Integral Ethics

Posted: March 17, 2011 in Integral Studies

A quick one for the Integral geeks.

I came across a really clear description of pre-conventional and post-conventional (or pre-rational and post-rational) thinking in the book Integral Life Practice, by Wilber et al.

Take the simple act of approaching a stop sign on a deserted road.  The pre-conventional, pre-rational driver, still at an egocentric developmental state, will feel justified in charging through the sign without stopping.  The conventional/rational driver will follow the rules established by his/her society.  The post-conventional, post-rational (often better described as trans-rational) driver will understand the nature of the sign and the rule, following it with one of two actions.

This driver may see that there is little or no traffic, but will choose to stop at the sign.  He/she may do this, not because they are bound by the rules, but rather because they understand the importance of living in a society of rules in order to avoid chaos and anarchy.  They may also choose to stop because they know it will reinforce the automatic action within themselves which will be important in other, less clear cut situations.  They don`t want to compromise this automatic response of stopping as it is a useful response most of the time.

However this supposedly post-conventional driver may also choose to run the sign, feeling that they are superior to the rules and don`t have to follow them.  This is a fallacy, because this driver is really reverting to that egocentric view of the pre-conventional driver and using post-conventionality as an excuse.

If supposed transcendence to a higher developmental stage results in a feeling of entitled superiority, it is based on a fallacy.

You see this pre/post fallacy in a lot of places.  My recent visits to the Christian vs Atheist discussion group on Facebook is a perfect example.  The Amber level, religious believers were present, trying to defend Christianity.  The atheists, though, were divided into two groups.  One group was the true Orange level rationalists who were interested in discussing points of theology, evolution, etc.  However there was another group there who thought they were Orange rationalists, but who were acting much more like Red (the level below Amber) in their emotional attacks on the Christians, mocking, name calling, and clearly being threatened by the very existence of the Christians.  All of these behaviors are much more consistent with the tribal mentality of Red than the rationality of Orange.  This, I feel is another example of a pre/post fallacy that Wilber, to the best of my knowledge, has never discussed.


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