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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
British-born, Canadian Gerry Goddard was an astrologer, metaphysician, transpersonalist, consultant, writer, teacher and scholar whose special interest was the bridge between foundational astrology and the field of post-Jungian transpersonal studies. Gerry died unexpectedly in November of 2007 at the age of 64. Much of Gerry's written work is available at his memorial website: www.islandastrology.net
A Final response to Smith
Gerry Goddard (1943-2007)
Bottom Line Differences
At this point in our discussion I believe that Andrew Smith and I have come up against a deep 'paradigmatic' difference, a difference at least as basic as the difference between Ken Wilber and Michael Washburn. I use the term 'paradigm' here to mean a fundamental conceptual modelling, so that certain foundational arguments cannot be settled without endless reference to one's own terms which constitute the very point under debate. Hence, my accusation that insofar as he appears not simply to be presenting his definitions and concepts but apparently using these definitions persuasively to support certain conclusions against other positions, Smith in certain places, seems to be begging the question -- though he denies this. Indeed, circularity is OK, but it doesn't present a basis for an apparent apodictic way of arguing. Of course he has a right to his definitions and his way of framing things, just as I and everyone else does. Internal coherence (and it is debatable here, who, or who is not, being coherent) is certainly important but not a sufficient criterion for persuading another to accept one's viewpoint rather than some other alternative. Also the use of Ockham's razor is only good within a certain paradigm, say, within science or within a broadly Jungian framework, not across different basic frameworks, because what constitutes "adequacy" is itself paradigmatically defined.
Although we are all transpersonalists, having had certain experiences which have compelled us to frame things in larger than scientistic 'flatland' terms, Smith is apparently approaching the issue, quite validly, from an empirical and scientific perspective. Hence, his most interesting points concerning atoms, molecules, tissues etc. and his unapologetic extrapolation of these structures as paradigmatic for all levels. But he interprets my particular critique of this naturalistic extrapolation as indicating that I believe that the human level is 'special' (beyond just 'different from' and 'more than' as each successive level is to its subordinate) in relation to all lower levels concerning its fundamental logic. As I said in my article "Quadrants Re-instated", the division between experience disclosing an inner and outer world which I draw on the Left, goes all the way down (i.e. biologically -- further down is matter which is pure undifferentiated unconsciousness) and I described how it does even though modern human consciousness (self reflexivity -- the modern individual and post 'participation mystique' stage) is uniquely constituted by this now highly complexified differentiation. Thus he argues:
"...are there certain general principles and relationships that hold on every level -- deep or meta-rules, if you like -- or do new ones emerge on our level? I'm commited to the former idea, while Goddard, I'm quite sure accepts the latter."
What does Smith think I am claiming with my holonic logic analysis all the way up and down? The human level is a compound which includes all prior levels! But what is truly "special" about the human level is that this biological level form (with its social holon) is now the medium for further holarchical evolutionary developments all the way up to higher levels of the transpersonal. 'This very body (read brain/body) is the body of the Buddha'! In short, I believe that the holonic logic I am articulating applies to all levels without privileging the particular modelled structure of any particular level. In fact, Smith claims that I recognize that so many of his ideas "stem from the assumption that there are universal principles and relationships in the holarchy", meaning that I presumably do not believe in any such principles, yet my whole paper is concerned with articulating them! All I am saying is that we cannot derive these principles by privileging, or simply extrapolating from, the particular processes and structures of the lower levels which are uniquely lower level instances of the overarching principles.
Referring to a point that I think illustrates our different orientations: When Andrew asks the question, "Why do we have private experience, that is, what purpose does it serve?", he poses a question that I would never ask; a question that is of scientific interest but certainly not the path of enquiry I tend to follow to arrive at any of my conclusions. (In fact I have trouble getting my head around it just as surely as Smith seems to have trouble getting his head around my holonic, archetypal, and dialectical polarities). While I do not reject science at all, I am approaching my modelling from a more theoretical perspective based on a concept of archetypal and dialectical polarities (reaching back to Plato, Hegel, Jung and in many ways to Wilber). In fact my perspective has more room for such diverse and allegedly incommensurable views as Wilber's and Washburn/Tarnas/Grof's than it has for Smith's -- that is, insofar as I really comprehend Smith's purely vertical mapping, which I am now beginning to doubt whether I quite grok. Actually, he seems to be sliding in two developmental axes rather than one without adequately clarifying the relationship of these two types of vertical holarchy -- I mean his distinction between the 'vertical' containment of levels and the holarchic containment of stages within each level -- which somehow has humans on the same "level" as fishes. If both levels and stages are vertical, then it must be in terms of two different senses of 'vertical'. (I myself, in my larger model map both vertical and horizontal axes for holarchy in addition to the polarities I have explicated in my paper under discussion. Also, I agree that in terms of the Great Chain, the biological level can be seen as one of the great levels -- matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit -- but the differences of, say, fishes from reptiles from lower to higher mammals must be mapped vertically within the broad structure.).
Vertical skewing of horizontal polarities
The purpose of my essay, "Holonic Logic", was to draw out what I believe to be implicit dialectical polarities in Wilber's model to open the logical room for a larger synthesis of Wilber's perennialist model with more depth and dialectical models. (See also my "Airing Our Transpesornal Differences"). What impresses me fundamentally about Wilber's holonic mapping, despite its incompleteness, is precisely the insight that Smith is arguing against -- namely, the clear differentiation of individual and social holons such that the associative interconnections of atoms in molecules and molecules in cells (but this should include such transitions as Smith points out) must be distinguished from the other pole which includes the evolutionary movement from galaxies to planets to biological ecosystems etc.
I have explained why I do not agree with Smith that the relationship from atoms to molecules is not the same as the relationship of the individual and social holon. Everywhere Smith reduces polarity to verticality. For instance, he states,
"I define agency/communion very precisely. Communion is the degree to which a holon enters into holarchical relatonships with other holons of its own kind, or with higher social holons. Period. Agency is defined as the degree to which it enters into relationships with holons below itself."
Actually, Wilber (SES) leaves himself open to this interpretation and that is why I have re-framed and instantiated these processive lateral polarities (which dialectically drive upward development) as central. In this regard, Smith seems actually closer to Wilber than he is to me! He accepts that a holon is fundamentally the vertical part/whole and any polarities -- agency/communion, inner/outer, individual/social -- are subsets of that fundamental logic. I couldn't disagree with this more. To map these principles vertically while denying the horizontal poles is to simply deny the meaning of polarity since the simple relationship of one level to another is not sufficient without including the lateral poles. Vertical containment is simply not polarity. He obviously doesn't believe in polarity which is the very foundation of my whole article, "Holonic Logic". In fact he reduces all polarity only to a symmetry which necessarily implies to him only the relation of individual holon to heap. When he states, "Everyone I know accepts emergence and verticality as virtually synonomous", Andrew misunderstands my point that emergence does indeed imply verticality, but not solely verticality given the nature of horizontal polarity; i.e. that the individual holon at level 7, say, displays emergent properties beyond the individual at level 6; but so does the social holon at level 7 display properties beyond the social holon at level 6. And the individual and social at level 6 and 7 stand in lateral relation. This is a lateral relation which is non reductive. The social at any level is indeed "more" than the individual, but the individual at that same level is also "more" than the social -- otherwise for one thing, there could be no social development, no leading edge individuals, and no individuals who are beyond the conventional stage social as there certainly always have been (Jesus, Buddha, Ramana Maharshi etc.). This is another great Wilber point. When I make the point that Smith cannot use the argument that emergence implies verticality to prove that lateral polarity is non-existent, he accuses me of astoundingly resorting to the tactic of changing the rules. No, I am simply pointing out that he can't legitimately use this rule to prove the non-existence of lateral polarity. Smith suggests that persons disagree with his single scale model because of its alleged political implications. Though this is not direct logical grounds for disagreeing with Smith's position, his position does have certain unfortunate and antidemocratic implications like Hegel's own mistaken inclusion of the individual within the structure of the State which Wilber rightly rejects -- actually, alarm bells do go off here and suggest to me (especially in light of his chilling sci-fi colonization of other planets as a higher level telos) a reductio ad absurdum.
I find that Andrew's mapping in his Table 1, in "Who's Conscious"?, of my categories is somewhat misleading and incorporates his interpretation of my subject/subject concept in relation to my distinction concerning the subject/object and subject/subject epistemologies. Instead of his term individual exterior, I would need to call it agentic individual exterior connected with brain structures (as he correctly maps) and assertive behaviour. (This is a semantic point since I find the term 'individual' under the general category 'individual', misleading). His category individual interior by which I assume he means what I would want to call, the agentic individual interior would include both sensory perceptions (revealing public world) and thoughts (revealing private world). He has thoughts only under his social interior (i.e. my communal individual interior), whereas they should be posted also under his individual interior. Also, my communal interior includes both empathic sensation and communicative mind, whereas he has only private mind (thoughts) under his social interior. This subtle misrepresentation in the table arises from his understanding that I am equating individual interiority with sensation equals subject/object perception, and equating social interiority with private thoughts equals subject/subject perception. This may be what Smith sees, but it certainly is not what I'm saying.
Smith not only means something entirely different from me in his use of the subject/subject concept but has also generally not understood my distinction of the two epistemological modes and the relationship I establish between them and the agency/communion dialectic. In the formation of the self reflexive mental-ego structure under the increasing dominance of the formative Agentic principle over the Communal principle, we see the increasing differentiation of subject/object knowing and subject/subject knowing and the eventual dominance of the former over the latter in terms of what will centrally inform the structures of consciousness (we are not talking here of the psycho-behavioural sense where mental-egoic individuals are acting assertively or relationally). My double epistemological account is an articulation of the individual holon. If we look at it from the other side of the grand holonic coin, namely the social holon dimension, we are not going to be talking epistemologically where one entity comes to consciously know and perceive another entity. We are rather, at lower levels (including the levels of pre-self-reflexive humans), talking about 'group mind' dynamics and the interactive forces and principles among societal/cultural groups (mythic level tribes etc.) Here is the Jungian collective unconscious which is not merely derivable from or reducible to interacting individuals. As I have said, at the higher modernist levels society -- and what we might term the 'collective consciousness' which is the cultural fabric of society -- has indeed become more the complex intersubjective web of interacting individuals. (And this is precisely what I mean by the dominance of the Agentic principle over the Communal which is now, within the postmodern milieu, beginning to move back toward balance through such developments as feminism and the importance of collective as well individual rights).
Also, when Smith says, e.g. that my subject/subject perception fits in the holarchy above subject/object perception, he is entirely wrong. I have explained that above the modernist subject/object perception (intersubjective "we" based on language) lies a new and slowly unfolding higher level integration of the dominant subject/object mode and the heretofore marginalized subject/subject mode. I did not identify the original (human) 'participation mystique' as equivalent to subject/subject, but as a predifferentiation of both subject/subject and subject/object modes. This is an important argument which allows the logical space to open up in Wilber's model re. the pre-trans distinction for a synthesis with certain other perspectives. This misunderstanding is partly because, for Smith, agency and communion are not horizontal. Also, since he does not appreciate what I am saying as the agency/communion dialectic which drives historic development, he cannot appreciate the difference between agency and communion as overarching dialectical principles which inform the structures of consciousness (from tribal 'participation mystique' to patriarchy and the modern self reflexive mental ego to the postmodern movement back toward balance) on the one hand, and the behavioural and structural agencies and communions which describe any holon at any level on the other. He does not seem to appreciate the central significance of the marginalization of the (communal) 'feminine' through Western history specifically, and of the secondary place of art, values, and the humanities to science in the constitution of the modern consciousness (as constituted by the subject/object split). But even despite the dominance of the subject/object mode in the formation of the modern mental-ego, if we were also not immediately or subconsciously operating in the subject/subject mode in relation to other persons and living things, then we would be dissociated droids or alienated schizoid types who provided some of the subjects for existential art in the mid century. (The problems of 'other minds' and inferential theories based on analogy etc.are all examples of philosophers abstracting out subject/object cognition from human beingness and presence, i.e. living subject/subject resonance).
Smith argues that my view implies that highly agentic individuals live in highly communal families which in turn would exist in highly agentic communities, which in turn would exist within a highly communal society. On the contrary, Smith argues, "My view, then, says that modern families, being composed of highly communal individuals, tend to be highly agentic." Actually, I find myself agreeing with his claim that families tend to be agentic. This is precisely what acts as a counter pressure against the development of individual agency so that the individual, in order to develop agency (empowered autonomy), must eventually leave home -- we all know about the teenage period. People tend to become defined and entrapped within tight family expectations and family history. (Of course nothing is quite this simple since agency and communion, being a polarity like assertion and response, are always behaviourally at play). If that individual then matures, he or she does so as an empowered and autonomous self in a hopefully communal and open society. He or she may come to form his or her own family which is more open and enlightened, that is, communal (in the higher sense) reflecting the highest communal nature of society (being on the same vertical level) and will consequently tend to bring up more autonomous and agentic children. (And such a person is actually more balanced in their psycho-behavioural assertion/relationship dynamic. This reflects what I have called the shift of the poles back toward balance at this period in history.) How does all this refute my position? How is it not entirely consistent with my stated position? Also, we mustn't forget the compound levels when we speak of people. When we are with our original family we may feel and act more communally (and primally), but be quite agentic in the larger community or society.
Galaxies and sideways reductionism
Speaking, with a jaunty confidence, of galaxies, planets and societies, Smith argues: "...this is a no brainer: galaxies and planets are much, much closer to the heap end than are human societies. No rational classification scheme could consider these two types of holonic groups to be of the same type. I'm sorry, folks, , but this is lunacy..." Well, Andy I'm sorry too. How could there be any life forms if it weren't for planets and solar systems and suns and galaxies. Are we just lucky that these 'heapish lumps' formed in the way they did so that presto, life could happen on their surfaces? Smith is indeed naturalistic and reductive -- reducing everything (sideways) at the bottom to atoms. As I said above, he simply does not accept the overarching nature of polarity which is foundationally the polarity of microcosm and macrocosm; neither of which can be ontologically reduced to the other nor subsumed within the other. I find this scientistic position out of which Smith claims to derive an adequate transpersonal model completely untenable.
A few small and final points:
(1) Smith apparently misses my point concerning the need to differentiate the "hard problem" and what I call the "difficult problem" of consciousness (mind/body). I was arguing that the hard problem as it is generally posed in 'philosophy of mind' is not simply "hard", but actually impossible. But of course, as I said, it is indeed a difficult problem, and like any attempt to articulate foundational matters, it is forever open ended.
(2) Smith claims that I completely ignore the interior properties of lower holons, whereas I made clear in my "Quadrants Reinstated" where I stood on the subject of experience at the lower levels with my analysis of the dialectic of consciousness/unconsciousness (modelled laterally).
(3) My point concerning the transpersonal levels and my problem in seeing how Smith gets from the biological human up through purely collective society, thence into the transpersonal refers back to my point in "Holonic Logic" that the transpersonal levels could not be mapped by merely extending the Four-Quadrant map (precisely as mapped) upward. My conception is that the transpersonal levels are to be conceived as a Return arc where the Outward arc structures (shown in Wilbers 4-Quad) are integrated in a way fundamentally different from the way that, say, level 7 integrates level 6, or level 5 integrates level 4. So of course, the physical level model would, for me, be inadequate to map this particular transcendent integrative process where the archetypal and dialectical either/or which informed the levels of the Outward arc becomes a both/and -- an interpenetration of consciousness and unconscousness a la Washburn.
(4) Another example of where we are apparently talking at cross purposes: Smith is putting human society above humans as individuals. To me this means individuals at, say, level 7 are enfolded holarchically within level 8. (I know Smith is calling this a stage but it is still a vertical relation, otherwise he couldn't speak of everything mapped along one vertical axis). I said (at the end of a longer quote), "There is no such thing as a pure collective there are, logically, only individual/collectives." (What I meant by 'pure collective' refers to that purely social holon Smith places at, say, level 8 standing holarchically above the individual at level 7 -- they can't be on the same level because that would make Wilber and me correct). Smith answered rather exasperatedly, "Good grief. So what else is new? Scientists have been aware of this more than fifty years. Molecules are informed by their atoms." etc. Did I say anything to dispute this? The only sense I can make of Smith's further comments here is that when I say "individual/collective" he understands the relation in holarchical and vertical terms whereas my precise point is that they are polar and horizontal (holonically interdependent at each level) so we can't properly map the individual at level 7 with the collective at level (or higher stage) 8!
As I see it, to continue on from here would degenerate into a Monty Pythonesque "tis, tisn't", "tis, tisn't" argument ad infinitum. Rather than Habermas's consensus, we have here Lyotard's paralogy. Any "winning" has already been gained through Smith's willingness to give it a shot, which because of his generosity and intellectual energy I could not refuse -- which meant I chose to go beyond a simple defence of my position in light of his critique. But Smith's admirable prolificacy and martial tenacity for 'duk'n it out' across such foundational differences and muddy complexities exceeds mine. So at this point I want to get back to the task of further working out my model beyond what I have outlined in various transpersonal papers. But I'm afraid that Smith would see this model as an even more terrifying construction of 'Ptolemaic epicycles'. However, I assure Andrew this is not to save Wilber's model as Ptolemy sought to save the geocentric appearances, but to incorporate many central features of his model because, among other things, I am profoundly convinced that the lateralities in Wilber's holonic model (Outward arc levels) are essentially correct. I'll leave the last word to Andrew if he wishes to respond.