Wilber and the Mind-Body Problem

From an article Do Critics Misrepresent My Position.  I will be focusing on Part II:  The Mind-Body Problem.

Wilber’s taxonomy of different versions of the mind-body problem (and different definitions of what constitutes both mind and body):

(1) For the average person, “mind” often means my conceptual, willing, and intentional self, and “body” often means my emotions, sensations, felt somatic sense, and so on.

(2) For many cognitive scientists and various materialists, “mind” means “brain” and “body” means organism. In this usage, the brain is in the body or in the organism.

(3) For many philosophers, “mind” means “interiors” and body means “exteriors”–or, in general terms, mind means “subject” and body means “object,” so that the mind-body problem ultimately means the relation between subject and object. Explicitly following the great nondual wisdom traditions (such as Vedanta and Vajrayana), I divide this meaning into two subdivisions: relative and absolute (as I will explain)–call them 3a and 3b.

So via #1 Wilber employs developmental psychology which describes how an individual develops from impulse through to concepts and rules, formal logic.  In this definition (#1) body is equated with sensation, bio-energy, and “gut” feeling.  So via this formulation, the mind transcends and includes the body.  [Note that not all emotions are covered in this regard as there are “rational” emotions, emotion in the mind, higher emotional development iow].

On point 2, there is no mind-body problem as the “mind” is really equated with the brain and chemical neural processes (what Wilber calls flatland).

#3 is the most interesting.

3a which is the relative mind-body is solved for Wilber through the philosophy of Whitehead (and process philosophy more generally).  [One of Wilber’s greatest and most underappreciated contributions to philosophy in my mind is his opening up a bridge between process and Continental European hermeneutics–more on that in the next post].

Interiors in Wilber’s scheme are the Left-Hand Quadrants, exteriors the Right.

3b for Wilber is the Nondual (The Absolute) on which mind and body do not relate nor are identified (“not two, not one”), hence there is no “problem” as such (mind-body or otherwise).

Whitehead and Process Thought does not understand the Nondual–i.e. it does not have the sufficient injunction to reveal the proper worldspace-experiential continuum of the Nondual.  But this is an important (post?)metaphysical point:  many of the Nondual traditions do not only the relative plane have as brilliant a grasp of the actual world as process thought does.

But even process thought is not fully quadratic, not fully dialogical…more on that in the next post.


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  1. […] For background, my previous post. The relevant sections I will be dealing with are from this article (section IV), scroll down to Appendix A. […]

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