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Some Thoughts on the Mind-Body Question


A critique of physicalism from an holonic/transpersonal viewpoint

Gerry Goddard

A version of these notes was delivered (February 6, 2004) as a guest lecture at Malaspina University College, Philosophy of Mind -- thanks to Dr. Oscar Clemotte.

Introduction to the transpersonal context

Briefly -- What is transpersonal theory?

How does it bear on the issue of the relation of mind and brain?

Transpersonal theory is concerned with the philosophical foundations of transpersonal psychology (which came out of Maslow's humanistic psychology) as it interfaces with various other new perspectives in science, feminism, deep ecology, East/West dialogue, the study of shamanic altered states, ESP, OBE’s, NDE’s, Zen satori etc.

Transpersonalists begin with consciousness. They're interested in exploring theoretically and in practice the full dimensionalities of consciousness.

-- They honour it, respect its depths and apparent lack of absolute limits.

They’re not anxious to explain it away in terms of something else, something else which is already soaked in its interpretations (e.g. the world of science).

--But they’re not Berkeleyan idealists or solipsists.

-- Mind or consciousness is not less real than the matter which preceeded it in the developmental sequence of evolution.

-- Values and meanings are the currency of consciousness just as quantifiable descriptions or physical “laws” are the currency of the material dimension.

Transpersonalists point out that Cartesianism (the source of the mind-body problem at present) characterizes one state and structure of consciousness among others including higher and more unified and dimensionally rich states -- e.g. moments of artistic creation, mystical insight, saintly absortion, deep religious devotion etc. The precise problems which continue to dog academic philosophers are seen by transpersonalists to arise within this Cartesian paradigm.

The most ambitious transpersonal theorist (or Integral thinker) is the grand synthesiser Ken Wilber who presents us with a grand view of evolution through successive ontological and epistemological deep structures from the Big Bang to the advent of human self reflexivity on to higher states of consciousness. We’ll get into this a little more deeply in a moment.

From the broad transpersonal perspective, physicalism can never solve the problem it has produced by its stubborn clinging to the ‘physical’ as both the necessary and sufficient condition for consciousness. I would argue that yes, it is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition.

From the transpersonal point of view, while so-called mind and so-called matter, consciousness and energy, are clearly distinct requiring different languages of description, there is not a problem of interaction because, for one thing, ontological diversity does not necessarily preclude a deeper level Unity -- a gound of being from which both mind and time-space emerge.

Just as psychologists and social scientists carry on their professions without getting impaled on the horns of the mind/body problem, for the most part, transpersonalists from C.G. Jung (collective unconscious) onward are not sweating too much about the problems which dog Chalmers, McGinn, Nagel, Strawson…et al. Rather than concerned with how consciousness was caused by or arose out of insentient matter, transpersonalists are mainly concerned with exploring and explicating the vast riches and multi-dimensional complexity of human consciousness.

Nevertheless, transpersonalists should concern themselves, if only to better articulate their underlying assumptions and paradigmatic loyalties because they obviously carry along paradigmatic baggage in their theory and practice. For example, many, perhaps most, psychiatrists today are totally committed to the physicalist paradigm (I think for more than merely pragmatic reasons) whereas many psychotherapists are committed to the emerging humanistic and even transpersonal approaches.

They point out that science’s concept of nature itself has continued to change from its old cause/effect mechanistic view with its foundational concrete physical particles moving in absolute space in accordance with absolute laws to reveal a world seen through quantum theory with all of its ‘far out’ implications from Bohr’s complementarity principle, to David Bohm’s implicate/explicate order, to Barrow and Tipler’s anthropic principle, to Wheeler’s many worlds and so on. In this spirit the mind-body problem is seen as like a knot in one’s thinking when one refuses to let go of the modernist material, atomistic, and objectivist paradigm, a paradigm which is now being questioned not only from within leading edge science (Bohm, Sheldrake, Capra etc.) but also by post-modern philosophy (Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault etc.).

The nature of the philosophical problem from a transpersonal perspective


There are different types of problems.

(1) problems which can eventually be solved with greater effort and ingenuity.

(2) problems that need more data before they can be solved (e.g. science).

(3)Then there are philosophical problems which can never be solved from within the framework -- not just a linguistic framework but an epistemic one.

These problems express the limitations of the framework itself. They’re like growth crises warning us that we’re outgrowing the epistemic framework in terms of which we’ve so far been operating.

We see this process clearly in the developments of science, but such a process is harder to discern in philosophy.

Whereas in science the appearance of an intractable 'problem' may signal the need for an occasional paradigm shift (see Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions), philosophical problems in their very nature are constituted by such paradigmatic difficulties.

Suffering such a growth crisis, 20th century philosophy (with its roots in Kant’s critique of metaphysics) threw out metaphysics like an old suit of clothes. But I think there can and must be a rebirth of metaphysics in a new form despite the postmodern condemnation of totalizing narratives. Even the commitment to a physicalist ontology is very much a metaphysical commitment. But it pretends not to be one! The physicalist ontology clearly rests on an assumption about the ultimate nature of things.

In the Middle Ages philosophy was conceived entirely within the Christian framework. In the modern period it’s been conceived largely within the scientific framework (except for idealism, certain streams of existentialism and post-modern thought). The new metaphysics must be an examination of these frameworks (shades of Kant, but at a new level). This means we no longer need to privilege scientistic naturalism as our framework.

Postmodernism believes that it’s identified the epistemological framework which constitutes the human world from animistic religion, to Ptolemy to Copernicus to Einstein -- namely, language and culture. From a postmodern perspective, we could say that philosophical problems arise through taking these human constructions too seriously as hard realities.

Transpersonalism accepts some of the insights of postmodernism re. a diversity of epistemic structures but takes a step beyond postmodernism. The problem with postmodernism is that it has undercut its own foundation and created a radical epistemological cage, a cultural solipsism. But transpersonalism recognizes structures which transcend language -- “ways of knowing and being” not mediated by culture and language. These higher structures of consciousness (accessed by the most advanced persons) lie beyond the post-modern structure just as postmodernism lies beyond the scientistic view which itself lies beyond naïve realism and so on.



Addressing the mind-body "problem" as such

As it’s currently framed, the mind-body problem exists as a problem (rather than as a metaphysical challenge) to those convinced that science offers us a description of the world that is ontologically complete, or at least to those who have a hard time letting go of feeling that science’s description should be logically complete.

The commitment to science as providing the fundamental ontology is evident not only among materialist eliminativists (those who deny consciousness altogether) such as Dennet and the Churchlands, but also among those who recognize that consciousness is a real and essentially nonreducible feature of the universe -- Chalmers, Searle, Nagel, McGinn and G. Strawson.

The implicit and unquestioned assumption in all these naturalistic positions is that, in science's historical account of the universe, since consciousness arose after the original and non-conscious "stuff", consciousness must therefore be derivative of the stuff -- that is, it is ontologically secondary to the stuff.

This a priori assumption is not only that the fundamental ontology of the universe is material or physical, but that it must provide both the necessary and sufficient conditions for the later generation of consciousness.

But can science in itself be said to even be logically capable of providing us with an ontology adequate to account for human experience? Are we compelled by the evidence available to us humans to accept a materialist ontology? I believe that there is no ontology imbedded in science -- justified by the objective methodological processes described by science -- that compels us to accept it.

In fact, if the materialist ontology is argued to be the logical implication of the world as revealed by science, then science is being implicitly assumed to be the only valid mode of 'knowledge' directly arising from human experience.

But such a claim contains an implicit judgment concerning the logical structure of human epistemology; one which I believe, is logically untenable.

I’m referring here to the first/third person epistemological structure.

There’s a fundamental logic that both relates and distingushes the third person and the first person perspective: the 3rd person -- observing the object; the 1st person -- the observing subject. We cannot logically separate one from the other. But the epistemology which underlies science privileges the third person perspective.

Ordinary consciousness is always consciousness of something. Science, is concerned with the investigation of the 'something' (the object). The means of the investigation of the something is the'consciousness' part (the first person perspective).

In choosing the third person perspective as the more veridical, science or physicalist philosophy logically presupposes the first person perspective.

But this is a self-undermining position. If the 'something' which is being investigated is taken to be the most veridical and ontologically prior part, it must be that 'consciousness' is taken as a reliable and authoritative mode of knowing. In that case we can't say that the first person consciousness is a secondary mode which is contaminated, limited, or constrained by its being merely a derivative and causally ineffectual epiphenomenon.

To try to explain 'consciousness' strictly in terms of the 'something' -- the object being investigated -- is then to undercut and devalue the very means by which one unmistakably decided on the veridical nature of the "something" in the first place.

The objectifying scientific approach is logically incomplete; it comes from only one pole of the fundamental bi-polar logic of human experience. Science approaches the world from the third person objectifying view and uses the first person as a tool, but doesn’t incorporate the first person perspective into its account.

Basically, current formulations of the mind-body problem are simply betraying the impossibility of deriving one logical pole from the other pole. This is not merely difficult -- in the sense of Chalmer’s "hard problem" -- it is logically incoherent!

Hence, in its essential logical shape, physicalism’s conception of "prior" reality is confined to an abstracted third-person world -- abstracting the third person from the epistemological and logical pair, the integral first/third person perspective.

Although this issue is itself philosophically contentious, it is at the level of quantum space where the scientist comes up against the skewing of the scientific path's inevitable constriction to the objective epistemology. But here the holonic paradox is revealed through the wave/particle nature of light and the observer's participation in the collapse of the quantum wave function. The observer has to mapped back into the system.

But the world as it “is” prior to the advent of all life and consciousness can be neither third person conceived nor first person conceived since epistemology was apparently not originally present.

Basic to the materialist hypothesis are two dogmas:

(1) the claim that the level identified by physics is simply and radically not-mind containing not a hair of what might be termed consciousness, the seed of consciousness or anything smacking of a formative cosmic intelligence or final causes.

(2), the claim that this material and objective ontology (currently understood as physical energy fields) is the sole explanatory principle of all that is and ever may come to be.

Having already excluded sensory qualities from the one explanatory domain, the sudden appearance, not simply of new quantitative and objective patterns, but of a new ontology -- a qualitative or subjective ontology -- is impossible; that is to say, it is logically impossible!

The 'hard problem' is more like a reductio ad absurdum (i.e. following the premises leads to an absurdity) which demonstrates that at least one of these dogmas is untrue.

What I'm saying here is that we are compelled to either posit some proto mental factor in (1) as in panexperientialism. Or failing that, admit in place of point (2) that the universe is such that we do not have to explain everything, even an emergent and new ontology, in terms of what is so at the beginning level of physics (i.e. physics as we conceive it from our human third-person epistemological perspective.)

Now since the problem of how real consciousnes is generated by the physical brain, is nonsensical, we are not called to come up with something that solves the problem! We’re not compelled to come up with a solution to a pseudo problem.

But we are compelled to analyze and articulate the conditions which gave rise to the problem in the first place. We are also obliged that our alternative epistemological and ontological accounts of the nature of things be coherent, free of logical contradiction, criticized by peers etc.

The mind-body "problem" is a problem to those cited authors because they’re trying to derive mind or experience from a scientifically conceived cosmos which has no mind at the beginning. These thinkers are united in the a priori rejection of views which smack of dualism, idealism, or transcendent concepts.

These philosopher's are bound to naturalistic physicalism but in good faith cannot deny the fact that something exists that is constituted by a subjective ontology.

Despite Searle, there seems no way to derive a subjective ontology from a purely objective and physicalist ontology -- no way of understanding in fact what that really means.

Now dogma 2 of the naturalistic position says that what comes after must necessarily be explained in terms of what is present at the beginning. According to these dogmas everything which eventually emerges must be implicit or potential within the original condition defined solely in terms of quantitative insentient space-time.

But while the ground (time-space physics) is a necessary condition for conscious forms, there’s nothing which dictates a priori that that which is foundational must provide a sufficient condition for that which comes later or higher. In a development model of evolution, nobody will say that the mature butterfly is any less real than, or simply an epiphenomenon of the caterpiller. The building of a basement constrains the general size and overall shape of the superstructure, but it does little to tell us anything of the exact nature of the superstructure. Metaphorically speaking, naturalism and physicalism look to the basement and seek to understand the superstructure as a property of the basement.

Back to Descartes.

All these efforts at solving the mind/body problem seem to be different ways of answering Descartes. Cartesian dualism is awkward for several reasons:

(1) we have trouble accepting two ontological substances -- we seem to be more comfortable with unity than with diversity -- this may be changing as we move into a post-modern epistemic structure.

(2) there’s a problem of interaction -- I intentionally move my arm.

(3) scientific types have an aversion to the spiritual and the occult -- the specter of a disembodied mind or soul (the whole New Age thing now) threatens the scientific cosmology.

But an even greater difficulty inherent in Cartesian dualism (and other views) is adequately understanding what it means to say that the mind perceives the world (i.e. its objects). This is naïve realism which leads to all sorts of clumsy formulations of sense data, and then to a skeptical phenomenalism a la Hume. Before the mind-body question is posed (i.e. how the (brain) allegedly gives rise to mind?), the prior question has to be posed as to what it means to say that subject (a) perceives object (b)?

As long as we insist on counting as the object the physical domain of science and the subject as the experiential field of mind, I don’t think we can come up with a coherent account of perception. The question of how mind is caused by matter is completely secondary to the answers we can give to naïve realism.

The physicalists are right in rejecting anything that implies naïve realism, and yet the scientific account they take so seriously actually begins with naive realism, than drags along a bit of the primary and secondary qualities distinction mixed up with an unarticulated intuition of the Kantian noumenon (what things are and were behind our representations of them). When the postmodernists point out that "all facts are theory laden" they're on the right track!

I suggest that ‘mind’ does not perceive a world, rather it creates worlds within its own space. Worlds are constructed by mind, both interior and exterior worlds -- subjects and objects. But rather than asserting a subjective idealism, I would say that ontological Mind cannot manifest without a spatial infrastructure; it needs a point of view which defines perceiver and perceived, a spatial archetectonics that provides an infrastructural dynamic form or pattern of experience.

Objectivity and subjectivity only have their meaning from the double aspect of human epistemology. The fact of perspective which creates the first person and third person viewpoints do not justify ontological dualism by themselves. I want to look at a quote from Max Velmans'-- “The Relation of Consciousness to the Material World”(a commentary on Chalmers (“Facing up to the problems of Consciousness”).

Velmans describes a situation where person E, through an experimental arrangement, observes the brain of a subject S focusing his attention on a cat.

"While the subject focuses on the cat his phenomenal world includes the cat. It is fashionable (at present) to think of E's 'observations' (of the subject's brain) as public and objective. S's 'experiences' of the cat, by contrast, are private and subjective. Indeed this radical difference in the status of E and S is enshrined in the different terminology applied to what they perceive; that is, E makes 'observations', whereas S merely has 'subjective experiences'. But suppose they turn their heads, so that E switches his attention to the cat, while S switches his attention to what is going on in E's brain. Now E is the 'subject' and S is the 'experimenter'. Following the same convention, S would now be entitled to think of his observations (of E's brain) as public and objective and to regard E's observations of the cat as private and subjective. But this would be absurd — as nothing has changed in the character of the observations of E and S other than the focus of attention". (p11)

To sustain such a pure epistemic derivation of subject and object so that we do not end up with a pure phenomenalism, we still need a spatial infrastructure.

Cartesian dualism mistakes the perceived object for the real infrastructure. Science begins by taking this logic seriously and no matter how much it dissects the parts of the picture it never gets precisely to the infrastructure itself: this is OK for science which does quite well within in its own framework, but it’s not good for philosophy which takes the scientific epistemology grounded in a Cartesian view of matter as adequate for articulating the ontological ground of things.

The spatial/energic field forms of the infrastructure can be articulated only through an abstracting process, but the world as revealed is a bi-polar world which is a constructed picture.

Cartesian dualism cites a subjective ontology and an objective ontology. But subjective and objective are not different ontologies but rather, both belong together as the bi-polar nature of consciousness, the fundamental bi-furcation within the continuum of experience out of which we humans construct our sense of self and other, self and object.

But I don’t think Descartes can be simply dismissed despite the problem with his articulation. I believe he was quite accurately expressing a particular paradigm which still shapes, not only our theoretical views but our very way of perceiving the world.

In transpersonal terms, it expresses the deep structure of consciousness which as a Western modern culture, determines how we perceive the world and our selves -- as subjects and objects, as atomistic selves confronting an objective and essentially dead world (except for other creatures). This Cartesian/Modernist consciousness structure is very different from the more unified consciousness of pre-modern humans (participation mystique). Transpersonalists believe there are yet more different and developed structures that lie beyond us -- both as individuals and hopefully as a collective.

But I feel that Cartesian dualism can be approached as an invitation to explore in both directions -- first and third person, inward and outward -- rather than rushing toward a premature monism choosing either idealism or materialism. Both realities or dimensions which open up are real in apparently different ways -- the way of art and the way of science among other things -- and ultimately they are perhaps reconcilable within the same overaching Reality.

To explore the outside or objective world, or even to add to that an objective description of experience itself (which is to approach thoughts, intentions etc as inner objects which is still to apply the third person perspective), can never lead to an adequate cosmology since it explores only one pole of the fundamental logic which enframes human experience.

If consciousness is real (as is admitted by many physicalist philosophers) then how can the nature of things be revealed by an epistemology which is only unidirectional, whereas the epistemological reality of the human points in at least two directions?


A brief look at Wilber’s mapping of the holon and his 4-Quadrant model

Now I want to say a few words about the transpersonal or “integral” theorist Ken Wilber's explication of the holon and his 4-Quadrant model. This picture was not devised in order to solve the mind-body problem, though it has important implications for this question and Wilber is acutely aware of the issue.

Philosophical problems arise in part from what and how we choose to identify the basic constituents of the world -- as "things", "particles", "minds", "sense data" or whatever. Wilber claims that the world is not made up of things or minds, but of holons (as first suggested by Arthur Koestler).

In part, this means that any referent can be seen as what it is in itself, a whole unto itself, and as an integral part of a larger whole. This is not to say that any referent has literally two parts, but that any referent must be understood or seen in these two ways -- that a fundamental perspectivalism is built into the very notion of what we mean by a “thing”, i.e. a holon. But these two ways of “showing up” -- as a particular and as an aspect of a system -- must be viewed in both a vertical and a horizontal sense.

When atoms come together to form a molecule, and molecules come together in just the right way to form a cell, we see a hierarchic or vertical stratification. At each of these levels thus formed, distinctly new properties come into existence. Descriptions of cellular behaviour cannot be reduced to descriptions of molecular behaviour even though the cellular must include a description of the molecular and so on down. In this way, any entity actually is nothing other than a particular unified system of lower level particulars -- and so on down.

But atoms do not always come together to form an organized system called a molecule -- mostly they are just jammed together as rocks. A rock is not an integral system of atoms but a conglomerate of atoms to be mapped at the same level. This lateral relation at the first level of physics includes micro physics and macro physics -- two domains, yet numerically the same physical universe.

The lateral relation of the particular and a mass of particulars, at the complex compound organismic level up to the human, refers to the individual organism or human on the one hand and the society of organisms or humans on the other. We know at the level of the social sciences, psychology approaches one side of this horizontal polarity and sociology the other, and there is a strong tendency to try to understand either the collective as the individual writ large or the individual as a unit in the collective. This would be like trying to understand relativity in terms of quantum theory and vice versa. Both functionalist psychology and neurology on the one hand and sociology on the other are ways of looking at the same coin.

But in Wilber’s explication of the holon concept, holons not only manifest in the vertical and horizontal part/whole senses, but also “show up” as interiors and exteriors, phenomenological descriptions and objective descriptions. It is this extension of the scientifically objective holon concept to the bi-polarity of subjectivity and objectivity which has direct implications for the issue of the mind/brain or mind/matter relation.


Here we see four quadrants which map four domains of equal significance in describing the world at successive levels. The vertical axis maps the evolutionary development of ever higher and more complex orders from the supposed Big Bang (point in the centre) to Gaia (single cells) to humans and then to higher forms of human cognitive and moral development through history.

The Right quadrants signify that domain of reality which is described by the language of Objective science. The criterion of validity on the Right is the objective truth of empirical propositions pertaining to particular organisms in the Upper Right and to functionalist systems in the Lower Left quadrants.

The Left Quadrants signify that domain of reality which is described by the “how it feels to be an X” -- the Upper Left signifying individual experience, its criteria of validity being honesty, sincerity, authentic expression. The Lower Left indicates the cultural “mind”, common world views, and shared meanings, its criteria of validity being intersubjective communication and understanding.

Since any possible complete description of “reality” or the world must take into account these four domains at all possible levels, no domain can be reduced to the other. This gives us the methodological picture for an integral science and knowledge program which does not privilege the language of objective science.

In terms of knowledge disciplines: the Upper Left is accessed by psychology and psychoanalysis. The Lower Left is accessed by cultural anthropology. The Upper Right is accessed by the objective sciences examining organismic structure and behaviour. The Lower Right (above the galactic and geological levels), is accessed by the systems and social sciences.

If we try to reduce the interior Left to the exterior Right we get materialist and scientistic reductionisms.

If we try to reduce the exterior Right to the interior Left we get idealism.

If we try to reduce the interior Left to the exterior Right, then the holistic systems Lower Right to the individual Upper Right, then the top to the bottom, we get atomistic scientism -- everything is ultimately atoms (an early modernist view now in general disrepute).

Vertical evolution leads to a complexifying of consciousness and its accompanying biological structures and also to more freedom. This means that each higher level has an emerging freedom in relation to its subordinate level in that it is relatively free of the constraints of the rules that govern the subordinate level. For example, humans gain a certain freedom and possibility in relation to the animal instinctual level.

(As an aside -- the old either/or question as to whether or not the human will is free can be seen in relation to this mapping as a false dichotomy. Freedom is relative. For example, a neurotic who undergoes successful therapy becomes freed of those binding neuroses. He or she not only feels freerer, he or she is freerer! He or she has more possibilities. The blanket denial of freedom of the “will” arises out of old mechanistic and materialistic reductionisms; where reductionism is refuted, so is determinism. This is not to say that the intentionality of the individual is ever entirely autonomous because of the other three quadrants at its own level.)

Now notice how the experiencing Left goes all the way down to the level of atoms/galaxies. This rests on a solution to the mind-body called panpsychism or panexperientialism. (Whitehead, Hartshorn, Griffin). Panexperientialism posits a prototypical ‘mind’ -- albeit fleeting and as unlike human experience as is an electron like a human brain structure -- the level of the prototypical subatomic particle where the electron rather than a physical entity is seen as an event or occasion, a primitive bipole of object/subject. So experience goes all the way down on the Left and Stuff (spatial energy fields) goes all the way down on the Right. In terms of the fundamental distinction between interior consciousness and exterior form, experience is not placed as an emergent at a particular level but is mapped all the way up and down to prehension.

Correlations are mapped all the way up through levels of increasing consciousness, mapping, not only the exterior forms of the organism, nervous system and brain, but the 'interior' progression from shadowy prehension, to simple sensation, to affect, image, symbol and concept.

Whether or not it is true -- or even intelligible -- that some sort of prehension occurs at pre-biological levels, mind and intentionality seem to be present at the very lowest level of life so that evolution occurs not only as a simultaneous evolution of organism and environment at the first levels (according to the Gaia hypothesis etc.) and at higher levels as an obvious interactive development of individual and society, biospheric evolution appears to be increasingly driven by the force of will and consciousness rather than solely through mechanisms and random hits by cosmic rays on DNA macromolecules. Rupert Sheldrake (The Rebirth of Nature) tells us: "Some kind of mutations seem to be purposive. “When starving bacteria are in the presence of a sugar they are constitutionally unable to use, genetic mutations occur at frequencies far above chance levels to give the bacteria certain enzymes they need, just when they need them." (p 139).

Ken Wilber’s model (or another holonic version) is not just a model alongside other philosophical views in the rational-empirical tradition, it's an invitation to start mapping the totality of things without reductionism.

There is no way a human can adequately describe the world because he/she is IN the world. Consciousness is always (at least at biospheric and noospheric levels) a spatially situated perspective; consequently, our human world is inevitably shot through with relativities and dualisms -- astigmatisms if you like. This is what the postmodernists mean when they claim that there can be no bird's eye view, only different interpretations, different stories. But rather than dual, the terrain is bi-polar, best mapped by some sort of holonic logic. Holonic logic puts the observer/actor/creator back into the picture.

Holonic logic is a conceptual language which is more adequate to mapping consciousness and world than “thing” language. So it's openended. While fully embracing the scientific quest, it’s an invitation to play in a bigger ball park which honours the full presence of human phenomenonology and psychic depths. Holonic logic doesn't map the object as the real and try to derive the observer from it. Holonic logic takes the phenomenal field of the human (not just the individual but also the species) as the given.

But does Wilber’s legitimately non-reductive four-quadrant model present us with a logical mapping which is adequate to answer the question of the relationship of experience and brain, mind and matter? Wilber claims that experience is not caused by matter, not produced out of the brain. Rather, experience and organism co-develop up through the stages. And both domains must be included in any adequate description of its level, the four-fold compound structure of any holon at its level. This is certainly neither an epiphenomenalist nor a parallelist doctrine.

Each level -- as both structure and corresponding experience -- is not caused by the previous level, but is an emergent. The language of efficient cause does not apply on the vertical axis, but only (where it does apply at all) horizontally. Downward causation such as higher level intentionality acting on lower level bodily movement, is not efficient cause which raises all the problems of interaction. Rather, it is a systems dynamic where the system as a whole immediately governs the activities of its constituents which interact horizontally through causal mechanisms. Also, every higher level intention is also a dynamic structure so that the impetus can arise on either side of the holonic coin thus effecting change within the compound lower level wholes.

But the question remains, “Does Wilber’s modelling necessarily rest upon the acceptance of the panexperientialist doctrine, not only down to single cells including the neurons of the brain, but all the way down to sub-atomic “occasions” (Whitehead)? Precisely as mapped, I think that the answer to this is, “Yes”. But further, “Does it give a logically coherent and adequate account of the mind/matter relation in terms of panexperientialism”? The answer to this is, “I don’t think so”. Elsewhere (“Holonic logic and the Dialectics of Consciousness”) I’ve presented a remapping of Wilber’s four-quadrant model which I think is somewhat more adequate, yet still rests somewhat questionably upon a panexperientialist doctrine.

Panexperientialism, according to its best current exponent, David Ray Griffin, is a reasonable attempt to save an entirely naturalistic view of cosmos. As expressed in a follow-up paper of mine (“Consciousness and the Holonic infrastructure”), I’ve come to believe that panexperientialism, at least as it is modelled in terms of an interior/exterior bi-polarity all the way down to subatomic events, is both questionable and unnecessary within an overarching view such as Wilber’s, a view which recognizes transpersonal levels of consciousness all the way up to the Realization of the Ultimate as in Zen Buddhism or Vedanta. A transpersonal model which recognizes the reality of transcendent levels of being/consciousness and an ultimate Ground of things, doesn't have to put consciousness -- which means a subject/object epistemology -- into the basement (physics) in order to explain the awakening or generation of consciousness through the biospheric levels of evolution.

But if one is an emergent evolutionist and cannot bring oneself to accept the transpersonal conviction of an evolution drawn by an ultimate telos, then I think one will find the panexperientialist view rather attractive, especially when combined with a non-reductive grand mapping like Ken Wilber's.

In Some Thoughts on the Mind-Body Question - Part II: An holonic explication of the mind-body relation, I'll offer some criticisms of Wilber’s model with specific reference to the mind/matter or mind/brain relation and further explore holonic logic as it bears upon this issue.