Re: intersubjectivity (was crazy people)

Jones, John WEN (
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 8:40 -0600

From: Tim A. Connor
To: JonesJ; pcp
Cc: pcp
Subject: Re: intersubjectivity (was crazy people)
Date: Monday, April 14, 1997 2:58AM

On Tue, 8 Apr 1997, Gary F. Blanchard wrote:

> could your comments accurately be assessed as leaning
> toward solipsism-type construing, meaning only that such a construer
> holds that everything is a construct and cannot be verified beyond that?

>It is true that PCP, like other constructivist theories, denies that there
>is a fixed, singular, fully knowable reality; the world is not apprehended
>directly, but construed--and it can be construed in different ways (Kelly
>did not call his epistemology constructivism but constructive
>alternativism). But the fundamental postulate of PCP, that people are
>psychologically channelized by the way they anticipate events, keeps it
>from being solipsistic, in my view. The central metaphor of the person as
>scientist--devising constructs for the prediction and control of
>experience, testing those constructs through action, and revising them as
>needed--is hardly solipsistic. Kelly's epistemology is (again, my view)
>pragmatic, in the William James tradition--all we can know about the world
>is what we can do with it as we extend our ability to anticipate events.
>(This seems to me to be where Kelly and Maturana diverge--though this may
>be due to my superficial understanding of Maturana, and perhaps you can
>set me straight. I don't see much of a role for anticipation in structure
>determinism, while it is absolutely central in PCP). A construct can
>accurately predict events without being "true"--both the Ptolemaic and
>Newtonian systems accurately predict the movements of the planets,
>eclipses, etc. (Actually, the Ptolemaic system yields more accurate
>predictions, I'm told, because of the difficulty of solving multi-body
>problems in Newtonian mechanics). We prefer the Newtonian construct
.ystem because it doesn't require us to assume that planets behave
>differently from all other bodies, and permits us to predict the motion of
>comets, asteroids, spacecraft, baseballs, etc.--it has a broader range of
>convenience, and is more coherent with other observations (which doesn't
>mean it's absolutely "true" either, at least in all settings, as
>relativity and quantum theory have shown).

>Then there are the sociality and commonality corollaries. Professional
>scientists don't derive all their constructs from their own
>experiments--and no more do personal scientists. We don't necessarily
>have to touch the stove when we're two years old to construe it as hot
>(though some of us radical empiricists insist on it :-). Actually, most
>of our construct system is based on our construing of others'
>constructs--we are incorrigibly, irreducibly social animals and cannot
>function without those shared symbolic systems of which language (strictly
>defined) is the most prominent, though not the only one. Kelly had
>relatively little to say about this (he suggests at one point that he is
>choosing to leave it to the social psychologists to elucidate those
>aspects), but it's implicit in the theory, IMHO.

>It's important to keep in mind that PCP developed out of the practice of
>psychotherapy--out of George Kelly's ongoing effort to help people find
>ways to get on with their lives. It's very much a psychology of
>engagement with the world and commitment to testing one's beliefs by
>acting on them. This doesn't seem solipsistic to me.



Hi Tim,

I really enjoyed reading your post. I think that when people critique PCP
as being solipsistic, they are confusing solipsism with
non-justificationism. I think there's a big leap in the syllogism from "we
cannot totally comprehend "reality" as it is" to "therefore, solipsism
reigns." Perhaps the critique of solipsism is a better fit for Maturana and
Varela (in as much as I understand their radical constructivism). With
structured determinism, all we have are perturbations of the CNS that does
its structurally-determined thing once it is purturbed. I know that
Maturana and Varela speak in terms of structured coupling in regards to
interpersonal relationships and common understanding. But I'm not really
sure how commonality and sociality would fit with radical constructivism if
we do not have at least some critical understanding of our interactions in
the world. What are your thoughts?

I realize I have entered this discussion kind of late and you may have
already touched on these issues.


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