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A Theory of Moral Objectivity (Chapter 6 - The philosophy 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 6. Alternatively click the links below for each main section:
6a. Metaphysical agnosticism and psychological integration (exactly how avoiding metaphysics supports integration)
6b The Middle Way in philosophical problems (how the Middle Way can resolve dualisms in philosophy such as body-mind, freewill-determinism, ideal-real etc)
6c. Verification and falsification (exactly in what sense the Middle Way is verifiable or falsifiable)
6d. The individual and the group (how individual integration relates to integration at a social level)
6. The Philosophy of the
Just as the great ocean, bhikkhus, gradually shelves, slopes and inclines, and there is no sudden precipice, so also in this Dhamma and discipline there is a gradual training, a gradual course, a gradual progression, and there is no sudden penetration to final knowledge.
The Udana 5.5
In this chapter I shall be returning to the vein of philosophical justification and argument. In the light of the psychological hypotheses of chapter 5 I shall be attempting to clarify the philosophical grounds for adopting this hypothesis, and exploring some of the further philosophical implications of doing so. These are often inseparable processes. The process of exploring philosophical implications will continue in chapters 7 and 8, which focus more specifically on ethics.
In the first section of this chapter I will focus on delineating the fundamental philosophical premises of my approach and the way in which these are connected with integrative psychology. This section concludes with an attempt to clarify the precise implications of non-dualism for our attitude to different types of philosophical duality. The further implications of this are worked through in the second section, which offers a non-dualist response to a number of common philosophical dualisms. The third section, drawing on these clarifications, then returns to the sphere of justification with an account of how verificatory and falsificatory criteria can be applied to the
The starting point of non-dualism is metaphysical agnosticism, which means the systematic refusal to adopt metaphysical beliefs about the existence or non-existence of concrete or abstract objects. Adopting metaphysical agnosticism is not a simple act of voluntaristic will, of representing the idea of metaphysical agnosticism to myself, or even of publicly stating my commitment to it, but requires the psychological correlate of provisionality. I cannot claim to develop complete metaphysical agnosticism all at once, because I will not even be able to appreciate all the implications of metaphysical agnosticism without correlative psychological development. In purely philosophical discussion, then, I can only begin with a statement of the desirability of metaphysical agnosticism, and attempt to show the justifications for attempting to gain a belief in it. As I will argue later, this is not a merely voluntarist position.
In philosophical terms, metaphysical agnosticism is justified by the fact that it is the only position which cannot be defeated by Sceptical arguments. As should have been demonstrated in Part 1, both positive and negative metaphysical positions are subject not only to doubt as regards the representational truth-claims on which they rely, but also to pragmatic criticism when the moral effects of holding metaphysical beliefs are considered. Much more needs to be said, however, about the precise nature of the metaphysics which is to be overcome in non-dualism. Is a claim metaphysical because it puts forward claims of any sort (even provisional ones) about reality, or because it puts forward claims which are clearly beyond any verification or falsification? What exactly, it may be said, is the metaphysics about which we should be agnostic?
To attempt to make a clear definition of metaphysics in answer to this question is to land in a dualist trap. If we admit that even the most provisional claims are metaphysical, it may then be claimed (with some justice) that metaphysics is ubiquitous and unavoidable, and thus that the term “metaphysics” should not be used pejoratively as the basis of moral distinctions. The gates of rationalising speculation are then opened wide. If, on the other hand, we offer a narrow definition of metaphysics based on a determinate rational criterion, we go down the positivist road of a narrow dogmatism which is itself based on negative metaphysical assumptions. The answer must thus be a characteristically non-dualist one: there is no complete rational definition for metaphysics (and thus not for metaphysical agnosticism), but there is nevertheless a basis for judgement in each case based on incrementality. Some claims are more metaphysical than others.
The mere possibility of turning a metaphysical claim into a hypothesis is evidently not enough to make it clear how metaphysical or otherwise it is, for as a test it is merely formal. Even a belief in God could be seen as the adoption of a hypothesis, to be proven by eschatological verification, as has been suggested by John Hick. The degree of holism involved in a claim also appears to offer an initial indicator of metaphysicality, as one feature of the metaphysics of dualism as I have traced it in Part 1 is its tendency to make large positive or negative claims about the universe or human nature, but as a criterion this may also be misleading, since a methodological individualism which attempts to oppose itself to holism merely makes holistic assumptions about the “parts” or “aspects” of an entity with which it deals. Even the degree of caution with which a metaphysical claim is expressed may not make it clear how metaphysical or otherwise it really is, since that caution may be an indication of a balanced recognition of ignorance, or it may merely be an expression of dogmatic scepticism.
The designation of a theory as metaphysical can thus only be made on the basis of a broad contextual survey of the kind I attempted to make in each case in Part 1. By the examination of many different aspects of a theory in both its theoretical and practical context, including both its premises and its implications, one may reach a provisional judgement about its metaphysicality which can be clarified, confirmed or overthrown by further evidence. Thus while metaphysics in its traditional philosophical sense may at first appear to offer an independent philosophical criterion for dualism, on closer inspection it proves to be only a very preliminary one. “Metaphysical agnosticism” is a starting point only because it offers an initial rational purchase on the assessment of theories and a criterion by which they may be incrementally assessed, not because it is immediately apparent on purely rational criteria which theories are metaphysically agnostic and which are not.
Nevertheless, an approximate description of the type of theory which is metaphysically agnostic may be attempted. Such a theory will attempt to create the conditions in which understanding may advance, and thus it must avoid impeding that advance a priori through the dogmatic assumption of positive or negative premises in any area. Such a theory will nevertheless be situated, and recognise its own cultural and personal situatedness in time and space. Its situatedness will also imply that it may be specialised, but in its examination of one area it will not make an a priori exclusion of assumptions from other areas. For this reason it must be capable of growth and extension into new areas, and when thus extended new dualisms should not appear. In this sense a philosophical theory which is metaphysically agnostic must also be potentially a psychological theory, a scientific theory, an artistic theory, a political theory and an economic theory, even if the person who first produced it is not capable of thus extending it. A theory of mind must also be potentially a theory of body, a theory of reason also one of emotion, a theory of knowledge also one of values. Most importantly, a theory which is metaphysically agnostic must also have practical consequences, being fruitful in making practical predictions and thus in guiding action.
All this follows merely from the avoidance of common philosophical dualisms, for by adopting a dualism we set up a dogmatic a priori value in favour of one side of the dualism with which the ego identifies, rejecting the other side and thus cutting off the correlative area of our experience from active examination (in some cases even from meaningfulness). Metaphysical agnosticism could easily create a new dualism between “agnostic” and “non-agnostic” positions (again being unfaithful to its psychological basis) if it was not open to the examination of metaphysically committed doctrines and able thus to establish the reasons for the relative successes and ultimate failure of such doctrines. In the terms of Lakatos’s description of successful scientific theories, it must be able to account for previous apparent confirmations and falsifications. Consistent non-dualism of this type, because it requires psychological as well as philosophical conditions, is thus a reliable indicator of metaphysical agnosticism.
It becomes increasingly evident from this description that metaphysical agnosticism alone inescapably implies the adoption of hypotheses. Whilst a purely rational consideration of Sceptical problems might lead us to conclude, like Hume, that metaphysical agnosticism leads only to inaction, the requirement to avoid premature negative rejections of any area of our experience found in a full and systematic metaphysical agnosticism requires positive assumptions and thus positive values. Such values, however, cannot be derived from any source other than our desires themselves, because any attempt to attribute them elsewhere will be immediately defeated by Sceptical argument. Our desires remain, regardless of cognitive hypotheses, and though they can be modified together with those hypotheses, they cannot be withdrawn from the field of view, since they are part of the very constitution of that field of view. Metaphysical agnosticism, then, commits us to some form of value based on our desires.
Since our desires are correlative to our beliefs, they must be taken to exist independently of the epistemological considerations which are often used to impose a dualistic acceptance or rejection on either beliefs or desires. Whilst my desires and beliefs are hypothetical, I am in the process of investigating their truth by whatever methods are fruitful in doing so, and to specify that method in advance would thus be to compromise their provisionality. A specification of either internal (introspective) or external (behaviouristic) modes of knowledge in advance is thus incompatible with metaphysical agnosticism. Desires, then, cannot be subjected to prior epistemological specifications any more than beliefs, for our mode of knowledge of them (whether we speak “privately” as individuals or “publicly” as cultures) is as uncertain as that knowledge itself. If I base my understanding of the nature of my desires on introspection, that understanding must be capable of yielding further predictions for observation of my behaviour which may enable me to go beyond the limitations of the initial mode of investigation.
Much more needs to be said in the next subsection, though, about exactly how the positive values to be found in metaphysical agnosticism relate to (and indeed justify) the model of psychological integration offered in chapter 5.
According to the psychological hypotheses of chapter 5, the process of the integration of desires can be seen in three distinct stages relative to that of belief: (1) temporary and partial integrations of desires such as those in the dhyŒna experience, (2) objective (though still temporary and partial) integration of desires occurring correlative to integration of belief, and (3) residual integration of desire which takes place following the complete integration of belief at stream-entry, until the point of enlightenment when complete and permanent integration of desire takes place. In order to understand the ways in which metaphysical agnosticism justifies engagement in psychological integration, then, clarity with regard to this three-staged process and the relationship between desire and belief which it posits is crucial.
According to my psychological hypotheses, it is possible to integrate desires without a corresponding shift in beliefs, either because that corresponding integration has not yet occurred (and is not required by the integration of desires, which takes place within a very limited context of coherence), or because it has already occurred completely. However, it is not possible to integrate beliefs without integration of the corresponding desires, because the beliefs to be integrated are only integrable in their implicit nature (which contains a strong affective component) together with the explicit. An “integration of belief” is not a superficial cognitive process, but a process in which confidence (as described in 4.d.iii) is accessed and utilised to enable an open heuristic process of engagement with what lies beyond the ego. This confidence involves not only the cognitive belief that the heuristic process can be successful, but the desire to engage both with bold theorisation and the acceptance of challenges which modify or even defeat that theorisation.
For a philosophical justification of this it is necessary to consider the relationship between coherentism and foundationalism. As I have argued in Part 1, neither coherentism nor foundationalism can evade Sceptical challenges, and each leads to unacceptable consequences when applied to ethics. What foundationalism and coherentism have in common, however, is their dualism: each involves a limitation of acceptable knowledge to a sphere of coherence (in the case of foundationalism this coherence being based on consistency with a foundation) and a rejection of any possible knowledge which may lie beyond that sphere and appear “incoherent” or to threaten the foundation.
Given the Sceptical challenges to both coherentism and foundationalism, metaphysical agnosticism requires us to go beyond sole allegiance to either of them. In Part 1 I have already suggested that the alternative lies in holding the two types of epistemology in tension: the only type of foundation acceptable to metaphysical agnosticism, however, is one derived from it, which I have called negative foundationalism. This is the assumption that all views are ultimately limited: a sceptical view which is saved from dogmatism by its purely pragmatic status as the basis of a retreat out of metaphysics (and its associated representationalism) and into practice. When negative foundationalism is held in tension with coherentism, the coherence becomes a much more provisional one based on pragmatic rather than representational modes of meaning: for the basis of meaning relied upon to build up any coherent cognitive “picture” can always be questioned from the viewpoint of negative foundationalism. Without coherentism, no positive theorisations can be made, but without negative foundationalism, theorisations remain stuck in a narrow sphere of representation.
Objective integration, then, can be philosophically described as beginning to occur when coherentism and foundationalism are brought together in this way, thus providing the only available method of meeting Sceptical challenges as to the limitations of either. The beginning of objective integration involves not merely the integration of belief through non-dualism, but the interdependent integration of desires associated with those beliefs. The completion of objective integration occurs likewise with the complete integration of belief and its correlative desires, which is marked philosophically by the compatibility of coherentism and negative foundationalism. From this point, since non-dualist views have been completely adopted, for the stream-entrant coherence has become precisely the coherence of negative foundationalism: this is simply the most coherent way to understand the universe, and no conflict is perceived at any point between negative foundationalism and a coherentism which is now based purely on a pragmatic understanding of meaning.
The valuation through desires implied by metaphysical agnosticism thus moves incrementally through these three stages of the integration of desire according to the relationship with belief. In the first stage of mere coherence, the value implied is merely an aesthetic one. If it has been achieved in the context of some allegiance to non-dualist beliefs, rather than merely dualistic ones, the temporary integration of desire achieved may be re-invested to enable objective integration subsequently, in which case it becomes of indirect value, but otherwise no objectivity of value has yet been achieved because metaphysical agnosticism has not yet been sufficiently adopted.
In the second stage of objective integration, metaphysical agnosticism is being fully applied to bring coherentism and negative foundationalism together. Both psychologically and philosophically, we can now justify describing this integration as (incrementally and dispositionally) objective, since, although the judgements of the person concerned are still subject to conditions which produce pragmatic and representational errors, the psychological conditions now apply which can produce maximum objectivity of judgement in the particular situation of the person concerned. The conditions to be taken into account are not only the non-psychological conditions, which produce errors of judgement (due to lack of information or limited capacity) even in a stream-entrant or enlightened person, but also the psychological conditions of prior egoism, which place limitations on the speed at which non-dualism can be adopted. Even in the case of an animal or a child, then, we can speak of advances of objective integration where the application of an entirely new paradigm (perhaps due to some position of great stress: the functional equivalent of negative foundationalism) creates a massive shift in the scope of learning engaged in: a more complex neural pathway has now opened which allows the shifting between existing habitual pathways.
The objectivity of the integration which takes place here is sustained only as long as the non-dualism of approach is sustained by the holding of coherentism and negative foundationalism in tension. As I explained it in chapter 2, this also means taking psychological states to more nearly approximate to the truth than philosophical propositions: the basis of a functional definition of non-dualist states over dualist ones, whereby the Scepticism of negative foundationalism is brought to bear on all philosophical claims. When non-dualism ceases to be actively applied in this way, then maximum objectivity is no longer being applied and, although objective integration may be said to have taken place, it is no longer advancing and may slip back.
The objectivity of desire in this second stage is thus a direct result of the application of metaphysical agnosticism, and the unification of values that takes place in this context is one which is philosophically justified by metaphysical agnosticism. At the culmination of the whole process in the third stage, at the point of enlightenment where desires are completely integrated, this justification no longer applies because the degree of psychological integration has moved beyond the sphere where philosophical justification can be applied. Enlightenment, it may be said, simply lies beyond the sphere of philosophical argument. Nevertheless, the metaphysical agnosticism used in justifying objective integration up to the point of stream-entry can be extrapolated in its support.
The relationship between metaphysical agnosticism and psychological integration is thus more generally indicated. The part which it plays is both central and essential, even if it is off-stage in the first and final scenes of the drama. Without the structuring influence of metaphysical agnosticism in some form (and the forms may conceivably be very various), psychological integration on the model I suggest can neither be caused to occur nor be justified as objective. Conversely, without psychological integration, metaphysical agnosticism has no practical application. Despite the central role of beliefs, though, the process of psychological integration is fundamentally one of desire, because in the first and third stages desire can still be integrated independently of belief. Whilst desires are scattered and unintegrated, so is the value they represent, but with the application of metaphysical agnosticism they become much more powerful.
More questions still need to be answered here to support the linkage I want to make between this integration of desires-as-values and normativity as it is conceived in the Western tradition of moral discourse. However, this will be left to chapter 7, which focuses on this central issue. For the moment I turn to other philosophical issues which support my central claims about moral objectivity.
Throughout Part 1, a recurring basis for my criticism of dualist ethics was its reliance on a discontinuity between absolute and relative. It may appear, then, that one of the features of non-dualism is its reliance on continuity and incrementality between absolute and relative. However, this is another philosophical feature of non-dualism that requires some clarification to try to ensure that it is not understood in too rationalised or decontextualised a manner, since like other aspects of non-dualist philosophy it has only a generally indicative and provisional role (which is not to underrate its importance at that level). For continuity only becomes a feature of non-dualism when it pragmatically supports the recognition of ignorance, rather than being another metaphysical feature.
First I will recall the importance of continuity as I have argued for it. This is based on the way in which provisionality, as a psychological state, is philosophically reflected by continuity. In hypothesising the existence of a provisional object with provisional features, we do not thereby give it metaphysical features and thereby cannot consider it to be at one pole of any metaphysical dualism. A mind as we experience it, for example, cannot be metaphysically “purely physical” nor “purely mental”, since to place it in either of these categories is to apply a dogmatic assumption rather than a provisional one. However, we could certainly make provisional use of some of the attributes generally associated with one or the other type of metaphysics (e.g. intentionality or causal explicability) to help make hypotheses about the mind in conformity to our experience, and in doing so attempt to place the mind or its features at an approximate point in a scale of magnitude. Similarly, in describing our moral values, neither “absolute” nor “relative” can be applied without dogmatism, but in the provisional application of terms describing our values we can place those values on a continuous scale according to the magnitude of the apparent characteristics.
It may nevertheless appear that discontinuity is an unavoidable part of our experience and of even provisional descriptions of it. In the very use of language describing objects, attributes and actions we circumscribe some areas of our experience and contrast it with other areas from which it is discontinuous in that what is propositionally claimed for those areas is assumed not to apply to other areas. In this sense discontinuity is essential to the positive process by which hypotheses about our experience are framed, and it represents the egoistic side of the harmonious interaction between egoistic and counter-egoistic energies which is required in order to produce integration. Discontinuity at this verbal level is compatible with provisionality, although it is linked to metaphysical discontinuity by the fact that metaphysical discontinuity consists in the substantialisation (or de-substantialisation) of verbal discontinuity. Take the case of two dogs, each of which I describe as “black” and “grey” respectively, although each of them could be more accurately described as being at different points along a scale of colour from blackness to greyness. To call them “black” or “grey” is to introduce a verbal discontinuity, but I can do so either with an awareness of the possibility of a more accurate description or without such an awareness. Without such an awareness I effectively assume a metaphysical discontinuity as well as a verbal one, for I assume that there are some grounds beyond my experience for applying the label “black” or “grey”. With such an awareness, however, my use of verbal discontinuity becomes purely provisional. This distinction could be practically tested if I was in some situation where the degree of accuracy of such descriptions became more important than it usually is. Suppose a despotic government has issued an extermination order on all black dogs, for no better reason than the ruler’s subjective dislike of them. With an awareness of the provisionality of the term “black” as it applies to the dog, I could argue that it is not black, but a darker shade of grey. The government dog-exterminating official who insists that it is black is operating a metaphysical discontinuity just because, compared to me, he is operating at a lower level of accuracy where dualities are imposed unreflectively, and in this respect reflecting the ineptitude of his master.
This comparison between more and less accurate description can be applied mutatis mutandis to any level of specificity of description, up to and including the furthest point of exactness available to human beings. For the most precise scientific description depends on the theoretical framework within which it is created, so that provisionality in such a description consists in an awareness, not of the immediate possibility of greater specificity, but of the Sceptical doubts which can be applied to the description. Similar considerations apply to non-scientific defeasibility contexts: an artistic or mythic account of an experience, for example, can be similarly dogmatic or provisional depending on the degree of awareness of the limitations of the categories being used. In this way the relative avoidance of metaphysical discontinuity must be seen as applying along a scale which is ultimately pragmatic, because although in some cases it may be pursued within a given defeasibility context, in others it must be pursued between defeasibility contexts.
Strictly speaking then, metaphysical discontinuities, like metaphysics in general, can only be distinguished in a given context relative to merely verbal discontinuities which form part of a hypothesis. It is thus not the absence of discontinuities themselves so much as awareness of discontinuities which indicate a degree of provisionality: the criteria are ultimately psychological. The broadest possible context always needs to be used in assessing whether this awareness is present in others, since the use of continuous language in one restricted context may be offset by a much broader discontinuity expressed elsewhere, or the use of discontinuous language in one context may be offset, on the other hand, by a broader continuity. As I suggested in Part 1, Wittgenstein offers a particularly good example of the first kind (though any of the dualist thinkers or movements considered in part 1 may also serve), because he explicitly defends continuity and indeterminacy in some contexts, whilst maintaining a strong discontinuity of meaning. Non-dualism, on the other hand, may well be defined as “discontinuity within a context of continuity”, with the further proviso that the outermost continuity is not merely metaphysically specified, but pragmatic.
Discontinuities within the context of continuity may be mere descriptions of stages along a path (such as the path described in the previous subsection, which begins with the first objective integration) or they may be descriptions of points along a spectrum of qualities. A path or spectrum may also be conceived as having discontinuous end-points, but strictly speaking on a continuous paradigm these merge into further possible paths or spectra, or disappear beyond an indeterminate horizon of experience. In each case, the application of a non-dualist awareness, even if it be only momentary, leads to the recollection of this greater continuity, not only in theoretical definition, but at moments of practical importance when further objective integration may be achieved. To speak of a discontinuous point in the very process of integration, such as “stream-entry”, is a verbal discontinuity only justified insofar as it supports integration by facilitating rational comprehension of the path through theorisation appropriate to that level: a higher level of accuracy, however would go beyond the degree of discontinuity between belief and desire still suggested by stream-entry (though in the process it would go beyond the limits of what is theorisable in language, the limits of belief represented by stream-entry itself). This discontinuity thus exists within a broader context of non-dualist continuity.
It remains, then to apply this account of continuity more specifically to philosophical issues which may have a bearing on the whole credibility of my case. The most central of these, which I will consider before moving on to a more general critique of metaphysical dualisms in the next section, is the distinction between dualism and non-dualism itself.
In the light of the above account of continuity and discontinuity, an account of pragmatically justifiable and unjustifiable uses of duality can be constructed. The object of this is to provide a clear response to the dualist charge of hypocrisy: the dualist may argue that dualisms are inescapable and that this is illustrated by the non-dualist resort to a distinction between dualism and non-dualism. In response to the argument that non-dualism relies on incrementality, she may go on to claim that wherever rational distinctions are made between differing points on an incremental scale a dualism is being introduced.
The best response to this lies in the distinction between duality and dualism which is already implicit in the distinction between verbal and metaphysical discontinuity made in the last subsection. A duality is equivalent to a verbal discontinuity, or to the marking of the boundary of a defeasibility context. If I used and understood language in a context where dogs are only black or grey, never anything in between, then the mere idea of anything between black and grey would be indefeasible in that context: if I were to talk of a particular dog as “blackish-grey”, nobody would be able to correct me as the term would simply not make sense. But in fact the context of Western educated discourse is certainly sophisticated enough to take in the conception of blackish-grey, or indeed to model the whole relationship between black and grey on a continuity: it is more profound and formative areas of discourse that are discontinuously modelled.
The model for explaining the distinction between dualism and non-dualism is not necessarily only one of non-dualities within dualism or dualities within non-dualism. Conceivably a still greater broadening of the context might add further yet unsuspected levels at which what we took to be dualism or non-dualism turns out to be mere duality or non-duality. What we thought to be foundational in a given theory, in other words, might yet turn out to be merely coherent. Levels of duality and non-duality might conceivably form an indeterminately long series of alternate encompassings, fitting inside each other like Russian dolls. Our theories may still be surpassed in this way at any point, even (one assumes) the point of enlightenment. The enlightened person may have achieved the maximum possible integration and still have completely wrong theories, for he has lived in an inescapably restricted context. Any judgement of dualism or non-dualism thus has to be provisional.
A further response to the accusation of inescapable dualism can be couched in terms of logic. Logic consists in the formalisation of verbal discontinuity and thus in duality, not dualism. The formulation of logics which attempt an element of non-duality through fuzziness, three-corneredness or dialectic thus does not necessarily aid us in breaking down dualism if the larger context in which that logic operates is dualistic. The insistence that such a logic provides an absolute or universal framework of understanding likewise does not avoid dualism given that this very insistence introduces a duality between aspects of experience that can be explained in terms of the logic and aspects that cannot (and are therefore rejected). There is thus no reason why traditional Aristotelian logic should not serve the purposes of non-dualism as well as other sorts, provided its limitations are appreciated. It is the appreciation of the limitations of dual logics to particular defeasibility contexts which makes non-dual logics useful, but in pointing out the limitations of a particular duality they do not thereby show themselves to be at the outermost level of the Russian dolls.
The duality of Aristotelian logic also appears inescapable at the level of action: we can only act on the basis of a clear conceptual model of our desired ends in acting, for without such clarity, our actions remain without clear direction. Such a clear conceptual model excludes any middle between the achievement and non-achievement of our desires, even if the cognitive background to such achievement includes the most sophisticated non-dualities.
The answer to the dualist charge of hypocrisy is thus to concede that it may be true that dualities are inescapable at the operational level, but that this by no means implies the inevitability of dualism. For dualism involves not merely the use of dualities but metaphysical dogmatism as the basis of belief. In the next section I shall be thus giving more specific indications of the nature of the distinctions between dualities and dualisms in a number of specific cases. This should also reveal ways in which dualisms may be revealed as supportive of the whole structure of dualist ethics discussed in Part 1, and an alternative approach to the same problems suggested by the substitution of mere dualities.
The philosophical problem of supervenience consists in the difficulty of reconciling different levels of explanation of the same phenomena. If it is believed that a uniform type of explanation can be applied to all phenomena, the problem vanishes in the assertion of reductionism. If, on the other hand, it is asserted that a higher level of explanation of phenomena produces features unavailable at a lower level, the higher-level explanation ceases to be reducible to the lower, although it still maintains some form of isomorphic relationship to the lower. The higher-level features can then only be understood as “supervenient” upon the lower. It might be claimed, for example, that biological features are supervenient upon chemical ones in the sense that the phenomena of life can be (at least in principle) explained in terms of chemistry, but that such a chemical explanation will remain incomplete as a description of living organisms.
The interesting feature of the problem of supervenience is that it can be posed in relation to a variety of relationships at a variety of levels. Its most common application is in relation to “natural” and “non-natural” properties, and thus it is posed as a problem of analytic metaethics: in what sense, if any, are moral properties supervenient upon natural ones? It can also be posed about the relationship between different sciences, as already mentioned. It could also conceivably be posed about any two differing descriptions of what are taken to be the same objects: are these descriptions equivalent, does one take priority over the other, and is the unprioritised description reducible to the prioritised one? The problem of supervenience thus has a formal nature which can make a non-dualist response to it the starting-point for formally similar responses to other dualisms.
The dogmatic basis of the problem should already be obvious to any reader of Part 1. One can only provide a privileged status for a particular type of explanation, or incompatible types of status to different types of explanation, on the basis of dogmatic metaphysical claims about their value as explanations, which ignore the Sceptical problems which might be raised about those claims. Sometimes the dogmatism takes the form of an epistemological claim and sometimes a claim about meaning, but the outcome, as I argued in chapter 4, is similar in each case. Only explanations with holistic pretensions (positive or negative) can be a priori incompatible: but otherwise we can merely accept them as partial representations whose relative representational truth is unclear but whose respective usefulness may be evident in particular pragmatic contexts.
Nevertheless, whenever we employ the simple duality of verbal discontinuity, we are left with a basic problem of supervenience. For the discontinuities I employ, being dependent on many complex conditions relating to the defeasibility contexts in which I construct meaningful language, remain unstable over time and differ from the verbal discontinuities employed by others. Neither communication nor comprehension appear possible without a comparability between discontinuities: but that such comparability is pragmatic, being based on the fulfilment of desire through communication and comprehension, is very difficult for the dualist to admit because it involves abandoning the value which he places in one or another type of representation. Our representations and our verbal discontinuities appear similar because they provide enough harmony (or opposition) to provide a basis for actions in which each other’s behaviour is a factor. In this sense it can also be said that they are provisionally correct in relationship to each other: pragmatically lined up. In the example of the two dogs in the previous section, I and the dog-exterminator are “lined up” in opposition to each other, but the crucial respect in which we differ is that in which the discontinuities in our representations differ in their practical implications, not when measured against some abstract representational truth.
Since my account of the colour of the dog is more complex than that of the dog-exterminator, my account is “supervenient” upon his in the sense that the two accounts are pragmatically “lined up”, but that it is impossible to reduce my account to his level of complexity without entirely losing its distinctive features and conceding the dog’s life. Transpose the same considerations to the broader theoretical terrain of the supervenience of ethics on natural features and one finds a similar pragmatic lining-up: reductionist and non-reductionist each appeal to the same duality, and seek what may at first appear to be differing practical objectives (consisting in the predominance of their school of thought with its many implications). But in the broader context this lining-up proves to be harmonious as well as oppositional, for agreement on the terms of the debate creates a dualism which justifies the conventional conditions in which it takes place. Eternalist and nihilist are united in turning the verbal discontinuity of natural and ethical terms into a metaphysical discontinuity by either confirming or denying supervenience at the broadest level.
So how can an appeal to awareness of complexity avoid the assumption of supervenience? Through non-dualism in the broadest context. Whilst verbal discontinuity and the pragmatic lining-up of verbal discontinuities is essential for action at any given level, if the broadest context of this discontinuity is non-dualist, no assumption of metaphysical discontinuity is made. In psychological terms, the ego is working through the unavoidable discontinuities of its own existence, but with a model of its ends which is based on its ultimate harmonious unity with the whole psyche.
In relation to non-dualistic ethics the most obvious question of supervenience is “how do ethical features relate to psychological ones?”. This is only problematic if the epistemological background of ethics and psychology is understood dualistically, without the recognition that any description of psychological phenomena is inescapably a process of valuation, just as ethical prescriptivity is a matter of description of psychological processes in accordance with a valuation. At the broadest level, then, the implication of non-dualism is that there is a continuum of emphases between psychology which describes mental events, and philosophical ethics which prescribes them, but that neither type of language ever attains purity. The only boundary consists in the indeterminate point where the predominance of one kind of emphasis takes over from the predominance of the other. The application of non-dualism requires not only increasing awareness of verbal discontinuities in the use of both types of language (thus defined), but the ability to move between them as flexibly as possible.
Nor is the relationship between the language used at different levels of awareness of verbal discontinuity one of supervenience. Whilst the claim that higher levels cannot be reduced to lower ones is practically an important one to sustain, the basis for the claim is one of degree of awareness rather than accuracy of description. The superiority of the description of the dog as “blackish-grey” rather than “black” depends entirely on the respects in which that description (contingently, in relation to other conditions) manifests greater objectivity. Such greater objectivity consists in a greater contextual awareness which is being applied to the practical communicative situation.
The remaining dualisms which I shall survey in this section all depend on the application of a supervenience claim (or its denial through reductionism) in relation to the distinction between natural and non-natural attributes. In each case the basis of a non-dualist solution will thus be the same, but the implications for philosophical debate spread in different directions. In surveying some of these implications I will attempt to give further clarity to the philosophical basis of my argument so far through a process of virtuous circularity.
This dualism, already discussed to some extent in 2.c., rests on a metaphysical interpretation of the verbal discontinuity between real and ideal. It may thus be helpful to begin by considering the provisional usefulness of the real/ideal duality in a broader context of non-dualism.
Distinctions between what is more real and more ideal can be made along a continuum, at any point of which one could make a judgement as to the relative reality or ideality of an experience. Since, as I have argued throughout, there are no grounds on which we could ever judge whether or not an experience is real in the sense of correspondence to an absolute reality without thereby having recourse to dogmatism, the basis of judgement is thus not representational, but the pragmatic basis offered by objectivity of the kind I have argued. A relatively real experience is thus one had in a state of greater objectivity, a relatively ideal one more dominated by egoistic limitations. A (notional) experience that is merely ideal is thus understood not as one that takes place solely “inside the mind”, but rather as one that takes place “inside the ego” (though both these metaphors have their limitations). Its apparent objects may or may not be produced by processes taking place outside the mind of an individual, but it is only the dispositional objectivity applied that allows us to identify them as “real” in accordance with the pragmatic fruitfulness of thus identifying them.
To apply this particular verbal discontinuity is to provide one of the necessary conditions for action: in this sense all verbal discontinuities involve a realism/idealism distinction. Whilst Macbeth judged the dagger before him to be real, he tried to seize it, but on realising its illusory nature he stopped doing so. Trying to seize a hallucinatory dagger is not a pragmatically fruitful thing to do, as he would not have been able to fulfil his desire to grasp hold of it. If he had reflected further he might have attributed a different type of reality to the dagger, that being the reality of psychic disturbance which it represented, and this again might have been a basis for action: but Macbeth would have needed a greater degree of integration than Shakespeare depicts him as possessing in order to engage in this type of psychological realisation. It is the objectivity created by integration that allows us to make relatively correct judgements of the pragmatic fruitfulness of judging something “real”, because the greater that integration the more aware we are of verbal discontinuities, of the greater complexity that can be encountered within a defeasibility context, and of the possibility of moving to other defeasibility contexts.
Such an approach is not “idealist” even in the common metaphysical sense, since it does not reject the possibility of metaphysical reality. The labelling of such a perspective as “weak idealism” should be rejected as based on a confusion between agnosticism and denial in relation to absolute external objects: metaphysical agnosticism implies complete even-handedness between metaphysically realist and metaphysically idealist positions, not a watered-down version of the latter. Metaphysical agnosticism might just as well be called “weak realism” as “weak idealism”, since it accepts provisional accounts of the nature of the subject of experience no more nor less than of its object.
Since, however, no progress can ever be made on the issues of realism and idealism so long as they are interpreted metaphysically, no apologies need be made for adapting the language of this hopeless dualism into that of mere verbal discontinuity. An incremental account of reality and ideality in terms of objectivity and egoism enables both the useful elements of the traditional discussion to be credited and the value of realism to be unequivocally extolled.
As an example of how the useful elements of the traditional discussion may be credited, take Descartes’ argument that even a totally “illusory” experience, such as that perpetuated by an evil demon who controls the universe, would still maintain the same subject as the most accurate perception. Although this argument was immediately made the basis of metaphysical claims about the irreducible self, if we take it before this step is made Descartes can be seen as merely identifying the ego as the common structuring feature in all experiences. Even in dreams, where we often encounter the psyche beyond the habitual ego, we can only do so because the rational structuring of the ego becomes very loose. We still have a sense of the subject which encounters objects, although our degree of awareness and control over experience is usually rather more limited than in waking life.
The Cartesian ego shorn of its metaphysical features is thus merely the psychological one, which in fact provides the basis of the arguments and to which we can attribute the enduring appeal of those arguments. Were it not for his appeal to God, this would also leave Descartes with an idealism which (also like many examples of metaphysical realism) could be better understood in terms of his egoism, since its motive, as I argued in 3.f.ix, was dualistic.
Similarly, the value of a linguistic realism like that of Nagel can be seen in terms of the extent to which it provides support for development beyond the ego by insisting that our current horizons do not provide a discontinuous perimeter of meaning. Likewise, the value of some versions of idealism may be to lay stress on the respects in which our “reality” is egoistically projected: a necessary propaedeutic to loosening that projection as part of the process of extending the ego. In this respect the incremental distinction between dualist linguistic idealism and non-dualist linguistic realism cuts across the traditional metaphysical distinction between idealism and realism, but allows much clearer conclusions to be reached about the same issues: namely that realism (interpreted linguistically) is conducive to the process of integration and hence morally justified in a way in which linguistic idealism is not. At root both our practical assumption of verbal discontinuities composing “reality” and our continued openness to change in these theoretical formulations involve a movement towards the recognition of reality: one which metaphysical idealism and the dogmatic realism of common sense both lack.
The metaphysical dualism between realism and idealism manifests a supervenience claim because an ideal object is judged on the basis of the dualism to be clearly either irreducible or reducible to a real one, or vice-versa. This dualism becomes the basis for other dualisms (which I shall now be considering) which are also dependent, not only on the model of supervenience, but on a metaphysical real/ideal distinction: these are the mind/body dualism, the distinction between qualitative and numerical identity, freewill and determinism, the presence or absence of cosmic justice, positive and negative freedom, and the unity or diversity of virtues. In each case the non-dualist response will be almost tediously similar: there is no justification for an ultimate metaphysical position, only an incremental spectrum on the basis of which particular dualities can be judged; the language of these philosophical discussions can be made useful, but only by the adoption of a genuinely pragmatic approach.
The dualism between mind and body depends upon that between ideal and real in that each side of the dualism is epistemologically supported using idealist or realist assumptions. The mind-body monist appeals either to the dependence of all investigation on the mind, or to the final priority of material explanation, whilst the mind-body dualist attempts to maintain both types of epistemology in respect to different objects. The transferral of the discussion from ontology to language here only shifts the dualistic assumptions in relation to belief to parallel ones with regard to meaning: if we claim that mental language is meaningless, eliminable, or reducible to physical language, for example, we just as surely reject the grounds for belief in the mind as a distinct type of substance (by rejecting the meaningfulness of such a belief) as we would through a more direct ontological or epistemological claim.
From a non-dualist perspective the duality of the verbal discontinuity between “mind” and “body” does not need to be wholly abandoned, merely put into the context of its provisionality. Instead of mental and physical substances (or correlative defeasibility contexts), non-dualism implies a spectrum of phenomena which can be provisionally classified as more or less mental or physical. The phenomena which one might describe as predominantly mental are those often cited by mind-body dualists in support of mind as a metaphysical substance: for example intentionality, qualia, self-consciousness, and the experience of choice. The argument that these phenomena cannot (or at least cannot yet) be explained in wholly physical terms is a strong one, but it justifies only agnosticism about the metaphysical status of the mind, not dualism. Similarly, predominantly physical phenomena appear to lack these mental qualities and to conform to the laws of physics, yet this justifies us only in giving them a provisional status as physical objects relative to mental objects, not in assuming their metaphysical reality. The laws of physics here provide a background assumption which is itself provisional. Whenever we confront an object, the physical sciences provide us with one kind of theorisation with which to classify it in relation to other objects, according to the extent to which they appear to be able to account for its nature, but this is not the only nor the definitive form of classification.
The mind-body duality also needs to be decoupled from the ideal-real duality. In traditional metaphysical terms, as I have noted, they are interdependent, yet if a more useful approach to the discussion about ideal and real is to be made in terms of a spectrum between egoism and objectivity, the mind-body duality (based on the application of natural science and its limitations in explaining the mind) needs to be seen as distinct from either metaphysical idealism/realism or egoism/objectivity. The spectrum which results from a series of particular discriminations between physical and mental cannot be an incrementalisation of metaphysical idealism/realism, because it is incapable of incrementalisation. It also has no necessary relationship to the spectrum between egoism and objectivity, because objectivity of judgement can be exercised just as easily on mental phenomena as on physical.
Objectivity often requires an openness to the mental on the part of one who has concentrated on the physical, or vice-versa, and is indifferent as to the starting point. Even within those categories, the physical scientist might extend objectivity through a balanced heuristic, which enables engagement with the psyche beyond the ego through the identification of rejected psychic elements with rejected theories, whilst the psychoanalyst or meditator changes his behaviour with regard to rejected external objects by working with symbols of the psychic energies which he regards as internal to his mind, but the difference between them lies in the effectiveness with which they engage with the rejected desires and beliefs, not whether they are “mental” or “physical”.
Nevertheless, the distinction between mental and physical does offer a useful ground of differentiation between individuals. Whatever the state of the ambiguous evidence regarding psychic communication or collectivity of unconscious life, the mind is largely the property of an individual, identified provisionally by its uniqueness of access to that individual. The mind is thus a crucial part of our situatedness: mental properties do not endure in time or spread in space, and are limited both by their context and in their power. To identify an object as mental relative to another object is thus to stress its lack of universality, its uniqueness and limitation. If I talk about my own particular experience of the red of a tomato, for example, I do not mean something like a physical substance that constantly changes form as it rolls around the universe, but something very specific which is mine, not in the egoistic sense that I necessarily identify with it, but in the sense of being associated only with the body and experience that is called mine. To separate mind/body qualities from ideal/real qualities (in the egoistic/objective sense) is thus to make the vital ethical distinction between situatedness and identification which I apply at a number of points during this book.
This position must be distinguished from some existing types of position in the philosophy of mind with which it might be falsely assimilated. It is not a dual aspect theory, because a dual aspect theory accepts the metaphysical account of mind and body and attempts to apply both sorts of metaphysical claim to the same object. It may well be the case that all features generally described as mental could conceivably be described in physical terms, or that physical features could be explained in mental terms, making it impossible to rule out the presence of both “aspects” in any object, but these “aspects” can be acknowledged only in a context of agnosticism where “mental” and “physical” are incrementalisable terms for something apparent, not absolute terms still applied absolutely to aspects of an object.
Nor should a non-dualist approach be confused with functionalism, and again it is the issue of completeness of explanation which separates them. Whilst functionalism attempts to define the mind as a set of causal relations, non-dualism is based on the negative foundationalism according to which accounts not only of the nature of the mind but of causal relations must be accepted as merely provisional. Whilst an understanding of the mind in terms of causality rather than substance provides a flexibility which substantialist approaches lack in that it allows recognition of mental features in machines, animals, and notional aliens, this flexibility is only compatible with metaphysical agnosticism insofar as it allows for doubt and for degrees of mentality. A computer may show many mental features, especially when compared to an undifferentiated block of metal, but this no more justifies us in claiming that it thereby has a “mind” as an absolute quantity than in the similar case of a human being.
The ethical advantages of this approach will become increasingly apparent as its implications are traced in the next two subsections in relation to identity and freewill issues. In either case, if we incrementalise the special status given to minds over bodies, the sources of many conflicts dependent on dualistic assumptions begin to melt away.
The basis of the dualism usually applied to identity issues is that between qualitative and numerical (or quantitative) identity. To assume a metaphysical distinction here is to assume that there is some final distinction between objects and their qualities, or that there is finally no such distinction. This again follows the supervenience model, whereby the same object is described on mutually reducible or irreducible levels: here in the sense that qualities are in some sense properties of an object, but nevertheless distinct from the object itself, so that neither object nor properties are reducible to each other; or at the other extreme that there are no objects, merely clusters of properties, and hence all talk of objects is reducible to properties. In terms of time this implies that either objects endure as properties continually change, or that objects are continually changing with even the smallest changes in their properties.
The dualism of identity is also dependent upon the mind-body dualism. On the one hand it is the irreducible or reducible features of the mind which are appealed to in order to support notions either of the irreducible and essential self, or of the absence of such a self, in the case of personal identity. On the other hand it is the irreducible or reducible features of the physical world relative to the mind which are appealed to in order to support the irreducible or reducible features of objects, when it is claimed that these either have or lack numerical identity.
As with the other dualisms on which it is dependent, the dualism of identity can be turned into a mere duality in the context of non-dualism. In any given case, our judgement as to whether an object (or a person, or a quality, indeed any concrete or abstract entity) is present is pragmatically important: but, as I have been arguing throughout the last few subsections, the levels of object specified can be more or less subtle, according to the degree of awareness of verbal discontinuity that is present. As I have argued, this awareness, enabling increasingly accurate theorisations of objects, must be attributed to the degree of integration of the individual, not to any property of the objects themselves, which remain ultimately unknown. The spectrum in relation to which judgements of the independent existence of objects must provisionally be made, then, is none other than the spectrum of integration itself, which in this connection can be understood as a spectrum of degrees of identification rather than of identity. At one end of this spectrum is a relatively crude understanding of the universe as made up of discrete objects, distinct from their properties, viewed by a discrete and independent subject. Such objects may be abstract as well as concrete and a relatively crude view may include the metaphysical idealist notion of the complete absence of subjects and/or objects based on reducibility to their properties: the universe may then be said to be understood in terms of abstract negative objects whose existence is being denied. At the other end of the spectrum (at the point of stream-entry) is a relatively refined understanding of the universe as containing numerous contingent objects and properties, identified for the purposes of action, but no final reducibility to one or the other.
The dualism of identity is also heavily dependent on that of idealism/realism, and the non-dualist response to it is similar. Metaphysical realism consists in the assertion of grounds for numerical identity based on objects, whilst metaphysical idealism rather attributes such grounds to the mind of the subject alone, making all identity qualitative. This applies even to personal identity, despite the fact that metaphysical realists and metaphysical idealists may agree on this issue. A metaphysical realist, seeing the self as an object, can assert its continued existence on the same grounds as that of other objects (though he may alternatively go down the Humean path of denying the self’s existence), whilst the metaphysical idealist, seeing the self as a subject, can assert its identity on the very grounds that it is not like objects. In either case a desubstantialisation of the position in line with metaphysical agnosticism requires a prior incrementalisation of realism and idealism in terms of egoism/objectivity along the lines suggested in 6.b.ii above. The less the egoistic limiting of identification, the less need there is for metaphysical commitment on identity.
The only residue left by this process of incrementalising the identity dualism into a spectrum of integration is one that can be understood in terms of the mental-physical spectrum discussed in the previous subsection. It may be claimed that provisional assumptions of identity cannot be reduced to those of identification in the case of personal identity because there are specific situated mental features we encounter, either in ourselves or others, which are part of the apparent nature of the universe we theorise about, not merely being subsumable into the integrity of the process of theorisation itself. I will still encounter individuals (including myself), with mental features which are conventionally associated with identity, even when I have ceased to confuse my individual nature with my ego, and have separated the individual natures of others from my identifications in relation to them. This residual identity, however, is indistinguishable from the idea of mind as situated mental features judged relative to physical ones. The very term “individual”, which I have been using throughout, presupposes such relative judgements.
This may be clarified further by considering (by way of a thought experiment) a world entirely inhabited by enlightened beings. Such beings (as the word “being” implies) would be individuals, and thus such a world would not differ from ours in the sense that it would contain a number of situated minds. Perhaps we would have clarified exactly what that means rather more, but nevertheless the nature of individual minds would still be under investigation, with a provisional recognition that the best theorisation to assume is probably that there are individual minds. However, apart from this conventional basis for identity, the complete psychological integration of all beings would mean that there would be no more identification with one being over another other than that required by situatedness. The spectra of integration and of mental/physical objects would thus be working alongside each other, fulfilling rather different purposes, but other ideas about identity would have vanished.
The implications of this could help to defuse areas of ethical debate which are strongly polarised by the dualism of identity. The conflict between the quantitative value of human life and the qualitative features of human life in medical ethics issues provides one example. Medical ethics provides stark examples of the requirement for judgements to be made based on dualities, even in the face of an awareness of an incrementality of values: this is often put as the requirement for a choice between “lesser evils” (though one might just as well say “greater goods”). In these circumstances, the polarised positions usually reflect either the prioritisation of human life as a value in itself, or the prioritisation of quality of life, in each case reflecting the dualism between quantitative and qualitative views of identity. If we substitute for this dualism the two distinct spectra of integration and mind/body, however, it becomes clear that not only do we need to judge in terms of an incremental scale in such cases, but that the type of incrementality on which one could judge takes two forms: the relative presence of mental properties and the degree of integration. Within the latter the degree of integration of the judge creates one factor, that of those whose lives are in question another, whilst the relative presence of mental properties (which in many cases provide key conditions of the potential for integration) is by no means unimportant in relation to the other two factors. No formula could justifiably pre-set the balance to be struck between these three considerations in any given case, but merely to formulate them in this way is to begin to overcome the dogmatic assumptions which all too often form the only sphere of discussion in such cases.
Such examples give some indication of the ways in which a non-dualist view of identity, through its use of the spectrum of integration (used normatively in ways which will be explored more fully in chapters 7 and 8) offers fundamental challenges to the metaphysics of egalitarianism. Values based purely on integration cannot be based on fixed quantities of value, so that the value of human life in itself cannot be a metaphysical starting point, even if it is often a vital pragmatic assumption. Likewise, they cannot dispense with the assumption of quantitative value in human life and focus only on qualitative issues, for that would be to attempt a prematurely absolute position like that often embraced by utilitarians, which ignores our degree of identification with human life and its characteristic mental features. Rather we can recognise our identifications with the value of human life, de-absolutise them, turn them into an incremental scale of priority in which even small potentials have their place, and work to extend them and reconcile them with the harsh decisions sometimes offered by rationality. We cannot say a priori that, say, a foetus, or a person in a persistent vegetative state, or a Siamese twin whose continued life is incompatible with that of her partner, has a right to life: but we can integrate our emotional responses to the prospect of ending the lives of such individuals with the rational demands of a consequentialist analysis, so as to try to make a judgement in each case which most nearly reflects the full complexity of the issue.
More discussion as to the broader application of such an ethical approach will be found in chapter 8. Meanwhile it need only be noted that the issue of identity here forms only the first of a series of dualisms which carry important implications for the background of assumptions within which ethics is conceived and practised, all dependent on the approach taken to dualism in general as discussed in the earlier parts of this chapter.
The dualism between freewill and determinism has a strong formative role in dualist approaches to ethics, and its overcoming is equally formative in producing a non-dualist approach. Perhaps no other problem of Western philosophy has seemed so intractable, or attracts so many vested interests: for freewill offers the illusion of control basic to the ego in the fulfilment of its desires, determinism the illusion of a leap to an absolute level of control which overcomes the limitations of the ego. Freewill and determinism are so closely related to important aspects of egoistic experience that this dualism is perhaps more difficult to eradicate than any other. Nevertheless, in the light of the incrementalist approaches to other dualisms I have offered so far, the non-dualist “solution” appears clear.
The dualism between freewill and determinism is directly dependent upon the mind-body dualism, since freewill is offered as a metaphysical characteristic of minds, whilst determinism is a characteristic of physical phenomena. Determinism I take here to involve the claim that all phenomena are sufficiently caused, freewill the denial that sufficient causality operates upon the will, which thus becomes itself the initiator of a new chain of causes. Determinism here involves a metaphysical realist claim about all phenomena, the direct contradiction of which is another kind of metaphysical claim, indeterminism, that all phenomena are not sufficiently caused. Freewill thus amounts to a claim of metaphysical indeterminism within a limited sphere, based on the claim of irreducible characteristics for the mind. An agnostic approach here must thus not be confused with metaphysical indeterminism, either in its more general sense or its more specific freewill sense, any more than with metaphysical determinism. It must also not be confused with compatibilism or soft determinism, the strategy of maintaining metaphysical determinism and redefining freewill so that it no longer contradicts it: even if the definition of freewill then becomes incremental, that of determinism does not.
An agnostic approach here need only take a well-established argument – that of Hume’s inductive account of causality – to its logical conclusion. Hume appreciated that causality was only understood inductively, but nevertheless failed to take this Sceptical caveat seriously enough, as well as maintaining too narrow a view of inductive observation. Given that causal judgements are based on a finite number of inductive observations, and that the interpretation of those observations can never be absolutely conclusive, any universal conclusion as the operation of sufficient causes in all possible circumstances must be dogmatic. To avoid such dogmatism it is necessary to restrict theorisation to relatively specific and relatively observable claims about causal relationships which take into account our degree of ignorance of the sufficiency of causes producing an event. Whilst in many cases it may appear clear that we have identified the necessary conditions for an event (since experiment continually replays it), this does not mean that we can justifiably claim to have identified the sufficient conditions. Without a single case of certainty about sufficient conditions, we cannot know whether sufficient conditions operate. Even in the cases of apparently natural events remote from human agency, determinism is constantly undermined by this element of doubt.
Nevertheless there appear to be grounds for drawing a contrast between such natural events and those that we describe as “actions”, simply because of the even greater extent to which the sufficient cause of actions lies in doubt. Such a contrast is not one of dualism, but, as in the other cases I have examined in this section, of judgement between particular cases as lying at different points along a spectrum, allowing us to call one event more conditioned relative to another which is less conditioned. This judgement is not based upon a complete knowledge of all the conditions operating upon a given object or event, but only from a comparison of the extent of conditions which appear to be operating in each case.
In the case of the erosion of a rock by a stream, it seems that we can explain the necessary conditions for erosion and that we can predict approximately how it will occur: so whilst the margin of error in any prediction about exactly how long it will take for a stream to erode through a certain thickness of a given rock does not allow us to describe that event as determined, we are still justified in saying that it is heavily conditioned in ways that we can account for. By comparison, the actions of an animal may be relatively less easy to predict, and those of a human being still less easy: not because they are entirely unpredictable, but because the margin of error is greater. The truism that social sciences are less precise than physics does not have to become the basis of a dualism, though. The greater difficulty in prediction in the social sciences may ultimately be due to a greater complexity of processes or to a qualitatively different type of process in the human mind: we do not know and have no way of determining. But in either case, predictability appears to provide the basis of a spectrum of conditioning based only on estimation of our relative degree of ignorance of each case: effectively of probability, understood as a measure of the confidence of an individual rather than as a feature of independent events which are judged more or less probable. In the case of a highly conditioned event like the erosion of the rock, a given range of predictable outcomes is highly probable, whilst in the actions of a human being it is less probable that predictable outcomes will occur.
Apart from the particular form that a theorisation takes then ( i.e. what it hypothesises and what it predicts), a non-dualist account of the heuristic process must offer an incremental scale for the confidence with which it is advanced. I have already explained the ways in which a non-dualist account of confidence differs from a dualist one, in that it is based on integration of belief rather than on dogmatic assertion. It is through the notion of probability, then, that we can see the nature of the link between integration and conditioning. The higher the probability of a predicted outcome, the greater the confidence of the individual concerned in the theorisation of causal processes which forms the basis of the prediction; and the greater that confidence, the greater the degree of conditioning which can be understood to apply to the predicted event.
A more integrated person is better able to understand conditioning because such understanding is based, not on the non-psychological conditions which form the background of the attempt to understand, such as the degree of information available about the objects with which she is concerned, but on the psychological conditions which provide the basis of her response to that information. To the extent that she is integrated her response will be balanced in confidently asserting the theory whilst maintaining an awareness of its provisionality. But to assert the theory is to assert the existence of conditions, whilst to be aware of its provisionality is to be aware of our degree of ignorance of conditions. It is thus one’s way of asserting a theory which determines correctness of judgement as to the degree of identifiable conditionality in the objects of theorisation, not the content of the theory itself. My theory may be about a refined and apparently unpredictable class of people – say, artists – but I can still assert it in a way that assumes artists to be as strongly conditioned as the crudest or simplest material objects. Likewise, I can theorise about the simplest objects and yet do so in a way which fully respects the mysteries which still surround their conditioning. The degree of conditioning which I ascribe to an object or person thus has no necessary relationship to the extent of evidence for conditioning, but rather the extent of evidence assumes significance when interpreted by an individual with the capacity to weigh that evidence against a recognition of our degree of ignorance. The less that capacity, the more likely it is that conditioning will be understood in terms of the extremes of determinism and indeterminism, but the greater it is, the more likely that a pragmatically correct conclusion will be reached.
The same criteria apply when we consider our experience of individual choice. As
It is in this sphere of ignorance that the “freewill” of the ego operates. We have a sense that we can affect an external universe in accordance with our own wishes, yet we do not know how this is possible. If we try to leap prematurely to a standpoint beyond the ego, we conclude that it is impossible, yet continue to implicitly believe that it is, merely appropriating the idea of universal processes (as I have argued throughout chapters 3 & 4). The way to overcome this egoistic illusion, then, is not through such a leap, but through the gradual recognition of our ignorance of the grounds for belief in freewill (or the grounds for its denial). It is through recognition of our ignorance that the egoistic urge to constantly interpose a dualism between what we control and what we do not can be gradually overcome. For the enlightened, there must merely be an acceptance that, as individuals, we both affect the universe of our experience and are affected by it, with our identification residing equally in each. The end of “freewill” has ceased to be a threat, and “determinism” has ceased to be an appropriated metaphysical absolute.
But the implications of integration as the basis to understanding conditioning go even further than this: they also clarify the nature of the will which we exert and its degree of effectiveness. An unintegrated will is hampered by doubt as I described it in 5.d.ii: that is, by a dogmatic rather than a balanced apprehension of experience which means that beliefs have to be defensively asserted against challenges from experience. This means that the background against which the will operates is one of dogmatism both in relation to the beliefs which it assumes as the basis of its action and the ends which it posits for itself. Doubt, then, leads the will either to strike out in sudden “wilfulness”, or to retire in confusion, but to lack incremental means of reaching its ends which rely on a confident assessment either of its environment or of its desires and their realisation. Greater integration, then, provides greater scope for the will to realise its ends (relative to the circumstances of the individual), both because those ends are more consistent and because a clearer sense can be reached of the conditions which will aid or interfere with them. The more integrated individual thus has a will which is less subject to the limitations imposed by psychological conditioning (even though he is still subject to other sorts of conditioning).
To return to the incrementalisation of freewill and determinism, then, I have argued on the basis of the implications of a number of earlier arguments that the implications of non-dualism are that the spectrum of integration can replace the dualism of freewill and determinism. This spectrum allows the application of a duality in order to make a practical distinction between degrees of conditioning, not only when assessing ones own will and its own relatively conditioned or unconditioned nature, but also in assessing the degree of conditioning affecting the will of another being, and also in assessing the degree of conditioning affecting objects. In each case, though, we will be assessing the extent of conditioning relative to that person or object, not applying an a priori belief. Integration operates not only as an indicator of relative freedom from psychological conditioning in the integrated being, but as an indicator of the relative capacity to judge the degree of conditioning elsewhere.
However, the application of the spectrum of integration here, as in the previous subsection in relation to identity, is not quite sufficient to cover all the distinctions which have been made under the dualism of freewill and determinism. A difficulty remains in accounting for the discontinuity I seem to still be relying on here between psychological and non-psychological conditioning. An integrated person can be understood to be free from psychological conditioning to exactly the same extent that he is integrated, but the judgement he has developed in assessing the degree of conditioning in himself, others, and objects applies to other types of conditioning as well as to psychological conditioning. Is there a contradiction between the integrated person’s relative freedom from psychological conditioning only and his ability to judge the extent of non-psychological conditions? This question would rest on a misunderstanding of the basis of the claim of the integrated person’s relative ability to judge conditions. It is not based on any appeal to a special resonance between his own degree of freedom from psychological conditions and that of others (which does not mean that such a special resonance may not exist), but from the general balance of the heuristic he applies in understanding all conditions. If he applies that balance to the investigation of non-psychological conditions, including those of his own body and mind, his degree of integration would aid him there too, within the limits of the non-psychological conditions under which he labours in any case.
The issue of how far psychological conditions are present, or potentially present, in an object or person is of course part of another spectrum of judgement which I have already specified: that of mind in relation to body. It is only where mental features are already present to a given degree that one would begin to look for psychological integration. This point of distinction, however, is a practical rather than a metaphysical one: we do not know there to be mental features in inanimate substances, and thus do not look for psychological integration in such substances, but this does not mean that we can completely dismiss the possibility.
The incrementalisation of the dualism of freewill and determinism has immense implications for ethics, because it removes the traditional assumption in Western philosophy that discontinuous freewill is a necessary condition for ethics. The concerns that led to that belief can still be recognised in an incremental scheme of the degree of conditionality: for it does appear that we can be relatively free of psychological conditioning and that this freedom, indeed, is the basis of ethics. But this idea of “freedom” needs to be treated with extreme caution: the almost visceral appeal of the word can lead straight back into egoistic appropriation and dualism if it is not constantly related to the heuristic process by which we understand conditioning. We are not born free, nor do we merely assert our freedom: we earn it bit by bit through the gradual acknowledgement of reality beyond the ego.
A further implication is the undermining of criticisms of non-dualism which argue that it proceeds on voluntarist assumptions (or, from the other side, deterministic assumptions). Such criticisms tend to confuse an agnosticism in the area of freewill and determinism with an adherence to the opposed metaphysics. In the case of the accusation of voluntarism (an argument which can be used to attack the theory of belief given earlier), there is a confusion of provisional belief with a belief that can be simply assumed at will, rather than relying on a complexity of conditions. The adoption of belief, however, is ultimately a mysterious process about which no metaphysical claims should be made either way.
The relationship between cosmic justice and determinism is one that I have already discussed to some extent. Cosmic justice amounts to the supposed moral value of universal determinism: for there cannot be cosmic justice without such determinism, despite the fact that it appears to contradict freewill. Scientism, as I have argued, tends to reject eternalist cosmic justice but at the same time assume the value of its own, supposedly purely cognitive, version, whilst existentialism rejects it but has difficulty in avoiding its implicit re-introduction.
Cosmic justice claims of some kind are very difficult to avoid wherever any kind of value is assumed beyond the ego, yet the ego is not distinguished from the individual: for if no ground of value is to be found in the psyche, it must either exist in a real universe or consist in the mere assertion of the ego. With the incrementalisation of the idealist/realist dualism into the spectrum of integration, then, is removed the whole ground of cosmic justice claims: for without metaphysical realism (or some form of transcendental or absolute idealism which likewise makes a claim of some metaphysical reality beyond the ego) there is no longer any recourse to a basis of ethics beyond the integration of the psyche. Likewise there is no basis on which to deny cosmic justice, whether through the scientistic or existentialist route, without either a rival metaphysical realism or a metaphysical idealism.
The incrementalisation of the freewill/determinism dualism as integration also provides a basis for the incrementalisation of cosmic justice. For the appreciation of the regular operation of conditions gained through the confident assertion of theorisations, increasing with integration, is of direct relevance to moral judgements. The more effectively I can understand and predict the workings of conditions (including my own psychological conditions), the more this will assist me in making effective judgements in particular moral circumstances. For I will not only be able to take a relatively critical attitude to my ends, balancing the need for action with an estimation of ignorance, but I will be able (to the extent that I am integrated) to predict the consequences of a given action as accurately as is possible within the limitations of information and mental capacity I work under. The more integrated I become, then, the more I will be able to overcome frustration through a combination of the integration of desires (making my ends more stable) and pragmatic effectiveness (making my ends more realisable).
Integration thus offers an incrementalised version of the role traditionally played by cosmic justice, for it provides a basis for morality which lies beyond the ego, but one which is only discovered by also being in harmony with the ego. At each step of the way I create a new represented “cosmos” within which my desires can be fulfilled at the level of integration they have reached, but at each step I have also formulated my ideas and beliefs so as to make that fulfilment possible by cutting off challenges from beyond the ego as it is at that point. There is an incrementalised “cosmic justice” in the gradation from one step to another, in that I achieve a situation where my desires are more capable of fulfilment than they were before, in return for my adjustment of those desires and increased awareness of conditions, but this is achieved without the need to alienate present desires or make metaphysical claims.
The provisional theorisation of specific conditional links between phenomena, and the confident use of such theorisations, is thus of great moral value. This does not imply, however, any usefulness (rather the reverse, as I have argued) in the generalisation of that moral value to all conditions, since non-psychological conditions constantly interact with psychological ones to produce unpredictable outcomes. The most that can be claimed generally, then, is that integration of the psyche produces the best available fulfilments of desires given the range of non-psychological conditions: but within the range of this claim are the possible intercession of all kinds of non-psychological conditions, such as bring about, for example, the greatest extremes of suffering, including ones which have the effect of reversing objective integration which is not yet permanent.
Since up to the point of stream entry even advances in objective integration are not permanent but subject to other conditions, the main causal claim here is that there is a point at which integrated psychological processes become independent of the non-psychological processes which can disrupt them: but this is only to the extent that death or mental deterioration do not interfere with the basic conditions on which the continued existence of the psyche appears to depend. As a claim about the general operation of conditions this is hence limited and plausible, but of course it cannot be proven and must be treated as a provisional hypothesis. The crucial point about such hypotheses, however, is that they do not resemble cosmic justice claims in the sense of offering a metaphysical basis for ethics: if they should turn out to be false, non-dualism and psychological integration as a basis for ethics could still stand since they depend, not on a hypothesised end-point, but on an incrementally discovered process.
A further dualism continues to afflict even talk of ethics which uses dispositional terms: are the virtues one or many? In support of eternalism and proto-scientism respectively Plato and Aristotle were obliged to assert the unity of the virtues against the relativists of their time who argued that courage, patience, magnanimity etc bore no necessary relationship to one another. A similar argument may be turned against the use of integration as the basis of ethics. Does the appeal to integration amount to an appeal to metaphysics because of the insistence that there is only one type of virtue to be cultivated in this way? It is not necessary to make use of Aristotle’s list of virtues, conventional in his society, to make this point, but only to point to the number of dualisms I have attempted to resolve by means of integration in this section so far. Is awareness of conditionality identical as a virtue with freedom from conditionality, with breadth of identification, and with engagement with reality: and are all these really the same as goodness?
As I have defined them, these virtues are identical, but the objection is based on a descriptivist premise. The objector wants to know whether these virtues as we encounter them are identical rather than whether they can be defined into a unity. There is no complete response to this which will prove the unity of the virtues on dualistic grounds, but it can be shown how a non-dualist response offers a quite different conception of unity from that of Plato and Aristotle: not a unity which is imposed upon diversity, as the ego imposes itself upon the rest of the psyche, but a gradual and harmonious transformation of diverse desires to realise their capacity for unity.
This difference of approach, which I have already discussed with regard to Plato, is accompanied by a different conception of virtue, which is quantitative rather than qualitative. For the dualist, virtues must be qualitatively understood discontinuously either as unified or disunified, with the result that progression from one to the other, either morally (where we gain unity of virtue) or epistemologically (where we understand the grounds for the unity) becomes difficult to conceive. A non-dualist approach, however, understands virtue continuously and quantitatively, as the energy of desires which can be directed in more or less integrated ways according to the circumstantial beliefs.
At the level at which the dualist objector asks the question, then, it may well be true that we experience the virtues either as a diversity or as a unity: but we do so only with egoistic preconceptions which lead us to interpret them with a metaphysical rather than merely verbal discontinuity. A non-dualist account of the virtues does not insist on the unity of the virtues a priori, but rather enables us to overcome the dualism created by the dogmatic assumption that they are either unified or disunified. It does this by incrementalising the development of virtue on a scale of unification, a term which has much the same sense as integration: the process of bringing disparate things together to gradually form a unity.
At the less integrated end of the spectrum, the virtues are not only not unified in a given individual, but that individual is less able to appreciate their unity in others: there is a moral as well as an epistemological disunity. At the more integrated end, the converse applies. This can be understood in the same terms as the relatively integrated person’s ability both to be less subject to conditioning herself and to assess levels of conditioning in herself or others: virtue consisting merely in the absence of egoistic psychological conditioning. At any point along the spectrum, then, one will perceive the virtues in general as relatively unified or disunified, in proportion to the degree with which one perceives them as such in oneself or in others. In this case it does not matter what conventional descriptions are given to different virtues: for it is in accordance with the very fact that we see them as disunified under whatever descriptions that they remain disunified in us.
Any examples will inevitably rely on a particular set of conventional descriptions of virtues, and will also need to abstract to an almost distorting degree from the real complexity of characters: but I shall attempt one with these limitations in mind. Suppose (for the sake of simplicity) that I have only two relative virtues: clarity of thought and kindness to animals. I may think that there is no necessary link between these two qualities, especially given that my clarity of thought is often applied in a narrow-minded way and I am often unkind to people. This means that the way my egoistic defensiveness manifests itself consists in the erection of dualistic boundaries of belief and/or meaning between animals and people as objects of kindness, and between clarity and breadth as applications of thought. If I were to develop a little, this might take the form of some integration of attention and/or emotion which might lead me to appreciate the value of overcoming these dualisms: but in the process of gaining such an appreciation, I would thus already be breaking down my beliefs about the disunity of different sorts of kindness or different applications of thought. As a further step I may then begin to consider ways in which breaking down the barriers between types of kindness is an application of thought, and the extension of breadth of thought beyond habitual applications involves an emotional development akin to kindness, in doing so breaking down a further dualism which is not only moral but epistemological. In the process of these developments the qualitative description of the virtues involved changes in a way which makes it arguable that they are the “same” virtues throughout: but when the conditions for our conceptions of the identity of virtues are taken into account, a quantitative model can better convey the nature of the changes in virtue.
The dualism between the unity and the diversity of virtues thus turns out to be resolvable, like many other of the dualisms I have considered, into the spectrum of integration. In this sense it closely follows the form of other discussions where some other form of monism or holism is under consideration (such as in much eternalism): in each case it is the premature adoption of such monism without allowance for an epistemological gradation (as well as a moral one) which makes it unacceptable from a non-dualist perspective, rather than the positing of unity as a final goal.
Finally in my account of dualisms I come to their political application in the dualism between positive and negative freedom. Here I understand negative freedom to indicate the political valuing of providing citizens with the opportunity to fulfil their desires, by positive freedom the similar value of enabling citizens to overcome their desires.
Negative freedom usually implies a liberal position in which the goal of government is to interfere in the lives of citizens as little as is compatible with the peaceful pursuit of the fulfilment of their desires. This requires a division between public and private morality in which the values of citizens remain justifiably diverse, but the values of government are those of the scientism of the “neutral” arbiter (which I have already commented on). As I have indicated, its advocates can attempt to justify this approach either in terms typical of eternalism or of nihilism.
Positive freedom, on the other hand, is associated with the idea that government has a moral duty to improve the citizens, and that interference in individual freedoms can be justified by this moral duty of governments. This requires a view of ethics that understands moral practice in terms of alienation: for the state’s role here is to prevent the individual from fulfilling his desires in order to detach him from them, on the grounds that the real “freedom” for the individual is found through fulfilling the moral duty of the individual. Positive freedom can thus only be justified from an eternalist standpoint.
Despite the existence of eternalist liberalism, then, positive and negative freedom depend on exactly the same metaphysical discontinuity between absolute and relative as the ethics of eternalism and nihilism: eternalist liberals cross to the other side of the dualism in political matters, but they nevertheless maintain the dualism. The dualism differs from the ethical dualism only in that it is applied at a remove, by the government to the citizen rather than by the citizen to himself. The dualism between positive and negative freedom assumes that there either is or is not an isomorphism between state and individual in the sense that the same moral criteria can be applied: the advocate of positive freedom assuming that there is such an isomorphism and that of negative freedom that there is not. To apply positive freedom a belief in both an absolute source of ethics and an isomorphism is required, whilst the denial of either results in negative freedom.
The dualism needs to be tackled in two ways, then: the first, which will already be familiar, is the incrementalisation of the absolute-relative dualism in ethics by substituting the spectrum of integration: it is then this kind of moral development, not a state-determined nor a wholly private one, that is desirable. The second is the incrementalisation of the affirmation or denial of the isomorphism between individual and state with a scale of integration of the state. This scale is different from that of the individual in the respects that it must be recognised that states are not isomorphic to individuals, but on the other hand also involves the recognition that governments, too, can develop in the sense of becoming increasingly integrated in policy. Governments, like individuals, begin with desires, which are the desires of the politicians composing the government in proportion to their degree of influence, and reflecting the desires of those who elected them to the extent that politicians are actually able to, and wish to, represent those desires. These desires, like those of individuals, can be more or less integrated in relation to the meanings and beliefs by which they are framed, taking more or less account of a breadth of conditions and thus being more or less effective. On the other hand, governments differ from individuals in the sense that another layer of complexity is present: that of the psyches of those involved in it (not only politicians but, to a lesser extent, electors, civil servants and the public in its response to policy). Some of the solution to the problems of government can thus not be resolved at the level of government, and governments also need to recognise this condition. The scale of integration of a government thus begins at the lower end with this crude affirmation or denial of the moral role of government, and develops with an increasing recognition of the complexity of the particular ways in which government can and cannot contribute to the balanced moral development of citizens.
If the integration of government is to be understood in this way, then the goals of government in relation to citizens cannot be resolved a priori outside the process of integration, any more than the goals of individuals can be morally justified outside the process of the integration of those goals. To assume that government has an absolute moral responsibility to impose a certain set of moral duties on its citizens is likely to prove as erroneous as to assume that it has no moral duties and is merely a “neutral” arbiter between citizens. Rather the more integrated government becomes, the more it will take into account the complexity of conditions, including the limitations of its own power (for it cannot always gain its ends by coercion or persuasion), the extent to which coercion is necessary and the point beyond which it will merely create alienation, and the extent to which it is able to provide effective moral support to citizens. To take the maximum of conditions into account and balance them with the need for action (which is one of the conditions) is to integrate government and thus to enable it to find its justifiable ends.
To the extent to which government has moral responsibility, then, it can only be based on the desirability of the process of integration in individuals. An important part of the process of integration for governments thus needs to involve the recognition of this: for the best interests of government are served by the maximum recognition of conditions by all the citizens, facilitating their moral integration and thus reducing the conflicts between citizens in which governments need to intervene. To bring this about, though, may demand either intervention or laissez-faire on the part of government, dependent on the surrounding conditions.
Thus the non-dualist “freedom” which is desirable for individuals is not to be formulated in the metaphysical terms of negative or positive freedom: rather it consists in the process of integration and the freedom this offers from psychological conditioning. It is this conception of the justification of political freedom (or its shadow, coercion), together with that of the integration of government, which will form the basis of the non-dualist political philosophy to be offered in section d of this chapter and section c of chapter 8, which forms an integral part of the unfolding account of non-dualist ethics.
On the basis of the account of the incrementalisation of dualisms in the preceding section, I shall now return to a question which was put off in section a of this chapter – namely that of exactly how and to what extent non-dualism and the
To begin this account, some attempt needs to be made to reconsider the meaning of the terms “verification” and “falsification” in the light of the foregoing arguments. For both terms appear, at least in their less sophisticated formulations, to be based upon metaphysical discontinuities, particularly on metaphysical realism. To verify a proposition is to show its relationship with representational reality, whilst to falsify it is to show its lack of relationship with representational reality. In either of these cases, a proposition is either verified or falsified or it is not, according to whether it has fulfilled fixed criteria which impose a discontinuity on experience. This, of course, also allows the equally metaphysical relativist response of claiming that no verification or falsification is possible.
This crude conception of verification or falsification has already been surpassed in the work of some modern philosophers of science such as Lakatos and Kuhn, but in the absence of a clear rationale for a non-metaphysical strategy based on pragmatism rather than representationalism their work often appears to be groping in the darkness. Such a non-metaphysical strategy seems to be clearly derivable from my arguments in the last two sections: verification and falsification must be understood incrementally. As with the non-dualist solutions to other dualisms, verification and falsification need to be understood as judgements between particular cases ranged on a spectrum. In this case the spectrum ranges between what we judge to be relatively weak or unclear and relatively strong or clear experiential support. It still makes sense to talk of verification of falsification in this case, because a decisive judgement has been made about the status of a theory, but this judgement is made relative to other theories which might rival it in interpreting the same evidence. We judge one theory to be better verified or better falsified than another.
But there is no such thing as raw experiential support for a judgement: each perception is interpreted to fit a defeasibility context which exists prior to it, and may also be influenced by expectation of the correctness of the theory (as well as other conditionings). The judgement which is applied to interpret one experience as supporting a given theory more readily than another, then, is not only a judgement of correlation between theory and experience, but a calibration of experience itself. Even the most objective observer cannot avoid interpreting experience in relation to a particular defeasibility context: which may leave a range of possible correlations with belief, but nevertheless limits these interpretations. The most objective of observers, then, does not merely interpret correlations within a particular defeasibility context (such as that of science), but is also aware of the limitations of that defeasibility context, and the ways in which experiences can be understood in different defeasibility contexts. For example, a relatively objective botanist examining a plant may only be thinking in terms of the categories of botany, but he may consider a range of theories which may provide a causal explanation for a particular botanical variation, not merely seizing upon the plants which support his favoured theory but also considering counter-evidence. An even more objective botanist, however, might also understand the significance of plants in aesthetic and/or moral terms, and be able to cast light on a botanical problem by stepping out of the whole field of botany.
Judgements of the verification or falsification of a theory, then, are incremental on the scale of integration of the person judging, both within a given defeasibility context and beyond it. This does not mean that whatever non-psychological contributory causes to the judgement there may be are irrelevant, but only that their impact must be mediated by a judgement and that there is no indication of the objectivity of such contributory causes without complete dependency on such a judgement. As argued in 6.b.v, the more integrated a person, the more they can be relied upon to take account of the full range of conditions (within their non-psychological limitations) in a judgement. This does not only apply to judgements of verification or falsification which we assess derivatively at second-hand in another individual (where we also need to consider the non-psychological conditions under which the person made the judgement), but to the primary case where we make such judgements. Whilst I may reach a provisional conclusion as to the value of my conceptualisation of an experience and of the correlation between theory and experience without reference to any estimation of my own integration, the degree of justification I should ascribe to these provisional conclusions in non-dualist terms depends on the degree of integration I possessed in reaching them.
Clearly this requires a judgement of my own integration, the accuracy of which will be limited by that very integration. Not only the accuracy of my judgements, but the accuracy of my reflexive judgements concerning the accuracy of my judgements, depends on integration in a way which again demonstrates the inseparability of moral and epistemological judgements. The epistemological circularity to be found here is unavoidable, since the only conceivable alternative to it is a linearity which begins with a positive foundation, and this foundation can easily be shown by Sceptical argument to depend upon the judgement of the individual. The virtue in this circularity, when it aids the process of discovery, can again only be described in terms of the gathering process of integration, with its accompanying awareness, flexibility of theorisation, and refinement of judgement. It is not that these features of integration are acquired prior to the process of discovery and then enable it: they develop in the context of a process of discovery, whether of “inwardly” or “outwardly” represented objects.
The judgement made in a process of verification or falsification is made more complex by the fact that it never takes place in complete isolation: metaphysical assumptions as to what constitutes a complete verification or falsification, as I shall argue in the next section, are interdependent with social conventions. These social conventions form a set of background conditions in the context of which verifications and falsifications are judged to have occurred, and as a result of them these cultural conditions may change slightly. Sometimes key observations which are judged to confirm or deny the truth of theories have a quite dramatic effect which makes a large contribution to changing the whole paradigm on which science operates: Galileo’s observation of the four main moons of Jupiter is one well-known example, which, although not absolutely decisive, made a large contribution towards defeating the Aristotelian paradigm of astronomy. What led Galileo into his creativity in using the telescope for this purpose? In many respects the conditions were non-psychological: he was in the right place at the right time with the right capacities. But his response to those conditions, in creating the means to that particular verification and linking it to the Copernican astronomical theory, was a matter of his degree of integration. Merely creating or adopting a theory may not require much integration at all, and may be done on the basis of dogmatism or scepticism: but creating acceptable “proof” or “disproof” which modifies conventional acceptance of theories in a particular context requires that a subtlety of engagement with understanding of conditions be pushed a little further.
In sum, then, a verification or falsification from a non-dualist standpoint is a decisive judgement in which evidence is used to justify one theory over others (or in the case of falsification, to rule out a theory, leaving another or others still in the running), which modifies the conventional acceptance of theories in a particular context. This type of definition leaves it entirely open what constitutes acceptable evidence, and indeed whether verification or falsification has priority, since these factors will vary between conventional contexts. Verifications or falsifications in this sense could take place in pre-scientific, artistic, or mythic frameworks (or in the context of spiritual practices such as meditation) as well as in scientific ones, the measure of objectivity lying not in the metaphysical status of the supposed reality proved or disproved, but in the objectivity of the person doing the proving or disproving relative to his context.
It is only on the basis of such an account of verification and falsification that I can go on to explain the grounds on which the Middle Way may be claimed to be verifiable or falsifiable, and the grounds of any heuristic distinction between the status of verification and falsification.
It will be clear from the last subsection that any verification of the Middle Way, like that of any other theory, must proceed incrementally on the basis of judgements made between more and less verified theories. The
As I have argued, in order to mark an advance in objectivity, such a verification must also mark a process of integration, in which a conventional context of belief is modified by the “proof” of a theory. What occurs in such a process of integration or modification is effectively an access of confidence, as the doubts which undermined the secure acceptance of a theory by the whole psyche are reduced. How much this confidence is a quality that needs to be gained only by the individual, and how much also by the surrounding group, depends entirely on the extent of that individual’s dependency on the group. As I shall argue more fully in the next section, the less her dependency on the group, the more the integration. What needs to be convinced by a given verification (by bringing belief into line with desire) consists in whatever we identify with, and the more of the psyche that is convinced, the stronger the verification and the stronger the resulting confidence. If only our current set of identifications is convinced (perhaps we imagine, or indeed experience, the people we currently identify with being convinced) but then our identifications shift rapidly (as they tend to when we are less integrated), we are plunged into doubt. Then we are confronted by experienced or imagined doubting voices and are forced into the dualism of either defying them or agreeing with them, into brittle assertion or confusion. If, on the other hand, most or even all of our identifications are convinced, we can assert that our experience has given access to the truth of that matter with both strength and flexibility. In order to do this, if we are less integrated, we may have to convince a great part of our surrounding group too: but this does not lessen the achievement of bringing about such an integration.
This means that whenever we bring about confidence in this way, through bringing about an acceptance of new truths on the basis of clearer evidence, we have in effect verified the Middle Way in that context. The
It needs to be stressed that this type of verification of the
There may appear to be a danger here that this verification in terms of form may encounter similar difficulties to those of Kant’s categorical imperative: perhaps the formalism could turn out to be empty. For how am I to know that it is the Middle Way I am verifying, if every instance of apparent advance is one in which the Middle Way is verified? The difficulties of the answer cannot be avoided by any recourse to linearity and its false certainty: I do not know that it is the
Although verification of the
Fortunately we are not left completely unable to address the rational concerns of such an entrenched dualist, since verification does not offer the only method of incrementally boosting confidence in the
A falsification of the
The central insight of Popper and Lakatos on falsification was that, despite the continuing lack of certainty surrounding claims of falsification (as with those of verification), falsification offers a degree of engagement with objectivity lacking in verification. Whilst an apparent verification may only be indicative of the applicability of the theory in very much more restricted conditions than the ones it specifies, a falsification specified in advance for the whole theory at least indicates a falsity in one of the contributory hypothetical premises which are being tested. Of course it may only indicate such a falsity in a very restricted range of conditions, but this is sufficient to falsify the range originally given for the theory, at least leading to its modification and testing in a new form. A central ground of judgement as to the worth of a theory for Popper and Lakatos is thus its falsifiability: if the conditions of falsification cannot be specified, it can be rejected as dogmatic a priori. All these arguments, because specified in terms of judgements rather than empirical verifications, are equally applicable to the pragmatist framework of truth I offer here.
Another way of formulating the dualist’s accusation of formalism in the verification of the
Two qualifications need to be offered before attempting to state what such a falsification for the
Secondly, falsification can only be offered here, like verification, in incremental terms. Falsifiability will thus only be possible in the terms of incrementality specified in 6.c.i. However, on the basis of my argument so far in this chapter, such incrementality is the only alternative to the illusions of metaphysical dualism.
How can we specify a falsification for the
This decision, however, does not necessarily amount to a falsification of the
It is this finiteness which makes it possible to claim that, within the limits of a defeasibility context, the
A great deal of stress needs to be laid on the importance of this falsifiability of the
Before concluding this chapter, a number of issues need to be clarified which relate to the relationship between individual and group. To begin with, the division between individual and group is another dualism of the kind which needs a similar treatment to those in the series tackled in section b. A further issue has been raised by the social element in judgements of verification or falsification mentioned in the previous section, and in the background to this issue lies the need for a clarification of the epistemological role of individuals and groups and their relationship. The criticism of dualist doctrines as lacking universality and being effectively rationalisations for social conventions in part 1 also raises the related issue of why and to what extent group conventions can be justifiably criticised or contrasted with the universality of non-dualism, and whether this implies a contrasting individualism on the part of non-dualism which would seem to run counter to the criticism of individualism in 4.a.iv.
The point of departure for these issues is an incrementalisation of the dualism of individual and group. This dualism has appeared at various points in Part 1. Where the group has appropriated the universal (as in eternalism), the deviant individual is rejected, whilst where the individual has appropriated the universal (as in nihilism), the negative freedom of the individual is promoted against the pressure of the group. In the modern context the dualism re-appears in the discontinuity between psychology and sociology, whether this is used to support eternalist or nihilist approaches. This dualism, like the others I have treated, depends on a metaphysical discontinuity which is forced upon the continuity of evidence. This discontinuity can often take the form of the assertion of a freewill or rationality in the individual which distinguishes him from the group, but it can also take the form of a supervenience claim about sociological properties over psychological ones. But we simply do not know whether the individual is more than the product of its conditions, or whether the social group is more than the sum of its individual parts, even if the terms “individual” and “group” were clearly enough definable to bear such metaphysical claims. As in other cases, the alternative to this metaphysical discontinuity is a judgement between two alternatives lying at points along a spectrum.
However, two spectra need to be considered here. One is the spectrum of situatedness that I have already mentioned between mind and body. Here, mental properties appear to be present to a greater or lesser extent, and to this extent to also differentiate one individual from the physical continuum around her and the other individuals to be found in that continuum. This spectrum provides a condition for the related spectrum of integration, but the two need to be distinguished in explaining the incremental basis of value in non-dualism. The spectrum of mind and body can offer a way of provisionally understanding the non-psychological conditions which lead us to make distinctions between individual and group without confusing them with the psychological features which are the basis of the spectrum of integration: though the distinction, imposed on an interdependent relationship, is only justified by its provisional moral value.
The mind-body spectrum and the integration spectrum then, provide two different accounts of “individuality”. On the former, I am relatively distinct from others, despite the numerous ways in which I am dependent on them, because my mind is situated in a particular body, whilst others, seen as a mass, exist beyond that situation. Others also apparently have this individuality when considered separately. This type of individuality is relatively stronger the more intensely mental features are present, and as they become weaker or more spatially diffused it decreases. I shall refer to this as “situated individuality”. A crowd of highly intelligent clones all with the same mental processes, all of which were exactly synchronised so they said the same things at the same time, would nevertheless each have a strong situated individuality, just because they each exhibited strong mental features which, though synchronised, worked independently at different points. If, however, this crowd turned out not to be a crowd of clones with independent minds at all, but a crowd of robots centrally controlled by radio-transmitter, the spatial diffuseness of the mind observed would indicate a relative lack of situated individuality in any one robot (even if we could find a much greater situated individuality elsewhere, by the radio transmitter where the controller was sitting).
The spectrum of integration, however, provides a different type of individuality which I will refer to as “integrated individuality”, though this is entirely dependent on situated individuality. Integrated and unintegrated psyches are equally situated, but their psychological relationship to the surrounding group differs according to their degree of integration. Since the less integrated person’s identifications are more restricted and defensive, but he is nonetheless a social creature with social origins, his identifications are more likely to be with the group as a whole, and in defensive opposition to other groups which threaten that identification. Beliefs which he shares with the group are likewise identified with, as they help to provide the conditions of mutual acceptance within the group: when threatened, these beliefs will be defended. This is likely to be the case even if he believes in an individualistic ideology, since this ideology will nevertheless operate as a basis of shared belief among a group of individualists, and provide a defence against the rejected group (which will be associated with the characteristics of groups in general). Whilst he will also identify with himself and with other individuals, this identification is still likely to be defended with beliefs about himself or others derived from the group, as the traditions of the group are his main source of beliefs.
A relatively more integrated person, however, gains individuality in the sense that the defensiveness which created her dependency on the group for defensive beliefs is more limited. In breaking down egoistic identifications she breaks down her exclusivity of identification with the group and begins to enter into a more harmonious relationship with other groups and their ideologies. Where the ideologies of different groups clash, she is often forced by practical demands to make judgements between them, which forces her into more objective examination of the conditions of the supposed reality to which all ideologies appeal. She thus becomes less dependent on the group for her beliefs and more on the objectivity of her own judgement.
Another way of understanding the scale of integration is thus as a spectrum between individuality and conventionality, where the incrementality is one of the basis of judgement. Dogmatism or dogmatic scepticism both gain their basis of judgement from conventionality (i.e. the shared views which provide an expression of shared identification in the group), though they may rationalise that conventionality in various ways, for example attempting to defend it from the criticism of other groups by adopting some of their terminology, or adapting their beliefs to make them compatible with those of the defended group. Metaphysics is thus a function of conventionality and, though it may be ameliorated by some degree of encounter with other groups and their beliefs, it remains a limiting factor on objectivity whilst the core metaphysical beliefs of a group continue to be defended. For example, liberal theologians attempt to defend the core metaphysical doctrines of Christianity by adopting some of the vocabulary and attitudes of nihilism: and though this may indicate an advance in objectivity from a purely reactionary metaphysical position, the advance is still limited from further progress by attachment to a core metaphysics.
In this respect, individualism, which depends on metaphysical discontinuities, must be distinguished from integrated individuality. Individualism tends to absolutise the boundaries of the situated individual and use these boundaries, expressed either in the form of individual rationality or freewill, as the locus of value. This restricted locus of value then becomes the shared basis of belief, expressing shared desires in the group of individualists, or, even if it happens that the individualist does not participate in any like-minded grouping in any sense, the individualist’s values still exist in counter-dependency to those of the group he rejects, rather than consisting of a stronger investigation of conditions to offer a real counter-weight to his dependency. Individualism is thus a form of negatively expressed conventionalism, whilst integrated individuality is an incremental quality gained by gradually extending the group-dependency of the ego into the universality which comes from engagement with the rest of the psyche.
At the lower end of the scale of integrated individuality is the almost completely conventional person, such as can be found in some traditional or tribal societies. It is difficult to conceive of an individualist at such an extreme, which does indicate the positive role played by individualism in helping to establish the conditions for individuality. Such a person has no sense of his capacity to make independent judgements of conditions, but is almost totally dependent on the theories of the group. His independence of judgement is not completely non-existent, perhaps, but has very strictly circumscribed limits, perhaps only involving very minor judgements of the application of accepted theories, and there is no possibility of questioning conventional wisdom.
At the upper end of the scale is the person who is totally individual, because having integrated her psyche she considers both beliefs and their varying social contexts as equally provisional. Such beliefs may be useful in their contexts, and she will consider them and promote them there if she considers them so in the light of her knowledge of conditions, but without any need for assertion of their value or disvalue beyond this. Such an individual will thus move harmoniously in society, challenging accepted conventional beliefs only to the extent that she judges it ultimately helpful to do so.
Such a scale of individuality, based on integration, needs to replace the currently more widely accepted scale of rational autonomy descended from Kant. For no metaphysical assumption of freewill, or absolutising of the individual mind, is required to give an account of the incremental independence of individual judgement. On the contrary the very conditions required for the cultivation of such judgement, in the engagement with conditions, metaphysical agnosticism and engagement with the other as represented in the psyche, preclude such metaphysical assumptions. And if the person who offers an account of individuality cannot gain it himself, what is the point of the account? The entire conception of autonomy depends on a notion of self that we must abandon in order to be able to both understand and encounter individuality.
But this account of individuality leaves us with further questions about the status of groups. Are all groups equally subject to conventionalism? Are some preferable to others, and if so, what is the basis of judgement if all moral judgement depends on individual integration? And don’t groups play a heuristic role in addition to individual advances in objectivity? These questions can be answered only with reference to the integration of groups, rather than merely that of individuals.
I have considered groups so far only in contrast to individuals: as the bearers of conventionality. However, there seems to be no intrinsic reason why groups should be conventional. Groups become repositories of conventionality only because of the dependence of individuals upon them as a basis for identification, but if “group” is understood merely as a number of human beings who associate with each other, there is apparently no reason in theory why it should not encompass a group of enlightened beings who associate with complete harmony but entirely independent judgement. A group of integrated beings, then, automatically becomes an integrated group in which each member identifies with the others as much as himself, as with those who exist beyond the group. The group then consists only in its situatedness, not in its assertion over other groups.
The incremental scale leading up to this ideal scenario naturally consists in the incremental integration of all the situated individuals comprising a group. Whilst individuals remain at various points of integration, however, the group itself can offer more or less helpful conditions for the integration of individuals. A concern for the conditions of the group does not indicate that the metaphysical claim of the supervenience of groups over individuals must be assumed: rather that the group is also part of the spectra of mind/body and of integration and can be considered in the same light. Groups are part of the spectrum of mind/body because they also appear to exhibit mental features (whether or not these are ultimately reducible to those of the individual) and degrees of integration. The mental features are more spatially diffused than those of individuals, and the degree of integration subject to an even greater complexity of conditions operating at group level than at individual level, but nevertheless we can talk of them with a provisional usefulness. Since talking of the individual (in either sense) is itself a convention involving the use of duality based on verbal discontinuity, the same can be said about talk of groups, with the same conventions being extended.
But in what could the integration of a group consist? As in the case of the psyche, of a harmony between different representations so that tensions within it do not result in alienation and the projection of internal conflicts beyond itself. Like the psyche, the group can be described as a loose confederation of desires. People become associated with the group because it is instrumental in some way to the fulfilment of desires that have come to dominate their individual psyches sufficiently to ensure a degree of commitment to the group. As a loose confederation, a group, like a psyche, contains a certain range of goals, but these shift continually as the environment, the composition of the group, and the balance of power within it also change. Groups also contain egos in the sense of dominant immediate desires which are rationally formulated, justified, and pursued by the leadership and/or the formal policy or institutional organisation of the group, if it has such. Groups undergo crises, perhaps involving changes of leadership or policy, when the desires of its membership are strongly alienated from the formal egoistic position. Integration of a group then consists in the integration of the group-ego with the remainder of the group-psyche, rather than imposition of power.
It is not difficult to find examples of the alienation of the group-psyche from the group-ego and its consequences in the form of crises in groups, from the fall of totalitarian regimes to a disagreement among a group of casual friends. Typically, this alienation will not only exist at group level but also manifest as conflict within the psyche of individuals within the group. The individual’s identification with the group, promoted by his ego, will be opposed and perhaps overthrown by increasing disagreement with the official line of the group, until at some point a decision has to be made to voice disagreement and thus perhaps risk rejection by the group. Integration in a group, then, is likely to promote integration in the individual, because the conflicts found in the group will then be less likely to be mirrored in the conflict between an individual’s loyalty to the group and his contrary desires.
One important difference between the integrations of individual and group, however, lies in the much greater spatial diffuseness and separability of the group. Particular contrary desires within the group can be easily isolated and attacked by the group-ego, because they are often particularly embodied in individual dissidents. Whilst at individual level, dissident desires cannot be removed, only suppressed, dissident individuals can be removed from a group by expulsion, censorship or, in extreme cases, killing. Whilst this does not ensure that the desires represented by the dissident have completely disappeared, it does make it possible for the position of the group-ego to be maintained unchanged rather more easily than in the case of individuals. It is this which makes group conventionality such a powerful source of egoism for the individual. The individual is forced to maintain egoistic suppression in order to maintain membership of the group: and often the basic conditions for everything with which he identifies, such as his own life, possessions, status and livelihood, as well as those of others with which he identifies, depend on his membership of the group. It is thus hardly surprising that in traditional societies groups keep such an iron grip on their members and thus that ideological change is almost impossible.
The integration of the group, then, appears to be a very important condition for the integration of its individual members, and must be achieved in parallel with it. Such integration involves, not merely engagement with all the desires of individuals in the group, but a broadening basis for action in the form of consensus. In an ideal situation of consensus, action by or on behalf of the group is decided not by the imposition of the views of leadership, or even by the imposition of the views of the majority through democratic voting, but by the active assent of all members to the action being pursued. If active assent does not mean complete agreement, it must mean assent to the action nevertheless on the basis of an overriding confidence in the leadership. Such active assent demands a degree of integration on the part of all members, since they must have enough awareness of the degree of their own ignorance to reach at least a decision based on that rather than an absolutising of their immediate beliefs. Their immediate beliefs must thus already have a degree of provisionality.
Two important conditions for advances in the integration of the group, then, appear to be a degree of initial integration on the part of all members and confidence in the leadership. Confidence here is used in the sense of 5.d.iii, based not on dogmatic assertion or scepticism but on a balanced examination of experience of a particular leader or leaders in relation to the theory that they are trustworthy. Consistency of experience of the trustworthiness of a leader depends on that leader’s degree of integration, which determines their grasp of the conditions on which they base their own judgements as well as the consistency of the desires and beliefs which motivate them (though other qualities, such as mental capacity and expertise in a particular area, might also come into play). Confidence in leadership thus depends both on a degree of integration on the part of the follower and on a more complete integration on the part of the leader.
The integration of groups thus consists in a complex of factors. It consists in customs and procedures being established in the group which encourage consensus (which in turn depend on a belief in consensus), but such customs will be both useless and unsustainable without a degree of integration in all the members and a fairly high level of integration on the part of leaders. Such conditions are difficult to create, especially beyond a fairly narrow range of circumstances where there are favourable conditions, and may still seem to offer only a utopian discontinuity. What if consensual agreement cannot be achieved? If these basic conditions are not available, can no progress towards the integration of groups be made? To answer this requires more discussion of the role of groups in discovering the
In much philosophy of science, progress in discovery is seen as a phenomenon of groups much more than of individuals: it is cultures that allow an accretion of knowledge on which each individual can build. For example, Popper talks of a “World 3” between mind and body, a zone where the products of mind can build up in the form of conventions which can be passed on through generations. It is in this zone that he believes scientific objectivity to be possible. So far my account of objectivity has focussed largely on the role of the individual, with objectivity being a property of her psychological states rather than of culture, which merely forms a conditioning background to the objectivity which is developed through the process of discovery. Now, however, in the light of the arguments in this section so far, it is important to clarify the ways in which social conventions may or may not participate in objectivity.
In answering this question it will also be possible to account for the kind of advances that can be made in objectivity at group level below the level at which consensual agreement can be achieved. The epistemological advantages of basing agreement on consensus should be clear: in order to reach consensual agreement it is necessary to engage in a full collective investigation of the conditions operating in relation to the sphere in which collective action is to be taken, without which no views are likely to change from dogmatism towards greater adequacy. However, below the level at which consensual agreement can be achieved, individual thinking remains dogmatic and relatively impervious to new evidence because it is based on conventions. The only degree of objectivity by which these dogmas could be relatively justified is that of the conventions themselves.
Relative to the individual, conventions fulfil a dogmatic role: it is only in contrast to conventionality that integrated individuality can develop, and conventions by their very nature do not involve openness to new evidence. Yet this does not stop the convention itself from more or less fulfilling the function that it serves, which is that of fulfilling the desires of those who obey it. Compared with other conventions, it may be clear that it does. For example, the conventions of modern allopathic medicine, even when followed in the most mechanical way by the most unimaginative doctor, appear superior in their capacity to relieve physical suffering when compared to medieval practices (such as diagnosis based on the theory of humours and treatments which could often be counter-productive, such as blood-letting). This is not because modern medicine does not have many faults, and is not to deny that it is often followed dogmatically when a more flexible response to physical ailments might yield much better results, but it also appears relatively clear that the conventions enshrined in it are on the whole based on a superior degree of engagement with conditions.
These relatively useful conventions have been established initially by the work of individuals who investigated conditions with some objectivity, who then offered verifications which were convincing to the scientific community, leading to the modification of medical conventions. Objectivity thus appears to have accreted in medical convention: but I must disagree with Popper’s view that this accretion occurs in the conventions themselves, for this requires a representationalism whereby some kind of isomorphism can increasingly come to exist between the conventions and “reality”. Instead, the relatively objective aspect of the conventionality of a group must exist in the relationships comprising that group itself and their degree of integration, which, if not the psychological properties of individuals, at least mirror those psychological properties in structure. For it is on the degree of group-integration that the continued accuracy of interpretation of a particular shared group-representation depends. The meaning of the theories shared by a group may become petrified, but the degree of objectivity attained by the individuals who verified it remains, so long as the group supports sufficient integration of meaning to enable the effective application of those theories.
To return to the example of Western medicine, the objectivity of Western medicine depends, not upon the actual written or remembered body of theories which underlies it, but on the continued interpretation and application of those theories by doctors and other medical professionals. An important aspect of medical training thus consists in making these theories meaningful and in breaking down barriers between theory and practice. The community of meaning which underlies this training cannot be maintained without a fair degree of consensus between those who provide it, requiring confidence in its leadership (as represented, not only in persons, but in the theories they explicitly uphold) and some degree of integration on the part of the trainees (who have confidence in the theories because they accord with experience rather than on authority alone). This degree of consensus, as I outlined it in the previous subsection, is apparently a property of the group itself, though it is on the same incremental scale of integration as that of individuals.
In the case of Western medicine, the consensus is strong enough in a particular zone of belief, but this zone is tightly circumscribed. When it comes to issues of medical ethics, or even issues such as diet or attitude to other types of medical practice, the limitations of the consensus, and perhaps of the integration of the individuals involved in it, become increasingly obvious. Medical theories, too, are meaningful within a certain coherent zone, but may be applied blindly in unacknowledged ignorance of conditions lying beyond that zone. Examples of this which appear to have arisen in some circumstances might include the excessive use of extremely expensive equipment or operations and comparative neglect of simple preventative measures, failure to adapt medical approaches to the economic conditions in developing countries, and the provision of dietary advice based more on social convention than on considerations of long-term health, let alone of ecology or animal welfare.
It is thus not conventions themselves which maintain some degree of petrified objectivity after the departure of pioneering individuals, but traditions of meaning which enable those conventions to be understood and applied, usually only in a particular restricted sphere. It is only where such traditions of meaning have been kept alive, too, that they become open to new development in that sphere. A decline in a tradition of meaning can be indicated by a lapse into formalism and scholasticism, where theories themselves alone rather than their relationship to a breadth of experience are the object of interest. Formalism, again, consists in a group relationship: one which is likely to arise wherever consensus is replaced by the mere exertion of power by the leadership and alienation on the part of the followers, since this immediately places a greater dualistic stress both on individual psyches and the group-psyche. Individuals are forced into a choice between obedience and dissidence, with the complexity of evidence which supports neither polarity being ignored.
Clearly, then, the conditions for new theories to be tested by an individual, and for the verification of a new theory to be conventionally accepted by a group, are those in which consensus exists within that group, at least within the restricted zone of coherence in which the theory applies. In the absence of confidence in the new theory and the leaders who promote it, any acceptance on the part of the group is likely to be formalistic and alienated, and, even if the theory is in some ways a good one, it will be insufficiently understood to be applied adequately or be otherwise fruitful.
The difference here between scientific, artistic, or other verifications which become accepted by a group within a restricted zone, and moral verifications is not that the former lack moral implication (according to my argument, any investigation into conditions has that implication), but that the issues perceived as moral have broader implications for the whole of experience. It is thus much easier for a limited group to make small advances in objectivity, and to maintain that objectivity, in relation to a limited section of conditions, than it is for a larger group to accept advances which require many changes in everyday behaviour in order to be consistently applied. Whilst verifications of conventional morality operate in exactly the same way as scientific ones, requiring a group’s conventional acceptance of a new theory (which in this case shows certain forms of behaviour to be more or less justifiable than previously) their application is not to one specific type of specialised task to be performed seldom by a few (as would be the case, for example, with an advance in medicine), but in a broad range of actions likely to be applicable to many. It is this, and not the metaphysical fact-value distinction, which makes “values” so much more difficult to “verify” than “facts”.
Nevertheless, advances in the objectivity of conventional morality do occur. Perhaps the clearest ones are those which involve the dissolution of a discriminatory dichotomy, previously justified through various metaphysical claims, when this dichotomy was very clearly not justified by experience. The retreat of racism from the time of the abolition of slavery in
Thus there are advances that can be made by groups prior to the achievement of full consensual agreement in decision-making, but these advances consist in the partial consensual agreement which is required in one area to allow the acceptance of a new view. The implications of the new conventional view then begin to gradually offer a challenge to other existing attitudes and to create greater consensus on them too, for an appreciation of a greater complexity of conditions in one area may set up an expectation for parallel developments in another. This process, by which a more open heuristic in one area gradually spreads to others, may help to provide historical explanation for, say, the development of the Renaissance and its spread over several centuries from art and scholarship to science and religion, then to philosophy and politics. But there is no inevitable “march of progress” in this, since it is subject to many conditions, many of which are mysterious. Besides advances in conventional views created by the fruitful tension between eternalism and nihilism in the modern West, there exist other important tendencies which are much more the product of one or the other (as I have commented in Part 1) and serve only to extend the fruitless conflict.
There now remains the question of the relationship between the individual and the group. If the conventionality of the group is capable of some degree of integration as well as the individual, should the individual move from one group to another to find one that is more integrated, or remain loyal to his original group or groups in the hope of cultivating integration there? Should he subject himself to the authority of the group to a greater extent when it is more integrated, or rely only on his own judgement? And is the integrated group justified in exerting power over the individual?
The answer to these questions needs to begin from a recognition of the degree of interdependence in the respective integrations of individual and group. Individual integration is unlikely to develop far without some degree of group-integration in the background, because the group is responsible for the education (in the widest sense) of the individual. Likewise, group-integration is unlikely to develop far without a fair degree of integration among a number of the individuals involved, especially the leadership. Nevertheless it appears that each can also develop to some degree independent of the other, for an individual can exercise her own judgement independently of the group and reach a greater degree of integration than those around her (often becoming unpopular, or at least being ignored, as a result), whilst a high degree of integration in a group and many of its individual members may encourage the remainder to also achieve greater integration.
Questions of the degree of trust which individuals should place in groups or groups place in individuals should thus take into account both the interdependence between the integrations of individual and group and the independence. The factor of interdependence suggests that individuals and groups will to some extent advance in integration at the same rate, and to this extent the individual is not capable of making a justifiable judgement independent of the group reflecting superior integration, nor the group likewise independent of the individual. The factor of independence, on the other hand, suggests that whichever is less integrated in a given case (individual or group) is subsidiary to the superior judgement of the other. From this point of view an individual who is more integrated than the surrounding group should exert his superior judgement quite independently of it, and thus could justifiably leave it and participate only in more integrated groups, whilst an individual who is less integrated than the surrounding group should attempt to bear in mind the extent of his own ignorance and thus submit himself to the group. Likewise the group which is more integrated than the individual may be justified in exerting power over that individual where this will aid that individual’s integration, whilst the group which is less integrated than the individual is not justified in attempting to curtail the independent judgement of that individual.
This complexity creates a problem of evidence and of our capacity to assess it, to resolve which we can only return to the judgement of the individual. The individual has to judge, not only how far her judgement is interdependent or independent of the group, but how far it is superior or inferior in integration. Likewise the group has to judge through consensus whether its judgement is superior or inferior to that of a dissident individual. But in either case these judgements will only be justifiable to the extent that the individual or group is integrated and thus takes into account, not only the evidence available, but its degree of ignorance concerning that evidence and its status.
A group-decision to punish a dissident member based only on the exertion of power by the leader of the group, for example, or the decision of a mob with only a temporary unity of purpose over one issue rather than a general consensus, would be unjustified, because they are relatively unintegrated and thus do not sufficiently take into account the group’s degree of ignorance. On the other hand the decision of a group with a good degree of consensus, and strong evidence that an individual lacks integration relative to the group, are more justified in enforcing the conventional rules of the group, even though there is still some room for doubt.
Similarly, the decision of an individual to submit himself to a group or to defy it or leave it depends on his degree of integration relative to the group. For example, the decision of a young person to leave education at an earlier stage than necessary is often unjustified, because she is largely ignorant of many conditions which the educational system takes into account: unless that educational system is exceptionally despotic or ineffective, or she has an unusually clear idea about the alternatives and their value. But the decision of an adult to leave the religion of his birth, if based on sufficient understanding, say, of the ways in which this religious group is limited by dualism and thus likely to remain unintegrated in important respects, and of a less dualist alternative, is much more likely to be justified. There may remain some doubt that that individual should have stayed in their original religious context and attempted to aid its reform from within, but this may well have been a fruitless effort.
Many issues have been raised here which will be pursued further in chapter 8 in relation to the role of moral traditions and to the justification of political authority, but for the present I will close with a general account of the spectrum of relations between individual and group which summarises the conclusions of this subsection.
At one end of this spectrum is the extreme of conflict between individual and group. This would be typified by either a repressive exertion of power by the group over the alienated individual or by a state of anarchy in which the individual has no regard at all for group-conventions. Here neither individual nor group are integrated, and the question of their mutual independence or interdependence does not arise. At the other extreme lies the ideal scenario in which both group and individual are integrated. Here the individual’s integration means that she takes into account the need for consensus in the group as one of the conditions for judgement, so that disagreement will only be the signal for further discussions to reach a fuller understanding of the conditions at work and establish a consensus. Once such a consensus has been achieved, individuals will spontaneously lend their energies to the activities of the group without any need for alienation.
In between these extremes is a spectrum of integration which is not only that of the individual or the group alone but of both. In some circumstances individual or group may be markedly more integrated than the other, but because of the universality of identification developed by each the more it is integrated, each is also concerned with the integration of the other and will attempt to create the conditions for the other to catch up. Whatever asymmetries there may be in the trajectory of integrative development, then, the two combine at the theoretical end-point where integrated individuals combine to form an integrated group. In this way the integration of neither individual nor group needs to be prioritised a priori, nor does the mutual independence or interdependence of individual and group need to be dogmatically asserted: rather a common concern for the integration of both, adequately taking into account all conditions, leads to the gradual resolution of these moral tensions on the same scale as the epistemological development which enables the basis of the resolution to be understood.
 See 6.b.v
 Hick (1964)
 See 2.b.iii
 See 4.b.i
 Together with those philosophies which may be taken to hover indefinitely between them, such as Kant’s.
 Not “second” in a temporal sense, or requiring the first stage to be traversed first, but only “second” in the fact that it represents a stronger movement towards objectivity.
 Such shifts for animals appear far more likely to be phylogenetic (i.e. to occur in the context of the biological evolution of species): however, I do not wish to make any claims here about the objectivity of evolutionary development, which depend on the debatable relationship between ontogenesis and phylogenesis. As in the case of ethical naturalism in general (which may seek an evolutionist justification by stretching the relationship between phylogenesis and ontogenesis a little too far) we can only note the apparent relationship and admit our ignorance.
 For more development of this position on mind and body see 6.b.iii
 This raises the ancient question of whether, in moral characteristics, one or many characteristics should be described – the problem of the unity of the virtues. I shall be discussing this in 6.b.vii.
 It may be objected that in this example the law which is being applied is stipulated as being unjust, whereas there is no necessary connection between the justice of the law and the accuracy of its application. A law enforcing the extermination of black dogs might be justified if, say, they were particularly subject to some highly infectious disease which might spread to other animals. However, in this case the very justice of the law depends on the accuracy with which it is formulated and applied, for if some dogs are exterminated which are not subject to the disease, then the justice of the law is in inverse proportion to the size of its margin of error. Justice in this case is thus dependent on the objectivity of both lawgivers and enforcers in maintaining an awareness of the provisionality of discontinuities.
 Descartes (1912) p.74-80/ Meditations 1 & 2
 Descartes would not have to be more “selfish” than his fellows to qualify as egoistic in this sense: rather his philosophical reliance on the ego can be seen as typical of the general extent to which his context offered few opportunities to extend the limitations of the ego.
 See 2.c.iv.
 In particular, that of the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism, the apparent idealism of which needs to be understood in its predominantly non-dualist context.
 A Kantian type of determinism, based on transcendental idealism, is also possible: but, as Kant argued (Kant 1929 B275-9) this is necessarily linked to empirical realism.
 See 4.c
 I take this to be generally accepted. However, even if it is not, my argument remains unaffected by its denial, so long as in the comparison of specific types of cases of predictability there will still be some which prove more predictable than others. In the unlikely event that objects proved less predictable than people, we would still have mental features to fall back on to incrementally distinguish between human beings and objects.
 See 5.d.iii
 See 4.d.vi
 See 4.e.iii
 In the sense of 5.d.iii
 See 4.a.ii
 See 3.b.ii and its exemplification throughout chapter 3
 See 3.d.iii & iv
 See 4.d.vii
 See 2.b.ii
 See 2.b.iii
 A further sophist-type objection that can be made to this is the chicken-and-egg argument which assumes that of two interdependent and simultaneously developing qualities one must have temporal priority: but if one has temporal priority, it will then be objected that it cannot develop alone. This argument relies on a dualism which takes development to be intrinsically discontinuous. The only solution to it can be found in the assumption of the mutual causality of systems (see 10.ii).
 This raises many questions about the relationship between the “proving” individual and his society, particularly of what it means to modify a conventional context. These issues will be dealt with in 6.c.ii and 6.d
 In practice, the only rival to the
 See 2.b.iii & 4.d.iii
 See 4.e.ii
 Referred to in 4.d.iii
 These two possibilities are not distinct, the “or” being conjunctive rather than disjunctive. This means that the
 See 4.h.i
 The distinction between situated and integrated individuality is a development of the one Sangharakshita makes between “statistical individuals” and “individuals proper”: see Subhuti (1994) p.118
 This distinction, again, is directly owed to Sangharakshita: ibid. p.119-120
 See 4.a.iv
 Consensual agreement as a decision-making procedure has been practised and refined by such groups as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Western Buddhist Order. Both groups have taken steps to prevent consensuality being manipulated, but the types of measure differ. In the Quakers no particular criteria are enforced for participation in business meetings (not even membership of the society is required), but a high degree of formality is maintained, including a restriction on the number of contributions that can be made by each person present on a given subject, which is normally only one (see account on the official Quaker website at www.quakers.org.uk). It seems that here an avoidance of other types of manipulation of the process can only be achieved by the maintenance of a high level of traditional formality, which may itself reduce the degree of consensus achieved. In the Western Buddhist Order consensual agreement as a decision-making process is practised only within the Order in relation to the practical responsibilities of those directly concerned. The Order is a body to which admittance is carefully controlled, primarily on the basis that a degree of integration needs to be appreciable in its members. A basis of initial confidence in the leadership is seen as a requirement for the use of consensus, but in contrast to the Quakers less formal circumscription of the decision-making process itself is required once these initial conditions have been created.
 Popper (1994) chs. 1-3
 “Consensual agreement”, which refers to a social event motivated by consensus, must be distinguished here from “consensus”, which is an incremental property of the psychology of a group.
 Popper’s view suggests this only subtly. In his evolutionary epistemology the basis of epistemological objectivity lies in its “survival value”. This pre-supposes a scientistic view of our desires in which they are necessarily limited to the “subjective” goals associated with the continued existence and propagation of an organism or its genes. Whilst superficially pragmatist, then, Popper’s view assumes the reality in the universe of a force delimiting our desires according to their survival value, and a refinement of theories according to whether they coincide with that force or not. This amounts to a metaphysical pre-limitation rather than an open investigation of our desires and an acceptance of the relationship between those contingent desires and projected realities.
 It is this “coincidence of wills” between group and individual that Sangharakshita describes as the “Third Order of Consciousness”. See Subhuti (1994) p.121-8.
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