Friday, November 24, 2006

Wilber commits Pre-trans fallacy?

So argues Mark Edwards in his alternate view on states (here and here).

I really have learned a great deal from Mark. He is the foremost thinker on social-collective holons and development in AQAL philosophy. In other post(s) I'll comment more on what I think are his really great contributions: Vygotsky, the mediating (social) nature of development in addition to its hierarchical individualistic elements, the 2nd person point of view as distinct from the We, etc.

But when it comes to the question of whether Wilber has sinned in a pre-trans fallacy I have to admit I just don't quite get it.

His (Edwards) argument which is well articulated (and should be read thoroughly), I'll try to summarize down as imperfectly as is possible.

Mark writes (emphasis mine):

Ken is making this PTF-2 error on a regular basis and his recent writings on states are full of the error. For several years now he has been proposing that the natural states that are available to all human beings – dreaming sleep and dreamless sleep - correspond with, are closely related to, and give full access to the psychic, subtle and the causal realms of the transpersonal.

Wilber's position is logically very clear and can be laid out in the classic syllogistic logic format:
Premise 1: The dream and deep sleep states are transpersonal states.
Premise 2: Everyone, including each infant, dreams and sleeps everyday.
Conclusion: Therefore, everyone has access to the great transpersonal states everyday of their lives.

The conclusion is, however, based on the very contestable (and I believe false) premise that the dream and deep sleep states are transpersonal states. In many ways Wilber's whole theory hangs on this one contention. However, particularly when equipped with the analytical tool of the pre/trans fallacy, I find no evidence whatsoever, that the dreaming and deep sleep states have any special capacity to provide "access" to the transpersonal orders of identity. I will go into this into further detail in the next section. For the moment, though, I want to further pursue aspects of Wilber's position.

In contrast, I am proposing that the sleep and dreaming states are involutionary states and that all the firm evidence we have on what people experience in those states supports this.

First off I think Mark's point about sleep and deep sleep functioning as regressive is in part true. I don't know why it has to be that sleep/dreamless sleep has to be either access to the so-called transpersonal OR regressive involutionary. Why can't the state be simultaneously in differing degrees doing both? Differing aspects of the self responding differently to the state?

Both and.

And yet further I would grant there is definitely some confusion and likely will always ever be around the relationship between states and stages. There's a couple related ideas to tease out.

1. The notion that states are horizontal at each level of development
2. The claim that repeated exposure to states leads to stage transformation
3. Whether the states when accessed in non altered (e.g. sleeping) ways give access to the higher realms.
4. The stages are variations on the 4 Natural States.
5. Does transpersonal make sense when states are horizontal?
6. Do states still give, however briefly and imperfectly, tastes of the higher stages of consciousness, particularly to stages like violet, ultraviolet, etc.?

I think in the waking state none of this is really at issue. I think Edwards would agree that post-metaphysical spirituality works in the waking state, to put it crudely. There are states available at the stages (Wilber-Combs Lattice) and the stages determine (in part) the contents of the states as well as their interpretation/meaning. And phenomena always arise as interpreted--Lower Left is all the way up and down. And that the higher atages are not predetermined but patterned a la Whitehead over time.

The issue then is sleep and the dreamless seems to me.

Edwards' notion that in sleep one regresses certainly leaves him clear of the charge of a pre-trans fallacy. An infant or toddler at beige-purple who sleeps just returns to beige and the sense in sleep of being free and non-divisive is just a return to the pleromatic-uroboros of beige that is not actually non-dual but rather pre-dual.

Edwards' argument is that by saying anyone has access to the 3 Great States/Identities, gives infants access to trans-rational states. On the other hand though Edwards then has to explain how and when(?) the Soul, Witness, and SELF arise? In Wilber's scheme, which in this sense exhibits a deep mystery and grace (involution), they are part of our makeup as humans.

In the Edwards scheme they have to arise at a certain point and be in a sense mastered, if I'm nto reading too much into it.

So Wilber has the benefit of the states being available from birth but is open to the charge of a pre-trans fallacy. Is there a defense?

One argument that Edwards early on dismisses, but I think too hastily is the distinction in Wilber between the natural states as experienced in sleep as conscious versus unconscious. While people in Wilber's understanding would every night have access to all the states (but not all the stages) but not in a way that they are aware of. Which to me means essentially nothing in terms of evolving into the consciousness of those states in one's life. Making them state-stages in the lingo.

Edwards writes:
According to Ken, all one need do is to go to sleep at night and drift off and, hey presto, we enter the great realms that only the most awakened souls of the millennia have ever experienced in the waking state. It seems hard to believe doesn't it?

It doesn't seem hard for me to believe that people when sleeping would be given the grace of being plopped into those states and that have the little-est effect on them. Although if there were not this grace (as I'm calling it) maybe our world would have already slit each other's throats or blown itself up. Maybe this minutest amount of a creak of a possibility of a window of depth is the only salvation we have so far as a species. For the mass of people that is.

Moreover the Zen masters who are meditating into the great realms have already developed through some stages (we assume at least cognitively up to rational)--so deeper states that are peaking into higher stages would be trans-rational/trans-personal.

To me it just speaks to how profoundly unconscious we are as beings.

Edwards elsewhere has referred to the pre-trans fallacy as the greatest contribution to human thought Wilber has made. I wouldn't go that far, but I agree it is profound. So I think given that background, it is not surprising that Edwards is on the lookout for any possible whiff of the fallacy.

I'm not as worried. Even if Edwards were completely right, so what? People are still going to go to sleep and they aren't going to become enlightened--which we knew anyway even from Wilber's version.

Infants aren't skipping stages not matter what the worry about transpersonal in the dream and dreamless worlds.

What would be a better question is what sense, if any, does it make anymore to speak of the States as deeper when they are conceived of horizontal to the stages?

In other words what does it mean to say that the Stages are variations on the State-realms?


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