Post-Truth and The Pre/Trans Fallacy

PostTruth2

I have been busy the past few weeks writing a new workshop on Authenticity; hence my contributions have been limited recently to the email anger program. however, a few days ago, I encountered a new word (for me): post-truth, the word of the year (2016) as selected by the Oxford World Dictionary of English. They note[1] it to be: “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief [emphasis added]’”.

PostTruth1They further note:

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

and

The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix  in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant [emphasis added]’.

I am fascinated by this topic for two essential reasons. First, if the political system of democracy is to exist at all, it is mandatory that truth be the basis of negotiation. If truth is unimportant or irrelevant, then the entire basis of what we claim to value collapses. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

The second reason is equally important: the language of post-truth, as presented, posits only two states: truth and post-truth. The presumptions seems to be that truth is rational and post-truth is emotional. As such there is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of emotionality, one that is of major importance to cultural maturity.

The complexity of emotionality can be considered either paradoxical, or prone to confusion, due to the nature of what integral theorist Ken Wilber (1995) called the pre/trans fallacy[2], where we confuse unreflective emotionality with a deep integration of emotion and rationality. In the pre-rational state, emotionality drives behavior; in the trans-rational state, intention drives behavior; emotionality is essential to the trans-rational state, but it is not the driver. In this context, what we need is trans-truth!

In previous posts, I’ve written about how we access information that we trust (the TIC process) and the distinction between ethical approaches to information and emotional approaches. I’ve also written extensively about why we ignore global warming.

It seems that post-truth is another nail in our coffin, influencing from acedia and apathy to the values of democracy.

[1]Oxford Living Dictionaries. Word of the Year 2016 Is . . . Retrieved March 21, 2017, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016.

[2] Wilber, K. (n.d.). The Pre/trans fallacy. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from  http://www.praetrans.com/en/ptf.html (this page is no longer available, but there are many other references available with a Google search).

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