We have now reached Chapter 4 of "Marriage and Sense and Soul" entitled "Modernity: Dignity and Disaster".
In this Chapter Ken starts by defining what he means by modernity which he refers to as a movement, which has its roots in the Renaissance, blossomed with the enlightenment and continues in many ways to this day. He then list various trends in different fields that would be included in modernity e.g. philosophy, art, science, cultural cognition, personal identity, political and civil rights, technology and politics.
He defines postmodernity in a narrow sense i.e. "extreme postmodernism" as the view that reality represents no more than an social construction and in a broader sense as major currents that have developed in the wake of modernity.
He then points to the dignities of modernity in the governing principles of democratic nations, which include the values of equality, freedom and justice and existed nowhere on a large scale in the premodern world.
He is very critical of "new-paradigm" attacks which in his opinion rarely show understanding of the characteristics no less than the dignity of modernity. He distinguishes three types of attack
I believe that he provides in a few pages a valuable and succinct analysis of quite complex areas for which he is to be highly commended.
However it is in the next section "The Good, the True and the Beautiful" that I find myself seriously questioning his approach.
Ken identifies the three spheres of morals, science and art as the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
This indeed seems reasonable. The Good refers to justness and to ethics (morals). The True refers to objective truth (science). Beauty refers to the aesthetic domain (art).
However I find the limited way that Ken defines beauty as questionable and indeed somewhat confused.
Thus when he refers to beauty as "in the eye of the beholder" he is viewing it in merely subjective terms.
"It represents the aesthetic and expressive currents of each subjective self".
However he then appears to partly contradict this position in the following
"This does not necessarily mean that beauty is "merely" subjective or idiosyncratic; it simply means that beauty is a judgement made by each subject "I"
However if beauty is not merely subjective then clearly it involves more than the judgement of each I. (However Ken does not elaborate on this).
In the next sentence returns to his subjectivist definition
"This judgement as Kant pointed out resides not empirically in an object, but in a discriminating subject."
Again he seemingly contradicts this by saying
Beauty is (in part) in the eye of the beholder. Once more however he does not elaborate on the other part.
What this really indicates is the lack of a true dynamic perspective. In such terms beauty arises from the interaction of both exterior and interior aspects (which have a relative meaning).
Thus to recognise the beauty of an object such as a rose I must first be able to perceive this object (through the senses).
Now it is highly important to be able the distinguish the nature of perception, that is appropriate to artistic experience, from that associated with science.
What characterises artistic perception is a pattern of response (where the external phenomenon directly impresses itself on the mind of the observer). This gives the perception a unique personal quality. Thus strictly here when we experience the rose in personal (I) terms.
Scientific perception by contrast involves an attempt to control where the mind now impresses itself on reality (through organising concepts). This gives the perception a common impersonal quality (in it terms).
So with the artistic experience of the rose, I allow the exterior perception impress itself on the senses and then in interior terms interpret this conceptually (i.e. make an aesthetic judgement).
In dynamic terms the beauty does not belong to the exterior or interior aspects per se but rather the interaction of both.
When one tries to analyse this dynamic interaction in linear terms, two (opposite) interpretations are equally valid.
Now I have argued that Ken Wilber fails consistently to grasp this key point. Thus instead of seeing the relationship bi-directionally, he tries to interpret it one-directionally.
Once again in dynamic terms beauty is the property of the interaction of both aspects.
Thus in a reduced linear manner, we can define it
The bi-polar approach is extremely important as it reflects an important difference in personality styles.
Where feeling is extroverted (EF in Myers-Briggs typology) emotion is directly activated by object phenomena. Here one is primarily aware of the phenomena (which activate one's feelings)
However where feeling is introverted (IF in Myers-Briggs) emotion is directed inwards from object towards the subject. Here one is primarily aware of the feelings (activated by phenomena).
However Ken attempts to translate the relationship solely in terms of one pole (which of course does not lend itself to dynamic synthesis).
Thus in this case he is coming down in favour of (a) where beauty is defined in subjective terms as in the "I of the beholder".
Though he seems to realise that this is not fully correct he does not properly reconcile the difficulties and makes what are strictly inconsistent statements.
I find Ken's treatment of the next action "I, we and it" to be also very questionable.
He maintains that the three spheres of art, morals and science (the Beautiful, the Good and the True) can be described by a different language.
However he is very selective indeed in his interpretation of this language.
For example he identifies Beauty with I. This of course is related to his notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
However just as beauty (in horizontal terms) has both exterior and interior aspects that dynamically interact, equally beauty (in vertical terms) has individual and collective aspects (also in dynamic interaction).
So just as Ken attempts to define beauty in terms of just one side of a polarity (in horizontal terms), equally he attempts to define beauty in terms of one side of a polarity (in vertical terms).
So he is identifying here with the individual (I) rather than the collective (we) notion of beauty.
Again - strictly speaking - individual (I) and collective (we) notions of beauty ceaselessly interact in experience.
So if for example hear a beautiful song, in large part my judgement will be conditioned by cultural (collective) notions of what constitutes beautiful music.
Indeed one of the problems in modern society is that aesthetic taste is collectively conditioned (through marketing) to a high degree. Thus aesthetic fashions are therefore (merely) conventional to a significant extent.
So once again in static linear terms we can give two equally valid (vertical) interpretations of beauty.
In the first case beauty is defined in individual terms (with the collective aspect fixed). Beauty is here purely in the eye of the beholder.
In the second case, beauty is defined in collective terms (with the individual aspect fixed). Here notions of beauty are the direct result of cultural conditioning.
Once again however Ken Wilber comes down misleadingly in favour of just one side of a polarity.
He then goes on to define (objective) Truth in terms of (it) language. In fairness this impersonal definition is relatively valid (when Beauty is defined in personal language).
However it is important to point out that this (it) language itself has both individual and collective aspects (that parallels I and we in personal terms).
Thus the individual aspect of scientific truth is expressed in terms of atomistic theory; the collective aspect by contrast is expressed in terms of (holistic) systems theory.
So it is important therefore to recognise that both Beauty and Truth can be equally defined (vertically) in terms of both individual and collective aspects. What of course this implies - though it is jumping head at this stage - is that notions of Beauty and Truth are not confined to just one quadrant but rather can be validly expressed in terms of each of the four quadrants.
Now I have a very big problem with Ken's attempt to classify (moral) ethical language as (we).
The most fruitful way of viewing the moral sphere is in terms of the dynamic integration of both the artistic and scientific spheres. Thus the spiritual (moral) sphere is central to the proper integration of art and science.
So the essence of morality in dynamic terms is that it combines both the personal and impersonal domains.
Indeed we can readily appreciate this by looking at the two extreme approaches to moral ethical behaviour.
The first is a purely feelings based approach (artistic) where what is good is defined in terms of what feels good. This can often lead to an unduly relative and permissive approach to moral issues.
The second is a purely cognitive (scientific) based approach where morality is defined in terms of obeying set rules of behaviour. This can easily lead to a conformist programmatic approach divorced from genuine experience.
So clearly a balanced moral approach involves combining both aspects where authentic feelings and rational rules are both incorporated allowing for a moderate degree of flexibility (dependent on circumstances).
Also it makes no sense to identify ethical behaviour solely in terms of (we) language.
Once again it can be equally defined in terms of (I) language.
Thus it is not valid to attempt to define morality in (merely) logical ethical terms (as Ken implies). Indeed the essence of the existential approach is that the emphasis is placed firmly on the I (i.e. that every decision represents a unique personal choice).
So correctly understood morality in experiential terms arises due to the dynamic attempt to integrate the (personal) artistic and (impersonal) scientific domains both of which have interior and exterior aspects (in horizontal terms) and individual and collective aspects (in vertical terms). In this context Ken Wilber's attempt to identify morality with the collective (we) aspect seems especially inadequate.
The next section of this Chapter is the very important one entitled "Differentiation and Dissociation".
Now Ken admits that
"all natural and healthy growth processes proceed by differentiation-and-integration."
However the key problem here is a very vital one indeed for he never really distinguishes integration from differentiation. In fact he invariably reduces the process of integration to that of differentiation. Now for a book that is supposedly about the integration of science and religion this is a very serious problem indeed.
Now though Ken admits that
"In this growth process if something goes wrong with either of these strands of growth - differentiation or integration - the result is pathology."
Now this indeed is an acceptable statement. However when he starts to outline how growth processes go wrong he does so solely in terms of differentiation.
So on the one hand "if differentiation does not occur the result is fusion, fixation, and arrest in general."
On the other hand "if differentiation begins and goes too far, the result is dissociation or fragmentation".
However Ken Wilber never seems to get to grips with the crucially important point that differentiation and integration - in all growth processes - constitute dynamic relative terms. In other words - relative to each other - they always occur in opposite directions.
If I look at a beautiful painting for example at one level I may be able to differentiate individual features in quantitative terms. So in a painting of a bowl of flowers I will be able to distinguish the number of flowers, the colours and features. At a finer level of detail I may even be able to distinguish the precise number of petals in each flower and subtle changes of colour and brush stoke. However a knowledge - even when detailed - of these characteristics - in itself does not in itself give me the context to judge the painting as beautiful. What is also of course required is the ability to integrate these partial characteristics in a holistic manner which is qualitative.
Now this integrative capacity takes place in an opposite direction (from that of differentiation). The differentiation of distinct characteristics in the painting literally involves the conscious positing of these phenomena.
However the corresponding integration requires the corresponding negation (at an unconscious level) of these quantitative characteristic enabling the mind to formulate a holistic qualitative appreciation.
So it requires the dynamic interaction of the (partial) quantitative and (holistic) qualitative aspects of understanding so that the very notion of aesthetic beauty can become relevant.
However differentiation and integration involve different logical systems. The essence of (conscious) differentiation is that opposite poles are clearly separated in experience.
However the essence of integration is that these opposite poles are seen as identical and once again fused in experience. So differentiation works on an either/or logic of separation of polar opposites. Integration works on a both/and logic of complementarity of these same opposites.
Because Ken Wilber rarely employs this second logical system in translation he inevitably confuses integration with differentiation.
One good example of this is his continued failure to realise that in the dynamics of experience, integration inevitable involves a mature form of regression. Now this must be clearly distinguished from an immature form where regression entails movement back to an earlier confused and fixated state of development.
I have stated many times before how Christian Mysticism brings out very clearly this - relatively - regressive nature of integration.
So typically we have - as in Evylyn Underhill's classic account - periods of great spiritual light (illumination) followed by corresponding darkness (purgation).
In the former periods - because of the light - one tends to overuse one's conscious structures, which leads to growing phenomenal attachment and fragmentation. In other words during the illuminative stages the process of differentiation is carried too far in experience. This requires corresponding periods of deep integration where this attachment is painfully removed (through purgation) and the spiritual disciple literally learns to refocus his/her whole energy on God.
Now in terms of the "progress" made during the illuminative stages, the corresponding purgative periods involve a significant (dynamic) regression where former knowledge, skills, achievements are painfully eroded.
The peak experience of this "regression" is the famous "Dark Night of the Soul".
Now it is nonsense to confuse this mature form of regression (which involves the deepest immersion in the spiritual unconscious) with the immature form of regression which indeed involves a fixation in development. However Ken Wilber seems to have a blind spot in terms of recognising the deeply "regressive" nature of mature integration. Of course "progressive" and "regressive" must be understood here in dynamic relative terms. Indeed when we understand them as purely relative we arrive at nondual reality which is the simple experience of the present moment.
So when Ken Wilber accuses the premodern revivalists of wanting to get back to an earlier fixated state of development he may indeed be correct in the substance of his criticism. He is employing here absolute (one-directional notions of movement). However he is gravely mistaken if he believes that regression in development inevitably means returning to an earlier arrested state. This results from the failure to recognise that in dynamic terms we must employ relative notions of movement. Here forward movement in one direction always implies backward movement in an another direction. Likewise backward movement in one direction implies forward direction in an another. However as Ken Wilber seems to consistently translate in one-directional terms he misses the very significance of dynamic relative movement (and the very nature of mature integration in development).
Once again because he tends to confuse integration with differentiation, he inevitably interprets regression as dedifferentiation (leading to an earlier confused and fixated state).
However when understood properly - in dynamic relative terms - regression does indeed mean integration (of what has already been differentiated).
Ken makes another key point - which on the face of it may seem correct - regarding the collapse of both the aesthetic art and moral value spheres (I and we) to that science (it).
He interprets this as the collapse of subjective interior dimensions to that of the objective exterior dimensions of science (which he calls Flatland).
However this is not strictly speaking true and is inconsistent with other views which he expresses in the book.
This again highlights the lack of a dynamic relative approach.
Indeed Ken - in his desire to identify science with the upper right hand quadrant - consistently tends to distort its nature. Because the right hand quadrants are identified with (objective) empirical perceptions he tends to understate the equal importance of theoretical science.
So (quantitative) science is not just about empirical facts; it is equally about theoretical constructs. Indeed the empirical facts have no meaning in the absence of such constructs. This of course also means that strictly speaking science cannot be just identified with the "eye of flesh". It also involves the "eye of mind". Finally it means that science is not strictly mononological (as Ken repeatedly maintains). Now it is true that science can indeed be given a distorted interpretation where it is represented as involving solely "the eye of flesh" and is believed to be monological. However this is a misrepresentation of what science actually is (at a quantitative level). The paradox of course is that Ken Wilber in his own attempts to present scientific activity as monological is himself giving a very reduced (and indeed distorted) interpretation of its nature.
The underlying problem once again is one of method. Ken is consistently forced because the lack of a dynamic approach to come down in favour of one side of a polarity.
Thus he interprets Flatland as the collapse of the Left hand intersubjective (interior) to Right Hand (exterior) quadrants.
However this is not really tenable. Ken would have to admit the importance of theory and indeed the role of (conventional) mathematics in science. And he would clearly identify these with Left Hand (interior) quadrants. Thus seen in this light there is something gravely wrong with his thesis.
So the real problem can be stated more satisfactorily in terms of a reduction in the logical approach to reality. Thus the dynamic interaction of Left and Right hand quadrants (which constitutes artistic, scientific and moral activity) is now understood (solely) in terms of a one-directional logical approach.
Again this means that the dynamic interaction (of both Left and Right Hand quadrants sides) can be collapsed in terms of a right hand explanation (i.e. empirical science); equally however it can be collapsed in terms of a left hand explanation (i.e. theoretical science).
Indeed (conventional) mathematical activity very well the key paradox that arises from the collapse of the dynamic interaction of opposites poles in static uni-polar terms.
Thus on the one hand one can represent - as Ken does - the mathematical symbols of mathematics - as belonging very much to the interior subjective domain.
However the great attraction of mathematical activity for so many is the firm belief in its truly (exterior) objective status.
What this really entails is that true subjectivity (and indeed true objectivity) only find meaning in the context of dynamic interaction. So (conventional) mathematics - as commonly interpreted - depends on underlying static assumptions that are ultimately distorted. Indeed it is this very recognition that is the starting point for a truly dynamic interpretation of mathematical symbols (which is provided by Holistic Mathematics).
There is one final point. If one concentrates solely on the differentiations (rather than integration) of modernity then in a very real sense the dissociation that Ken speaks of i.e. the collapse of the Kosmos in terms of scientific categories is no way surprising. This is because the (conventional) scientific approach itself most typically represents a truly differentiated approach to reality.
Once again if we want to truly integrate the three spheres we need to move to a different view of science (which is qualitative rather quantitative). Unfortunately not alone does Ken Wilber not provide this integrated view of science he stoutly denies even its possibility.