Re: language and relationship

Tim A. Connor (
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 15:50:58 -0800 (PST)


Thanks--your option 2 is exactly what I was trying to get at, but better
put. I do agree that human bodily experience is qualitatively different
from other species' because we depend on systems of meaning to construct
our experience. There is, as Geertz says, no such thing as human nature
independent of culture (defined as the totality of all symbolic systems),
even in newborns. I do not, in fact, think there's some kind of major gap
between Maturana, Varela, Flores, etc. (or Gary) and Kelly (or myself).
My concern was principally with terminology. We do indeed live in
"systems of meaning", all of which can to some extent be metaphorically
described as "language"; my concern is that such broad use of the term
"language" directs our attention away from important and useful
distinctions between such systems, of which language (narrowly defined) is
only one.


As I said above, I don't see us as being on opposite sides of the
paradigm shift you describe. In fact, I agree with your metatheoretical
position in its broad outlines--as for the details, I don't know--I would
echo Bob's request for some discussion of cases rather than always
staying on the philosophical high ground, then maybe we can find out
where our differences, if any, are.


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

On Sat, 22 Mar 1997, Robert Parks wrote:

> What does a child feel on her skin before she feels it in her heart?
> Warmth? security? love? The question can be put it terms of two options:
> (1) the child feels something that is the SEED of "love", which becomes
> "love" only when she can symbolize and generalize that feeling; (2) the
> child feels something that is indeed "love" (not a seed of love) because it
> is a particularly HUMAN way of experiencing warmth and security. It appears
> to me that Flores would accept the latter interpretation. Our HUMAN way of
> experiencing is from the beginning distinct and different from the
> experiencing of other species, even before our symbolic activity has
> blossomed as "language". The apparent similarity in experience to other
> species is deceptive. The warmth and security felt by infants of other
> species is real, but it is not pregnant already with human meaning. Human
> meaning is an activity, and infants engage in this activity from the
> beginning. It is qualitatively different from the symbolic activity of
> infants of other species, because it has the character of being from the
> beginning a "trigger" (to use Gary's term) to human symbolic activity of
> the "language" kind.
> Lets use an analogy from music. When a human infant hears music, the active
> response is inherently different from the response of infants of other
> species. It isn't a dry seed that blossoms only in later years, under
> guidance of tutors. It is an active growing seed that captures the
> "meaning" of the music in a particularly human way.
> Am I doing ok? I think Flores might accept this. I think I might accept
> this. I'm not sure. I'd like to hear the responses from Tim. In any case, I
> don't think we will get very far by setting barriers of "paradigm" between
> us.
> Paradigms develop not as full blown theoretical/psychological systems, but
> as explanatory devises and research agendas built around "paradigm cases",
> which act as models for future explanatory systems. The paradigm doesn't
> emerge full blown in a theory, but in a case that can be modelled as the
> theory is worked out. I would suggest, then, that you identify a particular
> case, and offer your "languaging" interpretation. You may find others
> agreeing with you on the case level, which might put them in a similar
> "constructivist" paradigm, even when they don't follow Flores all the way
> up the hill he climbs. There are, after all, many hills to climb.
> Bob