Re: The scientific status of PCP

Brian Gaines (
Fri, 14 Jun 1996 11:08:53 -0700

>With you, Lois. Much of what Brian says in this posting sems to me to
>violate the individuality corollary. I admit it's not hard to do, and Brian
>is not the only, and not always a, transgressor, but the frequency with
>which it seems to happen on the list bothers me, as a peripheral PCPer.

As Kelly notes "if we have an individuality corollary, we must also have
a commonality corollary", again emphasizing that the corollaries are
definitional not empirical -- it is significant to note when individuals
are using the same constructs and when they are using different ones.

The context of my remark was the question of PCP being scientific. A scientific
community agrees to carefully develop commonality and eschew individuality
(in its professional discourse). Individual constructs cannot enter the common
core defining the science until they have been carefully defined in such as a
way as to allow inter-subjective usage, i.e. made operational for the reference

This is why professionalism in science requires apprenticeship
through education and training -- the individual must be calibrated in the
use the relevant construct system. You cannot take the verbal labels of
scientific constructs and use them colloquially without changing their meaning,
and, conversely you cannot take individual constructs and use them as part of
a science without a major effort.

Commonality is very difficult to achieve. If one studies the construct
systems of actual scientific communities one finds what appear to be
core constructs used differently on an individual basis. If you then
question the differing individuals they state that this is a key notion
under study -- ie the process of achieving commonality is a major driver
for the actions of a scientist. They want to be able to anticipate that
another colleague studying the same phenomenon will reach the same
conclusions in the same way. Scientists seek not just to anticipate
phenomena but to anticipate them through the same shared construct system.

Wolff who was a student of Simmel, a highly constructivist sociologist,
puts this very well:

"From the standpoint of the world of everyday life, the mathematician, as
we often put it, lives in the 'world of mathematics', dealing with
'nonreal' elements, notably numbers, whose relation to 'real' things, to
'reality', is not part of his concern. Analogously for the logician. What
makes our subject-object approach to this attitude misleading is the fact
that the subject, the student of mathematics or logic - his or her
individuality, including motives and attitudes - is irrelevant for our
understanding; the only thing that counts is the pursuit, with its results
and questions." (Wolff 1976 pp.162-163)

He makes the point that not only does the real world, the object, disappear to
be replaced by the world of mathematics, but also that in entering into this
world the person doing mathematics, the subject, also disappears to be replaced
by a new entity, the mathematician.

Kelly developed a science of psychology by providing a construct
system in PCP that is extremely well-defined and by giving sufficient
background and examples that others might use it. That system applies to
modeling highly individualistic construct systems. However, PCP as a science
comes under the same criteria as any other science. It is a remarkable
science in that it can model itself and its participants.


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