (an experience of wholeness or undividedness) as subsisting in our infantile pre-differentiated experience. But here, I follow Levin (whom I quoted to you before), who argues that the 'primordial wholeness' that is recovered through spiritual inquiry and recollection is an echo of what never was.  Here's a section of his discussion of this understanding in relation to the recovery of a holistic dimension of our listening or hearing capacity, but he explores this through multiple avenues and 'senses' elsewhere.

Stage IV 


Borrowing a term from Heidegger, we will be calling this stage 'hearkening' (das Horchen).  Very few people ever attempt to continue the development of their hearing beyond the kinds of skill belonging to stage III.  Even fewer attempt to do the kind of work necessary for the achievement of 'hearkening.'  Hearkening requires the disciplined practice of Gelassenheit, i.e. letting-go and letting-be, as a mode or style of listening.  In learning Gelassenheit, the art of 'just listening', listening without getting entangled in the ego's stories and preoccupations, one learns a different way of channelling, focusing, attending.  There is a restructuring of the figure-ground difference, with an awareness that it manifests the appropriation of the auditory field by the double tonality of the ontological difference.  Hearkening makes, or lets, this ontological difference -- the difference between beings and Being -- be manifest, be audible, within the Gestalt of the auditory situation.


The Gestaltung of stage IV is a distinctively spiritual accomplishment.  The work of this stage begins with the practice of Gelassenheit and gradually performs an ontological recollection, a recollection of the utterly open dimensionality of the auditory field, as which the sonorous Being of beings manifests for our (properly) listening ears.  Though never finished, this recollection realizes and fulfills our potential as human beings in relation to the Question of Being.  With the achievement of this ongoing recollection, not as a cognitive operation separate from our listening, we may enjoy an authentically ontological relationship to, and an existentially meaningful understanding of, the Being of beings: in particular, (1) Being as such and (2) the dimensionality, the radical alterity, of other human beings.  The pre-ontological relationship and understanding that we once inhabited (during our infancy), and that we subsequently lost touch with in the course of our socialization (our ego-logical development), we begin to retrieve in stage IV, getting it back, this time, in a highly conscious, thoughtful, and articulate experience, meaningfully integrated into the auditory situations of our daily lives.


Our practice at stage IV is a practice that needs to take place under the influence of the feminine archetypes: there must be an appreciation of and a recovery of experiencing modalities that, in our culture, have been traditionally constellated through these archetypes.


By virtue of our existential work, our channelling is opened up.  In this state, it 'invites' a gathering of all sonorous, audible beings from all sonorous dimensions, bringing them into a Gestalt that we will call, again borrowing from Heidegger, das Geviert -- the Fourfold.  Whereas, at stage II, the auditory Gestalt is enframing, is a Gestell, here the structure becomes a gathering of sonorous Being: a gathering mindful of its utterly open dimensionality, attentive to the primordial difference by grace of which all auditory structures are possible, and respectful of the incommensurability of the Being of sonorous beings, letting the inaudible be inaudible.


... The developmental model I am proposing in this study -- and not only the model, but also the design of the table [see below], which cannot accommodate a hermeneutical time-dimension -- will be open to some very destructive misunderstandings unless, anticipating them here, I can successfully ward them off by clarification.  That is what I shall now try to do.


First of all, it is essential to understand that the developmental process is not a straightforwardly linear progression, but rather a dialectic of sublimations and sublations: a dialectic for the evolution of which Hegel introduced the term Aufhebung.  In other words, each phase of the process is carried forward: not only transformed, but also preserved, as transformed, by the subsequent stage.  Thus, the first stage, Zugehorigkeit, is never entirely left behind, nor is it ever totally split off, when the infant undergoes the process of socialization.  To be sure, socialization gradually installs an ego-logically boundaried centre in the 'place' where an ecstatically open centre once functioned; but the auditory body always continues to bear within it some 'traces,' or an echo, of this primal experience with the sonorous dimensionality of Being.


In this regard, it is crucial to keep in mind that the 'primordial relationship with Being' attributed to infancy is a past that has never really been present -- a past that never was what it now, i.e., from the vantage point of stage IV, presents itself as having been.  Zugehorigkeit is a projection, a reconstruction, an understanding constituted after the fact, redeeming an experience that 'from the very beginning' fell short of itself; fell short, I mean, of being 'the beginning,' a primordial experience of the pure and total presence of Being...


...Even though there never was an 'original' experience with Being as absolutely pure and total presence in the first place, the advances of stage II are not achieved without a loss: a loss that we may call, using Heidegger's phrase, a 'loss of Being,' or a loss of contact with ecstasy (ek-stasis) of Being -- 'Being' understood here as the utterly open ek-static dimensionality of the auditory field, the sonorous field.  And yet, this loss of contact (which, as noted, never was an experience of pure presence) is not total, and therefore not irrevocable and irremediable: by grace of our embodiment, echoes of our earliest experience with the Being of sonorous field are preserved and continue to resonate, so that, later in life, after the ego is firmly established, it becomes possible to 'return' to these echoes, not only making contact with our bodily felt sense of that pre-ontological openness -- whatever sense of that 'primordial ecstasy' we may now, by virtue of some directed exertion, be able to feel -- but also 'retrieving' it and freeing it for an ongoing integration into present living.


In principle, then, the infant's experience of Zugehorigkeit, a 'primordial' inherence in the openness and wholeness of Being, is always to some degree retrievable.  And when it is retrieved, it is always also more than retrieved, as well as less, since it is only nachtraglich, after the fact and belatedly (as Freud would perhaps have wanted to suggest), that this experience, which the infant lived through without (much) consciousness, gets to be recognized for what it was (is) and accordingly comes to be understood as an ontological relationship.  The 'retrieval' therefore retrieves in two senses:  it brings back what was 'forgotten'; but it also redeems it by 'making' it what it never was.


The recollection of Being -- the very same movement by which we grow beyond our ego-logical identifications -- is a hermeneutical movement: we must first 'go back' to Zugehorigkeit, 'back,' as it were, to the 'beginning,' in order to develop beyond the ego-logical stage of ontological forgetfulness in listening.  Or rather, to state this point more accurately, since in truth this 'beginning,' this 'origin,' can never be retrieved now as it actually was then, we must first generate within ourselves a presently felt sense of our 'pre-ontological beginning.'  This movement forward, this growth, requires a hermeneutical movement backward: a movement, however, that must not be confused with an infantile or psychotic regression.  It is essential to understand the difference between this hermeneutical 'return' and a pathological regression.  Regression is a movement in one direction only; it repeats what came earlier instead of redeeming it; and it is always a movement, therefore, that closes the process of personal growth.


We are always free, of course, to continue living in the stage II reality of anyone-and-everyone (das Man), virtually deaf to the dimensionality of Being that resounds all around us.  But after we have achieved the maturity of stage II, we can still continue to grow, committing ourselves to a practice of the Self by virtue of which we begin to grow beyond the ontologically alientated condition of being-an-ego to find ourselves more opened up to this dimensionality of Being and enjoying a spiritual wholeness not otherwise possible.  The hearkening of stage IV, a gathering embrace of whatever may be given to our ears for their hearing, is an achievement that brings with it a self-fulfillment altogether different from that which comes at stage III: a self-fulfillment that is not possible at all in stage II."  (Levin, 1989, pp. 45-56)


Regarding your comment that I deny universals, I disagree.  I do accept the existence of universals, where universal indicates a percept, concept, experience, pattern, or form that we can identify as recurrent (not necessarily identically, but homeomorphically) across different 'frames' or worldspaces or stages of development, but which also exhibits some non-negligible particularity in manifestation, expression, conceptualization, etc.  Your pointing at the underlying 'sameness' in our meanings is to me an identification of homeomorphic equivalence, which is different than us both consciously intending or "meaning" the exact same thing (to the extent that meaning is understood intentionally as a form of 'understanding' or as involving conceptual distinctions and associations).  I don't see my assertion of non-negligible differences in the conscious use and understanding of "all" across worldspaces as a denial of universals, but as an acknowledgement that, simultaneously with the appearance of "sameness," "difference" may also be observed (from my vantage, inseparably).  I see "all" as both a tacit, near-universal intuition (given certain facilitative conditions, such as cognitive development -- see the Piraha), and as a "conceptual scope" or perspective that plays a role in the ecology of ideas of a particular worldview.

One of my concerns with the view you are presenting is that, in its emphasis on tacit understanding and inward tracing, it seems (intentionally or by default) to focus almost exclusively on the UL, as if thinking and tracing happens apart from body, culture, etc.  Your comment to me about why we might also perceive "all" differently reduced everything ultimately to UL terms.  In the post-postmodern recovery of universals, Habermas -- and Levin with him -- argues in part for the recovery of such dialogically, via social engagement and practice.  Panikkar's notion of 'homeomorphic equivalence' is a flower of just such engagement.  You call it hedging, but I see it as working from more than just the UL.

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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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