Re: Monistic Perspective...

Devi Jankowicz (
Fri, 20 Feb 98 00:01:33 +0000

Jim Mancuso writes:

>Ana Almeida wrote a message appealing to the hallowed idea of monism.
>Indeed, the psychological functioning operates with a biological system.
>Obviously, we need to be sure that what we say about psychological =
processes takes that
>agreed upon construct into account.
> I will, however, quote two psychologists for whom I have great =
respect --
>Donald Hebb said something like, "We should never make a psychological
>statement that is at odds with what we know about physiology and anatomy."
>Ulrich Neiseer said something like, "Psychology is not something to do =
>the physiologist comes along."

All of which makes great sense. But I'd like to add a gloss to that, =
which I've taken from Don Bannister and Fay Fransella, (chapter 1 or =
2 of "Inquiring Man") though I can't honestly remember whether they =
put the same emphasis on it that I do.

Namely, if you go back to basics and look at the fundamental =
postulate, dammit, Kelly's careful to specify: "A person=B9s =
processes are _psychologically_ channelised by the ways in which he =
anticipates events", my emphasis on the "psychologically".

And the "gloss" which I have in mind is as follows.

If we want to enquire about the way a person's _neurological_ systems =
are organised to account for what people experience and do, we'll =
find it helpful to talk about neural representation, localisation =
versus diffusion, arousal, control systems and the like, as our =
organising principles.

If we want to enquire about the way our _biological_ systems are =
organised, we'll go a long way towards understanding people when we =
talk about endocrine activity, hormonal secretion, the way in which =
immediate autonomic nervous system action is extended through a =
variety of hormonal mechanisms, and so on.

But if we enquire about human experience and action in =
_psychological_ terms as distinct from neurological or biological =
terms, it's most fruitful if we talk about the mechanisms whereby =
people anticipate events.

In other words, I understand Kelly to be putting an emphasis on the =
word "psychological- as distinct from- biological, neurological", or =
whatever, in the fundamental postulate. That's not to deny the value =
of biological or neurological enquiry in understanding human =
behaviour etc.; it's rather to stress that psychology as a discipline =
is _not_ to do with biology or neurology.

And so Kelly's rejection of "motivation", to name but one constituent =
of "chapter-heading" psychology, makes perfect sense to me. The =
concept makes great sense if one's wedded to a Hullian =
energy-plus-direction organising system: biology and neurology =
together can be used to account for energy, one's basic level of =
Drive; and neurology, after a fashion, for direction. Psychology then =
becomes the way in which we translate the two into a language of =
behaviour (quite well!) and experience (not very well!). But is that =
explanation good enough?

You see, I _don't_ believe that Kelly is entirely quietist. I don't =
understand him to be saying, simply, that one chooses an explanatory =
system (biological, neurological, or psychological) depending on the =
phenomena to be explained and one's purposes in explaining them. He =
does, I feel, say that his system is _better_ adjusted to understand =
certain questions than other explanatory systems.

For example, in looking at motivational issues, we might grant the =
biologists pre-eminence in explaining _energy_ (cortical arousal with =
a dash of hormonal secretions): but if we want to explain =
_direction_, then the notion of a construct system which models =
phenomena and evolves in order to improve the accuracy of the =
predictions to which the model leads, seems a much _better_ way of =
accounting for direction than Hullian notions of habit strength, =
fractional anticipatory goal responses (ah! remember little-r Gs?!) =
and so on.

Thus, in "ignoring motivation", what Kelly's doing is to say that =
he's not interested in energy (the biologists and neurologists can =
handle that bit very nicely thank you): but he _is_ very interested =
in dealing with _direction_. That's where the excitement lies.

Does the above make any sense? I dunno, but it has always seemed =
useful to me!

Kind regards,

Devi Jankowicz