To See a World: Art and the I of the Beholder

Ken Wilber


Added on October 31, 2020

Kenneth Earl Wilber II (born January 31, 1949) is an American philosopher and writer on transpersonal psychology. Ken Wilber has developed Integral Theory, a systematic philosophy which suggests the synthesis of all human knowledge and experience.

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Ken Wilber, 1984, age 35.

“Aperspectival madness” might fairly well describe much of the last two decades of art, art criticism, lit crit, and cultural studies. Irony is one of the few places you can hide in a world of aperspectival madness-s-say one thing, mean another, therefore don’t get caught in the embarrassment of taking a stand. (Since, allegedly, no stand is better than another, one simply mustnot commit-sincerity is death). So skip sincerity, opt for sardonic. Don’t construct, deconstruct; don’t look for depth, just hug the surfaces; avoid content, offer noise-“surfaces, surfaces, surfaces is all they ever found,” as Bret Easton Ellis summarized the scene. No wonder that David Foster Wallace, in a recent essay that received much attention, lamented the pervasiveness of the art of “trendy, sardonic exhaustion” and “reflexive irony,” art that is “sophisticated and extremely shallow.”

But if we do abandon irony and seek to make sincere statements, where do we begin? If we do surrender surfaces and look also for the depth, what exactly does that mean? And where are these “depths” to be found?

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