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Last week I submitted Thomas Kasulis’s dichotomy of intimacy and integrity worldviews to critical scrutiny. I pointed out the distinction between the epistemological element on one hand, in which intimacy knowledge is somatic and affective while integrity is self-reflective and public, and the ontological element on the other, in which intimacy sees the world as composed of internal relations and integrity sees it as made up of external relations. I noted Hegel appears to have an intimacy ontology and an integrity epistemology, while the Pali Buddhist texts appear to be the opposite – suggesting that rather than speaking of intimacy and integrity as a unity, perhaps we should break them up.

And yet while one can separate the two elements of these ideal types in this way, I suspect that one shouldn’t – because they turn out to have a deep logical relation to each other. It is one that I think Kasulis tends to leave unstated, partially because he doesn’t split up these two elements in the first place.

Namely: if reality is composed of internal or external relationships, these imply an internal or external relationship between knower and known. And it is this more specific kind of relationship, between knower and known, that creates the kinds of knowledge that Kasulis attributes to intimacy and integrity.

Let me explain what I mean by this (so far very abstract) discussion. To say that there is an external relationship between knower and known (as an integrity metaphysics would imply) is to indicate that a key element of knowledge resides outside the knower. So based on this integrity metaphysics, we might expect to find a correspondence theory of truth – there is a reality independent of the knowing subject, and true knowledge consists in the knower having the proper knowledge relationship to that external reality.

Going further than that: there is not only an external relationship between knower and known, but between knower and knowledge. Knowledge itself can exist outside of a knowing subject. This is the approach taken in contemporary “knowledge management” approaches, such as in the ITIL framework: as much as possible, the knowledge found in an organization should reside in publicly available repositories rather than being the possession of any individual employee, so that it remains useful even if the employee is not there (whether fired or just on vacation).

By contrast, an intimacy metaphysics is based on internal relations, implying an internal relationship between knower, knowledge and known. This can be somatic knowledge, knowledge located within the body – as when we know how to touch-type or play the fiddle or play football. You can’t put that kind of knowledge in a publicly available knowledge base; it can only be acquired as a skill. Similarly intimacy knowledge may be affective in involve empathy: a wordless understanding of other people based on subtle cues one may not even be able to describe. Here, the very fact of the knowledge makes one closer to the other person.

Consider what counts as firsthand knowledge in either of these approaches. Ken Wilber stresses the importance of replicability in knowledge: for knowledge to be true, one must be able to see its truth for oneself. He stresses that many mystical traditions are similar to natural science in arguing for replicability. But there is a key difference between mystical traditions and natural science here. In science, knowledge can be replicated by an observer. If you are skeptical of a claim in chemistry or physics and someone wishes to convince you, they can perform the experiment in front of you and, as long as you are satisfied that they have performed it properly, you will have had the result verified as surely as if you performed the experiment yourself. But this is not the case in mystical experience (or, for that matter, in aesthetics or in sports!) You need to have the experience yourself. Why? Because the knowledge produced by the mystical experience (or by playing a sport) is part of you in a way that the scientific knowledge is not. You are internally related to that knowledge.

It seems to me, then, that there is a direct, intrinsic connection between the two parts of intimacy, and between the two parts of integrity. But if that’s so, how do we account for the cases that seemed before to split them apart – for Hegel and the Pali texts? I’ll explore that question next week.

EDIT (14 Oct): There was originally an error in the first paragraph where I said “intimacy sees the world as composed of internal relations and integrity sees it as made up of internal relations.” The latter, of course, needed to be “external relations”. Thanks to Jim Wilton for pointing that out.