Dialectical metaRealism @ DmR.Institute
A Short Essay on Dialectical metaRealism
Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
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Dialectical metaRealism (MP3 audio file) is an original critical realist perspective in The MarkFoster.NETwork, a sociology project. Although the resemblances between Ram Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism (including the philosophy of metaReality), on the one hand, and my Dialectical metaRealism, my The Unicentric Paradigm, and my Echoes of Cosmic Unity™, on the other, are obvious and deliberate, my own application of critical realism is, in various ways, distinct.

Dialectical metaRealism (MP3 audio file), a perspective which was renamed on June 26th, 2015, applies critical realism, including the philosophy of metaReality, to intersectionality (a branch of critical social theory), to social constructionism, to world-systems analysis, and to the social model of disability. The phenomenological methodology used in Dialectical metaRealism is Heartfulness Inquiry. In Echoes of Cosmic Unity™, the ontology (study of being or existence) of Dialectical metaRealism, reality is illustrated on multiple levels (beginning with elemental cohesion and ending with cosmic unity). The real structures or mechanisms refer to stepped-down degrees of Spirit (generative mechanisms)—manifested as Will (free will), Word (perfections), or Cause (agency or action). Social construction (emancipatory action in copresence) is distinguished from social destruction (action in demireality). The present writer previously used other designations for this evolving perspective, including (in chronological order) Structural Dialectics, Conflict Constructionism, Neocritical Realism, Restructurational Realism, Recontextual Realism, Transmodern Critical Realism, Dialectic Constructionism, Structurization Theory (not to be confused with Anthony Giddensʼ structuration theory), Emancipatory Constructionism, and then back to Structurization Theory.

To provide some context, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to mandate marriage equality or “same-sex marriage” (2015), a national conversation began over whether a bakery could, as a matter of religious conscience, refuse to bake a cake for a Gay or Lesbian wedding. On August 9th, 2015, the writer offered, as a straight “ally,” a response to a YouTube video, Gay Wedding Cake with Confederate Flag? Question, “Baking a Gay wedding cake is a simple emancipatory act (social construction). On the other hand, baking a cake with a Confederate flag on it pays tribute to a system of human capitalism – slavery (social destruction). Of course, my comments are ethical, not legal.” Dialectically absenting, or removing, heterosexism (“homophobia”) is preparing society for the emancipation of the GSD (gender-and-sexual-diversity) community (absenting the absence).

Similarly, the easy availability of firepower in the U.S., while perhaps an issue deserving of some debate, resulted from a misinterpretation of the the countryʼs Constitution. A standing army, which the founding fathers by and large opposed, has made a “well regulated militia” functionally irrelevant. Nevertheless, “gun rights” do not, in my opinion, provide a sufficient explanation for the high rate of American mass shootings. In this regard, American historican Frederick Jackson Turner wrote, “… [I would like to mention] the importance of the frontier, … as a military training school, keeping alive the power of resistance to aggression, and developing the stalwart and rugged qualities of the frontiersman.” A dialectic between advanced capitalism and rugged individualism has produced an individual, primarily white and male, who is, at once, alienated from nature, culturally conservative, and conspiracy-minded. Much as darkness is the absence of light, the demireality of alienation might be conceived as an absence of metaReality. That absence can only be absented, or contradicted, by living in copresence, duality, the ground state, or the cosmic envelope.

“One of the major characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a compromised ‘theory of mind’ or ability to empathize with others and their mental states. This condition of neurologically mediated alienation can be absented by, epistemologically, shifting the center, or focus, of oneʼs thinking from various forms of domination, including capitalism and Neurelitism™ (neurological elitism), to the oppressed and the subaltern (the marginalized or ‘the othered’). Ontologically, the Autist can move from the demireality or intersectionality of disunity in difference to the copresence of unity in difference.

One of the major characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a compromised “theory of mind” or ability to empathize with others and their mental states. This condition of neurologically mediated alienation can be absented by, epistemologically, shifting the center, or focus, of oneʼs thinking from various forms of domination, including capitalism and Neurelitism™ (neurological elitism), to the oppressed and the subaltern (the marginalized or “the othered”). Ontologically, the Autist can move from the demireality or intersectionality of disunity in difference to the copresence of unity in difference.

To provide some context, following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to mandate same-sex marriage (2015), a national conversation began over whether a bakery could, as a matter of religious conscience, refuse to bake a cake for a Gay or Lesbian wedding. On August 9th, 2015, the writer offered, as a straight “ally,” offered a response to a YouTube video, Gay Wedding Cake with Confederate Flag? Question, “Baking a Gay wedding cake is a simple emancipatory act (social construction). On the other hand, baking a cake with a Confederate flag on it pays tribute to a system of human capitalism – slavery (social destruction). Of course, my comments are ethical, not legal.” Dialectically absenting, or removing, heterosexism (“homophobia”) is preparing society for the emancipation of the GSD (gender-and-sexual-diversity) community (absenting the absence).

Dialectical metaRealism supports shifting the center, using intersectionality, from imperialism to the uprisings of the subaltern (the marginalized or the “othered”). The vision of Dialectical metaRealism is framed by aspects of impossibilism (MP3 audio file), or antireformism, and spontaneism (MP3 audio file) which are accepted within some tendencies of Luxemburgism, autonomism, and Trotskyism. Although this writer is not a member of any political organization, he appreciates many of the views held by Solidarity, a multi-tendency movement which arose out of Trotskyism, and by Freedom Road Socialist Organization (left refoundation), rooted in Maoism. The world-system (or “world order”) is seen as progressing through five revolutionary stages (the dialectics or contradictions of capitalism, individualist anarchism, rebuilding from the bottom up, global socialist statism, and a communist new world order).

Therefore, the end result (the dialectical synthesis or unity of the contradictions) is expected to be a world-system based upon grassroots socialism (or communism), including municipally administered organizations for financial redistribution and political localism. The withering away of “the state” refers to the capitalist state. Without capitalism, any state would be a proletarian state or, in other words, a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” All of its citizens shall presumably be workers. As such, the communist left, with Rosa Luxemburg, is not a libertarian socialism. Whether the eventual cosmopolitan communist society could be described as a state may simply be an issue of semantics. The obvious phonetic similarity between Dialectical metaRealism and dialectical materialism is certainly striking.

Roy Bhaskar was, by his own admission, a moral realist. He grounded this perspective in an innovative ethical naturalism or ontology of “natural law.” Perhaps the present writerʼs personal standpoint on morality or ethics can, at least to some extent, be attributed, at least on face value, to a matter of semantic or terminological preference. A positional response, or caveat, to Bhaskarʼs view would distinguish between the acquisition of virtues or attributes from a stratified higher and human nature, on the one hand, and the actuality, historicity, or relative reality of sociocultural values and norms, on the other. Thus, one may, in this context, refer to a dialectic between the metaReality of virtues and the actuality of values.

More specifically, in the dialectical absenting of the absence (demireality), virtues are uncovered from the universal higher nature (or the substance of faith) and the universal human nature (or copresence) of humanity. The methodology, which is phenomenological, can become particularly effective and profound by directly focusing oneʼs attention upon A̓pokálypsis (Koinḗ, or Common, Greek, Ἀποκάλυψις). Moralities, by contrast, are the products of socially contextualized human agency. While agreeing with Bhaskar that “ought” can be derived from “is,” an added qualification would be that any such “is,” or natural-law ethics, should be carefully distinguised from the actuality and the subordinate epistemological relativity (or empiricism) of concrete social and historical experience.

Dialectical metaRealism also accepts the critique, by critical realists in the theology-and-science dialogue, of naïve realism, including both religious literalism, and scientism or Humean empiricism. From a naïve realist standpoint, reality is immediately available to the empirical observer. On the other hand critical realists in the theology-and-science dialogue, borrowing from empistemological critical realism, have wisely affirmed that human knowledge is indirect. Consequently, both scientists (including social scientists) and theologians need to be humble about their claims for knowledge. The intellectual posturing of Christian fundamentalism and the New Atheism are both rejected as untenable.

Enfoldments or complexities of unities, unifying essences, universals, or essential unities are the eternal, unknowable webs of interconnectedness between beings and things. They are the ontological (real) fabric of existence. The Essence or Unity of God, the innermost Essence of essences, is also a rational Being (the “Supreme Being”). Whether any other essences are beings appears to be unrevealed. These essences preexist, or precede, their ontological attributes or individualized attributes (beings and things).

All beings and things form and develop as individualized attributes, involutions (involvements), emergences, or manifestations of essences. In keeping with the Will of God, various entities, during gestation (fetal development) or evolution, obtain or acquire the attributes of their own and lower kingdoms of existence: cohesion from the mineral, growth from the vegetable, and sensation from the animal. The manifested attributes of essences are relative to the capacities or limitations of particular beings and things.

Names are the designations for essences, attributes, and individualized attributes (beings and things). Physical attributes are named or described through empirical observation. Spiritual attributes are named or described through empirical analogy. People name essences, and their attributes, but cannot create them. We use either the Names found in Sacred Texts or we coin our own.

Bhaskar’s philosophy of metaReality presents an approach to emancipation through the cosmic envelope—the non-dual (unifying) ground-state for reality. This stratified reality includes the Real (underlying structures), the Actual (events), and the Empirical (observable) domains. One of the wonderful implications of the cosmic envelope is the “Principle of Copresence.” We are all connected with one another. There is a unity in diversity or copresence.

To Bhaskar, the objective of any emancipatory project is the cosmic envelope. Likewise, according to Dialectical metaRealism, the struggle for emancipation is accomplished through social construction (emancipatory agency in copresence), or forming relationships in unity, rather than social destruction (agency in demireality). Emancipation from oppression is the name of an attribute of human unity.

For example, neurologically, I may always be an Autist. Spiritually, however, my struggle for emancipation from Autism led me, at 51-years old, to the cosmic envelope. A few years after my diagnosis was clarified on the Autism spectrum, I began a simple meditation. Through it, I discovered unity.

By analogy to panentheism (everything in God), Dialectical metaRealism has developed, to coin a term, a type of panenontology (everything in reality). Unifying essences, along with their names and attributes (as beings and things), are enfolded within other unifying esssences. Although I discovered the unities independently from Bhaskar, the concept is similar to his cosmic envelope.

Social construction, or emancipatory agency, is an intentional relationship (connection or love) with empirical and spiritual attributes (and individualized attributes, such as particular beings and things) which have been identified by name. Through social construction, we acquire, based upon our capabilities, the essential attributes manifested by a being or thing. As illustrations: While practicing meditation, we receive spiritual attributes. Through investigations of nature, we acquire the attributes of various beings and things.

The attributes of essences acquired through social constructions are relative to our capacities. For example, knowledge (epistemology) is the name of an attribute of some or all unifying essences. Our indirect understandings of essences, through their attributes which have been identified by name, are limited by our capabilities, biases, perceptions, perspectives, and expectations. Therefore, human knowledge is relativist or fallibilist.

Bhaskar developed a three-tiered ontology or stratified reality:

  1. The Real refers to the underlying, but directly unobservable, mechanisms behind events. The ground-state of the Real is metaReality (cosmic envelope, copresence, unity in difference, or non-dualism). Difference or diversity refers to relative reality. Disunity (sociologically, social disorganization) and social alienation are demireality.
  2. The Actual describes events, or patterns of events, which can be observed. The Actual is produced by the Real.
  3. The Empirical is the realm of human knowledge. Individuals observe the Actual and, based on those observations, speculate on the Real. The world is perceived as dual or divided between subject and object.

In developing Dialectical metaRealism, I have modified Bhaskar’s model:

  1. I have interpreted the ground-state (metaReality) of the unknowable Real as unifying essences. We acquire their attributes by structurizing the attributes of unity or metaReality. If we practice social destruction (disunifying agency), we remain in the state of disunity or demireality.
  2. I have interpreted the knowable Actual as the events, attributes, manifestations, representations, or signs of essences.
  3. I have interpreted the Empirical as identifications of attributes by name.

As I would personally sketch the basics of the philosophy of metaReality, the “the Real” consists of, first, metaReality, copresence, nonduality, absolute reality, or the cosmic envelope (which, in Dialectical metaRealism, becomes “unity”); second, duality, identity, or relative reality, or difference (which, in Dialectical metaRealism, becomes “diversity”); and, finally, demireality, or dualism (becoming, in Dialectical metaRealism, “disunity”) which, according to my understanding, is the condition of difference or duality without the cosmic envelope of unity.

The concept of intersectionality originated in third-wave or revisionary feminism. In Dialectical metaRealism, intersectional theory has been lifted from its social constructionist origins and recontextualized, ontologically, as a dimension of Critical Realism. Whereas intersectionality is demireality or disunity, the cosmic envelope or copresence is emancipation from intersectionality or demireality. The choice we have, individually and collectively, is between unity (emancipation from intersectionality) in diversity and disunity (intersectionality) in diversity.

In relational theory (relational sociology), the basic unit is “relationships.” Other sociological theories take the “individual” or the “group” (as in Georg Simmel’s dyads and triads) as the most elementary level for sociological inquiry. In Dialectical metaRealism, the fundamental units of analysis are the “attributes of unity” (virtues). They are examined and evaluated in terms of their practicality or usefulness in reliably producing particular types of social organization, process, or result.

Bhaskar also places a great deal of emphasis on human agency  or willful action. Emancipatory agency is interpreted as social construction and defined as establishing relationships with attributes. Bhaskar’s demireality (fragmentation, oppression, non-reality, and alienation) is the illusion (Sanskrit, māyā) of separateness between duality and nonduality. Similarly, in Dialectical metaRealism, disunity, alien-ation, and oppression are associated with social destruction (disunifying agency).

Out of respect for Bhaskar’s own preferences, I generally spell the word, “metaReality,” with the lower- and upper-case style. Dialectical metaRealism is a type of Critical Realism, including the philosophy of metaReality. However, since no two people entirely think alike, my approach is not exactly the same as Bhaskar’s philosophy.

Unitive Socialism includes the subaltern uprisings of Maoism and the impossibilism and spontaneism of left communism. The world system (or “world order”) is seen as progressing through five revolutionary stages (the contradictions of capitalism, individualist anarchism, grassroots communism, rebuilding from the bottom up, and global socialist statism). Therefore, the end result is expected to be a socialist world-system (or socialist “new world order”). I have, therefore, reversed the chronological order, given by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, of communism and socialism. In my opinion, a global socialist state can only be established following the complete collapse of the capitalist world-system, communist collectivism, and a gradual rebuilding. The collapse of capitalism, because of its own dialectical contradictions, is inevitable at some point. What is not inevitable is that a socialist revolution will follow the collapse. That is why organizing and mobilizing will continue to be important.

The U.S. occupies an intersection of capitalist imperialism and rugged individualism. Capitalism is collapsing, and ‘individuals’ are becoming increasingly alienated. It is a recipe for disaster.


... a unity-in-difference ... [is] co-presence ....
Roy Bhaskar, “Unity of Theory and Practice, Interdisciplinarity, and Non-duality.” Abstract (excerpt). Retrieved on January 7, 2012.
I am a Nietzchean [but] I have never been a Freudian ... Marxist ... [or] Structuralist ....
Michel Foucault quoted (from an interview) in Alex Callinicos, Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique. Cambridge: New York: St. Martin’s Press (Macmillan). 1990. Page 86. (and in Nik Farrell Fox, The New Sartre: Explorations in Postmodernism. New York: Continuum. 2003. Page 169.)

Copyright 2012- Mark A. Foster, Ph.D. All rights reserved.