Re: Structural Determinism

Robert Parks (
Thu, 24 Apr 1997 18:38:32 -0400 (EDT)

I'm sorry I haven't been able to contribute to this thread, but I'm glad
its still going (as a branch off of "Intersubjectivity") But I'd throw in
one thought that is stimulated by your and Tim's interesting analyses.

>I don't know whether I still have one foot in modernism and the other in
>postmodernism, but the claim "everything is language" or "everything is
>relationship" is hard for me to grasp right now. I really like the
>narrative psychology that stems from the postmodern critique, and I agree
>that modernist psychology has tended to reify "pathologies" as something
>"real" instead of constructs. I guess right now it's hard to give up my
>Kantian view of representation, so I guess that's why I'm still in the
>critical constructivist camp. However, Gergen's "Realities and
>Relationships" makes some compelling arguments, particularly concerning
>phenomenolgy's failure to find an "essence" of mind or self. If for Kelly,
>self is a construct, then how we language that construct, and the context
>(contextualism) in which we language that construct seems to be important.
> But I don't know if I'm ready to make the leap that "all is language,"
>anymore than I'm ready to make the leap with Maturana and Varela that "all
>is CNS." I don't know. These are just some meanderings I'm dealing with.
> Any ideas?!!

One thought is that while on the one hand we see the self emerging out of
the mirror relationship (see the April 22 NYTimes article on the emergence
of self) - in this (human) case the "mirror of language" - on the other
hand, that which is mirrored is not only language. We are exposed to the
capacities of the self in the way we can/cannot operate on/in the world.
(The baby grabbing a rattle.) However, language is the way in which we come
to confront the world of other minds. Helen Keller had a proto-self shaped
in interaction with her physical world. But only when she grasped the
notion of representation could she come to grips with the nature of the
other, and with her own self.

My thought is that language is of prime importance not so much because it
mirrors another's self, but because through language we can see that WE
exist as a mirror to the other... that the other sees our external physical
qualities easily, and gropes to mirror our selves, but grasps only
imperfectly our ideas and purposes... our selves.

Somewhere in this phenomenological description it seems we should be able
to sketch the interactions that constitute the development of self through
language. I haven't read Gergen, so I'm behind on that score. Tell me if
that's what I should do before taking another turn here.