Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Jeff MeyerhoffBald AmbitionJeff Meyerhoff, M.A., L.S.W. is the author of "Bald Ambition: A Critique of Ken Wilber's Theory of Everything" and other essays on integral theory. He majored in economics and sociology and has studied philosophy, psychology, politics and spirituality. He's been employed as a social worker for the last 25 years. His weekly radio show, "The Ruminator," is archived at His blog is and his email is [email protected].




Bald Ambition, Chapter 3

Jeff Meyerhoff

Vision-logic, and the integral synthesis that justifies its status as an advanced form of consciousness, is one perspective among many.

Egoic-rational consciousness arises with the arrival of modernity and allows humans to consider other peoples' perspectives. Prior to this, the pre-modern, mythical consciousness required a belief in its absolute truth and the denial of alternative perspectives. This advance in consciousness is essential for the moral advance of tolerance because if we can consider the perspectives of others we can understand them better. Rationality has its limits though; the perceiver can acknowledge differing perspectives, but cannot integrate them without reducing them to his or her own “truth.” The rational person understands what the other believes, but simultaneously excludes it as wrong. The choice is between being a dogmatic defender of our chosen view or a wishy-washy relativist who says any view is as good as any other.

Wilber claims that a solution to this problem is occurring through a shift in consciousness. We are moving from the dominance of egoic-rationality to a new consciousness and mode of being called vision-logic or the integral-aperspectival. This new consciousness allows us to step back and mindfully view the contents of consciousness. By gaining this ability to view rationality as a whole we can now transcend it. This transcendence is no mere detachment, but a greater embrace in which the previously disassociated spheres of matter, life, mind and spirit can be integrated. Humans can become qualitatively different beings. Instead of experiencing ourselves as an awkward mixture of a mechanical living machine and a seemingly immaterial consciousness, we can experience ourselves as an integrated whole of sensations, emotions, thoughts and spirit, all held within a larger witnessing awareness. Wilber sometimes refers to this new mode of being as centauric, after the mythic beast that combined the human and the animal.

Wilber's conception of vision-logic has remained relatively consistent since his early account of it in 1981, although its fullest elaboration occurred more recently in SES and Integral Psychology. As a mode of cognition, vision-logic is not rooted in one perspective. It can range over multiple perspectives and differing domains of knowledge, seeing the interconnections, relationships and analogies between systems of knowledge, and integrate these seemingly disparate systems. Differing kinds of knowledge – scientific, religious, poetic, experiential, rational – and their multifarious perspectives on reality, are not pejoratively or invidiously compared – “Science is true, religion is bunk.”, “the liberals are right, the conservatives wrong” – but considered and understood, with their truths culled and integrated into greater understandings and larger systems of knowledge.

Rational thinkers cannot affirm the truth of their perspectives without reducing opposing perspectives to their own, yet cannot find the justification for such a reduction using reason alone. They are stuck with the prospect of a fragmented culture in which there is no final arbiter of truth. Vision-logic or the integral-aperspectival can solve this dilemma. Wilber's solution is similar to Karl Marx's. In a breathtaking move, Marx said that communism is the riddle of history solved and knows itself to be that answer. Similarly, with the emergence of vision-logic, consciousness grasps its own structure for the first time and so is transparent to itself. Wilber states that “so much of the verbal-mental-egoic dimension…. becomes increasingly objective, increasingly transparent, to centauric consciousness”[1] and notes that “this 'transparency,' according to Gebser, is a primary characteristic of the integral-aperspectival mind.”[2] Vision-logic he says has “the capacity to go within and look at rationality [and] results in a going beyond rationality.”[3] What consciousness now sees is its holonic nature; that there are “contexts within contexts within contexts forever.”[4] In seeing this infinity of contexts, the integral-aperspectival mind is not tempted to reduce one perspective to another as rationality does. The poststructural insight that no perspective is final is accepted and integrated, but the nihilistic conclusion that all perspectives are of equal value is rejected. The integral-aperspectival mind solves the riddle of relativism by preserving the truths of differing perspectives and integrating them into the great holarchy. Each perspective now has its proper place within the whole.

There are three ways that Wilber argues for the superiority of vision-logic: one, that the vantage-point itself is superior – the means of knowledge acquisition are better; two, that the knowledge gained from the vantage-point is better – it produces better results; and three, that developmental psychology has verified its existence – the research confirms it.

Mindfully observing consciousness can produce profound results and it is a method neglected by most mind researchers.[ Yet the power of this type of mental observation does not necessarily mean that it is a superior means of observation, only different. Different approaches to understanding mind and reason range from the detached rationality of cognitive science and the philosophy of mind to the subjective immediacy of phenomenology. All deal with the upper left quadrant of Wilber's map and understand the mind in differing ways. These other investigative methods use rationality and self-reflection to understand the mind in ways different than the supposed disinterested witnessing consciousness of vision-logic.

Mindful viewing of one's subjective consciousness does give an experience of self-certainty regarding what is seen, but the criterion of experienced self-certainty is different from the criteria that the rational inquirer uses. Since different methods and criteria of validity are used, one cannot say that one is superior to the other. That would require a meta-criterion to adjudicate the differences between the two approaches. The mystic would say to the rational inquirer that they have not done the mindful viewing necessary to examine consciousness. The rational inquirer would say to the mystic that their statements regarding the nature of consciousness or rationality are open to this or that criticism. For example, the rational inquirer could contend that vision-logic doesn't really stand outside of a thing called rationality; what it actually does is offer a view from a unique, subjective, witnessing position of the flow of reasoning and thought inside of one's own mind. Witnessing one's personal reasoning and flow of thought is not the same as empirically studying reason itself. Should we adjudicate the difference using the experienced self-certainty of mystical inquiry or do we use the results of a critical rational questioning? The criteria we think superior is an existential choice, neither ultimately rationally defensible nor ultimately demonstrable to all.

A central insight of the 20th century's “linguistic turn” in the social sciences and the humanities is an appreciation of the fundamental role that language plays in the existence of consciousness. The aforementioned fields of cognitive science and the philosophy of mind have focused on language as a presupposition of rationality and consciousness. Wilber notes that Jean Gebser, the pioneering theoretician of a potential integral consciousness, emphasizes the importance of language for our historical age. Wilber quotes Gebser stating that “Language itself is treated as a primordial phenomenon by recognizing its originating-creative nature.”[6] But language and the linguistic turn are tricky things. Once you acknowledge the “originating-creative” nature of language for consciousness, it is hard (I would contend impossible) to escape it. Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer say language creates our unique form of human being, but they do not argue that there is any form of transparency available to man of the sort that Wilber implies. Jacques Derrida and others would argue that language can never be a transparent transmitter of reality because its multiple and ever-changing words and meanings do not allow one to escape its confines. An intention to produce the most precise and permanent description of anything will always be undermined by the changing multiplicity of meanings that are inherent in language. There is no one-to-one correspondence between word and world.

Whether our capacity to view the internal contents of our minds allows us a transparent or unmediated viewing of those contents is quite a vexed question in the philosophy of mind. The apparent direct witnessing of the contents of our minds has been disputed by many in the philosophical tradition including Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle, Wilfred Sellars and the late Donald Davidson.[7] In a recent paper the philosopher Ernest Sosa reviews the “various accounts of how beliefs can be foundationally justified through sticking to the character of the subject's own conscious experience at the time” and concludes that “[n]one of these has been successful.”[8] Simon Blackburn in his Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines Wilfred Sellars' 'Myth of the Given' as the

Name adopted by Sellars for the now widely-rejected view that sense experience gives us peculiar points of certainty, suitable to serve as foundations for the whole of empirical knowledge and science.[9]

A convincing transcendent experience must still be put into words to have the kind of interpersonal verification that Wilber seeks. The criteria of verification within a mystical community, such as a Buddhist monastery, may be clear-cut as Wilber contends, but if one is inclined toward rational verification, the verbalized propositions are open to questioning and counter-argument and drawn into inevitable debate.[10] The verbalized propositions will assume their role as the vehicles of one perspective among many.

Vision-logic does not transcend and include other perspectives and put them in their proper place. To place them, it must extract the partial truths of differing perspectives using the orienting generalizations of knowledge. As I show throughout the book, the method of determining orienting generalizations is not possible and not done by Wilber. Since Wilber does not use orienting generalizations he does not have truths according to that criterion. What he is claiming is not automatically sanctioned by the relevant research in the natural and social sciences. Therefore, he must be using a perspective to determine what is true and false. Yet he says that he is using integral-aperspectivism which transcends perspectives. Wilber's solution to perspectivalism doesn't work because integral-aperspectivalism is a perspective.

Wilber contends that vision-logic incorporates the poststructural insight of contexts within contexts, yet he leaves out the crucial poststructural contextualization: the contextualization of oneself, the observer. Wilber reacts with such vehemence when confronting the relativists, and takes such repeated delight in exposing their alleged self-contradiction – they supposedly make the absolute statement that “all is relative” – because their alleged contradiction is his actual contradiction. His contradiction is that, on the one hand, he wants to claim that he is practicing a non-reductionistic, aperspectival synthesis of the partial truths of knowledge while, on the other hand, he is actually using an unacknowledged perspective and criterion of truth in order to decide what will count as truth. He uses the fiction of the orienting generalization, and its purported sanction of what he considers the facts, to promote as universal his highly partisan and selective vision of what is true for all.

This desire to both honor contextualization and transcend it causes Wilber to make confused assertions. He commends poststructuralism for saying that no perspective is final, but condemns it for saying that this means that no perspective is better than any other.[11] (As usual, no actual poststructuralists are quoted saying these things.) He then deploys the usual self-contradiction argument and says that because they make the absolute assertion that no perspective is better than any other they are committing a self-contradiction. What Wilber does not notice is that even asserting that no perspective is final, as he and the poststructuralists do, involves one in a self-contradiction. For from what perspective can one assert that no perspective is final, and have it be absolutely true, than from a perspective that claims itself to be final. What could final mean here but the ultimate perspective?

Ironically, Wilber, who has personally had such a profound non-dual insight, is so locked into the paramount epistemological duality of absolutism vs. relativism that he cannot see beyond it. It causes him to say things like, “That all perspectives interrelate, or that no perspective is final (aperspectivism), does not mean that there are no relative merits among them.”[12] Yet how does he determine relative merits except through his perspective, which he unwittingly disguises by thinking of it as a transcendent aperspective?

Finally, that Wilber's aperspective is a perspective is apparent from what follows his description of vision-logic: a defense of his view against the inevitable (but comfortably simplified) objections, i.e. other perspectives.

This attempt to validate the superiority of vision-logic through the results of the integral theory leads to a circular logic.

The superiority of vision-logic as a mode of knowing is dependent upon the arguments made for the validity of the integral synthesis as a whole. Wilber argues that vision-logic is superior because: it transcends and includes rationality; it is developmentally later and so is more advanced; and it explains more since it integrates all that has come before. In each instance, vision-logic's superiority is dependent upon the validity of the integral theory. When Wilber states that vision-logic sees that “consciousness is actually holonic” so that “its own operation [is] increasingly transparent to itself,”[13] he assumes that the holonic way of looking at consciousness is correct. Yet that is the burden of Wilber's work, which I show is highly problematic.

This attempt to validate the superiority of vision-logic through the results of the integral theory leads to a circular logic. Wilber's ability to create his integral synthesis is supposedly a result of his use of vision-logic. Vision-logic is that state of mind that allows the weaving together of the partial truths of the other sciences in order to create a synthesis of knowledge that the rational consciousness cannot accomplish. Yet the validity of vision-logic, as we have seen, is justified by the correctness of the entire integral synthesis, which, through its evolutionary-developmental perspective, makes sense of the welter of scientific knowledge currently available and gives vision-logic a favored place. Wilber writes,

The aperspectival mind, in other words, is holonic through and through….every structure of consciousness is actually holonic (there are only holons), but vision-logic consciously grasps this fact for the first time, and thus finds its own operation increasingly transparent to itself (this 'transparency,' according to Gebser, is a primary characteristic of the integral-aperspectival mind.)[14]

In other words, the key to Wilber's integral synthesis is the insight into the holonic nature of the Kosmos. This holonic nature is seen for the first time by vision-logic, which transparently sees its own operation because it sees the holonic nature of things, placing vision-logic beyond rational consciousness. So the fact that vision-logic sees holons within holons demonstrates its transparency to the nature of mind, because we know, through using vision-logic, that the nature of the Kosmos is holonic. It's like saying, “I know I'm right because I have the best faculty for judging rightness. How do I know it's the best faculty for judging rightness? Because it judges things rightly. How do I know it judges things rightly? Because it is the best faculty for judging rightness,” ad infinitum.

If vision-logic's transparency to consciousness is evidenced by its ability to see the holonic nature of consciousness then its validity is dependent upon Wilber's description of consciousness. Certainly, all describers of consciousness would claim that their view is the right one, so Wilber appears to be no different. However, he is different because he claims that his description of consciousness is the knowledge of everyone else's combined. Whereas most researchers assert the truth of their view within the context of the debate in which they are engaged, Wilber tries to assume a position above the debate through the device of the orienting generalization. This device makes it appear as if he is neutrally reporting the findings of all the members of the debate and causes him to make grandiose claims, such as consciousness finally becomes transparent to itself through vision-logic.

Wilber's unreliable reporting of the results of scholarly research is one central feature of my critique and this same problem arises, although less severely than usual, when he justifies vision-logic by citing scholarly research.[15] In developmental psychology, Wilber's vision-logic is called postformal thought. Scholars in the field use the term “postformal” to refer to a hypothesized stage of cognitive development beyond Piaget's formal stage of cognition.

Wilber refers to a number of researchers exploring vision-logic. A measured and knowledgeable survey of postformal thinking, written by Helena Marchand,[16] confirms Wilber's characterization of postformal thinkers as having a general consensus regarding, what Wilber terms, “the developmental space they portray.”[17] She writes that

it is possible to identify in the diverse descriptions of postformal thought (cf. Kramer, 1983, 1989) some features which would be specific to this level: (1) the recognition and understanding of the relativistic, non-absolutist, nature of knowledge; (2) the acceptance of contradiction to the extent that it is part of reality; and (3) the integration of contradiction into comprehensive systems, i.e., into a dialectical whole ( Kramer, 1989).

This statement confirms Wilber's claim that there is a broad consensus within postformal studies regarding what postformal theorists agree upon, but it says nothing about the status of the postformal concept outside of postformal studies in the larger discipline of developmental studies .

Michael Commons and Francis Richards are the postformal thinkers Wilber refers to most frequently. Commons and Richards divide the postformal stage into four increasingly advanced levels termed the systemic, the metasystemic, the paradigmatic and the crossparadigmatic. In essence, each level uses the products of the previous level as its object of thought. For example, the person at the paradigmatic level will work with metasystems to create a new paradigm. Wilber believes he's at the highest or crossparadigmatic level: “I am presenting a cross-paradigmatic model.”[18] However, while Marchand thinks Commons and Richards work is the most worthwhile among postformal thinkers, she notes that it has not been confirmed by later empirical studies, a major drawback. She writes that:

The results obtained by Commons, Richards & Kuhn (1982) confirm such reconstructions in that which relates to the systematic, metasystematic, and paradigmatic stages (They did not find such results at the transparadigmatic level). However, these results were not confirmed in studies carried out by various researchers who studied the relationships among formal thought and systematic and metasystematic thought (Demetriou, 1990; Kallio, 1995; Kallio & Helkema, 1991; Kohlberg, 1990). For these authors, systematic thought would be identical to that designated by Piaget as "consolidated formal operations" (i.e., Formal B) and, thus, could not be considered postformal.

And in her conclusion, the whole area of postformal thinking does not fare well. Marchand concludes that

Given the heterogeneity of theories about thought beyond the formal level, and given the inconclusiveness of the research carried out so far, it is not possible, for now, to determine the true nature of the type of thought referred to as postformal. This being the case, and it being necessary to defend the requirement that any scientific and epistemological theory must be based on underlying presuppositions such as conceptual clarification, parsimony, and simplicity, it seems preferable to abandon the term "postformal" (except, possibly, in the case of the conceptualization put forth by Commons and coworkers) and to speak simply of adult cognition, or adult thought.

Of course, Marchand's view is not the last word, but, at the very least, her conclusion, so contrary to Wilber's confident assertions, indicates that there are grounds for a healthy scholarly debate. Since the postformal scholarly literature is supposed to validate vision-logic, this disagreement brings its nature and existence into question.

Other problems arise for vision-logic as a social-historical phenomenon, as opposed to an individual, cognitive phenomenon. As with all holons, vision-logic has its aspect in the lower left or intersubjective quadrant. Vision-logic is purported to be a qualitative shift in social consciousness on the scale of the magical, mythical and rational socio-historical shifts. Yet what distinguishes these categories as massive historical shifts is that they each provide new criteria of validity for knowledge. Wilber makes an invidious comparison between the methods of knowledge acquisition in medieval times versus that of modernity. Foucault gives a vivid portrayal of these differing regimes of knowledge.[19] The pre-Enlightenment Renaissance period used appeals to authority and metaphorical association to gain and validate knowledge claims. This method contrasts with modernity's use of empirical evidence, experimentation and the standards of rationality. If the shift to vision-logic is of the same order of magnitude as the shift from the medieval to the modern, then vision-logic must have its own new criteria of valid knowledge. Wilber does describe the three strands of any valid knowledge claim, but that is not a new criterion of knowledge. (As I show in chapter 8 it is a pragmatic criterion of knowledge.) So no new criterion of knowledge is offered that would distinguish vision-logic from the standard rules of rational argumentation and establish it as a new stage of social-historical development.

An intellectual maneuver, used, I would argue, to forestall criticism of his integral synthesis, hints at or presupposes a significant epistemological difference between egoic-rationality and the higher levels of vision-logic. Recently, Wilber has claimed that you need to have attained a certain level of consciousness to really understand his theory. He writes that “nothing that can be said in this book will convince you that a [theory of everything] is possible, unless you already have a touch of turquoise [higher consciousness] coloring your cognitive palette.”[20] So I, at the first or second level of vision-logic (the green level according to Spiral Dynamics (SD)), simply can't fully understand Wilber's theory which is at the fourth level of vision-logic (turquoise in SD) because my cognitive development is not advanced enough. I still see a relativistic world of multiple perspectives and can't transcend that consciousness and see the interconnections and patterns between perspectives, the holarchical nature of things. It's similar to a scientific rationalist at the egoic-rational stage (orange in SD) having a debate with a religious fundamentalist at the mythic level (blue in SD).[21] The person at the lower level just can't understand the higher-level person's thinking. As Wilber says about these “cross-level debates:”

This is why developmental studies in general indicate that many philosophical debates are not really a matter of the better objective argument, but of the subjective level of those debating. No amount of orange scientific evidence will convince blue mythic believers; no amount of green bonding will impress orange aggressiveness; no amount of turquoise holarchy will dislodge green hostility – unless the individual is ready to develop forward through the dynamic spiral of consciousness unfolding. This is why "cross-level" debates are rarely resolved, and all parties usually feel unheard and unappreciated.[22]

This argument is problematic in a number of ways and has the potential, already partially realized in the Wilberian integral community, of stifling the free flow of ideas and causing exclusionary behavior. As stated above, Wilber's description of the problem is odd. He says he's talking about “philosophical debates,” yet refers to “orange aggressiveness,” “green bonding” and “green hostility” as if the discussants aren't asserting their views using rational arguments and rhetoric, but instead bullying or hugging each other. Presumably, I would be labeled a green hostile. But I'm not trying to dislodge Wilber's turquoise holarchy with hostility; I'm making arguments, asking questions and producing evidence. How else would people have a rational discussion about their views? He also says that these debates “are not really a matter of the better objective argument” as if that can be determined objectively, independently of the debate itself. While it's true that debates often end in stalemate, there is a simpler explanation that I suggest below.

Any objectivity claimed for Wilber's arguments is fundamentally dependent upon the validity of the developmental levels that Wilber has adopted. If vision-logic or the postformal is not a separate stage of development, then there is no discrete, hierarchic difference in consciousness between people assigned to different levels. As I show above, there is much room for debate about the reality of a postformal stage. Even more, the citations in Chapter 2, on individual consciousness, show that there are well-established developmental psychologists who question, criticize and have abandoned Piaget's and Kohlberg's developmental models. More broadly, outside of developmental psychology, there are non-developmental psychologists who simply don't use a developmental model at all. As Wilber himself says, in a curious statement for someone who says he's relying upon the scholarly consensus for the validity of his integration,

[a version of the postmodern green meme, with its pluralism and relativism] has also made developmental studies, which depend on second-tier [higher stage] thinking, virtually anathema at both conventional and alternative universities.[23]

This statement is so mistaken that I wonder if Wilber had a mental lapse when writing it since Wilber also contends, in that very same piece, that the developmental models he uses have the sanction of mainstream academia. In addition, even a superficial survey shows that developmental studies are well ensconced in academe. But it does indicate, from Wilber himself, the embattled – as opposed to the consensual – situation of developmentalism. An embattled situation means that arguments and evidence against developmentalism have a strong foothold in academia, as shown in chapter 2. This directly contradicts Wilber's frequent statements that the developmental models he's using are validated by the consensus in the field. So the validity of vision-logic – and developmentalism itself – is an open question.

Assuming vision-logic were a separate level of development, does it hold, as Wilber suggests, that those who have not achieved it can't understand the thinking of those who have or can only understand it in a limited fashion? Andrew P. Smith is, with Mark Edwards, one of the best students of Wilber's work. He has constructed his own novel one-scale model of holarchy. To create such a model, according to Commons and Richards, requires taking intellectual paradigms as one's object of thought; this means that Smith is working at the highest, cross-paradigmatic level of vision-logic. So he has the requisite level of consciousness, according to Wilber, to understand his integral theory. Yet Smith has been so ignored by Wilber and his followers that he's resorted to subtitling one of his essays: “Further Monologues with Ken Wilber.” In addition, Smith's evaluation of Wilber's integral theory is done in the standard way: he describes the theory, asks whether it agrees with the facts, whether it's consistent and whether it provides a solid explanation for what it purports to describe. Even I, a lowly, entry-level vision-logician, have read Smith's work, understand it, and have used it in my book and received a strong, positive review from Smith.[24] So Smith, a cross-paradigmatic thinker, has critically evaluate Wilber's work, using the standard modes of intellectual evaluation, so successfully that neither Wilber nor any one of his supporters has even tried to contradict him. Were Smith to be engaged, it would be an intra-level debate acceptable to Wilber and is virtually required by Wilber's hero Jürgen Habermas in his conception of the ideal speech situation.

Smith, Wilber and everyone else's use of the well-known tools of rational substantiation and evaluation raises the question of what special criteria of validity Wilber, or any cross-paradigmatic thinker, uses? Commons and Richards illustrate the highest level of postformal thinking – called crossparadigmatic or transparadigmatic thinking, the stage Marchand says Commons and Richards themselves could not empirically validate – with the great discoveries of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Planck, Einstein and Gödel. All of their revolutionary discoveries were validated by the standard criteria of scientific rationality: logic, consistency, evidence, experimentation, elegance. Where is the new criterion of knowledge that accompanies any shift in cognition of the scale that Wilber claims for vision-logic?

If it is not a difference in levels of consciousness, what causes the common occurrence of unresolved and unsatisfying intellectual debates? I propose that irreconcilable debates are caused by people adhering to differing criteria of validity. When I've had discussions with fundamentalist Christians and we disagree, I don't think I have a higher level of consciousness and that's why they don't agree with me; I think that because of their personality and life experiences they have decided that the ultimate criteria of validity is a literal reading of the Bible. I still think I'm right and they're wrong, but I also know there is no way to ultimately adjudicate the difference. They think that if I could take a leap of faith and surrender to the infinite love of Jesus Christ I would understand His Truth; while I think that if they would just look at the facts and the evidence and be reasonable they would understand what's true. Moreover, there are fundamentalists who understand science well enough to state the basics correctly – they just don't believe in it. We just believe different things and we each think we're right and the other wrong. As the quote from Stanley Cavell on my title page says, “There is such a thing as an intellectual tragedy.”

Wilber's argument here is so weak that another explanation has to be found for why he's asserting it. It's obvious to me that this is a transparent, and somewhat sad, attempt to avoid criticism by devising a rationale that invalidates the criticizer. If, as he often laments, people don't understand his theory, the explanation lies in their not being cognitively developed enough to understand it. In addition, all the explaining in the world will not help because they are constitutionally unable to understand; therefore no attempt even needs to be made. And, any criticism the critic makes can be ignored because of the lower level of consciousness of the person making it. Wilber is committing the common fallacy of the ad hominem argument – the argument against the man.

In conclusion, the burden of Wilber's theory of everything is to use the perspective-laden scholarship of noted academics to construct a synthesis that transcends their interminable debates. While the witness consciousness of vision-logic may give the experience of transcending the rational mind, as soon as any insight gained from that perspective, or any defense of that perspective, is put into words it can be subject to rational debate. By entering the realm of rational debate the tools of reason become operative. Debate participants use arguments, facts, rhetoric, logic and, most fundamentally, language. The 20th century's 'linguistic turn' in the humanities and the social sciences has not, contrary to Wilber and Gebser, led to a 'transparency' of rationality and a superior vision-logic, but instead to the inescapability of language. As soon as we think or speak or, as some would now argue, become humanly conscious, we presuppose language. Vision-logic, and the integral synthesis that justifies its status as an advanced form of consciousness, is one perspective among many. It is doubtful as a new type of socio-historical consciousness because it does not have a new criterion of knowledge which is a fundamental characteristic of earlier types, such as the magical, mythic and the egoic-rational. Debates within and outside of developmental psychology cast doubt on the reality of vision-logic as a separate stage of development. Without the proper validation, the use of levels of development as a tool to exclude particular debate participants or to rationalize inferior argumentation can be seen as a transparent attempt to avoid rational discussion, the standard way of adjudicating differences between differing intellectual perspectives.


[1] SES, p. 189.

[2] SES, p. 187.

[3] SES, p. 258

[4] SES, p. 187.

[5] For an exception see Varela, F., Rosch E., and Thompson, E., The Embodied Mind, (MIT Press, 1991).

[6] SES, pp. 189-190.

[7] William Lycan has published two books that describe the variety of positions regarding the nature of consciousness from the perspective of the philosophy of mind. Lycan, William G., Consciousness, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987) and Lycan, William G., editor, Mind and Cognition, (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1999).

[8] Sosa, E, “Privileged Access” in Consciousness, edited by Quentin Smith and Aleksandar Jokic, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p.289. Sosa does go on to “sketch…a positive view that seems more promising.”

[9] Blackburn, Simon, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p.253.

[10] See the work of Steven Katz, et al discussed in Chapter 4.

[11] SES, p. 188.

[12] SES, p. 188.

[13] SES, p. 187.

[14] SES, p. 187.

[15] Frank Visser alerted me to the material in this section and the importance of examining it.

[16] Marchand, Helena, “Some Reflections on Postformal Thought,” The Genetic Epistemologist, Vol. 29, Number 3, 2001.

[17] Wilber, Ken, Integral Psychology, (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2000), p. 90.

[18] Wilber, Ken, “Waves, Streams, States and Self,” fn. 4, at

[19] Foucault, Michel, The Order of Things, (New York: Vintage Books, 1973).

[20] Wilber, Ken, A Theory of Everything, (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2000), p. 14.

[21] See chapter 5 for a description of these levels of consciousness.

[22] Wilber, Ken, “Introduction to Volume 7 of the Collected Works,” in the section entitled “The Jump to Second-Tier Consciousness,” at

[23] Wilber, Ken, “Introduction to Volume 7 of the Collected Works,” in the section entitled “The Jump to Second-Tier Consciousness,” at

[24]Smith, Andrew P., “Contextualizing Ken: A Review of Jeff Meyerhoff's Bald Ambiton" at, Sept. 2004.

© Jeff Meyerhoff, 2003, updated 2006

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