Saturday, June 4, 2011

Postformal dialectics

In this blog I've referenced several sources that differentiate a kind of dialectics beyond the Hegelian variety. The latter is part and parcel of a formal operational and metaphysical way of enactment that is at the heart of the kennilingus stage conception, the same going for models like the Model of Hierarchical Complexity. I've gone into this at great length in the “real and false reason” thread but I'd like to now post excerpts from a discussion several of us had back in '07, when Integral Review was experimenting with a forum (now defunct, the forum, not the review). This one focused on Gary Hampson's article “Integral re-views postmodernism.” Here are a few excerpts:


It is my feeling that dialectics in the above forms, is formal, not postformal, because it relies on the positing of opposite pairs, which it considers in some kind of tension. I believe that post-formal thinking sees dialectical pairs as self-defining, and therefore the tension is ‘resolved’ or ‘dissolved’ before the is any kind of movement toward synthesis. This open up into entirely new ways of thinking/ perceiving more in terms of 'constellations' (hunting for the right words here) and what the Buddhists call co-dependent origination.


This will of course relate to the “Buddhist” nondual traditions and how they formulate the “two truths” and (co)dependent origination. So lets first take a look at how Ken formulates the two truths (absolute and relative) from footnote 7 to Excerpt C (you still find this thinking in Integral Spirituality):

“Is there any perception that is not a perspective? Yes, I believe so, and it has to do with satori or nondual awareness (or pure Emptiness, consciousness without an object, which is therefore consciousness without a perspective), which I will explore in later excerpts. The conclusion of this integral reformulation of the wisdom traditions is that samsara (or the world of Form) is composed of perspectives, and nirvana (or Emptiness) is pure perception without an object or perspective. The union of Emptiness and Form is thus the union of perception and perspective, where in my pure perception I am one with everything that is arising (although as expressed through my own individual perspective, with which I am no longer exclusively identified). Finding Emptiness is a freedom from all perspectives (a nirvana free of samsara); a union with Form is finding the Fullness of perspectives that alone can express this Freedom (the nonduality of nirvana and samsara).”

We have aperspectival, nondual satori on the one hand and relative, perspectival consciousness on the other hand which requires a union or synthesis. This is the “dual” nonduality to which I refer, or as Bonnie describes it, the formal operational way of relating them.

So let's bring in Madhyamaka, Nagarjuna's dialectical method for handling the two truths. And here I must provide the disclaimer that there are numerous interpretations of this, all claiming to have the “true” interpretation handed down in a direct lineage from Nagarjuna. I will of course present my own biased preference in trying to show how this form of nonduality does not see the two truths as opposites to be synthesized a la Hegel but as a self-defining pair and resolved without synthesis, or “postformally” by the working definition above. And then I will show how Derrida does the same thing, in his own fashion.

So let's look at how Garfield & Priest dissolve it from the Madhyamaka perspective (from “The limits of thought”):

“With arguments such as the preceding one, Nagarjuna establishes that everything is empty, contingently dependent on other things‚ dependently co-arisen, as it is often put. We must take the 'everything' here very seriously, though. When Nagarjuna claims that everything is empty, everything includes emptiness itself. The emptiness of something is itself a dependently co-arisen property of that thing. The emptiness of emptiness is perhaps one of the most central claims of the MMK. Nagarjuna devotes much of chapter 7 to this topic. In that chapter, using some of the more difficult arguments of the MMK, he reduces to absurdity the assumption that dependent co-arising is itself an (ultimately) existing property of things.

“For Western philosophers it is very tempting to adopt a Kantian understanding of Nagarjuna (as is offered, e.g., in Murti 1955) [and as does kennilingus]. Identify conventional reality with the phenomenal realm, and ultimate reality with the noumenal, and there you have it. But this is not Nagarjuna's view. The emptiness of emptiness means that ultimate reality cannot be thought of as a Kantian noumenal realm. For ultimate reality is just as empty as conventional reality. Ultimate reality is hence only conventionally real! The distinct realities are therefore identical.”

For more see the posts saved at Open Integral blog: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

1 comment:

  1. Gregory Desilet joined in the discussion. Here's an excerpt of what he had to say in part 1:

    "For Derrida, every dualism to which one could point is both/and (and, if you prefer, neither/nor).... Every dualism implies essential difference (i.e., one cannot be reduced to the other) and essential relation (i.e., one does not occur without the other). This paradox maintains a simultaneity of difference and identity all the way to the core of oppositions such that it cannot rightly be said that either duality or nonduality best describes the situation. That being the case appeals to identity or oneness or wholeness are misleading in attempts to describe cosmological or metaphysical ultimate reality. Granting as much, care must be taken when talking about or making reference to the big picture."


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