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) .
The Integral Cycle
|Knowledge Strand||Philosophy of Science||Epistemological focus|
|Injunctive strand||Structuralism, Kuhn||the disciplinary matrix, paradigm exemplars, behavioural/instrument instruction|
|Apprehensive strand||Empiricism, Carnap, Ayer||honouring the data, sensory experience, empirical evidence, observation & objectivity|
|Interpretive strand||Postmodernism, Feyerabend, Derrida||explanatory context, interpretive model, cultural milieu, frameworks of understanding|
|Validative strand||Rationalism, Popper, falsificationism||communal and peer group appraisal through confirmation & falsification of the data based on logical argument|
Wilber has recognized the epistemological connections between the four quadrants and ways of assessing the validity or knowledge. As yet, however, he has not taken the further step of updating his three-strands model to accommodate these validity checks and so bring together his 4-quadrants structure with his epistemology. The validity claims themselves include an interpretive component - the intersubjective world of meaning and understanding - so all that is left is to include an interpretive strand and then align the corresponding aspects of the models for the following integration to result.
The differentiation of the knowledge strands
To this point I believe that the "three-strands" of the epistemological model are still in a state of partial non-differentiation and are yet to be fully identified from each other in a manner that parallels the differentiation of the value spheres of the corresponding quadrants. The differentiation process is being held up, I believe, by the absence of an interpretive-cultural strand. In the current 3-strand model the interpretive process is still united partly with the apprehensive strand and partly with the validative strand. It is still subsumed under personal experience and the social expression of that experience. In this pre-differentiated state it is not possible to accurately incorporate the influence of interpretive factors on the knowledge acquisition process. Consequently, it will not be possible to incorporate fully into Integral Philosophy's analysis of knowledge development postmodernism's concerns with cultural bias, interpretive factors, and so on. Similarly, Integral Philosophy's discussion of scientific approaches to knowledge will also suffer without further development of the knowledge strands. One outcome of this differentiation will be the possibility for integrating the processes of knowledge acquisition with the consciousness and world quadrant structures themselves. Just as modernism is characterized by a differentiation of the value spheres so modern scientific methodology needs to recognise the part played by each of the quadrants in the pursuit of valid knowledge.
The above position begs the question of why the strands of a epistemological process should need to match up with the 4-quadrants model anyway. I hope to offer several lines of support for the position that the epistemological strands should coincide with the 4 quadrants through the course of this essay. For the moment I simply make the point that the path to valid knowledge comes out of the dynamic involvement of all worldview quadrants and consequently this dynamic should be evidenced in the epistemological cycle that operates within these different contexts. This issue will be explored more in a later section which looks at evidence from other theorists whose worldview structures and epistemological models where fully integrated to form coherent understandings of knowledge growth in various sphere of activity.
The Integral Cycle of Knowledge
The current three-strands model does not adequately explain the influence of such factors as interpretative dynamics, cultural contexts, dominant explanatory frameworks, and experimental demand characteristics. Neither do they sufficiently describe the important processes that exist between any apprehensive/data collection phase in the knowledge cycle and the validative phase that follows those experiences. There is a gap lies between the initial authentic experience (apprehensive strand) of the transpersonal and the confirmation (validative strand) of that experience within the community. Introducing an interpretive strand is the equivalent to including a subjective, collective, cultural component which offers a essential component in the knowledge cycle to explain how data gets filtered, structured, reshaped, and interpreted before being expressed in a socially verifiable form. The resulting four strands can then be see to represent the four validity checks or truth concerns of the four quadrants as shown in the following diagram. This shows how, what might be called, the Integral Cycle of Knowledge sweeps through all quadrants and can easily be applied to all ontological levels. The following diagram shows of how the four-strands relate to the various world quadrants. The diagram indicates how this model is a dynamic integration of Wilber's models of knowledge acquisition and world quadrants.
To this point Wilber's epistemological model has suffered from the lack of a cultural/interpretive dynamic that incorporates the post-modern concern with bias in scientific perspectivism and the absence of analysis of the cultural and language contexts of scientific programs. He is well aware of these issues but has not yet accommodated them in his epistemological model. A thorough application of his Integral Philosophy to the topic of knowledge would require that his epistemological model (which, after all, derives from a much earlier period in his writings) be updated to include this cultural-interpretive phase. But the Integral Cycle of Knowledge also applies to the other levels in the ontological holarchy and not just the mental realms of science. The four strands flow through pre-mental, mental and post-mental ontologies and through all quadrants. The following diagram shows this dynamic movement between the ontological levels and world quadrants.
(Based on Wilber's 1995 diagram of the 4-quadrants)
Matching strands and world quadrants
In effect the individual knowledge strands are processes that give expression to the intersection of developmental levels and world quadrants. As such the relationship between a strand and a quadrant should be very apparent. Nevertheless, it might be argued that the coupling of a revised version of Wilber's epistemological model and his 4-quadrants structure is really an artificial meshing of very different theoretical components of his system. It might be said for example, that injunctions can be directed at any quadrant, that apprehensions can be of any event whether it be or a personal, social, or cultural nature, or that evidence for supporting/falsifying theories can be collected from any quadrant (and I do, in fact agree with all these points). However, all these points are not arguments against the deep parallels between the four quadrants and their corresponding four strands of knowledge. In fact, these arguments support a more dynamic involvement of epistemological and world quadrant models. The process of knowledge acquisition and learning are intimately involved with the ways in which ontological structures unfold. For example, the whole question of the subjective and objective nature/quadrants of reality is a fundamental element of all learning theories, developmental models, and discussions of the scientific process. So we should expect questions related to the four quadrants models to be inherently connected with issues of knowledge and learning. But more than that, we would expect that questions of development in the behavioural quadrant to be intimately associated with issues of injunctions, instructions, modeling, social reinforcers, and behavioural/instrumental exemplars. We would expects that questions about development in the intentional world to be concerned with issues about the subjective experience of events, the experiential encounter with data, and the accumulation of implicit knowledge. We would expect the exploration of development in the cultural quadrant to be intimately concerned with cultural knowledge through such media as mythology and symbology, explanatory worldviews, cultural communication and language, personal taste, and so on. And finally we would expect evolution of societies to be highly associated with the development of social knowledge across the natural sciences, the collective human sciences (ethics, economics, politics, human rights), and the spiritual traditions and disciplines.
So with these relationships in mind, the intimate connections between the quadrants and the knowledge strands are not simply coincidental or tautological. While injunctions can refer to any event in any quadrant they are always directions about behaviours and always exemplars or models for action. While apprehensions can be of any event they will always be subjective experiences of the interior world of individuals. While interpretative processes can be turned towards any circumstance from any quadrant they will always be inherently cultural. While valid shared social forms of knowledge can refer to any personal, social or cultural occasion they always derive from the interpersonal world of communally verified knowledge. This is the whole point about integrating the structural focus of the 4-quadrants model with the process focus of the Integral Cycle of Knowledge. They both generate each other. The inner and outer divides of the personal and collective worlds flow out of the learning/knowledge acquisition process. Their interplay generates the whole movement through the unfolding patterns of ontological identity that Wilber has described in all their many forms. If the epistemological model and the structural 4-quadrants framework are not fully integrated, the dynamics of development and its expression in consciousness, behaviour, culture and society will not be fully appreciated.
The Integral Cycle and the process of science
The connection between the 4-quadrants and the Integral Cycle of Knowledge are so deeply imbedded that it drives the actual process by which science is carried out and reported. Most people are familiar with the standard format of scientific reports. To my mind, this universally accepted form is a clear indication and consequence of the relationship between the quadrants and the an integral epistemology. The following table shows the clear parallels between the standards sections of a scientific report and the four turns in the Integral Cycle.
This example also says something about the direction by which knowledge is generated and the importance of where in the cycle the process is initiated. It seems that, what Kuhn would describe as normal science is always initiated out of the collective side of the cycle through the gathering up of the current level of socially accepted knowledge of a topic. In contrast, revolutionary science is initiated out of the personal world. In both cases, however, a full cycle must be involved for the learning/knowledge to be successfully negotiated. When interior, personal experience is not expressed in behavioural and social forms then learning and science do not proceed. When collective knowledge is not experienced at the personal level, then the individual has no bases to express and confirm knowledge and add to the process of individual and collective development.
|Formal Components of Scientific Reporting||Corresponding Strands in the Integral Cycle||Corresponding World Quadrant|
|1. Introduction & Literature Review The current state of social knowledge in the field is explicated & analysed||The Communal/Validative Strand - What is the accepted shared knowledge of the particular scientific community||The Social Quadrant (Lower Right) The collective & objective world of knowledge|
|2. Method The essential procedural steps are described||The Injunctive Strand - Statement of behaviours and procedural exemplars||The Behavioural Quadrant (Upper Right) The individual world of external action|
|3. Results The data and observations, test results are reported||The Apprehensive Strand- Experiences had, observations made, encounters with the data||The Intentional Quadrant (Upper Left) The inner experiential world of the individual|
|4. Discussion - The interpretations of the results are presented||The Interpretive Strand - The data is interpreted out of culturally mediated frameworks (e.g. language)||The Cultural Quadrant (Lower Left) The inner life of the collective world|
|5. Conclusion - The impact of the new information on current knowledge is presented||The Communal/Validative Strand - Return to the restatement of knowledge incorporating new findings||The Social Quadrant (Lower Right) The collective & objective world of knowledge|
Examples of integrated epistemologies and world view structures
"The origin and the evolution of knowledge may be said to coincide with the origin and evolution of life, and to be closely linked with the origin and evolution of our planet earth. Evolution theory links knowledge, and with it ourselves, to the cosmos and so the problem of knowledge becomes a problem of cosmology."
Karl Popper - "A World of Propensities (1990, p.39)
The above quote from one of the great figures in 20th century philosophy of science goes to the core of the relationship between macro-world models (Integral Philosophy's 4-quadrants) and evolutionary structures (Integral Philosophy's spectrum of ontological levels) and the "problem" of knowledge (Integral Philosophy's "strands" of valid knowledge). If the dynamics of knowledge growth and the world quadrants are so deeply bonded, it would be expected that other epistemological models and theories of knowledge would exhibit such a close relationship. The following is a rather random selection of current models of knowledge acquisition and their correspondence with worldview structures. The point behind presenting these macro-models is to emphasise that all of these philosophers and theorists have arrived at their structural models, not through the analysis of developmental hierarchies, as Wilber did, but through epistemological conceptualisations. All these knowledge cycles are focused on world dimensions as opposed to ontological levels. All these models show how closely epistemologies are connected with meta-systems and with how the basic domains of knowledge relate to one another. Wilber's structural program and his epistemological model need to be consolidated in a similar way to bring about a fully integrated philosophy. I am presenting several such examples to:
- argue that the coupling of epistemological models with worldview structural models is a common feature of many eminent meta-theorists and researchers of knowledge;
- show that, similar to the correlational method used by Wilber to develop his spectrum and 4-quadrants structures, presenting several such meta-epistemologies here will help in verifying the basic 4-quadrants and 4-strands of an Integral Epistemology;
- show that, for almost all theorists, certain strands are always associated with certain quadrants.
E.F. Schumacher's Four Fields of Knowledge
In his wonderful book, "A Guide for the Perplexed", E.F. Schumacher (1977) has also formulated a comprehensive "philosophical map" concerned with the various means by which humans know about and experience the world. He calls this map the "four fields of knowledge". The four fields derive from two dimensions of reality defined by the twin poles of 'I-the World' and 'Outer Appearance-Inner Experience'. These dimensions generate four fields of knowledge - i) the inner I, ii) the outer I, iii) the inner world of others, iv) the outer world of others. These four fields have the following characteristics.
- The Inner I - This first field is the hierarchical structure of reality- the great "Levels of Being" where the higher level always 'comprehends' the levels below it. This world is opened through the acquisition of self-knowledge and the inner world of consciousness.
- The Outer I - The second field is the systematic observation of myself as an objective phenomenon. Schumacher emphasises the honest observation of our actions without inner deception. The highest form of this field of knowledge is the ideal to "love your neighbour as yourself", at which point there is no distortion arising from the inner world, to ones actions in the objective world.
- The inner world of others - The third field is the knowledge that is "obtained of the inner experience of other beings". The higher the Level of Being, the more likely we are to obtain some knowledge of the 'inner life' of other. The pre-eminent activity that occurs in the second field of knowledge is communication. Schumacher describes communication as a four-step process that itself encapsulates the four fields of knowledge - the personal idea, the communicative behaviour, the interpretation of the communicative language, and the observable reception of that communicated in others.
- The outer world of others - The fourth field is the appearance of everything that offers itself to observation. This is the world of scientific confirmation and the arena of debate over what can be said to be valid knowledge. However, there is "no possibility of deriving a valid [knowledge base] from the fourth field of knowledge alone". The other fields of knowledge must be included.
An organisational model of knowledge development
Organisational psychology has been one of the main disciplines investigating the systematic development of knowledge in terms of its structural and social elements. Payne (1975), Hamlyn (1971) and Kolb (Kolb, Rubin & MacIntyre, 1974) have all considered the epistemological nature of organisational change and reaction to external stress. Payne has developed a composite model of this organisational approach which mirrors Wilber's 4-quadrant model. This model is reproduced below. They call this model the "Forms of Knowledge and the Learning Cycle".
Again here in this we have the clear parallels with Wilber's 4-quadrants and the Integral Cycle of Knowledge. The similarities are so evident that it seems apparent that something very fundamental is generating these systematic concordances in structural and epistemological forms. This model also gives a good example of how the model can be applied very successfully to pragmatic situations like organisational analysis.
Epistemological cycles in behavioural and social learning theories
In the more physiological based learning theories, the Integral Cycle is condensed into the interaction between an interior-individual entity and an exterior collective environment. With all learning seen to be the building up of cycles of individual's being stimulated and environments responding to the ensuing behaviour. These are the notorious "stimulus-response chains" of behavioural theory. The basic tenet of behavioural learning theories is that the elaboration of behaviour, observed in the course of development, can be explained as the continuous formation of cycles of stimulus-response chains.
Social leaning theories built on the basic stimulus response model of the behaviourists by adding the Organism into the S-R chain to propose the S-O-R model of learning. In many ways this model is mainstream psychology's equivalent of Wilber's current three strands model of knowledge acquisition. The S-O-R chain forms a cycle of knowledge growth where the stimulus of the physical or social environment acts on the subject's internal experience (the "black box " of the organism) which emits responsive behaviours which in turn act on and modify the environment. Knowledge proceeds through the two stage process of trial-anderror and then selection of the "successful" behaviour. But it always follows this cycle of learning in these three world spaces (as does Wilber's current three-strands model).
Piaget's epistemological model
In his short book on his theory of knowledge, Piaget has outlined four factors that need to be considered when investigating developmental dynamics (1972, p.32-44). These four factors parallel very closely Wilber's four quadrants and together form the basic perspectives through which epistemological models can be investigated. They are, in other words, the four dimensions of epistemological development. Piaget saw this epistemological dynamic, Genetic Epistemology as he called it, as multi-directional in that there was a process of continuous feedback between the internal bio-genetic and cognitive structures and the environmental and social ones. (Piaget does not clearly indicate any directional dynamic to his model in this account so the following relationships between the factors are not meant to be indicative).
- The Biological (internal-maturational) Domain - These are inherent and internal factors that are "epigenetic", in that they form a dynamic unity which moves through sequential stages while retaining a basic equilibrium. This is Wilber's interior/individual quadrant but, of course, only at the genetic/biological level of consciousness.
- The Action Domain - These are behavioural activities that bring about an equilibrium between the individual and its environment. It is a function of "a multitude of activities in terms of exercise, experience, and action on the environment". This is Wilber's behavioural world or the exterior-individual quadrant.
- The Social Domain (Social factors in inter-individual co-ordination) - These are general social (inter-individual) interactions or relationships common to all societies. "In the realm of cognitive functions at least, it is quite possible that the general co-ordination of activities ... concerns actions which are collective or between individuals as well as individual actions." This is, of course Wilber's social world - the exterior-collective quadrant.
- The Cultural Domain (factors in the transmission of educational and cultural concepts) - These are, "beginning with the various languages" factors that exercise influence on the "characteristic exchanges between individuals" formed by the "cultural traditions and the communications of education which vary from one society to another. This is the cultural world of Wilber's internal collective quadrant.
Spinney's epistemological feedback loop
In an interesting discussion document called Evolutionary Epistemology (1997), Franklin C Spinney (1997) has developed a model of insight and knowledge change called the "OODA Loop" the Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action Loop. In this model the "Action" of behavioural interactions with environments feeds into "Observation" and experiences of those events which in turn are filtered through an "Orientation" cycle of cultural traditions and personal interpretive processes to the point of overt "Decision" and social interaction. Again the cycle bears close parallels with the Integral Cycle and is generated out of Spinney's concern with how knowledge develops through evolutionary structures.
Transpersonal Cycles of Knowledge and Understanding
If the sub-object, individual-collective dimensions flow through all epistemological dynamics we would expect them to also be present in the transpersonal bands of development. In fact, these very fundamental aspects of reality should be brought into even stronger relief in these reals. And this is precisely what we find in the sacred writings and transpersonal and philosophical descriptions of the dynamics of knowledge of these areas. The following selection from a wide range of sources is a random selection of spiritual writings
The environmental is not the world - it is an individual thing.
-- Sri Aurobindo, Words of Sri Aurobindo, Third Series
But, again, to be fully is to be universally. To be in the limitation of a small restricted ego is to exist, but in an imperfect existence ... All being is one and to be fully is to be all that is. To be in the being of all and to include all in one's being, to be conscious of the consciousness of all, to be integrated in the force of the universal force ... to feel all selves in one's own self, to feel all delight of being as one's own delight of being is a necessary condition of the integral divine living.
But thus to be universally in the fullness and freedom of one's universality, one must be also transcendentally ... one must transcend not only the individual formula but the formula of the universe, for only so can the individual or the universal existence find its own true being and a perfect harmonisation ... and it is only by becoming conscious of that essence that individual consciousness or universal consciousness an come to its own fullness or freedom of reality. Otherwise the individual may remain subject to the cosmic movement and its reactions and limitations and miss his entire spiritual freedom.
-- Sri Aurobindo, Words of Sri Aurobindo
When we realise actuality there is no distinction between mind and thing.
The mind-mirror is clear, so there are no obstacles.
Its brilliance illuminates the universe
To the depths and in every grain of sand.
Multitudinous things of the cosmos
Are all reflected in the mind,
And this full clarity is beyond inner and outer.
-- Dogen Zenji, Shodoka
The 'I', however is this initially pure unity which relates itself to itself - not immediately, but in that it abstracts from all determinateness and content and goes back to the freedom of its unrestricted self-equality. Thus the 'I' is 'universality', but it is individuality just as immediately".
-- Martin Heidegger (1962), Being and Tine.
To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion.
That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.
-- Dogen Zenji - Genjo Koan
From One-mind comes duality,
But cling not even to this One.
When this One-mind rests undisturbed
then nothing in the world offends.
And when nothing can give offence,
then all obstructions cease to be.
If all thought objects disappear
the thinking-subject drops away.
For things are things because of mind,
as mind is mind because of things.
These two are merely relative
and both at source are Emptiness.
In Emptiness these are not two,
Yet in each are contained all forms.
In this true world of emptiness
both self and other are no more.
To enter this true empty world,
Immediately affirm "not-two".
In this "not-two" all is the same,
with nothing separate or outside.
The wise in all times and places
awaken to this primal truth.
-- Hsin Hsin Ming - Affirming Faith in Mind
These quotes clearly show the dynamic and seamless nature of the Integral Cycle when it is applied to the transpersonal levels. Wilber has written extensively on these topics (No Boundary, Eye to Eye, Transformations of Consciousness) and has clearly identified some core principles that come into play when we discuss transpersonal experiential knowledge. It is interesting to note the that Wilber's astute analysis of the confusion that exists over the description of ontological levels at either end of the spectrum of development (the Pre-Trans Fallacy) can also be applied to descriptions of knowledge cycles at different ontological levels. In the final stages of evolution the boundaries that have divided the inner and outer world and the personal and collective worlds become more permeable and less restrictive, and there is a more intimate engagement between self and other and between the individual and the collective. Here the Integral Cycle takes on a more fluid and less definable quality. This is pointed out in many spiritual texts, as, for example, Dogen Zenji does in his Genjo Koan:
the separate self goes forward
and experiences the myriad things that is delusion,
the myriad things come forth
and experience themselves that is enlightenment.
Here Dogen defines enlightenment in terms of the dynamics that exists in the Integral Cycle at the level of transpersonal ontologies. However, there is an understanding among some developmental theorists that the lack of boundaries in the young child also evinces a state of extreme integration of self and other. In effect, this is a condition of undifferentiated immersion, rather than differentiated integration, a state where the Integral Cycle and the boundaries between the four world spheres have simply not yet arisen in the developmental holon that is the child's self-system. This variant on the pre-trans fallacy is not so much a confusion of ontological structures as a confusion in the respective descriptions of knowledge and perceptual processes at either ends of the developmental spectrum.
PART 2 DEPTH, REDUCTIONISM AND THE DYNAMICS OF DEVELOPMENT
In Part 1 I have attempted to offer a revised version of Wilber's original epistemological model to facilitate its integration into Integral Philosophy's developmental and structural component. This second part of the essay will look more closely at the implications of the revised integrated model for Wilber's discussion of such issues as depth, reductionism, scientific process and the dynamics of development. Much of this second section has to do with Wilber's treatment of interpretive and cultural issues in knowledge development. Because there is no overt interpretive component in the current "three-strands" model, these key processes are squeezed into very arbitrary and poorly suited elements of Integral Philosophy's structural model. To be more precise they are inserted into the middle and upper end of the spectrum model of consciousness development and in the interior, left hand sections of the 4-quadrants model. First of all, let us look at the ways interpretive processes are inserted into parts of spectrum model of ontological development.
Ontological levels, Methodological Modes and Explanatory Frameworks
The lack of an interpretive strand results in some important disparities in the way Wilber characterises various knowledge quests including scientific activities. The physical sciences are regarded as being empirical and as having no interpretive core and the mental/social sciences as being essentially about dialogue and interpretation and not about empirical data. Here are some quotes from, The Marriage of Sense and Soul.
The eye of flesh is monological ... [Empirical science] is a monological endeavour, tied to the eye of flesh and the data of the human senses or their instrumental extensions
The eye of mind is dialogical ... [it means] being involved in interpretation, in hermeneutics, in symbolic meaning , in mutual understanding.
Wilber maintains that monological sciences have the characteristics of simple measurement and of a non-interpretive reading of instrumental and quantitative data and so are limited to investigating the lower end of his ontological spectrum. Dialogical sciences are interpretive and intersubjective and involve dialogue with the object of study. These descriptions ignore three very simple and basic facts about science. First, that interpretative dynamics are intimately involved in all phases of scientific (or knowledge-based) enquiry, irrespective of the ontological level involved. Second, that all sciences, even those dealing with the mental, social and transpersonal bands, are based on the gathering of empirical data which is recorded as faithfully as possible (which includes the measurement and recording of people's opinions, experiences, perceptions, subjective responses, etc,). Third that paradox and ambiguity are fundamental aspects of all layers of reality and are not only confined to the transpersonal bands of development. The inclusion of an interpretive strand into the 3-strands knowledge cycle to form Integral Cycle of Knowledge, as represented in figures 1 and 2 above, overtly recognises that there is an interpretive/dialogical component, an experiential/empirical and even a paradoxical/contradictory component to all sciences in all ontological domains and not just to some section of the spectrum. Injunctions, apprehensions, interpretations and verifications relate to all levels of reality and the entire cycle needs to be iterated and re-iterated for knowledge to proceed no matter what domain is being engaged.
It follows then that Wilber's three categories of science, monological, dialogical and paradoxical, can be seen to apply to any ontological level. They are not horizontal referents but vertical ones. The inclusion of an interpretive/cultural strand to the knowledge acquisition process permits the revisioning of these qualities of science as vertical referents instead of horizontal ones that restrict the movement of science along the spectrum of ontological development. investigation of any level of reality can take a monological, dialogical and even to some degree paradoxical focus. These orientations to scientific enquiry can be taken in any field no matter what the ontological level of the subject matter being studied. Let's develop these points further and look at each of these different aspects of science qualities in turn.
Wilber has made the point that the basic data of all sciences is equivalent in that they are all empirical (in the broad sense) encounters. As such, all scientists, no matter what the object of study, attempt to take the data of their investigations as they are presented (at face value, surface value) before any interpretive process comes in. He would agree, I am sure, that the data from all domains is directly encountered in the same experiential way that we "see" coloured patches in the sensory domain. When psychotherapists engage in talk therapy, they also see and record only the "surface data" of their clients. The interpretation of that data then follows according to the rules of that particular therapy. When Zen students practice zazen they do so by becoming intimate with the data of their immediate experience without translation. They encounter the immediate perceptions of their life without attempting to escape from it, or change it, or re-interpret it. In this sense all sciences or rigorous disciplines "see" or encounter the immediate events that correspond to that worldview. In a very real way all science is a matter of seeing and reading surfaces. This is honoring the data. This is the core scientific attempt to "see" what is really there in front of you. And this applies to all levels- matter, mind and spirit. Why then, are only the hard sciences described as monological, as only seeing surfaces, when this is a fundamental aspects of all sciences- physical, psychological, social, and transpersonal.
Take the following example. A researcher could only be interested in the external data derived from objective information, from the surface of her data, but, depending the explanatory framework that she operates from, she could take a reductive physiological approach, a functional social-cognitive position or a transpersonal orientation to interpreting the data. She could study, for example, the behaviour of several authentic teachers of contemplative practice. She could record and analyse their private behaviour, their scores on objective mental health tests and standardised tests of cognitive development, their social interactions, their brain wave patterns during meditation and during everyday activities, their emotional responses, and their language use patterns. But, the fact that she is recording objective monological data does not mean that she is studying a rock. She could, in fact, be in full recognition of the transpersonal nature of the data she was gathering, operate out of a transpersonal theoretical framework, and explain all this data out of a transpersonal perspective and still only collect objective monological data. This example, shows that the transpersonal realms can be investigated while using only surface/objective data. Researchers can take a purely objective, monological stance and yet still study spiritual practice from a transpersonal perspective. It all depends on one's interpretive schema and not on whether you take an objective, or interpretive, or subjective focus in data collection.
|Theorist||Ontological domain of study||Methodology||Interpretive Framework|
Moving on to the proposition that only sciences of the mind are interpretive and the physical sciences are non-interpretive, lets see if that is, in fact, the case with well known psychological models. The following table is intended to show that theorists can undertake legitimate and authentic studies of the many prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal realms from both monological and dialogical perspectives. In other words interpretive orientations or broad empirical orientations to methodology need not be associated with the study of particular ontological levels.
Wilber, on the other hand, believes that when science investigates the mental modes in a valid and authentic manner the methodology must always be dialogical/interpretive. Similarly, he maintains that rigorous investigations of the prepersonal (matter/physiology/body) must always be centred on the monological modes. Clearly this is not the case. The ontological domain is much more associated with the explanatory model or causal framework from which the scientist/theorist explains their findings (taking into account the systematic bias of the Pre/Trans Fallacy). The table shows that mainstream monological science does validly investigate mental and trans-mental phenomena (I will take this point up in a latter section) and that dialogical methods can be used to study the body, emotions and the pre-personal levels.
An example that Wilber often gives to show that empirical science only deals with the physical and interpretive sciences with the mental is the task of disclosing the meaning of Hamlet or MacBeth or to investigate personal meaning. His contention is that the valid investigation of "a mental production can only be determined by interpretation". But if, for example, (i) a standardised questionnaire is presented to a group of participants through, (ii) an appropriate sampling strategy, with (iii) various options presented and rated on the meaning of the plays, and with (iv) responses quantitatively analysed, an accurate and valid interpretation of the meaning of these great works of literature could be derived purely through these very empirical and monological means. To give a more important example, the most respected research centre in the world on the development of wisdom in adult life, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, carries out it's very substantial research only by empirical means, through the gathering of "monological" data that is quantitatively analysed. It studies these post-rational levels in their own terms without reduction to bottom-up causal or reductive models. Clearly Wilber's contention that "empirical-analytic studies are ... limited in fact to the sensory realm" is absolutely not the case.
Some of this confusion hangs on the understanding of what amounts to surface data or interior reality. But again these issues are not essentially related to ontological levels but to the particular methodologies (disciplinary matrices) that are employed to study any level, be it matter, physiology, body, mind, or existential being. Much if not all qualitative data can effortlessly be converted to some form of quantitative data but that does not change the ontological level of investigation. Mind data can be quantified and read as surface data, or monological data, and that makes it immediately open to empirical study. Medical studies use subjective ratings of pain all the time in empirical research through the simple process of employing Likert scales. So the interior experience always has an exterior form. If transrational data is real and it's expression in the exterior world in personal and collective forms is real, then it must be capable of non-reductive empirical investigation (in the broad sense of that term). It would be strange indeed if this most pervasive and, in a sense, most potent aspect of our world, i.e. the noumenous source/goal of all existence, were not as accessible to our objective scientific analysis as is the case with mere quarks or muons.
In his book, "Eye to Eye" Wilber deals in detail with the issue of studying the transpersonal layers of development from the scientific/mental perspective. From his perspective there can be no empirical, monological, or analytical investigation of transcendelia that does not fall into the positivist-reductionist trap. This is because he sees this type of science as only dealing with the exterior side of the material reality. It is unable to tell us anything about the interior or about the higher realms of development. Consequently, Wilber sees monological science as inherently reductionist. This view has two key shortcomings, i) The higher layers of the developmental spectrum are not confined only to interior realities but are also inherently exterior and behavioural by nature; ii) the ability for a science to engage with its subject without reductionist processes overriding the investigation is not the monological methodology that may be used but the interpretive and explanatory framework that guides the whole scientific process. The 4-quadrants model clearly shows that the evolution of holons through the holarchy of development is fully present in exteriors and can be validly investigated from the exterior-surface perspective. The higher interior realms not only show their footprints in the lower exterior ones but are actually fully present in higher exterior worlds. In other words where interior experience of the transcendent is real, that reality will also be fully present in the behavioural reality of that individual. And consequently, it will be totally open to monological investigation. The further up the evolutionary scale one proceeds however, the more care needs to taken to adopt interpretive frameworks that are sufficient to the task of gathering, recording, discussing, and explaining the data that is uncovered. It's relatively easy to explain things if everything is a combination of little hard pellets. It is somewhat more demanding to explain an event in a world of hard pellets, feeling spheres, thinking balls, existential globes and mystical orbs.
Wilber agrees that the measurement of intelligibilia and of transcendelia are entirely possible. It is just that it is "much harder to measure intelligibilia (let alone spiritual transcendelia)" (Wilber 1990, p79). Since there is nothing, other than the difficulty of the enterprise, against developing techniques for the measurements of spiritual data and since the higher realms are fully present to the exterior world, why can't an authentic monological science of the mental and transpersonal levels proceed? Perhaps, as Wilber suggests, because of the paradoxical nature of transcendelia as perceived from the mental/scientific perspective. Wilber has written very eloquently on the contradictory nature of transcendelia and has termed the rigorous study of this domain as paradoxical science. But aren't all ontological levels by nature paradoxical in essence? Take, for example, that very lowest domain on the evolutionary scale sub-atomic physics. Here we have a bewildering display of profoundly paradoxical laws and principles - the paradox of the particle-wave nature of light, the uncertainty principle, the complementarity principle (which is a law dealing with opposites), the paradoxical nature of time at the elementary particle level, chaos and the non-locality of localised events, and quantum cosmology to name but a few. And the paradoxical nature of reality continues apace as we venture further up the holarchy. The following table gives a taste of the paradoxical nature of all the various levels of development.
|Holarchic Level of "Scientific" Study||Paradoxical Laws/Findings/Practices|
|Contemplative Practice||Wilber's Noumenological sciences of spiritual practice the spiritual paradoxes as outlined by Wilber (see Eye to Eye, 1990)|
|Theology||Wilber's Mandalic Sciences the attempt to analyse the data of transpersonal experience the paradox of speaking of the inexpressible.|
|Psychology||Paradoxical therapies, brief therapy, systems therapy, and confrontation therapy are all based on the paradoxical nature of the healing process|
|Biology||The individual organism sustains the ecology of the whole|
|Physiology||The genetic information of the whole is contained in each part (the cell)|
|Physics||The particle-wave nature of light, the uncertainty principle, holographic paradox (each part of the system contains the information of the whole system)|
Wilber has cogently argued however, that the paradoxical appearance of some scientific findings (particularly those concerning physics) are not essentially paradoxical in nature but have more to do with complementarity or with complexity and so on. I am swayed by his arguments to accept this, but it must also be true that the basically spiritual nature of each aspect of reality must encompass this paradoxical twist in some way. If, as Aquinas says (and the Nondual sages experience), "God is not only present in the world. God is not only present in each part of all the world. But God in present with its entire being in each part of all the world", then that paradoxical essence must also be intimately there in every event. It is this "footprints-of-the-Spirit" paradox that I want to point out here. In this context, paradox lies at the core of each event whether that be physical, psychological, or spiritual. Paradox then becomes a central aspect of the knowledge acquisition process, and more narrowly of the scientific process, and this means that formal science need not be limited from investigating aspects of the Kosmos that are inherently paradoxical. The paradoxical nature of science again assumes a vertical orientation that allows it to move across any level in the holarchy.
By way of speculation it may be that the paradoxical aspect of science is emphasised when the method of investigation focuses on the individual-collective connections and ambiguities. Whereas the monological and dialogical sciences emphasise or focus on the interior-exterior questions in their methodology. In any event the nature of science is one that should not be restricted to particular ontological domains. The questions may be different, the instruments and methodological techniques may be vastly dissimilar but the core elements of objective behavioural instruction, subjective engagement with the data, the application of appropriate interpretive frameworks, and honesty in social communication and peer assessment these shared elements of the integral cycle need to be utilised through each domain of reality.
The Left and Right Hand Paths to Knowledge
Now I will look more closely at the ways in which interpretive processes are inappropriately placed onto various elements of the 4-quadrants model. In a diagram on page 86 of "A Brief History of Everything" Wilber sets out the characteristics of Left Hand Paths to knowledge, his subjective-dialogical-interpretive category, and Right Hand Paths to knowledge, his objective-monological-empirical category. Representative of the Left Hand Paths include Freud, Jung, Piaget and Gautama Buddha. Representatives of the Right Hand include the radical behaviourists and the natural sciences. From my perspective this diagram clearly shows the problems that arise when interpretive process are not clearly differentiated (and subsequently integrated) from developmental structures, epistemological processes, and worldview quadrants. To give some examples of the confusions inherent in this diagram - i) In his methodology and philosophic approach to science Piaget was the archetypal objective observer and recorder of data and should not be regarded as someone outside the mainstream of monological, objective, observational, experimental psychology; ii) Freud had an interpretive process of gathering data but was very reductionist and in many ways grossly reduced the depth of the subject of his investigations, iii) Buddhist practices are extremely empirical in the broad sense of that term and the interpretive-communicative process is not the focus of contemplative knowledge methods, iv) Wilber has included only the early behaviourist-empiricists in his Right Hand Paths, and does not refer to all those objective, experimental sciences and disciplines that include ontologies of depth in their understandings of the data. Let's take a closer look at each of these examples.
i) Piaget was an empiricist
Jean Piaget was trained as a biologist from a very early age and always maintained that he worked within the disciplinary matrix of observational, experimental science. Yes, he studied the interiors of individuals but always from this objective, monological stance. His theories were based on minute and brilliant observations of children's' behaviours and verbal responses to structured probing. His basic view was that "the progress of knowledge is the work of an inseparable union between experiment and deduction" (1972, p.62). He saw himself in the line of experimenters and classifiers starting with Aristotle and leading down to the modern profession of objective scientist. Far from being of a metaphysical, philosophical or hermeneutic turn, Piaget regarded the progress of science in all its different fields as possible only at the "expense of philosophy" (1972, p.63). The more questions science investigated and could gather data on, the less need there would be to make philosophical conjectures about those topics. Piaget was an empiricist, an objectivist, an experimenter of the first order and to regard him as being in some way other than these things is not accurate.
ii) Freud was often reductionist Sigmund Freud was a trained physiologist and always maintained a healthy regard for physiological and biological conceptions in his models. He was also in many ways the supreme reductionist of psychologists interested in developing personality theories. Consequently, far from reading depth into the subjective experiences of his patients, he very frequently reduced that depth into the explanatory framework of his bio-sexual models. So, in complete contrast to Wilber's comments, Freud's interpretive and dialogical method often led to a reduced conception of the human psyche and particularly of the human capacity for transpersonal experience (as Wilber has often very perceptively pointed out). In these instances dialogue, mutual exchange and conversation (free association) was sifted through a process of re-interpretation of the client's words into a reductive interpretive model (libidinal impulse, wish fulfillment, projection, avoidance, etc.) which sometimes resulted in a shallow understanding of the client's subjective world of experience. Where spirituality was the topic of therapy Freud's process led very frequently to an interpretive schema of reduced depth rather than of increased depth.
iii) The monological gaze of neo-behaviourism can result in depth models and understandings of subjective human experience.
When talking of monological psychology Wilber only ever mentions the radical behaviourism that dominated experimental psychology in the first half of this century. In the last fifty years mainstream scientific psychology has moved extensively beyond these models in conceptualising the subjective experience of individuals. Among many other developments, this revolution in the psychological understanding of the human person has resulted in the dominance of the scientist-practitioner model and in the successful clinical application of cognitive-behavioural psychotherapies for the treatment of a great variety of mental-behavioural problems. It is not my intention here to underestimate the limitations of modern cognitive behavioural psychology, of which there are many. But it cannot be denied that this is a psychology that infers mental subjectivity as an inherent causative generator of behaviour. It is simply that modern behavioural psychology is a psychology of depth (and in many instances of considerably more depth than traditional psychoanalytic approaches). It is a psychology with a monological, objectivist orientation that results in a conception of the human person that is multi-layered and complex (e.g. Lazarus' multi-modal therapy). It is true that since the late 1980's there has been a temporary retreat from a truly multi-layered conception of the human psyche in mainstream cognitive disciplines. But this has come about through the current dominance of the information-processing model (the computer analogy) as an interpretive framework and of the success of the neuropsychology model in explaining some mental illnesses. It has not come about because of a change in methodology as such.
iv) Contemplative paths are not only about the interior world
I have offered a lengthy critique of Wilber's focus on the interior aspects of contemplative disciplines and mystical traditions elsewhere (see my essay "Pushing for the Collective in Ken Wilber's Integral Philosophy" Edwards, 1999). I point out that the transformative paths of the transpersonal realms as taught by Buddha, Christ, Ramana Maharshi, Dogen Zenji, Ibn 'Arabi, and so on, are not only about the transformation of the interior world but about a revolution in all the quadrants. Placing the Buddha's Way in one or two quadrant (as in the Left/Right Hand distinction) does not do justice at all to its integrity as a holarchic movement. The Buddha and all these transformative paths could just as reasonably be seated in any of the other quadrants. Contemplative disciplines are about both the interior and exterior paths to knowledge. I believe that Wilber situates contemplative traditions in the dialogic, interior quadrant of the Left Hand Path because he wants to safeguard the validity of the interior/mystical paths from the exterior reductive forces of Flatland Science and the deconstructionists. But if he continues to associate these Left/Right Hand interpretive categories with his ontological structure, i.e. if he merges monological Right Hand paths with physiological behaviourism and the natural sciences, and dialogical Left Hand paths with the transpersonal world and psychologies of depth, this laudable aim will fail. It is not that some quadrants (the left hand, subjective ones) are concerned with the "higher levels" of the holarchy and that some quadrants (the right hand, objective ones) are concerned with the "lower levels". Rather, it's that this interpretive reductionism, that eliminates subjectivity and that results in Flatland, is really situated in a pathological disfunctioning of the epistemological cycle itself. And, as the Integral Cycle functions throughout all ontological levels, this interpretive error can manifest at any level and between any world quadrant. In other words, the interpretive strand is involved in any process of knowledge acquisition - scientific, philosophic, personal, developmental, spiritual, athletic - and it can be applied or misapplied, can operate out of authentic, legitimate or inadequate interpretive frameworks in the analysis of any level in the great holarchy of reality. And it is in this interpretive pathology that the source of the horror of the Flatland world of meaninglessness is to be found and not in the objective monological methodology of science.
All of these points discussed above work directly against Wilber's current propositions that:
- Left Hand Paths result in depth and that the Right Hand Paths result in shallowness;
- Right Hand Paths can never authentically uncover or authentically investigate subjective interiors;
- it is the absence or presence of monological or dialogical methodologies that determines whether a theorist or a particular discipline successfully represents the presence of ontological depth.
- the study of surfaces and monological data can never result in the exploration of subjective interiors.
In summary, it is not a question of whether a theorist or a discipline is from the Left Hand or from the Right Hand, from a dialogical or monological orientation, that determines its capacity to explore interiors or a wide range of ontological layers. The thing that counts here is the interpretive perspective of the scientist or the disciplinary matrix. Wilber's classification of these capacities on the basis of his Right/Left, mono/dialogical categories does not reflect the actual state of scientific activity regarding of these issues. I do not deny the existence or conceptual importance of these categories. But it is the interpretive strand in the Integral Cycle, and not these categories, that determines the assessment and inference of depth and of interiority in the subjects being studied.
Reductionism, interpretation and the inference of depth
Wilber has made the very important and interesting observation that there exists not only the strong reductionism of explaining higher ontological forms by lower ones but also that there is a weak reductionism where subjective realities are reduced to objective ones. Wilber says that all interior experience must be explored in an interpretive context and that the subject must be engaged in a dialogue for those interiors to be studied without weak reductionism occurring. All this is this is true in part, but it is also the case that interiors can be included in the interpretation of purely objective data/behaviour through inference and the inclusion of subjectivity as a basic element in the interpretive framework for the data. The immense development in understanding the complex inner reality of infants that has occurred in recent years is the result, not of dialogue with the subject (we are talking of seriously pre-verbal infants here), but out of a renewed curiosity and willingness to suspend previous, and rather impoverished, interpretive frameworks for explaining infant behaviour. The critical element that is relevant here is not that which occurs in the methodology between the subject and the experimenter but the rejuvenated interpretive capacity of the scientists own explanatory model for the behaviour observed. Flatland reductionism is much more a result of reductive interpretive frameworks out of which the scientists explains events than the result of methodological considerations. It is true that methods can and do reduce depth to mere mechanics but this is as a result of interpretive bias and not the cause of it. This is exactly what the post-modern philosophers of science are saying. We carry our cultural bias and preconceptions around with us and it does not matter whether we employ an interpretive, or empirical, or descriptive, or instructional methodology. If the interpretive framework out of which the scientist/observer operates is not up to the task than it does not matter how sensitive and interpretive the methodology is, it will never adequately explain the data. On the other hand if the explanatory model is coming out of an appropriate ontological level to the matter being investigated then there will always be the opportunity for authentic understandings to be achieved no matter how "monological" the methodology.
Wilber says that "you can only study interiors empathetically, as a feel from within". But, as I have said before, there are many instances where interiors have been studied only through objective, standardised means and where no reductionist distortion has taken place. To give some examples:- the scientific study of the development of wisdom (Baltes, & Smith, 1990; Staudinger, 1996; Sternberg, 1990), new conceptions of adult development, (Cavanaugh, 1991; Commons, et al, 1990; Commons, et al 1984) the development of social judgement (Kitchener & King, 1981), and relativistic and dialectical thought (Kramer & Woodruff, 1986; Labouvie-Vief, 1989; Sinnott, 1989). There exist numerous objective scales and scoring methods for measuring transpersonal and spiritual disposition, for example the Religious Status Inventory Malony (1987), the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Ellison, 1983), and the Transpersonal Orientation to Learning Scale (Shapiro & Fitzgerald, 1989) among many others. All these scales collect objective, monological surface data with no interpretation needed in the process. Even mystical experience has been studied from a non-reductionist standpoint by Ralph Hood and others for many years from a purely empirical and objective methodological orientation (Hood, 1975; Hood, Morris & Watson,1993; Hood, 1994). I am sure that Wilber is well aware of much of this literature but remains problematic that he does not include these monological approaches as important scientific paths to investigating authentic transpersonal realities (let alone the libraries full of non-reductive monological research on the mind/ego/intentional/existential levels of identity).
In passing, remember also that depth can be inserted into an event where none actually exists. There are many examples of this. The attribution of divine intervention/retribution in phenomena as diverse as disability and plague, the modern example of personality disorders diagnosed in patients whose illness had some physiological cause such as brain tumor, the case of several important mental health disorders whose etiology lies in brain chemistry was originally attributed to aspects of personality development and familial environments, e.g. schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder, and finally with the propensity of new-age theorists to attribute emotional, psychic and even spiritual causes to cancer, allergies, you name it. In all these cases interpretive/dialogical techniques result in severe misdiagnosis and undue suffering (just ask the parents of schizophrenics diagnosed in the 60's and 70's). It's important to remember that sometimes the removal of depth in interpreting human behaviour and inner experience is exactly the right thing to do. In fact, the rise and success of reductive science could, in part at least, be explained in terms of the reasonable desire to find more grounded and less ephemeral causes for the mysteries that surround us.
Wilber has very keenly observed that weak reductionism, which eliminates the subjective interior world from scientific explanation by reducing it all to objective exteriors, is rampant in the human and social sciences (most probably due to a misguided desire to imitate the successes of the physical sciences, what I have heard called, very appropriately, "physics envy"). However, Wilber has incorrectly identified the source of this macro-reductionism in the way science studies different ontological levels. The real demon lies not there but in the interpretive schemas of the guiding epistemologies that scientists use to interpret the data. The problem is not that science uses monological methodologies but that science uses shallow (Flatland) interpretive frameworks when explaining that data. The real cause behind weak reductionism lies in an unquestioned and often unconscious reliance on explanatory models that do not include ontological depth when interpreting data, whether it be objective, subjective, monological or dialogical.
Wilber says that monological science merely looks at surfaces in order to gather its data and that there is no need for interpretive processing to occur. Monologists just look. In his words monological science (the Right Hand path) doesn't, "try to interpret the depths or the interiors. [It] simply looks at the surfaces, describes the exteriors" (Wilber, 1995). This characterization of objective science severely underplays the role of interpretation in any assessment of the meaning of data. The history of science is packed full with examples of science merely looking at the data and coming to precisely the wrong understanding of what is happening. Galileo's clerical inquisitors simply looked down his telescope and saw, not Saturn's rings but, specks of dirt on the lenses. Physicists looked at the results of the Michelson-Morley data on the speed of light and saw it as evidence for the ether theory of light transmission. Interpretation plays an absolutely fundamental place in empirical, monological science. Look at the immense training that is needed for monological practitioners to interpret X-rays, EEG patterns, MIR results, ultra-sound images or deep space radio-wave data. What is more, monological science not only has interpretive processes operating at the core, but it knows it (at the micro-level at least) and systematically attempts in its methodology to reduce the (mis-)interpretive possibilities of the data.
In any event, one ignores the interpretive element in objective science at one's peril. Monological science looks at surfaces, but any surface needs to be interpreted and, as Wilber has pointed out, no data is simply given (the "myth of the given"). The point here is that objective and dialogical forms of science do exist but they are features of sciences that may be relevant for any ontological level - physiological life, biological life, psychology life, or spiritual life. They are not distinct types of science which are associated with particular levels in the great holarchy. Wilber makes this error because he defines his monological and dialogical categories of science in relation to his structural model (ontological development and world quadrants) and not in terms of his epistemological model. The epistemological model operates at every ontological level (as the Integral Cycle of Knowledge/Learning) and therefore the monological and dialogical critiques can be made at any point on the holarchy wherever they are relevant.
Wilber does recognise the important part that interpretive processes play in discussions of knowledge acquisition. However, as I have argued, by not overtly including it in his epistemological model he must force it somewhere into his structural model at some point where interpretive processes are highly relevant. And this is exactly what he does when he makes his distinction between interpretive/dialogical science and narrow empirical/monological science. Interpretive science exists at the top end of the structure and monological science exists at the bottom. Unfortunately, by placing interpretive processes into certain parts of his ontological structure and not into the dynamics that exists at every point of development, Wilber makes several basic mistakes in his readings and descriptions of science and the scientific process.
All that needs to done to falsify Wilber's theory that monological science is a science of surfaces with no ability to generate or even appreciate depth is to find one incontrovertible instance where narrow empirical monological science led to a new and ontologically deeper understanding of the human person. This instance can be found in the revolution in cognitive psychology that took place in the 1950's and 1960's. Using only monological data produced from experiments and models as varied as Tolman's rat maze experiments, Bandura's observational learning, and Mischel's situational model of personality, it became apparent that simply relying on stimulus-response models could never provide adequate theoretical frameworks for explaining learning and other developmental phenomena. The cognitive revolution introduced an intentional subject into the S-R (stimulusresponse) model to produce the S-O-R paradigm, and it is this ontologically deeper model which has largely been behind the great advances in psychological interventions, treatments and therapies over the last thirty years. The "O" in the S-O-R model stands for Organism/Observer, and it stands there to recognise the reality of the object of study as an organism with intentions, expectations, learning abilities, emotions, and subjective perceptions. The point is that this advance in understanding human experience and behaviour came about solely from objective, monological experimental data. This ability for monological science to develop models of depth is the black swan to Wilber's white swan contention that all monological science is a science of surfaces. It must be noted, however that S-O-R models only recognise incremental learning and the quantitative accumulation of knowledge and do not have a concept of the subjective transformation of the individual. Although cognitive psychology is a psychology of depth it has not been able to add to that depth beyond the idea of a cognitively complex subject being fundamental to human agency and behaviour.
Another area where observation of exterior behaviour has increased the awareness of depth ad subjectivity in the object of study has been in the area of animal studies and comparative psychology where primates have been studied to ascertain their level of self-conscious awareness and capacity for communicative ability. Before these studies were done in the last ten years it was assumed that all animals did not have the ability for self-reflexive thought. This has been totally overturned now and there is universal acknowledgement among primates psychologists of self-consciousness and ontological depth in higher primates.
To return to the main argument, if we include an interpretive strand in the epistemological cycle there is no need to include interpretive process at some arbitrary point in the way science studies different ontological levels. Monological cognitive-behavioural psychology looks at human behaviour and employs an interpretive model that is a model of depth in explaining human behaviour. From this analysis it is clear that it is not the subject's particular level of existence that determines whether a science is monological or interpretive, but rather whether the explanatory framework that is employed to interpret the data is one of depth or shallowness, is one that infers a multilevel or a unilevel order of complexity on what is being observed.
Redefining Monological and Dialogical Sciences
The proposition of an Integral Cycle of Knowledge that includes an interpretive strand and which is integrated into the 4-qudrants model brings with it the need to redefine some of the current analytical terms that Wilber has development in his Integral Philosophy. There needs to be a change in the use of monological and dialogical terminologies and in the Left and Right Hand epistemological distinctions. The descriptives of monological and dialogical science should refer to the particular orientations of sciences dealing with any ontological level. They should distinguish between vertical differences in what strands are stressed in the research model instead of referring to various horizontal (ontological) domains. In this revised meaning, monological sciences focus on the exterior of all domains and dialogical sciences focus on the interior of all domains. In other words dialogical science is the Left Hand Path to knowledge (the subjective sweep in the Integral Cycle) and monological science is the Right Hand Path to knowledge (the objective sweep in the Integral Cycle). And so all valid knowledge quests will include both monological and dialogical phases in their operations. Before all else dialogical methods require that researchers engage and be critical of their own interpretive biases and cultural assumptions. This decreases the opportunity for these factors to distort the veracity of the data and the reality of the object being engaged.
As already mentioned, the distinctions of monological science, interpretive science and to some degree paradoxical science are not accurate distinguishing descriptions of horizontal levels. They are best thought of as different scientific approaches that may be relevant to any ontological level. Monological science is that type of science that emphasises the injunctive/instrumental and validative strands. Dialogical science is that type of science that emphasises the experiential and interpretive strands in the knowledge cycle.
When these new definitions of monological and dialogical science are applied across the various ontological levels then we get Wilber's famous four-quadrant, all level model as shown in following Table 4. The novel point of doing this is that we have generated exactly the same model using the mono/dialogical distinction as Wilber gets using the interior/exterior dimensions. In another way this confirms the revised definition of the monological and dialogical sciences as the Left and Right Hand Paths to knowledge respectively. It also shows that the monological focus results in mainstream science and the dialogical focus results in various disciplines and therapies. This shows that the descriptors, monological and dialogical, refer to methodological preferences rather than to different ontological levels of science.
|Ontological Level||Monological Focus||Dialogical Focus|
|collective focus||individual focus||collective focus||individual focus|
|Spirit||Wisdom studies & Comparative religion||Transpersonal Psychology||Sangha practice & Theological studies||Meditational practice|
|Mind||Anthropology & Sociology||Cognitive & Neuro-Psychology||Cultural studies, moral studies & ethics||Literature & Biography|
|Body/Life||Empirical Ecology||Animal & plant sciences||Mythological studies. popular and ritual culture||Affective & body therapies|
|Matter||Astro-physics & Astronomy||Particle Physics Chemistry||Pleroma||Instincts|
(Note: This table should be read as referring to Mental Level investigations of the various ontological levels. In terms of Wilber's concept of cross-level analysis, this means that the table should be read, from the top, as Mentalto-Spirit, Mental-to-Mind, Mental-to-Body, and Mental-to-Matter)
Some Applications of the Integral Cycle of Knowledge
The following are some speculations on how the Integral Cycle, as an analytical tool, might be applied to such areas as transpersonal experience and behaviour, learning theory and the philosophy of science.
Understanding fundamentalism and the "Conversion experience"
The application of the Integral Cycle could add significantly to understanding the complex dynamics of transpersonal growth and particularly to such issues as the personal reaction to formative spiritual experiences. Research by Hood, Maslow and others shows that spontaneous and momentary spiritual experiences are very common in adult populations. And it is the interpretive framework that is brought to bear on these experiences which largely determines what is made of these intimations and how they are assimilated into a person's worldview. Research on the classic "conversion experience" shows that it is the interpretive orientation of the community that the individual belongs to, or joins soon after the conversion experience, which is the key determinant in how that experience is integrated into the person's life. If the group is fundamentalist, then the experience gets interpreted down to a mytho-membership, us-them level. If the person interprets the event out of a liberal secular worldview then the experience is interpreted down to a confirmation of a sense of egoic mastery. If it is interpreted out of a New Age "paradigm" then the experience is used to confirm non-traditional "spiritual" techniques that support translationary drives instead of transformational ones. In all these instances there is little awareness of the authentic practice traditions that can recapture and maintain these transpersonal levels of experience.
The Integral Cycle with its interpretive strand adds another dimension to understanding how fundamentalist belief patterns can be so powerful in groups where one would expect a greater level of understanding and personal maturity. The initiating momentary conversion experience event is a real intimation of the divine in a person's life. But the interpretive framework deforms the initial experience into group legitimated drives that support translational needs instead of developmental ones. The conversion experience is real. The problem is that the interpretive framework is inadequate for any authentic development to result from this peak experience. Most, if not all, mainstream religions in the West have marginalised their traditions of authentic spiritual practices and have largely lost the interpretive schemas and languages that have been developed to open these experiences to discussion and expression. In the process they have forfeited their ability to validate the transpersonal experiences of believers through experienced teachers and communities. In this vacuum of authentic practice and interpretation, the core spiritual experiences of a great many individuals are then left open to the manipulation of groups and organisations which are more interested in less worthy ends.
Wilber is very much aware of the interpretive dynamics that can derail an authentic reading of an interior experience. He treats this topic extensively in the, "Unpacking of God" chapter in his book, "A Brief History of Everything". Wilber gives one example in the way that many romantics reinterpret their core, original transpersonal experience into a prepersonal experience of objective nature. Wilber writes that their,
"intuition is probably very genuine, but [their] interpretation is within the orbit of the industrial grid ... So even if you have a direct experience of the World Soul, or even the Nondual - pow!, it is interpreted as coming from nature. The industrial grid, operating pre-consciously, beats you to the interpretation, and you are secretly caught in that flatland framework".
The interesting thing about this quote is that the Flatland interpretation of the transpersonal experience comes not as a result of monological science (retro-romantics usually detest the mainstream science) or the Right Hand exterior path to knowledge (the experience here is an intensely inner affair) but through an inner interpretive sweep that distorts the apprehension in the process of giving social and behavioural expression to it. The application of the Integral Cycle analysis allows the interpretive issues here to be clearly identified without reverting a conspiratorial view of science. In this case the interpretive problems lie with the retro-romantics own cultural worldviews which emphasise prepersonal feeling over transpersonal sensitivity. They do not lie with the contention that nasty science is the source of all reductive pathology.
The Possibility of a Transpersonal Behaviourism
The refashioned Integral Epistemology makes it possible for ordinary objective, monological scientists of the mental/social realms to become explorers of the transpersonal domains without ever needing to become contemplative practitioners. Part of Integral Psychology can be a scientific and objective study of human behaviour that is based on empirical study of events and still include understandings of mind, soul and spirit in its theoretical formulations. It is possible to build a behaviour-based psychology of the spirit which is an empirical approach to the investigation of the transpersonal and which upholds the basic principles of objectivism, rationalism, and parsimony while including models of depth into the interpretive process of understanding the data. Of course, these psychologies will always remain humble refereral points to these transpersonal realms and will never replace the disciplines that actually open up these worlds to individual and collective experience.
I believe that it is entirely possible and even desirable to develop a psychology that may be called spiritual or integral behaviourism. This discipline would be the study of religious and contemplative behaviour that has an explanatory and theoretical perspective based on Integral Psychology. Because Wilber sees the transpersonal realms as largely interior and individual, his epistemology does not easily allow for its investigation by mainstream scientific methods. Wilber's ideas on interpretation may be the cause of this misconception. He emphasises the interpretative function in science only when it deals with "subjective/interior data" and not with objective data. But this is exactly the point observation of the surface does not necessarily mean no theoretical inclusion of depth. For this and other reasons he assumes that is it only when investigators actually take up a contemplative path that they can study these higher domains scientifically and that is definitely not the case. They will obviously be more open and understanding of these worlds where they do but it is not an essential condition for the investigation to take place. These domains are also directly accessible through the social external dimensions as well and therefore they can be directly studied from an empirical point of view.
The Integral Cycle and Learning Theory
In much the same way that Wilber's brilliant exposition of the spectrum model of development was able to incorporate and situate the many personality theories, the 4-quadrants model can be used to categorise the many learning theories and approaches to learning that are currently discussed. Looking across the following table gives a taste of how the integral cycle operates within any particular level. The learning cycle arises through the interaction of some physiological drive, behavioural modeling, or injunction/assertion, it then evokes experiential affects, or thoughts or integrated "feeling", which are them interpreted out of some cultural affect, language or wisdom discourse, to be then finally verified or falsified through some interpersonal or social process of peer confirmation. Further research may look at the dynamic connections between the various individual theories with the aim of establishing a Integral Learning Theory which will describe a comprehensive model that situates the many approaches in the context of integrated all quadrants, all levels framework.
|Ontological level being studied||Behavioural Quadrant||Experiential Quadrant||Cultural Quadrant||Social Quadrant|
|physiology||Pavlov's classical conditioning||habituation||Genetic adaptation||social instincts|
|instinct||Skinner's operant conditioning||Hull's drive theory, instincts||membership/ mythos learning||Millgram's mob psychology|
|emotion||imitation/modeling, flooding, desensitisation.||emotional learning||Emotional Intelligence, familial affect patterns||peer group learning|
|role-rule mind||self-regulated behaviour,||ratio-hypothetico learning||Vygotsky's cultural learning||Bandura's social learning theory|
|existential mind||Yallop's existential learning||Basseche's dialectical learning||cultural wisdom as shared inner life||Baltes' cultural wisdom in social behaviour|
The Integral Cycle and translative and transformative dynamics
The integration of the Integral Philosophy's structural elements (the 4-quadrants, the spectrum of development) and epistemological processes (the integral cycle of knowledge) could bring greater explanatory power to the discussion of unbalanced development where an individual is highly developed in some developmental lines but immature in others. It may be that some interpretive frameworks may be dysfunctional for some lines of development such as moral or interpersonal development and so hinder growth in those areas but may not interfere with other lines which develop normally. Such issues are likely to be closely associated with translative and transformative dynamics. When events are experienced and interpreted and behaviour is performed so that the event-occasion is assimilated into the current self-system then translation occurs. A translational cycle incorporates (digests) experience into the individual's operative intentional worldview, behavioural pattern, interpretive framework and social structure. On the other hand, when the integral cycle cannot metabolise an experience and its meaning and translative exchange breakdown and development is either stalled, reversed or transformation to a more integrative and incorporating identity ensues. Such considerations may add to the discussion of the form of development description in one of the most innovative chapters in all Wilber's writings in the chapter titled, "The Form of Development", from his Atman Project. The process outlined there of dis-identification, emergence, identification, and integration may be a very fruitful area for applying the dynamics aspects of the Integral Cycle.
Philosophical applications - The integral cycle and philosophy of science
The new possibilities opened up by the integration of Wilber's evolutionary and epistemological models have ramifications for our understandings of the nature of science and its relationship to the spiritual disciplines. Science is that activity of the mind where the four-strand Integral Cycle of Knowledge is employed in a systematic way to investigate phenomena from any ontological level. Some corollaries of this proposition are that: i) because science is always at core an interpretive process then it is primarily a mental/rational activity and only secondarily a technical or instrumental one; ii) science is never, therefore, primarily a transrational or prerational activity on the part of the investigator; iii) the eye of flesh (pre-rational) and sensorimotor interactions never disclose scientific knowledge; iv) The eye of spirit (transrational) and mystical apprehensions never primarily disclose scientific knowledge.
Wilber has covered a lot of these general points in his dialogues in "Eye to Eye" and other books. He states that there are various ways of defining ontological interactions and that some are mind/rationality based and some are not. But there are many places where he portrays empirical science as using the "eye of flesh" and this view is not consistent with the general model. The eye of flesh is clearly defined as the world of material/sensual interaction as exemplified in such activities as sport, sensorimotor movement, in fact the activation of any of the physical senses, and these activities have nothing to do with formal science. At the moment Integral Philosophy assumes that every rigorous human activity that fulfills the three strands of knowledge acquisition is by definition then a science. Such a broad definition of science runs the risk of becoming so ubiquitous that it loses the power to be anything in particular at all. Wilber talks of any of the basic ways of knowing - through the eye of flesh, the eye of mind, or the eye of spirit - as sciences when they are done in accordance with the three strands. Under this definition playing sport, cooking, riding a bike, reading tarot cards, learning to play checkers, engaging in conversation, reading a book, telling a story, in fact the mastery of any skill, trivial or meaningful, all become a valid science. This definition means that science can be seen as just another type of skillful storytelling and this is the last thing that Wilber intends. The application of the term "science" should not be seen as appropriate or even desirable for every knowledge quest. At the least, the term "science" (used in its broadest sense) should include only those rigorous and systematic knowledge quests that originate from the mental level and that employ the four strands to investigate phenomena. The definition of science as a valid pursuit of fundamental truth needs tightening at least to exclude non-rational forms of reality testing. This would exclude, for example, physical, sensory, body to matter/body interactions. It will also mean that spirit to spirit interactions, as in contemplative practice, sacramental ritual, etc, would be excluded as sciences. I think this is an important step to take to enable a better understanding of scientific knowledge as a distinct knowledge form that is separate from other types of knowledge. This makes the post-modern argument about the relativism of science in that it just one type of knowledge among many less tenable.
Philosophical applications - Evolutionary Epistemology
Another line of argument that supports the unification of epistemological and developmental models is the very exciting branch of philosophy known as evolutionary epistemology. Based on the biogenetic epistemology of Konrad Lorentz, the genetic epistemology of Jean Piaget, and developed more fully through the epistemological concepts of Karl Popper and David Campbell, evolutionary epistemology is attempt to develop further the understanding that evolution proceeds as a unifying force through all cognitive and knowledge systems as well as all biological and genetic systems.
Evolutionary epistemology has a much more mutual and cyclical conception of the relationship between the organism and how it "learns" to adapt to its environment than mainstream models of biological evolution. Some theorists of evolutionary epistemology also argue for a direction in evolution that supports the teleological aspects of Integral Philosophy. As such evolutionary epistemology discusses the emergence of emotions, mind and complex social systems such as scientific communities within this evolutionary context. As Franz Wuketits says (Wuketits, 1984c, p. 8),
Since the human mind is a product of evolution--any opposite view such as that of classical dualism means a kind of 'obscurantism'--the evolutionary approach can be extended to the products of mind, that is to say to epistemic activities such as science.
Swenson (1989, sums up evolutionary epistemology's recognition of the developmental nature of the universe when he says that,
"The diagnostic time-dependent behavior of the visible universe of which biological and cultural evolution are clearly a part is characterized by the progressive emergence of new irreducible space-time levels of dynamical behavior from successive symmetry-breaking events. Until this universal dynamical behavior is explicated by a theory of general evolution neither biological nor cultural evolution, both products and special cases of this universal behavior, can ever be understood.
The Integral Cycle of Knowledge has immediate application to the developmental dynamics investigated in evolutionary epistemology. While evolutionary epistemology is still fixated on the lower and middle levels of the spectrum of development it lends great support for Wilber's evolutionary perspectives and for the conception of an Integral model of evolution as a whole. One of the benefits that Integral conceptions will bring to this new discipline is the fundamental importance of the subjective worlds to evolutionary epistemology's this still essentially systems-based Flatland philosophy.
Wilber, Piaget and Vygotsky
Wilber has utilised the stage aspects of Piagetian psychology to describe the characteristics of his spectrum model of growth, but to date he has not made use of the process aspects of Piaget's developmental ideas. The concepts of assimilation, accommodation, equilibrium, schemas, and adaptation all relate to the processes by which knowledge accrues and influences the dynamics of development through the stages. The Integral Cycle is eminently suited to incorporate these important epistemological concepts into Wilber's main model. Piaget was, as Wilber is today, primarily interested in change and in the qualitative relations between transforming entities. Piaget's epistemology is important because it lays the groundwork for a more thorough treatment of an integral theory of knowledge and establishes this as an fundamentally scientific endeavour. As Piaget (1972, p.18) himself puts it,
theory of knowledge is essentially ... a theory of adaptation of thought to reality, even if, in the last analysis, this adaptation (like all adaptations) reveals the existence of an inextricable interaction between the subject and the object of study. To consider epistemology as a comparative anatomy of the operations of thought, and as a theory of intellectual evolution is not therefore to reduce the importance of the undertaking."
In many ways the more individualised developmental epistemology of Piaget is complemented by the collective/cultural approach to knowledge growth of Lev Vygotsky (1961, p57). Vygotsky raises the role that culture and language play in developmental sequences beyond the simple acknowledge of these social factors to a position of critical import.
"Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (inter-psychological) and then inside the child (intra-psychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals."
Vygotsky's theory was an attempt to explain consciousness as the end product of social and cultural processes. In fact the very boundary between social and individual, a boundary that has defined much of our thinking in psychology, comes into question in Vygotsky's writings. Just as the mind does not stop with the skin in his view, the relationship between individual and social environment is much more dynamic than the overly simple division we so often tacitly assume.
From my perspective the application of the Integral Cycle to the field of human development enables the integration and explication of complementary epistemological views such as those of Piaget and Vygotsky. In the same way that Wilber's insightful working out of the spectrum of development assembled and positioned the many models of human growth, the Integral Cycle provides a framework for bringing together and ordering the many epistemological model of development and evolution.
Philosophical applications -The unity of knowledge and overcoming the spectre of dualism
One of the main reasons for bringing together Wilber's 4-quadrants with his epistemological model is to show that knowledge, knowing, the knower and the known have a basic unity that is not apparent when the models are left separate. In developing his 4-quadrants structure of evolution Wilber is attempting to show how holons unfold within and across the boundaries of self- other and of one-many. In proposing his distinctions between subjective and objective and individual and collective worlds Wilber's opens himself up to the usual problems of dualism and interactionism and so on. Some may even accuse Wilber of committing a double dualism. Such critics are answered by Schumacher's point that separating the unity of reality into the four knowledge spheres is to "make the unity appear [all the more evident] in its plenitude". I believe that co-ordinating the integral knowledge cycle with the unfolding of the holons through the quadrants makes this unity in plenitude even more apparent. The integral cycle creates a dynamic flow of connection that emerges out of the pleromatic and uroboric swirls of non-differentiation, grows to its objective fulfillment of distinction and discernment in the world or rational knowledge, and finally opens into the boundless cycle of the knower-knowing-known in the Non-dual. From this perspective the Integral Cycle reframes the classical dualistic critiques and opens up the possibility of an integrated and dynamic model that acknowledges and includes both unitive and dualistic philosophies.
its translative or assimilative function, the integral cycle knowledge is a self-regulatory system in that it mediates ontogenetic and phylogenetic transfers between the single organism/identity and the physical, genetic, emotional, mental and spiritual environments that that organism/identity inhabits. In its transformative or accommodative function, the integral cycle knowledge is a self-transcending system in that it reinforces the evolution of ontogenetic and phylogenetic structures within the single organism/identity through the encounter with the collective physical, genetic, emotional, mental and spiritual environments that that organism/identity inhabits. From this perspective of a self-regulatory and self-transcending system, the integral cycle stops the 4-quadrants model from becoming some doubly monstrous dualism that eternally separates self from other and individual from collective. The integral cycle provides the unitary force that overcomes an interpretation of Integral Philosophy's 4-quadrants as a fundamentally divisionary and dualistic metaphysics.
This essay has made some propositions regarding the integration of various parts of Ken Wilber's Integral Philosophy. Some suggestions for consequential changes to definitive terms have also been made. In particular certain suggestions have been made in respect of the distinction between monological and dialogical science. The current misapplication of the terms does not mean that they have no value as descriptors of valid knowledge quests. But their value is not in reference to particular modes of science associated with corresponding ontological domains. Their true value lies in their vertical application, in describing the particular monological-empirical, dialogical-interpretive, or paradoxical focus that science can take when it studies any phenomenon, whether that be physical, mental or spiritual. I have suggested that monological sciences actually deal with the exteriors of all levels and that the dialogical sciences deal with the interiors of all levels. Similarly the distinction between Left or Right Hand Knowledge Paths is also a valuable explanatory tool, but at the moment the meaning these terms is muddied by the lack of integration between the structural and epistemological elements of the Integral Model. In a similar way paradoxical aspects of science comes most clearly to the fore when it investigates the binary nature of the part-collective world dimension.
In summary, I argue here that the 4-quadrants model necessarily requires four knowledge strands to form a comprehensive epistemological system that can cope with the all-quadrants, all-levels framework. The four strands together in the context of the all quadrants, all levels approach, create the Integral Cycle of Knowledge. The Integral Cycle is a dynamic system that co-ordinates the interaction between the four-quadrants and the process of learning, knowledge acquisition and development in general. I have attempted here to show this integrated approach is needed in order to present a truly inclusive model of holarchic development. For this to occur Wilber's epistemological model must be updated to incorporate the valid contributions of postmodernist perspectives on epistemology. The revised Integral Cycle model will have a greatly increased capacity to synthesise, analyse and comment on the immense variety of learning and knowledge enterprises that result from an evolutionary Kosmic that unfolds through developmental levels and lines, world quadrants and involutionary and evolutionary pathways.
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© 2000 Mark Edwards