Re: brain, activity and experience

Mancuso, James C. (
Tue, 08 Dec 1998 17:03:49 -0500 wrote:
(among other observations about )

> Jim Mancuso's long reply to Tony Downing is a long (!) reply.
> Now, there's a problem here. Indeed, Jim is right: We cannot say that
> the misfunctioning brain is the entity that produced the unusual
> constructions. And Jim makes an interesting hypothesis about brain
> misfunctioning: they produce "messed up inputs' which "THE PERSON" needs
> to construe. Although it is interested to consider that malfunctioning
> brains mess up inputs, Jim introduces a very troubling dichtomy between
> "the brain/messed up inputs" on the one hand, and "THE PERSON" on the
> other.

Keep in mind that Tony gave the example of the sufferer being able to construe
his condition in neurological terms. Thus, I assume, that Tony allowed that
the person's brain, aside from the specific malfunction he described, was
functioning reasonably well. (Of course, I am willing to take all of this a
"what if," etc..)

> Is not the process by which persons produce constructions of
> inputs not as much a biological process as it is a psychological,
> social or cultural one? To say that the brain does this (messes up
> the inputs) and the person does that (construes them) runs the very
> real danger of thinking of the person as a type of disembodied
> Cartesian-like mind! There is simply no reason to assume that
> malfunctioning brains do not mess with the construction process itself
> as well as with the inputs to that construction process!

When I said "the person" tries to construe, I was avoiding saying, "The
person, as a psychological system, tries to construe. At other times, when I
have referred to "the psychological system," colleagues have castigated me by
saying, "Why not say, the person???" I would rather say, "The functioning
personal construct system attempts to build constructions which can assimilate
the 'messed up inputs.'"
Will you allow me to say that.
And, of course, that involves the neural system -- including the brain.
But, I assumed that the personal construct system (involving the neural
system) was functioning reasonably well, as I pointed out above.

After reproducing my following material

> > Again, referring to your example, do you think it would be possible to
> >have the "schizophrenic" develop suitable, acceptable constructions upon
> >his/her being told that his/her unacceptable constructions derived from
> >improper dopamine functioning? Think how effective that might be, if it
> >were possible!! No more "psychotropic drugs, etc. And, how about
> >depressives. Let's run an experiment. Tell them that their depression
> >comes from blocked upper, metastasis of the lower renal channels of the
> >left kidney. Would that be as effective of telling a Cargas syndrome
> >person that his problems derive from some kind of messed up neurology?
> >I doubt it. The depressive derives his troublesome constructions as a
> >way of helping him/her to construe some kind of input.. What is the
> >input that he/she is trying to construe???? Personal failure, according
> >to a set of standards that his social surround has built into his
> >personal construct system????? Perhaps the inputs derive from a change
> >in potassium (or whatever) levels that he/she interprets as "being
> >tired." "I always feel tired because I HAVE a depression!!!" (You see, I
> >would not exclude anatomical/physiological considerations. But, from my
> >perspective, those parameters did not CAUSE the depression.
> >Experiencing depression is just that =96 EXPERIENCING DEPRESSION; that is
> >CONSTRUING THE SELF AS DEPRESSED. Will drugs help? Perhaps for some
> >people who EXPERIENCE DEPRESSION on account of altered inputs due to
> >some kind of physical condition. But, does everyone who EXPERIENCES
> >DEPRESSION use that construction to account for an altered biological
> >state??

Michael goes on to say:

> I think that there is a problem here. There are multiple levels
> of "experiencing depression." Let me call the subjective experience
> and reflective experience (not a precise distinction, I'm sure).
> Jim defines experience as "reflective"--it involves a self-conscious
> turning of one's attention to one's private and bodily states and
> applying a conscious, even linguistically-mediated meaning to "account
> for" and "explain" the inputs. And so if he'd like to say that there
> are many ways of "explaining" or "construing" one's bodily state
> as depression, fatigue, etc., he's certainly right. But it is also
> meaningful to speak of subjective experience. I need not be able to
> construct a conscious aware "that I am depressed" or "that I am tired"
> to experiences a syndrome of actions or states. For example, I can
> experience the bodily aspects of what we call "tired," "lack of
> motivation," "lack of will," "feeling devalued" etc. without construing
> reflectively that syndrome as "depression" "fatigue" or the light.
> In short, there is subjective experience and reflections on that
> experience. It is a mistake to say that the only type of experience is
> reflective. Constructive processes figure prominently in both types
> of experiences. Biological processes figure promnently in both
> types of experiences as well. There can indeed be funky stuff going
> on with my serotonin that contributes to my subjective and bodily
> experience of what we call "feeling tired" or "lethargic" or
> "unmotivated" without my ability to reflect upon those subjective
> experiences.
> We need ways of embracing the mutuality of biogenetic, psychological,
> and sociocultural processes without reducing human activity to
> any of these systems or "levels."

I think that Michael knows that I would agree fully with what he says. I see
no problem here. When I say that the person is "experiencing depression" I,
indeed, was referring to a conscious, verbal signification covered by the term
"depression" -- the kind of signification that results from the person having
been subjected to a steady barrage of the "drpression" formulations advanced
by the mental health establishment (which has available armaments, including
My point is, one does not need to construe the changed, unusual, different,
etc.inputs from body states as "drpression."

James C. Mancuso        Dept. of Psychology
15 Oakwood Place        University at Albany
Delmar, NY 12054        1400 Washington Ave.
Tel: (518)439-4416      Albany, NY 12222
A website dedicated to a personal view of Per-
sonal Construct Psychology