Re: Advancing truth claims in pcp

Sy Balsen (
Sun, 31 Mar 1996 15:00:06 -0500

>I am presenting a paper in the near future on how construct theory approaches
>the advancing of truth claims. The basic gist of the paper is that truth
>claims are often a means for asserting (and sometimes abusing) power. The
>reason I see pcp as relevant here is because it emphasizes the importance
>of constructive alternativism--therefore, multiple constructions of truth
>can be constructed that are equally useful. Certainly in the realm of
>politics and social decision making such an approach can be helpful. Think
>of all the truth claims that have been advanced by politicians as the one
>"truth" that ought to guide their people (e.g. Manifest Destiny, The Final
>Solution, Natural Law). Rather than seeing these ideas as CONSTRUCTIONS of
>truth and how things ought to be, they are insteas advanced as objectively
>truths that have been discovered. Makes political dialogue (not to mention
>dissent) rather
>difficult. Not to mention the atrocities that have often been justified
>in the name of advancing truth claims.

I am reminded of Kelly's writing regarding how we are limited by the
subject-predicate nature of our language. Anytime we state an observation",
e.g., "I (the subject) am an introvert ( the predicate)," to use Kelly's
example, it comes out sounding like dogma. What is actually meant, of
course, is "I percieve myself as an introvert."

In my work with adolescents, I've been continually confronted (frustrated!)
by the difficulty they have viewing alternative interpretations to their
"truths" (beliefs). My high school students and I have enjoyed reviewing
the classic work of the perceptual psychologists such as Ames, where our
interpretations are shown, in concrete terms, to be our attempt at making
sense out of a situation based on what we know or expect. We then work
towards the realization that we make similar arbitrary interpretations in
the social realm, often based on our expectations, and that there are often
altenative interpretations to the problems the student has been referred
for. Interestingly, I usually have less success getting their teachers to
come to the same realization!

Sy Balsen
School Psychologist
Ichabod Crane High School
Valatie, NY