Re: Constructivism,constructs, + Kellians

Tim A. Connor (
Wed, 12 Jun 1996 20:36:21 -0700 (PDT)


I wish I had time to respond to your post as thoroughly as it merits.
Unfortunately, this is not a good week for me to get into a deep
discussion (maybe after this weekend...). As a stop-gap, just to keep
the thread alive:

It's not clear to me how much, if any, of Kelly's work you have read. As
someone else noted, this list is probably not the best place to seek a
basic course in the psychology of personal constructs; I would urge you
to read, at a minimum, A THEORY OF PERSONALITY. The papers collected in
valuable, and give a lot of insight into Kelly's approach to scientific

A postulate is just that--something that is postulated, assumed. While it
is assumed because it appears to be consistent with what we know or
believe we know, it is a postulate "only if we accord it that status. If
we bring the statement into dispute, as well we may in some instances, we
must recognize that we are then arguing from other postulate either
explicitly stated or, more likely, implicitly believed" (Kelly, 1955).
Postulates are falsified by demonstrating that they generate contradictory
conclusions or inaccurate predictions. But any (ANY) logical/theoretical
system begins with undefined terms and unproved assumptions (see Goedel's
theorem). Behaviorists, for example, postulate that all behavior is
caused by environmental reinforcements. Some of them claim to have
demonstrated this empirically, which I say is a lot of B.S. (Behavioral
Science). ;-)

Kelly did not claim to have proved the fundamental postulate (the
corollaries are deductions from the postulate, not empirical hypotheses)
and in fact stated over and over that he assumed his system would need to
be changed as new evidence arose. One of the requirements he proposed
for a "good theory" is that it be modifiable. This does not mean that
the postulate is an article of faith drawn out of thin air. It is
important to keep in mind that PCP is in its origins a _clinical_ theory;
deeply rooted in the practice of psychotherapy, developed as a model of
how people encounter problems, solve them, and change both the world and
themselves in so doing.

Another key point is that Kelly rejected the idea that scientists are
somehow fundamentally different from other people. The underlying
metaphor of PCP is "man [sic] the scientist." He saw human nature in
terms of the effort to predict and control, to anticipate the future by
devising hypotheses about the world and testing them behaviorally.
Professional scientists may have explicit rules that make their
experiments easier to analyze and critique, and that compel them to
examine evidence so as to falsify rather than confirm, but the basic
enterprise is not so different.

This is all I have time for now. I urge you to consider the above points
closely, and to read Kelly himself, rather than trying to critique his
theory based on the very fragmentary exposition of it that is possible on
a listserv. If you can't get your hands on the books, send me your
snailmail address and I'll send you something short that sets out the
major points in a reasonably thorough way.

Until next week--



Tim Connor, M.S. "Psychotherapy is not
Pacific University an applied science, it
School of Professional Psychology is a basic science in
2004 Pacific Avenue which the scientists
Forest Grove, OR 97116 USA are the client and his
<> therapist"
--George Kelly

On Wed, 12 Jun 1996, Gary Blanchard wrote:

> Dear Tim-
> Thanks very much for your thoughtful and informative posting re: above.
> Thanks to you and Mildred Shaw, I have re-read Prof. Kelly's comments?
> My question now is: What is his evidence for his Postulates, Corollaries
> and related claims? From whence do they derive? Do they represent
> scientific findings, or merely another variety of religious belief? My
> <much deleted>
> If I am accurate, then unless there is some testable data, or way to
> operationalize Prof. Kelly's hypotheses/claims/paradigm/theory, then my
> re-reading of his postulate and corollaries leaves me with the tentative
> conclusion that they are not scientifically based, however useful some
> may have found it, or created it to be.
> I'm sure I am not the first person to raise these concerns, and I may
> well be off-base. I hope that one or more of you with the expertise to
> do so will show me where, and how, my reckoning is off.
> Please be assured that I mean no disrespect to the field, or to the
> memory of an obviously significant historical figure (Prof. Kelly). I
> simply want to know what I am buying, if I buy into this approach.
> If my concerns are sound, they might suggest a menu of research that
> would conclusively validate or modify Prof. Kelly's claims, opening the
> door to intelligent adaptation and continued honoring of the spirit, if
> not the letter, of his groundbreaking efforts.
> RSVP RSVP RSVP....................sincerely, Gary