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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Mark Edwards has an M.Psych in Developmental Psychology and a PhD in organisation theory from the University of Western Australia. He now works at Jφnkφping University in Sweden where he teaches and researches in the area of sustainability and ethics. Before becoming an academic he worked with people with disabilities for twenty years. He is the author of Organizational Transformation for Sustainability: An Integral Metatheory (Routledge, 2009) .
Through AQAL Eyes
"I" and "Me" and "We" and "Us" and "You" and "Yous"
For all my enthusiasm for these aspects of Wilber's AQAL matrix and holon theory, there was a problem. Wilber's holon model never quite added up to me.
Ken Wilber continues to develop Integral theory in important and highly original ways. His introduction of holonic perspectives is yet another big milestone in the growth of the theory. While there are many innovative aspects to Wilber's current work on social perspectives, I believe that his I-We-It-Its model has deep-seated flaws that can be traced back to some fundamental inconsistencies in conceptualisations of the holon construct. One implication is that there is no real phenomenological space for "you" singular or "you" plural in Wilber's model. This, combined with his reduction of the third person "he/she/it" to simply "it" and "them to "its", results in a model of perspectives that is inadequate for the representation and analysis of complex social dynamics and interactions. While his new Integral mathematics of perspectives steers clear of many of these pitfalls, Wilber generally continues to use his irreconcilable I-We-It-Its model to depict social phenomena. I present an alternative model that is based on a more consistent application of basic Integral principles.
The Perspective of a Holon
The holon construct is an intriguingly simple device for representing developmental phenomena and, at the same time, it is also capable of undergoing amazingly complex amplification. Nowhere is this more true than for the topic of the indigenous perspectives of holons. Ken Wilber has recently introduced this wonderful notion of the natural perspectives of a holon into Integral theory (Excerpt C of his Kosmos Trilogy Vol 2). This initiative is a very logical progression in Wilber's unfolding of his holonic model and how it sits in relation to the AQAL matrix framework. The Integral holon represents both the subjective consciousness of an entity and the objective behaviour of an entity. In representing consciousness, each holon's "I" or self-identity models a subjective perspective on the world. For reasons that I will explore later, this introduction of subjective perspective in theory building marks a huge step in Wilber's development of Integral theory. The capacity for holon theory to simulate and deal systematically with perspectives will open up immense new opportunities for application. Wilber's introduction of an Integral mathematics that builds perspective into a rigorous conceptualisation of holonic interactions is a brilliant initiative which will have a big impact on the future development of the theory. Because a holon can model both subjectivity and objectivity it can also model perspectival fields or systems that operate between holons. The potential for an integrated analysis of socio-cultural systems is increased immensely through the inclusion of holonic perspectives. However, there's a major problem in all this that is causing some limitations in Wilber's current discussions of holonic perspectives.
To put it simply, Wilber's accurate portrayal of holonic perspectives, perspectival boundaries and zones (hori-zones) relies totally on the accuracy of his holon model. And, as I have shown in previous parts of this series, this model is very problematic, and, as a consequence, his model of perspective will also be flawed. In this essay I want to work through the problems that I have identified in Wilber's model of holonic perspectives model and offer some suggestion on how it might be improved.
"the Kosmos is constructed of perspectives, not perceptions, not events, not processes, not webs, not systems, for all of those are perspectives before they are anything else" Excerpt C, Appendix B Ά13
Before moving into the theoretical discussion I'll spend a moment on why I find this topic of perspectives so intriguing and crucial for the development of integral theory as a whole. To explain this better maybe a little bit of autobiographical background might be justified at this point.
An autobiographical segue
In a way all the preceding parts in this series have led up to this point where the topic of holonic perspectives can be discussed. In fact, I have called this series of commentaries on Wilber's holon theory, "Through AQAL Eyes", because I regard the issue of interpretive perspective as the crucial capacity of holons. Holons are a rational methodology for seeing the unfolding/enfolding nature of the Non-dual as it manifests in Nature and the social world. In some ways holons are the Integral theory equivalent of the pointing finger that directs our gaze to the full moon of the awakened Mind. This innate ability of the holon to mediate and simulate perspective means that we can use the holon/AQAL matrix to formulate a multidimensional Integral perspective for any event or phenomenon (A theory for Anything). Of course even Integral methods throw up great ambiguities and paradoxes but at least it throws them up in our face and doesn't let us hide them behind cultural and scientific prohibitions. To my mind one of the great unspoken taboos that Integral theory unmasks is that of the singularity of consciousness. By this I mean the ubiquitous manifestation of consciousness as "I AM"-ness (all this is a complete tautology of course).
I have long been fascinated by this existential aspect of "consciousness" of "I-ness" and of the singularity of this basic fact of life (my wife has convinced me, however, to stop raising this as a topic of conversation at dinner parties). In fact, I can say that when I was barely into my teenage years it was puzzling to me that people could go about their everyday life without commenting on the wonder of their unique subjectivity (blissful, naive little thing that I was). This fascination was not an abstract, philosophical interest, it was much more of a feeling and sense of wonder about my felt consciousness. I tried to explain it several times to family and friends but was spectacularly unsuccessful. This preoccupation eventually brought me into contact with the wonderful writings of Ramana Maharshi at the all too tender age of 17. Ramana's Vichara method (direct path or efficient means) goes to the very heart of this great mystery of "I-ness" and of the fundamental perspective the "subject". Through Ramana I was led on to Abhishiktananda and Bede Griffith. And it was Dom Bede who introduced me to Ken Wilber's writings when he was in Melbourne in 1983. I was immediately enthralled by the incredible insight that Wilber had for this topic of consciousness.
These interests led me into doing a Masters degree in developmental psychology and a continued engagement with all Wilber's enthralling books. With the publication of, "Sex, Ecology Spirituality", it was clear that a new level of sophistication in Wilber's ideas had been reached. What excited me most about SES was the introduction of the collective world into his whole model. I was very taken with the idea that subjectivity could also be seen as something that connected people, and that our experience of "We" was as fundamental to our consciousness as our "I". It also seemed to me that SES opened up a way of delving into the meeting of "I" and "You" and these ideas greatly influenced my professional work. Naturally, in working with people with disabilities and the socio-cultural issues that they frequently encounter, such things are brought to the fore on a daily basis.
Such is the thread of my ongoing interest in the mysteries of consciousness. How does this fit with the issue of holons and indigenous perspectives? Well, as I said, it seemed to me that one of the holon's most significant characteristics is its ability to symbolise perspective and to include both behavioural and intentional aspects of identity in its representation. Koestler, the father of holon theory, never really explored this aspect of his theory and it has only been since Wilber adopted the holon construct that its potential in this area has been utilised.
So for me the holon is, so to speak, the perfect non-reductive unit or method of seeing into the multiple perspectives that frame any human social encounter. It can do this because it can simulate the perspective of each separately and of all together. Holons lay bare this age old philosophical problem of the singularity of consciousness the place where the Non-Dual enters at right-angles into the human world of the Relative. Holons can also be used to create a rational handle on how felt consciousness and inferred consciousness can relate to each other. They can show how collective socio-cultural consciousness and behaviour can be theoretically modelled and represented. There was a huge opening here for the rational discussion of topics often left completely unaddressed in the other run-of-the-mill models of social and interpersonal life.
But wait a minute
But, for all my enthusiasm for these aspects of Wilber's AQAL matrix and holon theory, there was a problem. Wilber's holon model never quite added up to me. Being Australian I naturally went along with his, "She'll be right mate" approach to the obvious inconsistencies for a while, but they just kept building up one on top of another. For example, when I read SES for the first time, I couldn't understand why Wilber labelled the exterior behavioural quadrants of holons only in terms of 'it' language. Why not 'me' language. If someone asks you to describe yourself, what do you say? I like to ride horses, study the migration habits of fish, go to the footy on Saturday, have a beer with the boys, blah, blah, blah, behaviour, behaviour, behaviour. My behaviour is "Me". If you want to know about me then you'd better know what my behaviour is. The behavioural quadrant is the domain of "me" language. "It" language is the descriptive world of the inanimate other. What on earth has "It" got to do with "Me".
And where does "You" fit into holonic perspective. I thought that the holon could re-subjectify our concept of psycho-social interactions by including the subjective perspective, not only on the interior of the subject, but also in the interior in the object as well. This meeting between subjective perspective and objective perspective is the elemental unit of all psycho-social events. Holons, I thought, could be used to represent this beautifully the meeting of "I" and "You" the meeting of "self" and "other" the great fulcrum point for all development. But Ken's scheme for placing "You" in his holon model makes very little sense. For a start it doesn't make the list of fundamental perspectives:
[the] singular and plural forms the "three persons" gives us six perspectives, for most purposes, those condense down into 4 fundamental perspectives: I, we, it, and its (Excerpt C, Ά 60)
Wilber assures us that he does include "You" in his model by including it in the "We":
although the second-person "you" is crucially important, if I am a first-person speaker talking with second-person you, the clear implication is that you can understand me to some degree, and therefore each "you" actually exists as part of a "we," or else no communication would occur at all. This is why "you/thou" (second person) is often treated together with "we" (Excerpt C, Ά 60)
But this is a very inadequate compromise and I find no reason to include the second person singular objective perspective of "You" in the first person plural subjective perspective of "We". This makes no sense in terms of the model or in terms of our real life encounters with the "other" person, i.e. "You". Wilber says that he "will in no way be neglecting second-person perspectives", but not defining "You" as one of the fundamental perspectives of holons and not specifically including it in his "I-We-It-Its" model is surely neglectful.
I just couldn't find any justification for placing the inferred consciousness of "You" in Wilber's lower quadrants either. The cultural quadrant in Wilber's model is the place of plural subjective pronouns. Why does he put singular objective pronouns there? In addition to this inconsistency, neither of his lower "collective quadrants" find a place for the meeting of "I" and "You". His "We" quadrant and "We/Thou" space of intersubjectivity don't capture or symbolise this meeting of "I" and "You" where felt subject meets objective other subject. The "We" is a shared world of mutual inter-subjectivity. The world of "I" and "You" is a place where different worlds dance around and collide with each other in the shape of subjective self meets objective other. As we know only too well, the world where "I" meets "You" is not necessarily the place of mutual understanding and shared interiors. It is the place where different holons with different agendas and motives meet in the social behavioural world of politics, difference, peer dynamics, diversity of opinion, commercial competition, negotiation, social contracts, and social, civil and international conflict, - i.e. the "real" world. The "We" is where subjects commune together. It is not the messy social world where the known first-person(s) meet(s) the unknown second-person(s). The Lower Left is not the world were self meets other, where the familiar meets the unfamiliar. The LL is the place were the self is a shared self and where identity is about relational communion.
Similarly with the LR, there's no place where self meets other in Wilber's exterior quadrants. They are rather flat and shallow places of rocks and ecosystems. There's no room for a mysterious encounter between I and You in the land of interobjectivity. So where do we meet? I've puzzled long over Wilber's lack of a place where I can encounter You, and it's only with Wilber's wonderful proposition of indigenous holonic perspectives that the muddy waters of AQAL matrix interactions are becoming a little clearer. I hope the following communicates some of my new found understanding of these issues a little.
The source of the problem a brief summary
In previous essays I've shown how Wilber mixes individual and collective holons in the one holonic representation. Figure 1 is a version of Wilber's mixed-up holon and it is based on a recent description given in Excerpt C. Here is the quote in full:
"The upper quadrants represent an individual being; the lower quadrants represent a group, collective, or system of individual beings. The Left-Hand quadrants represent the interiors of an individual or group; and the Right-Hand quadrants represent the exteriors of an individual or group. Thus, the four quadrants are the inside and outside of the individual and the collective." (Excerpt G, Ά 37)
Such descriptions as this are clearly contrary to other statements by Wilber that each holon has four quadrants that "represent four inseparable dimensions of any individual's being-in-the-world". These two opposing positions are not easily reconciled. To cut a longish story short, there are obviously several problems with this "mixed" conceptualisation of a holon. Not only does it expose the model to unwarranted dualistic and reductive interpretations, it also fractures the quadratic unity of a holon. By this I mean that it separates quadrants from their holonic base and it supports the problematic view that separate "holons" occupy separate quadrants. All this results in a reified TOE model of holons floating around against some detached four quadrants background. While Wilber has said many times that every holon includes all four quadrants he often fails to systematically follow through with this principle in his discussion of holon theory. The representations of holons that is consistent with the basic principles of Integral theory is presented in Figure 2. Almost all of Wilber's theoretical discussions and applications of holonic concepts uses the mixed-up model shown in Figure 1 and not the integrated model shown in Figure 2.
The two central problems with Wilber's holon model (Figure 1) are that it mixes individual and collective holons and it supports a dualistic interpretation of the interior and exterior of a holon. Both of these problems have impacted on Wilber's application of holon theory and both are avoided if a consistent modelling of holons is adopted. Figure 2 shows the simple Integral holon model that can be applied to any phenomenon. This straightforward model avoids the pitfalls that Wilber's "mixed-up" model is prone to. Notice that there are no holons relegated to certain quadrants and that the whole model is relevant to both individual and collective holons. In general, Wilber would say that Figure 2 represents the theoretical relationship between holons and quadrants. However, whenever he specifically describes or applies the model he uses the "mixed-up" model of Figure 1. The reason for this is that he has never fully integrated the Theory of Everything perspective on the Four Quadrants with the basic model of holons.
Diagnosing the Schizoid Holon
Ever since SES Wilber has used perspectives and personal pronouns as a way of explaining his AQAL framework. He has also built on this idea of holonic perspectives to draw out the connections between many areas of scholarship and cultural knowledge. More recently, he has very preceptively linked holonic perspectives with the natural perspectives that are built into language through pronoun usage and developed a system of integral mathematics to symbolise this is a more formal and rigorous way. This opens up the intriguing capacity of holon theory to simulate and model, not only the outside of systems, but also their inside. This, in turn, introduces the capacity for holons to show reflexive processes in a systematic way.
However, the two main inherent problems of Wilber's holon model, i.e. the mixing of individual and collective and the dualistic setting of holons within quadrants, have both been carried over into Wilber's model of holonic perspectives and into his adoption of certain pronouns to represent particular quadratic perspectives. The following quotes give a good idea of his basic description of that model.
"quadratic" refers to four of the most basic dimensions of being-in-the-world, dimensions that are so fundamental they have become embedded in natural languages as variations on first-, second-, and third-person pronouns (which can be summarized as "I," "we," "it," and "its"). As we saw, these represent the inside and outside of the singular and the plural: hence, the four quadrants ( subjective or "I," objective or "it," intersubjective or "we," and interobjective or "its"). (Excerpt C, Ά 8)
The UL is "I," or the interior feelings or awareness of any individual sentient being (atoms to ants to apes). The UR is "it," or the exterior form of a sentient being. (Excerpt C, Ά 52)
The four quadrants are four of the basic ways that we can look at any event: from the inside or from the outside, and in singular and plural forms. This gives us the inside and the outside of the individual and the collective. ... These embedded perspectives show up as first, second, and third person pronouns. Thus, the inside of the individual shows up as "I"; the inside of the collective as "you/we"; the outside of the individual as "it/him/her"; and the outside of the collective as "its/them." In short: I, we, it, and its. (Introduction to Excerpts from Kosmos Trilogy, Volume 2, Ά 36)
This model is represented graphically in Figure 3. In Wilber's model of holonic perspectives we find a repeat of the inconsistencies that characterise his original model of the holon. First, the mixing of individual and collective holons in the upper and lower quadrants has been continued over into the perspectives model through the mixing of singular and plural pronouns in the upper and lower quadrants, e.g. "I" (singular) and "We" (plural) and "It" (singular) and "Its" plural). Second, the dualistic division of interior and exterior quadrants has been carried over into the perspective model through the division between personal and impersonal pronouns, e.g. "I" (personal) and "It" (impersonal) and "We" (personal) and "Its" (impersonal). The end result is that the problems in Wilber's model of holonic perspectives parallel exactly the problems that are inherent in his basic holon model. (As I explained in Part 2, because Wilber has not yet integrated holon theory fully into the AQAL matrix, he simply plonks his holons into a reified TOE Four Quadrants space.) The end result is a holon that is divided against itself it's half individual, half collective, half self and half other, half sentient and half insentient. Wilber has created a schizoid holon that is neither one nor many, neither itself or another, neither fully conscious person nor simply unconscious matter. And unfortunately, it is this schizoid holon of perspectives that he often uses as the basis for discussing social transformations such as how individuals become members of social groups.
This mixing of perspectives makes it very difficult to interpret what Wilber's perspectives holon is actually depicting. Are we to take it as an objective view of a conscious holon? Are we to imagine that we are the holon being observed? Is it both inside and outside from the subjective holon's perspective or inside and outside from an observer's perspective? Are we to think of it as one holon, many holons or one collective holon? Are we to think of it as a holon with four quadrants or as holons within a Four Quadrants framework? The reason for this uncertainty in the "I, We, It, Its" model is that it is a mixture of several different theoretical principles of Integral theory. It mixes individual an collective holons. It confuses first, second and third person holonic perspectives. And it reduces the holonic view of the exterior to monological surfaces. These are all combined in the one representative depiction and the result is a holon that does not systematically represent any of these various aspects of the Integral holon. This mixed, reductive holon of perspective is shown in the Figure 4.
This mixed-perspectives holon is not a summary of the holonic model, it is not a working approximation of holonic perspectives and it is not an abbreviation of a more complex quadratic framework. It is a confusing mixture of various aspects of the Integral holon and it desperately needs clarification and consistency if it is to be used to shed light on anything. Wilber actually recognises at least six holonic perspectives and abbreviates these to his I-we-it-its schema as he states in this quote from Excerpt C.
Although with singular and plural forms the "three persons" gives us six perspectives, for most purposes, those condense down into 4 fundamental perspectives: I, we, it, and its. (Ά 60)
However, apart from the fact that 2 fundamental perspectives of "you" (singular) and "you" (plural) have been sidelined in this abbreviation, its clear that Wilber here is trying to force many different holons (and their associated perspectives) into a the reified space of a Four Quadrant, Theory of Everything map. To do this he must drop off superfluous perspectives so that he has the requisite number of holonic views to fit into his Four Quadrants. Additionally he has to somehow squeeze into the same quadratic space both the second person singular perspective of "You" with the first person plural perspective of "We"! This forms the very strange "We/Thou" alliance that Wilber's labels the lower left of his perspectives model. This is hardly a satisfactory way to present a coherent model of holonic perspectives. This abbreviated model of "I-we-it-its" is not simply a handy summary. It's a mixed-up reduction of something that demands much more subtlety than Wilber's selective and crammed up collection of certain pronouns. Once again, we see that he is falling into the trap of placing holons into quadrants and in the process leaving out important holonic perspectives and reducing others to material "its".
There are, in fact, many fundamental holonic perspectives that are not reducible to Wilber's simplistic collection of I-we-it-its. These are so fundamental to human existence that they are also imbedded in the syntax of common language patterns and include you (singular), you (plural), he/she, us, them, they, the reflexive pronouns such as myself, yourself, and the possessive pronouns such as his/her, your. All of these point to basic holonic perspectives that should all be very much present within any systematic schematic depiction of holonic perspectives.
Wilber is currently using his "I-we-it-its" model to analyse very complex cultural and social phenomena such as communication and social membership. I find many of his discussions, propositions and conclusions to be wonderfully insightful and innovative and eminently worthy of more rigorous investigation and research. However, I also find some of his discussions of human personal and social realities to be highly speculative and questionable. The problem in all this is how any community of integral researchers or writers is expected to know which is which when the basis of his otherwise very thoughtful analyses is often very unclear and logically inconsistent.
In the following section I will systematically work through each of the inconsistencies that the schizoid perspectives holon raises and show why it is a poor representation of lived human experience and conduct. I'll go through the holonic perspectives and their signature pronouns for first, second and third person in both singular and plural forms. This systematic application of basic Integral theory principles is one way of mending Wilber's rather misleading "I-We-It-Its" model.
Healing the schizoid holon
Wilber has drawn our attention to the fact that holonic perspectives are imbedded in language and that pronouns are used to communicate those perspectives. He says that,
These four perspectives are not merely arbitrary conventions. Rather, they are dimensions that are so fundamental that they have become embedded in language as pronouns during the natural course of evolution. (Introduction to Excerpts from Kosmos Trilogy, Volume 2, Ά 36)
I agree that these pronouns are not casual conventions but the way we assign them to quadrants is definitely a matter for further debate. Wilber's choice in assigning certain pronouns to specific quadrants is, to me, extremely questionable and is not consistent with several core principles of Integral theory. I offer the following schema as one possible alternative to representing holonic perspectives.
Untangling the schizoid holon requires that we move from a model that attempts to pack multiple perspectives into one representation depicting singular (individual), plural (collective), first, second, third person, reflexive and inferential perspectives to a model that represents each of these orientations coherently and methodically using numerous discrete depictions. As Wilber points out, if we do this for each perspective for both individual and collective holons we will have the starting basis of six different representations of holonic perspectives (Table 1). Each of these perspective has a number of pronouns that give subjective, objective, relative and possessive perspectives. Each holonic perspective is, by definition, a holon and it will, therefore, incorporate all the AQAL framework of quadrants, levels, etc.
To make sense of how pronouns are indicative of perspectives we must systematically work through each of the first, second and third person perspectives for both individual persons/holons and collective groups/holons. Only then can we identify which pronouns might be suitable for depicting a certain perspective. To do this we must first make it clear that the first, second, third person and indefinite perspectives of individual holons and collective holons cannot, should not and need not be represented in the same holon depiction. Every perspective is a different world and requires its own holonic representation to unravel its various orientations to that world. I have mentioned this point again and again in relation to the individual/collective issue and now that we have introduced holonic perspectives this point is more relevant now than ever.
Whenever holonic perspectives are depicted it is paramount that each holon, whether it be individual, collective or otherwise, be presented with its own set of orientations rather than grouping perspective together. I mean by this that, for example, the perspectives of the first person singular is depicted as its own unique holon with its accompanying set of quadrants and pronouns. I have done this in the following diagrams and have deliberately steered clear of the schizoid model that Wilber employs. The upper quadrants do not refer to individual holons and the lower ones do not refer to collective holons. The left hand quadrants do not refer to the interior perspective of one holon while the right hand quadrants refer to our exterior perspective on another. All quadrants refer to each holon, whether it be individual of collective. Wilber knows this but he often neglects to follow through on this principle when drawing out the implications of holon theory. Whenever he presents a description of the quadrants of a holons, such as the flying formation for geese or the "family love holon" (both in Excerpt C) he ignores the basic idea that all quadrants are aspects of each and every holon and not the other way around. So the first step in healing the schizoid holon is simply to acknowledge that, for each depiction of a holon's perspective, all interior, exterior, agentic, and communal perspectives refer to one and the same holon (whether that be individual or collective), and that this one holon can take on a first, second or third person perspectives or can itself be viewed from first, second and third person perspectives (see Figure 5). In those cases new holonic depictions will need to be made explicit.
Figure 5 shows the basic non-reflexive perspectives for first, second or third person singular (individual) and plural (collective) holons. But this is only the beginning of the process of mapping holonic perspectives. Because each holon of any perspective has interiority it can itself take on a reflexive perspective of any first, second or third person reality. Also, now that we have untangled the collective from the individual holon, we can see that they themselves can take on perspectives of individual holons and other collective holons of any perspective. This capacity for any holon to build up iterative perspectives is a very important and essentially definitive human quality. This is the reflexive ability for any holon to imagine what a first, second or third person perspective would be for another holon. These reflexive iterative perspectives are of the form, "I wonder how I appear to them, and what will they think of me wondering how I will appear to them" and so on and so on. This type of reflexive perspective taking is a ubiquitous aspect of a person's social being. A basic set of these reflexive perspectives is set out in the Appendix. Just looking at the direct and first person reflexive perspectives we end up with (no, not a headache I hope) a total of 42 possible fundamental holonic perspectives (see Tables 3-7). For reasons of brevity but also omission Wilber only deals with a small number of the possible holonic perspectives. It is possible however just to focus on the basic six as outlined in figure 5 and that is what I'll be doing in the main text of the rest of this essay.
A Summary Model
Wilber is very aware that there are a multitude of possible holonic perspectives. He presents his "I-We-It-Its" model as a summary of the full array of perspectives. I maintain, however, that this summary is not up to the task of presenting even the most essential minimum set of holonic perspectives. As Wilber acknowledges, there are six and not four fundamental views and these six must be the starting point for any systematic model of holonic views. As indicated in Table 1 and Figure 5 these six are i) "I", ii) "You" singular, iii) "He/She/It", iv) "We", v) "You" plural and vi) "Them". In brief this is the "I-We-You-S/he-You-Them" model or more simply the six views model.
The real problem with Wilber's model of perspectives is that he is limiting the number of perspectives to four so that they fit into the quadrants of his mixed-up holon. In reality, the various holonic perspectives are associated with complete holons and not with quadrants. For example, the second person is a complete holon and not just one quadrant. He makes this error because he continues to plonk holons into quadrants which is a classic case of the second Cartesian dualism. Every holon has four quadrants. Holons don't belong to quadrants, quadrants belong to holons. Wilber, of course, knows this buts continues to ignore this simple fact when actually applying his theory of holons.
Wilber is quite right to want to work with a simple form of the model. Parsimony is an essential element in any good theory building. For example, there is no need to work with a model of seven or nine or even eleven levels of development with the basic form of pre-normative, normative and post-normative will do just fine on most occasions. The same goes for holonic perspectives. There are a multitude of possible views and it is good practice to work with a reduced number as long as the reduction does not compromise the capacity of the model to offer valid and coherent explanations. To my mind Wilber's I-We-It-Its cannot meet this basic criteria. In the first instance there is no place for the "other" in either its singular "You" form or its plural "you" form. Secondly because of the mix-up between quadrants and holons the third person perspectives have been reduced to interiorless "its".
Figure 6 offers my best bet for a summary model of holonic perspectives. This is the six views model which includes first, second and third persons for both individual and collective holons. Any analysis of social dynamics and the various meetings of perspectives that those dynamics can entail must be analysed from these minimum holonic perspectives. Any less and the result will be reductionist in the formal sense.
The next section of this essay will present an introduction to the six views model of first, second and third person perspectives/views of individual and collective holons (shown in Figure 6). These are the six fundamental perspectives of a subject, or first person holon, identified (but not fully utilised) by Wilber. They are:
These perspectives can be represented in a systemic format as shown in Figure 7. Note that the first person perspective can be taken by both individual and collective holons. In the following explications the first person singular perspective is the one that is assumed unless otherwise indicated.
My perspective of the first person singular holon me, myself, I
Let's start with a holon's first person perspective my view/perspective of me/myself/I. This is the subjective perspective of an individual holon. Taking myself as an example, the first person singular holon is my perspective of myself in terms of my consciousness, my cultural self, my behavioural self and my social self. This is the quadratic aspect of the first person. It is interesting to see that there is some association between quadrants and perspectives and therefore between quadrants and pronouns.
In the case of the individual holon's first person view we find that the pronouns are generally associated with interior ("I") and exterior ("Me") aspects of self identity (see figure 8). Because pronouns are associated with the quadratic nature of holonic identity, they will often reflect the quadratic structure of identity, i.e. show up as consciousness, behavioural, cultural, and social varieties (admittedly this usually impacts only on the interior and exterior forms of pronouns and not on the agency and communion forms). Accordingly, we have the existential "I" (Upper Left), the cultural "I" (Lower left), the behavioural "Me" and the social "Me" (see Figure 8). I prefer to use the term cultural "I" rather than the collective "We" for the Lower Left for the individual holon. The plural pronoun "We" more appropriately belongs to the indigenous perspectives of the collective holon. Of course, individuals give voice to this "We" all the time, and it might be said that the cultural "I" is exactly equivalent to the personal sense of "We". I just think it's all much clearer if the pronoun "I" is used to refer to the interiors of individual holons and the "We" is used for collective holons. The most famous example of the collective voice using "We" comes, of course, at the very beginning of the American constitution "We the People ...". This "We" is a collective pronouncement of a collective interiority and, for me, it best epitomises collective identity rather than individual identity.
This means that for an individual holon the cultural quadrant perspective is still an individual "I". The communal interior of an individual holon is not plural, it's a single cultural "I". Our cultural "I" is not other than our own consciousness. Wilber's schizoid holon is unable to represent this crucial point. Our personal interior has two quadratic aspects the existential "I" of the Upper Left and the cultural "I" of the Lower Left (existential here means ontogenetic being or subjectivity, not to be confused with the existential/centauric level of consciousness). Both aspects are part of every person's consciousness. Wilber's depiction of personal consciousness through the schizoid holon often misses the essentially communal nature of individual consciousness. Wilber's cultural interiority is not inherent to personal identity but comes as a result of interaction with others. This is a definite weakness in his representation of individual interiority. It's like proposing that light is inherently a particle and only becomes a wave when interacting with other photons. This is not at all the case. We know, in fact, that each photon of light is inherently wave-like and behaves as such in the absence of any other photon. Similarly individuals are innately cultural/communal without any need for further qualification.
For Wilber, the "We" is defined as the intersections between individual holons and culture comes out of those interactions. But this interactional approach does not recognise the intrinsic nature of cultural being. The cultural/collective consciousness of the individual is inherent to each life. It's there from the beginning. If it's there from the beginning then it is not the result of communal intersections as Wilber asserts. Our genetics and our corporal nature endow us for a cultural consciousness and identity from the moment of birth (and before). We are born cultural beings in the same way that we are born conscious, behavioural and social beings. We are instinctively cultural and we go on developing that cultural interior. The idea that our cultural consciousness comes about only when a part of our interiors intersects with parts of the interiors of other holons is fragmented and partial to say the least. When an individual says "We" he is giving voice to the consciousness of a collective holon of which he is a member. When that same individual says "I" he is giving voice to the essential unity of his existential and communal consciousness. This has been the point of the whole post-modern discussion of individual consciousness it is a cultural entity. Your "I" is not simply an existential unity that exists in a cultural context, it is cultural and communal by its very nature. The Upper Right is the existential aspect of "I" and the Lower Right is the cultural aspect of "I". Wilber's "We" does not capture this innate cultural aspect of every personal "I" consciousness. His cultural consciousness is always a result of interaction between individual holons and this interactive approach does not see the innate communality that arises within every occasion that comes prior to any interaction. "I" is cultural of, and by, itself without qualification. An "I" does not have to become a "We" to be cultural.
So, the indigenous holonic perspective of the Upper Left for an individual holon is that of an existential "I" and the indigenous holonic perspective of the Lower Left for an individual holon is that of a cultural "I". When a person says "I" he/she encapsulates in this one pronoun, in one continuous perspective, both his/her existential consciousness and his/her communal consciousness. This continuity of interior perspectives as both "I" is not only intuitively obvious it is also clearly indicated in Wilber's Zone #1 of his model of the perspectival zones of holons (hori-zones). Zone #1 is the inside of the interior. It includes both the existential consciousness (UL) and the cultural consciousness (LL) of the individual holon. It is one zone and one undivided perspective whose horizon enfolds both the existential "I" and cultural "I" (see Figure 9).
Let's move now to the exterior quadrants of the first person individual holon. The exterior perspective of a consciousness or existential "I" is not an "It" but a behavioural "Me". Wilber's denotation of the behavioural quadrants as "It" is the most significant weaknesses in his model of holonic perspectives. That the behaviour of a holon from either the inside or outside perspective should be seen as an "It" is extraordinarily limiting to say the least. The dualistic division between "I" and "It" is a result of two fundamental inconsistencies, i) the division of holons into separate consciousness quadrant spaces and behavioural quadrant spaces, and ii) the reduction of exterior "holons" to material surfaces or "its". In any event, the pronoun "It" is a third person pronoun and therefore is not applicable to first person perspectives.
My behaviour is part of my identity and my sense of self. My behaviour is "Me" in that it defines the person that others know as "Me" and that my reflexive consciousness knows as "Me". As I pointed out earlier, when people are asked to describe themselves most of the information presented relates to behaviour. People define their identity both to themselves and to others primarily through their personal behaviour and their social roles - the two aspects of their exteriors. That Wilber should regard the impersonal objective pronoun "It" as the perspective of my behaviour is dissociative and an example of, what he has called, 'the second Cartesian dualism'. My behaviour is not "It". My behaviour is "Me". This "Me" extends to both private and public behaviour. It includes both personal acts and social roles. Consequently both exterior quadrants of the individual holon are perspectives of "Me". This coalition of exterior perspectives is seen in Wilber's Zone #3 of holonic hori-zones (see Figure 9).
The perspective of the inside of my identity is the mutual co-existence of "I" and "Me". The personal self is the flow of identity constituted by the existential "I", the cultural "I", the behavioural "Me" and the social "Me". This quadratic flow between holonic perspectives could be called the Integral Cycle of Identity. The Integral Cycle of Identity is the unitive dynamic within the holon that unites the cultural/existential "I" and private/public "Me" into the self identity of a holon. Holonic identity is not an interior quality. It arises as a result of the quadratic mutuality of both interior and exterior aspects of the holon. Identity is an "I/Me" phenomenon and not solely the result of the development of consciousness (a more substantial discussion on the Integral Cycle and how it can be seen as the central unifying dynamics in the development of holonic identity and a quadratic self will be presented in a subsequent essay).
The quadratic self of "I-Me" can lay claim to things on its outside and often displays its identity in those possessions that are seen on its outside. Consequently, from the perspective of the holon, its own outside is best represented by personal possessive pronouns. The individual "I/Me" identifies with its possessions through the use of the pronouns "My" and "Mine" as in my self, my house, my job, my people, my language, and these goods are mine, this life is mine, this house is mine, and this land is mine. It seems to be more common for the interiors to be identified through the use of the "My" pronoun while the exteriors more usually adopt the "Mine" pronoun, but this is not clear cut and there seems to be little in it really. In Figure 9 I have represented the outside perspective of the of the individual holon interiors by "My" and the outside of the exteriors by "Mine". These relate to Wilber's Zones #3 and #4 respectively.
We have here identified the inside of a holon's consciousness as best represented by the personal pronoun "I", which comes in the guises of both existential "I" and communal "I" (Wilber's Zone #1). We have also seen that the inside of a holon's behavioural identity is best represented by the personal pronoun "Me", which comes in the guises of the private "Me" and the public "Me" (Wilber's Zone #3). To complete the four hori-zones of holonic perspectives for an individual holon we have the outside the interior perspective of a holon as represented by the personal pronoun "My" (Wilber's Zone #2) and the outside of the exterior perspective as represented by the personal pronoun "Mine" (Figure 9).
As a side note, this idea of possessive pronouns as being central to the perspectives of a holon is a very useful addition to the perspectives model. It allows a holonic analysis of how interior and exterior "possessions" are seen relative to their inside and outside perspectives. For example, we can now look at how some cultures place an emphasis on individual possession of objects while other emphasis a collective relationship to things like land or cultural property. Collective holons will also have parallel perspectives to those of the individual and the relationship between individual and collective perspective on possessions will unlock some crucial aspects of the holonic perspectives of a particular culture. Among other collective means for doing so, individual holons will give voice to those perspectives by using plural pronouns such as we, my, our, their, etc in different ways. These are linguistic cues that signify the relative dynamics that individual and collective holons will have in different cultures and subcultures. In the foregoing, I have very briefly mapped out the holonic perspectives and their associated pronouns for the first person perspective of individual holons. This is summarised in terms of Wilber's hori-zones in Figure 9.
All the preceding can simply be summarised in saying that the first person perspective of the holon is that of "I-Me" and this is holon is a combination of both agentic interiors and behaviours and communal interiors and behaviours. The first person holonic perspectives like all perspectives is a quadratic unity. That quadratic unity will be reflected in the various types of personal pronouns that refer to the first person nominative, reflexive, possessive. Wilber's hori-zones need to also be seen in this light in that they can all refer to just the first person holon and should not be jumbled up with the singular and plural forms of the second and third persons. The concepts of holonic insides, outsides, interiors and exteriors should all be applied to just one holon and not be superimposed on a model that fuses collectives (We's), individuals (I's), and first ("I/We"), second ("We/thou") and third ("it/its") persons all into one hotchpotch of perspectives.
I must say at this point that I can't resist pointing out some theological implications of this view of perspectives. The Catholic doctrine of God as three Persons the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is a theological form of the Integral principle of holonic perspectives. The Father is the great transcendent "I AM". The Son is God made human (the Word made flesh) and is the incarnation of the behavioural God. The Holy Spirit is the God of communion and of the social worship of the divine. One might even include Mary of Nazareth in all this in that she exemplifies the aspect of the Godhead that manifests the communal/social role of family, social duty and communal service (although this is also the province of the Holy Spirit in Catholic doctrine. (Incidentally, this was why Jung was so pleased to hear that Mary was doctrinally recognised as having "ascended into heaven" - she added a final completing element to the Trinity). Whether one includes the Marian Person of Kosmic Church, i.e. the social body of the Godhead, or not these perspectives give us the agentic/masculine Godhead, the feminine/communal Godhead, the Interior/Transcendent Godhead and the Exterior/Immanent Godhead (see Figure 10) (normally the terms transcendent and immanent refer to relative positions in the levels of development, but here it seems appropriate to assign them to dimensional aspects of the Kosmic holon).
My perspective of the second person singular holon you and yours
The second person singular holon is that holon which is directly encountered and addressed by the first person holon. It is my experience of "You", another individual holon. In many ways this is the most intriguing holonic perspective because the process of inferred consciousness is directly involved. Inferred consciousness is the (normally) instinctual assumption that all others within our social environment will possess a self awareness that has its own identity, perspective, mind, and intention in the same basic form that our "I/Me" does. In effect, individuals, as social agents who possess reflexive consciousness, do not merely see others as physical bodies moving round in space, we see embodied purposive identities acting in social space. People with autism find it so difficult to communicate with others because they see others as mindless, intentionless and as not possessing interiority. They have great difficulty in inferring consciousness on others and therefore with finding incentive for communicating with those others. this is also the source of these peoples frustration. They are surrounded by a sea of communicative processes that for them hold little meaning or purpose.
In the last 15 years one of the most important and far-reaching research areas within developmental psychology has been that of "Theory of Mind" research. This research investigates how people develop and utilise the capacity to infer consciousness and intention on the other. This capacity develops almost always in the fourth year of life and is responsible for some dramatic developments in cognitive, behavioural and social abilities of young children. The period when a child develops "Theory of Mind", i.e. the capacity to infer intention on the other, is truly the point when they enter the social world. Theory of Mind capacities are very much an innate function of cognitive growth and when they are developmentally delayed through, for example, brain injury various aspects of autism and other developmental disabilities can occur.
So the function of inferring the other as a "You" can be regarded as a developmental instinct that is part of the standard repertoire of cognitive capacities possessed by anyone older than five years of age. "You" can be a well-intentioned other or "You" can be a malicious other, but whatever the variety of intention it is an intrinsic part of our nature to infer depth upon and within the other. This inference of consciousness and assumption of depth is required for communication to be initiated. It is only when communication is denied through social and cultural separation and "apartheid" policies and social prejudice fostered through generations of enforced ignorance and fear that the human instinct for inferring a conscious self on the "other" is impeded and distorted.
The holon that represents the "other" is a quadratic entity (Figure 11). It has inferred interiority of the existential and cultural varieties and it has observable exteriority of the behavioural and social varieties. The pronouns that belong to the second person singular holon are you, your and yours and the archaic forms of thee, thou, thy and thine. I have used the possessive pronouns to refer to the exterior quadrants simply because we often refer to what you do, behaviourally and social, as yours. This second person holon can be a known or an unknown "You". "You" can be my partner of fifty years or someone I have never met before. This second person singular holon is "You", it is the "Other", it is the person who I encounter in the world of human social interaction. "You" has its own complete holonic space the second person singular holon. The first person holon addresses the "Other" by using the pronoun "You" and in so doing infers interiority and depth upon and within the "Other". This is the real phenomenological space where "You" exists in the communicative space that enfolds the meeting of the first person with the second person. The second person "You" has inferred depth and interiority and is not simply a two-dimensional cartoon character. And "You" is certainly not an "It". When "I" encounter "You" a complete first person holon meets a complete second person holon. The consciousness (existential and cultural) and activity (behavioural and social) of the first person "I-Me" encounters the inferred consciousness and experienced activity of the second person "You-Your". Both have the full complement of holonic characteristics.
Wilber's relegation of "You" to the "We/Thou" quadrant does no justice at all to the fact that it is an instinctive human quality to automatically infer interiority on others even when they are not members of our own cultural group or social network. We even infer interiority on animals. The reason that we have laws for the their protection is because we infer consciousness, sensitivity to pain and some form of feeling identity on animals. The instinct for anthropomorphism, i.e. the conferring of human characteristics on non-human objects, is immensely powerful and a person does not need to be part of a particular cultural nexus for "You"-ness to be granted to them. For Wilber a person is an "it" before he/she becomes a "We/thou". This is a serious error in his theory of social being and such a impoverished view of the unknown other comes out of the inadequacies inherent in Wilber's schizoid holon rather than a more balanced reading of Integral theory. Take the following quote for example.
But what if George is from Russia? Or Mars? Or is in a coma? Then George is a third person who, under those circumstances, can only be a third person--can only be somebody we talk about, not somebody we can talk to or with. In effect, George is then nothing but an "it," or a third-person with whom we cannot enter into a relation of "we." George cannot become a real second person (with whom we talk), and therefore, in those instances, George cannot become part of our first-person plural "we." Excerpt C, Ά 66
This paragraph marks one of the low points in Wilber's discussion of social being and membership. He argues here that all "foreigners", all those without language, all those who cannot communicate their needs, and all those who choose not to communicate with us are regarded by Integral theory as "its". He wants to show that someone who lies outside our cultural circle "can only be a third person" and not a second person "you" who has depth and interiority. Why does Ken argue that people in comas or foreigners are "nothing but an "it" or a third-person with whom we cannot enter into relation". The care that is provided to aphasic comatosed patients in intensive care, life support units and palliative care units is not provided to "Its". It is provided to people with a depth and a dignity that is inherently theirs and that is generally respected by their carers and professional staff. All this strange talk of the "other" as "it" and "its" is really just the unfortunate result of Wilber's use of an inadequate model of holonic perspectives. Here's another example of how his schizoid holon model of "I-we-it-its" ends up in complete non-integral nonsense.
"A "foreigner," on the other hand, is both external and outside the "we"--just like the undigested meat in a previous example--no slur on foreigners, of course". (Note 44 Excerpt C)
If this is really Ken's sociological understanding of foreignness then I'd hate to see what his Integral theory of immigration might look like (actually some of my best friends are foreigners). He is arguing here that, according to the basic tenets of an Integral theory of perspectives, people we identify as foreigners are seen by us to be "alien objects" and as "its" that do not have interiority. It is very odd that Ken chooses to hang in there with his inadequate "I-we-it-its" interpretation of holonic theory rather than admit the obvious nonsense of such propositions.
The "I-we-it-its" model also distorts Wilber's understanding of communicative relations between "I" and "You". There is no instinctive inference of "you"-ness upon the unknown "other" in Wilber's model. For him the "other" always starts off as an "it". To become a "You" in Wilber's model the "it" has to earn its interiority and can only do that by becoming a "We" and joining in with my cultural circle. Wilber thinks that people can live next to each other but if they don't share a common language (i.e. don't belong to a common cultural "We") then they share no cultural commonalities and do not have any sense of "mutual understanding" and are in the relationship of "its' to each other. He claims that:
you and I can live next door to each other, but if you speak Serbian and I don't, then you and I do not share much of a cultural "we." In that instance, you are outside my I; you are also outside my circle of friends (or intimate we's); and you are even outside my entire circle of spoken communication--in that regard, you are "all Greek" to me, or outside any we-boundary of mutual understanding.
But what if that person next door to Ken is one of the 300,000 profoundly deaf US citizens who use sign language. Ken may know some sign language, I don't know, but I would hazard a guess that he and his neighbour would share many values, mores, beliefs, customs and cultural fineries even if he couldn't. What if the person next door is a Japanese Zen Roshi who speaks no English. Wouldn't Ken and he/she share many common values, cultural interiors and ideals. I am sure they would. What if the person next door is a Serbian who doesn't speak English but believes in democracy, human dignity, personal freedom, social harmony and enjoys eating pecan pie and listening to Mozart. Wouldn't Ken and she/he share some sort of "We" when they smile at each other in the street. When any two humans meet in happy circumstances isn't there an innate "We"-ness that transcends any language barrier and which opens up an inherent and ever present store of cultural mutuality. When the athletes of the world party together at the end of the Olympics, isn't there an intense sense of mutuality and "We"-ness there that makes the lack of a common language rather irrelevant? The truth is that others, even our enemies, are not "its" no matter how foreign they are to us. They are always firstly "You". They only become "its" when intensive dehumanisation and re-education coerces us to think of the other as an "it". Military training is essentially this process of de-automatising the instinctive bestowal of "You"-ness upon the other and replacing that with an "it" label. This is one reason why violent militias often abduct children to train as child soldiers, because they can be readily reprogrammed to carry out dehumanised acts. The instinct for inferring depth upon the other has had less time to develop in them and can be more readily manipulated.
So really, Wilber has it completely the wrong way round. His model starts out with the proposition that all foreigners are "its" who must then learn my language to become a "We/thou" in order to be granted interiority. In reality, all the psychological research on theory of mind, attribution theory, social learning theory, language development and interpersonal development supports a model that sees the inference of interiority as an habitual process from around five years of age onwards. This means that whenever older children, adolescents and adult interact there is an assumption of "You"-ness and therefore of a basic shared culture of human commonalities well before that "You" comes anywhere near to being accepted as a "We". It is only when personal and social pathology conspire together to erode this developmental process that the instinctive inference of interiority is replaced by a distancing and impersonalised allocation of "it"-ness to the unknown other.
I actually don't believe for a moment that Wilber really holds the viewpoints that are expressed in the quote cited above. It is just that he can't admit to the complete sociological nonsense of these propositions because they are the direct logical result of his "I-we-it-its" model of holonic perspectives. To admit to the inadequacies of a model that sees the "other" as an "it" is to admit to a flawed model. But Ken has been working with his "I-we-it-its" thing for many years now and there's no turning back it seems. Full steam ahead into all foreigners are "like undigested meat". And all aphasics are "its" and anyone who is not a member of my culture is someone that "cannot enter into relation of we".
Of course, there are many other sections in his writings where it's clear that Ken believes that "foreigners" are not completely outside of our cultural "We" boundaries. And this is precisely the problem. Wilber doesn't really think that all foreigners, all "others", or all people in comas are merely objective "its" that have no interior, no communicative capacity, or no quality of depth that we can relate to. Why then, should he so clearly state that he thinks that people who don't speak a common language are "its" to each other and as exterior to each other as bits of "undigested meat"? Well, to put it simply, it's because he can't let go of his mixed-up, reductive, schizoid holon, that's why.
My perspective of the third person singular holon he, she (and cousin it)
The holonic perspective of Wilber's Upper Right is that of the "it". I have argued previously that Wilber has a reductionist view of the right hand exterior quadrants and this is nowhere more clearly revealed than in his allocation of the pronouns "it" and "its" to designate the holonic perspectives of the behavioural and social quadrants. In Wilber's schizoid holon the exterior quadrants are the domains of the "other", of "alien objects", that which is seen from an "exterior point of view". For him the right hand is also the world of "matter", "physical laws" and anatomy. Consequently the right hand is occupied by material its and physical objects that have no developmental depth. Wilber reduces our view of the "other" to an "it" because for him the Right Hand quadrants are surface worlds of monological and material shallowness. Depth for Wilber resides in, and is derived from, the interiors and so the exteriors are relegated to the "it" and "its" world of flatland objects. When you meet the unknown other in the behavioural quadrants of Wilber's holonic world you see him as an "it", as Wilber puts it, "George is then nothing but an "it". Ken's behavioural and social quadrants are very stark and empty places indeed. But, thankfully, these are just Ken's theoretical misinterpretations of his schizoid holon and the real world is actually much more generous than Ken's holonic model would have us believe.
In fact, the third person singular is a "he/she" (and sometimes even an "it") who also has depth, intentionality and interiority. Admittedly because of the distanced nature of the third person this inferred interiority is weaker than the more proximate second person but it is there nonetheless. Third person are bestowed with identity and therefore they have all the four quadrants of consciousness, behaviour, culture and social being. They are not simply material bodies altering their atomic configurations in a flatland ecosystem. "He/she" is a family member, a neighbour, a work colleague, a person in the news, seen on television, a character in a novel and given half a chance this "he/she" will be granted the full gamut of human qualities, interiors and behavioural features. As with the second person singular, I use the third person possessive pronouns to refer to their exteriors because we see and experience the "Your" behaviour, "Your" social activity and the products of "Your" being in the world. Figure 12 shows the third person singular holon and provides some details on its quadratic nature "he/she" exists, "he/she" values, "he/she" behaves and "he/she" communes.
In the previous section I considered why Wilber relegates the third person singular to a state to "it"-ness when the third person is embedded in our language as a "person", as a "he" or a "she" and not simply and "it". In addition to the inherent problems of Wilber's holon model that plagues his interpretation of holonic perspectives there is also the problem of the reductionist approach that Wilber has towards the right hand quadrants. This is why he uses the impersonal pronoun of "it" to describe the perspective of the upper right. The person "he" and "she" - is literally reduced to an "it". Wilber doesn't want us to think anything less of "its" just because they are shallow exteriors. As he says in Excerpt C (Ά 71)
this does not mean that the "it" dimensions are somehow superficial or derogatory; on the contrary, they represent the objective and interobjective dimensions of being-in-the-world, crucially important dimensions that include everything from atoms to molecules to ecosystems to morphic fields to subtle energies to DNA. It is simply that all of those dimensions can be portrayed or depicted in "it"-language.
This is all fine if we are talking of billiard balls, protein molecules and road signs but remember this is the behavioural quadrant here that Wilber wants us to label as the domain of "its". He wants us to believe that all entities that are not in the domain of "I" or "We" belong to the flatland of atoms and physics. So, according to Wilber's model of holonic perspectives, all third persons are to be defined by monological "it language". What an absolute catastrophe this is for Integral theory.
The world of the third person is not best described in "it language" as Wilber claims. It is best described in "he/she/it" language, i.e. the language of the third person quadratic holon that is endowed with third person consciousness, third person, meaning-making, third person, behaviour and third person social roles. I am not quite sure where Wilber will lead us if we follow him down this unhappy flatland road where "he" and "she" are reduced to the shallow world of neurology and rocks, but, wherever it is, it will not be a place where Integral theory adds significantly to our understanding of the "other" in any form. Wilber's obvious humanity and perceptive insight may safeguard him from falling into some of the most obvious dangers. But even he proclaims that the unknown third person, our dear friend George the Russian, "is then nothing but an "it". If Wilber's schizoid holon can lead him to such a bizarre place, then, in the hands of less perceptive writers, there's no saying where this "Integral" theory of perspectives might end up.
My/our perspective of the first person plural holon we and us
Wilber writes at his best and with greatest insight when he focuses on human interiors and on the holonic domains of consciousness and culture. This is his true home as a philosopher and where is most knowledgeable about other theories and cultural sources of information about the inner life of humanity. His first works were on the development of personal consciousness and collective culture and it is still the case that his ideas are most innovative and insightful when he delves into the mysteries of the interiors. Excerpt C contains some of his very best passages on the nature of personal and collective being and on how the life of the one is intensified up and amplified in the life of the many. His introduction of the concept of holonic perspectives will be vital for Integral theory's capacity to discuss and evaluate knowledge about cultural interiors and how they relate to personal experience and identity. I find the many pages of wonderful ideas that Wilber is producing in his discussion of cultural identity to be a remarkable addition to the range of ideas that Integral theory is now including and synthesising. I want to endorse the broad thrust of these new ideas. I also want to ensure that they are based on a coherent model of human identity and action. To this end I will continue in the following sections to point out problematic features of Wilber's current writings and offer alternative readings of Integral theory that support many of his propositions, challenge others and hopefully provide a better foundation for Integral theory as a whole.
As I have pointed out in previous essays, Wilber sees the collective holon as only extending to the domains of the lower quadrants. He has not yet grasped the idea that collective holons are defined by all four quadrants because he confuses the collectivity of a holarchic series with the holonic dimension of communality. Consequently he relegates the consciousness of a collective holon to just its communal form and not its agentic form. In an earlier essay I went into some detail concerning the agentic nature of collective holons. This localised form of interior agency is most clearly seen in its pathological forms such as mob rule and totalitarian political regimes. But it is also evident in the form of centralised government institutions, processes and forms of administration and leadership. Less overt but also of great importance to collective consciousness are the more subconscious and pre-normative forms of collective awareness that are exemplified in 20th century research on collective archetypes and in more conventional research on social awareness by Solomon Asch, Stanley Milgram, Phillip Zimbardo and other social psychologists. The cultural interiors of the collective holon are seen in the variety of traditional and modern mythologies, social values and large-scale meaning-making enterprises such as collective knowledge quests and forms of story telling.
So there are centralised, agentic forms of collective interiority - our collective agentic, consciousness of the Upper Left - and there are communal and more dispersed forms of collective interiority - our collective, communal consciousness of the Lower Left. Our collective consciousness extends over both the agentic and communal quadrants of the interior domains. The collective voice speaks out in the form of public laws, national constitutions, social regulations and customs, cultural rules and taboos, social standards of behaviour, conventions, mores, communal expectations and prejudices, and popular culture and mass media. When the collective voice does speak it does so in the full range of developmental levels of collective identity. In the preverbal form it speaks in terms of mythologies such as the Genesis myth of Adam and Eve story. In the normative form it speaks out in the form of legal pronouncements such as the "We the people ..." opening of the American constitution. In the post-normative forms its speaks out in terms of sacred texts such as the Pauline ideas of the church as the communal "body of Christ".
Of course, individuals give voice to these different levels of "We" all the time and reinforce the collective "we" on each of these occasions. For me, however, the voice of the collective holon is seen best and most directly through its own collective means of mythologies (pre-normative), constitutional and legal proclamations (normative) and traditional sacred writings (post-normative). These are the signatures of the collective interiors par excellence and they exist in both agentic directive forms and in relational communal forms because a collective holon has both agentic and communal dimension to its identity. Hence, my collective holon has both a agentic "We" and a communal "We" (Figure 13).
Wilber's collective exterior, as we all know, is designated as his "Its" quadrant. I don't wish to labour the point, but this, like his reduction of the behavioural quadrant of the individual holon to "it", is a gross underestimation of what the exterior forms of social identity are actually about. Wilber's exteriors are flatland exteriors that are material rearrangements of surfaces. They have no depth that is of any interest to Wilber. As he says, "the Right-Hand quadrants are all material". He continues to fall into this error because his holon model is a suffers from a split between the subjective perspective of the "I/We" and the objective perspective of "It/Its". To put it simply the exterior of the cultural world of "We" is the social world of "Us" and not the flatland world of "Its". Wilber has made a serious error in reducing social exteriors to the world of "rocks" and "ecosystems" and all things "material" and his model will continue to be reductionist until he grants full developmental status to the exteriors. The exteriors of social holons develop in holarchical modes exactly as do the interiors. There is no ontological difference between interior and exterior development. They are complementary, janus-faced dyads that cannot be other than full developmental reflections of each other.
My/our perspective of the second person plural holon You(s) and Your(s)
The perspective of the second person plural holon is one of the most important holonic perspectives. In considering the identity of the plural "You" ("Yous") we enter the multifarious worlds of multiculturalism, corporate life, international relations, ethnic conflict, community development, migration, race relations, social communications, negotiations and mediation, class relations and the institutional and political worlds in general.
"You", the plural other, is the place where most social conflict occurs on a community, national or international scale. Any Integral theory of community and international relations will be heavily reliant on an accurate understanding and representation of the plural "other". That work is currently being done by the Lower Right of Wilber's schizoid holon the "its" quadrant and to say that there are problems with this approach to portraying the plural other is an understatement to say the least. This topic is a vast one and I will not attempt to do justice to this topic in this essay. All I will point out here is that Integral theory will benefit greatly from seeing "You", the plural other, not as a collection of networked "its" but as holarchy of "Yous" in developmental relationship. "We" might be in conflict with that "You(s)" but the plural other will still be a collective holon with inherent depth and interiority whatever "We" think of them. And to infer depth upon our competitor, our adversaries or the strangers in our midst is the first step in learning to live with them while we achieve our pluralistic goals. To deal with the plural other as "Its" is to set ourselves up for miscommunication and ongoing conflict.
The plural "other" does not have to be part of our cultural order to be accepted as having interiority, intention and its own social identity. Wilber sees the other always as a third person "it/its" because it is always exterior to the interior world of culture. For him the process of communication is always of the form "it" to "you" to "thou/we". The problem with this is that communication is always based on the assumption of "you"-ness in the other, of interiority in the other. If we see the other always initially as an "it" we usually don't bother trying to communicate with it. As we have seen "You"-ness is always assumed in human communication from infancy and that's how it is if communication and dialogue is to be entered into in the social sphere of the plural 'other".
Figure 14 shows my/our perspective of the second person plural holon. As with my/our perspective of the other persons the second person plural holon is a quadratic entity and includes a collective consciousness, a cultural being/identity, a behavioural identity and a social identity. The behavioural identity of the plural other is to be found in our characterisations, stereotyping and expectations of the general actions that another social group will carry out. The social roles and public persona of the plural other are all those views that we have that relate to the institutional, bureaucratic or formalised functions that another group or society will perform.
My/our perspective of the third person plural holon Them and Their
Our view of the third person plural "other" will tell us much about our cultural capacity to relate to what might be seen as unknown outsiders. This perspective relates particularly to groups such as migrants, minority groups, nation/state adversaries, traditional communal enemies and marginalised social groups. This is the perspective that taps directly into the innate fears that social groups have about their adversaries, be they true enemies of simply perceived adversaries. Consequently, it's the one that political groups tend to manipulate to achieve their own goals.
There are many examples where propaganda campaigns against the "other" have been specifically targeted to provide motivation and rationalisation for warfare and violence. These campaigns usually involve the dehumanisation of the targeted social other. For example, the Serbian president Slobadan Milosavic and his government launched a concerted and intensive media campaign of demonising their Croatian neighbours that lasted for five years before there was a sufficient level of public support for waging war. Such campaigns specifically aim at stopping the inference of a collective "You"-ness or even "Them"-ness on the targeted culture and replacing it with dehumanised "It/Its" language.
I have pointed out a rather extreme example here of the political manipulation of turning "Them" into "Its". However, in a more subtle and democratically acceptable form, this phenomenon is quite common across all political spheres of activity around the world. Conservative and traditional political groups, (both left and right) tend to identify political issues concerned with the common fear of the unknown plural other the "Thems" of our socially and ethnically complex world - and turn those fears of "them" into fear of "its". These fears are very common because they come out of some very basic human needs and aspects of collective identity. These are the basic needs of physiological necessities and basic physical security (SDi's beige values) and ethnocentric needs of racial identity and 'us' versus 'them' cultural boundaries (SDi's purple values).
These political campaigns typically identify some basic issues such as migration or asylum seekers, foreigners taking jobs or racial tensions and then move the debate into a beige or purple values space that cuts across the interests of most sectors of the voting population, whether they be progressive liberals or conservative traditionals. This is a very simple manoeuvre as all sectors will share in these basic concerns to some level. All groups from the battling working class to the educated upper middle class are susceptible to this ploy because they will all share basic concerns about job security, personal safety and familial integrity. This strategy has been used in various forms and in every type of governing system from social democracies to dictatorships to achieve desired political goals. It was recently used in Australia by the Howard government to win a federal election campaign that targeted refugees from central Asia. At all times the media and informational campaigns that accompany these strategies involve the manipulation of our individual and collective view of the foreign "other". Specifically, this means the progressive removal of an inference of interiority on the foreign "other" and the gradual substitution of "We/Us" language with "You/Your" language, then with "Them/Their" language, and then finally with "It/Its" language. This is done by concrete strategies of dehumanisation through the use of manipulation of populist media, legitimisation of internment camps, exclusion of the faces/voices of the "other" from the mass media, banning of social and community contact with the "other", geographical isolation, demonisation, legal sanctions and so on.
As we have seen Wilber's model of holonic perspectives represents the "other" as an "it" and so an Integral theory of foreignness starts with the assumption that third persons are outsiders and "its" and that they can only become humanised "We's" through their enculturation with "our" views and internal meanings. This propensity for Integral theory to view the plural "other" as "It/Its" is very problematic. It will be very susceptible to political views that want to portray the "other" as foreign and as lacking interiority. Wilber of course would find such a position very repugnant. Unfortunately however, his model of "its" only entering into dialogue when they become "We" supports exactly this approach. He has the idea that there is an inside to the exterior worlds of "it" and "its" but for him "its" only become fully interiorised when "its" become "We". As he says, " "its" can be known by description, "We's" can only be known by acquaintance". The problem with this is that very few social others every become part of our cultural "We" nor should they ever be expected to be so. Of course, all beings are part of a much greater "We" of the human family or the global biosphere, but by linking "We"-ness with specific cultural forms like language Wilber clearly sees local cultural homogeneity as the central criteria for membership of the "We". This understanding of the relationship between the known "Us" and the unknown "Them" does not bode well for Integral theory's treatment of social relations.
Figure 15 shows the view that I and my cultural group can have of the third person plural other. Many political campaigns are based on the full or partial dehumanisation of a targeted group of the plural third person other so that basic survival and security needs are activated across large proportions of the population. The intent of these campaigns is to reduce the inference of interiority on "Them" to a simple observation of rival "Its". Religion and ethnic rivalries are most typically the platforms by which this dehumanisation takes place. The source of these political goals is, however, more usually the desire for political gain and power and religion is often the unwitting pawn in the game of values manipulation.
The end result of such political campaigns is social fear, the oppression of minorities and the turning inward of cultural energies. This affects trade, economic activity, social cohesion, and often results in various forms of social ill. Even when the countering of real violent opposition is necessary social communication works most productively when there is an assumption of interiority, of "Them"-ness on the other and not "It"-ness. For example, in social situations requiring negotiating or the reaching of international agreements, protective treaties and so on the best outcomes are achieved when the "other" is seen to have "their" own goals, intentions and social needs. When these are omitted through the demonisation of the "other" then agreement and compromise are almost impossible to reach. This is the real heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is a inability to infer "You"-ness on the other. Powerful ruling sections of both camps treat each other as "Its" that lack legitimate needs and desires and as a consequence authentic communication cannot be entered into and distrust flourishes.
Once this stance has been taken it is extremely difficult to reintroduce the idea of human "You"-ness on the outsider and to recognise and address the legitimate concerns that they may have.
Integral theory starts with this view of "It"-ness of the other and of the third person. In terms of how this impacts on the practical application of Integral theory to the world of politics and social conflict this has some unfortunate implications. International development will never take place if we must wait until all "others" become part of our own cultural "We". and this is one of the major problems with Wilber's current model of social communication.
I have identified in the foregoing some basic inadequacies in Wilber's "I-we-it-its" model of holonic perspectives. These inadequacies all flow from the problematic model that Wilber has of the holon. Although Wilber states that there are fundamental perspectives he reduces these to four so that they can fit into his "schizoid" holon model. In fact, the perspectives of a holon have nothing essentially to do with the four quadrants of a holon. Wilber confusing of the quadrants and holonic perspectives means that he drops off the fundamental perspective of "You" singular and "You" plural. In addition, because of the reductionist view he has of the exterior quadrants he reduces the perspectives of the third person singular and plural from "he/she/it" and "them" to "it" and Its" respectively. These confusion, omissions and reductionisms will have ongoing implications for Wilber's analysis of social dynamics and leave his model open to considerable criticisms from his social critics.
To help overcome these problems I have offered a more systematic way of depicting holonic perspectives and offered a summary model that includes all six fundamental holonic perspectives. I have also presented a few very rough ideas on how this revised model can be used to better analyse and represent the perspectives involved in complex social dynamics.
© Mark Edwards, 2003
So how many holonic perspectives are there?
There seems to be considerable confusion in Wilber's discussion on the basic number of indigenous perspectives or holonic hori-zones. Sometimes he talks of four, sometimes of six and sometimes of eight. The four and eight version comes about when he associates perspectives with quadrants. The four is his "I-We-It-Its" model and the eight is the insides and outsides of each of these. The six version comes about when talks of first, second and third persons for individual and collective holons. As can be gathered from my criticisms in the main text, I think that the four and eight perspectives version is seriously deficient because of the unnecessary linking of perspectives to quadrants. Wilber is much more accurate and valid in his discussion of perspectives when he is using his first, second and third person model which he explores in his Integral calculus and mathematics. In the following I take a look at what the basic array of perspectives actually is. These perspectives are really not tied to the quadrants in any way whatsoever, because each holon can have many perspectives but only four quadrants. Having cut the completely unnecessary association between perspectives and quadrants let's go for and open the Pandora's box of hori-zones a little.
In his discussion of hori-zones Wilber talks of there being "8 indigenous perspectives or hori-zones" or holonic perspectives but only "four fundamental perspectives" the inside and the outside of the I-We-It-Its quadrants in his mixed-up holon. He focuses in particular on just four perspectives the first person view of interior realities (Zone#1), the first person view of exterior realities (Zone #2), the third person view of interior realities (Zone #3) and the third person view of third person interiors (Zone#3) and third person view of third person exteriors (Zone#4). As might be imagined this severely reduced model of perspectives will conflate many important strands of perspectives into one amalgamated perspective that might include several very different elements that Wilber's model simply cannot untangle or deal with in a consistent manner. Wilber's larger model of eight perspectives equates to the categories described in Table 2. Several interpretations of these zones are possible because his model does not have the capacity to specify (untangle) the various types of possible perspectives that are available. For example, is the outside of the Upper right quadrant my view of "it", or our view of "it", or "its" view of "it" or their view of "it", etc.
* denotes non-reflexive pronouns
Notice that in Wilber's model there is nowhere to put any views concerning the perspective by or of "you" (singular or plural). This is because he is using an inadequate holonic model to categorise holonic perspectives. The location of the eight categories of holonic perspectives that it is capable of identifying are all shown in the relevant cells of the following tables (Tables 4-7). These tables lay out the complete possible perspectives of individual and collective holons (at least for the first, second and third persons. They are derived through the following means. As Wilber has said there are six first person perspectives derived from the singular and plural forms of the first, second and third persons. These are the first order or non-reflexive perspectives. For each of these six there are a further six second-order perspectives that include reflexive and inferential perspectives. So there are 6 first order and 36 second-order holonic perspectives to make a total of 42 commonly used perspectives that are reflected in the common usage of pronouns and phrases. These 42 are the basic alphabet of holonic perspectives and each one can be depicted within a separate quadrants format. So there are 34 commonly used holonic perspectives that Wilber's model does not identify. Each of these perspectives are non-trivial and relate to very particular perspectives that are quite common and significant in the our personal and social lives. The total set of 42 first person perspectives are presented in Tables 4-7.
The following tables 4-7 lay out the full complement of direct holonic perspectives. The reason I am rather harsh on Wilber's schizoid model of perspectives is because he is trying to interpret all these perspectives out of one very inadequate "I-We-It-Its" model. His development of an Integral mathematics of holonic perspectives is a wonderful innovation that overcomes many the limitations of his graphic "I-We-It-Its". My concern is that his conceptual interpretations, and to a lesser extent his mathematical workings, will continue to be directed by the schizoid "I-We-It-Its" construct.
But wait folks there's even more.
Tables 3-7 relate specifically to subjects (first persons) taking their direct view of other persons (second and third persons). These are what I call the direct perspectives. Direct perspectives are always of the form "Your view is..." or "My view of you is..." or "Their perspective of you is..." or "his attitude towards her is ..." and so on. There is also the possibility that subjects (first persons) can imagine taking on the perspectives of second and third persons. These are what I refer to as notional perspectives. Notional perspectives are of the form, "My notion/idea of their view of me is ..." or "His notion/idea of their view of them is ...". So, on top of the set of first person perspectives there are also the very common perspectives that occur when a first person develops a idea of what a second or third person perspective may be. The second person role occurs when someone imagines how some other person or audience who is present directly perceives him/herself. This set of second person perspectives is presented in Tables I-IV in the Appendix. The third person role occurs when someone imagines how some other persons might perceive him/herself when he is not present to them. This set of third person perspectives is presented in Table V-VIII in the Appendix. As with direct perspectives notional perspectives can be taken on by both individual and collective holons.
The tables of notional perspectives can be used to represent many common perspectives that individual or collective holons can adopt. For example, the situation where our social collective (e.g. a political party or an ethnic community) wonders how we appear to another social collective (e.g. a group of voters or another ethnic community) is denoted by the term 1p*pl(3-p*pl) x 1p*pl, i.e. our notion of their view of us (found in the bottom right hand cell of Table V in the Appendix). Notional perspectives also highlight the iterative aspect of perspectives (their circular nature) and may have application to the investigation of attentional pathologies, performance anxieties and social phobias in individual and cultural bias, racism, and political manipulation in the collective domains.
The direct perspectives that cross individual holon perspectives with collective holon perspectives (see Tables 3, 4, 7 and 8) are important and interesting for many reasons. The collective perspective on individual holon realities, for example, are especially relevant to topics such as public image, celebrity, political campaigns, advertisement, media coverage and many, many other issues. The individual perspective on collective realities has had little emphasis in mainstream assessment of health and illness but could open up opportunities for investigating the health issues involved in personal views towards the collective/social dimension of life and the participation of individuals in collective and communal life.
© Mark Edwards, 2003