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A More Adequate Epistemology

Last post 7 hours, 22 minutes ago by balder. 24 replies.
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  •  09-20-2006, 8:25 PM 8651

    A More Adequate Epistemology

    One thing that has prevented me from wholly embracing Ken Wilber’s ideas is the epistemology implicit in his work.  While I understand the importance of rejecting speculative metaphysics, I don’t think the "Integral post-metaphysics," at least as Wilber has outlined it in Appendix II of Integral Spirituality, is ultimately the best alternative.

    What follows is an explanation of what I think is a more adequate epistemology, and is drawn largely from the work of Canadian philosopher Bernard Lonergan.  And, like Wilber, but unlike most contemporary philosophy, it explicitly acknowledges the reality of spirituality.  It also has the advantage of being verifiable in your own experience.

    Three Basic Questions

    What am I doing when I am knowing? 
    Why is doing that knowing? 
    What do I know when I do it?

    Lonergan held that a person’s answers to these questions will be, respectively, their cognitional theory, their epistemology, and their metaphysics.  When he says “metaphysics” he does not mean it in the narrow sense used by Wilber.

    Cognitional Theory: What am I doing when I am knowing?

    By "knowing" Lonergan means "coming to know" something.  And to answer this question we have to pay attention to the structure of our own cognitional processes.

    The first thing is experience.  No one has ever come to know anything while in a deep coma.  What is given in experience is mere data: data of sense, and data of consciousness.  It is mere scraps of potential information.  Obviously we do not come to know anything about much of it, as there is, for example, a great deal of sense data that we don’t even pay attention to.

    From the raw data that we do attend to, we may have an insight.  So that little black furry thing moving into my field of vision is recognised as a dog.  I haven’t seen this dog before, but I’ve grasped in this experience the presence of certain characteristics that I’ve learned, in previous insights, to be characteristic of dogs.  In other words, I have a concept of what a dog is, so that whenever I see one, I can recognise it as such.  And this recognition is itself an insight.

    But recognising something as a dog is not actually knowing that it is a dog.  The dog might be far enough away that I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s a dog, maybe it’s something else.  So it isn’t until I can judge reasonably that it is a dog that I actually know it’s a dog.  Reasonable judgment, not mere understanding, is the constitutive element of knowing.

    So this is my cognitional process: attentive experience, intelligent understanding, and reasonable judgment.  This, Lonergan says, is what one does when one comes to know something successfully.

    Epistemology: Why is doing that knowing?

    Some people think of objectivity as opposed to subjectivity.  This would seem to negate the possibility of objective knowledge, since whenever we know anything we cannot help but do so as subjects.  But Lonergan argues that objectivity is not the absence of subjectivity, but is rather the exercise of authentic subjectivity.  And it is authentic when my experiencing is attentive, my understanding is intelligent, and my judgment is reasonable. 

    Of course, people think they are being reasonable all the time, and they nevertheless believe things that are not true.  But believing oneself to be reasonable is one thing, actually being reasonable is another.  Truly reasonable judgment occurs when I truly grasp a) under what conditions a particular state of affairs will be so, and b) that those conditions are fulfilled.  Lonergan called this the virtually unconditioned.

    Metaphysics: What do I know when I do it?

    If "knowing" is the result of experience, understanding, and judgment, it follows that what can be known is everything that is experience-able, intelligible, and affirmable.  And this is reality, or "being."

    Now, one might argue that there might well be a great deal that is beyond the reach of our experience, understanding, and judgment.  And indeed there is.  Clearly our questions far outnumber our answers, and there is a great deal we know we don’t know, and can’t know. 

    So Lonergan distinguishes between "proportionate being," which is whatever can be known through our attentive experience, intelligent understanding, and reasonable judgment, and "transcendent being," which is whatever else might exist.

    A Concrete Example

    A concrete example might be helpful.

    I have never been to California, and yet I am quite confident in saying that California is a real place.  In my life, I have had a number of experiences that have led me to understand that there is a real place, in the southwest of the United States, called California.  And I have judged that this is so.  Was that judgment reasonable?  In order to test this, I need only consider the alternative: that the experiences that attest to the reality of a place called California should actually be understood in a different way.  For example, the images I’ve seen in movies and TV, the pictures I’ve seen in newspapers and magazines, the stuff I’ve read, the sporting events I’ve attended featuring teams purporting to be from there, the many people I know who claim to have lived there, it could all be part of a large conspiracy to trick me, and possibly others, into thinking that California is a real place.  My own family members may have been co-opted into the conspiracy when they’ve visited there, or maybe they were tricked into thinking they were there, but they were actually somewhere else.

    It becomes clear very quickly that this is ridiculous.  There is no alternative explanation for what I’ve experienced that any reasonable person could possibly accept.  California must be a real place.  And I can claim to know that objectively.

    Cognitional Structure as Self-Justifying

    The nice thing about Lonergan’s method is that it is self-justifying.  Anyone who wants to deny the process has to go through the process to do so.

    I can’t deny the process if I don’t know about it, so I have to read or hear about it first.  And it isn’t enough to simply look at the words on a page, or have someone read it to me when I’m not paying attention.  Clearly attentive experience is necessary.

    While I’m attentively reading or hearing about it, two things can happen: I can understand it, or I can fail to understand it.  If I fail to understand it, and I know I haven’t understood it, I cannot reasonably deny it.  If I think I’ve understood it, but haven’t, what I’ll be denying is not the real understanding, but my own misunderstanding.  So intelligent understanding is necessary.

    And all that is left is judgment.  But whether you affirm or deny the process, you are making a judgment.  There is nothing reasonable about judging that you don’t make judgments.  The only reasonable judgment is that it is true.

    Isn’t that exciting?  I sure think so.

    It’s very important to recognise, though, that we’re not often, or even usually, aware of this process when it’s occurring.  When I read the sports scores in the morning, I don’t think about whether or not it is reasonable to accept them as true.  Looking back on it now, though, I can see that it is.  If, on the other hand, I read a story about something going on in the Middle East, the reasonableness of affirming what I understand the newspaper to be saying is a little more questionable, as bias in that kind of reporting is more common.  So reflecting on it now, I can see that a much better approach is to say, "this newspaper is reporting this, and I’ll tentatively accept it until I hear otherwise," or something to that effect.  So I don’t know that the events in question happened, but I might decide that they probably did (depending on how much I trust the news source).

    Some further considerations

    Idealism:  For our present purposes, it is necessary to consider how this philosophy compares with any kind of idealism.  Idealism locates "reality" on the level of understanding.  I have concepts, and when I talk about what is real, I’m only talking about my concepts of what is real.  In critical realism, the real is not what is conceptualised, but what is reasonably affirmed as real.  Idealism fails to understand the importance of reasonable judgment as the constitutive element in knowing.

    Spirituality:  Lonergan was a Jesuit priest, so of course he made room in his philosophy for religion.  Actually, I suspect (and I’m not alone in thinking this) that the reason his writings are so difficult to understand is because it has very radical implications for theology, given that they exclude speculative metaphysics, and obviously the Vatican might have had a problem with this.  One of my professors in university, who knew Lonergan quite well, says the Vatican didn’t know what to make of him, so I suppose he succeeded in that regard.

    But it is not hard to see how spiritual experience fits in.  After all, when someone has a spiritual experience, they have to understand it in some way, and then make a judgment regarding that understanding.  The problem, though, is that such experiences can be quite compelling, so people might uncritically accept whatever they first understand.  This, I suspect, is why people who have enlightenment experiences at a particular altitude might become stuck at that stage as a result. (Wilber mentioned somewhere that this often happens.)

    So someone who has a vision of some deity might be so overwhelmed that they judge, quite unreasonably, that the object in the vision is actually real.  In the past, when cultures were more homogeneous than they are today, and when one might never come into contact with someone from another religious tradition, it might have seemed quite natural to simply accept what one experienced as real.  Today, however, it is quite apparent that such experiences occur in every religious tradition, and accepting a specifically Christian (or Hindu, or whatever) vision experience as "real" is easily recognised as quite unreasonable.  Unless, of course, one "understands" that the imagery is drawn from their own imagination, in which case it could be affirmed as real.

    For more profound mystical experiences, the same pattern of experiencing, understanding, and judging applies, although that’s a much too complicated subject to get into at present.

    There is so much more to say, but this is getting kind of long, so I’ll leave it at that.  If anyone has any questions or comments, please share.


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  •  09-21-2006, 6:22 AM 8693 in reply to 8651

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    Wow. Thanks for that contribution PP, that must have taken a fair bit of time to synthesise that kind of work.

    My knowledge of philosophy is very limited, but it strikes me that what you are saying has significant merit, however, does not articulate, to me, how it is different to Wilber and exactly how it is a more adequate alternative to Wilber's IPM/AQAL. Also I don't think that it out-contexts most of the IPM work that Wilber has done.

    PPsaid:

    The first thing is experience. No one has ever come to know anything while in a deep coma. What is given in experience is mere data: data of sense, and data of consciousness. It is mere scraps of potential information. Obviously we do not come to know anything about much of it, as there is, for example, a great deal of sense data that we don’t even pay attention to.

    I think that IPM would agree that the first thing is experience, that 'what is given in experience is mere data', but this is always only one side of the coin, so to speak, because to say that it is 'mere data' already privileges a particular view. (How do we know that ther is sense data that we do not pay attention to?) For example, I look at some Japanese writing, and it is merely data, which, in my conperception, roughly speaking, has no significant meaning. But, for someone who understands Japanese this 'mere data' (although it still is mere data in a sense) will be something that they can 'understand', but my original position of seeing the japanese writing as 'mere data' already privileges the other person's perspective, that is, the person who 'understands what the writing means", so to say 'mere data' by itself, is metaphysical. It is not metaphysical or inaccurate to compare the two people's views/conperceptions of the writing (by using one of the research methodologies in IMP), as long as we don't again fall for the myth of the given.

    PP said:

    " there is, for example, a great deal of sense data that we don’t even pay attention to."

    If by this you mean that there have been many studies that show that the body-mind experiences far more of the sensory world that it can ever genuinely know or process, then I completely agree and I think this is basically indisputable, but, like the above example, makes no difference whatsoever to the notion of conperception as I understand it. Yes, the mind conceives of its reality, of what it is perceiving and this is just an example of the perceptual function of the mind, no more.

    Basically everything else you say I agree with, but this is all still subject to the fact that perception and conception always go hand in hand, whether I eventually come to 'know' what is being perceived (so to speak - god I hate language!) objectively, subjectively, whether it is reasonable or not - like the existence of California in your conperception. Whether you've been to California in person or not, any notions you might have about the existence or non-existence of the state is always a conperception - the actual contents of which is for another branch of enquiry, not IPM philosophy, as I see it. (This is what Wilber means when he says that AQAL is essentially content-free, that the tools can then be applied at many levels, to many different fields of inquiry, such as the question of the existence of California in the physical realm or mental realm or whereever.)

    Keep up the great work...


    "If you see something that is true and do not act then you are wasting your life. And life is too precious. It is all that we have" - J.Krishnamurti
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  •  09-21-2006, 9:54 PM 8815 in reply to 8693

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    Mark:

    Thank you for your comments/questions.  I'm writing a follow-up that will make clear the difference between the epistemology presented here and that implicit in Wilber's work.  My own sense is that he has overcome some, but not all, of the problematic elements of idealism, and I suspect this is the cause of the confusion over his recent work regarding integral post-metaphysics.

    How do we know that ther is sense data that we do not pay attention to?

    You may have had an experience when someone was talking to you, and you realised that you weren't paying attention.  It doesn't mean you didn't hear them -- the sounds registered as noise in your brain.  But you weren't listening.  Listening is attentive hearing.  But you hear a lot more than you listen to, and see a lot more than you look at.  That's all I mean by "attention."

    For example, I look at some Japanese writing, and it is merely data, which, in my conperception, roughly speaking, has no significant meaning. But, for someone who understands Japanese this 'mere data' (although it still is mere data in a sense) will be something that they can 'understand', but my original position of seeing the japanese writing as 'mere data' already privileges the other person's perspective, that is, the person who 'understands what the writing means", so to say 'mere data' by itself, is metaphysical.

    Okay, excellent.  There is a very good answer to this.

    Basically, you are fusing two separate insights together.  The first is the insight involved in identifying the text as Japanese.  The second is the insight pertaining to the meaning of the text.

    So in the first instance, you look at the marks on the paper, the mere sense data (experience).  You recognise it as Japanese writing (understanding), and because you are confident in your ability to distinguish Japanese from, for example, Chinese or Korean writing, you judge that this understanding is correct.

    On the other hand, maybe you're not sure it's Japanese.  You don't feel you can make that judgment confidently, so you back up, and consider a broader way of understanding it: it's Asian writing of some kind.  You're pretty sure about that, so you judge that this is correct.

    Obviously you don't actually go through this process in such a explicit way.  Usually the understanding and judgment are very quick, and nearly automatic.  But when you think about it, it is clear that they do happen.

    The second insight pertains to the meaning of the text.  Building on the previous insight, you now ask, "what is the meaning?"  Since you already know that you can't read Japanese, what you will understand is that these are foreign symbols whose meaning is inaccessible to you.

    Someone who can read Japanese will have a similar insight in recognising the text, but will have a very different insight into the meaning of the text.

    So there are two separate insights, one pertaining to the "identity" of the text (for lack of a better word), and one pertaining to the meaning. 

    As for the relationship between perception and conception, both pertain to understanding, so you are correct.  A misperception would mean a misconception.  My mistake on the other thread was confusing perception with sensation.  When I said perception, I was thinking about sensation.  Sensation is of "mere data," while perception is more of an understanding of that data.  So you are right about that.

    I appreciate the comments.  I look forward to hearing what you think of my next big post, which should be up in the next couple of days.


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  •  09-22-2006, 12:36 PM 8896 in reply to 8815

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    I'm looking forward to your next installment, PP.  With Mark, I appreciated what you wrote, but would like to see a closer comparison to Wilber's epistemology (as you see it).  It appears (at this point) that the model you have described could fit within an IMP context, rather than standing strictly as an alternative to it. 

    Although this may be a tangent you don't want to follow, I'm curious if you are open to the idea that the process of cognition -- of coming to know something -- that Lonergan outlines may be a way knowledge manifests in experience, rather than the only way it may do so.

    As I'm sure you are aware, the epistemological turn in post/modern philosophy has led to a predicament that a number of philosophers describe as "knowledge estrangement."  By giving priority to epistemology, we have undermined many traditional sources of knowledge (for good or ill), but we have also placed the human subject at a distance from knowledge: we exist, largely, in a condition of not-knowing, and then have to go on missions to "collect" knowledge from outside, out in the world, or else arrive at it through a temporal process of some sort.  In either case, knowledge exists "outside" of the knowing subject, and must be accumulated or generated as a particular product which the subject can then possess.

    Heidegger, Charles Taylor, and a number of other thinkers have challenged the validity of this picture.  I'm interested in a particular spiritual vehicle -- TSK -- which I believe qualifies as post-metaphysical, in Wilber's sense, which also challenges this picture, while also accepting that this is indeed the way that the knowledge process does manifest from within particular "focal settings." 

    We do not need to explore the specifics of TSK here, but I brought it up as an example of an approach which accommodates Lonergan's model but which also claims it can be situated in a larger context.  Because, to the extent that Lonergan's model does reflect the turn towards epistemological primacy in post/modern philosophy, it appears it would also be attended by the problem of knowledge estrangement and the alienation of the subject.

    What do you think?

    Best wishes,

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  09-22-2006, 3:39 PM 8915 in reply to 8896

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    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    I also found the piece intruiging.  I've kind of stepped back from all of this for a day or two, and I think this comment from balder and my following comment is now understood as why I suddenly got a bit turned off to all of this conceptualizing about metaphysics. (not at all to take a shot at all the very insightful arguments that have been made...just suddenly felt like I was spinning my wheels in the midst of all the head-spinning discussion)

    balder:

    Although this may be a tangent you don't want to follow, I'm curious if you are open to the idea that the process of cognition -- of coming to know something -- that Lonergan outlines may be a way knowledge manifests in experience, rather than the only way it may do so.


    It seems that all of these epistemologies are not the-thing-in-itself.  I found myself wandering through all the posts, and wondering "is that right?....does that mean what I think it does?....does that make sense to me?" etc.  It all has me wondering, even if we can progress to better and better and better epistemologies, so what?  At some point there seems to be a real need to just give it all up and not have any desire at all to be the knower of anything.  In other words, to realize oneness with the-thing-in-itself, one has to transcend epistemology altogether, because it is always a concept and never That.  When one trancends dualities of knower and known, thinker and thought, subject and object, then one just Is all that is arising.  No?

    I asked my teacher this week whether it is valuable to know how human development progresses or if it is a hindrance.  He did say it was valuable, because then you know where you came from and how to unravel that.  It was in a satsang with other people so the answer was brief, but from other conversations I've had with him, and from my understanding of various spiritual teachings, concepts don't help you move forward.  Instead I see that understanding what concepts are holding you back is how you then learn to drop them like lead weights, and then you rise to the next level.

    Maharshi I think used to teach metahporically about the bucket in the well.  Instead of rising to the next level his analogy was sinking permanently into the Self.  A new bucket has pores in the wood that are air-filled (which represent concepts that have to be transcended), so even a bucket that is full of Truth will float on the surface of the well-water.  If the water is a bit turbulent then the buoyancy of the bucket will allow it to tip over and some of the Truth will spill out.  This bucket is easily pulled out of the well by the ego, and the Truth is dumped out.  After some time, the bucket becomes partially water-logged and it sinks completely into the well.  It remains full while in the well because it no longer is able to completely float, so even turbulent water will not cause any spilling.  This bucket can still be pulled out of the well, though it is much harder to do so.  When the bucket becomes so water logged that no air-filled pores are left, then it can no longer even be pulled out of the well, and it is permanently immersed in the Truth.

    I guess those concepts are still there even though they are not held onto, just like the pores are still there they are just full of water instead of air.  So if one's goal is to bring people up and out of their modern/post-modern grooves, then having a post-metaphysical system of thought to help do that is beneficial.  Maybe Ken knows this, and maybe that is all his system is intended to do.  I am suspecting more and more that the intention is not to construct some grand pillar upon which to support future levels of development, but instead to provide a rope down into the orange and green levels from turquoisealtitude that others can climb up.

    <>Not trying to see IPM as some great way to move up higher than turqouise (not trying to make a case that Keith is at that altitude) makes this or any epistemology easier for me to accept.

    Thoughts?

    Keith


    Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -unknown
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  •  09-22-2006, 8:24 PM 8942 in reply to 8651

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    Hi PP, I don't understand the following sentence: "Why is doing that knowing?"

    That statement lacks a subject and thus makes no sense. I've been waiting for 2 days to see if you would correct it - but no. Strange, given the rigor you exercise in your thought processes in other posts you have written. But here's what I really want to cut through to:
    PrickliestPear:

    Epistemology: Why is doing that knowing?
    Some people think of objectivity as opposed to subjectivity.  This would seem to negate the possibility of objective knowledge, since whenever we know anything we cannot help but do so as subjects.  But Lonergan argues that objectivity is not the absence of subjectivity, but is rather the exercise of authentic subjectivity.  And it is authentic when my experiencing is attentive, my understanding is intelligent, and my judgment is reasonable.

    Whether subjectivity is deemed authentic or not, the statements in your post imply a split between a subject "in here" and an objective world "out there." But is the whole of existence really separated into two things - subjectivity over here, separate objects over there - so that a subject can then grasp a real object? Or is that differentiation merely a sensation, an idea, a thought process, a conperception if you will, which occurs within subjective consciousness and can thus be seen as a movement/sensation of consciousness within consciousness itself?

    Obviously, your epistemology is founded on a profoundly dualistic interpretation of reality. But is reality itself so duplicitous as this worldview assumes?



    M
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  •  09-22-2006, 10:50 PM 8954 in reply to 8942

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    Hi, Mascha, I'm glad you asked that question.  That was bugging me too, and I was also expecting it to get edited -- I was guessing from "Why" to "Who" or "What." 

    PP, is that right?  Did you intend to write "Who is doing that knowing"?

    And Mascha, yes, that is also what I was getting at with the idea of "knowledge estrangement" and the "alienation of the subject" -- these are the consequences of a dualistic model of being and epistemology.

     


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  09-23-2006, 12:25 AM 8962 in reply to 8954

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    balder:
    And Mascha, yes, that is also what I was getting at ......

    Yeah, I know. And - bless your soul, you expressed it in a way I couldn't have. Quite thrilling, really. Always something slightly new.... about good ol' you know who.


    M
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  •  09-23-2006, 9:22 AM 9003 in reply to 8896

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    Balder:

    With Mark, I appreciated what you wrote, but would like to see a closer comparison to Wilber's epistemology (as you see it).

    It's coming.

    It appears (at this point) that the model you have described could fit within an IMP context, rather than standing strictly as an alternative to it.

    I agree.  I'm beginning to think that Wilber's epistemology needs to be "tightened up" more than changed.  But I'll get to that.

    I'm curious if you are open to the idea that the process of cognition -- of coming to know something -- that Lonergan outlines may be a way knowledge manifests in experience, rather than the only way it may do so.

    Lonergan does not claim that all knowledge is described by this process.  My dog "knows" when I'm going to take him for a walk, but there is no "intelligence" or "reasonableness" involved.  But when it comes to fully human knowing, knowing that is not a matter of animal extroversion, then no, I don't see how knowledge could be attained in any other way (nor does Lonergan, for that matter).  Lonergan has been accused of being too absolute in this claim.  I thought so too, at first, but after a while, when I understood what he was saying, I realised that he is right.  If you can think of a counter-example (that is, some way of knowing apart from this, or something that can be known in some other way), I would be happy to discuss it.

    The postmodern predicament you described, in my opinion, is not the result of having prioritised epistemology, but with having failed to find an adequate epistemology.  In some cases, it is simply decided that there can be no adequate epistemology, so the prioritisation of epistemology is mistaken in principle.  But it does not follow that prioritisation of epistemology inevitably results in Cartesian dualism, or some variation of the knowledge-as-reflection idea, as thinkers like Heidegger and Taylor seem to insist.

    Anti-foundationalism is one of the sacred dogmas of postmodernism.  So someone like Lonergan, who claims to have found and described something like a foundation for knowledge, is dismissed out of hand by postmodernists (who also admit that they haven't read his work).

    Because, to the extent that Lonergan's model does reflect the turn towards epistemological primacy in post/modern philosophy, it appears it would also be attended by the problem of knowledge estrangement and the alienation of the subject.

    I disagree, for the reasons given in my last answer.

     

    Keith,

    It all has me wondering, even if we can progress to better and better and better epistemologies, so what?
     At some point there seems to be a real need to just give it all up and not have any desire at all to be the knower of anything.  In other words, to realize oneness with the-thing-in-itself, one has to transcend epistemology altogether, because it is always a concept and never That.  When one trancends dualities of knower and known, thinker and thought, subject and object, then one just Is all that is arising.  No?

    I would say, 'no.' Failing to understand what knowledge is leads to people claiming to know things that they can't know, or that they don't know, so epistemology is important for at least that reason.  But in spiritual praxis there are further implications.  Any experience of 'oneness' you might have has to be understood in one way or another.  And if you have to ask yourself whether your understanding of the experience is the best understanding, or if some other explanation might be better.  Failing to consider these things leads a lot of people to misunderstand the experience and affirm their (mis)understanding as correct, so they come out of the experience not with knowledge, but with mistaken beliefs.

    The experience doesn't just download knowledge directly into the brain.  It has to be understood.  That understanding can be incorrect, so it has to be judged.  There is no getting around that.

     

    Mascha,

    I don't understand the following sentence: "Why is doing that knowing?" That statement lacks a subject and thus makes no sense.

    The word "that," in this case, represents the answer to the first question.  I think the confusion is a result of my having separated the three questions.  Together, they make sense: "What am I doing when I'm knowing?  Why is doing that knowing?  What do I know when I do it?"

    the statements in your post imply a split between a subject "in here" and an objective world "out there."

    What statements would those be?  Distinguishing between "subject" and "object" is not "dualistic."

    Obviously, your epistemology is founded on a profoundly dualistic interpretation of reality.

    I don't think you've fully grasped the implications of what I wrote.  There is nothing dualistic about it.

    If reality is what is known by attentive experiencing, intelligent understanding and reasonable judging, then "I" (the "subject") am not separate from that reality because I can, from my experience, understand and affirm myself as a knowing subject.  But I'll get to that in my next post.

    But is reality itself so duplicitous as this worldview assumes?

    Um...check this out and let me know if you still mean that.


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  •  09-23-2006, 11:11 AM 9037 in reply to 9003

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology


    Hi again, Prickliest,

    I said: I don't understand the following sentence: "Why is doing that knowing?" That statement lacks a subject and thus makes no sense.

    PP answered:

    The word "that," in this case, represents the answer to the first question. I think the confusion is a result of my having separated the three questions. Together, they make sense: "What am I doing when I'm knowing? Why is doing that knowing? What do I know when I do it?"

    Yes, I've read those 3 sentences together, but "Why is doing that knowing" still makes no sense, first, as a grammatical structure, secondly, as an answer to the first question. And the word "doing" here drags in a whole lot of meanings that would need to be clarified, even if your statement was changed to "Who (or What) is doing that knowing".

    I wrote: the statements in your post imply a split between a subject "in here" and an objective world "out there."

    PP answered:

    What statements would those be?

    Every salient point you make in your original post, especially and including the examples of California or the dog really being "out there", they just need to be apprehended by "authentic subjectivity". That postulates a split between subject and object as a given. And that, in my view, is the Myth of the Given inherent in your epistemology.

    PP goes on to say:

    Distinguishing between "subject" and "object" is not "dualistic."

    That distinction is duality itself. All other dualities follow from this primary distinction. Without a knower/perceiver/thinker, we cannot speak of any distinctions in the seamless oneness of all.

    I said: Obviously, your epistemology is founded on a profoundly dualistic interpretation of reality.

    PP answered:

    I don't think you've fully grasped the implications of what I wrote. There is nothing dualistic about it.

    If reality is what is known by attentive experiencing, intelligent understanding and reasonable judging, then "I" (the "subject") am not separate from that reality because I can, from my experience, understand and affirm myself as a knowing subject. But I'll get to that in my next post.

    You can understand and affirm yourself as a knowing subject all you want, it doesn't alter the fact that your epistemology is doing this as a series of mental gestures in opposition to any number of supposedly separate "objects out there". This is the mental split between "me and not me", which is useful and relatively true in certain important ways, but not an adequate description of the whole of reality or of the nature of knowing itself.

    I said: But is reality itself so duplicitous as this worldview assumes?

    PP answered:

    Um...check this (link) out and let me know if you still mean that.

    That was a bit of a joke, PP. No need to give me links to a dictionary. The word 'duplicitous' here is a play on Alfred North Whitehead's (paraphrasing from memory here) funny exclamation, "I think there's no such duplicity in reality!", which, to me, also contains an allusion to everything being ultimately alive. No dead objects in this worldview.

    All the best to you,

    M
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  •  09-23-2006, 12:35 PM 9052 in reply to 9037

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    Mascha,

    Every salient point you make in your original post, especially and including the examples of California or the dog really being "out there", they just need to be apprehended by "authentic subjectivity". That postulates a split between subject and object as a given. And that, in my view, is the Myth of the Given inherent in your epistemology.

    Obviously there is a distinction between "myself" as a knower and "California" as a known reality.  If you're not willing to acknowledge that distinction, we're not really in a position to have a fruitful dialogue.

    The "myth of the given" has become a slogan tossed around by a lot of people on these forums, but I can't help but think that a lot of people don't know what it is, exactly, that is "mythical" about it.  But I'll get to that in my next big post, if I ever get the chance to finish it.

    The distinction between subject and object is not "given," it is known through attentive experience, intelligent understanding, and reasonable judgment.  I don't know why you keep putting the words "out there" in quotation marks, implying that I used those words.  A careful reading of my post will find that I did not.  But to suffice it to say, I experience, understand, and have very good reason for affirming that "California" is real and distinct from myself.  If you care to explain how that judgment is mistaken, I'd love to hear it.

    That distinction is duality itself. All other dualities follow from this primary distinction. Without a knower/perceiver/thinker, we cannot speak of any distinctions in the seamless oneness of all.

    If there are no "distinctions in the seamless oneness of all," are infants (who experience reality this way) therefore more enlightened than those of us who recognise distinctions?

    That was a bit of a joke, PP. No need to give me links to a dictionary.

    That was a bit of a joke, too.


    Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.
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  •  09-23-2006, 12:55 PM 9055 in reply to 9052

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    I wanted to share a discussion of some of these issues from a TSK point of view.  The follow excerpt from Knowledge of Time and Space (in the section called "Intimacy") does not give a full view of the TSK perspective, and may be difficult to follow in some parts because of the specialized way some words are used, but I still think it can make a fruitful contribution to our inquiry here.  It is also a bit long, but I hope it's worthwhile.

    ~*~

    KNOWING IN NOT-KNOWING

    Suppose we asked how it is that all of us now alive have come to share a particular time. A variety of answers come to mind—the workings of a divine plan; the result of fate, destiny, or conduct in previous lives; the ran­dom workings of accident, and so on. Or we may decide that we simply do not and cannot know. Whatever our answer, it will be given in terms of the founding struc­tures of the prevailing order. The ‘logos’ determines the range of permissible events, and thus indirectly deter­mines what kinds of explanations or other modes of knowledge can arise—what ‘forms’ ‘cognition’ can ‘take’.

    From the multidimensional perspective of second-level knowledge, all such absolutes can be ‘opened up’ without being attacked as false or even as limited. Each manifestation can be accepted as it is, for ‘truth’ is understood as dependent for its values on the ‘order’ that the ‘logos’ sets in place. Through this very acceptance, new possibilities encompassed in second-level time and space are free to emerge.

    To say that knowledge ‘shapes’ time and space could be interpreted as a form of mentalism: the claim that something exists only because it is known. Mentalistic theories, however, depend on a first-level understand­ing of knowledge. Positing a reality in which ‘existence’ is based on perception or first-level ‘cognition’, they leave unexamined standard first-level distinctions such as ‘exist’ and ‘not-exist’, ‘mental’ and ‘physical’, and even ‘reality’ and ‘perception’. From a second-level per­spective, these distinctions themselves can be applied only because the knowledge ‘of’ the ‘logos’ makes them available to be known.

    Yet when we ask how the ‘order’ comes into being—how the ‘fabric’ of existence comes to be ‘fabricated’—the answer seems to be that there is no independent ‘source from’. For example, within the ‘logos’ that establishes self and world, knowledge finds expression in the activity of a knower. This very activity proposes, confirms, and imposes the ‘logos’ that establishes it.

    The known world and its contents, including the self that knows both world and contents, are nothing other than the explicit ‘fabrication’ of the knowledge implicit in the ‘logos’ ‘through’ the knowing activity of the self. We can draw from this interrelationship a key principle:

    Just as they are, without being ‘reduced’ to mental phenomena, the realities of conventional under­standing ‘are’ knowledge.

    Each act of knowing depends on having the ‘logos’ communicated to it ‘in advance’, but also communi­cates the ‘logos’ in turn. In addition to its content, each such act communicates the fundamental ‘order’ on which it depends. A subtle communication—active in ‘cognition’—is constantly in operation. There is a con­stant flow back and forth; indeed, the specific momen­tum characteristic of the temporal order could be inter­preted as an expression of this ‘communicating now’.

    Linked to free and open inquiry, ‘cognition’ discovers knowing in not-knowing, for not-knowing also embod­ies the ‘logos’. When inquiry leads us to the unknown, we can abandon our concern with ‘explanation’ and turn instead to the unknown as a starting point.

    The second-level knowledge implicit in the ‘logos’ operates without regard to identity or distinctions, for it has no location or definition. Instead, it is a process, a ‘knowingness’ that expresses itself in the activity of knowing, free from projection or identification. As and through the ‘logos’, knowledge is the unfolding of knowledge. Illuminated by such knowledge, not-know­ing itself becomes knowledge.

    We might distinguish two kinds of not-knowing. ‘Conventional not-knowing’ is simply another position taken by the self—a judgment that takes form in terms of a goal that has proved unattainable. Such not-knowing sets itself up as opposed to knowing, on a par with such other dichotomies as acceptance and rejection, praise and blame, or positive and negative. Because it is opposed to knowledge, it signals the end of inquiry and the failure of investigation. The ‘not-knowing’ accessible to inquiry, however, can be understood as the ‘comple­tion’ of inquiry. This not-knowing emerges only when inquiry has reached its furthest limits: at the point when knowledge has traversed the domain of knowing and is ready to see that domain revealed in a new light. It is a ‘not-knowing’ that must be earned through the power and vigor of inquiry itself.

    The knowledge available within this second kind of ‘not-knowing’ is not knowledge in a first-level sense—to assert this would be to indulge in a particularly con­fusing kind of word game. Instead, it is a knowledge that arises through acknowledging inquiry as the activity of ‘knowingness’.

    As an active knowing, inquiry converts the first-level opposition between knowing and not-knowing into a partnership. Instead of being exhausted in point­ing ‘to’ or ‘from’, knowledge is left free to know itself as the context of lower-level knowing and not-knowing. The projections of the human mind, which ordinarily seem to set the limits on what can be known, become instances of a knowing prior to all projections, encom­passing models and reasons, mistakes and confusion alike. At this point, the ‘embodied’ knowledge ‘of’ the ‘logos’ is available directly.

    To know in this way, through the knowledge of the ‘logos’, is to ‘embody’ an all-pervading knowledge that strips the first-level structures of knower and known of their claim to ultimate significance. We are invited to participate in a fundamental transformation. Though ‘objectively’ nothing may have changed, it is also true that nothing remains the same.

    If knowledge is to open in a new way, we must chal­lenge the claims made ‘within’ the ‘logos’ that collec­tively make the ‘logos’ accessible only as an object for ‘cognition’. The method for doing this is close at hand. There are places where the old structures break down, where internal inconsistencies and unresolved myster­ies come to the fore.

    The puzzles of a space ‘beyond space or a time ‘before’ time, the incoherence in our understanding of linear temporality, the mysterious ‘locatedness’ of thoughts, the unknown origins for awareness, the inac­cessibility of ‘nothing’—in such points of difficulty the temporal order does not hold. An idea pushes toward its opposite until both collapse.

    Because we can go to such places in our inquiry, we do not need to challenge the temporal order directly. It is enough to let the ‘order’ speak for itself; we are led naturally to points of transition from ‘order’ to ‘order’—points that serve both as signs of limitations and as symbols that point beyond.

    One such point of difficulty is the relationship through which the subject knows objects in space and time. Sometimes the subject has been described as essentially passive, mechanically processing input from the object, but the vital role of interpretive activity in even the simplest act of observation makes this view untenable.

    At the other extreme, it is sometimes said that what is known depends wholly on the patterns, constructs, and ways of knowing that the subject brings to the knowing. But reducing experience to the realm of men­tal constructs leaves us with no way of understanding how experience can be initiated or how it can develop, while raising troubling questions as to why everything is not already known in advance.

    Between these two alternatives lies a third view based on interaction and feedback, in which subject and object relate in complete intimacy. When the self applies judgments to objects experienced as having spe­cific attributes, object, attributes, and the judgments made by the self all sustain one another, with none more basic than the rest. An object is not ‘beautiful’ only because it is seen by a self who makes this judg­ment: Something about the object supports this judg­ment and thus makes it possible.

    This intimacy has an intricate structure. When an image of an object appears in the mind, presenting itself to be known, it is perceived in terms of certain preexist­ing patterns. However, perception is an act that requires time and is ordered in terms of a distinctive temporal rhythm. As the act of knowing unfolds, the image also projects itself into those patterns, contributing the direct ‘feedback’ of immediate experience.

    In this sense, the image of the object can be said to understand itself, in a process that develops sequentially in accord with ‘feedback’ and repetition. The object in being known reflects the interpretive structure that knows it; the subject in knowing the object is modified by the object it knows.

    At this level, it may no longer make good sense to insist on the structure of subject and object as funda­mental to knowing. Subject has the nature of object, or it could not know; object has the nature of subject, or it could not be known. The two are interlaced in a web of knowing, woven in the rhythms of the temporal order.

    Through the ‘feedback’ that unfolds in the specific sequential rhythm of the act of knowing, an interpreta­tion of experience is established that sets up ‘subject and object’, ‘knower and known’, ‘here and there’, and the other dichotomies of conventional knowledge. This interpretation is normally understood to yield knowl­edge as its fruit. But as an interpretation, it reflects knowledge on a more fundamental level—a knowledge that embodies the ‘knowingness’ inherent in the situa­tion as a whole.

    Seen in this light, conventional ways of account­ing for knowledge can be acknowledged as partial and complementary insights into the fundamental role of the ‘logos’ in all knowing. The view that knowledge is based exclusively on the explanations, interpretations, and identifications supplied by the self as knower is one such insight; it is balanced by the insistence that knowledge is founded on objects that exist indepen­dently ‘outside’ the self.

    The view being explored here takes both these alter­natives into account, while pointing to their limitations. Knowledge is understood as being distributed through­out the domain of what is known, inherent in the mutual unfolding of subject and object in time and space. The ‘logos’ is the ‘locus’ for an all-embracing ‘knowledge’. Unlike conventional knowledge, which must emerge from a state of not-knowing, such distributed ‘knowl­edge’ is naturally present, inherent in the interwoven substance and temporal rhythm that subject and object share from the outset.

     

    ~*~

     

    Best wishes,

     

    Balder

     


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  09-23-2006, 1:12 PM 9060 in reply to 9052

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    I will be looking forward to those closer caparisons as well.

    For now, here is my brief assessment. 

     

    I don’t see how this epistemology is more adequate, especially considering that it is a (very reasonable and accurate enough) epistemology that is always already taken into account in AQAL as a potential zone#1 perspective (worldspace, methodology, injunction).

     

    As valuable, necessary and indispensable as this or any similar (or better) zone#1/perspective is, what you have presented so far is also widely recognized as entirely monological and so just can not pass muster with postmodernity.

     

    Beyond that, I do not yet see how it takes zone# 2-the developmental structures of cognition- into account. You mention cognition but only one level. Not only is this then quite a potential reductionism, I do not then see how it can then be claimed to be more adequate.

     

    Even if we only allow Piaget's stages up to formal operational (implicit in this epistemology) cross-cultural studies have continued to show that the vast majority of human beings do not even possess that cognitive (or consciousness) capacity. So honoring only the 30% or so that do is largely biased and quite potentially marginalizing.

     

    Moving along, although you have mentioned meaning, and even situated it to some extent -as the result of mark's questions-as culturally contextual, I don't see yet how this takes the LL quadrant, particularly zone#4 (semiotics, genealogy, cultural and historical backgrounds, structuralism, etc.) into account as being the constructive element of, not only meaning but perception, conceptualization, and even any remotely similar understanding itself.

     

    The rare human beings that have been found to have grown to maturity in an environment void of human interaction (i.e. clinically feral children) do not even develop these abilities, as only one jarring example of how important the LL Quadrant is to anything even remotely defined as human consciousness and understanding (much less the human consciousness and understanding as it is defined here). Neuroscience confirms this by demonstrating that the brain will not even "wire" itself for any of the above without intersubjective (particularly semiotic and linguistic) stimulation and interaction especially in the very early years of life. (Past that, there are even a significant number of cultures where not even concrete operational cognition is reached.)

     

    So thusly, you are not just up against all of the available evidence in zone#2 in the UL, zone#3 and 4 in the LL (without even mentioning the LR which makes life as we know it and take for granted possible) but also the evidence from the UR as all of the constitutive a priori structures that must develop, and/or be present and available before you can even look at, say, English or Japanese or any writing or any object in existence and have it mean anything similar to what you are proposing as a more adequate epistemology. That is to say, more adequate than AQAL post metaphysics which has taken all these problems into account - and, I might repeat again, as a result replaced strictly zone# 1 monological epistemology with AQAL injunctions. So I’m not even sure why this is even an issue but that you don’t understand what is implicit in AQAL (even while positing that its easy to understand and a good number of "people on the forum" have just been duped by clever ego stroking tactics that make them think they're smart.)

     

    Or I could just say that I do not yet see how this accounts for the myth of the given and the vast unconscious structures that make this sort of epistemology-or my and your own posts- even possible.

     

    I would like to add that there is also a very subtle-yet not so subtle- materialism here so far.

     

    This is to some extent evidenced in the blatant reduction of any sort of spiritual vision from any and all religions to something as drastically simplistic as mere "imagination" when evidence is more than available demonstrating that such an explanation can not even begin to account for all of the facts. Aside from that, do you perhaps realize that this assertion more or less guts the Bible a good 80-90%, and in one fell swoop crumbles the foundations of just about all the world's major religions to nonsense? Ah, so the Burning Bush was just Moses' imagination? Out the window now goes Judism. St. Paul on the road to Damascus (not to mention the accounts of the Resurrection)? Islam, again, if the only possible reality is just Mohamed’s imagination? Not a whole lot left.

     

    I certainly am not sure how this helps religion or spirituality in the modern and post modern world at all . . . except to largely destroy it with one massive reductive assertion.

     

    Lastly, I would like to post my observation of this:

     

    "Basically, you are fusing two separate insights together."

     

    Another way of saying this is that Mark is integrating.

     

     

     

     


    I wish I could have writte this with my cool, black -I+I- pen! . . . but now the INK is running out! Drat.
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  •  09-23-2006, 3:26 PM 9079 in reply to 9037

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    Bruce and Tim, I will respond to your posts when I get a chance.

    Mascha,

    I've thought of a better way of responding to what you wrote before.

    You've asserted that my distinction between "subject" and "object" is "dualistic."  You've implied that this is a deficiency.  So my question to you is, what do you "know" that makes this subject/object distinction problematic, and how did you come to know this?

    You can claim to have had an experience of non-dual awareness.  But experience alone does not attain knowledge.  That is the "myth of the given": in this case, that non-duality is some fact that one need only catch a glimpse of in order to "know."

    Every mystical experience, non-dual or otherwise, must be interpreted.  That is, it has to be understood.  Wilber acknowledges this fact.

    If it has to be interpreted, then it can also be misinterpreted.

    So on what basis does one distinguish between a correct interpretation and an incorrect one?  On what basis does one judge that a particular interpretation is correct?

    Experience, understanding, judgment: how do you avoid it?


    Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.
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  •  09-23-2006, 3:41 PM 9081 in reply to 9055

    Re: A More Adequate Epistemology

    PP - Quote: "There is nothing dualistic about it "(my epistemology).

    Next, you're dragging the 2 boxes of subject separated from object(s) back in:

    PP - Quote: "..... I experience, understand and have very good reason for affirming that "California" is real and distinct from myself."

    Granted, this mode of knowing is useful and real, relatively speaking, because it posits a subject in relation to some object -- however, this mode of knowing is still intrinsically dualistic in that it assumes the subject-object division as a given.

    This piece from Balder's Time-Space-Knowledge excerpt says what I mean in a different language, and spiked with packets of meaning I have yet to explore.
    balder:
    The known world and its contents, including the self that knows both world and contents, are nothing other than the explicit ‘fabrication’ of the knowledge implicit in the ‘logos’ ‘through’ the knowing activity of the self.


    PP, I just saw you posted No. 9079 above - but I haven't the time to respond to that.

    All the best,

    M
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