re: Introduction

Jack Adams-Webber (
Mon, 16 Oct 1995 08:15:32 -0400

>>>> There are almost certainly some truths whose statements are so=
> complicated
>>>>that no human being could grasp them in full detail, and the Godel
>>>>sentences would probably fall into that category.=20
>>>>Jack Adams-Webber

>>>Given the length, vigour and lack of conclusions (yet) from this=
> discussion,=20
>>>where does that leave the Fundamental Postulate?
>>>(Serious question. Honest!)
>>I cannot think of a short answer; however, for a long one, try the=
> following:
>>Mancuso, J.C. & Adams-Webber, J. (1982). Anticipation as a constructive
>>process: The fundamnetal postulate. In J.C. Mancuso & J. Adams-Webber
>>(Eds.), The construing person (pp. 8-32). New York: Praeger.
>>Jack Adams-Webber
>Come on, Jack, you can't kid me! You wrote that before you knew the=
> question!

>Bill ramsay,

OK Bill, here is an 'answer' from a somewhat more recent (unpublished)
paper of mine:

[Adams-Webber, J. (1995). Constructive Alternativism in Cognitive Science.
Invited Address, XIth International Congress on Personal Construct
Psychology, Barcelona, Spain].


In Kellyan terms, insofar as the principle that explains human anticipation
lies in the 'mind' (i.e., psychology) and not external events, it consists
of our own intention to bring about a correspondence between our future
experience and certain of our current anticipations (cf. Mancuso &
Adams-Webber, 1982). That is, in interpreting any event we essentially
categorize it in terms of one or more constructs, and then by reviewing our
networks of related constructs, we can usually derive a specific set of
predictive inferences. Indeed, it is precisely this operational
interpretation of temporal projection that provides the logical rationale
for Kelly's (1955, p. 46) fundamental postulate that "a person's processes
are psychologically channelized by the ways in which he (or she)
anticipates events."

Kelly (1955, p. 72) contends further that,
"the successive revelation of events invites the person to place new
constructions upon them whenever something unexpected happens. Otherwise
one's anticipations would become less and less realistic"

On the other hand, "reality does not directly reveal itself to us".
Consequently, the feedback is not "abstracted" from events-in-themselves,
but rather it is constituted and regulated entirely by our own
constructions. Thus, the problem of how such an anticipatory
representational process might approximate 'objective truth' (as might
eventually Karl Popper's (1959) empirically falsifiable hypotheses)
simply does not arise from the perspective of Kelly's 'constructive

The basic question that does remain, however, is the fundamental
epistemological issue of how we can evaluate the adequacy of our
'knowledge' when we cannot step outside the range of convenience of the
representations that we ourselves have constructed in order to compare them
directly with an external 'reality'?
Constructivists of various stripes insist on the importance of states of
mind that somehow effectively represent states of the world.

Kelly (1955) was reaching toward a possible resolution of this problem
when he adopted a strictly pragmatic approach to assessing the adequacy of
our representations. He claimed that they should be evaluated in terms of
their basic function, which, according to his 'fundamental postulate', is
anticipation, or if you prefer, 'temporal projection' Adams-Webber, 1989).

Kelly's constructive alternativism does not absolutely rule out the
future possibility of some degree of isomorphism between subjective
representations, on the one hand, and domain structure, on the other (cf.
Agnew and Brown, 1989a). He does maintain, however, that the only
currently available criterion for evaluating the adequacy of our constructs
is their predictive utility with respect to our own subjective experience.

He assumed that as we improve our capacity to anticipate events, the
overall pattern of our experience should become more and more COHERENT, and
we shall consequently suffer less anxiety (i.e., confusion). In short, our
"confidence" in our personal constructs tends to be enhanced by experiences
which we interpret as consistent with our anticipations based on those
constructs, which is what Kelly refers to as "validation".

In sum, although there is no specific provision in Kellyan constructivism
for our 'picking up information' from the external world (cf. Neisser,
1976); there also is no explicit reason for us to assume that our
anticipations will not continue to accommodate gradually to whatever
(unknown) parameters define 'reality'. Consequently, as Agnew and Brown
(1989a) put it "Kelly's theory can provide for an optimism that some
knowledge, through time and through intra and inter-individual winnowing,
achieves increased 'external' validity".

Therefore, Kelly's 'constructive alternativism' is not logically
incompatible with at least one of the basic tenets of classical realism:
that is, there is "a real adequation of the intellect and the object
informing it...(which is) a primitive ontological relation between
intellect and object (Gilson, 1940; p. 237)." As Don Campbell (1989, p.
184) states the case, "A realist ontology remains possible, but only at the
cost of unproven assumptions".



Jack Adams-Webber

Jack Adams-Webber Tel: 905 (688) 5544 [x 3714]
Department of Psychology Fax: 905 (688) 6922
Brock University E-mail:
St. Catharines, Ontario