Re: Constructivism, truth, and lies

Wed, 28 Feb 1996 11:21:49 -0600 (CST)

Recently, Tim Connor hit the nail on the head regarding PCP and ethics:

He stated:

It is precisely this issue that Kelly addressed in the
essay "Sin and Psychotherapy." He suggests, as I read it, that the
ultimate moral failing is to try to shift the responsibility for one's
choices onto "reality" or "truth," rather than owning them, and
recognizing that good and evil, truth and lies, are hypotheses rather
than facts.

Stated so eloquently, Tim. Exactly the point I was trying to make, only
you did so more clearly! This is preceisely the line of argument I follow
in my "On ethics in personal construct theory paper." I use Kelly's "Sin
and Psychotherapy" paper extensively. The failure to differentiate one's
constructions of morality from "truth" (which, in my view, can never be
accurately discovered, only constructed in an infinite number of ways--
some of which I judge more useful than others) often leads to dogmatism
and righteousness. Think of all the "inherently moral" causes that led to
what most of us would agree was fairly questionable behavior (questionable in
that it coercively tried to interfere with the construing process of others
and get others to conform to constructions imposed from without). One
example of this is that old American concept of "manifest destiny," which
held that the American colonists were morally sanctioned in their spread
westward across the North American continent. Never mind all the Native
Americans who were killed in the process. This kind of dogmatic thinking
is what I would decree as unethical from my perspective--regardless of whether
the content domain the person dogmatically advancing and imposing such
constructions happens to be one with which I agree.

The question constructivists need to ask themselves is "How can I advance
my own ethical constructions without being dogmatic in doing so." Further,
how can constructivists respons effectively to those who are more dogmatic
in the absolute "truth" of their moral convictions? This question always
fascinates me, because people who are certain they have a handle on truth
are often more vigorous in advancing their views, and feel little guilt in
imposing their "correct" views on others (again Pat Buchanan's recent
successes pop to mind).



Jonathan D. Raskin, Ph.D.
Dept. of Psychology
Tennessee State University
3500 John A. Merritt Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37209-1561
tel (615) 963-5158
fax (615) 963-5140
e-mail: raskinj@HARPO.TNSTATE.EDU