Re: APA exchange and romanticism

Tim A. Connor (
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 22:15:22 -0800 (PST)


"The romantics are associated with belief in a return to nature and in
the innate goodness of man...; admiration for the heroic and for the
individuality and imagination of the artist; exaltation of the senses and
emotions over reason and intellect; and interest in the medieval, exotic,
primitive, and nationalistic."

That covers a lot of territory; the contrast pole is usually taken to be
classicism: "clearness, elegance, symmetry, and repose produced by
adherence to traditional forms; absence of emotionalism, subjectivity,
and excess enthusiasm."

Rue has detected a distinction I'm not sure I intended, nor am I clear
what he means by it, so I'll leave it alone for now. PCP does partake of
the romantic idea of the individual's subjectivity as the source of
meaning, making it romantic with respect to behaviorism; on the other
hand, I find a clarity and precision in Kelly's thought that is, if not
classical, at least postromantic--in contrast to, say,
existential-humanistic psychologies (if Rogers is Brahms, Kelly is
Debussy--stop me before I take this metaphor any further).

The difficulty with treating PCP and social constructionism as different
levels of description, having different ranges of convenience (the social
and psychological respectively, as Devi suggested) is that there are
social constructionist psychotherapies. Not to mention MIchael White's
constitutionalism, de Shazer's postmodern constructivism, and whatever
other pre- and suffixes can be attached to "construct." I do agree that
constructive alternativism is our best shot at a comprehensive
understanding of individual and social processes, but I also think that
social constructionism can illuminate PCP (I can live with double vision).
The danger of romanticism is that it might lead us to construct a rigid,
preemptive individualism (The prototype of the romantic scientist
is Dr. Frankenstein--another metaphor to drop quickly).



On Sun, 11 Feb 1996, Rue L. Cromwell wrote:

> 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.
> What?
> 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
> >people.
> >
> >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