Re: Jankowicz as a biological determinist re talking about sex

Devi Jankowicz (
Tue, 19 Jan 1999 23:28:54 +0000

dear Jim and all

> Since Devi seems to have objected to my having inferred that he might be
>moving toward adopting a biological deteminist position, I went back to check
>on his message about paramecia, etc., to explore the reasons why I made that
> In reviewing DEvi's post, I must have concluded that since Devi had
>outlined the phylogentic history of talking about sex, he was suggesting that
>we inherited the motivation to discuss sex through the long chain of
> Sorry, Devi.

No, it was a joke characterisation of a half-plausible notion. And then
when you took me seriously I got cold feet!

But. But but but. Does anyone here remember the _Journal of
Irreproducible Results_, and the _Journal of Partly-Baked Ideas_? One of
the functions of the former was to challenge the dominant orthodoxy- (to
provide satire without the humour, as it were). If I were to run further
with this quarter-baked suggestion about why people talk about sex so
much, (*),
is there a PCP orthodoxy with respect to which I would be challenged? Is
there an implicit understanding that biological determinists can't be

Probably so: there's no doubt a large number of implications in
biological determinism, of which I'm ignorant, which aren't consistent
with a constructivist analysis of the kind that Jim's making. So the
problem remains mine, in joking about my dabbling with biological

Now; suppose I'd put the same explanation forward but talked about it in
constructivist terms? I've learn a great deal from previous conversations
in the pcp mailing list about pre-verbal construing, and about
behaviour-as-construing; not least from earlier stuff that Jim has
posted. Suppose I'd talked in terms of the ways in which a species
construes its alternatives; or the ways in which genetic structures
construe alternative possibilities in going from genotype to phenotype?

I for one would have got off on the notion of agency and personhood which
I suspect would have followed and which (for someone in the field of
organisational behaviour like myself, in which organisations are regarded
as entities with _agency_) involves a lot of very live issues. All of
which is surely involved in any discussion of the ways in which systems
can be said to distinguish amongst alternatives and hence, in some sense,

Kind regards,


(*) For anyone who didn't see the original exchnage and who wonders what
the hell I'm talking about (and I seem to need the reminder myself!)
here's what I wrote:

>Well, if you accept that every successful species has evolved behaviour
>which contributes to its survival, and that humans are a species which
>develops, builds, and exchanges constructs through language- then _of
>course_ we're going to talk about it!
>The birds and the bees are comparably sociable, so if they had language,
>you can bet your life they'd talk about it too.
>Paramecia aren't social in this regard, and don't have language. (But I
>bet they think about cell-division _a lot_, when they're not doing it...)
>(Sorry, couldn't resist. Am I turning into a biological determinist?)