Re: Faye Fransella's comments on biological determinism

Devi Jankowicz (
Thu, 21 Jan 1999 22:26:29 +0000

Dear Jim, and all.

>. In the end, through this interplay of body contact as "cover stimulation"
>that brings about a reduction of exposure to novel stimulation and the
>concommitant preparation for effort in the presence of other non-integratible
>stimuli, in conjunction with the presence of genetically determined body
>structure that is particularly sensitive to body contract, most people
>a propensity to construe sexual activity as pleasurable.

I found all the preceding material interesting and very plausible. But at
this point- the particular conclusion at which you arrive- I have to part

Is it easier to explain the pleasure of sexual stimulation in terms of
"pleasure centres", genetically wired in to brain structure; or (as
something which has to be _developed_) in terms of a (quasi-Pavlovian)
association between the body-contact behaviour designed to reduce
non-integrable stimuli, and genetically determined body structures which
ensure that _body-contact_ is the particular mechanism which reduces the
non-integrable stimuli?

Now, I can see how your suggestion is poised to take off into an entirely
plausible discussion of how integration / non-integration is a
proto-mechanism by which construing takes place- if I'm anticipating your
argument correctly!

However: Entia non multiplicanda sine necessitate.

You have yet to elaborate the reason why non-integrable stimuli are
noxious, and thereby to be avoided. Is that not also structural, i.e.
genetically determined? And isn't all the Olds & Milner stuff on pleasure
centres in some sense a more parsimonious explanation since it
accomodates both direct pleasure _and_ the avoidance of displeasure?

(Actually, I'm not sure: we could be talking about two sides of the same
coin here.)

And note: the stance I'm taking is _not_ genetically determinist: your
earlier comments about the ways in which apparently
genetically-determined processes are indeed a blend of genetic mechanisms
and early experience as the neonate engages in accomodative/assimilative
processes is entirely convincing!

What I _really_ think I'm saying is that the objection to my argument,
(viz; "but why is stimulation of a snippet of limbic tissue "pleasurable'
"), can also be levelled at your own explanation, thus: "but why is
avoidance of non-integrable stimulation 'pleasurable'. Both objections
are answered in the same kind of terms, involving a model of brain-mind
interaction which is beyond my humble scope to resolve seeing as it's
been a biggie for quite a few centuries (and to which the ascription of
"category error' is unsatisfying, somehow!)

So if this issue is a constant in both our attempts at a mechanism: why
not accept the simpler of the two?

Assuming that mine _is_ simpler. I _think_ it is... and personally I see
no difficulty in adding the subtle interactions with experience which you
outlined in the earlier part of your account. There again, perhaps we're
arguing about the wrong thing, and we should be paying attention to what
happens during the process through which _all_ living organisms
assimilate-accomodate past experience: which was the hint that Fay
Fransella was offering if I understood her rightly.