Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
The symposium was intense and I think caused a shift in integral thinking. There were integral theorists in one group, Roy Bhaskar and his students of Critical Realism in another group, and Gary Hampson and I played the role of meta-theoretical referees of sorts. I had the benefit of having read just about all of Bhaskar’s work before I went, so the discourse was very rich and meaningful for me, where others seemed to be struggling with basic concepts (on both sides ) I will try to outline some of the main ideas that I took away from it.
Bhaskar talks about philosophy as “under-laboring” different disciplines or fields. Critical Realism’s focus is to under-labor science (physics, biology, sociology)… which means that it can point out the hidden assumptions or embedded frameworks which “under-lay” the science, thereby pointing to inconsistencies or falsities of theories that are created from within that discipline. To this effect, Critical Realism (CR) has a broad criticism of empiricism, which says that within any given empirically-driven theory, there are a set of assumptions outside of which the theory doesn’t work. In other words, all the truths that arise from empirical science is constrained by the framework from which the science is conducted, and therefore the “truths” are relative, not universal. One easy example of this is if you go to an Indian reservation and do “empirical science” you can “prove” that Indians are more lazy, less intelligent, more prone to alcoholism and crime, more degenerate, etc… than the general white population. It is easy to see that these “facts” appear only because an Indian reservation has a history that explains why these are contingencies of that history, not “facts” about native Americans. CR says all empirical science has this kind of blind spot, and that the role of philosophy is to contextualize what is “outside” the purview of the science, and the role of science Is then to advance its theory to include what was previously outside. This is a never-ending process, and puts philosophy right at the side of science (which is very cool I think.)
The method that CR uses is a dialectical method that has 3 major “steps” (there are several more steps in his system, I am generalizing). First there is what he terms “immanent critique”. This is where you critique the system from within the system’s own understanding. An important part of immanent critique is pointing out what is absent from the system/theory. The second step is “explanatory critique” which explains the system’s inconsistencies by pointing to what is left out and explains why the “truths” that arise within the system are merely “apparent truths” when the greater view is taken into account. The third step is an emancipatory “leap” -- which is an axiological step, or relates to values. The emancipatory leap asks what has to be “absented” from this line of reasoning to redress oppression or to transform the system toward greater liberation. This last step relies on principles Bhaskar calls “co-presencing” or “transcendental identification.”
When we applied this type of analysis to Integral Theory (IT) , we got the following key problem areas:
[An interesting aside is that Wilber writes from a spiritual wisdom of the abosolute unity of consciousness, and then goes on to fashion of theory that emphasizes the discordance of the world; whereas Bhaskar tells us how he began with this notion of critical naturalism, and ended up with the philosophy of meta-reality and its spiritual notions of transcendental co-presence. Many of the core constituents of Critical Realism denounce Bhaskar’s spiritual turn, and ridiculed him about attending a symposium with IT.]
Bhaskar's three realities has a lot in common with the developed Advaitin theory of illusion (not the archaic naive version that speaks only of maya and brahman). However, I fail to see the actual line separating the actual world from the demi-real. The developed Advaita theory distinguished transcendental illusion from what we normally think of as illusory, such as the rope/snake or silver/nacre. The rope snake theory is just too simplistic to account for transcendental illusion. Advaitins also talk about illusions being causally effective (they need to since avidya is in some sense creative for them). The classic example is the hot dream chic who appears in a man's dream and causes him to ejaculate. In any case, much of what Bhaskar calls the demi-real, Advaitins might say belongs to the the realm of transcendental illusion.
Given all of this, both parties still seem to be indebted to Kantian Philosophy. OOO would probably call both correlational. I have serious doubts and reservations about any way of thought that starts to divide the world up into multiple universes.
The distinction between real and actual is interesting. And the terms themselves, actually – since the point of distinction is to shift the distinction (to include integrated perspectives ? theres the difference between integrated perspectives and perspectives all the way up and all way down, and the need to account for separate world views , but that’s another matter)
Perhaps a distinction is to eliminate an unacknowledged boundary, at which point the distinction becomes irrelevant. The point here though is the overview, the usefulness of loops or an intrinsic non linearity irrespective of context. A loop could underlabor the real and find itself where the real uderlabors the actual . the loop will obviously have to be a continuum otherwise a linear imposition presents itself.
continuums like events could have an independence from context and experience, in their path. I digress a bit here but its related to the search for context transcendent meaning – in different instances, there is a tendency for thinning contexts if not absence of them , the tendencies having a potential of arrival
I like the term actual because *act* implies an enacted paradigm, or is related to performative acts. Since that is too narrow a premise for the real, the emphasis is likely more on energy expended for action than action itself. Cause sort of assumes precedence over action in the context of the real, but closer to home, it does so within the usefulness of context as such. Like how distinction is usefull to negate itself. So there is a deconstruction of cause, enacted paradigms and context. Action though emerges as progressive free of the performative perspective. Free of perspectives action and cause are less problematic. Iam crossing threads a bit, but the proximity of cause and action may be a lead….
yes, i like the distinction ,too. Bhaksar uses the phrase "when it is important to disambiguate" -- in other words, he knows there is no actual distinction between the actual and the real (well, actually, the distinction exists only in the actual, not the real... haha) ... anyway, he says this is a tool that is useful when it becomes necessary to disambiguate what we are talking about. the same he says of the world and the known world -- the epistemic fallacy is only relevant when it becomes useful to disambiguate the epistemic from the ontological. this is much more post-metaphysical than Wilber's tetra-arising quadrants, which reek of ontic-ally real structures.
Which reek of ontic-ally real structures
Ha ha ah . that feels right……. if epistemic fallacy is a defence of perspectives way up and down, there is the emergence of ontological fallacy in defence of the reeky - as a way out of the former and correlationism at that.
With a movement in distinction between the actual and real – we have a realm of distinctions and a realm which is free of distinctions. The real is also subject to distinction in the sense it has to have validation. Is validation key to causality, ontology and experience/existence et al ? a question in the other thread too . Anyway about a realm without distinctions , I want to say something about the metaphysical and formlessness charge and the nature of the collapse of distinctions, which is misunderstood. This is a shift to dimensional entry which is an axilogical access for form, which makes form sharper, exponentially definitive kind of works – say infinite definition of the indefinable - - description of it might fall short :) but it is easy enough to observe (it is the regress of effort really) analogously a collapse of distinction is a leap in distinctivity.
This issue has come up any number of times, I think UL perspectivalism is a misnomer. Perspectives have interiors . they are barely interior if at all. I’m suggesting its just a matter of location, quantity all the way
The Integral Research Center has posted a summary of the Critical Realism / Integral Theory conference that took place last year. Two audio files, one of Bhaskar's introduction to CR and the other of Sean's introduction to IT, are available for download at the bottom of the page.
Sean has a blog called critical realism 101 here.
Ah, thanks, I was going to post about that today. There are two articles on CR and IT linked on the blog; I'll link to one of them here.
In re-reading this thread Bonnie's statement below struck me that she has no idea what the OOO crowd has said on this topic. It is obvious to anyone who has that Bryant for example, using Bhaskar no less, is well aware of this distinction between the real and the actual. And has written quite eloquently and accurately on it. And yet she makes statements like this, quite willing to pigeonhole the entire field with little to no knowledge on the subject.
bonnitta roy said:
maybe there was a confusion. Bhaskar DEFINTELY says there is only one real world.
he *might* warn the OOO that "their world" is the actual world (which is an incomplete description of the real) and CR would be happy to "underlabor" them for that reason (supply either an immanent critque pointing out the internal inconsistency, or explanatory crituqe pointing to the incompleteness -- which of course is how good science proceeds, anyway)
But on the other side, we have only one real world.
And that is where the likes of Bryant and perhaps Morton (OOO thread) might disagree with Bhaskar.
Following up on the last post, here's Bryant from The Democracy of Objects, section 1.5:
"Here it is necessary to clarify what the epistemic fallacy is and is not about. A critique of the epistemic fallacy and how it operates in philosophy does not amount to the claim that epistemology or questions of the nature of inquiry and knowledge are a fallacy. What the epistemic fallacy identifies is the fallacy of reducing ontological questions to epistemological questions, or conflating questions of how we know with questions of what beings are. In short, the epistemic fallacy occurs wherever being is reduced to our access to being. Thus, for example, wherever beings are reduced to our impressions or sensations of being, wherever being is reduced to our talk about being, wherever being is reduced to discourses about being, wherever being is reduced to signs through which being is manifest, the epistemic fallacy has been committed.
"We have seen why this is so, for our experimental practice is only intelligible based on a series of ontological premises and these ontological premises cannot be reduced to our access to being. They are ontological in the robust sense. These ontological premises refer not to what is present or actual to us. Indeed, they refer, as we will see, to beings that are radically withdrawn from any presence or actuality. And as such, they are genuinely ontological premises, not epistemological premises pertaining to what is given.
"In recognizing that the epistemic fallacy emerges from foundationalist aspirations on the part of philosophers, Bhaskar hits the mark. It is the desire for a secure and certain foundation for knowledge that leads philosophy to adopt the actualist stance and fall into the epistemic fallacy. These decisions, in turn, ultimately lead to correlationism. In raising the question, “how do we know?” and seeking an argument that would thoroughly defeat the skeptic or sophist, the philosopher concludes that only what is present or given can defend against the incursions of the skeptic. But what is present or given turns out either to be mind or sensations. Therefore the philosopher finds himself in the position of restricting all being to what is given as actual in sensations. From here a whole cascade of problematic consequences follow that increasingly lead to the dissolution of the world as a genuine ontological category.
"However, once these foundationalist aspirations are abandoned, the nature of the problem changes significantly and we no longer find ourselves tied to the actualist premise that generates all of these issues. And indeed, these aspirations should be abandoned, for foundationalism is premised on the possibility of absolute presence, absolute proximity, the absence of all absence, and we have now discovered that it is being itself that is split between generative mechanisms or objects and the actual. Difference, deferral, absence, and so on are not idiosyncracies of our being preventing us from ever reaching being, but are, rather, ontological characteristics of being as such. Moreover, this split at the heart of all beings is not simply characteristic of those objects that we would seek to know, but are also characteristics of the peculiar object that we are. We ourselves are split. If, then, this split is a general ontological feature of the world, then the dream of presence required for any form of foundationalism is a priori impossible. We are then left with two paths: to persist in the correlationist thesis that would reduce ontological questions to epistemological questions and which is itself implicitly premised on the ontotheological assumption of actualism, or to investigate the split in being in a post-humanist, realist fashion that is genuinely ontological. It is the second of these two paths that I here attempt."
Continuing from the FB discussion on the above fallacy, part of the problem with the epistemic fallacy is actualism. Now Wilber does account for the non-actual via the timeless, changeless Causal real which subsists the actual, but then turns around in the next breath and asserts we can directly access the Causal via a non-dual meditative state (aka satori), the Absolute side of the equation. Which is exactly what Bryant is criticizing, that we can directly and accurately 'know' not just this state, but that this state directly accesses that Causal realm underlying the actual.
So yes, it's a fixation on enacting the interior state(s), because this 'consciousness per se' IS the metaphysical foundationalism of ALL, "for foundationalism is premised on the possibility of absolute presence." Bryant (and Morton) have the good sense to carefully read and understand Derrida on this metaphysics of presence.
In a way it's akin (aken?) to the magical thinking of New Age positive thinking, in that our thoughts, or mystical states in this case, is all we need do to effect societal change. Which is of course a bastardization of even Buddhism, for most adherents are required to directly engage with the world of suffering to alleviate it. And not just by teaching people to achieve a state of equanimity but by feeding, clothing and sheltering the poor, etc. Only in America can we think that just attaining a special state handles everything.
I'm reminded of the back and forth between Joe Corbett and Jeff Salzman on exactly this lack in AQALingus. The AQALack? If it quacks like a lack...