Re: Bannister (1981)

Brian Gaines (
Thu, 28 Aug 1997 16:01:27 -0700

> Perusal of the work of the social constructionists quickly gives
>indication that many of them have gone through the same kinds of
>ruminations.... One can end up feeling rather rudderless, because we
>come down to the same kind of issue that scholars have faced over
>thousands of years -- "Yes, our propositions represent our
>constructions, derived from the context in which we work -- including
>our personal construct systems. And, yes, we do want to convince others
>that our constructions have some kind of utility. But, how do we do it,
>if we realize that even our demonstrative methodologies represent
>socially valid systems of demonstrating the validity of our

This is a problem for all disciplines. Even foundational logicians find
they have to presuppose some basic logical ideas to describe the
foundations of such ideas. Wittgenstein tackled the issue through language
games and John Shotter has given a beautiful recent exposition in his book
"Conversational Realities."

One can distinguish (recursive) theories that are able to discuss their own
foundations (as opposed to needing some other theory to do so). One can
also distinguish (eclectic) theories that can explain other theories (as
opposed to being silent about matters outside their domain). One of PCP's
attractions is that it is recursive and eclectic, although it is not unique
in this respect. Another attraction is that Kelly developed it within a
framework of education and counseling with the intention that someone who
was not a PCP professional would be able to understand and use the
explanations (and find them palatable).

None of this means that PCP is right. The psychological universe may not be
amenable to recursive, eclectic theories and, even if it, the palatable
ones may be inherently misleading. However, given the choice we have over
our own constructions, a world in which such theories are generally
accepted, and hence reified, may be quite an attractive one both
scientifically and socially.