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.