Ken Wilber on The Myth of the Given

Footnote 4, Excerpt B, vol. 2 of the Kosmos Trilogy:

4 Incidentally, when we say that theories map or reflect territories brought forth or enacted by a social practice or paradigm, this is NOT a reflection theory of truth–it is not the representation theory, not the fundamental Enlightenment paradigm, not the Mirror of Nature view. The reflection or representation model leaves out the enaction part (which is only the most important part). That is, the reflection model imagines that there is only one territory (or one Nature that all theories are supposed to map, reflect, or represent accurately), and fails to notice that different paradigms bring forth different worlds in the first place.

In short, there is not one world over which different theories compete for supremacy, but many worlds brought forth by many different paradigms, within which different theories then rightly compete according to the rules of engagement of the knowledge community grounded in a particular paradigm or social practice. The representation model is not wrong in its claim that accurately mapping a territory is important, but wrong in its claim that there is only one territory (a claim that secretly absolutized its own paradigm). Paradigms present or create worlds; theories map or represent them. Both are crucial in any integral epistemological model.

The reason so much postmodern thought fails is that it is still essentially modern.  Writings that call for “changing the paradigm” actually have the write answer but the incorrect understanding of what they are in fact saying.  To change the paradigm would mean to actually change the practice, which these writers wouldn’t actually do because to do so would reveal the flimsy foundations upon which they have built their careers and identities.  Otherwise “changing the paradigm” means simply changing your theory or adding some different facts to your mental repertoire which in fact is not changing the paradigm but as Wilber says “hiding the paradigm”, then assuming that the world presented via that paradigm is the only one in existence and then simply describing/mapping that world (the one assumed though actually encountered).  Worst of all is then to castigate others who are not in this world–how could they be if they are not given the proper directions to its location?

It would be as absurd as to take a photo of your house, send it to your friend without actual directions, your friend that is whose never been to your place and then rail at him/her for not finding it.  What your friend needs instead is your address and the best route available from his place to yours.

The reason this tends not to happen as much with modernist theories is that a much larger portion of the population is already grooving at the level, so the paradigm hiding trick isn’t as big as a deal.  It’s still taking place, though its negative effects are mitigated.

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Published in: on April 27, 2008 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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