A beautiful idea introduced to me by reading Ken Wilber.
Sometimes known as retrograde transcendence.
Also one of the most abstract concepts I have ever been exposed to. So, strap on your thinking cap
s and prepare to be launched into intellectual outer space
"You have to learn the rules before you can break them."
"When you get to the bottom you go back to the top of the slide and you turn and ...."
"The purpose of travel is to return home, and to see it with new eyes."
These are all common expressions that hint at the Pre/Trans fallacy.
A systems theory definition: If A comes after B, then one must understand that there is a qualitative difference between a system that is at B, and a system that has been at B, gone to A, and then come back to B again. The former is pre-A, the latter is trans-A. But, to an untrained eye, they may appear to be equivalent.
A personal definition: I have one friend who has never smoked, and another friend who is an ex-smoker. They were talking about the evils of smoking to me. (I am a smoker). Though neither of them smoke, they have much different levels of understanding of the problem. My non-smoker friend (pre-smoking) doesn't understand why anyone would choose to smoke. My ex-smoker friend (trans-smoking) understands how difficult it is to quit, and gives me advice. But one word describes both of them -- non-smokers.
Wilber described the fallacy in the context of mysticism. He was slapping his head at a bunch of mystics who said that spiritual enlightenment was a "return to Eden," a return to the oneness we all felt before we developed things like an ego. Well, then, he said, why didn't we just stay in the womb? Why were we ever born? Why not just stay in this wonderful oneness forever? The answer is that the journey through egohood is necessary for real enlightenment. We have to go from pre-egoic to egoic to trans-egoic. He says that rather than a journey from "unconscious heaven" to "conscious hell" and back again, life is a journey from "unconscious hell" to "conscious hell" and back, in some sense, to the elusive "conscious heaven." Big difference. The failure to percieve the difference was rampant enough that he devoted a whole book to it, called Up From Eden
Even without all the hippie stuff, this is an important distinction with broad implications to theories and worldviews. "Trans-" can sound a bit new age, so you can replace it with "post-" if you sandals and flowers aren't your cup of tea.
It is very important that we understand this now, as society begins to shift once more. It may look like we are regressing into old ways of thinking, pre-literate, even pre-conscious ideas starting to surface. But this is just a growth thing. Think of it as another return to Yin.
As we pass Pluto on the intellectual ship here, think about lines and circles. Recognizing the Pre-Trans fallacy lets you turn a lot of lines into circles. The rich man who gave away all his worldly possesions -- he is at the bottom of the line again, but has gone all the way around the circle. And what happens when you go around the circle? Well, the second time around is qualitatively different:) Think of a spiral in a new dimension. And so on...
The world of ideas becomes a big ass spirograph(tm) fractal.
If you lost me on that last bit, don't worry. I don't completely understand it either. See Zen.