re: the nature of "construct"
Thu, 6 Jun 1996 23:05:57 +0000

Dear Bill,

Earlier tonight you wrote:

>To help illustrate my problem, I'm happy to admit that my cat construes (a
>hypothetical cat for the moment, more's the pity). There are situations in
>which she apparently makes a choice, and not always the same choice in the
>same situation. However, any owner who thinks that his cat necessarily
>construes him and his behaviour should try crouching down, sideways on,
>about 5 or 6 metres from the cat to talk to her. Do this next to her and
>she'll probably get set for play or petting; do it at a distance and you get
>a ball of fur, claws and aggression. Some people would call the latter an
>anticipation based on a wired-in construct, which is, in my view, silly.
>PCP is best seen, for me, as having its own range of convenience, just like
>any of its constructs, and its actually easier to analyse the cat's
>behaviour, in both cases, in terms of evolution and conditioned reflexes.
>Trying to make PCP a kind of Procrustean bed for all behaviours does it a
>great disfavour.

Good grief. At the start of this snippet you say you think your cat _can_
construe. Halfway through you qualify this by excluding construal of
yourself and your behaviour. (So what _does_ your cat construe?) Then you
say that an explanation in terms of a "wired-in construct" is silly, which
would seem to deny the very fundamentals of what a construct is by the
simple expedient of the dirty word, "wired in", thereby ignoring the
possibility of a construct as a distinction quite independent of the medium
(verbal or otherwise) in which it's expressed. And finally you suggest that
conditioned reflexes are a more useful way of explaining your moggy's

Which of four different hares are you intending to start with _those_
particular assertions, at least 2 combinations of which would seem to be

(Quite apart from anything else, _everyone knows_ that cats construe but
dogs can't. They also like plain crisps. Cats, I mean.)

Kindest regards,

Devi Jankowicz