Reflections on Ken Wilber's The Religion of Tomorrow (2017) - Parts I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII - PDF
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Mark Edwards has an M.Psych in Developmental Psychology and a PhD in organisation theory from the University of Western Australia. He now works at Jönköping University in Sweden where he teaches and researches in the area of sustainability and ethics. Before becoming an academic he worked with people with disabilities for twenty years. He is the author of Organizational Transformation for Sustainability: An Integral Metatheory (Routledge, 2009) .
Level of development
|Behavioural levels of development (UR)||Corresponding levels of Consciousness (UL)|
|Level 9||transpersonal behaviour||psychic/subtle consciousness|
|Level 8||centauric behaviour||vision-logic consciousness|
|Level 7||altruistic behaviour||mature egoic consciousness|
|Level 6||goal-oriented behaviour||perspectival consciousness|
|Level 5||role-based behaviour||conceptual consciousness|
|Level 4||rule-based behaviour||symbolic consciousness|
|Level 3||emotive behaviour||impulse-image consciousness|
|Level 2||reflexive behaviour||perceptual consciousness|
|Level 1||physiological behaviour||sensation (proto)consciousness|
with equivalent and corresponding deep structures in consciousness development (UL)
It is indicative of his views of the exterior that Wilber has never presented any description of the deep structures of behavioural development that is comparable to the simple spectrum sketched out in Table 1. While Wilber has written many books on the interior levels of development in ontogenetic and phylogenetic consciousness, he has never hinted at there being a comparable developmental trajectory in the Right Hand quadrants. It seems that he believes no-one else has ever considered such a possibility. I also present this more balanced understanding of Left and Right Hand holarchic development for consciousness and behaviour in a graphic form in Figure 2 and of cultural and social development in Figure 3 and Table 2. These Figures and Tables are intended to show or at least present the notion that the corresponding levels between quadrants are not different in terms of their capacity to reveal depth or transformative capacity. All quadrants possess qualitative developmental depth and the exteriors are no less rich than the interiors in this respect.
The same developmental equivalence represented in figure 2 also applies to the Lower quadrants. The social structures and systems that are seen to emerge holarchically in the social spheres of evolution are equivalent in terms of depth and transformative power as the cultural domain of the Lower left. The following table and graphic are presented to illustrate this developmental equivalence.
|Basic Structure Level||Social Levels of development (LR)||Corresponding Cultural levels of development (LL)|
|Level 7||global democratic institutions – (some aspects of the UN, NGO's)||global civic culture|
|Level 6||democratic institutions (parliaments, judiciary, "social contract", governmental layers)||national civic culture|
|Level 5||early nation/sates, monarchic institutions,||empire - mythic culture|
|Level 4||feudal societies with associated institutions of slavery/bonded labour, local warlords/dukes||magic culture|
|Level 3||early subsistence societies||archaic culture|
|Level 2||survival societies||typhonic culture|
|Level 1||animal societies (e.g. wolf packs, social mammal groups)||uroboric culture|
with equivalent and corresponding deep structures in cultural development (LL)
Wilber's agentic interiors and the correlative exteriors
Because Wilber reduces behaviour to complexities in material forms he is also then forced to emphasise the interior Left Hand as the causal source of developmental agency. This is why he often talks about exteriors as correlates of the interior formative structures and denies the exteriors any developmental agency above that of "mass-energy impacts". The following quotes all suggest how Wilber sees the Left hand as the driving source of agency and that the Right Hand agency is merely the "mass-energy impacts" and its structures are "correlates of interior intentionality".
Left-Hand holons involve consciousness and intentionality proper (i.e., agency as intentionality originates in the first-person spaces of free will but can be viewed from a third-person stance of determinism; when we refer to agency in the exterior or Right-Hand quadrants, it is the exterior correlates of interior intentionality that are meant). (2003b, ¶ 387)
Right-Hand holons, for example, have agency only in the exterior sense of mass-energy impacts and registrations (where they follow physical laws, habits, rules, and regulations, including those of physical causality) (2003b, ¶ 387)
the agency of the self or "I," the agency or pattern that determines whether something is internal or external to the self (2003b, ¶ 297)
Individual holons have something like a sensitive centre--a locus of prehension--or an individual subjectivity, agency, and intentionality. (2003b, ¶ 221)
Interiors cannot merely be reconstructed by exchange of exterior signs--that makes no sense whatsoever. The entire string of communicative signals, at whatever level--atoms to ants to apes--can only get started (and stopped) with interior resonance. (2003b, ¶ 482)
Wilber is forced to propose that holonic agency is the sole province of the "I" (UL) subjective quadrant of intentionality because he sees the Right Hand as material entities which have no behavioural agency above "mass-energy impacts". This runs counter to the Integral principle that both upper quadrants are defined by the agency pole of the agency-communion holonic dimension. It also ignores the mountains of empirical and clinical research which show that agency, self-regulation and developmental growth is the result of both behaviour and consciousness and of interiors and exterior in general.
With a view that the exteriors are "material" it's no wonder that, for Wilber, the interior levels designate authentic levels of transformative emergence and ontological advance and that the exterior levels provide the substrate for those causal interiors. From this view interiors "produce" exteriors, levels of consciousness "conceive and create" the life conditions of the Lower right and consciousness "enacts and constructs" the conditions of the world.
An individual interior (subjective agency or intentionality, UL) produces exterior (UR) behavior, some of which produces artefacts, such as spoken and written words, tools, material products, and so on. (2003c, note 57)
Spiral Dynamics often says that "life conditions" bring forth various memes, but that is not quite right. What actually happens is that a new and higher level of consciousness (a new and higher meme) emerges, and it can conceive and create higher artefacts, which may become part of the LR quadrant of overall "life conditions." It is not life conditions that create the meme, but the meme that literally creates the life conditions. (2003c, note 58)
There is not a pregiven [exterior] world whose conditions elicit consciousness, but consciousness that enacts and constructs various worlds and conditions (2003c, Note 58)
These passages point to an assumption that the Left and Right Hands are unequal partners in the quadratic enactment of life and Kosmic reality. There is the assumption that the Left Hand creates, produces, enacts and constructs the emergent transformations that generate development. While Wilber clearly enunciates the principle that development is a "four quadrant affair" in many places it seems that he considers the exterior quadrants take a secondary, correlational role in the genesis of that affair.
This holds for both the behavioural and the social exteriors. Wilber's view is that the various social levels of "exterior factors" of "economic conditions, material wellbeing, technological advance, social safety net, environment" (Wilber, 2000c, p.21) are the exterior footprints in the material world of the transformative interiors. These material footprints reflect and are imprinted by the interior levels (Wilber, 2003a, ¶ 36.
It is not merely that higher levels (of life and mind and soul) imprint matter or leave footprints in matter (which itself remains on the lowest level), but that what we call matter is the exterior form of each of those interior levels.
So Wilber sees the exterior levels as material derivatives or the "exterior form" of "the higher levels (of life and mind and soul)". There are literally dozens of passages where Wilber refers to the exteriors as correlates of the interiors. Here are a few examples.
the material brain is the exterior correlate of interior states of consciousness (so that the brain is not simply part of the lowest of all levels, but rather is the exterior correlate of some very high levels) (2000a, p.445)
... states of consciousness have correlates in brain states – that all left Hand event have Right Hand correlates (2000a, p.445)
every Left-Hand event does indeed have a Right Hand or empirical correlate in the material (or objective) world (2000a, p.445
Each interior state of consciousness (from bodily consciousness to mental consciousness to spiritual consciousness) has some sort of correlate in the material/objective brain and organism (2000a, pp.445-446)
There are several points I want to make about Wilber's use of this "correlation" language. The first is that, while he very frequently and consistently talks of the exteriors being correlates of interiors he never refers to interiors as correlates of exteriors. I am sure that Wilber knows that correlation is no indication of a causal link. Why then doesn't he ever refer to the interiors states of consciousness as correlates of exterior behaviours? Because this is a one way process for Wilber – interiors drive development and exteriors fit in and correlate themselves to interior realities. In fact the corresponding levels of development in each of the four quadrants are all display correlational relationships. But this does not indicate any causal relationship. Rational thoughts (UL), normative individual behaviour (UR), conventional values (LL) and productive family and vocational roles (LR) are all highly correlates in modern urban populations. But this does not mean that thoughts (UL) cause behaviours (UR) or that values (LL) cause dictate employment patterns (LR).
The second thing to note about Wilber's "correlational" language is that he always refers to the exterior material brain state correlates of interiors states of consciousness. Apart from the obvious reductionist aspect of this approach there is the issues of value to consider. Wilber says that interiors can be arrayed in terms of a hierarchical order. No problem there. He then says that these interior levels have exterior material brain state correlates. Then he concludes that since exterior correlates are just material they can't be qualitatively compared. As he says (2000a, p. 447),
The EEG machine can only show that one brain state is different than another; it cannot say that one state is better than another
So we end with Wilber's (2000a, p. 447) proposition that the to make any judgement based on holarchic depth,
you have to rely on interior consciousness, depth and value recognition – holarchies of quality – while the EEG machine can only register holarchies of quantity.
So, first Wilber defines all exteriors as flat matter, then says that there are different material correlates of interiors, then says that because these correlates are only in flat matter then we can't rely on then to make qualitative judgements about anything. This is a very flawed argument. The exteriors are not material they are behavioural and social. The correlate of an interior experience or intention is an exterior behaviour and we certainly can judge the quality of someone's development through their exterior behaviour. The saying of Jesus of Nazareth that "By their fruits you shall know them" gets to exactly this point. The exterior is full of professional and legal codes, commandments, behavioural guidelines, social conventions, constitutional requirements, organisational regulations, and precepts that all provide a means for judging the relative quality of exteriors. Wilber reduces all this to brain states and says we have to rely on the interiors to judge depth. In fact, it's very clear that the Right Hand exterior has an immense and very sophisticated array of means by which to judge development. It has these means because it is not "all material" as Wilber unfortunately maintains. The Right Hand exteriors are rich and deep and developmentally dense. We can make qualitative distinctions about the exterior and uncover that depth and many theorists (and spiritual traditions) have done so despite what Wilber claims.
In an example considering the interior versus exterior assessment of depth Wilber presents the follow argument (2000a, p. 447),
You experience compassion and you know it is better than murder, while you are thinking that your brain will be producing brainwaves that can be registered on an EEG But although you know that compassion is better than murder, there is nothing on the EEG machine that says, "This brainwave is more valuable; this brainwave is more moral; this brainwave is more beautiful.
The interesting thing about this example is that compassion is first and foremost a behaviour and not primarily an interior experience. Murder is a behaviour and not a thought. We know that compassion is better than murder on the grounds of behavioural judgements as much (if not more) as on interior judgements. Children who are raised in brutal environments, e.g. child soldiers, severely abused children, have never had the behavioural guidelines to make judgements about the relative value of non-violence over violence. They have never interiorised behavioural codes that allow them to make moral judgements. This is why parents place behavioural boundaries around children's activities so that they can learn and develop behavioural as well as moral depth. But then, if we reduce all behaviour to matter, an EEG machine might well be just as good at parenting as frazzled parent. Luckily though brain states have very little to do with the real action of the Right Hand quadrants.
Wilber's points about various things being correlated with each other are useful only in that they all point to the unity of holonic growth. We have a spiritual experience and this will be correlated with interior emotional responses of awe, bliss, wonder (UL "correlates"), and with artistic creativity, meaning, and values (LL "correlates"), and with a need to socially share and communicate, help/serve others (LR) and with altruistic behaviours, devotional behaviours, contemplative behaviours (UR). Brains states come in there somewhere amongst the myriad of correlational factors that any major event can have in a person's life. All this simply means that interiors and exteriors are both to be held in equal regard. Both share the developmental rights and responsibilities that belong to any creative and emergent occasion.
I am simply arguing for the Integral theory principle that the exteriors are just as developmentally rich as the interiors and that the "correlational" exteriors are not the result of interior insights or expansions of consciousness. Sometimes interiors spur exteriors on to greater depth and exteriors encourage interiors to higher potentials. Neither hand is privileged in terms of instigating the transformative developmental process. The social exteriors create interior consciousness and vice versa. This topic is explored in more depth in a following essay.
Wilber's conception of development
In general, I would say that Wilber's initial theoretical focus on interior development (his first book was titled "the Spectrum of Consciousness") has never really been fully updated to accommodate the greatly expanded understanding of growth that the AQAL model demands. Wilber's concept of growth has always had an interior subjective focus. In one of his early books "The Atman Project" (Wilber, 1980) he stated the view that "Meditation is development" and that "meditation is simply sustained development or growth" (1980, p.93). While they are surely essential to spiritual development, the interior spiritual practices are far from being the whole story in spiritual development (see Edwards, 1999). To a certain degree, this bias towards the interior as the instigators of growth still remains. For Wilber, the exterior social world is not the initiator of development and growth is always described in terms of an interior structural transformation and never in terms of exterior social mediation. He has assumed that development is a process that works from the inside out, through the change in personal ontological identities and not from the outside in, through the mediation of social identities. But this need not be the case for all interpreters of Integral Theory. Although Wilber has not elucidated his Integral model in terms of the social mediation of transformation, Integral Theory itself is eminently suited to including this social perspective of change and has all the theoretical tools necessary to integrate such approaches.
Wilber's four quadrants all play a crucial part in the initiation and maintenance of developmental processes. He clearly states in "A Brief History of Everything" for example that (2003b, p.126),
The quadrants are all interwoven. They are all mutually determining, all cause and are caused by other quadrants.
However, the causal nature of the Right Hand is always presented by Wilber as one related to material causation and to the impact of technological devices and never as actual instigators of developmental transformation. In a previous essay I gave the example in the behavioural world of a very common approach to treating both reactive and endogenous depression. Depression is a mood pathology that is highly associated with negative, ruminative thoughts and images. One very successful aspect of treating depression is to require the person to engage in various physical activities in social situations, such as group exercise, dancing, sport, and therapeutic movement. It's the actual physical encounter with others in a social situation that initiates the recovery of a healthier interior, more balanced ideation and self-regulation of internal speech. Wilber's understanding of development sees the exteriors as "correlational" "substrates" which provide a substantive morphic form through which the interiors can do their transformative thing. The interiors are influenced by the exteriors but are not initiated by them.
Exteriors, persons and perspectives
Wilber often defines exteriors to be anything that is regarded as a third person "it" by a first person "I" or a second person "You".
exterior dimensions of any occasion as those aspects that can be seen or felt as a third person. In other words, they are those aspects of any occasion (or any holon) that you or I can be aware of but are not in some sort of communication with. (2003b, ¶69)
Exterior ... means any phenomena apprehended in a third-person perspective (i.e., any phenomena or holon in the Right-Hand quadrants: any phenomena in an "it-space"). (2003b, ¶ 65)
Such definitions might hold for reasonably well for the "it" world of rocks and shrubbery but what about third-person world of people? Wilber can consider his "Right-Hand or material quadrants" as "its" engaged in "mass-energy impacts" and get away with it, but other people! We do, of course, refer to other people in the third person all the time. Even partners, family and friends are often in the position of being the third person to us (the first person). We can also look objectively at other people, for example as third persons in a scientific study or family members when they are absent but does this mean that they are necessarily flatland "its" or objects that don't have depth. Wilber thinks that our conception of the third person must always be a material, one-dimensional, flat conception. To reinforce this view he always uses the pronoun "it" to refer to the third person even though the pronouns "he", "she", "they" and "them" are also third person objective pronouns and could just as easily (and much more appropriately) be used to refer to the perspective of the Right Hand quadrants (even when using Wilber's abbreviated perspectives "I-We-It-Its" model – see "Through AQAL Eyes part 7").
However, there are many instances in both informal (e.g. familial) and formal (e.g. scientific) situations where we use the third person but still retain a depth view of that third person. When I talk about my friend Bill to my friend Jill I still retain a depth view of Bill even though he's not physically present. I describe him as a thoughtful intelligent person who likes to go to art exhibitions. He isn't a flat material surface "it" when I'm speaking to her. He is a third person of depth with an interior as well as an exterior life. Similarly, there are many social theorists who study behavioural and social exteriors in the third person and yet, contrary to Wilber's arguments, still retain depth models of their behavioural exteriors as well as their minded interiors (this argument is laid out in more detail in a following section).
My point here is that not only the first person holon but also the second and third person holons will have both interiors and exteriors of varying depth. In effect, this means that all first persons (usually older than five years of age) will infer interiors and exteriors of varying depth on second and third persons. Consequently, there are several types of exteriors related to personal perspectives. There is the first person exterior. There is the observed exterior of the second person. There is the inferred exterior of the third person. There is the theoretical exterior of the Right Hand half of any holon. And there is the exterior surface of an object. Exteriors can also be anything that the holon considers to be exterior to its identity.
Wilber's definition of the Right Hand exteriors as "any phenomena apprehended in a third-person perspective" makes very little sense when one considers that many events, objects, phenomena and qualities, even subjective interior ones, can be referred to and apprehended in the third person or, as Wilber puts it, in "it" language. Wilber has also pointed out that any formal map of the Left Hand interiors (such as the Great Nest of Being, Piaget's model of cognitive development and Fowler's stages of Faith) are "simply a third-person map or description" and as such are apprehended in terms of "it" language. As Wilber himself notes:
I can take a third-person stance to my own interiors -- I can look at my own feelings. I can try to be more objective about myself, try to see myself as others see me, try to get a little distance from myself and see myself more clearly. As I begin to move away from my own immediate sensations, I can start to interpret, describe, or conceptualize that experience. I stay close to my own felt prehensions, but I begin to describe and conceptualize them in a type of "interior objectivity." In other words, I can take up a type of third-person or objective stance to my own interiors, apprehending them according to various concepts, theories, maps, or other schema-or even trying to see them as others might see them-thus taking an outside stance but still within my own interior horizon. (2003c, ¶54)
In fact, we do take this third person perspective of our own interiors all the time in everyday language, "My memory is quite bad, I've tried to improve it", "I had a mystical experience last year, it felt that I was part of everything, it was very meaningful, it lasted for only a moment but somehow it has remained with me". So to refer to something in "it language" does not mean that the original signified entity was necessarily an exterior object. Defining exteriors as any "aspects that can be seen or felt as a third person" means that even first person interiors can, on occasion, be defined as exteriors, as Wilber explains in the above passage.
Such considerations highlight the complex interdependence of definitions of interiors/exteriors and holonic perspectives. It also means that the inherent problems in Wilber's model of holonic perspectives are also brought into question when the relationship between exteriors and those perspectives is discussed. His model of "I-We-It-Its" simply cannot cope with the definitional requirements that the dimensional construct of interior-exterior demands. Exteriors are intimately connected with holons and there are six basic holonic perspectives. Consequently, exteriors have to defined, at least in part, through reference to those six perspectives. Not only does Wilber use only four perspectives instead of six, but his four are all clumped together in one holon depiction which attempts to stand for all the hori-zones zones of each of the six holonic perspectives.
Wilber's definition of exteriors as third persons is the reason why he regards anything in the exterior world, including our behaviour and environments and the behaviours and environments of others, as flatland "Its". In fact, there are first person exteriors, second person exteriors and third person exteriors just as there are first, second and third person interiors. Second and third persons aren't "Its" because they, like all holonic perspectives, have interiors and exteriors. This is also why Wilber can't find a real place to put the second person "You". He lumps the "You" with the "We" to form a "We/Thou" space because there is nowhere in his model to acknowledge the exterior of second person "You". All six fundamental holonic perspectives have both interiors and exteriors. Wilber can't fit these into his limited "I-We-It-Its" model so we end up with the strange bedfellows of the first person plural "We" sharing the same quadrantic space as the second person singular "You". To put it briefly and technically, Wilber's conflates the interior and exterior of the singular and plural forms of the second and third person holonic perspectives. (I don't particularly like the word "conflate" but if ever there was an instance to apply it, it's here). (Some further discussion of the relationship between the interior-exterior relations of holons and their associated perspectives is included in Appendix A.)
From Wilber's perspective the Left Hand is the subjective experience of a holons interiors. The Right Hand is the objective experience of that same holon. As he says (2000b, p.121):
The Left Hand is what the holon looks like from within; the Right hand is what the same holon looks like from without.
There are two things that I want to question about this approach to defining the interior and exteriors of a holon. The first is that, as we saw with an earlier quote, Wilber recognises that a subject can take an objective view of its own interiors. So on the one hand, Wilber is saying that thought are interior and matter is exterior and, on the other, he is saying that anything, any holon, any phenomena can be regarded as interior or exterior depending on one's perspective. Such a view turns Wilber's definition of interior and exterior into a very pliable and slippery character and allows him to place even cognitive therapy and clinical psychology as pure Right Hand disciplines as evidenced in the following quote from Wilber's summary of his psychological model (2003f Appendix C ¶7).
the Right-Hand approaches, including ... cognitive therapy (and remember, "cognition" is defined as "cognition of objects or its," and thus cognitive therapy is not so much an interior exploration of depths but simply a manipulation of the sentences one uses to objectively describe oneself; cognitive therapy in general works with "adjusting your premises" so that they match scientific, objective, Right-Hand evidence)
I am not concerned here with whether cognitive therapy is classed as a Right hand or Left hand method. What I do want to emphasise here is that exactly the same logic could be used to situate any method, or any process, or any discipline in the Right Hand. Zen practice could just as easily be regarded as the process of focussing on the "cognition of objects or its". This again shows how crucial the connections between perspectives and holonic dimensions can be. Wilber needs to address the issue of systematically identifying perspectives before any logically consistent definition of interiors and exteriors can be proposed. In the current situation people become "its" as soon as they leave the room; altruistic behaviour is "all material"; social institutions have the agency of "mass-energy impacts" and every "person" we meet or pass by or see on the TV is simply a "neutral surface".
Actually, I don't believe for a minute that Ken actually thinks that any of this is the case. Wilber wants to reclaim depth and inject developmental possibilities into our world and to promote the possibility of personal and social transformation. The problem is that his understanding of Integral Theory only sees these as possibilities for the Left Hand and not for the Right hand half of reality. His definitions of exteriors as third person "its" do logically lead us to the unfortunate and unreal conclusions that behaviours and social systems cannot initiate and cause interior transformation at both the personal and social levels (when, in fact, they can and do). The same goes with his view that all scientific studies of the third person exteriors must be flatland theories or heterarchical models of surface networks. They definitely are not, as I intend to show in subsequent essays. Wilber's premise that the exteriors are flat and material is seriously deficient in its capacity to elucidate the immense potential that Integral theory has to explore exterior modes of transformation. It also limits Integral theory's capacity to incorporate the very real developmental insights of the right hand behavioural and social theorists. The exteriors are in fact as deep and as rich as any interior. The presentation of the views of Mead, Vygotsky and others that will follow in subsequent essays is intended to provide evidence that this alternative approach is actually quite widespread amongst social and behavioural theorists of exterior development.
In showing that Wilber regards the exteriors to be material, I am not wanting to say that he doesn't think they are of great importance or that they are not essential aspects of an Integral view of life. It is clear that Wilber holds the Right Hand paths to knowledge in high regard and that he recognises the value of behaviour and social institutions to human development. I am simply trying to show that he thinks that the Right hand is only capable of discovering endless flat material change and that they cannot uncover rich insights into transformative development and qualitative depth in the behavioural and social worlds. And it is this underestimation of the depth of the Right Hand exteriors (and of Right Hand models of development) and the consequent primacy given to the Left hand interiors in developmental issues that I take issue with.
Wilber's interpretations of the exteriors actually seem to contravene some of the basic principles that underpin Integral theory, for example that agency is equally shared by both interiors and exteriors, that neuro-physiological explanations of behaviour are reductionist, and that the Lower Right is actually a quadrant of social development and not simply of material/technological complexification. Wilber's reductive approach is also unable to include the views of many depth theories of the Right Hand. This incapacity to deal adequately with social theories that take their lead from the exteriors seriously limits Integral theory's potential to develop a comprehensive and integrated social theory of its own. In the following essays I will give a brief outline of some of the depth-related social theories and show how their key findings can be situated within an Integral theory that sees the exteriors as true developmental partners to the interior worlds of consciousness and culture.
Conclusion to Part 1
To this point I have tried to show that Ken Wilber's understanding of the exterior quadrants of his AQAL model are deficient. There are fundamental weaknesses in his definition of the exteriors and in his analysis of the exterior qualities of behaviours and social activity and structures. Wilber clearly believes that both the behavioural and social quadrants are material and that they are defined by developmental spectra of increasing mass-energy complexity rather than a true holarchy of behavioural and social development. Because Wilber sees all exteriors as permutations of matter in sensori-motor space, he believes that all exteriors are neutral surfaces that possess no developmental depth and that require no interpretive analysis to be understood. The exteriors are third person its that do not possess full agency but only the physical agency of "mass-energy impacts". Since Wilber has such an impoverished conception of Right Hand aspects of reality it is only to be expected that he should consider the interiors as the initiators of developmental change and the source of real ontological transformation. He regards the Right Hand as describing "holarchies of size, span and quantity" while the left Hand describes "holarchies of value, depth and quality".
I maintain that all such distinctions between the Left and Right quadrants are not justifiable in terms of the basic principles of Integral Theory and that they are all the result of Wilber's particular interpretation of the AQAL framework and have little to do with it's its actual premises. A more balanced interpretation of the AQAL model sees the exteriors are just as causal, just as ontologically rich and just as structurally deep as any interior spectrum of growth. In the following essay I will show that this view is supported by a number of important developmental theorists who have focused on the structural development of the behavioural and social exteriors.
Exteriors should, in fact, be defined in relation to all the main perspectives of first, second and third persons and their interior-exterior hori-zones. According to Wilber's hori-zones model there are two exterior zones for each type of perspective. These are the inside of the exterior, or zone#3, and the outside of the exterior, or zone #4. Therefore, each first, second and third person perspective (singular and plural) will have a zone #3 exterior and zone #4 exterior. These exteriors will often mesh into common environments and shared social situations. As Wilber says (2000b, ¶ 153),
A hori-zone is a space of possible experience for sentient beings in general. A hori-zone is a meeting place of first, second, and third persons, as they mutually enact each other. Prior to perception is perspective, and a hori-zone is a swatch of the AQAL matrix scoped and felt by a particular play of native perspectives. The various hori-zones are some of the ways the Kosmos feels itself, moment to moment, nakedly.
The exteriors of the first person often reflexively mesh into those of second and third persons and it is in those shared exteriors that social holons are created and developed (however one imagines that process to occur) (sometimes even individual holons are created when a first person meets a second person!). Again this means that we undervalue the power of exteriors when we simply regard them as flat “its”. Acknowledging that exteriors are mutually shared and co-created between first, second and third persons, the array of some fundamental exteriors is presented in the following table.
Some Fundamental Perspectives of Exteriors
for First, Second and Third Holons (Singular and Collective)
These 14 types of exteriors can be portrayed graphically as follows (Figures 4, 5 &6). There are many variants on these basic perspectives on exteriors. For example, the collective holon can have a perspective on all individual holons and vice versa. Wilber usually discusses perspectives 11, 12, 13 & 14. But it's clear that there are many other types of exteriors. The key point is that for Wilber ALL exteriors are material and therefore flat. My argument is that they are not. All holons whether they be first, second, third, singular or plural have depth and this depth is part of every holon's character and every social entity's perspective of reality.
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Wilber, K. (2003a) Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies: Excerpt G from the Kosmos Trilogy Volume 2. Available On-line at: http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/archive/archive.cfm/
Wilber, K. (2003b) The Ways We Are in This Together - Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos: Excerpt C from the Kosmos Trilogy Volume 2. Available On-line at:http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/archive/archive.cfm/
Wilber, K. (2003c) The Look of a Feeling - The Importance of Post/Structuralism: Excerpt D from the Kosmos Trilogy Volume 2. Available On-line at: http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/archive/archive.cfm/
Wilber, K. (2003d) Sidebar E: The Genius Descartes Gets a Postmodern Drubbing Integral Historiography in a Postmodern Age. Online available at: http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/archive/archive.cfm/
Wilber, K. (2003e) On Critics, Integral Institute, My Recent Writing, and Other Matters of Little Consequence: A Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber. Available on-line at: http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/archive/archive.cfm/
Wilber, K. (2003f) Waves, Streams, States, and Self--A Summary of My Psychological Model (Or, Outline of An Integral Psychology). Available on-line at: http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/archive/archive.cfm/
© Mark Edwards, 2003