Re: the nature of 'construct'

W Ramsay (
Fri, 7 Jun 1996 10:00:56 +0100

Dear Gary,

On 3 June you wrote, in reply to my attempt at defining the nature of
>Now, if I may, Bill and Fay, take the matter to what is, for me, the next
>step. You wrote, Bill:
>>1. A construct is an ordered pair of different language-objects.
>Gary Asks: 1.What is a 'language-object?' Would you give a few examples?
> 2.What is an 'ordered pair'? Would " "

1. See my posting in reply to Ana Catina. A language-object is any member
of the lexicon of language of the construer, or any combination of such
members (e.g. a phoneme, word, sign, action, phrase or sentence).
2. 'Pair' because there's two of them. This is needed to satisfy the
dichotomy corollary, as is 'different'.

In answering your question I've realised that 'ordered' is probably not
necessary from a formal point of view. The Choice Corollary suggests that
psychologically the order is important, so that formally one might order the
pair in terms of that. The pair have also been labelled 'Construct' and
'Contrast', or 'Implicit Pole' and 'Explicit Pole', usually because of the
order in which they've been elicited, which is formally trivial but has led
me astray.

>>2. Two constructs are different constructs if they differ in at least
>>one of their language-objects.
>Gary Asks: If you wouldn't mind, an example or two here, would help me.

Ask a group of studetns what is the opposite of 'friendly'. About half
(probably) will say 'unfriendly' and the other half 'hostile'. 'friendly
<-> hostile' and 'friendly <-> unfriendy' are different constructs, which
may be used by the same individual. 'Friendly' occurs in both, but means
different things because the contrasting pole is different (for the
construer, that is, not necessarily for you or me.) It's the pairing, Kelly
emphasised, that give the meaning.

>>3. The function of a construct is to construe.
>Gary asks: 1.Could you say a little more about how this
> operation/function works/produces that result?
> 2. Is the construing effect the same for all construers, or
> does/can it differ? If so, why/how?

My understanding is that the consequence of construing is a 'replication',
an internal representation of 'external reality', whatever that is. To the
extent that it 'works', it works as described in statements 4 and 5.

>>4. To construe an object or event is to map at least one of its
>>attributes on to one member of a construct.
>Gary Asks: Are 'objects' different from 'events'? If not, why the
> distinction? If so, what is the nature of the distinction?

Yes, this is messy. I didn't use 'object' and 'event' to make a
distinction, rather to emphasise that construing applies only to 'things'.
I was trying to avoid Kelly's word 'element' because it would have to be
defined, too, which I hadn't - and haven't - got round to. If, for the
moment, we acccept that there is such a thing as an element we could combine
4 and 5 to advantage.

4a. To construe an element is to map an attribute of that element on to
one and only one pole of a construct. (Where 'pole' refers to one of the

4b. An element may be construed by more than one construct.

>>('Attributes' is used as a convenience, here. No guarantees are given
>>or contracts entered into about what an attribute is or may be!)
>Gary asks: so 'attribute' is just a general term of convenience? Would
> you give me an example?

Blue-eyed. Old. Irascible. You want a contract? Seriously, there's a
neat circularity here - the attribute exists only if it's mapped, as above.
Causes mathematicians no problems at all. Why should it bother us?

>>5. No attribute may be mapped on more than one member of a given
>Gary asks: At the risk of wearing you out, would you have an example
> ready to hand that illustrates this? I appreciate your
> patience.

Bill has deleted this, see above.

>>6. A replication of an event or object is the list of construct-objects
>>onto which its attributes have been mapped.
>Gary Asks: Again, if you or some other member could suggest an example,
> I would greatly appreciate it.

Bill {Blue-eyed; balding; old; irascible; cat-lover; ... }

>>I'm getting to the stage myself where I feel that there's a need for a
>>formalisation of Kelly's framework.
>Gary Asks: I take it, then, that the above statements either were
> formulated by Dr. Kelly, or have been derived from ones he did
> make?

They're a poor thing, but mine own, based on Kelly's description of the
theory and I'm doing this to clarify my own ideas.

>>I find it intriguing that computer
>>programming plays such a large part in PCP, and there well-developed
>>formalisms for describing computer languages, there's no correpsonding
>>formalism for Kelly's Fundamental Postulate and Corollaries.
>Gary Asks: Would it be too burdensome to ask for a copy of the above
> items? <snip>

Overtaken by Brian Gaines's very helpful posting, I think.

>>Well and clearly as Kelly wrote, there's too much poetry in him for
>Gary Replies: He must have been quite a visionary. As I understand it,
>such people often leave the detailed implications of their work for
>later, and to others, so I am not surprised that he may have handled the
>expression of his ideas in a general way. That does not diminish them
>for me at all. Genius is genius, in my opinion, and we have to be
>thankful for it however it shows up (assuming it is benign).

Again see Brian Gaines's posting.

>I look forward to your further comments regarding the above.

With any luck we'll get them from someone better qualified. I'm sure
Brian's not the only one out there who can help.



Bill Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367