Ken Wilbur has described the Pre/Trans or Post/Pre Fallacy: that is, confusing not understanding a framework with being beyond the need for it. Imagine:

  • Aerial is an aspiring artist who identifies as a free spirit. She loves nothing more than manifest the images in her head onto the page, but she experiences the exercises she is assigned in class excruciating and dull. If she engaged with her classwork she could develop the technical skills to more fully realise her visions, but by merely following her impulses she remains at a plateau.
  • When Eli reads a science article or claim, he tries to pay very close attention of the potential motivations and bias of the author. However, he has extremely strong political opinions, so inevitably applies much more scrutiny to those claims he wants to disbelieve. This results in him being further from the truth than if he had just ignored the issue of bias altogether.
  • Valentine is an entrepreneur who has just started his own company. He refuses to do anything because “that is how it is normally done”, but insists on relying upon his own power of reason. While he is right most of the time, he also picks a decentralised leadership structure that none of his team has any experience or knowledge of beyond reading a book. The resulting inconsistency and lack of responsibility almost destroy the company.

Of course, the presenting post/pre as a dichotomy provides a very limited resolution. Skills are never completely mastered; there is always always a higher level. This means that the pre/trans threshold is somewhat arbitrary.

Nonetheless, many disagreements can be characterised as essentially being over whether a particular stance is post/pre in relation to a particular insight. Others can be characterised as relating to whether the post level even exists (ie. debates on post-modernism or post-rationality).

Further Reading:

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1 comment, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:11 PM

Thanks for this, that video is great