I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the following article looks like a very relevant and timely one for us here at IPS.  Wilber is responding to the recent association of Integral Theory with Critical Realism (via Sean at Meta-Integral), and likely also to critiques of Integral Theory offered by Critical Realists.  Wilber said on a recent phone call that he was planning to issue a written defense of IT and critique of CR, in light of the emerging association of the two schools through Sean's work, so this appears to be it -- or the first of it. 

Response to Critical Theory in Defense of Integral Theory

(I think he should have said "Critical Realism" rather than "Critical Theory" in his title; they aren't the same.)

Also, I'm not sure, but it's possible that my paper -- which he read and discussed with me -- might have also prompted this in part, since I mention in it a possible critique of IT from a CR point of view, i.e. that it is committing the epistemic fallacy, and I attempt to offer my own articulation of how integral avoids that fallacy.


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Here is my response to one of Layman Pascal's posts to me on the sister thread on Integral Life.

Layman:  Bhaskar, etc. are concerned, in your words, that "some strands of postmodern thought" conflate the how of our knowing with the "is" of the known. Knowledge of the real (epistemology) is treated as interchangable with knowledge of the Real (ontology). I would suggest that all first tier levels are characterized by this conflation.

In framing ontology and epistemology in this way, you appear to be describing the myth of the given (how being and knowing are naively, or sometimes more subtly, conflated in metaphysics; or how our maps of being are taken as mirror-like representations or reflections of being-itself). 

Layman:  Postmodernity is ambiguous because it operates both as the last rung of conventional understanding and the early rung of vison-logic. In the former capacity it is quite conventional. Insofar as it feels that [its] deconstruction of epistemology is also a deconstruction of ontology it only recapitulates the ancient and modern habit of using our methodological lens as truth itself. But the other strands of postmodern thought are those which detect this very problem. Here we have what I am calling MOA-1.

Agreed; I see this as the first intimations of the auto-deconstruction of the representational paradigm.

Layman:  This postmodern thinking discovers the methodological and ontological gesture of alternation. It reveals the parallax between the known and the knowing procedures. One of the most sophisticated ways for this to appear is in the form which Wilber critiques. This is (as he presents it) a sense that the real ontology is indefinitely behind our epistemologies. The depth of the object (or other) is inexhaustibly beyond its depictions. Of course he agrees with this point but he is seduced by the difference in how this point is structured. Rather than locate the object beyond our knowing he wants to put them side-by-side. Rather than a divergence, alternative, passage or switch he wants to lock that shit down as "two correlative dimensions of every Whole occassion".

Yes, this alongsidedness is a key element of Wilber's model (neo-Whiteheadian tetra-enaction and co-prehension).  And how this point is structured is, indeed, an important question.  Bhaskar might critique a model of pure alongsidedness as a form of actualism (the position that reality consists only of what is actually present or manifest to knowledge at any moment); or SR might critique it as a form of correlationism.  Wilber, as you suggest, might critique Bhaskar's model as positing a false "depth" (perhaps as a hold-over from traditional thing-thinking). 

In your description above, how are you using the terms ontology and epistemology?  Are you using ontology as a term for being and epistemology as a term for knowing, or are you referring to them as two different forms or modes of knowing?  As I said in my previous post, I think it's helpful (as I wrote in my "Opening Space for Translineage Practice" paper) to differentiate the ontic and epistemic from ontology and epistemology.  If we do so, then of course ontology and epistemology are "alongside" each other; they are both modes or forms of the epistemic (knowing; which itself is ontic, ending as it does in the suffix, -ic).  And the ontic and the epistemic are also inseparable (esp. in a panpsychic view), but not necessarily horizontal in relation to each other. 

In using these distinctions, it would be more accurate to suggest that the ontic (rather than "ontology") in some way informs but also withdraws from (exceeds, is irreducible to) our epistemologies.  In bringing this close(r) to Wilber, it seems he suggests something similar to this when he distinguishes between the ex-istence and the sub-sistence of things.  When he refers to ex-istence, he is referring to the actual, to the way(s) that things stand-out for each other (or for themselves).  When he says that various entities subsist prior to their first historical enactment, he appears to suggest, if indirectly, that at least the generative potential for a certain mode of enactment persists in a withdrawn or un-actualized way*.  If this is correct, this is close to what CR or OOO mean (at least in some expressions):  there is an ontic condition for (en)actualization, which is conceived in terms of powers or generative potentials (rather than hidden little "blobs" or "bricks," or Lockean bare substrates). 

When Wilber talks about ontology and epistemology being inseparable, correlative aspects of any whole actual occasion, I think it should be clear from his language ("actual" occasion) that he is talking about ex-istence here (the "actual" in Bhaskar's terms): the co-arising or co-enaction of knower and known, detector and detected, etc...the standing-out of beings for each other.  He is not talking about subsistence; he is not yet saying anything about the ontic conditions of/for subsistence or (en)actualization.  From what I've read of his published works thus far, Wilber hasn't really developed his model of subsistence yet, beyond simply positing it in Integral Spirituality and a few of his footnotes.  But if he does so, I think it is here that you will find room for some further interface with CR and OOO (even if he elects to formulate it in terms other than those they choose, i.e. of unactualized potentials or unactivated powers or generative mechanisms).

Layman:  So he is presenting an MOA-2 critique of an MOA-1 style of holding the indefinite differential between the being of things and our modes of access it.

In the above, I hope I've made it clear why I think the model of the alongsidedness of ontology and epistemology, by itself, is inadequate to fully address the points that CR and OOO are addressing, so that this can't be reduced simply to a MOA-2 vs MOA-1 issue.  If only because CR and OOO are addressing an element which is less explicitly developed in Integral (even if, in its eventual more developed expression, it may differ from the CR and OOO proposals).  (For instance, your reflections on the causal might be one way to do this, but let's not confuse your model of the causal with Wilber's; they are different... :-) ).

Layman:  To be indefinite is to participate in an ontological pattern that could sensibl[y] be equated with the "causal" realm. The points (boundary conditions) of the causal nature of reality are supposed to have interiority. Our own "causal point" has interiority and we have no reason to deny it to all other points. When irreducibility = causal structure = the subjective-objective-relational nature of all real entities... we find that the panpsychic argument is very intimately related to issue of whether or not the ontic nature of beings can surprise us. The excess of the ontic over the enacted is the presencing of the condition which presumes interiority.

Yes, I think "interiority" is a fruitful way to approach this question of the excess of the ontic over the enacted.  An issue which is debated (rather than fully agreed upon or decided) in the CR/SR/OOO worlds is whether a thoroughly relational metaphysics is adequate or capable of underlaboring for science and other knowledge disciplines.  The concern is that, for an ontology which sees beings as wholly comprised by or nothing other than their present relations (with no withdrawal or unactualized ontic excess), there would be no reason for beings to change; beings would be "fixed" by their present relations.  Further, if we assume a being which is "nothing other" than what manifests in a whole actual occasion, why would we need to do experiments on it -- creating special conditions to manifest aspects, powers, potentials, behaviors, etc, that otherwise are not apparent?  This is a primary reason for the emphasis on the withdrawn or the unactualized as always already part of any actual object or actual occasion. 

But how do we conceive of this?  Some OOO writers talk about all objects having a withdrawn aspect which never enters into any relations, or at least that is, in theory, detachable from all relations.  I am not satisfied with this and prefer a model which talks about different forms of relation, so that what is actualized at any time depends on the type of relationship enacted (without requiring the positing of any "wholly non-related" part).  There are aspects of beings which are practically non-related (non-enacted, withdrawn from participation in an enactive interface) in any quadratic manifestation, but this doesn't mean they are entirely ontically non-relational per se

To think in these terms is to think in terms of interiority, in my view.  One way to frame this is autopoietically (autopoietic structure and cognition/interiority being inseparable).  As I discussed in my translineage paper, any being, as a generative (en)closure, is both ever-relatable but also irreducible.  As an autopoeitic (or allopoietic) enclosure, an entity (holon, sentient being, artifact) has a withdrawn interior: we translate each other according to our autopoietic regimes or allopoietic orders, rather than being nakedly present or given to each other (myth of the given, metaphysics of presence).  An autopoietic being both withdraws from presence and self-others in relation: it is not "directly seized" or fully plumbed or exhausted in its relations to others, and is always "uniquely received" (uniquely or idiosyncratically enacted) by those with which it is in relation. 


* One might appeal also to such a model in describing the ontic generative context for Sean's multiple objects.


I appreciate your posting some excerpts from the IL thread. I personally cannot stomach the kennilingual orientation there, but that's me. I understand the need for such a place but it's just not to my taste. I do though like to hear some of the conversation filtered through your perspective, which is one of the few that traverses that bubble without being subsumed in it. Pascal is another.

A couple of quotes at the end of p. 3:

Concerning methodological practices bringing phenomena into being: "I would say, 'partially' bring them into being."

"While we can say that the What subsists...we can’t say what those actually are (or what those intrinsic features are) without specifying the Who and the How (explicitly or implicitly)."

Taken together this leaves room for What subsists outside actuality, since we do not have to specify the Who or the How. What subsists will always exceed any particular Who or How. So I'm wondering how "ultimate Enlightenment" plays into this, since it seems to be the actual enactment of that which subsists, at least on the causal side in certain states of consciousness. As noted previously, it requires a kosmic address, whereas that which subsists does not?

I think the kennilingual response might be akin to what it was in SES, that since the relative side of the street is always evolving then so is ultimate enlightenment. But the causal side is not, it subsists beyond the relative and can never fully enter into the actual. And yet certain humans, at a certain kosmic address, can in actuality experience this causal subsistence so that it exists. At presumably only when one reaches a high enough level in actuality does this happen, so we're back around to the epistemic fallacy.

Perhaps p. 4 will address it?

Ah, near the end of p. 4 the following, in response to Edwards' criticism that IT cannot explain its own kosmic address. This speaks for itself:

"But Integral Theory has already stated this as the 'IOU tenet'—'every system is either incomplete or uncertain,' and that definitely includes Integral Theory.  But Integral Theory further claims that 'Emptiness redeems all IOU’s.'  That is, the relative world is forever incomplete or uncertain; only ultimate knowledge—given by prajna or nondual awareness, and not vijnana or dualistic awareness—can disclose ultimate reality (Spirit or Emptiness).  That reality is real; it is ultimate; it is unqualifiable (including that claim); but it can be 'known' in a certain sense via Enlightenment or Awakening, i.e., satori, sahaja, metanoia, gnosis, wu, moksha—which Integral Theory puts at the center of its framework.”

I linked to the following on p. 2 of the thread but though it might be appropriate to post in toto here, given how ultimate knowledge discloses ultimate reality per kennilingus:

I'm going to transfer over some commentary from the IPN thread relevant to Wilber's views, with the page # of that thread in parentheses:

And we can find his dualistic nondualism again on display in page 2 of the series [Excerpt G] in his discussion of the Two Truths which he says "are of radically different orders." (2)

And lest we forget, Integral Spirituality is full of the same type of metaphysical descriptions. As one example of several see Appendix II, The sliding scale of enlightenment:

“Enlightenment is a union of both Emptiness and Form, or a union of Freedom and Fullness. To realize infinite Emptiness is to be free from all finite things, free from all pain, all suffering, all limitation, all qualities—the via negativa that soars to a transcendental freedom from the known, a nirvikalpa
samadhi beyond desire and death, beyond pain and time, longing and remorse, fear and hope, a
timeless Dharmakaya of the Unborn, the great Ayin or Abyss that is free from all finite qualities whatsoever (including that one).” (3)

Wilber is certainly metaphysical in this way as well. To reiterate something I've posted numerous times before, from Integral Spirituality, Chapter 5, section "emptiness and view are not two":

"When one is in deep meditation or contemplation, touching even that which is formless and unmanifest—the purest emptiness of cessation—there are of course no conceptual forms arising. This pure 'nonconceptual' mind—a causal state of formlessness—is an essential part of our liberation, realization, and enlightenment.... When it comes to the nature of enlightenment or realization, this means that a complete, full, or nondual realization has two components, absolute (emptiness) and relative (form). The 'nonconceptual mind' gives us the former, and the 'conceptual mind' gives us the latter."

Wilber's definition of "postmetaphysical" in IS is described in Appendix II, section "what is the address of an object in the kosmos?" where he notes that there is no fundamental, pregiven world apart from all perception of it. There are only perspectives in relation to each other. Thus we need to establish this relation via a kosmic address, which includes the altitude and perspective (aka quadrant or quadrivium) of both the subject and the object. Although he does slip up in this section and admit this only refers to the "manifest world." Which goes with what he said above about the radically different realms of emptiness and form.

And how do we determine altitude? He makes this clear in Chapter 2, section "the relation of the different lines to each other," discussing consciousness per se:

"This happens to fit nicely with the Madhyamaka-Yogachara* Buddhist view of consciousness as emptiness or openness. Consciousness is not anything itself, just the degree of openness or emptiness, the clearing in which the phenomena of the various lines appear (but consciousness is not itself a phenomena—it is the space in which phenomena arise)."

So the formless unmanifest consciousness experienced in nirvikalpa samadhi is the measure of the relative altitude in any kosmic address. Hello! This is "post" metaphysical?

* Here he slips again in admitting this as a Yogacara doctrine, and as I've said numerous times before, it is this type of "Vajrayana" Buddhism he equates with Vendanta, and rightly so. (4)

I think Wilber definitely does provide the basis of his kosmic addressing system in his definition of enlightenment as the combination of the highest state and stage present at any particular time in history. For now that it indigo altitude with a nondual state. (Which is our course his own personal kosmic address so he decides.) And his descriptions of both of those are highly problematic, aka metaphysical. So while the actual statement that one has to be enlightened to be postmetaphyhsical isn't contained in IS (that I can find) the implication is clear. And we know who is enlightened in IS, don't we?

Some of you might find this ancient (started 3/23/07) Lightmind discussion on this topic will provide a lot of context. kela participated in this one.

Take a look at the above referenced section in IS on consciousness per se. He notes that it is the contentless measuring stick of altitude, using the metaphor* of inches. The difference is that inches are a "relative" convention constructed to provide useful grids to accomplish practical functions. Which is of course how L&J describe basic metaphors in their relation to and applicability with the environment. But note that for Wilber CPS is not a convention, i.e., it is the absolute from which the relative depends. In itself (yes, the thing in itself) it has no qualities, being formless. And this ultimate realm is directly contacted-experienced in nirvikalpa samadhi practice. This is laid out plainly in IS. So the problem is how to relate this metaphysically derived model of two realms from a "completely different order." Somehow (magically? but it seems such a skyhook is required) the unqualifiable becomes qualified inches. (How many inches in your CPS-dick?) Whereas the cogsciprago postmeta (re)solution is that there aren't two radically different orders to begin with, i.e., an alternative, postmetaphysical nondualism, integral to boot.

* The key is that CPS is indeed a conventional metaphor, not a thing in itself. Same for the AQAL holon of everything. Just this realization goes a long way toward making Wilber's whole edifice postmetaphysical and puts it into useful context, like inches.

Copied from the Dennett thread, as it applies here. In Appendix II of IS, in talking about kosmic addressing, Wilber says this:

"Thus, we cannot make any ontic or assertic statement...without being able to specify the Kosmic address of the subject, which also means the injunctions that the subject must perform in order to enact and access the worldspace of the object....if I want to know if there is a referent to the signifier Ayin or Godhead, then one among the necessary routes is to take a concentrative form of meditation....a clear majority of those who complete the experiment report that the signifier Ayin or Emptiness...can be said that, among other things, that Spirit is a vast infinite abyss or emptiness out of which all thing arise" (267-68).

Now it would be fine if Wilber keeps this in the "state" category, as in this state will then be interpreted by the level. But as we saw this state is interpreted as the measure of altitude level in the kosmic address! I guess it takes an indigo level, combined with this state, to make that interpretation (aka enlightenment)? All of which plays right into kela's thesis of privileged access.

For you see, when you are of the highest absolute state and relative stage, i.e., enlightened, the distinction between states and stages dissolves into the nondual... Glory be unto God, amen. (5)

Re-reading the "ladder, climber, view" thread I came upon this post, appropriate here:

Although I did appreciate Wilber from Integral Spirituality when he said:

"'Without a conceptual framework, meditative experiences would be totally incomprehensible. What we experience in meditation has to be properly interpreted, and its significance—or lack thereof—has to be understood. This interpretative act requires appropriate conceptual categories and the correct use of those categories'.... Notice that 'cognition' is actually derived from the root gni (co-gni-tion), and this gni is the same as gno, which is the same root as gno-sis, or gnosis. Thus, cognition is really co-gnosis, or that which is the co-element of gnosis and nondual awareness....in Sanskrit, this gno appears as jna, which we find in both prajna and jnana. Prajna is supreme discriminating awareness necessary for full awakening of gnosis (pra-jna = pro-gnosis), and jnana is pure gnosis itself. Once again, cognition as co-gnosis is the root of the development that is necessary for the full awakening of gnosis, of jnana, of nondual liberating awareness" (112-13).

The first part was quoting Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche (a Kagyu tulku) from Mind at Ease (Shambhala 2003). Another part of the quote is this: "Meditative experiences are in fact impossible without the use of conceptual formulations" (112). Wilber adds on the same page: "Meditative experience per se--that simply does not exist."

So let's get this straight. Satori can be experienced directly and the experience is of an objective, causal state beyond the relative. But said experience, and presumably the objective causal realm, do not exist per se? Or the causal realm does exist in itself but it is unknown until we enact an epistemological level capable of directly perceiving it? Or the causal realm subsists until such time? Anyone?

Wilber has added an addendum to his "response to critical realism."

No complaints with the addendum. It's just my questions above that remain unanswered.

Someone at my work asked me about the current debate between IT and CR, and what the main disagreement was about (whether, for instance, Bhaskar was trying to "prove" the existence of being apart from the altitudes).  This was part of my response, which I think is relevant to some of the points made in Wilber's recent addendum:


I think Bhaskar's main argument is that we have to presuppose the existence of objects or entities which exist independently of our knowing of them, in order to make sense of scientific or other forms of inquiry and activity.  Bhaskar differentiates between the real, the actual, and the empirical, where the "real" is the irreducibility of objects to our knowledge of or about them; the "actual" is the events that are occurring at any given time (observed by us or not); and the "empirical" is our experience and interpretation of said events.  The "actuality" of any entity at any given time (its present manifestation) does not exhaust its being: dimensions of its (or our) being always remain unactualized, depending on the context.  This is why it's necessary to do experiments or other forms of inquiry: what is actual at any given time, and present to experience at any given time, is not the "fullness" of that being; there is potential that is "out of phase" with the present and not manifest in the present context or set of relations.  Our experiments and inquiry practices set the conditions to actualize what otherwise is not actualized (but nevertheless real).  For Bhaskar, this means that both the actuality of a being and the empirical or experiential knowledge of this being must be differentiated from the reality of the being (which always exceeds and is irreducible to either). 

In my understanding, Wilber is arguing that this amounts to saying that consciousness-free being comes first -- that entities exist wholly apart from consciousness -- and he sees this as a duplication of the old first-tier split between matter and mind.  Wilber argues that reality is panpsychic -- that reality (following Whitehead) consists of prehensive experiential occasions, which co-create each other through their mutual prehensions.  Wilber would agree that beings might exist or subsist independently of our (human) knowing of them, but they nevertheless do not exist independently of their prehension of each other. 

In my reading of both Wilber and Bhaskar, I believe there is a slight misunderstanding here.  (I might be wrong, but this is how I see it).  Bhaskar embraces a kind of panpsychism (he thinks consciousness is "implicit" in things like atoms) and he also embraces nonduality, but he thinks we need to be careful about importing our anthropocentric notions of "experience" down to the level of atoms.  But I don't think this is really a problem for Wilber, since Wilber clearly differentiates between prehension at the level of atoms or other simple holons and self-awareness at the human level.  At any event, even with panpsychism embraced in both models (and Wilber's version is certainly stronger or more explicit), I think an important difference remains.  In other words, the problem isn't so much the lack of panpsychism in Bhaskar (he admits a form of it), but how that is understood and how it is related to ontology.  Wilber says that beings are not necessarily co-created by human agents, but they do co-create each other.  I believe Bhaskar (or an OOO philosopher) would say that even for atoms or molecules or bacteria encountering each other, even if we grant that experience is always part of an actual occasion, and that it influences the actualization and the evolution of these beings in and through their interactions, the reality of beings cannot be reduced to or simply identified with their experience of each other or even their "actuality" at any given moment.  There always remains an ontic depth "in the shadow," unmanifest, withdrawn from or exceeding present relations.  From what I've read thus far, I'm not sure that Wilber has yet addressed this aspect of Bhaskar's argument.

Well said. And it plays into some of my earlier questions. Wilber (aka Kennilingam) does posit the Causal, which is in a sense withdrawn. But not in the OOO (and Bhaskar?) way. Per the Lingam the Causal can be directly experienced, apparently in toto, via the nirodha meditative state.

Yes, I think that remains a real issue.  We've talked about this before on some of our previous "states" threads, of course.  Sometimes Wilber would seem to preserve this "withdrawal" aspect in that he sometimes frames causal experience as not-knowing and as a non-experience (as Tibetan Buddhists sometimes teach that the "nature of mind" is discovered in the non-finding of mind when we look for it).  But often it seems it is presented as something "directly accessed," in its totality and wholeness, and apparently also quite apart from altitude (which would make it "meditative experience per se," which he denies above).

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