Re: brain, activity and experience

Josh Soffer (
Thu, 10 Dec 1998 03:39:00 -0600 (CST)

Is personal functioning to be understood as an interaction between
psychological, psychosocial and biological levels? What would this
imply? First of all, would not Kellian construing be more of a holistic
assimilatory elaboration than an interaction? What's the difference? The
difference is that whatever is the object of a construction elaborates
and transforms as a whole the system which couches and frames it.
According to this thinking, biological, psychological and psychosocial
would not be separate interacting realms but different ways of speaking
about the same dynamical process.

If we define a construct as a unique way in which two things are alike
and differ from a third, then what does this say about those entities
which we presume, using a language of 'harder' science, to comprise the
building blocks of constructs (neuro-chemical systems)? Must not the
organization of those building blocks also be beholden to, framed by,
the superordinate thematics of a construction system? And if not, why
not? if we say no, we could only justify our conclusion by referring to
the person-level and the physiological level as 'separate and
interacting'. But to do so, we have to be consistent and model
person-level dynamics in the same way, as an interaction of separate
constructs with each other. Doing this, we lose the holistic
organizational continuity of the construct system.

If instead we recognize that whatever level or language of mental
functioning we choose is beholden to a singular principle of meaning
organization, defined by Kelly, this is not to favor one 'level' over
another, but to recognize that to traverse from one language of meaning
to another doe not require that we violate the radical continuity that
Kelly's approach indicates. This principle does not apply strictly
within a domain like 'mind', as if only physiological subcomponents of
the cerebrum need to obey the dynamics of holism. After all, where does
the mind end and the bdy begin? Is it enough to say that the mind and
body are an intricate process of interaction, that the mind is embodied?
But to speak of mind and body this way brings us back to the same
problem we faced in thinking of the relationship between successive
constructs in a construct system as an interaction between separate
meanings rather than as a more radically integral holistic

Rather than treating different levels of description as different
domains, we can consider them as different levels of detail concerning a
single phenomenological domain, which is prior to and more fundamental
than either a psychological, a psychosocial or physiological mode of
description considered by itself. Viewing physiological processes as
constructive dynamics seen at an intimate level of focus allows us to
treat medical pathology in the same way that we think of psychological
pathology, i.e. as constructs of transition. The cancer that may be
revealed to be growing inside of me outside my direct 'awareness' of it
eventually comes to my attention via medical diagnosis. This does not
mean that this pathology should be treated as a phenomenon separate but
interacting with my conscious construing.

Rather, the cancer represents an intricate manifestation and furthering
of my constructive processes. It functions in no way 'outside of' the
viccissitudes of my meaning organization, which always already implies
the body in its genetic, neurochemical, epiphenomenal or multitude of
other foci of representation. This does not mean that I 'think' the
cancer into being as if mind dominates body, but that mind and body are
two levels of focus on the same process, so that even though my state of
'mind' is the condition and framer of the behavior and origin of the
actual cancer in my body, my knowledge of medical physiology is the only
language which will reveal the precisely detailed way in which this
framing manifests itself.

To say that the only way I can significantly affect this cancer with my
'mind' is to apply the latest medical body of knowledge is not to
bastardize the notion that medical pathology is a furthering of the
person's construct system as a whole just as is any other meaning. The
orign of medical as well as psychological pathology is emergent from
within the integral coninuity of my constructive processes. This has to
be so if the body and the mind already imply each other at each point in
construing. This is why I like Jim Mancuso's articulation of illness as
an imput to be construed by the person. The person represents a holistic
onging totality framing the meaning of that which impinges on it in such
a way as to simultaneously account for genetic, physiological or
psychological levels of description.

Is there a mode of representation outside of my reflection? There is in
the narrow sense that there are languages of description besides that
of self-referential reports of feeling states. But in a more general
sense, there is and could be no realm of meaning outside of relfection,
if by reflection we mean a holistically self-transforming referentiality
which generates not only our subjective self-reports but all of our
so-called objective emprical bio-medical descriptions of ourselves.