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Liberating Facts: Harman’s Objects and Wilber’s Holons


In this paper, an account of two novel ontologies is given to point to the need to revise the status of facts in school curriculum. It is argued that schooling is in dire need of re-enchantment. The way to re-enchant schooling is to re-enliven the world we inhabit. We need to fall head over heels in love with the world again. In order to do that, we need to shake up our conception of “the hard and cold facts of the world” to make the latter come alive radiating vibrancy and luminosity out into the world. Facts have to be liberated from their “cold and hard” status and become things that captivate us with their uniqueness and dynamism. To the extent that facts enchant (instead of merely re/present the world), working with them leads to educative experience. To work out how to let the facts do that, two thinkers and two ways to reconceptualize ‘facts’ are discussed: Graham Harman and his objects, and Ken Wilber and his holons.

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  1. “Flatland ontology” is a term used by Wilber (1996) to refer to the Western Enlightenment’s rejection of the interior depths and layeredness of the world. He argues that modernity has successfully differentiated the so-called value spheres of art, science, and morals; however, it has failed to integrate them as a result of which the empirical positivist science has colonialized the lifeworld denying validity to “value or depth or quality or goodness or beauty or worth” (Wilber 1996, p. 248) of the interior dimensions of all occasions resulting “in nothing but the flat and faded surfaces of a brutally monochrome world” (Wilber 1996, p. 248).

  2. For a fuller list of anti-object-oriented standpoints discussed by Harman, see Harman (2011a, pp. 22–23).

  3. Harman defends his object-oriented metaphysics as a form of “weird realism.”

    Instead of the dull realism of mindless atoms and billiard balls that is usually invoked to spoil all the fun in philosophy, I will defend a weird realism. This model features a world packed full of ghostly real objects signaling to each other from inscrutable depths, unable to touch one another fully (Harman 2007a, p. 187).

  4. Husserl’s notion of “categorial intuition” will not be elaborated here. A brief definition should suffice for our purposes. See Harman (2007) for a more detailed discussion of this important concept of Husserlian phenomenology.

    Categorial intuition means that every perception consists of layers buried within layers, all of them lying in the perception from the start, although they are not evident to us without later analysis. This discovery goes a step further than intentionality: not only are phenomena present to us in consciousness, but more is present in these phenomena than meets the eye. The phenomena have greater richness and depth than they seem to have at first (Harman, 2007, p. 40, emphasis added).

  5. If “the reality of objects is never fully deployed in their relations” (Harman 2011b, p. 69), how on earth do they actually interact? In other words, if objects have an inaccessible/untouchable core, how do they actually interact? Harman employs what he calls “vicarious causation” to address this aspect of his object-oriented ontology, which we will not be able to address here due to space limitations.

  6. A full exposition of Wilber’s integral theory is beyond the scope of this article. His account of stages and states of consciousness, two dozen or so lines of development, premodern-modern-postmodern transitions, the theory of Spiral Dynamics, integral methodological pluralism, and so on will be left untouched. Within the confines of this paper I will just focus on the four-quadrant model.

  7. A third axis, inside-outside, in each quadrant that complicates Wilber’s analysis will not be taken up here for it does not change the fundamental tenets of his AQAL model.

  8. Both Harman and Wilber refuse the label “panpsychist” opting instead for “endopsychism” in Harman’s case and “pan-interiorism” in Wilber’s case. Probably, tennis balls do not have minds, or souls, or feelings, but they have interiors!

  9. I contend, together with Wilber, that the challenge posed by the complexity theories to the official reality of the disenchanted world does not go far enough. The “evolving complex systems” have interiors that cannot be reduced to their exterior counterparts.


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Correspondence to Sevket Benhur Oral.

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Oral, S.B. Liberating Facts: Harman’s Objects and Wilber’s Holons. Stud Philos Educ 33, 117–134 (2014).

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  • Facts
  • Re-enchantment
  • Ken Wilber
  • Holons
  • Graham Harman
  • Objects
  • Object-oriented ontology