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A Theory of Moral Objectivity (Chapter 5 - The psychological basis of the Middle Way)

By Robert M. Ellis, originally written as a Ph.D. thesis 'A Buddhist theory of moral objectivity' in 2001. This html version copyright 2008.

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This page contains the whole of Chapter 5. However, the sections can also now be viewed on separate pages by clicking the links below:

5a: Introduction to Part 2 of the thesis and Chapter 5

5b: Integration and desire (including the role of frustration and papanca/proliferation)

5c: Integration and meaning (ways of adapting and going beyond Wittgensteinian views of language)

5d: Integration and belief (including the roles of doubt and confidence)

5e: Integrative practices (including meditation practices, symbols and friendship)

5f:  Temporary and permanent integrations (including discussion of dhyana, stream entry and enlightenment)

 

PART 2: AN ACCOUNT OF NON-DUALISM

 

At other times… the Khan was seized by fits of euphoria. He would rise up on his cushions, measure with long strides the carpets spread over the paths at his feet, look out from the balustrades of the terraces to survey with dazzled eye the expanse of the palace gardens lighted by the lanterns hung from the cedars.

“And yet I know,” he would say, “that my empire is made of the stuff of crystals, its molecules arranged in a perfect pattern. Amid the surge of the elements, a splendid hard diamond takes shape, an immense, faceted, transparent mountain. Why do your travel impressions stop at disappointing appearances, never catching this implacable process? Why do you linger over inessential melancholies? Why do you hide from the emperor the grandeur of his destiny?”

 

Italo Calvino, InvisibleCities

 

 


 

5.     The psychological basis of the Middle Way

 

O Lady! We receive but what we give,

And in our life alone does nature live:

Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud!

And would we aught behold, of higher worth,

Than that inanimate cold world allowed

To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd,

Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth

A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud

Enveloping the Earth –

And from the soul itself must there be sent

A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,

Of all sweet sounds the life and element!

                        S. T. Coleridge: “Dejection: An Ode”

 

a)      Introduction

 

i)                    Outline of method in Part 2

 

Whilst Part 1 aimed to clearly differentiate non-dualism and the Middle Way from existing Western approaches to ethics, and to show the necessity for non-dualism by indicating the failure of dualism, Part 2 now aims to provide a more systematic account of non-dualism. Its main method will thus be descriptive rather than argumentative, for the main argument has already been provided, with only further illustrative material now being required. An argument involves the assertion of one claim over another with the provision of supporting evidence, but the main assertion, with the negative evidence, has already been provided. By itself, however, Part 1 would be largely only a critical work, containing only broad hints as to the positive nature of non-dualism, and might be subject to the kind of criticism I have levelled at philosophers such as Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, of offering a far stronger critical attack on existing views than positive exposition of any alternative.  Without a coherent account of the alternative, then, the argument would be incomplete. It would still be open to accusations of being an empty doctrine, and the strengths of its links with Buddhist practice would remain unclear.

 

Part 2 thus offers an exposition of a positive alternative to dualism: which is the Middle Way as an incremental expression of non-dualism. The claims of this account to (pragmatic) truth are based on its heuristic value, which combines theoretical coherence, the foundational appeal to a recognition of the unknown, and practical applicability. This heuristic value includes both a theoretical and a practical component: it provides an epistemology which enables an individual to work out a pragmatic non-dualist truth, but also a practice (or a description of a type of practice) which enables the incremental verification of the epistemology as well as the practical development of virtue and ethical judgement.

 

The structure of the account that I shall give of non-dualism mirrors that of dualism, in that the psychological basis will first be put forward in order to provide a tool for the subsequent resolution of philosophical questions. This is not intended to imply that the psychology and philosophy are independent of each other or that the dependence is only that of philosophy on psychology and not also vice-versa: rather the two are interdependent and provide complementary methods of approaching the same problems. The prior exposition of the psychology is dictated more by the ultimate philosophical focus of this book, together with my claim that the philosophical problems of ethics can only be resolved through the heuristic use of the psychological model I put forward, requiring it to be understood first.

 

An initial chapter on the psychology of non-dualism (chapter 5) will thus be followed by three philosophical chapters. The first of these (chapter 6) deals with the philosophical correlates of the psychological approach offered in chapter 5, suggesting the philosophical beliefs which enable the integration of ego and psyche. Chapter 7 then explains the relationship between non-dualist normativity and established dualist claims. Chapter 8 then provides support for the claim that non-dualism can be practically applied as an ethics by offering a more practically-oriented account of the application of the psychology and philosophy that have been developed. 

 

This account has been inspired mainly by the Buddhist tradition, and particularly by the work of Sangharakshita, but it is offered in a rather different form. Because its claims to truth are based on its heuristic value rather than the foundational appeal to authorities, it will make reference to sources (Buddhist or non-Buddhist) only where this helps to illumine the content of the theory itself, or where the obvious source of an idea needs to be credited. At some points my account may quite closely parallel traditional Buddhist expositions, but I shall avoid simply following the traditional Buddhist doctrinal form (whilst acknowledging the parallel in footnotes) in an effort to prevent unnecessary orientalism and stress the universally accessible nature of the theory.

 

ii)                  The Middle Way in Western thought

 

Before I launch into this account, perhaps some explanation will be required as to why my account of non-dualism does not parallel the historical approach offered in my accounts of eternalism and nihilism. Why not offer a similar, but more positive, history of the unfolding of the Middle Way in Western thought?  Several reasons can be offered for not doing this. One is that to some extent it has already been done in the account of dualism: in differentiating what is dualist in the thought of the figures and movements I have discussed, I was also simultaneously and complementarily differentiating what was non-dualist. The history of dualism is also, conversely, the history of non-dualism. If a list of thinkers were to be gathered which I believe to be more fully expressive of non-dualism than those I have discussed as dualists, I would probably end up discussing almost exactly the same issues, since to bring out their non-dualism I would need to differentiate it from their dualism. Identifying a list of “non-dualist” thinkers would also provide support for the tendency I have criticised in the past two chapters (particularly evident in the Existentialists and in Schopenhauer) to superficially appropriate the idea of non-dualism and apply it substantively to theories which can be seen to be still largely dualist when understood in their full psychological and historical context, since such figures would almost inevitably also have dualist elements in their thought. All the figures I have already discussed are in fact non-dualist thinkers as well as dualist ones: the non-dualism of the account consists in understanding the value of their contributions on an incremental scale between dualism and non-dualism.

 

A historical account of non-dualism would also not serve the same useful purpose that was served by my historical account of dualism, in identifying and criticising a range of dualist theories and their psychological correlates. In identifying the range of historical dualist theories, we indirectly identify many current psycho-philosophical influences in a modern Western context. But there is no similar range of diverse non-dualist theories, since a non-dualist theory as I have defined it (in 2.c.ii) is distinguished from a dualist one by its recognition of the limitations of theory. There is thus fundamentally only one non-dualist theory for any given context which fulfils this criterion systematically, promoting recognition of the unknown in every respect. A historical account of non-dualism would thus offer little more than a straightforward non-historical account might do, since even if an appropriate non-dualist approach can be identified in a particular historical context, it might well be inappropriate or uninformative to the modern context.   The historical  elements would thus be extraneous rather than useful in identifying the full influence and implications of the views under discussion.

 

Nevertheless it must be admitted that my historical account of dualism in chapters 3 and 4 does little justice to some of the major contributions made by some Western thinkers to our understanding of non-dualism. Some major omissions are of figures not regarded as “philosophers”: literary figures such as Goethe, Blake, or George Eliot, and the psychoanalytic tradition, particularly Jung. However, it should become clearer in the course of the following account what sort of relationship I envisage existing between a non-dualist approach and aesthetic cultivation on the one hand and psychoanalysis on the other, providing at least some basic materials for an understanding of the contribution of these figures.

 

iii)                Introduction to chapter 5

 

To turn, then, to the main purpose of providing a (non-historical) account of non-dualism, I shall begin by outlining my approach in this chapter.

 

In the psychology of dualism offered in chapter 2, the psychological conflict which creates dualism was explained in terms of the separation of the ego from the remainder of the psyche. This separation is created and reinforced by reliance on rational dualisms, since in each case one pole of a dualism is identified with by the ego, whilst the other is rejected, thus creating a mechanism by which desires which are not currently incorporated into the ego can be rejected. My main purpose in this chapter will be to show ways in which this egoistic process of dualism can be incrementally overcome: a process I shall describe as integration.

 

Part 1 should already have provided some indications as to how integration can be achieved, primarily by showing what sorts of methods do not work. Unsuccessful methods involve alienation, whereby the ego attempts to identify directly with the psyche beyond itself but instead only narrows its field of identification to an idea of this “other”, or hedonism, whereby the ego becomes satisfied with its immediate identifications and does not attempt to extend them, or a combination of the two whereby a sphere of hedonism is defended by alienation at other points. Clearly, then, a successful integrative strategy must avoid both these pitfalls, by promoting both identification with the ego and its extension to include the rest of the psyche.

 

At once, though, this formula plunges us back into epistemological considerations. How do we know how to achieve the tenuous and difficult balancing that this implies? How can the extension be known to be more than another narrow egoistic idea? How can identification with the ego transcend mere hedonism? There are no general answers to these questions, but only incremental and provisional ones which appear in the detail of any account of integrative practices. It is the restriction of these questions (or their philosophical correlates dealing with the self, knowledge and reason) to generalised and abstract philosophical contexts of thought which maintain the apparently inevitable dualism with which most philosophers have treated the subject. However, an understanding of the ways in which practice may be able to overcome these epistemological problems can only be achieved by the provisional exploration of a psychological model, leading on in turn to experimentation with practice itself.

 

For the remainder of this chapter, then, it will be necessary to largely put these epistemological problems aside, so that they can be returned to with more insight in chapter 6. Instead I will be describing the general nature of the process of integration itself, how it can be achieved through integrative practices, and what sort of effects can be hoped for from such practices.

 

To begin with I shall be considering three major areas in which integration, or its absence, are evident: desire, meaning and belief. My claim that all these areas are interdependent should provide a unifying psychological focus for various scattered arguments in part 1 about the limitations of dualistic treatments of these three areas. In each of these three cases I shall attempt to indicate what sort of psychological conditions lead both to the absence of integration and to its development. This then creates the basis for an account of integrative practices which work in all of these areas to varying extents. Finally, I shall be attempting to clarify what sort of results may be expected from the practice of integration, which includes making the crucial distinction between temporary and permanent integrations which provides the basis for distinguishing between aesthetic and moral values.

b)      Integration and desire

i)                    Frustration[1]

 

Desire and its nature is the starting point of the psychological model I am using here, as already indicated in chapter 2. Desires are taken to be the most fundamental constituents of the psyche, capable of organising themselves into communities of interest in a similar fashion to the way in which the body is described in biological terms as a community of cells. Such a reductive explanation of desires is not necessarily scientistic because it does not necessarily involve the adoption of such “fundamental psychic constituents” as a privileged level of explanation which assumes the self does not exist. Instead it can be used as a provisionally-adopted tool to enable us to understand how egoistic understandings of desire (and similarly, of meaning and belief) can be transcended, since both the ego and the psyche can provide forms of explanation which each serve the function of revealing the limitations of the other.

 

As explained in chapter 2, communities of desires may be seen as forming in relation to particular ends, because these ends are more easily achievable through an association in which the energies associated with each separate desire are pooled to contribute towards the achievement of some commonly acceptable end. Whilst the totality of particular desires associated with a particular individual form a psyche, those more immediately engaged with a particular end form the ego: a federation within a confederation. The ego employs rational dualities as a means of prioritising and achieving its goals, for the resistance it meets in achieving them can only be achieved by the effective subjugation of the psychological interference created by any desires which have not been recruited to the current focus of the ego. By concentration of the desire available all the mental and physical resources of the individual can thus be mobilised to achieve the goal.

 

But what is the goal, and when has it been achieved? This is also a matter for definition by the ego, which interprets the indefinite impressions of the senses in terms that are structured by the requirements of its desires. Fundamentally, this means that it understands the world in terms of objects, because it is only discrete objects (whether concrete or abstract) which can be readily made into goals of action and accepted or rejected as part of the means to a particular goal[2]. For example, perhaps I set off to walk to the station. To get to the station is my goal, and thus I experience my environment primarily as a route. I accept one route as quicker and reject another. Perhaps on my way I may be diverted by other goals, and start to experience the street, not as a route but as a place for looking at flowers in people’s gardens or meeting people, but if I remain strongly focussed on my goal I will experience the street only as a means of reaching the station, and a slow old man who walks in front of me, blocking the pavement and slowing me down, will be an obstacle for impatient rejection. If I am in a particular hurry I will be forced by my more specific goal (of reaching the station in time) to subjugate other goals (such as looking at flowers) to the main one. When I reach the station, I will have achieved my goal as defined by the ego, of reaching the station, but I will not have achieved the subjugated goals, such as looking at flowers. It is only because I have structured my conception of my activity in a particular way that I can claim to have been “successful” and achieved “what I wanted”.

 

But from the viewpoint of the whole psyche, I have failed to fulfil my desires whenever I achieve an egoistically-defined objective through the subjugation of other desires. The objects of the other desires, which may have briefly appeared in my consciousness or remained unconscious, remain unfulfilled. It is this egoistically-defined contrast between the satisfaction of the ego and the dissatisfaction of the remainder of the psyche that I will call frustration. It accounts for two common experiences which at first sight may appear contradictory: the feeling of satisfaction at having achieved something, and the feeling of dissatisfaction which may subsequently appear as our identifications gradually shift away from the initial objective. Although we wanted the thing, when we get it, it turns out not to be quite as we envisaged. For this reason we are frustrated in our continual search for satisfaction, for no other reason than that the desires which activate that search do not remain dominant[3].

 

The whole notion of satisfaction is thus a function of the ego, defined against a repressed dissatisfaction. Likewise the egoistic dissatisfaction with a rejected object can only be defined against a repressed satisfaction: when I give the old man in my way an impatient shove I subdue the desire I also have to recognise him as a fellow human being and act in a more friendly fashion. It would thus be dualistic to think of either satisfaction or dissatisfaction as complete explanations of the outcome of my desire-processes, but more accurate to think of them as constantly frustrated by the limitations of the ego. Within the terms of the ego, I can be satisfied, but given the dualistic nature of those terms, I cannot.

 

The relationship between desire, satisfaction and consciousness also needs clarification. If the ego is a federation of desires adopting dualising tools in the attempt to achieve satisfaction, consciousness can be understood as one of those tools, understood primarily as the method by which we concentrate effectively on objects in order to manipulate them and obtain objectives. Consciousness itself is not necessarily dualising, however, but rather consists in a vaguely-defined sphere of attention[4]. We can be conscious, unconscious, or semi-conscious of particular objects, and it is the manipulating identification of objects which usually attends consciousness (and is dependent on it), rather than the process of awareness itself, which introduces the dualising tendency. Some indication of this can be gained from our capacity to be conscious of vague “objects” which we have not yet individuated.

 

One of the advantages of this account of desire and consciousness is that it does not introduce a discontinuity between animals or infants and  mature human beings (just as it also avoids discontinuity between more and less morally developed human beings). Animals also have consciousness, which enables them to focus on their objectives: even if they do not use representational language as a tool to manipulate the objects of their environment, they nevertheless have dualistic responses of selection and rejection. Popper writes, for example, of the selectivity of a cat’s eye as it scans its environment for objects relevant to its survival[5]. Animals, too, we may surmise, thus have egos, and have evolved the strategy of subjugating some desires to others: a evolutionary explanation of this suggesting that this improves the chances of survival and thus being a quality bred by natural selection[6]. Conceptualisation (as I shall elaborate in the next section) is merely a sophisticated development of this selective tendency. Animals are thus also subject to frustration, since even between simple needs which are necessary for survival and propagation there may be some conflict and need for subjugation. Among many examples of “frustration” in the more everyday sense, which we take to be due purely to external conditions, there are examples of this. Thus a cat which has adopted an “owner” as an effective survival strategy (since this person regularly provides food) is left mewing piteously one day when the owner is absent at the usual feeding-time. Here the cat’s overriding survival strategy (the relationship with the human being) conflicts with its immediate one (the desire for food). It may take a while before the cat gives up and goes off to look for food elsewhere: at which point the dominant desire will have shifted from food provided by the human being to other sources of food. Whilst the cat remained certain of its usual source of food, it may even have rejected other sources which confronted it.

 

In the case of a creature which does not yet have any discriminating ability, and is thus entirely passive in dependence upon its environment, however, we can safely say that no ego has yet developed and thus no frustration is possible. Similarly, however, no psyche has developed in the sense of a totality of desires, for no desires can be taken to yet exist. Such a creature is pre-egoistic, for it has not yet developed the capacity to be either integrated or unintegrated: an example of this may be an embryo or foetus (human or animal) in its mother’s womb[7]. Without the initial development of desires (as I shall explain further later on in this section) no integration is possible. A pre-egoistic state must thus not be confused with a post-egoistic state of complete integration, since although both share the characteristic of the absence of frustration, the presence of integrated desire in the latter gives it an entirely different experience and role to the completely undifferentiated state of consciousness in the former, since the integrated being has developed the practical capacities of the psyche to their furthest point[8], whilst the pre-egoistic being has not developed them at all.

 

ii)                  Papañca as evidence of frustration

 

Some of the clearest evidence for the presence of frustration in our experience can come from meditation, even of the simplest and most prefatory kind. A very simple mental experiment can be attempted even by those with no experience of meditation: sit still, close your eyes and attempt to hold your attention on one simple object for a few minutes. The only qualification for the “simplicity” of this object is that it must not be of any immediate relevance to any further purpose in which you feel currently interested, so this probably means that it should not have much conceptual or sensual complexity (at least at first glance). Traditional examples of such objects are a coloured disc, a candle flame or the breath[9]. Unless you have experience of meditation or are otherwise unusually concentrated, your attention will probably wander within a few minutes. Either through a chain of associations beginning with the object, or through distraction from it to a matter of more habitual concern, you will find yourself thinking about something else.

 

The distracting influence is known in traditional Buddhist terminology as papañca, a term I leave untranslated because it can best be paraphrased as meaning “the flow of distracting mental influences”[10]. Papañca is the kind of obsessive flow of associated thoughts that we might particularly encounter when unable to sleep: often we cannot turn off the flow even when it goes against our intentions. Confusion can result, however, if we think of the experiencing self substantively, as something distinct from the papañca which we experience “against our will”: this merely institutes an hopeless dualism. A much more effective understanding of papañca can be gained from considering it as consisting simply in the changes of allegiance of desires. As we begin with an intention to maintain attention on the object of meditation, the ego identifies with this goal and subjugates other desires in order to do so. However, as the process  continues and no clearly identifiable goal appears in the process to attract and retain desires, they begin to desert the current focus. Habitual desires beyond this chief egoistic identification reassert themselves, and with their new allies win the day and take over the ego, so that they now have the power to divert attention elsewhere.

 

The experience of papañca, then, is a more closely-observable form of frustration. By turning the ego away from its usual objects of interest, the frustration encountered by any overriding  intention to maintain a particular focus of concentration is accelerated, so that its process can be observed within a shorter time-scale. Although the original intention may then return (indeed, we will not realise that our attention has wandered until we have re-experienced the original intention), this indicates merely another change in the allegiances of desires, which unceasingly flow one way and then another, like fickle children dashing between rival attractions at a funfair.

 

Analytic philosophers have understood this overriding rational intention in terms of a “second order” intention[11]. Such a distinct intention may indeed be said to exist somewhere in the psyche, in the form of the desire with which it is associated, even when it is no longer dominant. But the type of explanation which takes this intention to still be in some way dominant (because it is “mine”) but weakened (and thus present in “me” at the same time as the first order intention which has taken over), fails to explain in what sense this intention is still “mine” when I have no identification with it at all and am not even conscious of its existence[12]. The impersonal account of the ego and its frustration that I have offered here much more clearly explains the phenomena associated with papañca and other instances of “weakness of the will” without positing more than one order of desire or intention.

 

Nevertheless this account has no metaphysical justification. If the theory of frustration appears to consistently and coherently explain our experience, then this heuristic value is a starting point. Its pragmatic justification, however, arises from its capacity to account for moral prescription as well as descriptions of immediate psychological experience. It is through the possibility of overcoming frustration through integration that the former kind of justification arises, and it is to this that I now turn.

 

 

iii)                Integration of desires

 

The possibility of the integration of desires is probably the most crucial point on which the argument in this book stands or falls. A dualist may conceivably agree with my analysis of ego and psyche, but nevertheless maintain that they remain inevitably opposed. She might claim that frustration is simply a part of our lives to which we must resign ourselves. In one sense this is correct: it may well be the case that we will always experience some frustration. To claim otherwise would be merely speculative, since a life without frustration is so far beyond our experience that we have no way of reaching objectively justifiable beliefs about its possibility.

 

But this belief depends upon a dualistic approach which I have already identified, namely the dichotomisation of absolute and relative. Because of the impossibility of making an immediate step to an absolute moral position, or gaining an absolute epistemological guarantee, the dualist assumes that incremental progress is impossible, despite our widespread experience that it is possible. If the attainment of moral objectivity was a matter of reflecting the moral state of a universe beyond ourselves, we could indeed argue that our experience of progress could be wholly illusory: that we might be building a merely coherent picture which may be totally abolished by the next new paradigm. Yet the attainment of moral objectivity, consisting in the uniting of ego and psyche, is something we cannot be mistaken about in the same way, because each successive stage of integration brings with it new psychological experiences as the ego gradually extends itself. Although we could mistakenly believe that we have achieved greater integration when we have not, and we could likewise believe that others have done so when they have not, a significant actual achievement of greater integration changes the nature of our assessment of experience itself in a fashion which is unmistakable, by increasing the confidence (in the specific sense I shall explain in 5.d.iii) with which we approach it. This epistemological claim is one to which I shall give more support in chapter 6[13], but I go on now to describe its psychological basis.

 

The integration of the ego with the rest of the psyche occurs by the incremental extension of the ego. The ego thus remains the driving force, the seat of value throughout the process of integration, but it nevertheless must become open enough to understand its interests in terms of federation with opposed desires rather than conflict. The ego is thus not called upon at any point to deny itself or even to avoid its efforts to subjugate opposed desires: rather it reduces the intensity of the conflict by gradually incorporating more of the opposed desires into its federation.

 

The metaphor of the ego as walled city, which I have used previously[14], may be helpful here. The walled city does not give way to the opposed desires besieging it, but persuades them to join and throw in their lot with the ego. The walls of the city can then be demolished and rebuilt further out. The new walls will be lower and weaker, both because the remaining hostile forces are weaker, and because they are further from the city, so that the inhabitants will feel less threatened by a breach. The more friendship is cultivated with neighbouring groups, the more the inhabitants of the city can relax and prosper, even if there are still possible threats further away.

 

But this political metaphor does have its limitations. It might be assumed, for example, that, following the common political pattern, the besiegers can only be brought to throw in their lot with the city either by a compromise or by the ever-present threat of overwhelming force. In either case it is possible that the new allies could still feel resentful and remain unreliable: a scenario which is not consistent with the psychological account which the metaphor illustrates, where the feelings represented by the different desires are all at the same level and thus transparent. A feeling of resentfulness would manifest itself directly by the withdrawal of co-operation. It also needs to be borne in mind that the desires of the ego are constantly shifting, and the metaphor represents a consistent pattern in these shifts in the form of a stable alliance. Perhaps we have to imagine city walls which are constantly being re-manned by different bands of mercenaries with different strategies and priorities, only united by the shared belief that they must fight the adversary (even though some of them may have recently been in the adversary’s employ).

 

The key difference between a typical city-state and an ego, though, is that in the former case the issues fought over may be substantial, whereas in the latter the source of the conflict is nothing other than distrust. Once this distrust has been overcome, it turns out that both sides wanted the same things and the war was over nothing. To revert to my earlier example of walking to the station: it may appear that my egoistic desire to get to the station on time, and the opposed desire to look at flowers in people’s gardens, are irreconcilable. But if the desire to look at flowers is slightly generalised as a desire to look at beautiful objects, I may recruit those desires to support the need to get to the station on time by forming the intention to visit an art gallery later that day, after the appointment which I need to catch the train to fulfil is completed. If I am not so strongly inclined to repress my contrary desires, my desire to get to the station will also not need to be so narrowly focussed, and I may reflect that although it is desirable to catch such-and-such a train, catching the next one might not be quite so disastrous as initially thought. When the old man gets in my way I then might be a little more patient and civil. This example of integration is not merely one of compromise between desires, since I have actually become concerned for the needs expressed by the desire to look at flowers and to be friendly to the old man as well as those expressed by the desire to get to the station on time. The two desires have become genuinely unified, even if only temporarily.     

 

The example of the old man also indicates the way in which integration of desires is the key to altruism. I have already argued that not all our egoistic identifications are with ourselves as individuals in any case: a mother’s identification with her child, for example, may be just as egoistic as the self-interest of a young unattached businessman, given that each may be equally narrowly focussed on particular interests and opposed to what lies beyond those interests. However, it is also evident that our identifications do cluster around ourselves as individuals. Whilst in some cases the integration of desires may lead us to consider ourselves more rather than less, on the whole this clustering implies that altruism will increase roughly in proportion to integration.

 

Integration does not necessarily imply the overcoming of our mental[15], physical, or economic limitations and the effect this has on our capacity to help others, nor does it overcome the epistemological difficulty of knowing exactly what others’ needs are: these must therefore be clearly distinguished from the effects of integration. Nevertheless, where our representations of others lie outside the range of identification of the ego (which they very often do) integration will enable them to be included. We remain situated in space, time and social position, yet within those constraints an incremental extension of our identifications can break down conflicts with others, increasing friendliness and generosity (from the psychologically-conditioned point where we started), because our desires begin to incorporate the needs of others and take them into account. The actual desires of others remain, as far as we know, ultimately unreachable. We can form theories of the desires of others which gain increasing accuracy, confirmed by experience, but we cannot know their desires for certain or directly incorporate their desires into ours. However, by incorporating our representations of them into our range of identification we go as far in altruism as it is possible for finite beings to go.

 

The incorporation of altruistic desires into the extended ego, like the incorporation of other desires, does not result in a compromise so much as a resolution of aims between the represented self and the represented other. This is the distinction between the alienated altruism apparently offered by eternalism, in which the represented self must be sacrificed for the benefit of others or for the greater good, and the genuine altruism allowed by the extension of identification, in which the ends of others are understood as identical to one’s own. Just as in the example of walking to the station, the unification of two desires which are mainly concerned with myself (the desire for aesthetic pleasure and the desire to catch a train) are unified when each of the desires which are thus concerned become more broadly concerned with the greater whole, so desires concerned with my own interests (if these are clearly differentiable) become unified with my desires to serve others’ interests when each of these desires become similarly concerned with a broader end.

 

This “broader end” with its apparently fantastically open-ended aspiration towards universality of identification, becomes more credible when we consider that the actions which ensue from even the broadest of identifications will still be largely concerned with ones own existence, health and happiness as a human being. However broad ones identifications, one remains situated in a particular time and place and responsible for a particular tool which can be used to the common end: ones mind and body. Ones social and economic situation also place particular constraints on the activity which can ensue from altruistic identification: however great ones generosity, for example, one can only give away money, time or energy which one has left after fulfilling existing responsibilities (which may include meeting something of ones own desire for pleasure). Self-sacrifice is thus probably the worst possible model that could be adopted for intense altruism, a sign of disintegration rather than integration[16].

 

Highly integrated saints may thus be quite inconspicuous people (though not always). They may not be able to rush around performing acts of philanthropy of the more obvious kind, or may prefer to work in more subtle and long-term ways for the good of others. Conversely, high-profile altruists may be rather unintegrated, for example neglecting many areas of their own desires and allowing mental conflict to build up with disastrous long-term consequences. How exactly altruistic identification is related to effective judgement and ethical action is a major theme of the remainder of the book, but important components of the psychological basis of this discussion will be found in the next two sections, which deal with meaning and belief and the role that integration of each of these also has to play in moral objectivity.

 

c)      Integration and meaning

 

i)                    Meaning and desire

 

The introduction of meaning adds another level of complexity to the account offered in the previous section, providing further indications of its applicability. This level is also intermediate between questions of desire and belief and helps to clarify the nature of the relationship between them. My account thus follows a form parallel to the previous section, where I look first at the conditions creating a lack of integration, and then at what it might mean to work towards integration at the level of meaning. In order to lay the groundwork for this, though, I must first recall some of the features of the pragmatic theory of meaning I have already argued for in part 1, and also make clear how this pragmatic theory of meaning relates to the theory of desire I have outlined.

 

The most important elements of the pragmatic theory of meaning I advocate have already been outlined. In 2.c.ii I gave some account of the important theory offered by George Lakoff, which can form the basis of an alternative linguistic approach to meaning from the representationalist or expressivist one. This uses basic-level and kinaesthetic categories to relate an underlying encounter with meaning to our earliest encounters with phenomenal objects and with the sensations of our bodies, then explains more complex conceptualisations as deriving their meaning through the metaphorical extension of these basic-level linguistic categories. Further, in 4.e.iii I offered an account of meaning which overcomes Wittgenstein’s dichotomy between cognitive and affective meaning by suggesting breadth of experience as an incremental criterion of meaning which can be applied in both cognitive and affective contexts. The degree of meaningfulness of a piece of language to either communicator or recipient existed, I suggested, in proportion to either the length or the concentration of experience, or the combination of both, applied to it. Such a criterion can be applied to non-linguistic sources of meaning (e.g. instrumental music, a baby’s inchoate cry) as well as to linguistic ones.

 

This account of meaning, then, does not deny that meaning is often associated with representation or expression. However, an understanding of meaning purely in terms of one of these sets up an unnecessary and unhelpful dualism whereby the other must be rejected. Whilst a truly pragmatic account in effect does little more than put these two more limited accounts of meaning together, it also provides an overall rationale according to which both can be understood as accounts of meaning within a larger, inclusive framework. As I shall be arguing, this framework is another aspect of the aspiration for universality which addresses the egoistic limitations of more limited theories of meaning. The theory of meaning is thus ultimately a branch of ethics.

 

The first step in explaining this account is to link basic-level linguistic categories to basic-level desires. Whilst these are not to be simply equated, they do fulfil similar roles: each being heuristic tools to reveal the limitations of the more commonly assumed egoistic theories that their suggested existence challenges[17]. Whilst the device of basic-level desires as a theorisation of our experience counteracts the tendency to think of desires as functions of a pre-existent ego, likewise the device of basic level linguistic categories counteracts our tendency to think of meaning as a function of the ego, either in its subjective expression (expressivism) or its outward projection of a coherent set of representations (representationalism).

 

Basic-level linguistic categories are not, however, directly equivalent to basic level desires, but rather are tools used by desires in their drive to achieve their ends. In the case of basic-level objects, the identification of distinct objects and their meaningful association with language helps to serve an initial purpose, but after once being thus used the basic-level term is available to serve the ends of other desires beyond the one in relation to which it was first learnt. For example, once a child has learnt the word “banana” in relation to the desire for food, he can later make the link between an actual banana and a picture of a banana in a book: its later purposes for using this basic-level term in the new book-context may be to earn praise rather than to eat. Similarly with kinaesthetic categories, the linguistic identification of a type of physical sensation serves an initial purpose beyond which it is soon extended: a child who learns the meaning of “in” in the context of her mouth may shortly be able to extend it to a box.

 

How far is such extension possible? There seems to be no theoretical limit. As soon as a term starts to be used outside its original desire context, extension of its meaning has already begun. If we are to thoroughly rid ourselves of representationalist assumptions, there can be no point beyond which the extension of meaning starts to be “metaphorical”, because metaphor implies some contrast with a non-metaphorical original. Instead of defining metaphor in contrast with representation, then, it must be contrasted with its original desire-context. The child who identifies a banana in a picture is already dealing with a metaphorical banana. Such extensions continue from this point right through to the most abstract metaphorical extensions, such as the idea of “universality”. If “banana” first gains its meaning in relation to a particular desire to eat banana, “universality” gains its meaning from its function of serving the desire for unification of the psyche.

 

The meaning of a term thus extends as far as the desires that utilise that term for their furtherance. If we think of the proper units of linguistic meaning as being sentences, then sentences as a whole gain meaning from their function, but the particular words or expressions out of which the sentence is composed secondarily derive a new extension of meaning from their new context in the function of that sentence. Sentences are, in their turn, embedded in language-games within which their shared significance is understood, and in this respect they resemble other types of (non-linguistic) communication, all of which depend on conventions shared by communicator and recipient. Such shared conventions may be expressive or representative, but even in their most inchoate and undifferentiated form they fulfil a function which differentiates them from insignificant noises, sights, or otherwise sensed experiences. A baby’s cry serves an expressive function for the baby and a representative one for the parent (for whom it means something like “the baby wants attention”), neither of which would signify without the baby’s desire for attention or the parent’s desire to look after it. A more complex piece of communication (like this one) depends on shared extensions between writer and reader, and can succeed only to the extent that the current desires of writer and reader, whilst not exactly the same, can utilise the same extensions to fulfil their goals of communication and understanding.

 

Whilst much meaning is dependent on successful communication (because the desire which imparts meaning is a desire for communication), the relationship between communication and meaning is contingent because some uses of signs are fuelled by other sorts of desire: for example, to express, clarify or remind. As I have already argued in relation to “private” language[18], significant language is possible independent of publicly understood conventions because the self is not a fixed entity, and grounds for the defeasibility of meaning of a sign exist between the desires of a psyche, dependent on the breadth of experience which is applied to it (even if such defeasibility is in fact more likely in a public context). Defeasibility becomes possible wherever there is an expressive or representational function which may be more or less satisfactorily performed by sign, given its extensions. However, that function can be performed in any context where desires can utilise representation or expression in an attempt to attain satisfaction. Limiting himself to social contexts, Wittgenstein called these contexts “language games”, but there is no reason, once the meaningfulness of the expressive and non-linguistic has been allowed, why such contexts cannot be understood psychologically. A “private language”, if there is such a definable thing, exists in a language-game of its own, where the “players” consist in different desires utilising the same signs as a tool for satisfaction at different times. Even a social language game of the type Wittgenstein describes can be understood in similar terms: for it is not other people which provide defeasibility for my use of language (if I did not listen to them, a key condition for this would be lacking!) but rather my desire for others’ approval which leads me to be receptive to their use of language, or to represent to myself (in the form of a linguistic superego) what they would say. The contexts which provide defeasibility (which I shall call defeasibility contexts) are thus primarily psychological in nature, and depend on the relationship between desire and success in the function defined by the ego in the attempt to fulfil that desire. A defeasibility context, then, differs from the Wittgensteinian concept of a language-game only in its much greater inclusivity: the signs concerned may be expressive, non-linguistic and/or inchoate, and the context itself is a psychological one.

 

Defeasibility contexts are like sharpening rooms, where linguistic or non-linguistic signs can be honed to more effectively perform the task for which they have been adopted. They are also places for adaptation and bricolage, as an old tool is made sufficient for a new task through extension of its previous usage. A sign may be well-adapted in this way to a narrow purpose.

 

But defeasibility contexts also constrict the extension of a sign both in use and understanding. Used to one kind of defeasibility context which serves the purposes of the desires which dominate my ego, I am likely not to recognise the meanings which exist in other defeasibility contexts. Defeasibility contexts then become more clearly tools of the ego which enable the exclusion of other desires in the psyche, because those other desires are denied means of expression. I thus become habituated to particular kinds of defeasibility context: for example to representational or expressive, to one language rather than another, to one set of terms rather than another, to one preferred set of metaphors, to the dialect or jargon of one group rather than another. In failing to fully recognise the potential for meaning of the signs used in other defeasibility contexts we reinforce egoism.

 

In understanding defeasibility contexts in this way we can get over one problem which troubled Wittgenstein: that of the indeterminacy of language-games. Whilst Wittgenstein admitted that language-games were indeterminate, this appears inconsistent with the determinate boundary he places on meaning, which must be found within language-games. Psychologically understood, though, defeasibility contexts are determinate, having clear boundaries projected by the ego: for even though the sense of signs shared in a defeasibility context depends on a variety of uses by different desires, which are also constantly changing, the current extension forms a bound of sense beyond which signs are excluded from comprehension. We can recognise the indeterminacy of defeasibility contexts in general only as an abstract idea which we are inclined to egoistically appropriate, like the reality of frustration or any other idea coming from a universal perspective, and this appropriation leads (as in Wittgenstein’s case) to inconsistent application. The real indeterminacy of defeasibility contexts can be recognised only by extending defeasibility contexts themselves in parallel with the ego.

ii)                  The fragmentation of meaning

 

Just as integration of desires begins with an understanding of the frustration of desires, then, an understanding of integration of meaning begins with a recognition of the ways in which meaning is fragmented in the service of frustrated desires. As where the satisfaction of a desire is defined by the ego to the exclusion of other desires in the psyche, leading to the denial of frustration, so is the meaningfulness of the signs used in the process of fulfilling desires defined by their relationship to the success of those desires. Very often the suppressed desires in the remainder of the psyche remain mute, or their “language”, though entering into the sphere of our experience, is not understood.

 

As already suggested[19], the use of representational signs is not essential to an ego, as we can see a process of frustration at work even in animals. However, the inclusion of expressive language in the sphere of meaning indicates that even animals (or at least, those animals subject to frustration) are subject to the fragmentation of meaning, even if the signs they use, and the contrary desires those signs seem to indicate, are inseparable from their “behaviour” as we observe it. A cat that responds to my presence with a lashing tail is adopting a rather different strategy, reflecting rather different implicit desires with regard to me, than one that springs onto my lap with a purr. The “signs” here are merely part of behaviour developed to gain a particular end, but the same can be said of even the most complex representational language. Insofar as every cat with a lashing tail probably subjugates a purring one (and vice-versa), the cat’s signs can be said to be fragmented. Occasionally this can be directly observed in the form of a cat whose tail is lashing but who is purring at the same time.

 

This last example raises the issue of how far fragmentation of meaning is attributable to the observer and how far to the object of observation: it might be claimed that it is the human observer who experiences fragmentation of meaning in the cat’s ambiguous behaviour. It is generally assumed by dualism that this question must be resolved (even though the attempted resolution is inconclusive) before we can investigate such a matter further: so we have to distinguish issues of feline behaviour from matters of human psychology. But it is this very assumption that forces a fragmentation of meaning: in order to study feline behaviour “objectively” I have to ignore my own responses to the ambiguity of the object, which then gains two sorts of meaning, “scientific” and “subjective”. The alternative to this fragmentation is to accept our ignorance of the precise division between the cat and myself (without denying that there may be an independent cat) and simply draw conclusions about the ambiguity of the signs of the cat and myself. The apparent fragmentation of meaning in the cat may be attributable only to me, so the best I can do is theorise about the distinction without drawing premature conclusions, arguing that the fragmentation of meaning can be recognised and addressed in both its apparently subjective and its apparently objective forms, but only in relation to one another. The provisional attribution of independent egos to other beings will be justified only insofar as it may aid this process of integration: for example, if it appears that the cat shows an independent ambiguity in its behaviour it may help me to separate these instances from occasions when the ambiguity may be projected (such as when I begin to believe that genuine affection is mixed with its desire for food as it rubs itself against me at feeding time).

 

In our subjective experience, one of the most obvious manifestations of the fragmentation of meaning has become clearer as a result of the development of psychoanalysis from Freud onwards: namely the symbolism of dreams. The very fact that we find dreams disturbing, ambiguous and difficult to interpret is an indication of the rejection of their meaning on the part of the ego. The attempt to gain control of the meaning of dreams through fixed canons of interpretation is an ancient art, but one that, as Jung realised, vainly attempts to impose rationality on a medium of expression that is already outside a rational framework. As Jung wrote:

It is far wiser in practice not to regard dream-symbols semiotically, i.e. as signs or symptoms of a fixed character, but as true symbols, i.e. as expressions of a content not yet consciously recognised or conceptually formulated. In addition, they must be considered in relation to the dreamer’s immediate state of consciousness. I say this procedure is advisable in practice because in theory relatively fixed symbols do exist whose meaning must on no account be referred to anything known and formulable as a concept. If there were no such relatively fixed symbols it would be impossible to determine the structure of the unconscious, for there would be nothing that could in any way be laid hold of or described.[20]

 

Jung here recognises that although not rationally reducible, dreams are not wholly to be rejected as meaningless. Rather the process of understanding their meanings is a process of extending the defeasibility context with which we begin. Meaning in this case cannot be defined in terms of a single rational framework, but must extend beyond it, being understood in relation to the desires which the defeasibility context of dream symbology expresses rather than in relation to a coherent set of representations.

 

But how can we understand the meaning of a desire other than through representations? Only through feeling it. Here then, we encounter the inextricable relationship between the frustration of desire and the fragmentation of meaning, as between the integration of both desire and meaning. We can only understand the meaning of the symbology used by our subjugated psyche in dreams by actually feeling the desires which gave rise to that symbology. If we were to adopt a purely dualistic approach here, we would conclude that integrating the psyche and understanding dream-symbology are equally impossible, but again here we need to question the dualistic certainties and consult our experience of incremental progress in interrelated areas.

 

The fragmentation of meaning does not only reveal itself in dreams or other instances of unconscious behaviour, but perhaps more importantly in our incapacity to understand the signs of others. This can manifest itself in a spectrum of ways from my blindness to a vital point subtly suggested in conversation by a person I know well, to my complete incomprehension when listening to a conversation in a foreign language. In each of these cases, the extensions of the signs used or understood  by myself and by others are different in more subtle or in more obvious ways, and extension of meaning on my part could potentially (though not necessarily) enable me to understand what other people are saying.

 

Here differences in defeasibility context must be (inexactly) distinguished from differences in language. Often the two are coterminous, but they can also cut across each other (British astrophysicists may understand Russian astrophysicists better than some of their compatriots). Understanding of another language may not require much extension of my defeasibility context at all, because I may use that language to comprehend or communicate with people with a very similar defeasibility context to my own. Understanding people of a different social class, gender, sexuality, character type, profession or academic specialism may be much more challenging in requiring me to extend the range of what I consider meaningful. In some cases the cause of fragmentation here will be largely cognitive, in that I do not understand the terms of a language, the understanding of which would actually enable me to provide a tool for the satisfaction of desires which have hitherto remained unrecognised. In other cases it will be more clearly affective: I will understand the extension of the signs but have no interest in (or even a prejudice against) what is being communicated and will thus not apply my breadth of experience to it.

 

The fragmentation of meaning is thus the psychological correlate to themes which are often dealt with sociologically, such as conflict and prejudice, but where the grounds of the moral judgements applied are not made clear or are left implicitly dualistic. On this psychological account, prejudice can be understood as due to failure in breadth of experience, where this term covers both cognitive and affective elements of the comprehension of others.  The pejorative connotations of the term “prejudice” need to be supported, not by an inconsistent relativism, but by a recognition of the way in which prejudice manifests fragmentation of meaning, which itself perpetuates the lack of integration. In most cases prejudice is not the manifestation of a belief  which is opposed to moral objectivity, since beliefs cannot be opposed unless on grounds of shared meaning, but rather on the egoistic restriction of meaning to a particular sphere or defeasibility context. That they simply do not understand the objects of their prejudice accounts for the inability of the prejudiced to realise their prejudice.

 

Perhaps no institution illustrates the fragmentation of meaning so well as the modern university. Divided not only into faculties, departments, and subjects, but also into schools of thought and specialist areas of research, it is the result of a rigorous pursuit of ever-more detailed knowledge leading to ever-greater specialisation. Whilst on some occasions different specialists remain within a similar defeasibility context, pursuing research which is based merely on differing premises, on many other occasions specialism has advanced so far that the specialists lose sight of the meaningfulness of other types of pursuit. Their cognitive advances in making increasingly accurate theorisations in narrowly-defined fields of representational meaning thus barely extend meaning at all due to neglect of its affective aspects. Philosophy, a subject uniquely placed to maintain a single broad defeasibility context and to counteract this tendency, is instead itself often divided into warring schools separated not merely by mutually-accepted differing premises, but by the prejudicial rejection of other approaches.

 

Dualist theory in general  can be associated with the fragmentation of meaning as we encounter it in “dry” or “thin” terminology. In eternalism this is associated with the language of absolutes: the moral instruction which has no effect on the audience because it relates only to a narrowly rational sphere of meaning used by the ego (in a bored or frustrated audience, not even this). It is scientism, however, which has perhaps done most to promote it, firstly  through its promotion of over-specialisation (as instrumental to knowledge as a thing of value in itself), and secondly through the myth of neutrality with its attempt to purge language of all subjectivity, embodied most fully in bureaucratic formalism. Such fragmentation of meaning is clearly a component of alienation as I have already described it[21].

 

iii)                The integration of meaning

 

As with the integration of desire, the integration of meaning may seem at first to be an impossibly large and open-ended ideal. Once it is recognised that it involves not only the task usually allocated to psychotherapy (i.e. of bringing our disintegrated psyches to a “healthy” level), and not only the spheres of concern conventionally thought to be “private”, but the whole sphere of our experience, including our whole attitude to others, such integration may begin to seem like the alienated absolute of eternalism, beyond our reach. But the requirement is incremental and does not imply the alienated attempt to understand everybody and everything. As with the integration of desire, it is important to see the integration of meaning as happening to particular beings situated in time and space.

 

As a situated being, my experiences of encounters with meanings beyond my defeasibility context are limited, and my mental capacity to extend meanings is also limited. My extension of meaning will thus be prioritised to be of maximum relevance to my experience, and to make the most effective use of my mental energies and capacities. If I am a highly rationalistic scientist with a teenaged son who is deeply inspired by myth as he encounters it in fantasy novels and role-playing games, I will probably achieve little by way of the integration of meaning if I continue to reject my son’s interests as a waste of time, but learn Russian so as to be able to communicate easily with Russian scientists a few times a year. A large area of meaning which I prejudicially reject will remain outside my defeasibility context, with that rejection frequently reinforced by daily encounters, whilst learning Russian may not challenge my defeasibility context much at all.

 

This example can also be used to illustrate the relationship between apparently “private” encounters with areas of meaning and encounters with others whose defeasibility context includes those areas of meaning. As a rationalistic scientist, I could extend my defeasibility context through a “private” encounter with myth (although this would probably involve indirect communication, such as the use of books), or by attempting to understand and share the source of my son’s inspiration through communication with him. As long as I didn’t actually try to conceal the “private” encounter, the results of either approach would probably be similar, as in either case a shared defeasibility context would develop based on the expressive meaningfulness of mythic language. This might well be the case even if my beliefs about myth remained quite different from those of my son, so long as these beliefs were not merely rationalisations for a failure to extend meaning.

 

Such integration of meaning often appears critical to our personal relationships, where neglect of the affective aspects of meaning often seems to result in an inability to listen. The integration of the meanings of another into ones defeasibility context again does not necessarily imply agreement with their beliefs, but does create a harmony between the tools being used to fulfil our distinct desires. As in the example of the integration of dream-symbology in the previous subsection, such integration of meaning cannot occur without a simultaneous parallel integration of desires. If I succeed in extending meaning sufficiently to participate in the defeasibility context of the other person, whether representational or expressive, I am adopting their desires to the same extent.

 

It is as though, encountering a man chopping wood with an axe and having no comprehension of why he should want to do such a thing, I accept his invitation to pick up the axe and try it for myself. In using the same tool I feel the flexing of the same muscles and experience all the same bodily sensations. If I persisted over a period of time, I would even develop the same musculature, skills and strength of the wood-chopper, provided it lay within my capacity. At first, then, my degree of participation in what it means to chop wood like that man would be weak, because my previous conditioning would dispose me to reject the value of an activity in which I was not skilled: but as I continued, I would enter more and more into the meaning and also into the desires associated with that activity. Not only would I probably feel similarly with the man as to what was enjoyable or irksome about it, but a detailed discussion as to the relative merits of different chopping strategies with different types of wood, previously of no interest to me or perhaps even incomprehensible, would become of great interest.

 

In this example, as in others possible ones, there are obvious limitations to the extent to which meaning is extended as I share in that activity. Furthermore, since I need to condition myself into comprehending it, it will take time, which I may not have available. There are mental, physical and economic limitations as to how far I could extend and integrate meaning through this method. A person whose meaning is relatively integrated, then, is not necessarily a polymath who can speak many languages and become expert in many disciplines. Her circumstances may lead her to work in quite a concentrated way in one specialisation, which may provide the most effective way of applying her energies. Nevertheless, she will be open to the meanings of all the main defeasibility contexts encountered in her experience: whether these be (for example) in dreams, art, the stories of children, the alternative specialisms of colleagues, or the talk of people from other social contexts. Even in her specialised work this integration is reflected in her attitudes to its interaction with others beyond this specialisation: for example, if she works in a specialised area of technology she might also be interested in the interaction between her technological devices and the people who use them.

 

The relative integration of meaning will also affect the way in which she applies herself to all these encounters. They will be meaningful: rich with significance which arises from the correlative integration of desires and thence the unification of energies channelled into each way of interpreting experience through signs. She will have the artist’s or the poet’s sense of the significance of her experiences, in which every event is rich with symbolic resonance, reflecting its relationship with alternative modes of apprehending it within the psyche, as well as an appreciation of its causal significance in the rationally-ordered world of the ego. Ambiguities are not removed so much as accepted and encompassed. Such meaningfulness deepens awareness and enables her to operate in much greater fulfilment of her potential as a human being than would be the case in a more constricted experience.

 

d)      Integration and belief

 

i)                    Belief, desire, meaning and stream-entry

 

I now move, then, to the third of the three interdependent levels at which psychological integration can take place: that of belief. My main task will consist in relating the material in Part 1, where the nature and implications of dualist beliefs were the focus, with the model of integration outlined in the two preceding sections.

 

A belief consists in any explicit or implicit representation of the universe or self which is taken to be true: though in order to distinguish between implicit beliefs and mere patterns of behaviour it is necessary to specify theoretically that implicit beliefs must be capable of explicit expression, even though no clear rational criteria are available for distinguishing such a theoretical capability in any particular case. Cats and computers may well be capable of implicit beliefs (or they may just exhibit patterns of behaviour which fool us into thinking that they have), but to argue whether or not they have some clear criterion for it such as “intentionality” or “semantic capability” must be merely speculative.  If a belief consists in a representation it is obviously dependent on a representational defeasibility context, making beliefs the exclusive preserve of those who use representational language, and even if it is not always clear who that includes, it is clear that it includes most adult human beings. If you exhibit some explicit beliefs, and you also act on the assumption that some other, unexpressed, states of affairs are true, then it would normally be true to say that you implicitly believe in the truth of those states of affairs and are capable of making those beliefs explicit.

 

Not all beings with egos thus have beliefs, but I shall suggest that beliefs are required for integration. So if it turns out that I am wrong in estimating a particular person (or being) to be capable of making their beliefs explicit, then they are not capable of integration. Beliefs are required for integration because, as I explained in 2.a.iv, they enable coherent theorisations about the universe to be made, which can then be compared with experience, starting us on the heuristic process. The heuristic process is essential for integration because it is the means by which we increasingly gain both coherent and foundationally correct (i.e. based on the sceptical limitation of all views) assumptions on which to base our actions. Both coherence and negative foundational correctness may enable desires to be integrated as the incoherence and falsity of egoistic defences are exposed through the incoherence and falsity of their correlative beliefs.

 

I have already suggested that desire and meaning are interdependent, in that progress in the integration of one cannot be made without simultaneous progress with the other. I have also suggested that integration of belief does not necessarily follow from integration of meaning. In 2.c.ii I also suggested that belief and desire are not necessarily related except in the distinction between dualism and non-dualism, because this distinction consists in the formation of an implicit view about the relative truth of beliefs and desires (i.e. of philosophy and psychology): fully non-dualist beliefs are thus linked to non-dualist desires and vice-versa, because a non-dualist belief is a belief about the limitation of beliefs in representing the truth, and hence the superiority of a non-representational experience of the integration of desires over any possible representational belief.

 

This “non-representational experience” is nothing other than the psychological component to provisionality of belief, vainly sought by the Classical Sceptics who instead tended to resort to conventional beliefs[22]. Since this psychological component cannot be rationally defined, it cannot be a formulable state of belief, but rather it needs to accompany states of belief which satisfy the rational demands of Scepticism. It consists, I suggest, in the integration of desire and meaning: and non-dualist beliefs cannot be systematically held without this integration being present to an extent sufficient to support those beliefs.

 

The systematic implicit and explicit holding of non-dualist beliefs, providing the entirety of the cognitive basis on which we interpret our experience, corresponds to a recognisable point on the path to total integration known in traditional Buddhism as “stream-entry” or “The arising of insight”[23]. At this point, our beliefs are fully integrated, but our desires and meaning not yet so, although they must also have reached a fairly advanced state of integration. This means that we actually  cease to identify with or even implicitly maintain correct representational beliefs: all beliefs become pragmatically motivated and are thus subordinated to the attainment of fully integrated desires and meanings. We no longer have fixed views of our own nature and of the universe, attempting to mould one to the other, but adopt the beliefs appropriate to the goal of integration in our particular situated state.

 

Our beliefs thus become integrated at a point earlier than our desires and meaning, because their cognitive nature makes them capable of a kind of completeness prior to that of desires and meaning. Whilst the possibility of the absolute integration of desire and meaning remains in doubt, that of belief remains clearly possible at the point where it becomes self-limiting. Beyond this point I cannot attain beliefs which are any more accurate or any closer to truth.

 

Such a view obviously depends on a pragmatic rather than a representational view of truth, since on a representational view (or at least one that takes Scepticism seriously) the most we can hope for is an imperfect isomorphism between representation and reality: it seems that we could carry on touching up the picture indefinitely as we find out more. On a fully pragmatist view of truth, however, we reach a point where our beliefs are maximally adapted to make the most appropriate representational assumptions in a given context to support our dispositional rather than representational objectivity. This maximally appropriate adaptation consists in the absence of any positive or negative beliefs about representational isomorphism, leaving the ego without its dualising defences (which separate experience into accepted and rejected objects on the grounds of their supposed intrinsic qualities).

 

Of the three levels at which integration can be considered, then, that of belief is perhaps the most important, because it is essential for progress in integration up to the level of stream-entry. Through the integration of belief we can deprive the ego of its prime weapons - dualistic and representational beliefs – and thus when this has occurred it apparently becomes only a matter of time before desire and meaning becomes fully integrated (though we do not know how much time). It is as though, after a war so long and bloody that no-one can remember how long it has been going on, the political leaders have at last got together and made peace. They send messages through the armies to cease hostilities, and the supplies of weapons and munitions cease: but not all the soldiers hear this or obey it straight away, and many of them are so used to endless fighting that they cannot really understand the idea of peace. A lot of them carry on fighting nevertheless, and it is only gradually that the war comes to an end. Even decades afterwards, perhaps isolated soldiers can be found who think the war is still going on. Here of course, the soldiers represent the desires, which only gradually give up their fruitless conflict and become integrated, whilst the integrated beliefs are represented by the command structure which they only gradually come to obey[24].

 

The conditions by which desire and meaning remain more or less integrated thus maintain some independence from the similar conditions affecting belief. This is because belief, relying only on representational forms of meaning, can cast ahead and create the conditions for integrative action by re-interpreting the environment which stimulates those actions. There are limitations to how far belief can cast ahead because it must occur in a context of meaning: when it tries to extend beyond a currently accepted defeasibility context it tends to run into paradoxes, which at best only serve to make us aware of the need to extend our defeasibility context. However, as I have already suggested, within any given defeasibility context there is room for disagreement of beliefs, even if there are some beliefs (which are, at least implicitly, beliefs about what is meaningful) which must be shared in any given defeasibility context.

 

In conditions where belief remains dualist, beliefs can merely contradict each other within a given defeasibility context. But if belief  becomes non-dualist it can create the conditions to break through to a new defeasibility context by questioning the beliefs about meaning which define the limitations of the previous one. Once such a breakthrough has been made, though, a further integration of beliefs may be required to make them all consistent with the implications of the new sphere of accepted meaning. Meaning thus advances through the pivotal action of belief, whilst belief advances through the pivotal action of meaning. An asymmetry of integration may thus exist between them at any time, leading up to the final asymmetry at the point of stream-entry, where belief has gained full integration by completely dissolving the beliefs on which the duality between meanings and desires is sustained.

 

Whilst all this may help to clarify the key conceptual relationships between belief, desire and meaning, I have actually said little as yet about the integration of belief as an incremental process in parallel to the integrations of desire and meaning. Its incremental nature is far more important to my case than whether, for example, stream-entry occurs or not. It appears entirely consistent with my hypothesis that it does, but this may be of no more than theoretical significance. Just as it is possible that no-one has ever gained complete integration of desires (or enlightenment), so it is also possible that no-one has ever gained complete integration of belief (or stream-entry), but the representational truth of either of these possibilities is irrelevant to the pragmatic truth of non-dualism. The remainder of this section will thus be devoted to an examination of the conditions surrounding the incremental integration of belief.

 

 

ii)                  Doubt

 

As in the cases of desire and meaning, the integration of belief is best approached by an appreciation of the conditions creating a lack of integration of belief. The term I use to denote the lack of integration of belief is borrowed directly from the Buddhist tradition: doubt, translating the Pali term vicikicchŒ. As such, it is the intellectual correlate of frustration. Just as frustration consists in the lack of complete satisfaction due to the subjugation of alternative desires and the definition of goals by the ego, so doubt consists in the lack of complete confidence in our beliefs due to the ego’s subjugation of alternative beliefs. Doubt in this sense does not merely consist in our moments of conscious uncertainty or “ordinary doubt” as to the status of our beliefs within a particular defeasibility context: such doubt can be resolved by the appeal to conventionally-acceptable evidence within that defeasibility context (in Wittgenstein’s terms, this is certainty within a language-game). Rather it is more akin to “sceptical doubt”, although it is by no means limited to those who discuss the Sceptical questions of philosophy. It consists in an ever-present shadow which limits our confidence: the possibility of being wrong in a sense which would undermine the fragile view of ourselves and the representational world-view with which we identify. 

 

Doubt in this sense does not necessarily produce doubting feelings or doubting behaviour: rather the hint of uncertainty can produce a dogmatism which trenchantly fails to come to terms with it. Dualistic responses to doubt thus tend to consist either in its acceptance (scepticism) or its denial (dogmatism): the former stressing the evidence for a plurality of interpretations of experience, and the latter the unity of experience. In either case, however, the presence of  doubt has prevented the development of confidence[25]. Confidence, in the particular sense I shall give it (again, derived from a traditional Buddhist sense) consists in the integration of belief, providing a balanced type of provisional assertion to which the representational truth or falsity of what is asserted becomes increasingly irrelevant. In a state of confidence I am concerned with the integrated assertion of all the ends of my psyche through a heuristic process, which includes the provisional recognition of both truth and falsity within the framework of the same overall intention. In a state of doubt, however, I am concerned only with whether my beliefs, more narrowly understood, are true or not: the possibility of a threat to their truth produces a constant source of anxiety in the background.

 

Such anxiety is another instance of the defensiveness of the ego. When under its influence, I am unable to recognise the voices of desires beyond the ego, which offer dissension from the dominant positive or negative belief (which is either that my dogmatic view is correct despite the respects in which experience could be understood differently, or that all views are equally wrong and thus that the positive indications offered by experience are false). The ego-limitations promoted by the lack of integration of belief thus result in a narrowing of focus in the interpretation of experience. “Doubt”, then, consists in the state of instability and defensiveness created by this narrowing.

 

As such it is a constant hindrance in our application to any task we have decided upon. Rather than having a full acceptance of the belief-assumptions on which the task is based for the duration of that task, we have a partial and insecure acceptance which leads to the arising of disruptive thoughts. For example, suppose that in pursuing a certain educational course which I have opted for, I have to do a piece of writing. But I cannot settle my mind on it because of various doubts: whether I have the ability to do the work, whether the teaching on the course is good enough and therefore whether I have the right materials to do the task, whether the task itself is well-composed, whether the course is of any value, whether the qualification it leads to will be of any subsequent use. All of these may have been very appropriate questions to ask before embarking on the course, or perhaps they may even be worth discussing with the tutors during the course if my initial expectations have been left badly unfulfilled: at these points I might focus on weighing up the evidence of my experience in relation to these questions. But in fact, when trying to engage in doing the writing, these questions are taking the form of distracting doubts which merely prevent me from doing the task which I have chosen to do, because they interfere with my provisional acceptance of the conditions in which it is done.

 

This type of mental state is not likely to be much changed by a strong dogmatic commitment to a universal value which the more specific task is supposed to serve. Suppose for example that the educational course takes place in a seminary and is in theology. Perhaps I am taking it because of my feeling of vocation to be a priest. But nevertheless, I have a good deal of scope for doubting the relationship between the eternalist value and the more particular belief-assumptions which frame the specific task. The eternalist value, even if I refuse to entertain any doubts about it, may still throw more specific and practical value assumptions into a contrasting sphere of doubt relative to it. Is the course actually fulfilling the will of God? Does that slightly challenging, thoughtful theology lecturer have a dangerous leaning towards atheism? Does God really want me to be doing this?

 

Doubt is thus not reduced by dogmatic assertion, but rather increased, even if it does not take the form of an immediate challenge to core convictions. It manifests itself in an inability to accept provisionality because of the presence of disruptive desires beyond the ego. When caught up in doubt, I neither take the doubting questions seriously and work out their implications systematically, nor am able to avoid the questions. If I do take doubt seriously, however, I am to some extent also recognising frustration and fragmentation of meaning, as I recognise that my egoistic belief is not operating so as to fulfil my desires. Such recognition is difficult, but vital to any step forward into confidence or the integration of beliefs.

 

iii)                Confidence

 

As will be seen from my account of doubt, “confidence” as a contrasting state does not merely consist in the unintegrated dogmatic belief which we might sometimes mistake for it. Rather, it is the incremental attainment of the integration of belief. The greater this integration, the more effectively we are able to engage in a genuine heuristic process, because we are not merely confident in the immediate beliefs which justify our actions, but in the whole context of investigation as one which maximises objectivity from our specific standpoint in time and space. This integrated confidence has a large affective as well as cognitive component, because as it develops it removes the emotional baggage of doubt and allows more effective concentration on the development of integrated beliefs.

 

Far from being in conflict with provisionality of belief, confidence is thus released by that provisionality and in turn supports it. For I am able to be confident only to the extent that I am actually released from dualistic anxieties about the representational status of my beliefs: whether this representational status is scientific, moral or merely social. As I am released from representational anxieties, my values become less dispersed and focus increasingly on pragmatic integrational goals. This does not mean that I have necessarily abandoned representational models altogether as yet: but to the extent that I have attained confidence I will have set some intermediate representational goal which integrates my beliefs (probably together with desires and meanings) which I will pursue without further recourse to representational anxieties. For example, if I decide to try out a  meditation practice[26] for a certain time, in pursuit of a limited goal (such as the alleviation of stress that is interfering with my scientific work), I am only likely to be successful in this goal if I can confidently dismiss scientistic doubts about the meaning or verifiability of the language used in explanations of meditative experience. Without the use of some such language, I will be greatly impeded in learning how to meditate effectively. This does not mean that such scientistic doubts cannot be discussed and allayed (as I have attempted to do in chapter 4), but that this process must take place in the context of a systematic psycho-philosophical investigation, rather than the unsystematic context of an activity which requires a strictly pragmatic focus of concentration.

 

If a certain release from our dualistic anxieties is required even to set ourselves intermediate representational goals, it may appear that there is a deterministic discontinuity in our ability to pursue integration of belief. If I am simply mired in doubt, what can I do about it? But this type of analysis of the situation itself reveals an unnecessary narrowness in which determinism is merely being used as an instrument of egoistic defensiveness. “I” may feel that I lack the confidence to even begin to move beyond my current lack of integration, but at the same time other types of belief will be present in the psyche which this self-perpetuating circle of doubt closes off. I only need to apply a different conceptual model to this dualist one to begin to feel differently about the situation as well as see it differently. This is the respect in which belief can spring ahead of desire and meaning (or meaning, with associated desire, spring ahead of belief), with an imaginative exploration of differing scenarios enabling different possibilities of belief and/or meaning to be examined. This provisionality in imaginative exploration itself offers a development in confidence, to be further cultivated through the more definite acceptance of a provisional basis for integrative action.

 

This confidence is entirely continuous with wisdom, where wisdom consists in the systematic adoption of non-dualism at the point of stream-entry described earlier in this section. Neither consists in any specific representational knowledge, and both unite cognitive and affective factors, the main difference being that at the point of wisdom intermediate representational goals have been dispensed with: the focus of confidence now becomes the whole of the psyche and its integrated representations.

 

In traditional Buddhism confidence is often described (as saddha) in terms of a representational faith in the Buddha and doctrines of Buddhism, although the justification of such faith is itself explained  in terms of the confirmation offered by experience[27]: whilst such an explanation shows a recognition of the need for intermediate representational objects of confidence before non-dualism is fully adopted, it perhaps conveys a rather inflexible impression of the nature of those objects. For intermediate representational objects of belief, being justified only by their function in supporting the development of systematic non-dualistic belief, could conceivably take any form. For example, they could take the form of scientific theories on whose truth we rely in predicting the natural processes of our environment or enabling the construction of technological devices which we utilise: these remain subsidiary, but necessarily in the background when we engage in integrative actions. They could consist in beliefs about the trustworthiness of a person, or about economic processes, all of which, to a situated person, are unavoidable corollaries of many actions: although these beliefs are not specifically non-dualist, it is necessary to encompass them confidently (which also implies provisionally) to pursue non-dualism.[28]

 

Although, as I have argued in many instances in Part 1, it is possible to hold non-dualist beliefs superficially, unsystematically and hence dualistically, it is not possible to hold specifically dualist beliefs with confidence due to their dogmatic or sceptical basis. As explained in the last subsection, the effect of these doctrines is to perpetuate doubt. Insofar as doubt interrupts any sustained task, we need its opposite, confidence, to engage in such tasks effectively. In this respect all my remarks about the integration of belief in relation to non-dualism apply, mutatis mutandis, to any task within a sphere of coherence, even one framed by dualism. But as soon as we start shifting the boundaries of consideration outwards, allowing for the whole context of the task, it starts to become more evident that dualistic belief is limiting the effectiveness of the task through narrow definition of its goal and alienation of some of the resources of the psyche that could be devoted to it. It is then clear that doubt has not been removed by such beliefs nor confidence developed.

 

The implications of this lead us back to the epistemological concerns which will be more fully clarified in the next chapter. We gain only the limited and superficial “confidence” of dogmatism from coherence alone – the sort of “confidence” offered by scientism. Likewise foundationalism alone, offering an apparently solid ground of value, offers “confidence”. But the brittleness of these affective states is in proportion to the limitation of their heuristic value. Both coherence and foundationalism are needed for the full development of confidence and thus for effective investigation.

 

e)      Integrative Practices

 

Whilst the nature of psychological integration has now been explained in terms of the three levels, little has been said so far about how it may actually be achieved. At least a general account of the kind of practical techniques that can be used is needed here to support my claim that the Middle Way forms a feasible alternative to dualism, and to bridge the gap between theory and practice which is too often left vague in philosophical accounts of ethics. Here I shall be concerned with methods by which integration may be directly cultivated, rather than issues of ethical decision-making, which I will turn to in chapter 8. Here particularly, to a greater extent than anywhere else in the book, I am merely interpreting what is offered by the Buddhist tradition.

 

This section is intended only to provide a bridge of understanding from psycho-philosophical theory to practice, not to provide the kind of detailed individual instruction which is required to support Buddhist practice. For this, individual contact with an experienced practitioner in the Buddhist tradition is indispensable.

 

i)                    Cultivating integration of attention

 

Perhaps the most fundamental feature of integration as I have portrayed it in the earlier sections of this chapter is unified attention. The fragmentation of our attention over time is the main method by which frustration reveals itself, with its accompanying doubt and fragmentation of meaning. I am unable to attain integrated goals and to maintain continuity of meaning and belief because of the continued appearance of “distracting” desires re-asserting themselves from their subjugation by the ego. The practice of cultivating attention is thus perhaps the most direct way of overcoming egoism. The distinction between attention and desire itself is that attention is also subject to other conditions apart from desire. My overall state of health, how much sleep I get, and the use of stimulants may all affect my levels of attention in addition to my desires in relation to the objects of attention. However, desire and attention nevertheless have such a strong systematic relationship of mutual causality that attention nevertheless offers an important medium through which to cultivate the integration of desires.

 

At some level attention is continually cultivated, in the sense that most people usually manage to maintain the degree of attention which is required to reach egoistic goals. Tremendous feats of concentration are practised in the world every day: examinations are sat, solo piano concerts are performed, complex and delicate surgery is successfully completed, and millions of people drive in rush-hour traffic. Yet such feats of attention are usually more due to subjugation of distracting desires than to integration of them: they thus exact a toll in mental exhaustion and the re-assertion of contrary desires afterwards.

 

A practice for the cultivation of attention must thus not merely consist in egoistic concentration, even if this is inevitably its point of departure. Its primary feature must be the incorporation of other desires in an awareness which is general or basic enough to include them: the focus must thus be aesthetic rather than conceptual. “Aesthetic” here includes all sensual awareness including kinaesthetic and internal body awareness. What all our desires have in common is a systematic relationship to the body which gives them expression, and it is in a relaxed awareness of the body and of the senses that the ego’s defensiveness can be at least slackened.

 

So, at a basic level, the cultivation of attention can begin with relaxation and bodily activity: many sports, arts and other recreational activities are practised because of their practitioner’s realisation, at some level, that they help to make their lives happier by reducing the pressure of dualistic oppositions in it, usually by compensating for the over-narrow focussing on a particular type of activity found in the rest of their lives. In the leisure activity, other desires find their expression, and the greater the relaxation of the body achieved, the more easily a range of desires can gain rudimentary expression together. This makes the further subjugation of desires, often in the alienated workplace, more bearable and sustainable, reducing the strain of maintaining attention in them. 

 

But at this basic level the cultivation of attention has rather limited effects. This is because it works primarily at the level of desire (and at that level only up to a certain point of coherence), only rarely at that of meaning and even more rarely at the level of belief. With the occasional exception of the arts, leisure activities are usually compatible with the established defeasibility context and the conventional beliefs of ones social context. They effectively provide spheres of hedonism within the more dominant context of alienation, relying on coherentism to avoid confrontation with the more intractable alternative desires which lie beyond the zone of compatibility with the dominant egoistic beliefs. I can use mere relaxation to maintain the current egoistic dominance, perhaps integrating a certain zone of desires beyond the “weekday ego” (to be incorporated into the “weekend ego”), but I cannot thus integrate the desires associated with beliefs that are incompatible with that whole context. If I am a business man who plays golf, the golf helps me to continue being a business man, but it does not thereby give expression to the alternative desires, meaning and beliefs that might be represented by quite different lifestyles, such as  being a hippie or an Indian ascetic.

 

A more profound extension of the attention, then, must also involve the integration of meaning and beliefs. Physical relaxation and concentration is merely propaedeutic to an encounter with our subjugated beliefs and of our emotional resistance to any extension of meaning beyond the ego. Even in taking up a meditation practice which primarily works to extend the attention through maintaining concentration on some purely aesthetic object, a constant encounter with meanings and beliefs is required to create the conditions for such attention. In the terms of the Buddhist classifications, samatha meditation, which cultivates integration of attention and the emotions, is inseparable from and continuous with vipassanŒ, which cultivates wisdom through the directed processes of the imagination. The systematic cultivation of the attention is under the influence of conditions which lie far beyond its immediate scope[29], but nevertheless it can form a starting point for the process of integration.

 

The samatha practices offered by the Buddhist tradition have various objects of concentration, including coloured discs (kasina), but perhaps the most valuable and widely-taught practice is the mindfulness of breathing (anapana-sati)[30]. This involves an integrated focus on the breathing. Since the breathing is so basic and non-conceptual an object of awareness, sustained attention to it has to be relatively integrated or the distraction of other objects of interest rapidly follows. Sustained attention is built up through regular practice which habituates the mind to returning to focus on the breath after each distraction, gradually enabling a momentum of habitual integrated concentration to build up. Egoistic dominance of the process of returning to the object of concentration can be avoided by the conscious acceptance and incorporation of each distraction (and its manifestation of non-egoistic desire) into the main process, rather than its rejection.

 

The successful pursuit of this practice may be summarised in the idea of balanced effort[31] (a direct application of the Middle Way): egoistic effort needs to be applied, to some extent subjugating other desires temporarily in order to get going in the practice, but at the same time, this effort must not be so wilful that it prevents the gradual integration that the practice is designed to produce. At one extreme one can hold narrowly to the mere idea of observing the breath; at the other, fall into a daydream in which all directiveness is lost. In between lies an expanding genuine interest in the actual sensations of the breath which is sustained because it is accomplishing a process of integration which can be exciting and energising.

 

Maintaining this expanding genuine interest is interdependent with other processes of integration than that of the attention alone. The acceptance rather than rejection of the distracting desires that are encountered is dependent on an emotional integration which can be cultivated to some extent through the reflective use of this method, but also cultivated more directly in ways I will discuss in the next subsection. Persistence with the method despite the ways in which it involves confrontation with the unknown also requires confidence and is disrupted by doubt. In this respect it offers a microcosm of the heuristic process involved in any other investigative or integrative activity. I shall be saying more later in this section about ways of cultivating confidence.

 

The successful practice of the mindfulness of breathing can lead to the state of temporary integration of attention known in the Buddhist tradition as dhyana[32]. Eight different levels of dhyŒna are traditionally distinguished[33], representing increasing levels of integration, in which the directive voice of the ego becomes increasingly subtle, attention completely one-pointed, and emotions increasingly positive and expansive. Such states can also be occasionally achieved outside meditation, for example by artists or visionaries in a state of inspiration. The achievement of such states is temporary, however, and soon subsides as egoistic conditioning reasserts itself. I shall be offering more clarification as to the precise relationship between such temporary integrations and permanent integration in the next section.

 

ii)                  Cultivating integration of emotion

 

An alternative and complementary method for achieving the temporary integration of desires works by cultivating the integration of emotion. The integration of either attention or emotion indicates a degree of the integration of desires insofar as it is not merely due to other conditions. However, the possibility of the interference of other conditions places limitations on the scope for integration of desires through cultivating either integration of attention or integration of emotion. Thus where one fails, the other may succeed, though it is also possible that neither will be successful. The kind of physical conditions that I set up to meditate and systematically cultivate the integration of attention or emotion may be difficult to sustain, and I am also subject to many mental conditions arising from my previous experiences. In some economic circumstances, for example, I may need to work for most of my waking hours just to create the basic physical conditions required before I can begin to work directly on the cultivation of integration. Or perhaps, even if this is not the case, the work I do need to do has such a strong conditioning effect in reinforcing the rationalised ego that I am unable to make progress even in achieving the degree of relaxation required for the integration of attention. Given the difficulties of our real situated lives, then, we need as many alternative approaches as possible to the same goal of the integration of desires.

 

Whilst the cultivation of integration of attention works with a purely aesthetic focus, the cultivation of integration of emotion makes deliberate use of representations. If emotions are understood as our motivating desires with regard to particular represented objects, then, this offers a way of integrating those desires in the particular context of their relationship to those representations. Observing our emotional response to representations, we then attempt to broaden out that emotional response by reflection on the further scope of that representation and by allowing positive responses to it to grow. It thus works with the affective component of meaning to extend the meaning of any given representation. The representation here may be a word, a mental image or sound or other representation to the senses reproduced by the mind, but the crucial aspect of the exercise is that what we previously took that representation to mean gains an extended emotional breadth. To do this we must implicitly assume that our representation does not correspond to any kind of substantial reality, but rather has a contingent relationship to a shifting, projected reality: it does not strictly denote anything, but merely connotes within the moveable framework of a defeasibility context.

 

One particular practice which adopts this approach in the Buddhist tradition is the metta bhavana or “cultivation of loving-kindness[34]. This works exclusively with our representations of people (and other beings) in an attempt to cultivate positive emotion in which those representations are integrated. The positive emotion of mettaor loving-kindness consists in a temporary emotional integration arising in response to other beings, and is distinguished from narrower and more egoistic responses to other beings such as possessive love or hatred.

 

One assumption behind this practice is that negative emotions can be associated with fixed denotations (and hence, conversely, positive ones with flexible connotations). This can be understood merely though the extension of the ideas of confidence and integration of meaning from the previous sections to embrace ones view of oneself and of others: for, just as I need a balanced heuristic to reach the most integrated understanding of the universe available, so do I need to reach the most integrated account of myself or of another. My self-view amounts to a theory about my own nature (resting in turn on a self-meaningfulness) which I must compare with experience, but if I maintain an unduly dogmatic or sceptical approach to this theory and its relationship to truth, then my understanding of myself, and my ability to cultivate integration of emotions, will be limited by this. A dogmatic belief about myself, consisting in the fixed idea of the truth of a particular view of my nature, depends also on a fixed denotation for the terms I use to describe myself. If I believe myself to be either  beautiful or ugly, for example, this over-simplification of the highly complex and conventionalised field of different ways in which I could be aesthetically pleasant or otherwise depends not only on a dogmatic failure to examine the complexity of experience (or a sceptical tendency to be overwhelmed by that complexity and resort to a sweeping dismissal) but also on a denotation of “beautiful” and “ugly” which focuses only on the typical features I believe myself to have. Those who are beautiful may have long blonde hair, or those who are ugly long noses: these become features of the projected “reality” of what beauty or ugliness means, to which I compare my subsequent experiences, just because I (or some other person) have them. I may transfer these desirable and undesirable attributes to descriptions of others through similarly narrow denotations, thus using them egoistically to enable acceptance or rejection in the same way as I have applied such denotations to my view of myself.

 

My view of myself or of another as having certain desirable or undesirable attributes, then, depends on the limited denotations on which I build the view. If I am to overcome my limited egoistic tendency to accept or reject myself or others, then, I have to create both confidence and integration of meaning. To overcome the fixed idea of myself or another having undesirable attributes, such as an odour, the inability to stop smoking, or an over-dependency, it is thus not the possibility of my having those attributes that needs to be overcome (although more confident investigation of my experience might well reveal that I either don’t have them according to the prevailing conventional definitions or, more to the point, that people don’t regard them as undesirable) but what exactly it means to have those attributes. If I think of a person as having a certain unpleasant odour in one context, in another it may not be unpleasant at all: perhaps because other experiences push the odour into the background or because it becomes clear that only convention makes the odour unpleasant. In stretching the connotations of the person’s odour beyond the immediate fixed denotation in which it is instantly desirable or undesirable, I create the conditions for positive emotion (metta) towards them which is based not on a response to their desirable or undesirable qualities, but rather on the integration of affective meaning which occurs when those qualities are seen in a larger context. My representation of the person extends as my representation of their attributes extends, simultaneously with confident exploration of the full complexity of their setting.

 

Such emotions are thus not positive in the sense of merely indicating egoistic attraction to desirable qualities, but rather of indicating the response of a larger section of the psyche to an integration of desirable and undesirable qualities. This brings about the unification of energies in the psyche, which may create pleasant sensations including those of dhyana. However, as I shall explain in 5.f.i, such temporary positive emotions (which are side-effects contingent upon other conditions) are ultimately only morally significant insofar as they have a mutual causal relationship with moral objectivity.

 

To cultivate positive emotion towards the representation of any person, then (whether myself, or another or group of others) I need only to recognise the view of them that I have already and expand the connotations of that representation by considering further possible connotations. In doing this I will be more likely to encounter representations which I can correlate to ones I already identify with, and thus feel positive emotions towards that person, which can be intensified by integration with a broad range of other representations related to them, because the energy of the desires associated with those representations will be temporarily unified within my field of identification. This is the fundamental procedure of the metta-bhavana. It matters little whether the connotations which I expand are concerned with the person’s present, past or future state, or how representationally accurate they are (within the conventions of a defeasibility context): rather, in order to change my view of that person, I need to lose my concern with the idea of there being an accurate representation which I could possess. In extending that representation I also at least temporarily extend my sphere of identification to include the new representations. Repeated practice is necessary to make this extension in representation a habitual one and thus change one’s beliefs about the person, but even one such exercise can begin to push back the sphere of meaning: it at least begins to make sense to regard that person differently, and new options become available to us.

 

The traditional procedure in the metta-bhavana practice is to cultivate loving-kindness first towards oneself, then to a good friend, a neutral person, and an enemy in turn, then to all four equally, and finally expanding to include all the beings in the universe. This clearly reflects, not only the distinctness of the ego from the individual leading to the requirement to extend ones representation of oneself, but also the universalist aspiration to extend ones identification to all the representations in the psyche. In representationalist terms, the idea of cultivating loving-kindness to all the beings in the universe simultaneously is ridiculous: the representation would be so superficial or inaccurate as a representation of all the actual beings in the universe that we could only be entertaining a massive delusion. However, in pragmatist terms it is the psychological effects of maintaining such a universal aspiration which are important, and the purpose of cultivating the integration of emotion towards representations of all beings consists in the unification of those representations in the psyche.

 

This should not be mistaken for an idealist position in which representations are all that exist. Rather, it offers a more completely realist approach than any other by being linked to an adequate heuristic: I am more likely to reach a representation pragmatically adequate to the complexity of what others (or even myself) are really like by continually expanding the meaning of that representation and assuming that representation’s inadequacy. Nor is it unimportant to consider that one of the likely effects of changing ones representations of others is to change ones behaviour towards them. However, it is the integrative effect on the emotions which provides the primary context for judging the value of the changed behaviour, without which it will be unclear by what standards the changed behaviour towards others is to be judged good[35].

 

Cultivation of the integration of emotion is not limited to the metta-bhavana  practice, but can of course take place whenever reflection and the exercise of the imagination enables our representations of people, other beings, or even objects to expand. Any form of representational art may perform a similar function, enabling us to explore the implications of a visual object, an idea, a character and thus develop our sympathies. Broadly construed, the practices described in the next two sub-sections may also be understood as cultivating the integration of emotion.

 

iii)                Narrative and archetype

 

I have already considered in Part 1 the views on narrative of such figures as Lyotard and MacIntyre, both of whom recognise its important role in creating social legitimation for conventional values[36]. Lyotard takes a predominantly negative view of this process of legitimation, MacIntyre a positive one: both are, like most dualist views, limited to varying extents by their preconceptions. In the account I shall offer here, the use of narrative is a powerful tool which can be used either to merely egoistic or to integrative ends, and when we can discriminate between these the use of narrative, either as the story-teller or the listener, can thus become an integrative practice. An understanding of the non-dualist uses of narrative is also greatly facilitated by a recognition of the archetypes to be found in significant narratives, first identified by Jung.

 

For Jung, the archetypes consist in pre-existent psychological forms which are to be found universally in the human unconscious, which he found it necessary to account for causally by attributing to heredity (distinguished from the personal unconscious which he believed to be caused by personal experience)[37]. These archetypes are reflected universally in stories, myths and symbols, although we can only encounter them in this form altered by conscious elaboration. They also appear in individual dreams and visions where they can be experienced more directly[38]. It is not necessary to subscribe to Jung’s somewhat speculative view about the causes of archetypes, or to think of them as Platonic “Forms” in the collective unconscious, to extract the moral significance from his discoveries. It appears impossible to clearly distinguish which aspects of psychological experience are due to heredity and which to personal experience, and the distinction between collective and personal unconscious, like that between conscious and unconscious, is probably useless if taken as a precise distinction. However, the archetypes that Jung identified in dreams and narratives can be just as easily understood in terms of the progression of integration, and thus related to the much more limited theory of human nature I have been developing here, without recourse to “Forms”. Its relationship to integrative practice also makes it more easily testable through experience.

 

Jung distinguishes four main archetypes in human experience, although he also distinguishes others which may ultimately be subordinated to these four[39]: the Shadow, the Anima/Animus, the Wise Old Man/Great Mother and the Hero. They can be related to the psychology of non-dualism in the following way.

 

The Shadow clearly represents those desires in the psyche that are unacceptable to the ego: they inspire fear because they embody a threat to the ego’s dominance. Whilst the ego constructs a rationalised sphere of meaning, the Shadow appears meaningless. An encounter with the Shadow produces a response of greater defensiveness on the part of the ego, unless this fear can be overcome. As Jung writes of it:

The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no-one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad….It is sheer objectivity, as wide as the world and open to the world.[40]

 

Often this acute fear of what lies beyond the ego gives rise to a crude dualism of good and evil, and this appears in narratives that show evil being conquered and subdued by the ego, rather than the meaninglessness of the Shadow being recognised. The more that narratives come to terms with the real complexity of what they depict as evil, though, the more a genuine integration of the Shadow can occur through their medium. In this way it is possible to make a moral distinction between popular dualistic narratives of adventure and war available on film or in novels, where the Shadow is symbolised but merely overcome, and a more demanding and complex narrative, such as one of the novels of George Eliot, in which our sympathies are stretched in direct appreciation of the psychology of characters that we might otherwise condemn.

 

The Anima/Animus is, by contrast, the attractive but elusive aspect of the psyche beyond the ego. Usually (though not always) taking the form of a figure of the opposite sex with the associated qualities, it is different from and beyond our current identifications, but represents those desirable qualities which we cannot attain through those identifications. “What is not-I, not masculine,” Jung writes of the Anima, “is most probably feminine, and because the not-I is felt as not belonging to me and therefore as outside me, the anima-image is usually projected upon women[41].

 

The very presence of the Anima or Animus represents at a crude level a recognition of the inadequacy of the ego in fulfilling desires or overcoming frustration: that elusive and fascinating Other is always present just beyond the sphere of what is compatible with present desires, beliefs or meanings. Sometimes this figure is rejected and becomes associated with the Shadow, as in the medieval condemnation of witches, but more often the ego attempts to possess it and rationalise it within its own framework, such as those represented by the conventional ideals of love and marriage. Within such a rationalisation, though, the archetype is lost, so it reappears in a new form, the fascinating expression of subjugated desires. Traditionally, as Jung writes, this fascination is expressed (from a male point of view) in stories of sirens, mermaids and nixies. But “an alluring nixie from the dim bygone is today called an ‘erotic fantasy’”[42].

 

No quest is perhaps more obviously doomed to perpetual frustration than the attempt to possess the Anima or Animus in projection upon another person. The desire to do so itself contains the egoistic contradiction of Romantic love: the desire to possess something that is Other: when if it is possessed, it is no longer Other, and if it is Other, it cannot be possessed[43]. It is in contradiction to the dualising nature of the ego that a representation can express a desire that is inside the ego and outside it at the same time. Most narratives which express the Anima/Animus archetype merely perpetuate this cycle by depicting the taming and rationalisation of the elusive Anima or Animus, rather than the extension of the ego to incrementally recognise and include the desires which the Anima or Animus represents. In a dualist narrative of love, the hero and heroine merely come to possess one another: but in a non-dualist one, they overcome the more profound challenge involved in taking on each others desirable qualities.

 

The Wise Old Man represents neither the rejected nor the attractive psyche beyond the ego, but the resolution of the whole moral and epistemological problem created by the separation. A direct encounter with the Wise Old Man is an encounter with personified integration itself, created by a degree of temporary integration. Such an encounter, as Jung writes, overcomes the fragmentation of meaning evident in the encounter with the Anima:

Only when all props and crutches are broken, and no cover from the rear offers even the slightest hope of security, does it become possible for us to experience an archetype which up till now had remained hidden behind the meaningful nonsense played out by the anima. This is the archetype of meaning.[44]

 

More often we come upon symbolisations of the Wise Old Man in narratives. The Wise Old Man might typically be symbolised by a magician, a prophet, a philosopher, a religious figure, or by God. In a dualistic narrative, though, our relationship to that figure is appropriated by the ego either as a subject or as an object. Particularly after an experience of temporary integration, I might believe myself to be a Wise Old Man, but for that reason fail to actually integrate the desires in the psyche and actually embody his wisdom: I have been led astray by egoistic conceit. Or I may project the Wise Old Man onto someone else and thus try to appropriate his wisdom rather than partaking in it. A non-dualist narrative about the Wise Old Man is concerned with how we become a  Wise Old Man, offering specific inspiration and guidance in doing so.

 

A parallel archetype to the Wise Old Man which, according to Jung, was more likely to apply to women was that of the Great Mother: instead of wisdom the Great Mother offers universal protectiveness, but otherwise exactly the same considerations apply.

 

A dualistic use of the Wise Old Man and Great Mother archetypes appears typical of eternalism. The Wise Old Man or Great Mother is taken to embody universal value or to have unique access to it, and narratives (such as the Genesis creation story) are repeated and elaborated so as to establish that value. Egoistic appropriation of the Wise Old Man or Great Mother archetype is often also compounded by the rejection of the Shadow and Anima/Animus, cutting off the gradual process of the integration of archetypes by which the Wise Old Man or Great Mother may be integrated.

 

The fourth main archetype, the Hero represents the ego in its struggle with the conditions imposed by its egohood. We immediately identify with this figure just as we reject the Shadow which he often faces or identify with his possession of the Anima that he pursues. Again, in a dualist narrative the hero merely overcomes, but in a non-dualist one he prevails by recognising and integrating himself with what he encounters. The struggle remains a struggle of the ego against adverse conditions in either case, the crucial difference lying in the hero’s approach to those adverse conditions.

 

The distinction between dualist and non-dualist narratives in each case, is, of course, not clear cut, as the narrative varies in its connotations between each hearer. The capacity to understand a non-dualist narrative varies with the degree of integration of the hearer, so that a deeply dualist hearer may interpret even a non-dualist narrative in dualist terms, and a generally dualist narrative may have subtle nuances of non-dualism that are only apparent to a hearer integrated enough to understand them. This does not mean, however, that narratives themselves are devoid of these qualities and that they are entirely projected: on the contrary, they are the subject of the heuristic investigation which comprises literary criticism, which is able to get closer to truth in its theoretical analysis of the properties of the narrative itself according to the degree of integration of the writer. We remain in doubt about the properties of a narrative in itself, but can nevertheless make provisional claims about it which are morally justified by their usefulness in enabling integrative practice.

 

Integrative practice in relation to archetypes and narratives, then, can be seen at two levels. At the more basic level, the practice consists in the deliberate control of the narratives we experience: the more we can listen to, read or watch narratives which are at least inspiring us towards incremental non-dualism in their treatment of the archetypes, and simultaneously avoid those which appear to be merely dualistic, the more we can help to create an integration of meaning in which the archetypes are not merely appropriated by the ego. To distinguish effectively between dualist and non-dualist narratives, however, requires the development of skills of literary criticism, in cultivating which a careful heuristic balance needs to be struck between over-discrimination (for example, the sweeping critical dismissal of whole genres on the basis of dogmatic judgements) and lack of discrimination (evident, for example, in much television programming and watching). A judgement as to whether a narrative is dualistic or non-dualistic in its effects also needs to be made relative to our capacity for emotional engagement with it: a narrative which is very non-dualistic may be too refined to be engaged with from a relatively unrefined state.

 

The cultivation of non-dualist narratives can also be combined with practices which may help to integrate attention and emotion. The integrative effects of creative writing and dramatic enactment, for example, are already well-known in therapeutic and educational contexts, but do not need to be thus restricted. The cultivation of attention in relation to a narrative may also be aided by ritualising either the narrative itself, or the archetypal figures to be found in it. Such rituals are only effective in extending meaning if they are engaged in with attention.

 

At a more advanced level, though, integration with the archetypes can be more directly pursued. Jung and his followers have pursued this goal through a psychoanalytic route, but in the Buddhist tradition the practice of visualisation in meditation on archetypal figures, or sŒdhana, has fulfilled this function. This is not the place to discuss this practice in any detail, but two points about it are crucial. Firstly, that the artistic representations of the archetypal figures (which may, in differing contexts, represent the Wise Old Man, the Great Mother, the Hero, the Anima/Animus and take such forms as Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Taras, Dakinis, and Siddhas) is not merely the result of projection but has arisen out of, or at least in relationship with, the archetypal symbolisations of integration experienced by meditators[45]. Secondly, visualisation of this sort involves not only the perception of the archetype as a projected object but the attempt to absorb its qualities through direct association of the qualities of that object with oneself, sometimes through visualising oneself as the archetypal form. In this way the non-dualistic treatment of archetypes clearly appears to be an important component of this meditative tradition.

 

The effect of  integrative practices working with narratives and archetypes is not limited to the integration of meaning, since narratives may also embody beliefs. As already mentioned, a heuristic approach to the critical differentiation between narratives is required to support that practice, and thus an integration of beliefs is already required to some extent to support this method of cultivating integration of meaning. Treatment of narratives is thus not separable from the philosophical concerns which are treated at rather greater length elsewhere in this book.

 

iv)                Friendship

 

The practice of integrating our representations naturally does not stop with meditation which cultivates their integration, or with the integration of archetypes. It also has an immediate field of practice in our social relationships. Social relationships are not merely the primary field in which integration is applied when it has been developed (the focus of chapter 8), but also a field in which, by pursuing a suitable strategy, integration can be developed. The relationship between integration and capacity for friendship was noted even by Aristotle, who noted that the friend shared the characteristics of the good man “For he is completely integrated, and desires the same things with every part of his soul….and extends to his friend the same relation that he has towards himself”[46]: though Aristotle says less about how the good man becomes good by being a friend.

 

I will in some ways follow Aristotle, too, in making an incremental distinction between friendships based on “utility” or “pleasure” (though I will define these differently from Aristotle) and those based on a real appreciation of the friend as he is encountered[47]. It is this which forms the basis of the distinction between dualistic and non-dualistic approaches to friendship: the element of encounter with another being, with different desires, meanings and beliefs, who may challenge our own, in a spirit of amity. Such an encounter is inseparable from the non-dualist heuristic: for to encounter the friend as he is I have to understand him as he is as far as possible and allow for what I remain in ignorance of. I have to develop theories about him as the basis of my understanding, without flinching from the contact which may show those theories true or false: neither imposing dogmatic conclusions about what he is, nor using my ignorance as a pretext for avoiding friendship.

 

It is my dogmatic assumptions about a friend, or perhaps a sceptical diffidence, that stand in the way of sensitivity to his feelings, or that lead to me overwhelming him with inappropriate advice: the relationship then becomes one of mere “utility” in the sense that it is the ego that appropriates the relationship to assert its boundaries. On the other hand, the ego provides the starting point for friendship, as for other integrative activities. All friendships thus begin with some degree of egoism, but can then move incrementally towards the recognition of real grounds for shared desires through the respective integration of both parties.

 

The beginning of any social relationship, then, is likely to lie in the reassurance it provides to both parties. Such reassurance can provide a condition for confidence as well as for egoism. This could apply, to varying degrees, to the relationship between parents and children, the relationship between lovers, the relationship between those engaged in a commercial exchange, or the relationship between professional colleagues, as much as to those who cultivate a more independent type of friendship involving none of these factors. The reassurance lies in a commonality of beliefs, meanings and desires which are supported and reinforced by the influence of the other: the desires attached to the representation of the person enter into alliance with the existing desires to strengthen them. In a dualistic use of friendship, the relationship goes no further than this, and the conventions of the group within which the relationship occurs are merely reinforced, resulting in the development of dogmatic certainty rather than confidence: for example, two traders may develop a commercial relationship which reinforces the shared values of commerce, or two lovers develop an egoisme àdeux. In such circumstances any challenge can be a  threat to the relationship of reassurance and move the ego to reject the friend, expelling him from the sphere of identification and turning him into an enemy.

 

To the extent that a relationship becomes non-dualistic (to the extent that it is a real friendship in the Aristotelian sense), though, that reassurance gradually becomes intermixed with challenge. If the friendship is sufficiently well developed, a challenge will not be interpreted as a threat, to be met by egoistic defensiveness, but rather as a spur to further reflection and inquiry. The shared goal of the friendship will then be one of objectivity rather than mere reassurance, the Middle Way to be trodden then being one which balances the two factors of challenge and reassurance.

 

The same point can be understood alternatively in the terms of the last subsection, of the integration of archetypes. In the ongoing narrative of which the ego is the Hero, the Shadow, the Anima/ Animus, and the Wise Old Man/ Great Mother are constantly being encountered in our projections onto others. In friendships, so long as they remain amicable, it is usually the Anima or Animus which we encounter, since the friend represents an attractive aspect of the Other beyond us which we attempt to possess[48]. Our approach to a friend therefore needs to parallel that to the Anima/Animus in narratives, not appropriating but recognising and engaging. 

 

By entering into relatively non-dualistic friendships, then, it is possible to cultivate the conditions in which integration can be developed. Such friendships can provide much stronger objective feedback, both confirmatory and falsificatory, than could ever be provided by mere observations of the universe; for, despite the need to retain a balanced interpretative heuristic of ones own in relation to such feedback, it nevertheless has the great advantage of being apparently formulated by another intelligence, and can offer the benefit of another’s thought and experience. This is especially the case where the friendship is “vertical[49], meaning that one of the friends is generally significantly more integrated than the other. Such vertical friendships form the basis of moral authority of a type I shall be discussing in 8.a.

 

In some respects any relationship can turned to non-dualistic effect, even one with a strongly dualistic and perhaps hostile person. Even the criticisms of oneself by an “enemy”, may be useful in containing elements of objectivity, even if this is mixed with purely egoistic reaction on the part of the hostile person. However, a high level of integration is required already in order to adopt such a purely positive approach to direct hostility on the one hand, or the seductions of forms of relationship that are usually based only on reassurance (such as romantic love) on the other. The cultivation of friendship is thus probably best pursued by the deliberate development of friendships which are relatively free of such strong positive or negative expectations, preferably with friends who share the same aspiration, and preferably including some vertical friendship. In the monastic traditions of Buddhism, and more recently in the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order founded by Sangharakshita, practical experience of the implementation of a practice of friendship with these kinds of non-dualist concerns has led to the development of single-sex institutions, which have been found to offer the best available conditions for the development of these sorts of friendships[50].

 

v)                  Sceptical argument and the cultivation of  wisdom

 

For the sake of completeness this needs to be included in my list of integrative practices, though relatively little need be said about it at this point, since the theme of Sceptical argument and its importance is treated in enough detail elsewhere in the book[51]. It should have become clear from my account of nihilism in what ways Sceptical argument can be used for dualistic purposes, and from my account of the relationship between doubt and confidence how important the recognition of Sceptical doubt also is to the progress of the integration of beliefs.

 

The practice of Sceptical argument, maintained in the philosophical traditions of both East and West, thus offers the prime moral value in the study of philosophy and the development and exercise of philosophical skills. It offers a truly flexible and powerful method for the incremental eradication of dogmatism from the beliefs of oneself and others. Nevertheless, it is relatively ineffective without the support of the other integrative practices I have outlined. All four of the other integrative practices I have described so far can contribute to the prior development of the confidence which is required to avoid the common dualistic responses to Sceptical argument, since confidence depends in turn on the integration of desires and meaning to some degree. Without a degree of confidence, Sceptical argument (whether as part of an individual’s reflections, or part of a discussion) can produce either dogmatic dismissal or a partial and inconsistent dogmatic adoption in the form of the negative metaphysics of nihilism. Whilst Scepticism evokes only egoistic acceptance or rejection, it cannot be a tool for the creation of provisionality.

 

If the other practices provide a necessary launching-pad for Sceptical argument, though, they can also create dogmatic beliefs of their own for which Scepticism is perhaps the only solvent. For example, the successful pursuit of one sort of integrative practice for a while may result in the belief that that practice alone has produced total integration (perhaps this may involve the premature appropriation of the Wise Old Man archetype to oneself). This indicates that the ego is re-erecting boundaries which had become weakened and extended through the conceited and exaggerated appropriation of limited integrative achievements: this is rationalised through a belief in these achievements which is not adequately compared with experience. Genuine (rather than selective) Sceptical reflection, however, can soon sweep away the insecure foundations of such beliefs.

 

Selectivity of Sceptical argument, however, is only completely abandoned at the point of stream-entry, where non-dualist beliefs become completely implicit and systematic. Whilst imagination allows the representational extension of Sceptical argument beyond its current point, the full extension of it to all implicit beliefs requires a process of detailed reflection in relation to particular experiences rather than mere argument to achieve rational consistency. It is at this point that Sceptical argument becomes inseparable from (rather than merely complementary to) the cultivation of integration of attention and emotion. The questions that one asks of each new experience become Sceptical questions: What belief is implied by this desire? What foundation does this belief pretend to? The answer reveals not only the source of distraction, narrowness or conflicting emotion in our experience, but also its lack of self-justification  in the light of an increasingly certain foundation of the absence of all foundations. Without sufficient integration of attention we are unable to bring our experience into sufficient awareness to begin with, without integration of emotion its meaning is too narrowly understood, and without Sceptical argument, we have no means of breaking through its egoistic defences.

 

It is in this way that Sceptical argument, more closely aligned to the details of our experience, concentrated in individual reflection, and allied to other practices, develops into a form of meditation known in Buddhism as insight practice or vipassana. The coherentist assumptions which marked samatha practices now give way to negative foundationalism, for I am now no longer so much trying to integrate myself as break down my implicit belief that I have a self or that there is a substantial correlative world. Vipassana practices in the Buddhist tradition thus consist in systematic reflections (not merely at a cognitive level but at increasingly subtle levels of implicit thought), on the absence of substantiality in the objects of experience and in oneself[52]. Such reflections can take one much further into the examination of implicit belief than any merely generalised philosophical discourse such as this one.

 

f)       Temporary and permanent integrations

 

i)                    Temporary integrations

 

Having concluded my account of integrative practices, before turning back to more directly philosophical concerns it remains only to give some account of the kind of results which may be expected from integration. This consists mainly in an explanation of the crucial distinction between temporary and permanent integrations. This distinction in turn must be distinguished from that between partial and complete integration: for the time being I shall confine myself to the discussion of temporary and permanent partial integrations, but return to the question of the complete and permanent integration of desires (or enlightenment) at the end of this section[53].

 

The distinction between “temporary” and “permanent” integration is most clearly described not in terms of time but in terms of dependency on conditions, although a description in terms of time perhaps does more justice to our more immediate experience. A temporary experience of integration arises in dependence on rather limited conditions: for some reason the ego has gained a temporary alliance with at least some parts of the rejected psyche, but at least some of the underlying conditions leading to distrust and rejection  of those parts have not been eradicated, so they will be likely to return before long. By contrast, a “permanent” integration is still dependent on some conditions (and thus perhaps not literally “permanent” in the strictest sense), but these conditions are no more than those sustaining the life and consciousness of the individual who has achieved them. When a permanent integration has been achieved, the psychological conditions influencing the degree of integration of that individual’s psyche have been stabilised so that any further changes in her bodily state or environment meet with the same degree of integration of response. I shall be returning to offer a more detailed account of permanent integration in the next subsection, but for the moment temporary integration must be defined in relation to it: a temporary integration is any integration in which such psychological stabilisation has not yet taken place.

 

Within the sphere of temporary integrations, further distinctions of the kind I have already described can be made between integrations of desire, meaning and belief. As I have already explained[54], the integration of belief reaches a point of completion prior to that of enlightenment which is traditionally known as stream-entry. This marks the beginning of permanent partial integration of desire. Up to this point, then, temporary integrations of desire, meaning and belief can be distinguished, always interdependent but to varying degrees. The significance that can be attached to such temporary integrations and the role that they can play in helping to achieve permanent integration can here be clarified.

 

To begin with temporary integrations of desire in the form of dhyana. This form of integration is so temporary that it may only be momentary, is so dependent on particular psychological and other conditions that it may disappear at the slightest change of those conditions, and is marked by an intensity of aesthetic experience rather than any degree of stability. It is found most commonly in states of meditation, but may be associated with aesthetic absorption of any kind accompanied by deautomatisation of the nervous system. The traditional Buddhist accounts of the nature of dhyana, however, make it clear that it is only subtly or residually a state with any cognitive or representational content: after the first level of dhyana, thought is said to disappear[55] (though I have heard practitioners remark that this should probably be interpreted to mean that it becomes a very subtle guiding intention). From a representationalist viewpoint, the mind appears to be “empty” (leading to widespread dualistic misconceptions about the nature of dhyana, such as its confusion with mere blankness, distraction or even psychosis): but what has occurred is a temporary integration of desire, with some (mainly affective) integration of meaning, but very little integration of belief. It is not normally the case that such a state is ever harmful, but it is possible that in some circumstances it could be morally insignificant.

 

The moral significance of the state of dhyana is limited to its direct or indirect effect upon states of (implicit and explicit) belief. The process of cultivating dhyana through integration of attention, as I have already commented[56], may involve dealing directly with belief (for example in overcoming doubt), and the after-effects of having experienced dhyana may be greater openness and clarity in considering beliefs. More indirectly, dhyŒna may affect belief via integration of meaning. The integration of meaning produced by dhyana (or by the effort applied to achieve it), whilst still temporary, may be longer-lasting than the integration of desires in dhyana itself, leading (in my experience) to a much greater spontaneous sense of the rich meaningfulness of representations lasting perhaps for a few hours after a dhyana experience. Such a temporary extension of meaning may enable one to also integrate one’s beliefs further, leaving a longer-lasting legacy.

 

But such longer-term gains from dhyana are contingent upon the re-investment of its immediate fruits into further integrative effort: without this the experience of a temporary integration of desire may be enjoyable but not very significant morally.  Such remarks apply equally to less strongly focussed but still purely aesthetic states, such as the deep appreciation or absorbed performance of art or music: these have the potential to create moral changes, and can indeed be powerful in this regard, but this does not mean that they themselves constitute moral changes. Aesthetic absorption within a strongly morally coherentist philosophical framework, particularly, can fail to engage with important but rejected moral issues just beyond that sphere of coherence: the beliefs within which the aesthetic experience is framed simply exclude the greater context from active consideration, and the increase in meaning, sensitivity and attention that may result from aesthetic absorption is applied purely within the delimited sphere. It may be said that the ego’s temporary extension here has had little representational engagement. As the soldiers move out from the defended walls, the enemy withdraws and leaves the field clear without any resistance, apparently melting away. New territory is excitedly surveyed; but this does not mean that peace has been reached, and, as soon as the soldiers, beginning to feel vulnerable in the open, move back to the walls, the enemy reappears.

 

The temporary integration of attention, nevertheless, provides a basis for aesthetic values. Like moral values, aesthetic values can thus be seen to be neither “objective” in some metaphysically realist sense because they are properties of the object, nor merely relative because they are properties of the subject. Rather aesthetic values reflect the degree of integration of attention in the person viewing the aesthetic object: an object to which we can also provisionally attribute properties which stimulate the integration of attention (though to what extent they are really there is a matter for ongoing investigation).[57]

 

To move on from the temporary integration of desire to that of meaning, then, it appears that meaning occupies an intermediate point between desire and belief in terms of its degree of dependence on immediate conditions and hence its degree of temporariness. The affective aspects of meaning are closely associated with desire and hence remain only for a short time after a temporary integration of desires has dissipated: but such affective changes cannot be entirely separated from cognitive meanings, which may be altered through extensions of meaning gained during the affective integration of meaning, and linger longer. Perhaps a temporary integration of desire and affective meaning may even enable us to break through into a new defeasibility context, with long-lasting effects. But even changes in cognitive meaning may not last as long as beliefs: for beliefs, solidified in habits and representations, may outlive even the sense of their meaning which was essential for them to be first arrived at.

 

An illustration of this may be seen in my response to a particularly strong narrative: perhaps a typical modern example would be a film. I emerge from the cinema slightly ecstatic, for I have seen an archetypal story strongly presented through the visual medium. It was both beautiful, engaging my attention (though not to the point of dhyana) and it extended my sense of meaning through its engagement with archetypal characters. The first thing to fade is that immediate absorption, almost as soon as I leave the cinema: but it leaves a sense of meaning, the affective features of which last perhaps for the remainder of the evening. I think over the film with a quite immediate sense of  its richness, which consists not just in the story itself, or of visual images, but in their connotations. Stimulated by this, perhaps I begin to reflect in a way which extends the cognitive meaning of the film, relating it to other aspects of my experience. By the next day, though, when I reflect on the film or talk about it, it is mainly in this cognitive way. I may also be forming beliefs about it and expressing opinions. A few months later perhaps only the bare details of the plot will be left in my mind, which may or may not be able to evoke a more immediate sense of its impact. My beliefs about it, such as an assessment of its literary or aesthetic quality, are perhaps likely to last longest.

 

The moral significance of meaning, like that of desire, is thus limited to its effects on beliefs. Although temporary integration of meaning will generally last longer than that of desire, it may still conceivably not have any effects on belief. The value of non-dualist approaches to narratives, which I described in the previous section, is limited to the way in which extension of meaning is, beyond a certain point, essential to the integration of belief: I can only develop beliefs that are meaningful to me. A further independent value, again based on integration, can thus be posited between aesthetic and strictly ethical values, based on the meaning that the viewer appreciates in representations. The possible independence of the values may not be quite as striking as that of the aesthetic values of the Nazi pianist in the Warsaw Ghetto[58], but we could imagine other comparable examples likewise dependent on moral coherentism. For example, there could conceivably be a writer (or a reader), whose sense of meaning is wide and highly cultivated. He spends all day reading and writing books and living in a refined world of apparently unlimited meaning, but he lives in a tower, surrounded by starving people who are regularly beaten up by the writer’s employees who extort money from them. The development of virtual reality could provide other similar theoretical examples, all of which would be based on a strictly observed moral coherentism. The writer would undoubtedly find the notion of the people outside his tower meaningful, and may even sympathise with them, but he does not change the fixed belief which maintains his coherentist situation.

 

More  usually, though, the relationship between meaning and belief produces a much closer correlation than this. Extensions in meaning tend to confront us with certain beliefs which we then adopt quite readily. For example, a prejudice based on incomprehension, if broken down by encounter and/or reflection, is likely to be accompanied by changes in belief about the former object of prejudice.

 

It is integration of belief, however, which is the most lasting of the levels of temporary integration, although until the point of stream-entry it is still mutable. It is partly the representational nature of belief which produces this lasting effect: for the representations of our beliefs, especially when they are communicated, constantly return to remind us of them and help us produce consistency. Beliefs can be spoken, then heard and repeated by others, written down or pictorially symbolised.

 

More importantly, though, implicit beliefs are written into social conventions and into our very nervous systems through habit and custom. Here William James’s observations on the moral effects of habit become useful[59]. A habit which has carved its way through our neural pathways, making a worn channel to be easily followed, has been adopted in relation to a certain environment and certain conditions, which comprise the unconscious representations to which the neural pathway corresponds. Our whole bodies, rather than only our brains, become adapted to the same set of assumptions about a correspondent reality as those which become representations when made conscious, with any interruption to that pathway being responded to as a threat: our automatic egoistic response is to remove the interruption which challenges our habit and resume the worn path, rather than change that path and its implicit representation.

 

Whether implicit or explicit, then, beliefs are often difficult to change. This makes integration of belief difficult to achieve without also cultivating an auxiliary integration of desire and meaning. But it also means that, once achieved both implicitly and explicitly, even partially integrated beliefs have a strong momentum. It is this momentum which constitutes confidence: not a near-complete deautomatisation of the nervous system, like a temporary integration of desire, nor the opening of new possible pathways which correlates to the extension of meaning, but rather a complex and flexible enough automatisation to adapt effective new strategies in each situation of challenge.

 

Nevertheless, beliefs do change, whether due to changes in strategy or changes in conditions. Even integration of belief (so long as it remains partial) cannot therefore be described as permanent. Even an individual with a quite well-entrenched non-dualist approach, placed in an unsympathetic environment, may reverse and disintegrate. Even if she holds fast to what she believes are non-dualist ideas, they may quickly begin to play the role of dualist ones as they become narrowed and dogmatic in response to dogmatism around her.

 

Integration of belief short of stream-entry is thus still temporary integration because it is reversible. But reversibility must be distinguished from subjectivity. In entering into integration of belief, an individual has entered the path of objectivity, for insofar as she has achieved integration of belief (or systematic non-dualism) thus far she has attained dispositional objectivity. Her judgements are fallible[60], both because of the effect of conditions beyond those of integration (such as lack of available information or limitations in mental capacity), and because complete integration has not yet been achieved, but insofar as she makes errors of judgement that could have been avoided by a stream-entrant in the same circumstances, these will be due to her remaining dualistic tendencies of belief[61].

 

Temporary integration of belief must thus be distinguished from temporary integration of desire or meaning of the sort I have discussed, despite the fact that it is not yet permanent. For this reason I shall refer to it as objective integration. Objective integration, however, is not limited to integration of belief, since a secondary integration of desire and meaning can then occur in dependence upon the integration of belief. The extension of beliefs to create objectivity of desire and meaning is perhaps the main role of the vipassanŒ practices of the Buddhist tradition discussed in the last section, and is the effect of making explicit beliefs fully implicit. Sometimes the reverse process is also required, of making a strongly implicit confidence much more explicit (in which case Sceptical argument may be more helpful).

 

Both the degree of interdependence and the degree of independence of belief and desire should now be becoming clearer. On the one hand, the backwardness of one can limit the integrative progress of the other, but on the other, they can make temporary advances independently of each other. The importance of belief is underlined by its role in enabling objectivity through the modification of response to one’s environment. As I shall elaborate in 6.a.ii, a changed response based on a modification of belief differs from one based on a modification of meaning and/or desire alone in that it involves a modified implicit philosophical model in which moral coherentism is held in tension with negative foundationalism. It is only by encountering the lack of foundations in our current worldview by challenging our beliefs that we can make objective progress, for temporary integration of meaning or desire alone still rests on implicit moral coherentism. The importance of desire, however, remains given its interdependence with belief. As I shall argue in 7.a, even in terms of normativity the two remain locked in a system of mutual causality whereby a normativity of one conceptually implies a normativity of the other.

 

ii)                  Permanent partial integration

N.B. I now have considerable doubts about the justification and usefulness of this sub-section, which seems to make metaphysical assumptions in order to fit in with the traditional Buddhist conception of stream-entry. However, I have left it in place for now, as it forms part of an integrated presentation which could not be easily revised piecemeal. For more details see concept page on partial integration.

  

As already stated, “permanence” of integration corresponds to a stability of psychological conditions which mean that the conditions for integration are no more than those required for the continued operation of the psyche as a whole: i.e. the physical[62] conditions enabling continued life and consciousness. If I become permanently integrated, though only partially, I will thus continue to manifest that same degree of integration in my response to, say, painful illness, social or political upheaval, or bereavement. This will be because my values will themselves no longer be projected onto the objects which are shown to be subject to change by these sorts of events: by fully appreciating their lack of positive or negative metaphysical substantiality, their role in my values will become a provisional one. Permanent partial integration can thus be identified with complete integration of belief or stream-entry.

 

Stream-entry can be understood in terms of systematic non-dualism of belief. A stream-entrant has completely abandoned representationalism and the projection this requires, leading to provisionality in relation to all theorisations. The theorisations will thus not necessarily be true in the terms of any representational defeasibility context, but will be the most appropriate which can be adopted given the limitations imposed by the stream-entrant’s situation such as past history, sensory distortions and limitations, limitations on contextually available information, and mental capacity to deal effectively with complexity of theorisation. A stream-entrant could, indeed, conceivably be grossly in error in scientific or moral terms simply because of limitations of information reaching him, since although all his representational beliefs are provisionally held he has not been exposed to any experiences which might lead him to practically question those beliefs. One could imagine here a blind stream-entrant in a world where only blind beings exist, denying the hypothesis of light, or a deeply autistic stream-entrant who is limited by mental capacities from even a hypothetical recognition of other thinking beings.

 

The stability of psychological conditions which stream-entry requires thus needs to be distinguished from the stability of physical conditions or even from other types of mental condition. This distinction does not require any metaphysical grounds in the form of ontological independence or supervenience for psychological conditions (as I shall argue more fully in the next chapter[63]) but rather a recognition of our ignorance of the nature of the interdependence which avoids awarding priority to any apparent type of condition over another.

 

That there should be such a stability of psychological conditions for the extended and partially integrated ego is no more remarkable than the functional stability of the ego itself despite its shifting identifications, the usefulness of believing that such stability exists in either case being limited by its pragmatic ethical value. The psychological stability of the stream-entrant indeed consists merely in the ego that represents itself as a whole psyche, projecting an integrative unity rather than an adversity or a premature synthesis. Its stability is still functionally that of the ego, because its actual identifications are still limited and shifting, but a complex structure of awareness enables the interpretative framework of the ego to operate consistently rather than being continually changed by the identifications that flow through it. The stream entrant thus still maintains an ego distinct from the psyche as a residue of previous conditions, but her projection of self and universe is entirely of a non-dualist framework where such distinctions have no more than provisional significance.

 

The integration of belief needs to be complete in order to be permanent, because whilst integration of belief is still partial, the effect of changing identifications in the ego can still be to shift from non-dualist to dualist beliefs, or to beliefs which are explicitly still non-dualist but implicitly dualist. Following the integration of belief, however, changing identifications mark shifting desires and meanings but this has no effect on beliefs. A foretaste of this can be gained whenever we gain awareness of our possession of a desire which is not in accordance with our current beliefs, since that awareness is not itself sufficient to change the desire immediately even though it may set up the conditions to do so in the long run. The stream-entrant has reached that position of awareness not merely momentarily but totally, in which his awareness of the dualities still at work in him is not sufficient to directly or immediately dispel them. Nevertheless, as far as we can tell, it appears to be only a matter of time, provided the non-psychological supporting conditions continue, until those dualities disappear.

 

The permanent partial integration of the stream-entrant is not merely one of belief, any more than are the temporary forms of objective integration mentioned in the last chapter. It can only be generally specified in terms of belief, but clearly also involves a high degree of integration of desires and meaning such as are interdependent with the integration of belief. With the permanence of integration of belief naturally goes a similar permanence in the other objective integrations which accompany it, and in the further advances in integration which we can take to follow stream-entry.

 

It may already appear from this account of stream-entry, before I get to any discussion of enlightenment itself, that the ideal of the permanent integration of belief is a distant one. But though distant, it is not obviously impossible, for it appears within our reach in a way that enlightenment does not, simply because it can be specified more completely than can enlightenment. The logic of stream-entry does not depend on the highly debatable proposition that any given individual is or was a stream-entrant, but emerges naturally from the nature of the different types of integration I have described in relation to one another. Whilst if we were to understand integration in terms of desire alone we would be left with, at best, an asymptote leading to the extrapolated point of enlightenment, the recognition that the egoistic mechanism of belief plays a vital part in the earlier phases of moral development provides us with a more definite goal in the development of beliefs that can overcome their own limitations, even if that definite goal ultimately needs to be seen in incremental terms against the broader background of the integration of desire.

 

 

 

iii)                Enlightenment

 

To the final goal of the process of integration, then. Complete and permanent integration of desires, meaning and beliefs corresponds in my view to the enlightenment (nirvana) described by the Buddhist tradition.

 

Traditionally (in the West as well as in Buddhism) there are two kinds of approach to the subject of enlightenment: one can either say nothing about it at all, or one can indulge in profuse and subtle (usually negative) metaphysics in relation to it. Either of these approaches can operate as different ways of attempting to appropriate the absolute: one can either fail to engage with it at one’s own level by speaking of it only in absolute and ineffable, rather than incremental, terms; or one can merely incorporate it into a set of metaphysical egoistic rationalisations. My argument in Part 1 should have made it clear that these extremes of treatment of enlightenment are very much continuous with Western treatments of the moral absolute, and that they are dualistic. It is only in the context of hypothesis about the path that any discussion of enlightenment is at all useful.

 

Such discussion needs to be based on a clear distinction between the symbolic, the philosophical and the psychological aspects of enlightenment on the basis of the different kinds of function which are served by these different types of discussion. My emphasis here, in accordance with the rest of this chapter, is naturally psychological, but it may help to first briefly explain the functionality and limitations of the other two types of account.

 

Symbolic accounts of enlightenment are inspirational and poetic, and primarily serve the purpose of integrating archetypes (particularly the Wise Old Man archetype, but also the others) through the recollection of such symbolism in meditation, ritual, narrative, art and poetry[64]. Such representations of enlightenment abound in the Buddhist tradition and have a central place in its practice.

 

Philosophical accounts of enlightenment form the other main type of account, attempting to give a literal account of enlightenment as a principle or ideal rather than as the disposition of a person. Such accounts of enlightenment inevitably identify it with what the enlightened person is claimed to know or experience rather than the state of the enlightened person herself. Such accounts are clearly doomed to fatuousness from the beginning, firstly because there is no clear “literal” position to begin a definitive description from, secondly because it misleadingly turns the psychological property of a situated individual into a property of the universe, and thirdly because the lack of any positive content in such accounts lends them to being incorporated into a dualistic framework.

 

Such accounts of enlightenment need to be distinguished from accounts, such as those of the Madhyamika and Hua-Yen schools of Buddhism, of the “emptiness” (Shunyata) of phenomena, which assume a dialectical form and fulfil the function of Sceptical argument in undermining metaphysical attachments. These offer a negative foundationalism of the type to be elaborated in the next chapter, but are not accounts of enlightenment at all (or even of experience exclusive to the enlightened), rather of the phenomenal universe.

 

A third but neglected type of account, which I offer here, is psychological. According to this (provisional and hypothetical) account, enlightenment is the state of complete and permanent integration on the part of a situated individual. We can therefore identify the main features of enlightenment (though rather abstractly and tentatively) on the basis of the Middle Way which enables that integration. To offer this kind of account is by no means to reduce, relativise or individualise enlightenment. It offers universality and maximal objectivity in the sense that the identifications of the enlightened individual are universal: he identifies with all beings equally throughout space and time, and thus is motivated to act in a way which uses his situated body so as to aid all beings as effectively as possible. In aiding them he aims to fulfil their fully integrated desires as they would experience them if they, too, were enlightened.

 

A psychological account of enlightenment, though, does suggest that an enlightened person is also fully human. As far as we know, an enlightened person does not necessarily gain any special powers or capacities beyond those she had before enlightenment: she merely uses those powers to the maximum possible effect, probably resulting nevertheless in extraordinarily impressive concentration, awareness, energy, joyfulness, wisdom and compassion of the kind which is recorded of the historical Buddha. Nor does the enlightened person necessarily have any greater degree of knowledge about the universe than the unenlightened, though his refined and balanced judgement probably enables him to work out the best pragmatic truth available in any given context from the information available. The enlightened person is also thoroughly non-dualist, transforming her interpretation of perceptions. Yet this does not mean that she does not perceive objects as we do: only that she does so with a provisionality we may find it hard even to imagine.

 

Such a state appears achievable by a human being, yet nevertheless immensely challenging. We do not know whether or not any living or historical individual has ever achieved enlightenment, and the claim that any particular individual (even the Buddha) has achieved enlightenment immediately sets up distracting issues of specific verification, revelation and authority which are not essential to the Buddhist case, which stands or falls as a hypothesis regardless of such issues. The inspirational role of the Buddha as a symbol enabling integrative practice can be clearly separated from this. I shall be discussing some of the issues this approach is likely to raise for Buddhists further in the appendix[65].

 

A psychological account of enlightenment thus dispenses with the necessity for the historical occurrence of any such state, following the implications of non-dualism to their natural conclusions in recognising our ignorance of it, and avoiding the tendency to make metaphysical appropriations of it. Assuming that we do not appropriate an idea of the final goal, we do not need it to comprehend the nature of the path. Full incrementality and provisionality, with an asymptotic understanding of our progress, leave us in a state of uncertainty, but it is that very state that we must reconcile ourselves to in order to tread the path. At best we have a very provisional understanding of the goal which does no more than recognise the implications of the Middle Way as we can imagine its culmination: combining a full recognition of our situatedness with the challenge of universal identification.

 



[1] The best translation in my view of the Buddhist dukkha, often misleadingly rendered as “suffering” or slightly better as “unsatisfactoriness”. This subsection is little more than an exposition of this classic (and basic) Buddhist doctrine, the first of the Four Noble Truths. See for example Discourse on Right View, Majjhima Nikaya i .47-55.

[2] A continuity of ends and means is intended here, since any means can be seen as an end and any end as a means: but in either case discrete objects are needed to formulate the means or end.

[3] In traditional Buddhism this point is often put in the form of the truism that phenomenal objects themselves are constantly changing (aniccŒ). However, it is only in combination with the changeability and insubstantiality of the self (anatta) that this point becomes morally significant, since it is at least theoretically possible to remain egoistically attached to a changing object, even with a full recognition of its changing nature. We might even prefer it to be changing, as in the case of a child whose growing-up we look forward to.

[4] This point is quite distinct from the one made earlier (4.h.v) about the dualistic use of consciousness by thinkers such as Freud, who introduce dogmatism which is dependent on the dualistic distinction between conscious and unconscious.

[5] Popper (1972) p.72

[6] This should not be taken to imply, of course, that this evolved ego-dominance has any prescriptive power as a basis of ethics (a naturalistic position I have already attacked in 4.d.i).

[7] Too much significance should not be attached to this example, since I do not wish to debate the details of exactly when the ego develops or if it does so at one particular point: only to point out that there must be a pre-egoistic state. Discussion of the precise origin of the ego would quickly become as speculative as discussions of the origin of the soul, and no longer be relevant to the morally significant fact of our current experience of the ego.

[8] See 5.f.iii

[9] For a traditional Buddhist list of meditation objects see Buddhaghosa (1991) § III, 104 ff.

[10] The best canonical source for this is the Honeyball Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya i.111-2: “What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. With what one has mentally proliferated as the source, perceptions and notions tinged by mental proliferation beset a man with respect to past, future and present forms cognizable through the eye.” Here Ñanamoli & Bodhi translate papañca as “mental proliferation”: perhaps the best short paraphrase available, but not catching its meaning entirely.

[11] E.g. Frankfurt (1982)

[12] The language of first- and second-order intentions makes rather more coherent sense on those occasions when the two orders are not in any conflict, but the first is merely a means to the achievement of the second. Here the language refers merely to different ways of rationalising the same intention or desire.

[13] See esp. 6.c.ii

[14] See 4.a.iii

[15] “Mental” here means those conditioned aspects of the mind’s operation which exist in addition to the psychological conditioning exerted by the ego, e.g. innate mental capacities such as intelligence or capacity to learn maths, or acquired skills and knowledge. It is possible, of course, that integration will affect these limitations positively, but it is no necessary effect of it.

[16] Hence the dualistic error involved in the Christian use of Jesus’s self-sacrifice as a moral example: see 3.f.ii.

[17] This strategy of analysing experience atomically in order to counteract egoism is also found in traditional Buddhism in the form of the Abhidhamma. Such a recourse is effective only so long as the atomisation remains provisional and does not itself become the object of egoistic identification and an associated metaphysics, as seems to have happened in the development of the Abhidhamma in early Buddhism. 

[18] See 4.e.iii

[19] See 5.b.i

[20] Jung (1966) p.339

[21] See 3.b.iv

[22] See 4.b.i

[23] In the traditional accounts stream-entry is defined as the breaking of the first three fetters (samyojana): a substantialist view of the self (sakkŒyadi­­hi), sceptical doubt (vicikiccha) and dependence on external observances (s´labbataparŒmŒsa) (see Majjhima NikŒya i. 141-2 & i. 432). All of these could be seen as dispositions to either negative or positive metaphysical beliefs, with the first being particularly characteristic of eternalism, the second of nihilism, and the third dependent upon the first. These three fetters are also interdependent (for example, all depend on doubt, as explained in the next subsection). The remaining seven fetters which are said to lie between stream-entry and enlightenment can be interpreted as indicating remaining interdependent features of unintegrated desire and meaning.

[24] This metaphor, like any other, has its limitations: the particular danger to be avoided here is the adoption of the idea of belief as will. The soldiers do not obey the command not because of recalcitrant wills, but because of lack of understanding of the full implications of what they believe.

[25] A translation of the Pali saddha, sometimes misleadingly rendered as “faith”.

[26] See 5.e for more details of the relationship between meditation practices and integration.

[27] E.g. in Sangharakshita (1977 p.112), who defines saddhŒ first as a hesitant stirring of the emotions, placing the heart “on the Unconditioned”, but then “as it grows stronger, and as its object comes more clearly into focus, it develops into saddha proper, that is to say into faith in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha….Taken in this more definite sense  saddha  may be defined as the heartfelt acknowledgement of the fact that the historical personality Gautama is the Buddha or Enlightened One, grounded, firstly on the intuitive response that arises out of the depth of our heart by reason of the affinity existing between His actual and our potential Buddhahood, and secondly on the sensible evidence and rational proofs of His Enlightenment afforded us by the records of His life and Teachings.”

[28] Issues are raised in this paragraph about the use of moral traditions and the trustworthiness of individuals which will be pursued  in chapter 8.

[29] My treatment of issues of freewill and determinism here remains deliberately and unapologetically indeterminate: “conditioning” being a term which is not necessarily intended to imply determination. For a clarification of the view of freewill and determinism on which this is based see 6.b.v.

[30] For a canonical source on this and other practices see The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness: Digha Nikaya ii.290 ff. For one of many excellent modern expositions see Kamalashila (1992).

[31] See Buddhaghosa (1991) IV.66-73

[32] See previous references to this in connection with Christian mysticism (3.f.vi) and Schopenhauer (3.j.iii). I use the Sanskrit dhyana in preference to the Pali jhŒna only because of its wider currency.

[33] See Buddhaghosa (1991) IV.79-202 & X

[34] See ibid. IX.1-76

[35] This raises important questions about the relationship between integration and moral normativity which will be discussed in chapters 7 & 8.

[36] See 4.h.vi on Lyotard, 4.b.iv on MacIntyre.

[37] Jung (1969) §87-90

[38] ibid. §5,6

[39] My assertion that these are the “main” archetypes is not ultimately based on Jung but on the usefulness of so regarding them: however, some indication that Jung at least regarded the Shadow, the Anima/Animus and the Wise Old Man as basic (and other formulations of archetypes as explicable in terms of them) is found in the fact of their inclusion in his introductory account of the archetypes, “The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious” (Jung 1969 §1-86). Strangely, though, the Hero, which plays almost as basic a role, is missing from this account.

[40] ibid. §45-6

[41] ibid. §58

[42] ibid. §54

[43] This is the endless frustration of sexual relationships as described by Sartre (see above 4.h.iv). For a recent account of the subject by a social scientist showing how a similar pattern emerges in ordinary women’s accounts of their relationships, see Langford (1999).

[44] Jung (1969) §66

[45] See Vessantara (1993) p.32-4

[46]Nicomachean Ethics 1166a14 ff.: Aristotle (1976) p.293-4

[47] ibid. 1156b10/ p.263: “And it is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends’ sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is.”

[48] If this hypothesis is correct it has the interesting side-effect of overcoming the (characteristically dualistic) discontinuity often perceived between sexual relationships and other kinds of relationship: since all friendly relationships, being based to some extent on projections of the Anima/Animus, will be to some extent “erotic” (in the broad sense of the term as used in Plato’s Symposium [Plato 1951]).

[49] “Vertical friendship” is, as far as I know, a phrase coined by Sangharakshita together with “vertical communication” (see Subhuti 1994 p.155-8): although the practice of the master-disciple relationship on which it is based is very ancient and widespread.

[50] See Subhuti (1994) p.162 ff.

[51] See particularly 4.b.i, 4.e.ii, 5.d.ii and much of chapter 6

[52] See Kamalashila (1992) p.206-234, and, on subtle types of thought, ibid. p.178-188

[53] I assume here that there is no such thing as a temporary and complete integration. It should become clear from the account that follows that the conditions required to produce complete integration are solely a particular intensity and duration of those required to produce permanent integration.

[54] See 5.d.i

[55] Buddhaghosa (1991) §139 ff.

[56] See 5.e.i

[57] This formulation of aesthetics is one which could lead to a much more detailed discussion of aesthetics, which I hope to pursue in future work. For the moment, however, I must leave this interesting issue and pursue the main task of clarifying the nature of ethics, with aesthetics only mentioned in order to distinguish the two types of value.

[58] See 4.g.iii

[59] See 4.f.iii.

[60] “Fallible” here means in a pragmatic sense, i.e. consisting not in the possibility of a lack of isomorphism with metaphysical reality, but in the possibility of lack of optimal adaptation to an environment.

[61] See 2.a, 5.d and 6.a for more specific discussion on the nature of dualistic and non-dualistic belief-processes.

[62] “Physical” is not used here as opposed to mental: for clarification of this area see 6.b.iii.

[63] See especially 6.b.i

[64] See Sangharakshita (1990) p.39-50

[65] See especially 10.i

 

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A Theory of Moral Objectivity: quick links to other sections

Contents

1. introduction

2a. Psychology of belief

2b. Heuristic process

2c. Psychology & philosophy

3ab. Eternalism

3cd. Plato

3e. Stoicism

3f. Christianity

3g. Kant

3h. Hegel

3i. Marx

3j. Schopenhauer

3kl. Utilitarianism

4a. Nihilism

4b. Scepticism & Aristotle

4c. Hume

4d. Analytic Philosophy

4e. Wittgenstein

4f. Pragmatism

4g. Nietzsche

4hi. Existentialists

5. Integration

6. Philosophical Problems

7. Normativity

8. Middle Way Ethics

9. Conclusion

10. Appendix

Bibliography

 

Other books:

A New Buddhist Ethics

The Trouble with Buddhism

 

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