Integral Epistemology

"Metaphysics is generally taken to be the branch of philosophy that deals with issues of ontology (what is being or reality?) and epistemology (how do we know it?). The term was first prominently used by Aristotle’s students for a book they called Metaphysics simply because it was written after his book on Physics. That’s as good a reason as any, I suppose.

If metaphysics began with Aristotle, it ended with Kant. Or, at any rate, took a turn that has defined the way sophisticated philosophers think about reality ever since. Kant’s critical philosophy replaced ontological objects with structures of the subject. In essence, this means that we do not perceive empirical objects in a completely realistic, pregiven fashion; but rather, structures of the knowing subject impart various characteristics to the known object that then appear to belong to the object—but really don’t; they are, rather, co-creations of the knowing subject. Various a priori categories of the knowing subject help to fashion or construct reality as we know it. Reality is not a perception, but a conception; at least in part. Ontology per se just does not exist. Metaphysics is then a broad name for the type of thinking that can’t figure this out. Or, metaphysics is thinking that falls prey to the myth of the given.

What this means for spirituality in general is that metaphysics needs to be jettisoned, or at the very least, completely rethought. All of the traditional categories of metaphysics—including God, immortality, the soul, mind, body, and knowing—simply cannot stand up to the scrutiny of critical thinking, not in their fundamental, pre-critical, ontological forms. In the modern and postmodern world, they are simply obsolete notions that are as embarrassing to religion as, say, phlogiston, St. Vitus’s dance, and phrenology are to medicine.”

-Ken Wilber, Integral Spirituality

How do we know stuff? Like all of the great philosophical quandaries, it’s a fundamentally straightforward question that can lead us into an endlessly branching series of chicken-and-egg meditations on the nature of existence (ontology) versus the nature of knowledge (epistemology). And it’s a topic that is immediately relevant to today’s world, to our understanding of current events, and to our various strategies and processes of sense-making.

This is particularly true here in the social media age — it’s always been the case that we’ve had multiple conflicting epistemologies, but until recently we’ve generally lived in a more curated media space. We had certain “referees” who would enforce certain epistemologies over others (for better and/or for worse). But now civilization itself is operating on fully postmodern media platforms with no built-in curation or enfoldment mechanisms at all. We are all now curators of our own informational terrain and media bubbles, and those silos are being further reinforced by the hidden algorithms of Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc.

This has resulted in the total epistemic breakdown we are now in the midst of — giving rise to things like Flat Earthers, anti-vaxxers, and delusional Q Anon conspiracies — all products of broken epistemologies. Ironically, it may be the phrase “do your research” that leads to the death of knowledge.

At its core, the clash of civilizations is a clash of truth-claims — a clash of epistemologies — made all the worse by our current epistemological crisis and collapse. Aperspectival madness, as we like to say.

In this fascinating episode of The Ken Show, we take a look at a dozen of the most popular schools of epistemological thought — idealism, pragmatism, empiricism, constructivism, etc. — noting their respective contributions and limitations, and how they can all be pulled together into a more Integral epistemology. Hopefully this conversation can help us take the next step out of this total aperspectival madness we are all immersed in.

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Something refreshingly new, for me, to have them all in one place. Good stuff.

Sorry Cory, I think putting the ant-vaxxers with flat-earthers is an insult not an honest well-rounded articulated point of view. I assume those are your words and not Ken Wilber’s.

It is quite scary when doctors and scientists do not agree on the science of treating Covid-19. The vaccinations have not gone through any rigorous side-by-side blind tests for safety, and yet there is insane political push toward getting everyone vaccinated, why? I find this quite unsettling.

For a virus that according to WebMD, if it’s a trustworthy information source, says, “early estimates predict that the overall COVID-19 recovery rate is between 97% and 99.75%” this puts me squarely in the logical camp of anti-vaxxer (

I shared this video ( with my doctor. After he watched it I asked what he advised, he said, “getting the vaccine is voluntary … educate yourself and make an informed decision that is right for you.”

Facebook, YouTube and Google make it hard to even find information that violates the political narrative. I encourage others to do research to find their own path, both positions are valid and sound there should be no political pressure for or against in our free society.

I am open to be educated but there is nothing I have read that has convinced me to give up my personal sovereignty to participate in an experimental science test. When someone as intelligent as you make the flat-earther argument it has me very worried about our future.

I still love you Cory, but I found this out of sorts from your normal rational thinking and sound well-rounded arguments. ~ Peace

Hey Executive, thanks for the feedback! Just to clarify, I believe there are rational reasons to be cautious with certain vaccines, and even more pre-rational reasons. When I say “anti-vaxxers” I am referring to the folks who reject all vaccines out of hand, who believe it’s a Luciferian plot to control us/microchip us/reduce population/etc.

The main issue is that our informational terrains have almost entirely been hijacked by prerational thinking, paranoia, and cynicism, which ends up skewing our perception of what “doctors and scientists” do or don’t believe.

As for why there is so much collective pressure to get the vaccine, I think it’s because vaccination is itself best seen as a collective injunction. One of the greatest errors we make is the belief that we have our own individual immune systems that are separate from everyone else’s. Vaccines are only moderately effective on an individual basis, but their benefits compound as more people get vaccinated. So i think that is where much of the pressure comes from — not to mention a year and a half of quarantine and over 550,000 lives lost to this pandemic.

As for the COVID vaccine in general, I got vaccinated. This is because my own family life conditions require it. Having an immunosuppressed daughter, it is even more clear to me how important vaccines are to our collective health, and how important it is for us to more carefully consider the effects our actions (or non-actions) have on vulnerable people in our society. That vulnerability is overlooked, I think, when we reduce them to a survivability percentage point. Not to mention the fact that the survival rates do not also take into account the long term medical issues that many COVID survivors are left with.

So I think this is where all the pressure is coming from. We in America live in a hyper-agentic, hyper-individualistic nation, where we are conditioned to think of our own rights and sovereignty first, and our collective duties and responsibilities in a distant second place. And for many in the “anti-vax” crowd (which, again, presumably does not include you), the word “freedom” really does mean “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me”. It’s pure red values dressed up in fancy orange views, which may be why we are seeing so much Amber shaming coming from the left (a go-to evolutionary response for containing malignant red), which certainly has its own ill effects upon our society. But it’s all part of the messy dance of “self-organization” on a species-wide scale.

So, to summarize — there are rational reasons to doubt a particular vaccine, though some more than others. I have some of my own doubts when it comes to this COVID vaccine, which are likely different than yours. I don’t consider this an “anti-vax” stance. There are also tons and tons of pre-rational reasons coming from disinformation and propaganda that have caused many to reject vaccines altogether, and that view is held absolutely. These folks, I think, can be fairly compared to flat earthers.

I hope this clarifies my position a bit better!

Thank you for the clarification … we do agree! I am absolutely pro vaccinating. However on this one I am more afraid of the untested vaccine pushed through by Executive Orders of a President than Covid 19. I contracted Covid 19 and recovered without incident. A short story about my experience.

( ) This video on the Hydroxychloroquine and Zinc and Vitamin C and D as a treatment for Covid-19. I shared this doctor supported information with my own doctor and asked if I could take it. He said it’s not FDA approved for treating Covid. Why then is this doctor and many others using it successfully to treat Covid 19 and yet he did not agree? I told him I was disappointed that the science Doctors rely on has become political.

He had me take Ivermectin … Then I read this on the FDA website, "Why Not to Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19 ( I shared this with my Doctor too, he told me the same thing as the other doctor said, that in his experience it’s worked and he advised me to continue taking it. I did and I have fully recovered.

When doctors cannot reach consensus to agree on the science of medicine this is certainly a reason to worry. Doctors and medical professionals parrot politically correct narratives that fit their own world-view while undermining the credibility and confidence of their own expertise and in the validity of the science of medicine. Through my experience I am very skeptical of everything associated with this issue.

~ Peace

Corey does like to bundle up his provocative cliches into very juicy bundles :-). The time-shifted Wilber quotes make for excellent rationalization and should play well to the some in the IL community. Integral Theory itself may not have changed all that much in the last decade, but the level of Integral thought (and consequently hijacking) in the world has definitely changes.

Most of the people we hear today talking about science or statistics (rates, %, etc) have little if any formal background in science or statistics. It would be akin to me getting into a “debate” on why “everyone knows” that Andy Warhol is the “clearly superior” artist to say Rembrandt. I tap out real quickly on that conversation.

I’ll tell a bit of humorous story. Two decades ago (or was just in 2018?) I purchased 8 heads of romaine to make salad for the family Thanksgiving gathering (we like salad). So day before Thanksgiving I see the CDC “e. coli” warning on romaine across every news outlet. So I go to the CDC website to find out the incredible number of people poisoned by the romaine and e. coli. I start digging around on the CDC site to find that this warning was issued against romaine when the # of cases would have comprised literally a round off error in the average monthly e. coli cases here in the US. But of course, I didn’t take romaine to the family dinner on the off .0005% chance I might get everyone sick. But then I ate a lot of romaine salads over the next week - LOL. Does this make me a Anti-Romainer, Q-e-coli’er or maybe simply a somewhat rational human being that’s not really interested in Amygdala Hijackings but also not wanting to scare my family?

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Congrats on the Epistemology series - very impressive.

Do you know of anywhere Ken has made a clear comparative analysis of epistemologies, as you have here, but only 3-4 categories: pre-Mod, Mod, post-Mod, transpersonal.

NYU Professor Mark Crispin Miller said, “It seems to me that the year 2020 and then the first half of 2021 have comprised a global propaganda spectacle of unprecedented scale and sophistication."

This Professor’s video is worth adding this topic string regarding vaccinations and the propaganda

Some new very important and relevant questions being asked on this topic.

Are COVID-19 shots vaccines or gene therapy?

In July 2018 The FDA defined gene therapy as

“Human gene therapy seeks to modify or manipulate the expression of a gene or to alter the biological properties of living cells for therapeutic use. Gene therapy is a technique that modifies a person’s genes to treat or cure disease …”

BioNTech acknowledge that the COVID shots are a form of gene therapy … (quoted below) is this true? Not according to The Associated Press. They published a “fact check” in December 2022 titled "No, COVID-19 Vaccines Aren’t Gene Therapy," … stated the following:

*“The COVID-19 vaccines do not change a person’s genes, as gene therapy does … The shots from Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to instruct the body to create a protein from the coronavirus. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meanwhile, uses a modified adenovirus to trigger an immune response …”

The evidence … according to the September 2019 SEC filing for BioNTech (its mRNA technology is used in the Pfizer vaccine) this is clearly stated on page 21:

"… in the United States, and in the European Union, mRNA therapies have been classified as gene therapy medicinal products …

Why is this type of information not being reported everywhere on every media outlet to reach the general public? Why is a the Associated Press publishing what appears to be misleading information?

The .gov websites being advertised are promoting getting vaccinations and boosters … shouldn’t this type of scientific and fact based information be reported on too?

Please soberly review this stuff … maybe it’s worth sharing and talking about with your lover ones too?

Hey @excecutive, what do you think of moving this discussion to a dedicated thread, and letting this thread remain a place for discussing the episode itself?

I know your comments here are in response to a particular phrasing in the text you didn’t like, but I don’t want that detail to totally eclipse the actual contents of my discussion with Ken, which I thought was incredibly rich :slight_smile:

(And just to be clear, when I used the phrase “anti-vaxxer” I wasn’t talking about rational skepticism around new vaccine technologies, which I do not actually consider an “anti-vax” position. I was talking about the silly conspiracy stuff that we’ve been seeing in vaccine discussions over the last decade — causing autism, Bill Gates injecting microchips, a “Plandemic” designed by the elites to reduce and control global population, etc. All of which, I think, are the products of a broken social media epistemology.)

I understand what you wrote then and I thank you for reposting it again. This started back in May of 2021 and there really wasn’t much discussion beyond our comments. I am okay if you recreate this as a stand alone topic. Please be sure you start it with my initial comments from May of 2021 and your replies discussing the anti-vaxxr and vaccinations.

Or you could rename this string and recreate your post either way works for me, just don’t delete it please.

From this thread and quite few others, I’m feeling a basic theme of “trust”. Who or what do we trust? Why do we trust? How do we trust?

Ken’s academically oriented series on epistemology speaks to that. So do the felt experiences of conspiracies, social media, propaganda, corporate advertising, or anything else you think is colonizing your lifeworld. (Colonizing the lifeworld is an idea from Habermas, it speaks to the problems of having decent conversation in what’s left of the public sphere).

For me, I could be there for a very academic discussion of Ken’s 12 part epistemology series. So Kant ended metaphysics, eh? Let’s unpack that … On the other hand, I can also be there for a deep dive into the rather urgent practical question of how can anyone in their right mind trust anything they read on the Internet? (Including what I am typing right now?)

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How can we trust what a person says or writes?
How can we trust self promoted organizations like the WHO, the CDC, the FDA when there is clear contradictory medical experts being blocked on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook from being heard?
I think trust comes when hearing all-sides, allowing input from all and leaving our own egos on the floor when it comes to defending our own limited points view.

Here’s some updated information February 5, 2023 on excess death counts in the UK, Wales, Scotland, Europe.

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Thanks @excecutive!

I watched the video. To focus on the epistemology theme of this thread, I would simply like to request clarification. Namely, do you trust the source of the video, Dr John Campbell, more than you trust the WHO, the CDC, or the FDA?

For others on this thread, who do you trust more from these sources? Dr. John Campbell, the WHO, the CDC, or the FDA?

My interests here are epistemological. I’m not taking a rooting interest in whether you think COVID was managed well or not by governments. I’m interested in which sources do you trust more, and why do you trust them? What are the qualities or indicators of a relatively trustworthy source?

@robert.bunge … epistemologically speaking I do not trust any sources as true … or I trust them all as presenting their truth. If you watch the video history on John Campbell he was very pro vaccine early on and is one of the few information sources that has not been censored on Youtube, I personally have confidence in him.

John has been coming quite unglued of late with the weak response from government agencies, particularly in the UK as represented in this video, about access deaths. I am open to all points of view and trust my own rational thought and spiritual inclinations to determine my center. I trust everyone else to do the same, provided they seek to accommodate divergent points of view in their assessments.

Thanks again @excecutive. So is it fair to say you develop trustworthy information through processes? What I am seeing is that on the one hand, you posit a social process in which all points of view are to be represented. And beyond that, you also experience a personal process in which you rationally reflect on the different points of view presented in the social process. Is this correct? Or am I missing something?

Thank you @robert.bunge … what you are referencing seems to be a logical approach of deductive reasoning. Moving from the general to the specific for a definitive conclusion, which I think we all do as a default approach for our own individual sanity.

I would define my integral spiritual approach to these complex issues as inductive or inclusive reasoning. Begin with a premise and add another premise and add another and than another, call it both/and thinking. I am always seeking to discover a conclusion that accommodates and/or assimilates all views based on multiple premises.

Moving from the specifics of each individualized premise to accommodate the many into the general. Looking for many observations from multiple sources to discern general patterns, make generalizations to discover a more collaborative understanding(s) through inclusion.

The multiple inductive inferences, based on the multiple observations, presents a higher synthesis of collaboration resulting in a greater integral understanding. We get closer and closer to truth through the whole of information.

This inclusive approach adds deeper and deeper understanding as each additional point of reference is accommodated. Anyone who believes they know the truth for sure; they are not open to knowing more. Do we ever fully ascertain anything with complete certainty? I think not.

Hi @excecutive. So for fun and learning, I tried to match your approach to the 12 different models discussed in the videos at the top of the thread. Truth be told, none of these seemed like a perfect fit. My best guess would be #8. But I have a feeling you would not be all the way on board with that one. It would interesting if you found one that is a really good fit for your ideas about how to get closer to a more complete view of things.

I shared my approach above and welcome your input, comments and questions on that … or please tell me the approach you suggest be taken to determine truth in an integral way.

First of all, I’m here to learn what I can. I don’t have any authoritative opinion about what “integral” is or what the “integral way” might be. Looking over the 12 short videos with Ken Wilber and Corey DeVos, truth be told, I did not get a strong sense of a distinctive “integral epistemology”. It was more of a survey of different epistemological approaches, with Ken in the final segment saying Integral Theory is not exactly any of those. So I’ll take my best stab at it …

It appears to me that Integral epistemology (epistemology generally is the theory of knowledge) is a function of the growth and evolution processes of growing up, waking up, cleaning up, etc. On the growing up side, Integral appears to frame a variety of fairly standard cognitive developmental models, like those of Piaget, Kohlberg, Kegan, and Loevinger. Those models all have their differences, but generally the process of intellectual maturity is that of gaining ever wider, more generalized and generalizable perspectives. On the waking up side, Integral really draws from Ken Wilber’s original work, The Spectum of Consciousness, and elaborates from there. If Ken is the “Einstein of Consciousness”. his E=MC2 moment was lining up Eastern Spirituality and Western Spirituality and finding structural commonalities. My take on that is that somewhere under cultural diversity and civilizational differences lies a core human experience of being in the world.
Cleaning up matters because unresoved shadow material manifests as various distortions and defence mechanisms (denial, projection, repression, displacement, etc.) Showing up matters because we need all four quadrants to understand our situation in the world.

So I guess “Integral epistemology” equates to working the program. Integral Theory itself is not the program though. Integral Theory is more like a framework for letting different programs and pathways work with each other.

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