Re: The scientific status of PCP

Brian Gaines (
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 09:15:28 -0700

>I trust that we can carry this conversation on in a frank and
>straightforward way. I have no wish to alienate or offend. But I do
>insist on rigor and clarity. And I accept that effective communication is
>other-focused, not self-focused; hence what matters in my communications
>with you and others is what you conclude, not what I intend. If that
>standard is acceptable to you, please let me know.

My reply to you was rather long so as to have rigor and clarity.
However, your questions are phrased in terms of your personal
constructs so any direct reply to them involves the replier
in attempting to tease out your meaning and hence is somewhat personal
to you.

>In the meantime, my one question to you is: given what you have said in
>your post, where do you come out on my question of whether Prof. Kelly's
>work is rooted in science or in belief (cum religion)?

The science--religion distinction you propose is not a bipolar construct.
Science and religion need to be treated as elements each having very rich
constructions. The distinctions you appear to be trying to make is, as others
have noted, are ones between critical reflection and dogmatic statement,
between empirical testing and authority, and between knowledge and belief.

Some aspects of science and some aspects of religion may be construed
on each pole of these three constructs. They are not bipolar unless one
very clearly defines those aspects.

Kant notes that science in the enlightenment threw off the authority of the
church -- "Enlightenment is man's release from his inability to make use of
his understanding without direction from another." (Kant, What is
Enlightenment?) However, even this authority was over the laity --
if you read the Thomist pre-enlightenment literature you find a
critical reflective community. Science has often exerted similar authority
over the laity, and some postmodernist literature sees the authority
of science being overthrown now, as was that of the church 300 years ago.

The knowledge--belief distinction in philosophy is that knowledge is
"justified true belief" -- justification involves a critical community
to who justification must be given -- truth involves some truth criterion
acceptable to the community. This makes the distinction socially-embedded
within the paradigms of some reference community. Presumably, the relevant
one for PCP is that of scientific psychology.

As I noted in my previous posting, PCP qualifies as a scientific psychology
to the extent that any other psychology qualifies. However, psychology and
sociology as sciences have dimensions that mathematics and physics do not,
and it is important to recognize this in applying the criteria for a
discipline being a science.

Many aspects of religion also satisfy the criteria for a science: open,
critical communities; pragmatic empirical validation; and so on.

These are rich issues for discussion, and one attraction of PCP is that
Kelly is precisionist in his treatment of them. He personally was the
archetype of a scientist and was motivated to develop PCP precisly because
he was dis-satisfied with the scientific foundations of the psychologies
of his time. PCP is as much a model for doing psychology as it is a
psychology in its own right.


Dr Brian R Gaines Knowledge Science Institute
University of Calgary Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
403-220-5901 Fax:403-284-4707