Integral Manifesto Pt II(3): Subjects & Surrogates / Intersubjectivity- A Timely Interjection

Books Discussed in this Section

Sean Hargens , Intersubjective Musings: A Response to Christian de Quincey’s “The Promise of Integralism” retrieved from

Pauli Pylkko (1998)  The Aconceptual Mind. John Benjamins Pub. Co. Philadelphia

Bonnitta Roy (2006) A Process Model of Integral Theory, from Integral Review Journal, Issue 3 at

It might be helpful at this point to clarify the meaning of intersubjectivity with respect to our inquiry. As a reference I will use the five-fold schema that Sean Hargens identifies (as gleaned from Wilber’s writings) in his online article Intersubjective Musings. In it, Hargens presents 5 dimensions of intersubjectivity, each with their own important distinction and meaning, and together which encompass the territory of the intersubjective.

1. Intersubjectivity-as-spirit: the transcendental quality of all relationships that allows for any dimension of intersubjectivity to manifest. The only reason that two subjectivities can touch simultaneously (co-presence) is that they are ultimately only one Subject.

We can restate this from a generative process point of view, rather than from an absolutist or transcendent point of view, and adapt this meaning of intersubjectivity to the following process version:

The reason why co-presence is possible (that two subjectitivies can touch simultaneously) is that they are primoridally not-two; that is, they generate from a prior whole.

With respect to our inquiry, this generative process involves the authentic subject-to-subject encounter (the quantum of human action) as the re- enact- ment of this primordial inter-face.

2. Intersubjectivity-as-context:the context created by multiple intersubjective structures (i.e. meshworks) which are constitutive of the subject and create the space in which both subjects and objects arise (e.g. physical laws, morphic fields, linguistic, moral.,cultural, biological, and aesthetic structures). These cultural contexts, background and practices are nondiscursive and inaccessible via direct experience.

Human action as defined in this inquiry is related to the space of appearance– the “who I am” which makes itself known, explicit and public, by “showing up” through word and deed. Furthermore, this “showing up” is an inter- act between subjects. Considering that Hargens’ description of meaning #2 of intersubjectivity-as-context posits structures that are both nondiscursive and inaccessible — are we to presume that these do not “show up” in human action– in that space of appearance as described in this inquiry? Furthermore, considering that meaning # 2 relates to the ontology of the subject– what relevance does it have to the realm of human action, in the Greek sense of the word?

3. Intersubjectivity-as-resonance: the occurrence of “mutual recognition” and “mutual understanding” between two holons of similar depth. Within this dimension there are Worldspace and Worldviews.

a. Worldspaces: ontological resonance between two subjects who share emergent domains (e.g. physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual).  Here, mutual recognition is simple co-presence prior to reflection (precognitive).

b. Worldviews: epistemological resonance between two subjects who share a level of psychological development (e.g. archaic, magic, mythic, rational, and centauric). Here mutual understanding is co-presence via cognition, which complexifies with development. This is the cognitive component of a shared worldspace.

“Mutual recognition” is a prerequisite for human action. The I-Thou encounter is essentially intersubjectivity-as- resonance in the first sense (a) that Hargens identifies as worldspaces. The original Greek notion of the polis is such a world space. The crucial challenge in all political action, is the tremendous capacities and promise that appears in these resonant shared worldspaces, which can show up despite co-emerging dissonant worldviews. From this sense of intersubjectivity (#3) one might conclude that while a fundamental requirement of human actions the opening of a shared worldspace, ideological intolerance results when the ultimate conviction of human action also entails the notion of securing resonant worldviews entering any given worldspace– which, according to Hargen’s own definitions, entails an epistemological intolerance. Sharing then becomes an ethical term, entailing human plurality.

4. Intersubjectivity-as-relationship: the way we identify with and have relationship with other subjects and objects. Within this dimension there are at least three types of relationships:

a. It-It relationships: an objective subject in relation with an objective object.

b. I-It relationships: a subject in relationship with an object (or subject seen as an object).

c. I-I relationships: a subject in relationship with a subject. This last subdivision has two general forms, either solidarity or difference.

i. Relationship-as-solidarity: relating to another subject because they mirror your values, ethnicity, gender, or nationality, etc.

ii. Relationship-as-difference: relating to another subject as a subject despite the fact that they are different from you in important ways.

This meaning (#4) Intersubjectivity-as-relationship turns out to be what was previously described as the field of orders and sets of rules that generate economies, geographies, technologies. Economies are primarily (a) It-It relationships, wherein subjects are viewed as “objective swarm phenomena” with respect to objective measures. Technologies are primarily (b) I-It relationships, wherein subjects and objects are enfolded, as Latour proposed. I-I relationships (c) are related to geographies of various kinds (physical, social, cultural, geneological, biological, etc…) that define and frame identity through boundary conditions and, as Hargens points out, can either constitute solidarity (tending toward cooperation) or difference (tending toward conflict). Most of what is considered the political arena today, focuses on this last sub-meaning of intersubjectivity-as-relationship; although ignoring the other crucial components of intersubjective arisings, is responsible for much of our failures and has resulted in immensely damaging consequences.

Until the postmodern era, meaning #2, intersubjectivity-as-context was unknown (and unknowable); but in modern times, through many rounds of inquiry and action,  it became clear that whenever we modernists refer to, whatever we refer to as the “human subject”, entails something that is already preconstituted by and enmeshed in, pre-subjective “structures.” This greatly disturbed Heidegger, whose conviction was getting at the authentic Dasein experience. Intersubjectivity # 2 by definition precludes such an experience as Heidegger imagined. In similar ways, and for similar reasons that modern technology worried Arendt, the Western Gestell of techne, embedded in a scientivistic and objectivist ontology, along with its exclusivist policies and colonial appropirations, greatly worried Heidegger– both she and he were seriously concerned that something was going terribly wrong. Today we live with (and in) the global consequences– some relatively good, some relatively bad– of this technological and scientivistic moment-um. If we take a strong position on meaning # 2, how is it possible for humans to wrestle out from the self-perpetuating system wherein structures laid down in the past, continue to reinforce each other through successive generations which arise not only preconstituted by these structures, but also in such a way that these structures are nondiscursive and inaccessible via experience? This I believe is the immediate challenge and primary significance of human action today.

The depths and reach of these structures prejudice not only our perspectives, values, and beliefs– as if that were not enough– but also constrain the linguistic tools we use to reason and think, and thereby constrain the types of speech-acts available to us in the choice field of human action. These embedded structures (which are the same as unexamined assumptions, except that the postmodern claim is that they are also unexaminable) are also responsible for the tremendous rift between worldviews that separate subjects–often even those who already shared a common worldspace. Heidegger imagined a radical cut could be achieved by the individual subject through a kind of direct, a-conceptual, a-theoretical, a- ontic, authentic experience with Being. He imagined that such a transcendental experience might revitalize the self and liberate existenz– the human conditioned– into the infinite openness of Being. In the process, he disavowed Being of the fundamental richness of all subjectivity–namely, that it is both singular and plural, and the fundamental essence of the subject-to-subject encounter, namely, that it requires no mediator.

Pauli Pylkko’s The Aconceptual Mind tells us that things are much different than Heidegger thought– that although Heidegger might have caught the right scent, he went (too far) down the wrong track. Pylkko reminds us that the very concept of “subject” is itself interwoven into the western technological Gestell, and our experience of our own “subjectivity”  or “intersubjectvity” is part of that which is embedded in (supposedly nondiscursive and inaccessible) structures of consciousness. In one sense, given the theme of this inquiry, we might consider this a question of scale– What are the boundary conditions that we use to delimit an entity such that it is a “subject”; versus what we might consider to be a pre-subjective surrogate, or a trans-subjective collective? This is a question of scale in a very fundamental sense. How does our lexicon scale the pre-subject to the subject to the supersubject?

In order to investigate this question, Pylkko rejects Heidegger’s categorical dichotomy of the authentic and inauthentic experience–claiming rightly so, that Heidegger’s distinction demands too deep a cut such that one type of experience (i.e. the so-called authentic one) remains distinct in both identity and category than another (a conventional experience). Rather, Pylkko argues,

The description of extreme cases should be related to regular cases, and every adequate view should allow extreme experience to grow continually from regular experience. But similarly, a view which is able to deal only with regular cases and would exclude intensive experience as something purely anomalous or irrelevant would be equally inadequate.

Pylkko proposes a type of scalar arrangement, a framework involving centers of experience on different levels; such that one level entails a conventional experiential center (the “subject”) while another lower, deeper or more primordial level entails a different experiential center (a pre-subjective surrogate). The pre-subjective surrogate and the subject are not discontinuous entities, rather they are processurally related forms that arise in experience, such that pre-subjective centers give rise to actual subjects through a process of iteration and reification.

Unique experience is originally, not only aconceptual, but a-subjective. It doesn’t acknowledge the subject of perception, action and thinking, until suitable repetition creates presubjective experiential centers within the a-subjective experience, and these centers become sufficiently articulated in order to adopt such a controlling attitude towards the rest of experience which characterizes the full presence of the subject. After some self-organization, these centers are able to create the impression that their experience is structured into relatively permanent conceptual hierarchies and perspectives which include minimally some identity and causality conditions upon  which the impression of time and space is founded.

According to Pylkko, the emergence of even these pre-subjective centers entails relations between other such centers, and may constitute what Hargens calls the “transcendental quality of all relationships that allows for any dimension of intersubjectivity to manifest,” which may be, according to this meaning of intersubjectivity, its most fundamental manifestation:

The pre-subjective experiential centers emerge gradually from agnostic relations in which they are engaged with other emerging centers. These agnostic relations can be viewed as games … . When the game situations with which an experiential center is engaged gradually evolve and become more complex, the center of experience becomes more structured, complicated and persistent, and eventually, the center experiences itself as something that is, due to its peculiar perspective, separated from others.

Pylkko’s process ontology of the subject creates a scenario in which the fully articulated subject becomes extracted, not ontologically, but experientially from the ground of inter-being(s), and as a result, “experience is saturated with isolation.”

… the isolation of subjects from one another, the isolation of  pre-subjective experiential centers from one another (before the emergence of full subjectivity); and finally, the isolation of the subject from its a-conceptual origin.

This leads, in Pylkko’s words, to a situation of strong nostalgia to which every subject is doomed. This is part of the subject’s conditioned existenz– but not part of the subject’s Being;for even though the subject experiences itself as being isolated from both its pre-subjective centers as well as other subjects,

… from the point of view of the a-conceptual experience, this  is no clear-cut at all!

That the subject lives in this state of isolation and nostalgia (“as if the stormy ocean of a-conceptual experience had separated the solitary dwelling place of the subject from other subjects”) has required of the subject, the creation of external forms of communication that lay down avenues of connectivity to re-establish the domain of shared intersubjectivity in the world of fully articulated subjects. The subject’s inability to see that this external framework is a re-cognition of, or a reflection of, conditions of inter-being that have never been severed, gives rise to the impression of an irrevocable gap across which two subjects never touch; and generates the intense drive of modern man to make concrete those language structures and meaning structures upon which he mistakenly believes his true intersubjectivity lives; and when these culturally embedded forms fail to close the gap in such a way as to eliminate that sense of isolation and its nagging existential nostalgia, the differences inherent in those forms with which man had originally hoped to bond him with others, becomes his prime evidence for intolerance.

The aporetic quality of such a dialogue stems from the situation in which the fully articulated subject is construed to be a structure, an entity, while the pre-subjective centers are steeped in processural change. One might merely say that the “subject” is nothing but an experiential center when viewed from a structural framework; or alternately, that pre-subjective experiential centers are nothing but what we conventionally refer to when we refer to a “subject” except we are witnessing the processural nature of its moment-to-moment arisings. The problem with a structural approach, is that it creates separations and contingencies that cut too deep into the fabric of process; while the difficulty with a process approach, is that it creates ontological narratives that are often off the mark, and oftentimes overly dramatic. In the process narrative of experiential centers giving rise to full-blown subjects, there is an uncomfortable intrusion of a conventional clock– the arrow of time that sets midnight at the level of interbeing, and noon at the level of intersubjectivity. This gives us the impression that the pre-subjective center of experience is ontologically prior because the case can be made that it is ontogenetically prior. This is a serious category error that process philosophy is prone to. At the level of the pre-subjective, there is no temporal domain, since the temporics of the subject arise inextricably and inimically as a condition of its structuration as a fully articulated subject. Therefore the narrative of the process of the subject’s arising cannot be ontologically based in a temporal framework that depends upon the subject’s perspective.

Rather, as I (Roy) have argued elsewhere, the subject arises as a cognitive occasion, in which pre-emergent levels are enfolded into each other as the subject emerges. These levels includ Pylkko’s primoridal experiential centers, the awareness of an external body and object(ive) world, and other subjects. The fully articulated subject arises with the event of subjective unification, in which the “subject” is imputed as an entity– the “being” that stands in for its own “becoming.” The arrow of time which fixes a local here and now for the subject, belongs to this process of enfoldment, such that “deeper” levels are experienced as greater, prior wholes– an experience that I have referred to as “the ontological dimensioning of reality.” How the various levels are laid down as the cognitive occasion articulates, determines the over-arching ontology in which the subject is based (biased)– but there are no absolute rules that overdetermine either the kinds of levels that articulate, or the relative “order” of their emergence. Therefore, it is important, when narrating from a process view, to remember that for each cognitive occasion there are levels that are related as greater, prior wholes, but no particular level can be considered absolutely prior— no particular condition can be considered a priori as having a higher ontological status. This position, more than Pylkko’s own narrative, satisfies his a-onto-a-theo-logical standards.


Integral Manifesto Pt II(2): Subjects and Surrogates/ The I-Thou

Books Discussed in this Section

Martin Buber (2008) I and Thou, Hesperides Press

Hannah Arendt (1958)  The Human Condition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Bonnitta Roy (2006) A Process Model of Integral Theory, from Integral Review Journal, Issue 3 at

In a very real sense, the central subject in a political act is not an individual subject, but a subject-to-subject actant. Not unlike Latour’s equation of humans and non-humans enfolded into each other, in an authentic encounter, aka a political act, subjects are enfolded into each other as an I-Thou. The notion of I-Thou-ness is not specifically a relational one, since this is a situation of complete reflexivity, parody and equanimity– whereas for two thing to be related, there must be a third term namely the scale of their relatedness. In an authentic I-Thou encounter, there is no third term. Of this encounter, Martin Buber has written

Beyond the subjective and this side of the objective, on the narrow ledge where I and Thou encounter each other, is the realm of the in-between. This reality, whose discovery has begun in our day, points the way for coming generations, leading beyond both individualism and collectivism.

This I-Thou enfoldment might be considered to be vis-a-vis the intersubjective realm, a reconstitution of the originary, primordial process described by Roy that, along with layers of affect, image, body and world, also enfolds the sense of “other” in the microgenetic series of the cognitive occasion that is responsible for the primary unification of these pre-subjective levels into the “unified subject.” In this sense, it is a re-cognition of a pre-subjective inter-face “between self and other,” in the special case where “self and other” are pre-subjective surrogates of the conventional level, standard meanings, of “self” and “other.” At its most fundamental level, this subject-to-subject encounter is a re-en-actment of a prior, pre-subjective occasion, in which the surrogate subject allows (acknowledges, accepts, invites) “otherness,” the surrogate other, in inimical communion as a vital and necessary step to achieve union as a “self”– in other words, as a necessary component of the question “who am I?” Normally, the pre-subjective component of every moment-to-moment arising of cognitive occasions remains unconscious, hidden in the preconstitutional components of self. Occasionally, this pre-subjective, a-conceptual “experience” revitalises itself through intense I-Thou encounters in which something of the below, beneath, behind the self-other formulation discloses its originary aspects. Still, even at the level of fully formed subjects, the subject-to-subject encounter continues to provide essential components of the individual subject’s question of the “who I am,” as the Greeks fully understood. According to Arendt,

Action and speech are so closely related because the primordial and specifically human act must at the same time contain the answer to the question of every newcomer: “Who are you?” This disclosure of who somebody is, is implicit in both his words and deeds. …

[Moreover] … it is likely that the “who” which appears so clearly and unmistakably to others, remains hidden from the person himself, like the daimon in Greek religion which accompanies each man throughout his life, always looking over his shoulder from behind and thus visible only to those he encounters.

According to Arendt, it is this special quality of the subject-to-subject encounter which distinguishes authentic human action versus the instrumentalization of human deeds. This space of human action– “the space of appearance in the widest sense of the word, namely, where men exist not merely like other living or inanimate things, but make their appearance explicitly”– is not a comfort zone. On the contrary, “the conviction that the greatest that man can achieve is his own appearance and actualization is by no means a matter of course.”

[both homo faber and animal laborans] will inclune to denounce action and speech as idleness, idle busy-bodyness and idle talk, and generally will judge public activities in terms of their usefulness to supposedly higher ends– to make the world more useful and more beautiful in the case of homo faber, to make life easier and longer in the case of animal laborans.

Integral Manifesto Pt II(1): Intersubjective Fields

Books Discussed in this Section

The IHDP working paper at

Hannah Arendt (1958)  The Human Condition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago


Consider again the proposition of this manifesto

The fundamental encounter of subject-to-subject in a shared subjective space is the limiting quantumn of freedom.

If we allow this as a starting premise, namely that the subject-to-subject encounter is the limiting quantumn of freedom in the realm of human action, we might be inclined to a corollary proposition:

The space or ground of subjectivity is a field of relational properties that scale along various orders with respect to various processural rules.

In doing so, we might imagine an economy as a field of generative order and sets of rules that govern the scalar relations of those orders– a field in which innumerable subject-to-subject encounters occur. The orders and rules that prescribe the economy would be in continual transformation, both from top-down instructions and bottom-up feedback– yet, in a final analysis, both of those shaping systems emerge through subject-to-subject encounters. We cannot describe these as a “series” of subject-to-subject manipulations, as that would overdetermine their ordinal rank. Neither can we describe these encounters as completely discontinuous, for they operate in a field that mediates their engagement in such a way as to order than and scale them. The order that emerges is always “generative,” not imposed, since the relations create or generate themselves, the new relations between subjects, while the rules that govern them, prescribe the kinds of relations that might emerge. The rules set a kind of boundary condition, or event horizon– but never do they preclude the creation of completely novel forms through new subject-to-subject encounters, which by their very nature, are ultimately and radically discontinuous from the field, discontinuous from temporal and spatial relations, and arise anew from moment to moment, along with the subject, qua subject.

Similarly, then, we can imagine geographies–of space and mind– that are fields of generative order and sets of rules, that are both permeable and transformable, as they are continually fed “new information” from the pool of subject-to-subject encounters; as well as technologies–fields of humans and nonhumans enfolded into each other– arising from and descending into the intersubjective spaces where subjects encounter each other in free and novel engagement from moment to moment. Returning to the diagram of transformational phases posted earlier, we can describe the kinds of processes responsible for resilience as well as transformation in such intersubjective fields:


In the exploitation phase, there is less stored information in the intersubjective field– less order and more flexible rules– and as these orders and rules become more fixed, subjects become more interconnected–but not as a kind of superorganism, rather,  their connectedness is mediated through the generative orders and sets of rules that constitute their relatedness. The system, however, is continuously being fed “new information” that arises in completely novel ways through subject-to-subject encounters; and it is this new information that has transformational potential. However, this potential acts in a way such that the interconnections that mediate subjects is radically broken, and a phase of chaotic release (re-organization, creative destruction) ensues. It is therefore not surprising that the discourse associated with this transformational disturbance would not be found in top-down forms like institutional reports, judiciary commentary, military analyses, and the like, since these forms of discourse are deeply constrained by the prevailing orders and rules of the intersubjective field.

Therefore, connectedness alone is not a sign of robustness of intersubjective space; rather, it may be a signal that the field in which subjects operate is so rigidly fixed that it overdetermines the outcomes of subject-to-subject interactions. Instead of laying down connectivities that increase the kind of relationships that can emerge, the field becomes a box which inters it’s subjects such that few are able to “meet outside the box.” The generative capacity of the field, and its ability to set and re-set connections through rules of order, is very much like the laying down of  connections in the brain and its relationship to neuronal flexibility. The number and kinds of connections changes with need, usage and disturbance; and the brain has been shown to be able to hard-wire itself in habit, as well as to re-wire itself in completely new ways. The continually changing subjective state of the mind— intentional states, attentional modalities, states of awareness, states of consciousness– provides the continual renewal of information that energizes and renews the growth and change in the brain. Analogously, in intersubjective fields, growth as well as changes in connectivity must be continually energized and renewed by the intersubjective states of subjects through subject-to-subject encounters.

The crucial implication is that the field of intersubjective connectivity arises from subject-to-subject encounter, never from a collection of subjects, however, we try to analyze just what that collective is — an economy, a geography, a technology. Of course, there are feedback loops. But the feedback loops don’t mediate the authentic subject-to-subject encounter– they impact the cycle at the level of the individual subject. This is the sense of the inter-action of subject and world, and the nature of human and nonhuman enfoldments. The authentic subject turns toward her neighbor and re-enacts the world. The world is no mediator in this  en-act-ment, which is the quantum of political action as much as it is the limiting quantum of freedon.

The crucial distinctions between the objective world and its inter-ests among humans, versus the unmediated encounter of humans in action and speech that bears the stamp of the authentic subject-to-subject encounter, is an underlying theme running through all of Arendt’s political thought, and echoes in the following

Action and speech go on between men, as they are directed toward them, and they retain their agent-revealing capacity even if their contentis exclusively “objective,” connected with the matters of the world of things in which men move, which physically lies between them and out of which arises their specific, objective, worldly interests. These interests constitute, in the word’s most literal significance, something which inter-est, which lies between people and therefore can relate and bind them together. Most action and speech is concerned with this in-between, which varies with each group of people, so that most words and deeds are about some worldly objective reality in addition to being a disclosure of the acting and speaking agent. Since this disclosure of the subject is an integral part of all, even the most “objective” intercourse, the physical, worldly in-between along with its interests is overlaid and, as it were, overgrown with an altogether different in-between which consists of deeds and words and owes its origin exclusively to men’s acting and speaking directly to one another.

This second, subjective in-between, is not tangible, since there are no tangible objects into which it could solidify; the process of acting and speaking can leave behind no such results and end products. But for all its intangibility, this in-between is no less real than the world of things we visibly have in common. We call this reality the “web” of  human relationships.

What is this reality, this web of human relationships, is a central theme of human action and inquiry.