(Fwd) Devi's paradox (read gently please)

Chris Evans (C.Evans@sghms.ac.uk)
Mon, 9 Oct 1995 10:08:26 +0000

Forwarded message:
From: Self <Chris_Evans>
To: anima@devi.demon.co.uk
Subject: Devi's paradox (read gently please)
Reply-to: C.Evans@sghms.ac.uk
Date: Sun, 8 Oct 1995 13:17:13

Devi said yesterday to John Salinger:
> Namely, George Kelly's notion of _constructive alternativism_, which
> suggests that, by definition, the constructivist should always be
> open to alternative constructions: which must logically include the
> position that positivism is functional and constructivism isn't.

When this note started it was going to be a two line private note to Devi
thanking him for his response to a lovely question. Then that seemed
trivialising and my thoughts ran away with me. I fear this may spark
a flame or two which always seems to inflame me so I apologise in
advance and don my asbestos as I post this:

Dear Devi,

Great to hear you saying what you did about the obligation that
constructive alternativism puts on one to consider seriously that it
may be wrong.

I agree that GK puts it up
front but I don't think either he, or any followers I've heard, really
seem to take the position that their theory seems to imply should be
taken. I think Kelly's postulate and corollaries suggest that there are
standards of prediction
that can be tested and used to justify one's preference for one
superordinate position over another and I think that this is the
justification taken by most PCPers for not addressing this
fundamental relativity very often. Maybe it generates guilt and
anxiety (using those terms in Kelly's way) to look too closely at
this! I think there is also something around about chosing sociality
rather than commonality when meeting people whose theoretical systems
are less relativistic (on the face of it). I am interested in the
difference between construing someone else's construing "close up"
i.e. being able to work within it fairly easily, or perhaps taking a
position of great respect for that other's construct system; versus
construing their construing "from outside" i.e. usually making the
metaposition clear in a way that often leaves the other feeling
devalued or "analysed". It sometimes seems ironic to hear the
professional construct system I hold rather closer to my
"core" than PCP, i.e. the psychoanalytic position, _accused_ of
"analysing", construed as "reductive" when the PCP construing of that
(psychoanalytic) construct system itself feels to me very "reductive"
in the sense of radically oversimplifying my construct system and
seeming to take parts of constructivism as axiomatic (which I think
they are, but deeply problematically as you note) or as "the truth":
a position that seems to me as reductive as crass (and very outdated)
hydraulic determinist models of the person sometimes held up as

(Please note, I have the greatest of respect for just about all PCP
_therapy_ I've heard of, it generally feels deeply respectful and
to be using what I am labelling "close" sociality to construe the
client's construing. It's PCP _theorising_ that seems to me to lack
that respect, that "close" sociality!)

I'd be very interested to hear more about others' construing of the
central paradox that Devi's flagged up and perhaps about what
subordinate experiences of validated predicting (or whatever) people
think of when wondering how to explain that, even given that central
paradox, they may have a sense that the "constructivist" pole of the
"constructivist"/"positivist" construct is the "better" end


Chris Evans, Senior Lecturer, ||| Psychotherapy Section
Cranmer Terrace ||| Dept.Ment.Health.Sci.
London SW17 0RE ||| St. George's Hosp.Med.Sch.
Britain ||| University of London
Tel/fax.: (+44|0) 181 725 2540 ||| Email: C.Evans@sghms.ac.uk
World Wide Web:http://www.sghms.ac.uk/mhs/psychotherapy/intro.htm