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.


Views: 1482

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

A couple quips from the Hampson summary, all topics explored in depth in this forum. Unfortunately even Hampson is caught up in the marginalizing tendencies of academia to even notice.

"In attempting to transcend postmodernism, Wilberian integral theory appears not to sufficiently include its contributions. AQAL's current theoretic status of the Green vMeme and its relationship to post-Green conceptualisations is substantively problematic."

"The reflexive enactment of such [pomo] modalities may consequently alter the conceptual template—the very fabric—upon which integral theory is based."

"Research could be undertaken regarding the relationship of integral theory to Lakoff and Johnson's work on conceptual metaphor and embodied philosophy."

"Notions of construction and deconstruction as necessary adversaries can appropriately be seen to stem from an either/or mindset. Thinking dialectically, their relationship can fruitfully be rather understood as complexly interpenetrating."

"A conceptual template based in part on complexity theory could facilitate an internally-congruent evolution of integral theory."

"Further research could explore, for example, in what appropriate ways pre- and trans- could be identified as distinct yet complexly interpenetrating."

"In short, this evidence supports the hypothesis that the above text from Derrida is operating from the construct-aware stage....His writing demonstrates a high level of developmental maturity, in which deconstruction is recognised and reflexively enacted in a post-relativist, dialectical, construct-aware mode. Derrida and deconstruction are clearly something Other than that signified by Wilber in his use of the term, deconstructive postmodernism."

"That Authentic and post-Authentic consciousness enfolds into itself—would specifically problematise Wilber's theorizing of levels specifically for Green and beyond."

"Wilber constructs two opposing camps: (a) the camp of fragments, jumble, mess, breakage, alienation, division; and (b) the camp of holism, integrality, holons, linkages, joinings, communions, wholeness. This construction is dualistic: no interpenetration between the two camps is allowed for. But why does it necessarily have to be either/or? A complex-aware theoretic template could embrace both camps. Through this, the world could be identified as: whole and jumbled, holonic and entangled, broken and linked—in varying ways."

"There was a significant 'yellow false positive' whereby 'Selection of statements intended to elicit Yellow appear to be reflecting a more sophisticated form of Orange instead' and that, 'The dominant profile for those pegging falsely on Yellow came from the Blue/Orange pairing and from Nodal Orange.'"

Interesting; I hadn't noticed there was this degree of overlap.


(As an aside, I'm curious how / whether the Integral community will interface with Morin's complexity community, at the ITC 2013 and in its wake.  I'll try to report on this when I'm there.)

Yes, as I've noted in a couple of threads, like complexity & pomo and real/false reason, the very way we approach complexity itself is at issue in postformal integrality. Morin is more in the pomo complexity crowd. Kennilingus and the MHC are still caught up in a restricted complexity per the following from the first thread in this post:

Cilliers references Morin in this article, where he says:

"In the first place one has to acknowledge that the 'discipline' of Complexity is a house divided. There are serious differences between different approaches to complexity. After about two or three decades of work explicitly dedicated to the understanding of complex systems, it has become crucial to reflect critically on the value of these different approaches. One way of distinguishing between these approaches is provided by Edgar Morin (2007) who distinguishes between 'general' and 'restricted' complexity. Restricted complexity refers mainly to the mathematical and computational approaches to complexity, often strongly informed by chaos theory. This approach, Morin argues, acknowledges the non-linear, relational nature of complex systems, but seeks to tame it in ways which reintroduces positivism and reductionism. General complexity on the other hand, argues for the limits of all approaches to complex systems and urges that we acknowledge these limits and recognise that we need a new language in which to do this, a language which moves beyond Enlightenment ideals of neutrality and objectivity."

Also of relevance here, from this post:

Nonetheless, we can see similarities and differences with the Lingam's notion of the Causal, his version of the virtual. It is more like DeLanda and Deleuze in that it is a sort of timeless continuum within which the actual manifests. But unlike them his is unchanging and of a "radically different order,"* i.e., not immanent. And ironically one might argue that his different orders relate to the difference between epistemology and ontology, relative and absolute, which he most certainly does separate and divide contrary to his claims in this thread.

* Excerpt G, p. 33: The two truths "are of radically different orders.... Conventional truths are known by science; absolute truth is known by satori. They simply are not the same thing."

See Esbjorn-Hargens blog post for new articles on the CR/IT debate.

In Wilber's addendum to his response to CR, Wilber contrasts the epistemic fallacy with what he calls the ontic fallacy...

Wilber:  This approach neither commits the epistemic fallacy (epistemology is privileged and ontology derived from it) nor the ontic fallacy (ontology is privileged and epistemology derived from it).  Nor does it see ontology separated and consigned to its own realm, and epistemology separated and consigned to its own realm—but rather both arise concurrently (as part of a 4-quadrant tetra-arising, all the way up and down), co‑evolve concurrently, and co-enact concurrently.  The Kosmos is simply too interwoven and too inseparable and too enactive to exist in any other fashion—there are no silo dimensions anywhere in the universe.  Atoms come into being at the same time that they “know” each other; molecules come into being at the same time that they “know” each other; and likewise cells, organisms, and so on.  If their knowing and being don’t properly mesh (which is certainly possible, and actually happens quite often), then the affected holon simply ceases to arise—it ceases to be carried forward by evolution, whether it is a subatomic particle, an animal, or an idea.

Here, he appears to be suggesting that CR commits the ontic fallacy.  Interestingly, a rather similar debate took place a few years back between CR proponents and Latourian Actor Network Theorists (ANT). In the excerpt that follows, CR proponent Elder-Vass critiques the (Wilber-like) ANT claims that the phases of Venus did not exist prior to being discovered by Galileo (but then appear to have 'always already existed,' once disclosed and articulated), or that arteries are furred only once the doctor diagnoses them, as examples of the epistemic fallacy.  But then he contrasts this with another fallacy which the ANT folks have identified, which the author calls the ontic fallacy (and which is quite similar, in some respects, to Wilber's critique of the myth of the given):

Elder-Vass:  ANT, however, has a counter argument (though one that is not to my knowledge explicitly counterposed by them to Bhaskar’s position) that represents almost a mirror image of this critique. Latour and Woolgar argue that scientific statements can be divided into unconditional claims that are taken to be true, and perhaps even taken for granted, and statements that are qualified with what they call modalities. Modalities qualify statements by specifying particular contexts or sources for them – for example, pointing out that a claim is made by x, on the basis of an experiment reported in journal y (Latour and Woolgar 1986: 77–9). Such modalities are read as casting doubt on the truth of the claim; the claim is not yet well enough established to merit unconditional reporting, so its provenance must be stated, with the implication that it may still be undermined. One objective of scientists, then, is to persuade other scientists that their own claims are well enough established to drop such qualifications, to drop or delete the modalities (Law 2004: 27–8; Latour and Woolgar 1986: 81).This demodalization deletes all references to the hinterland of subjectivity, experiment, and prior theory to leave an unqualified statement that therefore appears to relate purely to the external world that exists independently of science. Now, what was previously a statement about a scientific claim made by particular people for particular reasons becomes a statement about independent reality. ‘Before long, more and more reality is attributed to the object and less and less to the statement about the object. Consequently, an inversion takes place: the object becomes the reason why the statement was formulated in the first place’ (Latour andWoolgar 1986: 177).

Here, then, there is an implicit reversal of Bhaskar’s position: in a sense they are arguing that statements about reality are a kind of ontic fallacy: they are statements about what we claim to know about reality and how we know it, that have been stripped of the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ until they appear to be statements about reality itself. From this perspective, all statements about being have already been transposed from statements about our knowledge of being. From this perspective, the fallacy is to forget that demodalized statements are dependent and conditional upon the scientific work that went before.

We seem to have arrived at a stand-off here: epistemic fallacy vs. ontic fallacy. But are these two positions inherently contradictory? The argument that all unconditional scientific statements are demodalized need not lead to the conclusion that they are not true, or justified. Indeed, the actor network theorists do not themselves come to such a conclusion; for them, as we have seen, demodalized statements remain ‘the most ascertained, objective, and certified results every obtained by collective human ingenuity’ (Latour 2005: 89–90).And they remain statements about external reality. Nor need Bhaskar deny that scientific statements are arrived at through a process of modalization and demodalization, because he makes no claim to the infallibility of scientific statements about reality. On the contrary, he recognizes that all such claims have the status of knowledge, and that all human knowledge is fallible.  All that he wants to deny is the argument that we cannot make claims about external reality. On reflection, then, despite appearing contradictory, these metaphysical arguments may be entirely consistent.

What does pose an obstacle is the multiplication of cases in which ANT appears to deny common sense realism: such as the phases of Venus that did not exist before Galileo discovered them and the arteries furred only when a doctor diagnoses them. These seem to illustrate a second level at which ANT fails to see the need for the first dimension of Bhaskar’s depth ontology: the need to distinguish the empirical from the actual, and to recognize that things may actually exist before we observe them. If this is really something that ANT agrees on, it poses a potentially insuperable obstacle to reconciliation with critical realism.

You'll note that Elder-Vass does not regard the ontic fallacy as applying to CR, but rather that the CR position aims to avoid the sting of both charges.

And which reminds me of DeLanda's and Bryant's (among several others) claim that the virtual is part of the real, just not actual at the moment. So how do we validate something not in evidence at the moment? I guess it's how we define evidence. If we accept that such validated things as image schema are the embodied base for the likes of nonlinear dynamics with their virtual strange attractors, then perhaps we can indeed validate virtuality.

Great discussion everyone. This is my first post, and I read through quite a bit of the thread before jumping into composing my own response to the themes being brought up. It came out a little bit long, but I try to sort through the questions brought up by theurj regarding the "causal" and "full enlightenment" in Kens theory via the differentiation of structure-stages and state-stages, as well as the utilization of AQAL within a Vajrayana, Non-Dual Buddhist basis organized towards ameliorating the suffering of all sentient beings (which is how I use it, if only partially because it seems to be how Ken designed it). Then I try to bring the point home regarding the difference between Bhaskar's use of the "withdrawal" of the object from our attempts to know it, and Ken's use of Post-Metaphysics to assert that every perspective includes the Kosmic Address of both the Subject and the Object, as well as the similarity between what those assertions imply regarding our present certainty in our own understanding of the object or for that matter, the subject. 

        The point of similarity between Ken and Bhaskar's assertions seems to be an attempt to lead the mind towards accepting its own present limitations via an attitude of uncertainty towards the fullness (or exhaustiveness) of its understanding of itself or the world (subjective and objective sides of being-experience). Experience presupposes an identification with the subjective side of a subject-object dualism. Deep dreamless sleep is an “experience” of “nothing” in the sense that there is no objective contents arising. Yet this is not the same as identification with the Witness as a permanent state-stage vantage point. In learning to identify with the equanimity of the Witness, we surrender all identifications with any subject or object that can be seen, and learn to rest in and as the pure subjective field of awareness; as that which never enters experience as an object of awareness. This is properly the eye of contemplation if we take that eye to be geared towards an awakening of an unbroken continuity of witnessing, which does not become attached or lose itself in any phenomena arising through the natural states of human being. 

Yet even an identification with the Witness as the always present sense of awareness which is not any of its contents, is an experience. This experience is properly timeless as it never enters the stream of discrete relative mind moments. This experience is properly formless, as it is other than all forms yet maintains as the grounding (ontology metaphor) and clearing (epistemology+methodology metaphor) “for” them all. This experience is properly not evolving, as it does not admit or express any particularity of form. Notice that we are attempting to use words and metaphors from the regularities of our “usual” experience in order to point out the difference between identifying with the subject of “me,” and the Witness as the I of space/awareness itself. 

Notice that we are usually doing this either through a distinction based on being (grounding/space) or knowing (clearing/awareness), which de-centers the human being via the assertion of the inverse of their “usual” orientation. I am usually being this rather than that, I am usually knowing something particular with boundaries. Yet if I rest as being the space around the usual thing I am identified with, and know (grant certainty) only to the immediate awareness itself, I am everything in potential and thus transcend all particularities of me and my understanding of my self or the world. If I am grounded in “no-thing” as opposed to “this thing,” I am the clearing in which all of those things can and do come to pass. The temporary experience of this kind of identification as primary and immediate, is one kind of “satori” because it rests in the perspective from which I am already free. I am free in that I am radically dis-identified with all forms of limiting manifestation via an identification with the already existing space supporting their transitory emergence. The Hinayana point of view takes this cessation of identification with any form, as Nirvana; positing Nirvana to be the basic cessation of our reactivity to form via an identification with that which is always already grounding or making available our knowing of form. If you are reading this, you cannot deny the awareness which makes it possible for you to be doing so. Asked about the suffering of other sentient beings, the Hinayana Buddhist would reply - “I don’t care, I’m getting off the wheel.” This kind of orientation was explored by Nagarajuna and found to be intrinsically dualistic, and thus susceptible to an exclusivity of identification which results in exactly what it sees as the basis of samsara/suffering. The Hinayana ideal of an Arhat as a foe-destroyer of all afflictive emotions produced through our clinging to notions of intrinsic self-existence, is replaced in Nagarajuna’s Mahayana by the ideal of the Bodhisattva who forgoes entering permanent cessation in order to ameliorate the suffering of all sentient beings. This is Non-dual in the sense that the Wisdom of resting in the Witness and transcending all perspectives derived via our particular experience of form, is seen as not-other than the compassion of engaging the world of form. Vajrayana takes the Mahayana as a starting point (which itself preserves the possibility of cessation but negates its exclusive claim to ultimate and final truth), and incorporates cultural taboos, complex visualization practices of intricate signification and identification, and the philosophical re-indoctrination of the practitioner to effect the intensification of their efforts towards awakening in this lifetime. This is where the conscious contemplation of Basis, Path, and Fruit becomes a key metaphor for distinguishing and differentiating the 9 Yanas as an evolving continuum of vehicles for transformation and awakening. This continuum ranks the relative differences of the vehicles via their specific Basis (view), Path (practices), Fruit (outcome, transformation, awakening). 


The point here is that the higher yanas are superior to the lower ones, yet the essential insight of Emptiness is a pre-requisite for working with the relative embodiment via different vehicles. The possibility of developing a state-stage vantage point identified with the Witness, and the corresponding immediate experience of the Emptiness of all forms - the cessation of our reactivity to any specific form via a direct understanding of its illusory nature from the perspective grounded in the Witness - is the basis for engaging any of the higher yanas which consciously utilize the mind to become aware of the impact of its own assumptions on how that direct experience is integrated into the ongoing human experience of awakening and transformation. We awaken and transform so that we may liberate all sentient beings from their own self-imposed forms of suffering and contractive identification with form. This intention is central to the utilization of a Non-Dual framework, and is part of the Basis of all Mahayana and Vajrayana vehicles and paths. 

Within a Non-Dual Basis, identification with the Witness over and against all forms is the last stand of the relative identification habit, which is always attempting to secure self-referential belief in its existence, via its changing “experience.” This is where structure-stages and state-stages must be differentiated. We also have to note the way we use the two truths doctrine relative to the terms gross, subtle, causal, witness, non-dual. The two truths doctrine also can be pointed at with the differentiation of the eye of the senses, eye of the mind, and eye of contemplation. The eye of contemplation reveals the data of satori (if it does), because satori itself, is a temporary experience of a relative being encountering their own boundless grounding as awareness. Satori is a breakthrough experience occurring in part via the negation of the exclusive view of the structure-stage and state-stage of the individual in question. This is why we have terms for partial awakenings (kensho), because the initial experience of identification with the formless state of the witness occurs for a relative being and this experience does not necessarily equate with either a state-stage development into the Non-dual, or a structure-stage development into permanent forms of gross, subtle, causal, or non-dual mysticism. Dzogchen, refers to the “Causal” as “Very subtle” and this allows us to see that the Causal state is not the same as the formless realm. The formless realm is not a realm per se, but rather is the basis of all forms. Their non-dual nature is a further recognition that requires (in the state-stage sense) the continuity of our subjective identification with the Witness to breakdown and reveal our “prior” non-dual unity with all changing states and structures. These states and structures are then enacted primarily via skillful means intended to free all sentient beings of their self-imposed suffering. In this sense, they are enacted “transparently.” This is represented as the 10th Zen ox herding picture. Yet this says nothing about the structural evolution of consciousness via  something like an Altitude construct. The usage of the Witness to ground an individuals practice of engaging the eye of contemplation, regards only the Basis of their Path which results in the Fruit of State-Stage development. 

State-stage development refers to the continuity of awareness through the natural states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep (gross, subtle, causal). Subtle state-state refers to the continuity of awareness maintaining via the change from waking to dreaming, resulting in both lucid and pellilucid dreaming. However, as the natural state changes to deep sleep, the individual loses consciousness and “passes out.” A causal state stage would render the individual aware throughout deep dreamless sleep, and we might even refer to the mention of clear light found in Vajrayana Buddhism and especially Dzogchen. State-stage development into the Witness would imply continuity of awareness through all finite states (causal being a discrete realm when correlated with deep dreamless sleep). Non-dual state-stage development would imply a continuity of non-dual unity with and as all forms, not simply as the ever present Witness of them. The witness is not the same as the causal state, the witness is the field of awareness within which the waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states arise and fall. The witness is present throughout each, yet each is mutually exclusive to each other. One is Witness of gross-waking phenomena, subtle-dream phenomena, causal-deep sleep phenomena. 

Any human being is this without awareness of being it, in the very simple sense of awareness being always the case for a sentient being - irrespective of an identity with or personal identity project practicing meditation or desiring enlightenment. This is where Ken’s vision is noted to be Non-dual from the very start. The Non-dual view is inherent in this, in that Buddha Nature is assumed as always already (Formless awareness presupposes any forms), and all evolving forms eventually are seen to be non-binding modifications of Non-dual spirit. They are both temporary and thus not “real” from the state-stage vantage point of the previous “Witness” state-identity, but as the Witness view is surrendered into the Non-dual state-stage vantage point, all forms are re-embraced in their essential function as vehicles of dharma. 

This is why the Buddhist corpus is said to contain no contradictions, even tho it at times seems to do so. All relative structures are real-enough as non-binding manifestations of spirit, and must be embraced on their own terms in order for transformation out of their limitations to occur. To the man who believes that god does not exist, Buddha replies that god does in fact exist: To the man who believes that god does exist, Buddha replies that god does not in fact exist. The point of absolute teaching is not concerned with relative truth corresponding to ultimate truth, but the use of relative injunctions (structures and states freed from their exclusive view or vantage, embraced transparently within a non-dual recognition of wisdom and compassion) to balance and attenuate those relative structures and states within other sentient beings in their exclusive identification with both the structural and state views they have evolved, and the affirmed reality contents or assumptions of the world around them.

In this same vein, AQAL and its utilization by engaged Boddhisattvas, recognizes the independent nature of structural evolution, and the necessity of transformation in “engaging” the “higher” potentials of the human bodymind. Where state-stages practice in maintaining unbroken continuity within the already given natural states of human cosciousness, structure-stage practices work with negating the exclusive assumptions and limitations of someones present relative worldview. This occurs naturally through our native encountering of experiential data that challenges some dimension of that worldview. For instance, if I am stuck in an ethnocentric denial of the “goodness” of homosexuals, but then I am forced to live with a gay roomate in college who slowly disproves most of my limiting assumptions and forces me to re-evaluate what I believe is possible in the world. The same kind of thing can be said to happen when someone engages an altered state experience. The negation of their present structural worldview occurs via the introduction of experiential data that directly challenges what I believe to be possible, or challenges the exclusivity of some element of my understanding. This is natural evolution occurring through structure stages, and would occur until the individual found a sustainable 4 quadrant manifestation in which their present translations were continually found solid, safe, and slowly became so habitual as to be mistaken to be constants of the actual world. 

I think all of this speaks to the reason why we engage Critical Realism, OOO (which I dont know much about), or Kens vision of AQAL Integral theory. It is through the utilization of contemplation and reflection about our mental assumptions (basis), that we open up a wider array of possible practices and enactive capabilities (path), resulting in a conscious intensification of awareness (state continuity) or transformation of our ability to respond to complex realities of self and world. 

It seems to me that Bhaskar induces the necessary attitude of uncertainty for this kind of mental re-indoctrination by pointing out that the object always escapes our attempts at completely understanding it. This points us towards accepting the negation of our present object oriented understanding of ontology. Ken does this by pointing out the two truths doctrine as his basis (ultimate truth cannot be known via relative enactions, only via the opening of the eye of contemplation), and then sets out to describe an assume a Kosmos of enormous complexity that is co-enacted by the Kosmic Address of the Subject as well as the Object. In this sense, the knowledge of my computer always escapes me because the nature of my structural engagement is itself a tiny fragment of possible engagements. To say that the computer is better used as a computer than as a tool for defending myself from an intruder, is to assume that an intruder is not bearing down on me with malicious intent. Ken points to the greatness of complexity always failing to be exhausted by any partial perspective whereas it seems Bhaskar relies on pointing towards the object as intrinsically escaping our ability to know it fully. The point where I would say Ken and AQAL have the advantage, is in the recognition of the independent (differentiated) but closely knit (integrated) relationship between ontology, epistemology, and methodology for determining anything as existent. Subsistence is to note that for a tribe that only had names for every bend in the river, the “river” never existed, but its potential for existence was later enacted by more evolved structures of consciousness, and thus before that existence we can posit its subsistence. This also allows us to orient towards our present sense of existence with a fluidity that acknowledges the possibility for enacting entirely novel objects of existence via more complex structures of consciousness than we currently have at our disposal. It seems to me that Bhaskar points us towards our uncertainty but also muddles the line between an eye of contemplation practice (with its own pre assumed basis and expectation for particular fruit) and the eye of mind. Utilizing the eye of the mind to point out that all objects are ultimately non-exhausted in any particular structural point of view (AQAL), seems more efficient to me if the goal is the gradual loosening of our certainty in order to engage our world and human endeavors more consciously. Utilizing the eye of contemplation to differentiate what evolves (form) from that which never enters the stream of time (awareness itself), allows us to more skillfully engage both on their own terms and for their own distinct purposes. The eye of the mind is still operative even if we transcend its exclusive claim to truth via our use of the eye of contemplation to negate our previous ontologies, epistemologies, and methodologies (on the subjective side), as well as our current objective understanding of who we are and what the world is. We must negate both the view from the mind as well as the assumed certainty we place in the ontic, epistemic, and methodological realities we have come to rely on in the course of our evolution. There is the enaction of these realities via the Kosmic address of both the subject and the object and the methodologies brought to bear in the investigation of that “whole” occasion - this being simply a higher order assumption of what is possible to guide our exploration of what can become actual. Yet there is also the negation of already existing certainty in the object world or for that matter our self understanding and identity. It seems to me that Bhaskar doubts the objects ability to be fully known by us, but does not correlatively ground himself in the same doubt regarding our ability to “know” ourselves via the epistemological structures of our awareness. Ken’s AQAL is Non-dual because it doubts both the subject and the object within the relative realm of manifestation, doing so from the grounding in the possibility for cessation as a distinct experiential moment of insight - Satori - while also recognizing that this view is not final, and that it represents just one moment of discrete unfolding in the state development of a human being. Satori says nothing about Structures, unless we mean “Supermind” as a metaphor expressed by Aurobindo and by Ken in his notion of “Full Enlightenment.” This “Full Enlightenment” may very well be the kind of thing that hurts our ability to unfold into its potential if we assume it to be possible without a thorough understanding of our own present limitations via an attitude of uncertainty. Even if this structure is granted as possible, and includes of necessity the Non-dual state-stage, Full Enlightenment does not propose an end or final destination. It presumes a capacity for being one with all structures thus evolved, in the context of working towards the enlightenment of all sentient beings. The work in the social world is never-ending, and any reading of “Full enlightenment” that sees the implication of an end point, is greatly missing Ken’s point on the matter. 

Thanks for the rich introductory post, Michael.  I'm a bit of a lapsed Dzogchenpa myself (having studied in both Nyingma and Bon traditions for a number of years), and several other members are Vajrayana practitioners or Buddhist-knowledgeable, so you'll find some dharma-kin here.  A number of our discussions in the past have centered around postmetaphysical interpretations of states, base awareness, etc.  In any event, it is late this evening, but tomorrow I will respond in more detail -- especially to your observations about Bhaskar & Wilber, CR & IT, etc.

Hi, Michael,

Michael: Ken points to the greatness of complexity always failing to be exhausted by any partial perspective whereas it seems Bhaskar relies on pointing towards the object as intrinsically escaping our ability to know it fully. The point where I would say Ken and AQAL have the advantage, is in the recognition of the independent (differentiated) but closely knit (integrated) relationship between ontology, epistemology, and methodology for determining anything as existent.

I think you make a good distinction in your first sentence.  I'd like to hear more what you're thinking with your second observation, though.  From what I've seen of the two systems thus far, I still prefer Integral Theory to Meta-Reality overall and find it to be more comprehensive and compelling, but there are some areas where Bhaskar's work is certainly on par with Integral and might have an advantage as well.  In this case, the close relationship between ontology, epistemology, and methodology is also acknowledged by Critical Realism.  CR acknowledges, with Actor Network Theory, the 'modalization' of scientific and other knowledge claims: meaning, scientific statements about reality, while sometimes presented without reference to the context or methodology that gave rise to the understanding, are nevertheless dependent on their experimental modes of enactment. So, this is akin to Wilber's insistence that positive statements about reality, to be postmetaphysical, must include reference to (or acknowledge) the means of enactment.  However, CR also argues it is important to differentiate (though not divorce) the empirical -- what is enacted, experienced -- from the actual and the real (i.e., not to conflate the empirical with either the actual or the real).  The actual is what is actually manifesting at any moment, whether observed by us or not.  The real is, at once, the irreducibility of beings to our knowledge about, or experience of, them; and also the potential or power of beings to manifest and be known in certain ways (although this potential may be un-actualized and un-experienced at any given time).

Michael: Subsistence is to note that for a tribe that only had names for every bend in the river, the “river” never existed, but its potential for existence was later enacted by more evolved structures of consciousness, and thus before that existence we can posit its subsistence. This also allows us to orient towards our present sense of existence with a fluidity that acknowledges the possibility for enacting entirely novel objects of existence via more complex structures of consciousness than we currently have at our disposal.

I've commented on the 'subsistence' notion earlier on in this thread -- noting a similarity to CR's position but also an apparent restriction of Wilber's comments about it to the level of the empirical.  But regarding the potential of such an orientation to impart a sense of fluidity and openness to our orientation to reality, yes, that's well said.  I would just add that I think the possibility for enacting novel objects of existence does not depend only on the emergence of more complex structures of consciousness -- but also simply on different structures of consciousness, and different forms of practice or modes of experimentation or interaction.  (Meaning, we don't necessarily have to wait to evolve a new level, since the experience of things at any level does not exhaust the being of things at/from that level).

Regarding your last paragraph, I'd like to hear more about what you're thinking.  If I followed what you were saying, I believe you are suggesting that Bhaskar does not clearly and properly include the additional qualification of understanding afforded by the eye of contemplation.  If that is what you mean, I think that's likely; Bhaskar's model is explicitly nondual, and in that it is akin to Wilber's, but he has tended to focus on the "nonduality" of ordinary experience rather than on cultivated state-stages.  But regarding whether or not he applies his understanding of uncertainty and the withdrawal of beings to the self as well as to external objects, he most certainly does.  He and the OOO philosophers both argue that the being of a thing also is never exhausted by its own self-apprehension or self-knowledge (and for this reason they would also argue that contemplation, like other modes of knowledge, has its own limitations).

Best wishes,


Michael, you might be interested in the Batchelor thread. One line of inquiry is Thakchoe's The Two Truths Debate between Gorampa and Tsongkhapa, a debate ongoing to this day in the various Tibetan schools as well as in contemporary Buddhist scholarship. You'll see my obvious preference for which side I think is more conducive to an integral postmetaphysical enaction generally and spirituality specifically.

Here's Roy Bhaskar at the recent IT conference, being interviewed by Giorgio Piacenza about CR and the relevance of CR for IT:


Reply to Discussion


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.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2024   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service