Re: Language, constructs, reality, constructivism
Mon, 10 Jun 1996 00:38:40 +0000

In responding to Thierry, Garry Blanchard writes, inter al.,

>I, too, see evidence that Kellian Psychology may be
>unconsciously rooted in traditional objectivism, which would of course
>make it very difficult for them to see the existence, much less the
>validity, of Constructivism (see attached file definition).

and calls for a "strengthening of dialogue on this list". I'm all for that,
at any rate.

Taking into account such statements as:

>It follows that perception and
>knowledge are in fact a <em>model</em> of reality, and not merely a
>or impression of it. <p>
>Some radical constructivists approach strong skepticism by denying the
>of <em>any</em> external reality, and simply define reality <em>as</em> our

which describes his own position, I can't see anything with which a
personal construct psychologist would have quarrel. To paraphrase Kelly,
"the 'world out there' is real, but the world 'in here' is equally real"-
and we're in the business of constructing internal representations of it by
trying to make sense of the patterns we identify in the past, the better to
make predictions of the future. So I'm not sure in what sense Garry can be
right by describing pcp people as "unconsciously rooted in traditional

Perhaps Garry might read some Kelly (e.g. the 1955 volume, recently
reprinted) to identify what our position actually is?

That's only partly a snide comment. Indeed, so much gets taken for granted
in our discussions on this mailing list (true of any special interest
group, I'd have thought) that I doubt very much if I'd be able to work out
the basics of personal construct theory, never having encountered it
before, from reading the items posted here!

And in return, as someone who completed a doctorate in cybernetics myself,
I'd be very grateful for a reference to a definitive statement of Garry's
field: I'm afraid that my humble e-mail reader is incapable of translating
the html-like codes with which his posting is peppered, to the point of

One of the things I'd hope to be able to clarify thereby would be the
statement that
>semantics, language, and mathematics must always be understood in the
>context of the physical basis of their operation---on the physical systems
>(e.g. sense organs, brains, machines, computers) which transmit, receive,
>and especially <em>interpret</em> physical tokens. <p>

If that's what Garry's discipline does assert, then I imagine pcp would
part company. Sure, we can't operate our symbol systems without an intact
brain; but it is of course possible to analyse and work with symbol systems
independently of their physical embodiment, which is a different issue
altogether, and one which I suspect Garry is conflating.

In any event, I'd greatly appreciate the opportunity to read a clearer
statement of Garry's field, the better to inform myself about it and
indeed, learn from it. Perhaps that's a better way for him to progress his
most interesting ideas than appealing to my demise, as he does when he

>On the other hand, the evidence tends to show that the only way
>old paradigms give way, for the most part, is for its adherents to die

Gorblimey: I wouldn't give him the satisfaction!

Kindest regards,

Devi Jankowicz