Four Quadrants

"I found Collins critique of Wilber's quadrants to be baffling, simply because he criticises Wilber for taking a position he in fact does not take.

Collins says:

"In attempting to define each quadrant in unambiguous terms he himself uses a surprisingly reduced philosophical perspective. Indeed this is a fundamental problem with his general style. So often he attempts to analyze reality as if it were somehow independent of the interpreting mind. For example in describing his Right-Hand quadrants he says in "The Marriage of Sense and Soul", P. 117;

"All Right-Hand events all sensorimotor objects and empirical processes and ITs can be seen with the monological gaze, with they eye of flesh. You simply look at the rock, the town, the clouds, the mountains, the railroad tracks, the airplane, the flower, the car, the tree. All these Right-Hand objects and "ITs" can be seen by the senses or their extensions (microscopes to telescopes). They all have simple location, you can actually point to most of them".

"This is a very emphatic statement of the "myth of the given". However this description of Right-Hand events is untenable from an experiential perspective. Objects do not just exist "out there" but always in relationship to the observer. Thus in seeing a rock a bi-directional interaction is involved, where the rock is in relation to self (and the self in relation to the rock). The actual perception of the (individual) rock has both exterior and interior aspects (which mutually interact). "Thus identifying the object solely with the Right-Hand is very one-sided. Likewise the (individual) perception of "a rock" has no meaning in the absence of the corresponding (collective) concept of "rock". Thus Upper and Lower quadrants are likewise necessarily involved in the experience. So in dynamic terms all four quadrants are involved in the recognition of an object."

If we look at the quote from Wilber we see that he uses the term monological 'the eye of the flesh' in distinction to dialogical or translogical (16). Here Wilber is acknowledging a limited and specific view. Collins then does Wilber a disservice by assuming that this clearly stated monological view is Wilber's final view".

Yes, he does indeed use monological in distinction to dialogical and translogical.

Once again Ken is dealing with differentiated rather than integrated meaning. If he was dealing with integration he would be intent on demonstrating the manner in which monological, dialogical and translogical interpenetrate in experience!

"all sensorimotor objects and empirical processes and ITs can
be seen with the monological gaze, with they eye of flesh."

There are no half measures here for Ken. (Empirical) science is monological to the core. Ken is not saying that an interpretation is sometimes given by others that is monological. No! he is saying that by its very nature such science is monological. So this is Ken's stated view here of (empirical) science. Moreover, he has often used this limited interpretation inappropriately to discredit the views of others, that seek to draw linkages as between science and spirituality.

Of course, as is so often the case he makes other statements elsewhere about the nature of (empirical) science which are not properly coherent with a strict monological interpretation.

This however demonstrates considerable inconsistency in his stance and a lack of reconciliation of his ever-shifting and conflicting positions.

Now if science is monological, then by definition there is no need for interpretation (i.e. any dialogue with interior processes). This is his clearly stated view of empirical science in the above quotes (which is thus an emphatic statement of "the myth of the given").

Later Ken has indeed this to say.

"The myth of the given is really the myth of exteriors untouched by interiors, of mere objects untouched by subjective and intersubjective structures. It is the myth that there are less than four quadrants to the Kosmos, the myth of the Big One instead of the Big Three. It is the myth at the very core of classical empiricism, positivism, behaviourism, collapsed modernity and scientism. It is the myth of objects without subjects, of surfaces without depth, of quantity without quality, of veneers without value the utterly rancid myth that the Right Hand world alone is real. But it is indeed a myth, and the myth is decidedly dead"

However this statement simply condemns his clearly stated and often repeated view of the monological nature of empirical science. For that is what monological in his terms means i.e. "exteriors untouched by interiors, of mere objects untouched by subjective and intersubjective structures".

So when he says it is the myth at the very core of classical empiricism, positivism, behaviorism, collapsed modernity and scientism it is clearly the myth that applies to his own stated view of empirical science (i.e. as monological).

"It is the myth of objects without subjects, of surfaces without depth, of quantity without quality, of veneers without value the utterly rancid myth that the Right Hand world alone is real."

Precisely! And this is exactly how Ken defines (empirical) science which is neatly compartmentalized in "IT" terms to his Right-Hand quadrants.

Now the clue to his misconception and utterly misleading way of attempting to deal with dynamic interactions is in the last sentence.

"the utterly rancid myth that the Right-Hand World alone is real"

What Ken is implying is that Right-Hand is real, but that it is not the only reality (because it ignores the other world of the Left-Hand).

So Ken's approach to integration is to compartmentalize Right-Hand and Left-Hand worlds, give them both a somewhat self-contained reality (which is utterly mistaken), and then attempt to achieve integration through the combination of these fragmented worlds.

From a dynamic perspective this is grossly in error. Empirical science is a holon. Therefore it necessarily entails all four quadrants. We cannot spilt up the quadrants arbitrarily therefore and identify them with specific holons (as Ken attempts to do).

This is like handing a person two (separate) flasks filled with  hydrogen and oxygen respectively and then claiming that they contain water!

"Does this sound like Collins' description of Wilber's view? Does this sound like someone who regards reality as independent of the 'interpreting mind'?"

I repeat that Ken's characteristic view of (empirical) science is that it is monological (which is based on the "myth of the given"). I am well aware that he has made other statements regarding its nature, which are not properly consistent with this view. But this is my very point i.e. that he is so inconsistent.

Let me quote a paragraph from "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" P. 146 to demonstrate my point.

"This can be put fairly simply: science approaches the empirical world with a massive conceptual appartus containing everything from tensor calculus to imaginary numbers to extensive intersubjective linguistic signs to differential equations - virtually all of which are nonempirical structures found only in interior spaces - and then it claims it is simply "reporting" what it "finds" out there in the "given" world - when in fact, all that is given is colored patches."

Firstly, this clearly points to the need for Left-Hand interpretation to give meaning to empirical scientific findings. However this is totally at odds with Ken's earlier emphatic statement.

"all sensorimotor objects and empirical processes and ITs can be seen with the monological gaze, with they eye of flesh."

So it is Ken who is here emphatically claiming that it (science) is simply "reporting" what it "finds" out there in the "given" world.

Secondly, once we admit the need for non-empirical structures to meaningfully interpret data, then (empirical) science can no longer be strictly monological.

Thirdly to be quite frank, Ken's attempt to argue that there are intrinsic (exterior) objective features to reality i.e. "colored patches", free of the need for conceptual structures, borders on the incredible.

Does he not realize that perceptions of "colored patches" are experientially meaningless without being related to corresponding interpretative concepts?

In other words, without corresponding concepts there can be no meaningful perceptions.

He has in fact stated his monological position in extreme fashion on several occasions.

I refer to these in my article.

"A true humanistic psychology is based upon processes of intersubjective understanding and recognition about which quantum mechanics has not a single thing to say, not even vaguely, not even remotely. But by all means let us base our humanism be based on this power driven monologue with rocks".

Also in speaking about new paradigms of science including various aspects of quantum physics, relativistic physics, cybernetics, dynamical systems theory, autopoiesis,

"But they are all without exception monological to the core."

So quantum mechanics is labeled as monological. This is Ken's view here, which he asserts strongly against anyone who might deem otherwise and which is quite inconsistent with his own "milder" statements.

However the view that quantum mechanics is monological is again strictly inaccurate. Quantum mechanical "objects" do not have simple location (as Ken asserts for all empirical processes). Also it is not strictly possible to separate - as for example in the light experiments - the observer from what is observed. Thus, by their very nature, such investigations are dialogical.

Indeed strictly speaking all scientific observations are dialogical. Of course one can attempt - as Ken does - to give an interpretation of scientific processes as "monological" but this in truth is inaccurate. So when it comes to reduced interpretations of the scientific process, I am afraid to say that based on these statements Ken Wilber is a leading proponent.

When for example we observe a rock it necessarily belongs in experiential terms to all four quadrants (not just the UR as in Ken's quadrant approach).

So in the experience of the rock we have the (exterior) observed rock in relation to the (interior) observer of the rock. Likewise we have the interior (observer) in relation to the observed (exterior) rock.

Also we cannot form the mental perception of an (individual) rock without its corresponding (collective) concept, so again we have the individual in relation to the collective (and collective in relation to individual) through the dynamic interaction of the perception with its corresponding concept (and concept with perception).
In other words the rock dynamically embraces all four quadrants.

Now in conventional scientific translation, there is a collapse of quadrants in terms of each other which freezes dynamic interaction.
So when collapse the Left to Right we maintain that the (interior) recognition does not change the (exterior) object.

When we collapse the Right to Left we maintain that the (exterior) object does not affect the (interior) interpretation.
Likewise when we collapse the Lower to the Upper quadrant we maintain that the conceptual construct does not alter the corresponding empirical fact. Finally, when we collapse the Upper to the lower, we maintain that the empirical fact does not alter its conceptual construct.

So in terms of a more accurate interpretation of scientific experience, all four quadrants are necessarily involved for any empirical observation. However dynamic interaction is not considered relevant, so that opposite quadrants are viewed to correspond directly with each other.

So for example a scientist will expect the data to correspond directly to what is predicted by a corresponding "good" theory. Likewise "good" data will be expected to form the basis for explanatory theories (that directly correspond with the data).

So the real problem with conventional science (both empirical and theoretical) is that dynamic interaction as between opposite quadrants is frozen out of formal interpretation.

This is why I am so critical of Ken's four quadrant approach. The very way in which they are envisaged is so lacking in dynamism that it helps to perpetuate the very limitations of the (conventional) scientific worldview.

Ken certainly wants to recognize monologic, dialogic and translogical domains. However the big difficulty is that he conceives of these domains in a largely non-interactive fashion. And because he (wrongly) identifies empirical science as necessarily monological, he tends to maintain it in a straightjacket not allowing it to acquire more accurate interpretations.
I strongly disagree with this stance. It is not based on a proper recognition of experiential dynamics and is ultimately untenable.

"In fact Wilber would agree with a good portion of what Collins says. Indeed, a rock, although assigned to the UR from a monological perspective, can be seen to have, from a dialogical perspective, aspects of all quadrants. Indeed, a rock cannot be separated as only an UR phenomenon. Indeed, it has a UL, LL and LR component. How can Collins have missed Wilber's meaning?"

But Ken clearly does attempt to separate it as an UR phenomenon. This is why he brands the study of all empirical processes as monological and defines them in terms of "IT" Right-Hand quadrant understanding.

One might say that Ken finds himself between a rock and a hard place in trying to maintain the monological nature of empirical processes (as dictated by his fragmented view of the quadrants) while also trying to avoid the "myth of the given" in its crudest form.

Quite simply, once we accept that a rock belongs (dynamically) in experience to all quadrants, then empirical processes are no longer monological. Again it is quite inaccurate to try and identify it with just one quadrant.

This reduced interpretation requires acceptance - as we have seen - of the philosophically naïve notion that empirical data can have meaning without mental interpretation (which Ken would identify as Left-Hand)

The fact is that we can give a wide variety of explanations for the experience of an empirical object as a rock.

The crudest interpretation - which corresponds with Ken's extremely expressed version of the monological stance - is that empirical meaning can be conveyed through the (exterior) senses without the need for corresponding mental interpretation.

A more sophisticated position would still concentrate on the (exterior) object perception while accepting the need for background conceptual interpretation (which however is not deemed to dynamically interact with the object). Thus the conceptual interpretation is here considered neutral with respect to the observed phenomenon.

As we have seen, Ken also adopts this position in certain statements, while still trying to maintain - in as most unconvincing manner - that sense objects still can have an exterior objective meaning (without the need for mental interpretation).

A more advanced position still - while still remaining at the level of analytic understanding - is to recognize a double correspondence as between object perceptions and mental concepts.

So from one stance we start with the object perception, which attracts, as it were, the corresponding mental interpretation (induction); alternatively we could start with the mental concept and seek to explain the object perception (deduction). So when we collect empirical data in the hope of generating a hypothesis we are conforming to the former; when we devise a theory and then seek data to explain (in the light of the hypothesis) we are conforming to the second.

Strictly speaking these two positions are dialogical (though in a very limited non-interactive sense). Also they would invalidate Ken's monological stance (either in its extreme or mild form). For now, theoretical concepts are no longer directly wedded to empirical observations, but can be developed independently to a degree (though later successfully applied to empirical theory).

Relativistic physics for example originated as an interpretative framework that has been successfully applied to empirical data. So in Ken's terms it primarily relates to the Left-Hand quadrants, representing primarily a cognitive interpretative framework for certain types of empirical observations. This would be - more properly - dialogical in Ken's terms (though he tries to label it as monological).

The most refined analytic position would accept that each polarized explanation has a mirror image explanation (that is opposite in direction).

Thus for example the (exterior) recognition of a rock (in relation to observer) has a corresponding mirror image (interior) existence of observer (in relation to a rock) that is diametrically opposite.

This would imply - in Ken's terms - that all "IT" understanding has corresponding "I" and "we" mirror interpretations. (However it is not envisaged in his treatment of the four quadrants).

This then paves the way for truly interactive understanding where opposite poles are viewed in dynamic complementary terms. This synthetic understanding is the basis for true integral interpretation.

Therefore it is now understood in experience that the (exterior) recognition of a rock interacts with the (interior) observer and the (interior) observer with the (exterior) rock so that the experience of both is altered. Also the (collective) concept interacts with - and thereby changes - the (individual) perception and likewise the (individual) perception changes the (collective) concept.

So the experience of the rock is now dialogical (in a true dynamic interactive sense).

As this dynamic interaction increases, the dualistic nature of the observation is greatly eroded so that it can now reveal its inherent spiritual light. At this point the experience of the rock becomes genuinely translogical.

So when a mystic looks at the rock, the translogical dimension is likely to be quite pronounced though it will necessarily interpenetrate with other interpretations (dialogical and monological).

My own position on science would be quite distinct from Ken's. I start with experience, recognizing that the actual dynamics of (narrow) scientific understanding are not at all accurately represented by conventional interpretation.

To put it mildly, it provides a most misleading explanation of the overall scientific process (which is inherently dynamic).

So my concern is to provide a more accurate translation of this dynamic process, which provides the appropriate context for viewing the nature and limitations of more reduced explanations.

In fairness to Ray, from earlier remarks, he does go some way to recognizing the true dynamic nature of scientific activity, though in attempting to criticize my position, he overlooks the grave deficiencies in Ken's approach.

Of course I would share his concern (i.e. Ken's) at the pronounced tendency in the scientific community to reduce all meaning to the narrow confines of the conventional paradigm (though I would not accept his unduly narrow interpretation of this paradigm).

However unlike Ken, I strongly believe that (narrow) science need not necessarily be limited in this manner and that a wide range of distinctive interpretations are possible (that extend beyond the conventional model). Furthermore in terms of experiential understanding, these other interpretations are often strongly in evidence (at least in an implicit manner).

Therefore once again, it is quite inaccurate for Ken to label - say - quantum mechanics as necessarily monological.

Even if we accept that the reduced formal explanation can be (inaccurately) referred to as monological, a person's actual understanding can entail - sometimes to a marked degree - "higher" dialogical and even translogical elements. So we have to carefully distinguish the dynamic process of understanding from reduced formal interpretations (which in several comments Ken so singularly fails to do). 1

The fact again is that the scientific experience - especially among the most gifted proponents - can involve monological, dialogical and translogical elements (in mutual interpenetration) to a significant degree. The problem is that limited formal interpretation restricts this to monological or - more accurately - rigid dialogical explanation.

Take Albert Einstein for example! His great insights came from the wonder he had in nature (which he recognized as the most important factor). Now this was clearly related to the translogical aspect of experience.

The intuitions which sprung from this faith in ultimate order, then enabled him to formulate his explanatory theories.

As they were designed as interpretative models for explaining empirical data, they would be dialogical in Ken's terms.

Finally in order to achieve conclusive evidence for his theories, relevant empirical data was sought (monological).

The problem therefore is that conventional understanding is not adequate to explain the true nature of the overall scientific process.

The proper attitude it seems to me is not to try and straightjacket this process as all that is possible but rather to develop more comprehensive dynamic explanations that can more readily incorporate interactive dialogical and translogical dimensions.

So my own view of Integral Science is deliberately designed as an appropriate intellectual translation that is consistent with the incorporation of such interactive dialogical and translogical domains.

Though we can never directly identify phenomenal translation - however refined - directly with the contemplative experience, indirectly the appropriate translation can be consistent with such experience and even act as a considerable catalyst towards spiritual transformation.

However Ken Wilber never gets to grips with this important issue. Though he emphasizes monological, dialogical, and translogical domains he does so in a largely non-interactive sense (where they are viewed as separate).

However from an experiential perspective it is most important to recognize their interdependence and to provide the means of coming to terms with their mutual interpenetration.

"In addition Collins wants to introduce a third, diagonal line to upgrade the quadrant system to an eight sectorial system. This third line is a polarity between the logic of form (linear) and the logic of emptiness (circular). Which, according to my view is actually represented by the movement from the center to the extremities. Form, at its most dense, is pure matter, which is the centre. The experience of Emptiness (Spirit) is the outer extremity.

However, Collins is actually talking about something different. Collins' circular logic is his name for the mental gymnastics we have analysed above. It is the process of combining his false dichotomies. But, as we have argued, they are 'false' dichotomies. They are the products of his strange imagination. Therefore there is no Collinsian 'circular' logic, so there can be no third 'diagonal' line and no eight sectorial system."

Quite honestly I find Ray's attempts to continually deny the extremely important nature of polar opposites in experience to be somewhat incomprehensible.

The very nature of dualism springs from the fundamental existence of such opposites (where they are separated). By the same token the nondual refers to the complementary situation where they are fully united.

If Ray has read Ken Wilber he will see the considerable emphasis he also places on dualisms (e.g. "The Spectrum of Consciousness"). So my argument with Ken is not regarding the recognition of such opposites but rather their appropriate intellectual translation (especially in an integral sense).

Ken's Right and Left-Hand quadrants are based on a specific example of - what I refer to as - horizontal polarities (e.g. exterior/interior).

His Upper and Lower quadrants are based again on a specific example of what I refer to as vertical polarities (e.g. individual/collective).

My central criticism of Ken's treatment of the four quadrants is that he effectively analyses them with respect to one logical system (i.e. where opposites are separated).

I would strongly argue that an integral approach is based directly on the alternative system where opposites are viewed as dynamically complementary. Therefore the intellectual translation of quadrant synthesis requires circular bi-directional understanding.

In addition to horizontal and vertical polarities, I include diagonal. These are based on the fundamental form/emptiness polarity.

Now Ken actually recognizes this as the fundamental polarity (though it is not incorporated directly into his quadrant system). So much for Ray's charge of "false" dichotomies!

As regards Ray's allegation of my strange imagination, let me briefly say the following!

Quantum Mechanics has proven to be the most successful theory ever in Physics.

However, Quantum Mechanics initially appeared extremely strange to those trained to look at reality through Newtonian concepts. However few doubt today its great importance and its practical findings have transformed the technological world we inhabit.

I have developed my approach to deal with extremely important issues that have not yet been addressed. So perhaps it sometimes takes "strange" imagination to deal with problems that others do not properly recognize!


1.  This dynamic interpretation of science is in turn related to the dynamic (circular) interpretation of the pre/trans fallacy.

This establishes complementarity as between the structural features of each "lower" level and its corresponding "higher" level.

This entails that when we move to exploration of the "lower" sub-atomic levels of matter that it requires the understanding of the corresponding "higher" level to meaningfully unravel its nature.

Thus the paradoxical nature for example of relationships of quantum mechanics require corresponding subtle bi-directional cognitive interpretation that is associated with "higher" level understanding.

Of course one can attempt to understand quantum mechanics in a merely unambiguous analytic fashion (according to the understanding of the rational "middle" level). However its non-intuitive findings will then not be meaningful in philosophical terms.

Ken Wilber's oft asserted view that empirical science is necessarily monological is far too extreme and indeed quite inaccurate from a dynamic perspective.

It is hugely ironical that in some respects he can be accused of having a more reductionist view of (narrow) science that those he so often criticizes for attempting to draw meaningful parallels as between the world of science and mysticism.

Of course I would strongly agree that scientific understanding (however subtle) cannot substitute for direct spiritual experience and. I would readily accept that many of the more "sensationalist" attempts at establishing the "new" paradigm are spiritually very immature and could do more harm than good. However - having said this - there is not a simple either/or situation in relation to both worlds as Ken tends to imply.

Once again in dynamic terms all forms of understanding monological, dialogical (rigid and interactive) and translogical necessarily interpenetrate. Therefore scientific understanding - though it cannot directly substitute for spiritual experience - can however (when properly interpreted) act as a considerable catalyst in attaining that experience.

So I think that in the desire shown by some able scientists to establish closer links as between the scientific and mystical domains, Ken is missing a great opportunity in not appreciating the dynamic links between these realms. With such appreciation, well intentioned scientists with a spiritual orientation might well be encouraged to widen their very interpretation of the nature of science to include integral (as well as analytic understanding).

And a true integral appreciation of science - with a coherent relationship to spiritual experience - is so urgently needed in our very fragmented world.

However this will in turn require a radical reformulation of the pre/trans fallacy to meaningfully reflect the dynamic interactive nature of experience.