RE: MD Them pesky pragmatists

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Jan 30 2005 - 02:34:23 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Roberts: "Re: MD Pure experience and the Kantian problematic"

    Matt, Paul and all:

    Matt said to Paul:
    In fact, you say, "pure experience of value is that which is absolutely
    certain, not testimony. The MOQ is stating that liking or disliking, prior
    to abstraction, association, or analysis, is absolutely certain."
    My point is, "Who cares? The important stuff comes later with the
    abstraction, association, and analysis." DQ is only important in this
    regard if it _is_ testimony.

    dmb replies:
    Who cares?? DQ is not important? Only the static analysis is important?

    Matt continued:
    Which is why I keep asking, "What is the point of differentiating between
    two types of experience?" It seems to me that there is one type of
    experience: static patterns interacting with DQ.

    dmb says:
    Like I said, the MOQ is pretty much incomprehensible without mysticism. As
    Pirsig puts it, when DQ is associated with mysticism it produces an
    avalanche of info about what DQ is. Until you decide to take that idea
    seriously you'll just keep asking that question and a bunch just like it.
    Your questions along these line are impossible to answer. The only response
    is to try to explain why they are bogus questions. Roger Walsh wrote the
    following. Maybe it'll help you see "the point of differentiating between
    two types of experience.". I offer this without much hope. It seems Matt
    isn't really interested in understanding Pirsig so much as finding a way to
    trap him. Wonder what the point of it is if the trap only works on Matt's
    interpretation of Pirsig's unconscious baggage, not what Pirsig actually
    says or does. To say this approach is whispy thin would be to give it too
    much weight a heft. But just in case Matt, or anyone else, actally wants to
    know what that distinction, the first and most central distinction is about,
    maybe this'll help...

    "For Wilber, the two Western exemplars of philosopher-sages who have
    integrated the paths of ascent and descent are Plato and Plotinus. Plato,
    for example, maps out a path of ascent toward "the Good" in The Republic and
    The Symposium. From this perspective the Platonic Good is a direct mystical
    experience of the causal realm--beyond qualities and manifestations, and
    therefore transrational and transverbal--beside which the physical world is
    merely a cave of shadows. This is a classical description, perhaps the
    classical Western description, of ascent to the causal level. And this
    ascent and escape from the world became the archetypal Western goal.

    Many critics assume Plato was only an ascender. However, a more careful
    reading reveals that Plato maps out both the paths of ascent and of descent.
    Having ascended to the Good he then reverses course. The world is now seen
    as an expression or an embodiment of the transcendent and indeed at its
    consummation: "a visible sensible God". The Self-sufficing perfection of the
    Good is also a Self-projecting, Self-emptying fecundity. The Good is
    therefore not only the summit and goal of life but also the source and
    ground of the world, with which it is co-essential. And the source is made
    "more complete" by manifestation. Plato therefore integrates ascent and
    descent in the classic nondual stance found in both East and West which
    Wilber summarizes as:

    Flee the many, find the One
    Embrace the Many as the One
    In the East, disentangling oneself from the world and realizing the One is
    equated with wisdom. Subsequently descending and returning to embrace the
    Many is equated with compassion, and the integration of ascent and descent
    is "the union of wisdom and compassion".

    From this nondual perspective, the world and the flesh are not evil or
    degraded. However, becoming entranced by them, that is, becoming entrapped
    in maya, illusion--what psychologist Charles Tart calls the consensus
    trance--and thereby losing awareness of the transcendental domains and our
    unity with them is disastrous. Once lost, the challenge is to regain this
    awareness through a discipline of "recollection" that opens "the eye of the
    soul" (Plato), "the eye of the heart" (Sufism) or "the eye of Tao" (Taoism).
    The goal is an illusion-shattering wisdom that recognizes our true
    transcendental nature and is variously known as Hinduism's jnana, Buddhism's
    prajna, Islam's marifah and sometimes as Christian gnosis.

    The Platonic integration of ascent and descent was continued by Plotinus, in
    whom, according to St. Augustine, "Plato lived again". He created a vast
    synthetic vision drawing on diverse traditions and grounded in his own
    mystical experience. His was the first comprehensive version of the great
    chain of being, a view that sees the cosmos as a vast hierarchy of existence
    extending from the physical through various subtle mental realms to the
    realm of pure consciousness or spirit.

    As Wilber makes clear, what is crucial is that the systems of Plato and
    Plotinus, and similar Eastern philosopher-sages such as Aurobindo, are not
    primarily philosophies or metaphysics. Rather they are descriptions of
    direct replicable, phenomenological apprehensions arising in people who have
    developed to requisite stages. However all too often they have been
    interpreted as "mere metaphysics".

    For Plato, Plotinus, and Aurobindo, during developmental ascent each stage
    subsumes or envelops lower stages. The process of ascent, according to
    Plato, is driven by eros, the drive to find greater and greater unions.
    Complementarily, for Plotinus, at each stage of ascent the lower has to be
    embraced so that eros is balanced with agape (love and concern for the
    lover). The vision of a multidimensional kosmos, as the Greeks originally
    called it, interwoven by ascending and descending currents of love, would be
    a central theme of all subsequent neo-Platonic schools and would exert a
    profound influence on thought up to an beyond the Enlightenment.

    For Wilber modernity is marked by two major trends which represent the good
    news and the bad news of this period. The good news, from the viewpoint of
    modernity, is the superseding of myths by rationality and the demand for
    empirical evidence. The bad news is that assent was equated with the mythic
    and the cry of "no more myths" became effectively "no more ascent".

    With the denial of the possibility of the developmental ascent, attention
    turned downward to the world; instead of an infinite above, there was now a
    horizontal infinite ahead. The universe was no longer seen as a great
    multidimensional holarchy of being. Rather it became an "ontological
    flatland" or great interlocking order, to be investigated by merely
    empirical (right hand) approaches only. This overlooking of the left-hand
    internal quadrants and reducing phenomena to their right-hand external
    dimensions alone constitutes what Wilber calls subtle reductionism. With the
    left-hand quadrants gone, so too are the grounding and validity of
    subjective phenomena such as values, meaning and purpose. The result is a
    barren meaningless flatland that has also been described as a "dedivinized",
    "disqualified" or "disenchanted" world.

    This worldview presented philosophers with a problem, the so-called central
    problem of modernity: namely the nature of human subjectivity and its
    relation to the world. The rational ego might say it was merely a strand in
    the great web of life, but that reduced the subjective to the
    empirical--reduced the left- to the right-hand quadrants. Now the question
    of the good life was whether to seek either autonomous agency of the
    rational ego generating its own morals and aspirations separate from the
    brute drives of nature, or on the other hand to seek communion with the
    natural world by connecting and communing with nature including its vital,
    sensual and sexual elements. This tension Wilber refers to as the conflict
    between the ego camp and the eco camp.

    Immanuel Kant is the exemplar of the ego camp. For him the rational ego, the
    moral subject, is free only to the degree he or she disengages from the
    pulls of egocentric desire and of lower social forces, and becomes
    effectively autonomous. Thus arose the subjective part of the enlightenment
    paradigm, the so-called self-defining subject, the autonomous ego,
    disengaged self, philosophy of the subject, or self-sufficient subjectivity.

    The problem with the cruder forms of the ego camp was their over-emphasis on
    the right-hand empirical representation of knowledge which focuses on
    surfaces, ignores interiority, and avoids dimensions of meaning, value and

    The eco camp on the other hand felt, quite reasonably, that this paradigm of
    knowledge left the subject split from and alien, monochromatic world. The
    eco camp therefore argued for a return to nature so that the "living
    sources" of human existence could be recontacted and renewed. Consequently
    the appropriate mode of knowing was held to be not disinterested thought but
    powerful feeling, and the best means of expression and enhancing
    participation with nature were felt to be poetry and art.

    The problem for the eco camp was just how to insert the self back into the
    stream of life without losing the benefits of reason. This proved
    particularly problematic since these thinkers tended to confuse
    differentiation and dissociation. Thus the developmental and evolutionary
    differentiation of the prerational fusion of self and world was seen not as
    a necessary development phase allowing subsequent higher order
    integration--but rather as a pathological process leading to paradise lost.

    As with all things, both the ego and eco projects eventually faltered under
    the weight of their own limitations. The rational ego camp sought freedom
    from egocentric motives, natural impulses and conventional social
    domination. However, in doing so it often alienated, repressed and
    dissociated other goods including transpersonal experiences and the
    prepersonal domain of Úlan vital, body and sensuality.

    The eco camp, however, sought freedom from excessive objectivity, autonomy
    and instrumentality. However, it ended up overvaluing emotional, irrational
    impulses and effectively saw nature as the source of sentiment rather than
    as the embodiment of Spirit as had Plato and Plotinus."

    That quote is for the Poot man too. I know he loves this sort of thing.

    Questions and comments are hereby encouraged.


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