Re: The scientific status of PCP

Robert Parks (
Fri, 21 Jun 1996 13:17:01 -0400

Gary... you appear to have ignored the point of my message. Questions can
be used defensively as well as aggressively, and I'm not sure what the
point of your interrogations is at this juncture. At a minimum, I was
trying to say that your dialogue has appeared to me as a "me/us against
them" dispute...a debate... I intended to extricate the dialogue from that
frame. I would like to engage in a conversation, not an interrogation or
debate. But I'll try to respond.

>So, then, would I be correct to infer that this last sentence defines
>your opinion of YOUR ruling life paradigm, to which you say you are
>firmly committed?

No, you have misunderstood. I was trying to say that there is a constant
tension between intellectual ("understanding") and commited ("practical")
endeavors. The notion of going beyond "understanding" is part of the
difference between hermeneutic and critical studies. When someone focuses
exclusively on "understanding" s/he could be encouraged to move her truths
from the intellectual to the practical plane. (Marx's 11th thesis on
Feuerbach: "Philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point,
however, is to change it.") But when someone focuses exclusively on the
practical plane (living whatever truths she has found), the impulse to
reflect and understand can be cut off.... This is the process of creating
an ideologue, someone who feels the most important real world
change/challenge that is possible is moving other people to believe/act as
s/he does. (Marx in the Manifesto, captures the result of bourgoise
propaganda and liberal educational practices: "The ruling ideas are the
ideas of the ruling class.")

I use these quotes from Marx - though I could have chosen others - to show
that we need to read others for inspiration... But the most important
inspiration is the QUESTIONS others have engendered through their
thinking... not their answers. If Maturana and Varela have given you
questions, then share them. But so far, your questions have been
interrogations that display an incredulity that there could be other
plausible views.. .since anyone who disagreed with them just doesn't "get
it". Some "Marxists" would use a similar ploy, saying that those who
disagree are polluted by bourgeois ideology. This same problem is even more
sophisitcated among some psychotherapists, who have a whole intellectual
apparatus to explain the "resistance" of a client - and in its cultural
application, the resistance of other psychologists or the whole culture -
to therapeutic interpretations.

It may be true that those who disagree just don't "get it".. But in this
case, "get it" has to mean "understanding" not commitment.

If we were able to push this discussion to a productive plane, I would be
wanting to ask at this point, is there any similarity between Marx's notion
of praxis and the notion of "getting it" that you appear to have derived
from Maturana/Varela? I suspect there is.

You write:

>If so, what have you 'pinned' your life to? How do you 'know' that?

I have pinned my life to exploration, and questioning... and tentative
theory construction... in a cultural/economic process that still finds a
small role for the social sciences. I'm not sure it would make sense to
explain my personal/practical commitments.

>How do you 'know' so clearly that you are correct? Or do you? Or are
>you uncertain?

Isn't correctness an issue primarily on factual questions. Doesn't it seem
better to say that theories or approaches are more useful, or interesting,
or productive?

In your interpretation of Maturana and Varela, you mention that Maturana
(?) engaged in biological experiments. Were you asserting that these
experiments generated facts which 'verify' his theory? I suspect that his
experiments are interpretable within several theoretical traditions. No
theory is built on a set of facts, inductively. The theory is already
implicit in the experiment, in the descriptions, definition of the problem,
the terms of discourse, etc.

>I guess I'd like to know more about your situation and orientation, the
>better to get a sense of where you're coming from.

My response is intended not to promote any orientation I have. It is simply
to help to help frame the discussion in a more productive, less contentious
and "us/them" fashion.

Best regards,