Re: APA exchange and romanticism

Rue L. Cromwell (cromwell@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU)
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 13:05:11 +0000

Good stuff. This (below) deserves a fuller elaboration in an article in J.
Constructiv. Psychol.

A small aside. The term "romantic" is a little problematic. One definition
is that it is something imaginative and impractical. Another, following the
romanticism movement, emphasizes rebelliousness and freedom of individual
choice. [If the lattr does not fit Kelly, nothing does.]

However, Tim Conner's allusion (below) suggests to me a distinction between
individual supremacy and the supremacy of individual consciousness.


On another point, I would bet that Kelly would be comfortable (even
entertained) with the counterpoint (dual vision) between individual and
environment/society as agency. Superordinate to both, after all, is
constructive alternativism. What predicts, predicts.

>Having come to PCP from a perspective more akin to social
>constructionism, I sometimes experience something like double vision when
>looking at the two perspectives--I see more overlap than clear
>differentiation, but the few points of difference seem so incorrigible
>that it's impossible to decide which to focus on (there being only two,
>you can't follow MIckey Mantle's advice on hitting home runs with a
>hangover: "just swing at the middle ball.")
>I've sensed a subtle hostility (in the Kellian sense) toward social
>constructionism on this list, I believe because it is identified with
>social determinism and so seen as a threat to the individuality and
>choice corollaries. Those corollaries are the most "romantic" of the
>lot, if one takes romanticism to be the ideology of the supremacy of the
>individual consciousness. The commonality and sociality corollaries
>serve to counterbalance them, but the fact that GAK listed them last
>seems to have put them in a less privileged position, and the fact that
>PCP theorists (with a few notable exceptions) have paid less attention to
>developmental issues than those working from other theoretical
>perspectives has accentuated the problem.
>The metaphor of the personal scientist has been romanticised--Kelly's
>language does it, composed as it was to counteract the psychoanalytic and
>behaviorist dogmas of his time. The image conjured up is one of
>self-sufficiency, unfettered inquiry, and unbounded curiosity. But even
>professional scientists don't develop the majority of their constructs
>from their own experimentation--they acquire them socially, mostly from
>professors. They may modify and extend them on their own, but few
>seriously challenge the superordinate constructs in which they were
>trained. As with personal scientists, the bulk of the construct system
>is acquired through the operation of the sociality process--one construes
>others' constructions because of the urgent need to play a role, and
>having no particular system of one's own, adopts those constructions (one
>construction of them) as one's core.
>Social constructionism is romantic too: the romance of the primitive and
>harmonious community. Its failure lies in the inability to specify a
>systemic structure for social constructions, or a process by which they
>are transmitted to individuals--the neo-Whorfian linguistics don't
>clarify much of anything, for me. It is also difficult to make sense of
>deviance or creativity in a social constructionist framework, given the
>all-encompassing, almost mystical nature of the construction process.
>So far, the two theories might be seen as complementary--different levels
>of description rather than competing theories. Social constructionism
>could use PCP's precision, PCP could use SC's broader vision of
>development and interaction. The fundamental incompatibility arises at
>the level at which PCP sees an individual human being as a form of motion,
>while social constructionism sees socially constructed systems of meaning
>as having a life of their own and imparting motivation and direction to
>I don't know that there's any way to resolve this--Laura's post points
>out the problematic way it plays out in therapy. Maybe we just have to
>get used to double vision--embrace the fragmentation corollary in a very
>immediate way and be prepared to shift construct systems with the context.
>Tim Connor
>Pacific University

Rue L. Cromwell