Re: Structural Determinism

Jones, John WEN (
Fri, 25 Apr 1997 15:32 -0600

From: Robert Parks
To: JonesJ; pcp
Subject: Re: Structural Determinism
Date: Thursday, April 24, 1997 6:46PM

>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.

>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.


Hi Bob,

I haven't read the Times article, but it sounds like an interesting read.
In terms of language, I agree with Tim's earlier post that the importance
of language is wrapped up somehow in Kelly's sociality corollary. Kelly did
not delve into a philosophical discussion of language. Like Jim Mancuso
said in an earlier post, that may be an area of elaborating Kelly's theory,
which Kelly left open because the theory is offered as one to be elaborated.
From reading your post, much of your language sounds "representational."
It is a representational view of language that has come into question with
constructivism. Do the words we use accurately represent a "reality" out
there, or do we use language to construct that reality? As a critical
constructivist, I am not a representationalist, but I believe language helps
us negotiate with a "world" and helps us describe our subjective experiences
in such a way that we develop our self-construct that we use to describe our
identity. However, that self-construct is always in process (read Guidano
on the self in process). So the "self" is never finally known. What Gergen
says is that questions about the "self" or "mind" are no longer fruitful
questions because the phenomenological search for such things has played out
because of phenomenology's stress on individual knowledge. We need to ask
new questions souly in terms of language and relationships-- i.e. the social
rather than the individual. While I'm a non-justificationist and agree that
I was born into, live and learn in a "context", I don't know if I'm ready to
give up my view of being a "self in process" or as one possessing individual
knowledge. Hence, I believe Gergen would not agree with your
representationalist language. Tim Connor or Jim Mancuso-- help me out
here!!! I feel like I'm not explaining this very well!!!

------------------------- Original message header:
>RCPT TO:<jonesj@ur.SDState.Edu>
>Received: from by Fafhrd.SDState.Edu (AIX 3.2/UCB
> id AA11476; Thu, 24 Apr 1997 18:27:55 -0500
>Received: by id <>
> (8.7.x for; Thu, 24 Apr 1997 23:39:11 +0100 (BST)
>Received: from by id
> (8.7.x for with ESMTP; Thu, 24 Apr 1997 23:39:07
+0100 (BST)
>Received: from [] ([])
> by (8.8.5/8.8.5) with SMTP id SAA10829
> for <>; Thu, 24 Apr 1997 18:38:32 -0400 (EDT)
>Date: Thu, 24 Apr 1997 18:38:32 -0400 (EDT)
>Message-Id: <v01540b00af8551c029c3@[]>
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>From: (Robert Parks)
>Subject: Re: Structural Determinism
>X-Unsub: To leave, send text 'leave pcp'
> to
>Precedence: list
------------------------- End of message header.