Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ken Wilber's Four Quadrants: The Basics

"Okay. Let's say i have a thought of going to the grocery store. When I have that thought, what I actually experience is the thought itself, the interior thought and its meaning--the symbols, the images, the idea of going to the grocery store. That's Upper Left.
While I am having this thought, there are, of course, correlative changes occurring in my brain--dopamine increases, acetylcholine jumps the synapses, beta brain waves increase, or whatnot. Those are observable brain behaviors in my brain. they can be empirically observed, scientifically registered. And that is Upper Right.
Now the internal thought itself only makes sense in terms of my cultural background. If I spoke a different language, the thought would be composed of different symbols and have different meanings. If I existed in a primal tribal society a million years ago, I would never even have thought "going to the grocery store." It might be, "Time to kill the bear." The point is that my thoughts themselves arise in a cultural background that gives texture and meaning and context to my individual thoughts, and indeed, I would not even be able to "talk to myself" if I did not exist in a community of individuals who also talk to me.
But culture itself is not simply disembodied, hanging in idealistic midair. It has material components, which as my own individual thoughts have material brain components. All cultural events have social correlates. These concrete social components include types of technology, forces of production (horticultural, agrarian, industrial, etc.), concrete institutions, written codes and patterns, geopolitical locations (towns, villages, states, etc.), and so on. And these material, social, empirically observable components--the actual social system-- are crucial in helping to determine the types of cultural worldview."

-- From A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber, pg. 80-81

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