An Integral Tropology of Saturation: The Interplay of Shownness and Givenness

Final%20Paper.docHere was my foray into including something Integral in an academic paper.  (Please forgive the typos I noticed when I re-read it just now.)

Since then I've added Marion's re-interpretation of Aquinas's analogy of being, which re-interpretation builds on Heidegger's critique of Aquinas as enmeshing God in metaphysics by building an onto-theo-logy.  Applying Gebser to this critique is what makes my work an Integral Postmetaphysical Phenomenology, and I think  mine is the only one to exist so far.  I'd better hurry up and get published!  :)

Any and all critique is appreciated.

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Comment by inthesaltmine on April 20, 2013 at 6:08pm

From one David to another, this is an impressive paper and I must commend you for your work. I'd like to follow Layman's intuitions a bit and examine the following passage, picking through more as I find the time.

Lacan develops Freud’s unconscious by portraying it as being structured in the same way as language.

This is a bit simplistic, but it is a start.

Late Lacan (...Lacan as thinker of the Real, feminine jouissance, etc.) introduces the idea of lalangue and updates his formula "the unconscious is structured like a language" to "the unconscious is structured like lalangue", noticing the la-la-la repetition (a sound, it rolls off the tongue so to speak) and to emphasize jouissance.

More accurately than your initial statement, I think, we may say that the (personal) unconscious is structured like the (unique) affectivity of language, where "language" [langage] is understood as the confines of syntax, grammar, etc. (see: theurj's explorations of "image schemata" as well) and our concern with its "affect" is understood as its own active manifestation -- given those formal restraints given the way we are embodied, which in a way mark a similarity between us -- in the Real. 

I'm going into such detail because it allows us to understand your phrase "undifferentiated Whole" a bit more. Another term for this, perhaps, that we can consider momentarily is "actual infinite" (notice that we can understand it only finitely, so we may say "actual trans-finite") as being given in the fabric of space-time out of which we arise. There is still perhaps a certain mythos to it (like those of a primordial "abyss"), though.

Can there be a complete continuous integration of fragmented perspectives into an "undifferentiated whole"? Well, I think not, and I don't think that would be desirable at this stage in any event, but then it becomes a question of what we do with or better where we locate -- spatially and temporally -- this Whole.

This Whole, this infinity of depth, thought of in its very "smoothness"... it is actually more often than not first understood by us upon the advent a certain crisis or chaotic encounter (say, the "violence" of God and of Nature, our existential uncertainty in phenomenological self-hood, etc. to be loose-handed) which has been "given" to us ... or, perhaps we feel that we have been "taken" from than the tranquil image of completeness we get when we normally say "undifferentiated Whole".

In any event, our understanding of the "undifferentiated Whole" and specifically our description of the Whole-as-undifferentiated often comes second, when what you're trying to talk about - if I understand properly - is something which is meant to come first. A better term may be possible, but I understand what you are saying nonetheless. 

That said, I find Layman's remarks to be more or less spot-on. I see it instead more as a condition of possibility.

Human consciousness develops from the infant’s undifferentiated whole to the adult’s world of differentiation by means of the acquisition of language. In the infant’s first stage of development, whatever lies within the infant’s field of perception makes up all of reality, with no sense of differentiation of parts within the whole. Neither is there a sense of self, not as subject nor as object, for the infant. The infant and all that the infant perceives at the moment are one. Lacan calls this undifferentiated whole the Real.

And so again, I will echo Pascal's concerns on the subject of the Lacanian mirror stage, and I will specify them further: I think it gives too great a dominance to certain "visual" and perhaps even "semiotic" cues, and these are perhaps the misleading ones. Sloterdijk, for instance, does a good job pointing out the psycho-acoustic elements which begin the formation of the child (ears develop first, I believe) well before the traditional understanding of the mirror stage kicks in. "Mirroring" in terms of affects, as we know, need not require an actual mirror so to speak.

In the end, however, a lot of what you are saying about connections with the Lacanian Real is - I think - ultimately salvageable by way of an appeal to Marion's "saturated phenomenon" among other things. I think though - in the paper as it is written - that your description of Lacan could be made much better and far more nuanced if you wish to use him - his name - as a take off point. For what it's worth, I also find a lot of the Christological undertones of Marion to be present also in the work of Lacan -- and this is something which could both help and hurt at the same time. The thread extends between them, certainly.

More to come, I haven't really said anything yet that Layman had not. Do you think that there are ultimately four tropes, or three+1 tropes? This would be the question of the sinthome, and of the role of the feminine character of Wisdom (Qohelet) lurking behind the way these categories come together as such.

Jung and the integralists, for instance, go for four tropes in a Quaternity. Bryant, on the other hand, winds up with three in his BCT, with the fourth (heh, Wisdom) he seemingly forgets. Is there more stability in a three-legged stool or a four-legged one? But then when it comes to building stools do we sometimes forget who is the carpenter and see only the finished visible product?

Here we may begin to pick apart the various strengths and weaknesses of 4 and 3. It depends, it seems, on the individual user. This is perhaps a place where a certain flexibility of style becomes important, as it allows you to accommodate either one in a playful way.

Comment by David Miller on August 23, 2012 at 7:48pm

Thank you.  I am very stimulated by the responses.  I may be able to start responding tomorrow evening, or it may be Saturday.  But I will respond, and appreciate the conversation.

Comment by Layman Pascal on August 23, 2012 at 2:19pm

In this same section I pause over the phrase "undifferentiated whole".  I worry that this is phenomenologically misleading at that the sense of the undifferentiated wholeness is a kind of popular illusion arising after the differentiation begins but which does not do such a good job of characterizing the prior phase.  I am inclined to view this as a pre-differentiated condition of hyper-partiality compared to which the consciousness of differentiation represents an enormous leap forward in both structural integration and experiential wholeness.

Do you have an interest in referring to pre-differentiation as a type of wholeness or is that just a kind of colloquialism?

Comment by Layman Pascal on August 23, 2012 at 2:13pm

One thing I've paused at a few times in the paper is the description of the Mirror Stage in Lacan.  Your phrasing suggests somewhat casually that the reflected image is interpolated as the result of adults pointing out and naming it.  However since it also appears that a few of the "higher animals" reach the Mirror Stage in the sense of being able to correctly identify their reflection in relation to an individually embodied identity we might presume that this process (unlike the passage through the Oedipal Gate into linguistic self-consciousness) may progress with little or no naming and educating.  Our neural architecture is very quick to build its Frankensteinian composite self-image out of whatever perceptions even come close to the model that we are primed to download.  Obviously the capacity for a "That one!" gesture is needed but I remain suspicious about making this seem to much like a verbal-social event of identification.

Comment by Layman Pascal on August 23, 2012 at 1:11pm

Hi David.  I appreciate the gesture.  My ideal welcome wagon might be a bit more of a chaotic dance than some others.  And I hope my sense that enriched and progressive theory should aim for a hybrid of cognitive & aesthetic, personal & impersonal, conventional & peculiar, etc. is not too far away from the goals and approaches which you have in mind.  Like Balder I'm poking into your paper whenever I get a free moment.

Here are a few questions which came up for me while reading your remarks:

Do you think of Heidegger's epochs of the metaphysics of Being as (a) a more or less contingent series of phases (b) not really a good description of history (c) a "nietzschean" tale of the devolution of culture as the latent nihilism comes, by stages, to the surface (d) a progressive tale which is loosely analogous to the kinds of developmental stages invoked by Gebser and others?

Are you concerned with the interface potentials between phenomenology, developmental psychology and only Christian theological traditions (appropriate to addressing Marion) or are you interested in the possibilities of folding in other lineages of theology?  One immediately thinks, for example, of the various ways in which the Buddhists handle a saturational surplus as "suchness".  The connection between meditative disciplines (which have some connexion to the accelerate development of human thinking through developmental stages) and the process of acclimatizing oneself to make a cognitive space for the givenness-which-exceeds-our-capacity-to-grasp seems to deserve some scrutiny here.  

Along these same lines do you see a particular meditative or contemplative deployment suggested by your understanding of the resonances between the 4 quadrants, 4 tropes, 4 modes of saturation?

Are you concerned at all about the tradition of thought which suggests the development from the Real to Imaginary to Symbolic is a mistaken or merely preliminary holding of Lacan and that the Real is best understood not an experience or phase or dimension but rather as simply the virtuality suggested by the failure of Symbol and Imagination?

I certain join you in affirming that saturation does not denote a passive condition of the subject and that a evolving-emerging pseudo-hierarchical phenomenology traces a line from sentience to sapience to salience (from bodily consciousness to psychological consciousness to the vividness and mystical excess which permits more sophisticated arrangements of phenomenological detections into more complex and deeper world-models.

So I'm looking forward to reading more of your ideas.

Comment by Balder on August 23, 2012 at 9:34am

David, I'm in the midst of the busiest part of my week, so I haven't had time to write much yet this week, but I wanted to check in to comment that I've been reading your paper and still intend to respond.  Your recent clarification to Layman was helpful to me, as I was not very familiar with Marion's notion of saturated phenomena.


Since this topic has been explored from multiple angles in this forum over the years, I'd also like to ask you if you'd care to give your understanding of "postmetaphysical" (in general and/or in the context of your paper).


Best wishes,



Comment by David Miller on August 21, 2012 at 10:19pm

Okay, I'll give this a try, but I must say, if your first post was the welcome wagon, I'm not sure about this neighborhood.

What excites me is that this provides an opening for developmental theory in contemporary phenomenology.  Developmental theory was incorporated into early phenomenological method in the study of religion, but it was an essentialized, modernistic version that has been discredited by postmodern philosophy.  There is some measure of development in Ricoeur's hermeneutical phenomenology, as he moves from symbol to myth to philosophical/theological speculation, but this has been by and large confined to the hermeneutical aspect of his work and has not been taken up by phenomenologists.  Marion's work is a big deal in the world of phenomenology, as he is either reviled or admired -- there doesn't seem to be much middle ground -- for his part in the so-called religious turn or theological turn in phenomenology, so working with Marion's ideas and effectively critiquing them (if it turns out that I'm actually able to do so) has a great deal of currency in that world.

Ricoeur's description of the rhetorical master tropes as analogues gets me four things (not all of which are mentioned in this paper).  1) It gives me a way to critique Marion's four forms of saturation (which are based on Kant's categories).  2) It gives me an entry into Marion's critique of the standard interpretation of Aquinas's analogy of being and thus an entry into postmetaphysics.  3) It moves me toward explication of the master tropes / the four forms of saturation / Kant's categories as expression of the four quadrants.  4) Its use of metaphor and metonymy links phenomenology to Lacan's development from the Real to the Imaginary to the Symbolic and to his understanding of crossing the bar from the unconscious to the conscious.

More on # 3: The structure (not the content) of the four master tropes  is one of parts and wholes. In two of the forms, wholes either integrate toward one another or disperse from one another.  In the other two forms, parts either integrate into a whole or disperse as parts.  We therefore have interiors and exteriors with singular or multiple components, the four quadrants.

More on # 4:  Lacan (and Ricouer, as well, although I did not use him in this paper), as part of the canon of continental philosophy, gives me a toehold for development.  Lacan provides metaphor (one of the master tropes and therefore one of the quadrants) as a way to move from the unconscious to the conscious (a vertical move between two discontinuous realms) and metonymy as the slide of signifiers under the bar that splits our consciousness into that of the (un)conscious.  My argument is that the same tropes can get the subject, or the Self, or the ego, or Dasein (different phenomenologists refer to consciousness in different ways) from its mundane consciousness to the saturated phenomena posited by Marion in an active way.  (Marion says that saturated phenomena show that the subject is merely passively receiving whatever givenness gives to it.  I do not think that is the only way to view the subject.)  So I envision a movement of consciousness from the Real to the Imaginary to the Symbolic to saturation and beyond (the latter being something to which Marion never gives a thought or at least never writes a word).  This, of course, gets me to Gebser's integral phenomenology, which has been neglected in phenomenology.

So, rather than seeing what I've written here as a conflagration, I see it as the mini-version of my dissertation (which includes some of the things I've written here that I hadn't yet contemplated when I wrote the paper I posted), centering around two axes-- the horizontal axis of the four quadrants and the vertical axis of integral development -- in the context of a postmetaphysical phenomenology.  In particular, it is not merely a developmental form of phenomenology, in which a modernistic, essentialized stage is posited but outgrown in the next stage, but truly an integral one, as all the forms of consciousness coalesce in Gebser's integralized phenomenon.

I don't know if this will float your boat, but it does mine.

Comment by Layman Pascal on August 21, 2012 at 4:46pm

David, the only insult is this -- your comment about my comment was woefully narrow, refusing to take advantage of the many openings it provided for further engaged discussion.  It was neither insult nor critique but preamble, invitation, etc.  I couldn't possibly have commented without a substantial amount of interest and also having read at least part of your paper. 

In fact, the non-presumption of insult is central to the development of any definition of integral consciousness.

Yet why would anyone read an academic paper (which are notorious for their lack of personality, play and juiciness) without a good reason?  So I proposed that getting to know you a little better would constitute such a reason.  Your commentary here provides the personal and flavorful supplement to the paper and also a context with which to engage it.  Since obviously you are more important than the paper I want to go in knowing (a) what you love about this (b) what kinds of feedback would be helpful. 

Comment by David Miller on August 20, 2012 at 7:45pm


That seems not so much a critique as an insult.  This was an academic paper, and, as you have little respect for the style, I can't imagine we have anything to talk about.

Thanks for the lack of interest.

Comment by Layman Pascal on August 20, 2012 at 3:56pm

Hi David,

This is an interesting confluence & conflagration of topics -- tossing Christian theology, phenomenology and Lacanian developmental psychoanalytics onto into a great heap using Gebser to set them on fire.  I dig the topics... but at the same time why would I read a dull, hyper-referencing paper on the subject? 

I already have little enough respect for the academic style! 
Perhaps I need to get to know you better?

What, in all of this, do you find the juiciest, most compelling, most fun, most potentially useful for other human beings?

I'd love to talk about that.

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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