The Four Quadrants: A Guided Tour

Ken Wilber Integrative Metatheory, Perspectives, The Ken Show, Video 1 Comment

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en and Corey take a in-depth tour through one of Ken’s most well-known contributions to integral philosophy: the Four Quadrants. Watch as Ken shares his personal story about the origins of the Four Quadrant model — the day everything came together — as he weaves 3rd-person theoretical descriptions of the model with his own 1st-person experience and creative process. We also take a close look at the nature of the quadrants themselves, and ponder how exactly these fundamental dimensions of existence — dimensions that are every bit as real as the four dimensions of space-time — came into being in the first place.

Ken and Corey also explore a number of other questions related to the four quadrants, including the important distinctions between parts, wholes, and systems, how to use the four quadrants as a typology, and Ken’s fascinating integral analysis of a classic album by The Who in a segment titled “Quadrants, Quadrivia, Quadrophenia”.

What Are the Four Quadrants?

The Four Quadrants represent four basic perspective-dimensions of all individual holons: the interior and exterior of the individual and collective. These are designated as the Upper Left (interior-individual), Upper Right (exterior-individual), Lower Left (interior- collective), and Lower Right (exterior-collective). The quadrants correspond with “I,” “We,” “It,” and “Its,” which are often summarized as the Big Three: “I,” “We,” and “It/s.” The Big Three are correlated with (although not identical to) the value spheres of Art, Morals, and Science, and with Plato’s value judgments of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

What Is Quadrivia?

Literally “four ways,” quadrivia means the use of all four quadrants as perspectives with which one can view any occasion. It’s the difference between something having four quadrants, versus seeing or enacting something through the four quadrants (e.g. Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be enacted through the four quadrants but does not itself possess four quadrants.)

Image: Four Quadrants: Purpleheart + Gold by Corey deVos

Music by Stuart Davis

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Get a Custom Four Quadrant Artwork For Yourself!

In this episode I show some of my custom Four Quadrant artworks. The good news is, they are available for commission! My goal was to take a graphic that has generated a tremendous amount of meaning for so many of us, and to transform it into a piece of art that any integralist would be proud to display in their home, office, or community center. I make these in a very wide variety of styles, as seen below, using the most beautiful and unique hardwoods that I can find.

If you would like to purchase one for yourself, please check out the samples here, or just send an email to [email protected] and I will be happy to work with you to create a custom piece just for you!

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More Guided Tours

This episode is the latest in a series of in-depth discussions about the major elements of Integral theory. You can find other installments in this ongoing series below.

How to Think Integrally

Ken Wilber and Corey deVos

Ken and Corey explore some of the major qualities of integral thinking at the “vision logic” or “construct aware” stages of development, focusing on the three primary heuristics of integral thinking — non-exclusion (“everyone is right”), enfoldment (“some are more right than others”), and enactment (“if you want to know that, do this.”)


Growing Up: A Guided Tour

Ken Wilber and Corey deVos

Here we explore one of the most central elements of integral metatheory: growing up through multiple stages of developmental maturity. Watch as Ken and Corey offer a guided tour through each of the major stages on the Path of Growing Up — an exploration of your own greatest, deepest potentials — and offer some simple practices to help you actualize those potentials.


The Many Ways We Grow

Ken Wilber and Corey deVos

Human development is uneven, which means that we are better at some things than we are at others. Some skills come more naturally to us, and others are more difficult to acquire. Watch as Ken and Corey explore each of these developmental capacities in detail, offering a powerful summary of human potentials, talents, and intelligences — a comprehensive map of the territory of “you” that will help guide your own ongoing growth and development.


The Varieties of Integral Spiritual Experience

Ken Wilber and Corey deVos

Ken and Corey explore the path of Waking Up — a guided tour through temporary states of consciousness that include everything from emotional states to chemically-induced states to the direct, immediate experience of timeless reality, revealing an infinitely renewable source of energy, resilience, and creative inspiration that rests at the very center of you.



Click here to find a full list of all Ken Show episodes, which include both video or audio.


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Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is the proverbial "man behind the curtain". He is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996.

Notable Replies

  1. Very important topic, this.

    Biosemiotic theory (Jakob von Uexküll) in synthesis with semiotic theory (Charles Sanders Peirce) fits very well within the context of the four quadrants and Ken’s thesis. I seem to recall that Ken is familiar with CS Peirce, because it was several years ago that his reference to Peirce first caught my attention.

    Why is Peircean semiotics so important? Because it provides a basis for understanding the categories of thought (motivation, association and habituation) within the context of the mind-body (holon) that apprehends experience (relates to Peirce’s pragmatism and his categories). It is the body that provides the interface between Mind and “reality”. Thus, humans with vocal chords, hands and culture, will interpret reality very differently to earthworms, or bats, or other creatures with four paws, tail and fur, or bees laboring to produce honey in a beehive.

    The biosemiotic-semiotic synthesis explains why reality can never ever be seen “as it truly is”, because there is no such thing as “objective” reality. Every living entity is trapped within the subjective confines of its body, upon which it relies to define its experiences and the things that matter (again, Peirce’s pragmatism). There is no way to escape those bodily confines. And from Norman Doidge (The Brain That Changes Itself) we know that experiences wire the neuroplastic brain (ALL brains, btw, are neuroplastic, not just human).

    IMHO, the semiotic/biosemiotic synthesis provides indications of the sort of paradigm for the life sciences that Isaac Newton provided for the physical sciences. Same sort of “axiomatic framework” thinking, providing the basis for fundamental principles, or axioms. The four quadrants would fit beautifully into this framework.

    Some relevant links for further reading:

    New Scientist article:


    Alternative, more accessible link to the New Scientist article:

    Biosemiotics blog:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20090505155523/http://home.comcast.net/~sharov/biosem/welcome.html
    International society for biosemiotics studies:
    https://www.biosemiotics.org/
    Peirce blog:
    http://www.iupui.edu/~peirce/index.html

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