Re: Faye Fransella's comments on biological determinism

Josh Soffer (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 00:33:51 -0600 (CST)

Jim Mancuso wrote: 
I'm not willing to make the  claim that heredity  has nothing to do
with behavior.
  ....genetic programming determines that a particular structure will
develop as a part of a person's body.
... some people, through genetic determination, develop the body
structure that we characterized as "female." As a result, for example,
the female's parents will explain her display of preparation for action
in the face of invalidation as "sadness;" whereas her brother's display
of preparation fraction will be explained as "anger."
...females, because of structure, are differentially susceptible to
stimulation that associated with penetration, whereas males are
selectively exposed to the stimulation that is provided by penetrating.
  Through the interplay of selective exposure and differential
susceptibility boys and girls will develop very different behaviors. 
It would be very easy to develop the assumption that these very
different behaviors are "inherited."
  Certainly, the gender associated behaviors are associated with
genetic factors, but the behaviors themselves are not inherited. "

Josh writes:

Are our sexual behaviors learned or inherited or both? What does this
dichotomy mean in the first place? I highly recommend "The Embodied
Mind" by Varela, Thompson and Rosch as an enlightening approach to this
issue. Francisco Varela is a familiar name to many in the
consrructivisrt community, and here he and his co-authors present a
radical alternative to the old dichotomy. They argue that it is no
longer tenable to "retain the organism and environment as separate pole
snad then to attempt to determine the "proportion" that is played by
each..this supposedly dead issue of anture versus nurture will actually
refuse to go away unless we learn to see organisms and environments as
mutually unfolded and enfolded structures. Susan Omaya explains

"What this means is not that genes and environment are necessary for all
characteristics, inherited or acquired ( the usual enlightened position)
but that there is no intelligible distinction between inherited
(biological, genetically based) and acquired (environmentally mediated)
characteristics...Once the distinction between the inherited and the
acquired has been eliminated, not only as extremes but even as a
continuum, evolution cannot be said to depend on the distinction. What
is required for evolutionary change is not genetically encoded as
opposed to acquired traits, but functioning developmental
systems;ecologically embedded genomes."

I think Kelly would applaud this solution , already formulated by
Piaget decades ago. Consistent with this view, sexual behaviors are
inherited, in the sense that if we consider the hisotry of m upbringing,
my autobiography, as a social-interpersonal inheritance, then that
personally constructed inheritance begins not only before my birth but
as a biogenetic milieu which itself must be see as continuous with my
ontic life. This is why I alrready come into the world gay or srtaight,
hot-tempered or passive, introverted or outgoing. This is not to say
that my biogenetic-social inheritance is not subtly altered and
transformed , thorugh my experiences , in its meaning for me at every
point in my development. But i already carry with me, and carry myself
through, a self-consistent gender and personality heritage from before
birth onward.
This pre-birth inheritance already brings me into the world framed via
one of an infinite possible varieties of gender proclivities and
stylistics, ranging from the most passive and yelding femininity to the
most impulsive and dominating masculinity (not to imply that
gender-sexual behavior falls into anything as restricitve as a single
continuum) . One's sexual tastes and choices, including the most general
preference related to active versus passive intercourse positions, is
centrally related to this infinite aesthetic-gender spectrum than to a
narrowly defined body shape. The origin of such diverse 'inherited'
proclivities is precisely as personally idiosyncratic as any of my
ontic constructions. "

Jim Mancus asks:

" How does one explain the "attractiveness" of sexual contact?
..." Humans (and other creatures) do inherit structure that, somehow,
stimulates the body's preparation for action in the presence of stimulus
input which is not readily integrated (cognized) by accessing the
person's existing construct system."
 "Starting with the newborn infant, who is constantly inundated with
stimulation that cannot be readily integrated by its very primitive
personal construct system: the newborn infant is constantly exposed to
stimulation that sets up preparation for effort.  For example, the
infant hears a loud noise and is aroused into effort which facilitates
developing constructions useful for integrating that input.  An
observer would classify the infant's overt signs of preparation for
efforts by construing it as startle reaction or fear reaction"
  "Most parents are aware that providing the infant with readily
integrated inputs will reduce preparation for effort by diverting the
infant's sensory activity to other sources of input. Close body contact,
which provides all kinds of input that the infant can integrate -- the
infant having been exposed to those inputs for a long time, including
during its prenatal period. (Since the parents' behavior is aimed at
providing comfort to the infant, their behavior can be construed using
the social construction love. Thus, we should see, sexual interaction
can com to be construed as a subordinate construction of love.)
  Thus, close body contact becomes a means of diverting a person from
non-integratable stimuli.  We can say that such body contact becomes
"cover stimulation."

Josh writes:

Are you understanding 'perparation for effort ' in Kellian terms, as the
fear itself, that is, the halting behavioral attempts at avoidance of
unassimilable experience? It seems to me these 'emotional' reactions are
not separate in any way from the fearful construing; they express and
mirror it, they further its aims, they are its language. Thus, if
fearful construing is, as Kelly tells us, the anticipation of the
impending failure to anticipate, then the preparatory effort you mention
is a defensive gesture aimed at retreat, withdrawal, constriction in the
face of imminent confusion.

But why should the pleasures of touch be linked so closely to such
crisis situations? Why is the joy of close body contact a 'diversion' ,
a word with negative connotations, implying escape, and relief? How is
the childhhood origin of sensory pleasure any different from the origin
of the pleasures of music or any other aesthetic art, or conceptual
discoveries , for that matter? All forms of stimulation, whether
tactile, gustatory, auditory or visual, are potentially pleasurable as
well as painful. But this is not due to something as simple as reflex
mechanisms or or pathways to industrial-strength 'pleasurte-centers' , a
quaint but outdated metaphor (I don't suggest that this is your belief).
They are pleasurable or painful in relation to their role in one's
construing activity as a whole, as a function of assimlatory
permeability. Intellectual and sensory enjoyment are always an
expression of learning, that is, the effective integrating of new
experience into one's meaning organization as a whole. All pleasure is
creative in that it involves an expanded embrace of the world of
meaning. i think of what you call cover stimulation not as diversion but
as intensification, expansion, embrace, not as escape from fearful
'preparatory effort' but as audacious exploration.

Josh Soffer: