Friday, March 1, 2013

Comments on Wilber's response to critical realism

Balder started an IPS thread on this, which has a link to Wilber's response. My comments to date follow, which will continue in the thread as I continue to read the kennilingus.

Just reading the first couple of paragraphs it seems like nothing new. I cannot speak for critical realism, other than translated through Bryant. It seems Wilber is akin to Bryant in that there is some suobject (machine) always doing the translating (epistemic) of the ontic, which isn't necessarily human. But I still sense the more subtle correlationism in Wilber of the metaphysics of presence, for we don't see the kind of ontic withdrawal inherent to any suobject as in Bryant (or Derridude). And let us not forget how the embodied realists like L&J deal with the issue of the withdrawn via the cognitive unconscious. Hence any given epistemic translation is and always will be incomplete at best, for the ontic is beyond any individual and even all collective translations. There is no causal awareness or translation of it all at the highest levels of either humanity or the universe itself, no consciousness per se. Or as Wilber said:

"...and all the way to the macro practices of meditation, where transcendence is the overall goal and occurs through the objectification of state-stages from gross to subtle to causal to True Self to ultimate Spirit (with each state-stage transcending and including its predecessor—the subject of one becoming the object of the next).  This Eros (which certainly can be viewed as spiritual) is a primary driver of evolution itself, starting all the way back with the Big Bang and all the way through to ultimate Enlightenment."

Wilber speaks out of both sides of his mouth when he says ontology and epistemology cannot be separated, for that it exactly what he does with the causal realm versus the created, relative plane. His causal is beyond time and form and apparently can exist without form in some Platonic ideal. In that sense it is the Real ontic, not the shadows or mere reflections on the created relative world.

And yet this Real is knowable by direct access via nirodha states. So in that sense the -ologies are not separated, at least in terms of human response to it. One question is: Is this the kind of consciousness that goes all the way down? No, as he is clear that pre-hension, while a form of awareness of other is not the kind of self-consciousness that arises at a particular stage of human development. I would agree that human consciousness is indeed another ballgame, but question that it can achieve full, direct access with the Real, which implies the metaphysics of presence mentioned above. Wilber might argue not so, since when we are not in the causal state we return to the relative plane and hence maya. But this doesn't account for that time when we are in nirodha, which apparently is completely present in all there is, was and ever will be.

Don't get me wrong; I have no doubts that we humans can experience consciousness without an object. It just ain't the causal realm. And it ain't full present awareness of All, just our psychoneuroecological embodiment. And that is just an infinitesimal fraction of 'what it is.' See the states thread for more on that.

Btw, Bhaskar has turned to this Vedantic causal business himself in his later and current career. See this thread for more on that.

At the end of p.1 of the Lingam's critique I appreciate how he's noting that a subjective frame of some kind is necessary for us to say anything about the ontic. Which of course he doesn't limit to humans but applies to holons all the way. He relates it to both Whitehead and Peirce but I also see Bryant in this, in that any machine interprets or translates its interactions. And yet any machine never realizes the full monty, so to speak, either in another or in itself, given the always withdrawn nature of the ontic. There is always that reserve that doesn't enter into manifestation, hence any machine can only say so much to communicate with another based on its translations. Granted saying implies a human communication, but recall our discussion of rhetaphor,* and how any machine engages in signs and communication appropriate to its structural limitations.

And as to the withdrawn nature of the ontic. recall previous discussion about kennilingual distinction between the causal and the relative planes (see this post and following). And the differences between that version and Bryant's more immanent version.

* See this post and several that follow before arriving at the theurjianism rhetaphor for this phenomenon.

Interestingly enough, in my research into neuroscience, aside from the likes of Thompson or Damasio, the field has a paucity of data on consciousness in general and the self system in particular. It's taboo, being not only something that is difficult to 'prove' but associated with Decartes' ghost in the machine so not even worthy of investigation. Or at best an illusory 'interpreter' that makes up stories after the fact of nonconscious processes, a mere epiphenomenal aftereffect that while perhaps useful is not 'real.' (For example, Gazzaniga.) So despite my qualms, in that sense I appreciate Wilber for showing how the self is not itself just a static thing but evolves through stages, enacting different worldspaces along the way.

Back to Wilber on p.2, I appreciate his point that we cannot know the interior of the frog, it's zone 1. This is accepted in OOO as well. It's just that it seems implicit--here, at least; it is explicit when we get to meditating humans--that a suobject knows itself from zone 1. To some degree perhaps, but fully? Isn’t that the whole (pun intended) point of an integral model, to see any phenomenon (aka suobject) from as many perspectives and/or enacted paradigms, from any many levels as possible, to get a better understanding? And even then, it is not by any means a complete or full understanding, just because it is integral.

And I must differ with Wilber when he says that the ‘real’ must be attached to a knowing suobject of some kind: “In actuality it is either the product of both the prehensive-feeling-knowing plus holonic-being-isness of each of the holons at the particular level of the real being described (e.g., quarks, atoms, molecules, genetics) and their relations—all of which are tetra-enacted and tetra-evolved; and/or it is the result of the way the world emerges and is tetra-enacted at and from a particular level of consciousness-being.”

Not the phrase “in actuality.” Here Bryant makes a key distinction between the virtual proper being and the actual local manifestation. Hence the ‘actual’ is how a suobject relates to others and its environment, but the virtual never fully enters into the actual. Granted Wilber too makes the distinction between the causal and the manifest, but the difference between his causal and Bryant’s virtual has been discussed above and elsewhere. For the moment we might say Wilber is sneaking in his ‘actual’ real into his causal ‘real’ when he asserts the causal too is enacted and accessible to direct awareness (zone 1).

This is interesting from p. 2:

"These levels of being-consciousness (red, amber, orange, green, turquoise, etc.) are not different interpretations of a one, single, pregiven reality or world, but are themselves actually different worlds in deep structure."

Here Bryant and Morton would agree, or as they phrase it: "There is no environment." Or as I phrase it: "There is no assholon." Whatever reality we know or perceive is filtered through our structural apparatus, which structure itself evolves.

And of course the point that we must use multiple enacted methodologies, from multiple sources, to get a bigger picture of what the real is. Which methodologies and structural sources are themselves evolving and changing, hence so is the 'integral' picture.

He also brings in Peirce not only to support no assholons but that each holon uses semiotics, not just translation but signals to communicate those translations. Again my notion of rhetaphor.

Wilber then says CR was used to justify the scientific method, which method is not likely the same across methodologies and hence might not disclose or enact other paradigms. Bryant uses Bhaskar's transcendental deduction though in a much broader sense. And I think it is akin to Wilber doing the same with his 3-step process for any domain: do the exercise, have the experience, corroborate with peers.* That method is not specific to any domain, and seems to be the scientific method. So not sure what he's bitching about here unless it's in applying that method only to the 'material' or right quadrants.

I also appreciate his bringing in QM and that the 'real' changes depending on the measurements made. It's not that the read is limited to those measurements, for give the virtual infinity of measurements (or structural enactments-translations) we never get at the final and Whole Real. Again agreeing with our OOO brethren.

And yet... There's still the problem of his full enlightenment, where only the relative goes through this process and the causal does not. Again, see previous posts above about how the causal is not the same as virtual proper being or the withdrawn according to OOO.

Going back to the causal and its relation to the relative, see this post for some summary SES quotes and commentary.

* "Each valid mode of knowing consists of an injunction, an apprehension, and a confirmation." (My emphasis.) See this source.


  1. Bryant has a new focus called "Borromean Critical Theory" (following Lacan)... You can see he's beginning to integrate things a bit, yes, but he has no patience for what he considers non-materialistic, no vitalism, no holism, no idealism, etc. He has little place for anything which begins to sound like alchemy (as in Jung) or sorcery (as in Deleuze), which is of course disheartening.

    A lot of the SR/OOO blogosphere has problems with Bryant on some level or another, despite or perhaps even because of his influence. I would take a look at Francois Laruelle if I were you, his non-philosophy seems to be promising.

  2. I mentioned the Borromean in this post.* I'm looking forward to how he develops this.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.