re: the nature of "construct"

W Ramsay (
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 09:38:53 +0100

Dear Devi,
You wrote at crack of dawn this morning (well, it almost is, at my latitude):

<big snip>

>Bill Ramsay lit a whole load of fireworks under my bum and said, inter al.:
>>Makes sense in what terms? What kind of 'sense'? ...

<literary references snipped>
>Okay. "Makes sense" in that it accounts _to me_ for a variety of things
>that have puzzled me about the extent to which construing can be
>unconscious; for the ways in which Kelly dealt with agency in construing
>while having almost no use for the concept of "unconscious"; while being
>open to _public_ verifiability and debate to the degree that other people
>whose understanding of pcp is better developed and better-read than mine
>seem to be saying much the same thing.

Accepted. In much the same way it doesn't make sense (and maybe a "yet" is
missing here) to me. I need to work this out, and I goota go back and read
some more.

>Sure, I'm confused about the whole thing (maybe since, not being a
>clinician, I've never had to confront phenomena like "unconscious
>construing" or even decide if that term makes sense).

You ain't confused, just curious, like me! I don't think the clinical bit
is necessarily relevant, but, since you mentioned it, if unconscious
construing does take place is it the same as construing _in_ the
unconscious? If yes, what does that imply for the relationship between PCP
and psychoanalytic models of disturbance?

>But if I ever get to
>grips with the issue (and the comments of Bill and colleagues will of
>course be a part of it: what's wrong with acknowledging that other peoples'
>ideas influence one's own position Bill? Yours do mine!),

Acknowledged. I've been nothing but influenced since I joined this list.
Sometimes I get so influenced that I have to go for a long walk to wind down.

I feel that it'll
>be in terms of such constructs as:
>"awareness": is it necessary to be so in order to construe? No.
>"agency": is it necessary to be capable of acting in order to construe? Er...
>"person": (aha! a useful key in Kelly's vocabulary) is it necessary to be a
>person in order to construe? Yes.

This disqualifies the fire-alarm, but maybe not the frog. To construe you
as a construer, first I have to construe you as a person. Is 'person' to be
equated with 'human'? And while we're at it, is 'awareness' the same as
'consciousness'? In your scheme of things, that is.

>And though I grant you that behaviour can result in a selection among
>alternatives, I can't for the life of me see how behaviour has awareness,
>agency, or personhood. Cobblers!

I think we get to the nub, or somewhere close to it here. Rem acu
tetigisti, as Jeeves used to say in all those Wodehouse novels. Try this
for size, not as an adversarial comment, but as counteradvocacy in pursuit
of enlightnment: behaviour _is_ the selection; it may occur without
awareness; it _is_ the agency, but not the actor. The argument as to
whether unconscious distinction-making amounts to construing depends then on
personhood, otherwise the fire-alarm _does_ construe. If that's the only
distinction (feeling my way cautiously here), why bother? What does
introducing 'construing' into the frame add?

Does that (gulp!) make sense?

>As for:
>> It seems to me that behaviour is
>>less in danger of reification than constructs, but more than a brick.
>The identification of constructs with their verbal labels is the first step
>towards their reification. The identification of constructs with something
>as bereft of awareness, agency and personhood as behaviour is the last,
>which is what Bill's argument seems to amount to.

Thank you for that explanation! I didn't realise I was being that profound.
A clear case of the joke preceding the argument in the unconscious! Maybe
a bit of unconscious construing. I'm beginning to feel I have one foot
nailed to the ground ...

>>Keep 'em coming. You're keeping the juices flowing.
>And the same to you. (Thoroughly enjoyable and, I trust, with a fizz and
>energy in which my responses never step beyond the bounds of politeness and
>respect for your position despite the robustness with which I express them.
>Pull me up if I misjudge this.)

You know you're overdoing the gloves-off stuff when your knuckles hurt.
Thanks for taking so much of this in the spirit in which it was intended.



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