Scheme of Evolution
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Models of Reality
With comments by Michael
In his major
work up to now, A Brief History of Everthing, Ken
Wilber presents several integrative models of reality.
No, Ken’s major work
up to now is Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. It may explain some of
your misconceptions. Although he uses the
word "integrative" only in the preface to his second edition (2000), his
work is largely considered as such. He describes in details hundreds of
philosophers and other thinkers, from Buddha to Freud, from the Big Bang
to Postmodernity, that inspired him . But as a student of that other
great integrative thinker, Pierre Teilhard
de Chardin, I missed several fundamental contributions of the latter
in Wilber's model, so I started looking more critically to Wilber's synthesis.
This text is a first draft to summarize those comments.
Four Quadrants [4Q]
Description. The backbone of Wilber's approach is the Four Quadrants Model .
No, it isn’t. It’s
an explanatory tool for a much broader and deeper approach, not a “backbone.”
Wilber’s approach had been moving forward for many years before that. [...]
The backbone is in [his] early works Atman Project, or Spectrum
of Consciousness. He makes a two-dimensional
scheme of individual/collective with exterior/interior. The Four Quadrants
of this model can be labeled as
(UR): behavioural, also called IT On the Right we have
the "exterior", observable phenomena: what an individual/society does.
On the Left we have the "interior", unobservable things: what individuals/groups
think (and feel). This classification seems simple and is easily conceivable.
The popularity of Wilber's scheme is perhaps largely due to this clear-cut
concept, and in discussion groups terms as UR, LL, etc. are in frequent
Upper Left (UL):
intentional, also called I
Lower Left (LL):
cultural, also called WE
Lower Right (LR):
social, also called ITS
Logical problems. But already at this level we encounter some conceptual problems: groups
don't think and groups don't behave. It are individuals that think and
behave in groups.
Ken spends many pages
stressing exactly this in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. But they do
grow in complexity (specialization, etc). Furthermore, the criteria
by which we can observe a progress on each of the four scales is far from
clear, and is never defined. A vague increase in complexity is suggested,
but never indicated as such. Wilber apparently tries to indicate some progress,
but only gives us a preconscious hint.
This sounds tendentious;
it seemed a pretty strong suggestion to me ? like an outright statement.
[...] [See more details in] Sex, Ecology, Spirituality A most troubling aspect
of the Four Quadrants is that LR from stage 9 on is split up into two dimensions:
organization (from tribes to planetary), and
activities (from foraging to informational), in fact
totally detached from social life.
There are several
“dimensions’, as you call them, in every quadrant. We are looking at everything
from four primary points of view with 4Q, that’s all. [It's not clear for
me] how foraging to informational activities are “totally detached from
social life”? Evolutionary Problems. Things become even more puzzling when one tries to trace back Teilhard's
levels of cosmic evolution. Those nine levels can't be easily criticized:
each level is just one further step in a universal complexification process
--each system is composed of building blocks that are fullfledged members
of the system just one level below it. Wilber includes (some of) these
levels in his Four Quadrants, but we find those levels at very unexpected
-- absent in Wilber's model  Teilhard's very logical
fundamental evolutionary phases are illogically scattered in Wilber's scheme,
suggesting some fundamental entanglement in the definition of the attributes
of the four axes.
2. elementary particles
(electron, quark...) -- absent in Wilber's model
3. atomic particles
(proton, neutron...) -- absent in Wilber's model
4. atoms (from H
to Ur) -- UR1
5. molecules (from
anorganic to organic) -- UR2, partly in UL1, their development place in
6. eobionts (from
nucleic acids to mitochondria and other organnelles) -- absent in Wilber's
7. protozoa (bacteries
and unicellular organisms) -- UR3 and UR4, partly in LL2-6
8. metazoa (from
cell colonies to homo) -- neuronal aspect in UR5 to UR10, exterior (!)
aspect in LL2 -6, and also suggested in LR3 to LR4
-- LR5 to LR13
[T]he 4Q is about
different ways of looking at holons. Teilhard’s was about the holons. Further,
the fact that not all organisms and levels of complexity are not included
in the 4Q map is irrelevant. It’s broad scale ? huge scale. Furthermore, Wilber's
evolutionary progress often is badly suggested: some forms of evolutionary
progress replace more primitive forms (e.g. planetary in stead of tribal,
LR9-13), but other are added to more primitive forms (e.g. creative thinking
to reflexive thinking, UR5-8 to UR10-13). Sometimes the "progression" is
scaling down (LR1-3: from Galaxies to Gaia systems), but sometimes progression
is scaling up (UR1-4: from Atoms to Eukaryotes).
This seems a tad confused
to me. If you go from galaxies ? at the scale we can see them ? to Gaia
systems, you are going from the less complex to the more complex. The fact
that such systems are in galaxies was not the point ? the point was the
[enfoldment] level we can see when we look at a galaxy. Let us look to the four
quadrants in some more detail:
When you say scaling ? which
scales? Of complexity or size? The criterion of enfoldment into a greater
whole ? transcend and include ? is quite specific.[...] See the twenty
tenets. [...] That’s the criterion for articulating levels: Wilber’s 4Q
models made no claim to be all inclusive in that regard, but indicative.
A review of the
1-4: some early
evolutionary phases (parts of lithophase and biophase)
5-10: the development
of the brain of the metazoics (10: "complex" neocortex refers to the "frontal"
cortex, only present in homo)
9: learning ability
10-13 creative thinking
2-4 and 7-8: the
development of the psyche
5-6 and 10-13: the
development of the thinking ability
9-10: from subconscious
14-...: the higher
forms of consciousness (subtle, causal, etc.)
2-6: biophase (as
7 an extension of
5-6: biological movement
8: a pre-human kind
9-13: the evolution
of the cosmic view
1-3: the places
where UR1-2 develop
3-4: some feeding
aspects of biophase (more explicit in LL2-4)
5-13: the organization
of social life
5-6: levels of cooperation
(LR5 probably wrongly labeled. I think it shoud read: "societies without division of labor")
7-13 (higher labels):
the scale of organization of social life: it really starts at 7, and LR5-6
clearly refer to the kind of cooperation, not to the scale
9-13 (lower labels):
the development of technology. In fact this should start at LR5 or even
earlier, because animals forage too: foraging doesn't start with human
is my interpretation that Wilber's scheme is a blend of several evolutionary
aspects, too vaguely defined. Perhaps it should be wiser to use several
schemes, each more adapted to the phenomenon one describes. But, of course,
much of the simple charm will disappear that way.
I think Wilber was
conscious of this, because from Part Two on he silently switches
from Four to Three dimensions...
is completely upfront in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. This criticism is not
just a play with logical classification. Several very important conclusions,
simple disappear in Wilber's Quadrants. The Quadrants merely suggest that
everything is linearly expanding, in four more or less parallel dimensions,
without suggesting the underlying developmental principles.
No, it doesn’t; it
simply articulates that potentiality. Wilber makes it clear many times
that there is nothing either linear or predestined about it. While the
diagram doesn’t “suggest the underlying developmental principles”,
the books do. I will try to present
some alternative schemes that describe universal and human progress more
logically. Each time we will take some of the concepts from the Four Quadrants,
sometimes adding essential aspects, and schematize them in a more logical
on Wilber’s part [is] yet to be demonstrated. Rather, it appears to me
to be just misunderstanding [in this analysis]. A first model will not
be repeated: Teilhard's scheme,
already mentioned, describing the structural basis of systems in
model for human functioning
Although Wilber presents
his scheme as a Description of Everything, in fact it is mainly a description
of human functioning: UR6-13, UL2-13 (in fact to 16, not mentioned in the
scheme), LL8-13 and LR4-13 refer to human development.
[I]t is about increasing
complexity [...]. The human brain is the most complex object known, after
all. Therefore, let's make
a scheme that only takes human development into account, and limit it to
the forementioned stages.Then we can clearly discern four levels of functioning:
I also prefer Wilber’s grounding
of human development in nature ? implicit in 4Q, explicit in his books.
1. The hardware (mainly UR7-10, UR6 being the fetal form of a human): it describes the
development of the brain in concentric layers: brain stem, limbic system,
cortex, frontal cortex. Stages UR11-13 are very unclear in Wilber's book.
2. The software (mainly UL2-16): this is the development of brain as thinking tool. Nothing
is suggested here about the contents of the thinking brain, although higher
forms of abstraction are suggested from UL10 on. From UL2-9 thinking is
strongly linked to the possibilities of the hardware, what explains the
parallellism in Figure 5-3 (p. 68). But for the most important aspects,
UL10-16, all parallellism between the two quadrants is lost.
3. The contents
of the mind (mainly LL8-13): the developmental stages of our cosmic
view are described, from archaic to centauric, but in a linear way giving
no suggestions for the future.
[I don't understand
this]. 4. Human interaction (mainly LR4-13 or, more exactly, LR7-13). Wilber here only refers to the
scale of cooperation and society. He stops at the planetary level, although greater
scales are conceivable: within our galaxy, within our universe, between
multiple universes. He doesn't give any indications on the style of interaction,
although he started at LR5-6 to suggest a shift towards collaboration by
"division of labour", but stopped there. He doesn't extend on technological interaction either, although he suggests in LR9-13 that also there we see
[This seems unclear] If we limit ourselves
to these aspects of human development, putting the four dimensions into
a quadrant seems meaningless, because there is a progression form hardware
to software, from internal mechanisms to observable behaviour. Hence a
graduation in four levels seems more logical: each lower level enables
and influences the higher level.
I’m not saying that
the perceptual framework you present is in any way “wrong” and Wilber’s
is “right.” Depends what for. [M]eans of observation are the point of the
4Q divisions! Another reason for leaving
the quadrant frame, at least for this aspect, is that the distinction
internal/external, individual/social completely disappears in this model:
there is nothing "external" in the hardware, apart from the fact it can
be observed with simple tools (microscope, electrographs), while software
cannot directly be observed with the same tools. The contents of the mind
on the other hand can easily be observed, because people tend and like
to speak about it, and, in fact, those high levels of intellectualization
don't develop without educational and intellectual interaction. The cosmic
views are perhaps the most observable parts of culture an individual mind.
Moreover, the mind contents and the creativity that yields it is a purely
individual process, and hence is badly labeled by "social". And, finally,
there is no reason to connect LR to UR.
The next scheme could
perhaps better symbolize these aspects than the Four Quadrants:
There is nothing mutually
exclusive about this map and Wilber’s 4Q. Conclusion
These two alternative
schemes demonstrate, at least for me, that the Four Quadrants Model is
not appropriate for the two perhaps most important dimensions it was designed
for: the evolution of the universe, and the structuration of human mind
(the development will be treated in a later article). In a separate article
on the Mechanisms of Evolution I propose a
model for the development of Mind and Interaction.
In later articles
I shall try to present alternative models for some other aspects, described
Ken, A Brief History of Everthing, Shambala Publications, Boston,
Mass., USA, 1996, 2000. I'm referring to the second edition.
 id., Preface by Tony
 id., p. 65 e.c.
 In fact, layers 1 and
6 were added to this list by Max Wildiers.
At the moment Teilhard conceived his model, both levels had yet to be discovered.
The Super String
Theory was elaborated between 1970 and 1984, and the Eobionts level
(the fact actual cell organelles lived autonomously before being included
in cells) was a discovery by Lynn
Margulis who, with James Lovelock,
formulated the Gaia Theory: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979).
These discoveries rather confirmed Teilhard's model than refute it.
- Comments byMichel