Re: Aesthetics, PCP and broaders issues in general.

Charles Smith (
Tue, 19 May 1998 20:52:51 +0100

At 17:23 18-5-98 -0500, you wrote:
>A short one, this time. Jim Mancuso wrote:
>One of the underlying constraints on wider use of personal construct
>psychology in efforts to interpret a broader range of issues, I believe,
>stems from the reluctance of personal construct psychologists to branch
>into areas other than those traditionally assigned to the roles of
>applied psychologist. One of our colleagues on the net recently pointed
>out, for example, that there have been very few efforts to use personal
>construct psychology to discuss political issues.
>In another context, someone questioned my constant use of personal
>construct psychology as I discussed an issue about which we were
>exchanging ideas. My response was along the line that if one could
>discuss all kinds of human conduct in terms of psychoanalytic
>constructions, why have we not succeeded in creating the conditions in
>which the constructions of personal construct psychology are equally
>I agree -as long as we avoid what psychoanalysis seems to do: talking about
>everything while saying actually nothing! (Has anybody read Freud's articles
>on crowd psychology?) I guess we should better define our system rather than
>extend it.
Firstly, I personally think you are a bit dismissive of psychoanalysis. The
discourse promulgated by Freud, of the individual freely constructing his or
her identity (ego) in a socially constrained world, has pervaded
psychological thinking throughout the 20th century, both popular and
academic, and including PCP.

Concerning PCP and particularly aesthetics, Kelly's claimed focus of
convenience for his theory was on enabling individuals to restructure their
past, so a reasonable use of PCP would be to help those with obviously bad
taste to change it. (Perhaps Devi might volunteer his love for Newcastle
United Football Club as a test bed for treatment. I'm sure he could be cured.)

If we look for a wider value of PCP, most theories of aesthetics, from Plato
onwards, are basically associationist, so in principle you can use PCP to
analyse the connections in my aesthetic constructs, finding perhaps that I
connect Van Gogh's use of perspective with the futility of life, or the
taste of red wine with rasberries. But this is superficial (providing no
explanations of why I make these associations) and purely verbal. I cannot
explain the impact on me of the slow movement of Brahms' Bb string quartet.
It relates to something pre-verbal and intangible.

Lacan (a post-Freudian theoriser) talks of signifier-signified chains, in
which words, of course, are socially based, and always signifiers of
something else. Thus, if I could speak of what the Brahms signified, then
that word itself would only be another signifier. At the end of the chain,
the signified is lost, or so knotted with the signifier that it cannot be
separately expressed. And discussing music in terms of this verbal chain
sends the question of its significance along a route of social meanings
which may not be helpful. This theory tells me nothing about my taste - but
at least it explains why all theories of taste are ultimately speculative.

I don't know if this helps. In principle I'm saying that I think PCP can
(and should) form a basis to examine the overt, tangible and verbal aspects
of wider issues such as aesthetics as they affect the individual, but it
can't address the more fundamental questions.

Charles Smith