Re: The scientific status of PCP

Tim A. Connor (
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 18:06:34 -0700 (PDT)


I find your use of the opposition "factual/opinion" curious, in a
constructivist context. You seem to be invoking the rhetoric of
objectivism in your challenge to PCP. I'd be interested to know how you
see this, since, while constructivists are a very diverse bunch, it's
always seemed to me that the one thing we shared was a rejection of the
very idea of objectivity, the notion that there is any such thing as raw
data or an uninterpreted fact. It would help me respond more clearly
to you if you would clarify your epistemological and ontological assumptions.

I'll go first: I call myself a pragmatic constructivist (as far as I
know, I'm the only person flying that particular flag). I assume the
existence of a single, "real" reality, for the simple reason that I can't
conceive of any way of acting *as if* there were nothing real constraining
my actions, or upon which I act. Similarly, I reject determinism because
I don't know how to act on the belief that all my actions are determined,
and as a pragmatist (in the James tradition) I consider any proposition
that has no implications for action to be trivial at best, meaningless at

However, assuming the existtence of a single reality does not mean
assuming one can know that reality in any absolute way. Every point of
view is just that--a point of view. One gains information by adopting a
new point of view, but one also loses it. There is no point of view so
transcendent--no matter what rules you follow, scientific or
theological--that it ceases to be a point of view and becomes an immediate
perception of Truth. Therefore, there is no such thing as a fact in the
absolute sense. It's worth noting the etymology of the word "fact"--it
comes from the Latin "factum", "a thing made" not "a thing discovered"
(the literal Greek translation BTW, would be poemeia, poem--I find this
delightful (fact=poem) but don't ask me any more about this because I've
just used up a large portion of my knowledge of classical languages!). If
forced to provide an operational definition of fact, I could only come up
with "a perception about which there is a broad consensus among careful
observers." But our perceptions change with our construction of
events--there is ample research to support this claim, and no reason to
believe that any scientific method vaccinates you against this.

So when I call myself a constructivist, this is what I mean. What do you



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