I have mentioned several times previously on the forum that there are three fundamental directions of understanding:
horizontal - where understanding takes place within a given level;
vertical - where understanding takes place between different levels;
diagonal - where understanding takes place both within a given level and between different levels simultaneously.
Pre/trans fallacies apply to each of these directions. (Ken Wilber's treatment deals mainly with the vertical direction).
I will return in detail to each of these important "special" cases in future postings. However this posting deals with the general nature of the problem.
Let us start with basic number systems which have a direct relevance to the issue.
A unary system uses only one digit to represent numbers. Thus in a unary system, using 1 as the digit we could represent 4 as 1111. Equally using 0 as the digit we could represent 4 as 0000.
A binary system uses two digits to represent numbers (1 and 0). Thus we can represent 4 in a binary system as 100.
Now when it comes to larger numbers the unary system is very inefficient.
Thus to represent 1000, it would require repeating the one digit (either 1 or 0) 1000 times.
By comparison to represent 1000 in binary terms requires only 10 digits (i.e. 1111101000). Not surprisingly the binary system is considerably more useful than the unary and of course forms the basis of our digital information age.
I am referring here to the quantitative use of digits (as understood in analytical mathematical terms. Though so simple, the binary system is extremely powerful. Ultimately all information can be encoded in (quantitative) binary terms.
However there is a complementary qualitative use of these same digits (as understood in holistic mathematical terms). 1 (a straight line) here relates to the fundamental meaning of oneness (or unity). 0 (a circle) relates to the corresponding meaning of nothingness (or void).
Now our understanding of unity - at all levels - is directly provided through reason (which is literally linear in nature); by contrast the understanding of nothingness is directly provided through intuition (which is literally circular in nature).
This latter holistic digital system is the basis of transformation at every level of reality. Again though basically so simple, this holistic binary system is extremely powerful. Ultimately all transformation processes can be encoded in (qualitative) binary terms.
Just as it is inefficient to rely on a limited (analytic) unary system to translate quantitative information, equally it is inefficient to rely on a limited (holistic) unary system to translate qualitative transformation. Yet human development, which represents such an important transformation process, is invariably encoded in this limited unary fashion.
I will now demonstrate how the interpretation of the pre/trans fallacy in Ken Wilber's work relates directly to his use of the unary system. Also I wish to indicate how a more balanced comprehensive understanding follows from the use of the appropriate binary system.
To properly understand the dynamics of human behaviour we should use a qualitative binary system (which is inherently dynamic).
When - by contrast - a (qualitative) unary system is used, development is either portrayed in rational linear terms (1) or in intuitive circular terms (0). However the two holistic digits are not related (i.e. rational and intuitive development are kept separate).
I have made this criticism several times before in relation to Ken Wilber's work. Western (rational) understanding and Eastern (intuitive) understanding are not properly integrated. The problem - as we shall see - is well exemplified by his treatment of the pre/trans fallacy.
When by contrast a (qualitative) binary system is used, development is portrayed in both (rational) linear (1) and (intuitive) circular (0) terms. Dynamic transformation is then essentially portrayed as resulting from the interaction of both digits.
Let us now turn to the pre/trans fallacy.
In using the binary system we can express the relationship between pre and trans in two ways.
The linear approach (1) leads to the separation of pre and trans (i.e. experience is either pre/or trans). The circular approach leads to a complementary interpretation of pre and trans (i.e. experience is both pre and trans). The two interpretations are necessarily involved in the binary system.
Another vital element of this approach is the recognition that linear interpretations are always bi-directional. If we take one linear direction as the movement in development from A to B, then the other linear direction is represented as the opposite movement from B to A.
Thus if in one linear interpretation we take the movement from pre to trans (i.e. prepersonal to transpersonal), then the opposite (equally valid) linear interpretation will take movement from trans to pre (transpersonal to prepersonal).
Now this bi-directional linear focus is essential for dynamic understanding. The very paradox it creates is the basis for the complementary (circular) interpretation.
Now in a unary approach, linear and circular approaches will be necessarily separated. When the linear is used the approach will be one-directional.
If understanding is that movement goes from A to B, then there will be no recognition of the (equal) validity opposite direction. Thus if we understand the direction of development as going from pre to trans then the opposite direction (from trans to pre) will be ignored.
Because the approach is one-directional, interaction of opposite directions cannot take place. Consequently realisation of the complementary circular interpretation (i.e. as behaviour being both pre and trans) will not be possible.
The failure to recognise this circular interpretation always coincides with a one-directional linear approach.
Even when the circular complementary interpretation is eventually realised (as in the intuitive understanding of non-dual reality), it is divorced from any rational linear understanding.
Thus in a unary approach, understanding is either rational (1) or intuitive (0). There is no appreciation of understanding being both rational and intuitive (simultaneously).
Now let us look at Ken Wilber's treatment of the pre/trans fallacy. (As I have stated Ken views this from the vertical direction).
Ken identifies the "lower" stages of human development as prepersonal, the middle stages as personal and the "higher" stages as transpersonal. He then portrays development in linear one-directional terms as moving from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal. For Ken the pre/trans fallacy consists of identifying "lower" prepersonal development with "higher" transpersonal development.
This confusion can take place through:
Now - in terms of my holistic mathematical definitions - this represents a (static) unary approach.
When we look at the matter from a binary standpoint we must provide both a circular interpretation (0) and a bi-directional linear interpretation (1) of pre and trans.
Thus from the circular standpoint where pre and trans are complementary (i.e. both pre and trans), the pre/trans fallacy arises from the confusion of undifferentiated "lower" stages (which are both pre and trans) with differentiated "higher" stages (which again are both pre and trans).
When we interpret this from the linear viewpoint two opposite interpretations are equally valid.
We can - as Ken does - take the direction of development from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal. From this linear perspective the pre/trans fallacy results from the confusion of (undifferentiated) prepersonal understanding with (differentiated) transpersonal understanding.
However we can equally take the direction of development from transpersonal to personal to prepersonal. From this opposite linear perspective, the pre/trans fallacy results from the confusion of (undifferentiated) transpersonal with (differentiated) prepersonal understanding.
When of course we try to relate both linear interpretations (as either pre or trans) we get paradox (in rational terms). This paves the way for a circular intuitive interpretation where both poles are intergrated (as both pre and trans).
This integrated circular understanding then breaks down when we once again rationally differentiate poles (as either pre or trans).
Thus to maintain a balanced understanding it is vital to emphasise the continual interaction of both circular and (bi-directional) linear aspects.
In the unary system only one logical system exists at any time (either linear or circular). In the binary system, both systems exist simultaneously and their mutual interaction is the very essence of change and growth.
When we look at the unary approach adopted by Ken we can easily see the problem. Because it is one-directional - coming down consistently in terms of one direction of development only - it does not lend itself to dynamic interpretation.
Ken then eventually produces the alternative circular interpretation - like a rabbit out of a hat - at the end of his linear sequence (in his description of non-dual reality). However this intuitive description of reality (where pre and trans are necessarily identical) is inconsistent with his earlier linear interpretation (where pre is rigidly separated from trans).
The fundamental problem is the apparent failure to recognise that with dynamic relative movement, two opposite interpretations are always equally valid.
Thus once more, if we give a valid (linear) interpretation of (human) development as moving from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal, then an equally valid (linear) interpretation can be given where the sequence moves in the opposite direction. Thus spiritual development is not only about transcendence (the ascent). It is equally about immanence (the descent).
There is much more to be said about this. I will return with a detailed look at the nature of the pre/trans fallacy in relation to the first of the three "special" directions (horizontal).