A Modest Suggestion

[From Bruce Buchanan (940907.20:10 EDT)]

Some recent discussion leads me to make "a modest suggestion", which I must
preface with some background. In various GSG publications the thesis of PCT
has been stated in the form that, "to an organism, the environment exists
_only_ as perceptions", and that "organisms act to control their own
perceptions". Bill Powers, Tom Bourbon and Rick Marken have all, I think,
stated the PCT thesis in this "strong" form. And this form of statement
may provide the kind of challenge needed for students and others to really
think through the meaning of PCT. On the other hand, some recent
discussion suggests this might be open to discussion . . .

Bill Powers (940905.0830 MDT) writes:

Basically perceptual signals are the world as we experience it. When we
act on the world (or our relationship to it) we alter the physical
world, and hence the perceptual signals that represent it.

Martin Taylor 940906 18:00 -

In one sense, . . .the control system has no
access to the world except through its perceptual signals. But in another
sense, the world can "blindside" you; and the problem that presents to the
organism is to survive. That, surely is THE problem, from which the problem
of controlling perceptions derives. One must survive in order to control
perceptions, and one must control perceptions in order to survive.
But attempts to control perceptions are not enough, because you can be killed
by things you don't perceive at all . . .

Avery Andrews 940907.1632 -

In general, it seems to me that what we perceive is mostly there, and
there as we perceive it - it's just that an infinite amount of stuff
is left out - an infinite amount that we can find out more about by
means scientific instrumentation, and maybe even more that is in
principle hidden from us. . . .

So the suggestion is offered (without much obvious humility) as follows:

In view of the fact that what we perceive is a function of the world as
well as of the perceptual apparatus, perhaps behavior may alternatively
and reasonably be described as Control of _What We Perceive_.

_What We Perceive_ is undeniably a function of the perceiver, but it is not
_only_ that. It is also a function of what is perceived, and it may both
clarify understanding and and facilitate wider acceptance of PCT to
acknowledge that fact.

Others may have had similar thoughts and perhaps made statements to similar
effect. There does seem to be recognition that control systems cannot be
adequately conceived as systems in isolation.

I am not unaware of the subtlety and complexity of the questions involved.
An immense philosophical and psychological literature has been concerned
with such issues. According to Mortimer Adler (in "Ten Philosophical
Mistakes"), Locke and Hume greatly sidetracked realistic understanding in
holding the false notion that perceptions (and words and ideas) refer only
to mental representations, i.e. are essentially subjective. But our
perceptions cannot be only of mental representations, or of our own ideas
per se. Perceptions cannot be entirely subjective. They must involve
objects, which may be various kinds. To most perceptual objects we ascribe
existence - as concrete physical objects or validated conceptual
entities/theories, etc. - although we can also understand memories,
imagined or fictional objects, etc.

The notion that our direct experience is _only_ of our own internal mental
representations has led to many apparent mysteries: e.g. how we can know
or prove the existence of the external world, etc. However, the fact is
that when we consider and talk about percepts or concepts, etc., we usually
trust that we are talking about things in the Real World Out There - to our
peril if we are much mistaken.

As Avery Andrews put it (in the same post as quoted above):

The point is basically that if we aren't confident about the truth of basic
psychophysics, we're not going to be right about anything.

To believe otherwise is to try to live in two worlds with no bridge between
them. According to Adler, Locke and Descartes both made this mistake, with
which the modern world is still living.

Part of the problem which leads to this mistake also involves a failure to
recognize the distinction between two very different aspects or categories
of experience both described as Perception. We include
(1) perceptions which for each of us in daily life are the subjective
phenomena which we experience directly, as in sensory impressions,
unverbalized awarenesss of objects, of other persons and their feelings,
etc. etc.; and
(2) perceptions which we objectify and ascribe to an external world, which
we mostly conceptualize as we have learned to do through science, but also
other dimensions of language/literature and culture.

Working perceptions include both. Perceptions as direct experiences relate
us to the world. We use words to refer to both direct experience, as well
as to the percepts and theoretical constructs derived from direct
experience, without always being aware that there is a difference. For
Locke, words signified only the mental representations. Such a view is not
adequate, however, for the basic and consensually valid or public meanings
of language refer to things that exist for us all in our common world - the
Reality Out There, whatever it is - that we experience directly.

This account of mine, of course, is based upon my own (fallible)
understanding. It may be too highly condensed and summarized here to be
understood by anyone not already somewhat familiar with the issues at
stake. In any case, the foregoing considerations are intended to present my
rationale for the suggestion that (to repeat):

  In view of the fact that what we perceive is a function of the world as well
  as of the perceptual apparatus, perhaps behavior may reasonably be described
  as Control of _What We Perceive_.

  What We Perceive is undeniably a function of the perceiver, but it is not
  _only_ that. It is also a function of what is perceived, and it may both
  clarify and facilitate understanding of PCT to acknowledge that fact.

This is no doubt a point that has been thoroughly discussed in the past,
and I would be glad of any specific reference if available. It may well be
that I have a basic misunderstanding of PCT and epistemology. If this is
so, a discussion of the above suggestion will undoubtedly help to set me
straight!

Cheers!

Bruce B.

[From Hugh Petrie {940908.9:00 EDT}]

(Bruce Buchanan (940907.20:10 EDT) says, in summary

···

=====================

In any case, the foregoing considerations are intended to present my
rationale for the suggestion that (to repeat):

In view of the fact that what we perceive is a function of the world as well
as of the perceptual apparatus, perhaps behavior may reasonably be described
as Control of _What We Perceive_.

What We Perceive is undeniably a function of the perceiver, but it is not
_only_ that. It is also a function of what is perceived, and it may both
clarify and facilitate understanding of PCT to acknowledge that fact.

This is no doubt a point that has been thoroughly discussed in the past,
and I would be glad of any specific reference if available. It may well be
that I have a basic misunderstanding of PCT and epistemology. If this is
so, a discussion of the above suggestion will undoubtedly help to set me
straight!

=================

As a long-time PCTer, but mostly observer of the list, I think Bruce has
captured the epistemology very well. In earlier years in conversations
with Bill Powers, I tried as did Don Campbell, not nearly so elegantly as
Bruce, to convince Bill of what we then called, I think, critical realism.

Generally, my suspicion is that Bill, Rick, and Tom for the most part
accept the kinds of formulations Bruce has given, but interestingly, every
once in awhile, they feel it necessary to add a caveat here or there. I
think that this "not-quite-full-agreement" is most interesting in terms of
what it may tell us about the different reference signals at work and just
where and how perceptions of "realism" of one form or another cause or fail
to cause disturbances to those reference signals.

I will be interested to see the responses to Bruce's thoughtful post.

P.S. As a piece of good news that may be of interest to the general list, a
proposal on PCT, including demonstrations, has been accepted for
presentation to the American Educational Research Association conference
next April in San Francisco. This same proposal was black-balled last time
around. Bill Powers, Gary Cziko, Ed Ford, Dag Forssell and I will be
presenting. It's a huge conference, over 7000 attendees, but if we can get
even a few to, as I put it in the letter transmitting the proposal, to
"look through the telescope" who knows what new mountains on the moon might
be seen.

===========+++++++++++===========***********===========+++++++++++===========

Hugh G. Petrie 716-645-2491
367 Baldy Hall FAX: 716-645-2479
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260
USA prohugh@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu

Tom Bourbon [940908.0848]

[From Bruce Buchanan (940907.20:10 EDT)]

Some recent discussion leads me to make "a modest suggestion" . . ..

. . .

In view of the fact that what we perceive is a function of the world as
well as of the perceptual apparatus, perhaps behavior may alternatively
and reasonably be described as Control of _What We Perceive_.

An interesting suggestion, Bruce, and not at all out of the "mainstream" of
PCT. In our modeling I believe we have always drawn distinctions among "all
that is outside," "the part of what is outside that affects our
perceptions," and "those of our perceptions which we control." Those
distinctions may not always be obvious during discussions here on csg-l, but
they are very much part of our thinking and they are essential to PCT
modeling.

I must go to the lab and will defer additional comments until later today,
except for one brief remark. You quoted Avery:

"As Avery Andrews put it. . . :

The point is basically that if we aren't confident about the truth of basic
psychophysics, we're not going to be right about anything."

The "truth of psychophysics" must refer to the data and theories produced by
the first branch of experimental psychology, established by Gustav Fechner,
who developed the first experimental methods for studying people as
stimulus-response, cause-effect creatures. The truths of psychophysics are
S-R truths, from which the psychophysicist draws inferences about perception.
It follows that psychophysical theories are grounded in inferences drawn
from S-R data. Psychophysics is like physics is like PCT: each is a source
of models about the world we believe is behind some aspect or other of our
perceptual experiences.

More later,

Tom

<[Bill Leach 940908.21:13 EST(EDT)]

[Bruce Buchanan (940907.20:10 EDT)]

In view of the fact that what we perceive is a function of the world as
well as of the perceptual apparatus, perhaps behavior may alternatively
and reasonably be described as Control of _What We Perceive_.

_What We Perceive_ is undeniably a function of the perceiver, but it is
not _only_ that. It is also a function of what is perceived, and it may
both clarify understanding and and facilitate wider acceptance of PCT
to acknowledge that fact.

Maybe it is not obvious to everyone but I honestly don't feel that one
can pursue PCT for very long without coming to the conclusion that
"Behaviour is the control of perception" means that the perception is
"internal" and is influenced by "reality".

The recent posting by Martin concerning "blindsiding" points out that
much confusion in PCT discussions can result when the focus of the
viewpoint is that of the observer as opposed to the observer recognizing
that the observer's perceptions of the subject's perceptions is the
issue. Acknowleding this forces one to recognize that the observers
perceptions are likely not too accurate to the task.

Right, wrong or indifferent, I still get the feeling that you are mixing
"conscious perception" with perception in general. While there is much
that applies equally to both, conscious perception has no special claim
to being more important from an operational standpoint.

I'm not saying that well... Suppose that someone burns their hand on an
electric burner and for whatever reason, denies the burn. That is, their
real conscious perception is that they were not burned. The burn is
still real, and there is still a real perception of a burn. The body
will still do the things that is does to control for minimum damage.

-bill

Modesty probably won't get you far here :slight_smile:
Courtesy is another matter (and of course you certainly don't lack for
any of that!)

[From Bruce Buchanan (940908.22:30)]

Tom Bourbon [940908.0848] wrote:

[From Bruce Buchanan (940907.20:10 EDT)]

Some recent discussion leads me to make "a modest suggestion" . . ..

An interesting suggestion, Bruce, and not at all out of the "mainstream" of
PCT. In our modeling I believe we have always drawn distinctions among "all
that is outside," "the part of what is outside that affects our
perceptions," and "those of our perceptions which we control." . . .

I think I understand this response by Tom, and yet I do not want to be
misunderstood. My title of "a modest suggestion" was intended as ironic
(recall Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" for the solution of the Irish
Problem, which was really extreme!). My suggestion was not primarily one
of clarification of PCT per se, but for a strategy of education and wider
public perception, which seem to me likely to benefit from more specific
emphasis on the control not of perception alone but of _What Is Perceived_.

It is on this point that I hoped there might be some discussion.

You quoted Avery:

"As Avery Andrews put it. . . :

The point is basically that if we aren't confident about the truth of basic
psychophysics, we're not going to be right about anything."

The "truth of psychophysics" must refer to the data and theories produced by
the first branch of experimental psychology, established by Gustav Fechner,
who developed the first experimental methods for studying people as
stimulus-response, cause-effect creatures. The truths of psychophysics are
S-R truths . . .

I will, of course, defer to Avery Andrews to clarify his own meaning.
However, I did not understand his use of word psychophysics as a reference
to Fechner's theories, perhaps because I thought those theories had more to
do with the relation of physical stimulus to sensation at a very primary
input level (nor did I relate his work to S-R psychology) and in any case
would not be of the determining importance which Avery had in mind. I took
Avery's intended meaning as a first premise about the basic relation of
mind to a real external world. As I say, I stand to be corrected.

Thanks for the comments!

Cheers.

Bruce B.

[From Bruce Buchanan (940908.22:30)]

Tom Bourbon [940908.0848] wrote:

[From Bruce Buchanan (940907.20:10 EDT)]

Some recent discussion leads me to make "a modest suggestion" . . ..

And you went on to say, Bruce:

"So the suggestion is offered (without much obvious humility) as follows:

In view of the fact that what we perceive is a function of the world as
well as of the perceptual apparatus, perhaps behavior may alternatively
and reasonably be described as Control of _What We Perceive_."

"_What We Perceive_ is undeniably a function of the perceiver, but it is not
_only_ that. It is also a function of what is perceived, and it may both
clarify understanding and and facilitate wider acceptance of PCT to
acknowledge that fact."

An interesting suggestion, Bruce, and not at all out of the "mainstream" of
PCT. In our modeling I believe we have always drawn distinctions among "all
that is outside," "the part of what is outside that affects our
perceptions," and "those of our perceptions which we control." . . .

I think I understand this response by Tom, and yet I do not want to be
misunderstood. My title of "a modest suggestion" was intended as ironic
(recall Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" for the solution of the Irish
Problem, which was really extreme!). My suggestion was not primarily one
of clarification of PCT per se, but for a strategy of education and wider
public perception, which seem to me likely to benefit from more specific
emphasis on the control not of perception alone but of _What Is Perceived_.

I understand you. However, I believe it can be misleading to say that
behavior is the control of "what is perceived," just as I believe it can be
misleading to say, or imply, behavior is the control of "all perception."
We select which perceptions we will control, so a phrasing that might be
less likely to mislead is, "we behave to control selected perceptions, but
we perceive more than we control."

In your earlier post, you went on to say:

"_What We Perceive_ is undeniably a function of the perceiver, but it is not
_only_ that. It is also a function of what is perceived, and it may both
clarify understanding and and facilitate wider acceptance of PCT to
acknowledge that fact."

Yes, but our perception is on the output side of the input function and
_on that side of the function_ nothing remains of the world on the other
side. It seems to me the particular manner in which, at any given moment, a
perception is a function of what is on the other side of the input function
is unknown to the perceiver. If that is so, then we know and control the
perceptions, not the world on the other side of the input function.

Perhaps you could suggest ways to test your ideas in functioning PCT models.
For example, how might we represent in a PCT model the idea that a
perception is a function both of some feature of the perceiver _and_ of
"what is perceived?" Right now, all of the ways I can imagine to represent
that idea end up looking like the representations of the world, input
functions, and perceptual signals, in existing PCT models. I welcome any
suggstions for alternate representations.

You quoted Avery:

"As Avery Andrews put it. . . :

The point is basically that if we aren't confident about the truth of basic
psychophysics, we're not going to be right about anything."

The "truth of psychophysics" must refer to the data and theories produced by
the first branch of experimental psychology, established by Gustav Fechner,
who developed the first experimental methods for studying people as
stimulus-response, cause-effect creatures. The truths of psychophysics are
S-R truths . . .

I will, of course, defer to Avery Andrews to clarify his own meaning.
However, I did not understand his use of word psychophysics as a reference
to Fechner's theories, perhaps because I thought those theories had more to
do with the relation of physical stimulus to sensation at a very primary
input level

That is a common interpretation of Fechner, but he is a victim of rather
early revisions (read misunderstandings) of his work. He wrote explicitly
on the idea that an experimenter might want to learn more about a subject's
perceptions of the world, but that as part of the subject's world all the
experimenter can know and manipulate are environmental stimuli. On the
other side, all the experimenter can know about the subject is the subject's
behavior. The experimenter begins by wanting to learn about the person's
perceptions of the world and ends up knowing only the person's reactions to
the experimenter's manipulations of parts of the world. Fechner said
that and he called the relationship between stimulation and behavior "outer
psychophysics." He went on to say that _anything_ the experimenter concludes
about the subject's perceptions is necessarily by way inferences drawn from
observations in outer psychophysics.

Fechner also wrote about the emerging studies in sensory and behavioral
physiology, where scientists were discovering relationships between
environmental stimuli and sensory physiology, and between motor physiology
and behavior. He referred to the relationship between environmental
stimuli, intervening physiology, and behavioral response as "inner
psychophysics." He believed that even when inner psychophysics was fully
developed, the experimenter would still be left drawing inferences about
the subject's peceptions, which cannot be observed and measured by the
experimenter.

The idea that psychophysics is about the direct measurement of
relationships between stimulation and sensation, perhaps with an
intervening dose of sensory physiology, is mistaken, but it was a mistake
made very early by experimental psychologists. The so-called "sensory
thresholds" measured by way of Fechner's psychophysical methods are
_whole-person_ associations between stimuli and responses.

(nor did I relate his work to S-R psychology)

Hardly anyone does, but that is a result of the rather shoddy quality of
most historical writing in the behavioral sciences, where Fechner's work is
misinterpreted. Classical psychophysics is about the results one obtains by
using carefully-defined procedures for discovering associations between
antecedent stimuli and consequent responses.

and in any case
would not be of the determining importance which Avery had in mind. I took
Avery's intended meaning as a first premise about the basic relation of
mind to a real external world.

I thought that was the way you took Avery's meaning; I took him the same way.
What I was trying to say was that if we were to take psychophysics as it was
presented by Fechner, its originator and its most careful advocate, we would
discover that it could not support that first premise. Instead, we would
discover that, like the fields of physics and psychology from which Fechner
derived its name, psychophysics is another source of data from which one may
construct models to represent our experiences of part of the-world-as-such.

Psychophysics does not provide direct information about how mind (sensation)
is related to or determined by physics (the environment). Psychophysics
is a source of theories and models, as in the various theories intended to
make interpretable the data on sensory thresholds. _Everything_ the
psychophysicist says about the subject's perceptions is by way of inference.

I hope this overly-long discourse helps clarify my original reply you, and
through you to Avery.

Later,

Tom

[From Bruce Buchanan (940910.13:45 EDT)]

Tom Bourbon (940909.17:27 CST) writes:

I believe it can be misleading to say that
behavior is the control of "what is perceived," just as I believe it can be
misleading to say, or imply, behavior is the control of "all perception."

I do not disagree that various interpretations of intended meanings are
possible ;-). However, speaking as a relative newcomer to PCT and the
group, I may have more of the untutored perspective of the naive reader. On
that basis I would offer two comments:

(1) When I first read of Behavior as Control of Perception, my impression
was that the subject was perhaps control of the perceptual _process_ itself
or all of whatever goes on in perception. I quickly learned, of course,
that what were being described were mostly particular perceptions, such as
were amenable to specific controls, although higher levels were also
hypothesized.

(2) I then thought that, if behavior meant the control of items of
perception _as such_, that there was a kind of solipsism involved which was
quite unacceptable on the face of it. I think many persons who might
possibly become interested in PCT may stop at this point, not understanding
PCT but believing it to be an unsupportable idea. (After all, there are
many kooky ideas out there, and not time to examine them all!)

I found myself intrigued, however, because of a lifelong interest in
cybernetics and a much higher than average awareness, in part due to
training in psychiatry, of the absolute way in which we all construct our
ideas and the meanings of our worlds according to our own perceptions. So I
pushed on. And now I take my own relative inexperience with the internal
culture of the PCT group as my peculiar authority to make comments as to
how it may seem to some outsiders - which is really not news, I know. But
I think it may be more important for the understanding and acceptance of
PCT than may be recognized.

Some of the comments on my "modest suggestion" made by others so far have
been of a type well explained by PCT, and long familiar to me personally,
both as phenomena of resistance (in psychotherapy) and typical behavior of
government bureaocracies i.e. explaining why things are the way they are,
why they are appropriate, and why they could not be otherwise.

Now let me comment more specifically on Tom's current post.

In my view, to say that behavior is control of _What Is Perceived_ does not
imply _all_ of what is perceived, nor do I think that can be held to be a
necessary or valid inference. The word What carries (for me anyway) a
designative implication, indicating some item or thing, not ordinarily a
totality, although obviously differing interpretations, such as Tom's, can
happen!

We select which perceptions we will control, so a phrasing that might be
less likely to mislead is, "we behave to control selected perceptions, but
we perceive more than we control."

Indeed we do. (Of course we are also looking for a very brief phrase which
can epitomize a thesis in a way that does not require qualifications, which
is part of the problem of saying Behavior is the Control of Perception - it
is too brief to be understood properly.) However, we not only behave to
control selected perceptions but, at the same time, control what we have
selected to perceive.

And of course we perceive more than we control. We focus on items _within a
context_ which we perceive at the same time. In addition, at the same
instant, we may be flooded with the memories and emotions aroused by both
items and context, any or all of which may set many dimensions of response
readiness.
The ongoing reciprocal dynamics mean that in many ways the tumult of
external and internal perceptions also controls us.

Yes, but our perception is on the output side of the input function and
_on that side of the function_ nothing remains of the world on the other
side. It seems to me the particular manner in which, at any given moment, a
perception is a function of what is on the other side of the input function
is unknown to the perceiver. If that is so, then we know and control the
perceptions, not the world on the other side of the input function.

This is really helpful because it is so clear. But it also makes clear
certain differences in our understandings of all that is involved. I have
also set out in another post (yesterday to Bill Powers) some discussion
relating to this point. In an alternative formulation, which I think has
much to commend it, one may say that we control (some _events in) the
world_ _by means of_ the agency of our perceptions. All the higher controls
and the regulative principles and systems concepts which we develop are
used to enhance the effectiveness of perceptual agencies in enabling us to
control the real world. I think this is a basic presupposition which we all
make, one which is necessary for our existence. (It is this which allows a
control system to survive, surely one of the criteria for existential if
not theoretical success - a point which may be under discussion in another
thread. ?)

I do recognize that this is not the way the scientist with an exclusively
analytic orientation may see his task. However scientists should be very
free to consider alternative hypotheses within which to conceptualize their
work.

To clarify this it may be important to recognize that the word Perception
in normal usage can refer to two categorically different kinds of
phenomena -

(1) direct experience, as felt individually by each one of us in "conscious
awareness" (technically difficult words but in this context intended to be
taken naively at face value!), and

(2) the concepts of perception which are part of physical science and PCT.

It is in this latter sense that you use the term, and it is the basis upon
which you propose models and tests. However this is not the ground on which
my argument rests. From the perspective of (1) above, it is just nonsense
to say that "nothing remains of the world on the other side" of the input
function. This is a statement that can only be justified within the
confines of particular theoretical presuppositions, and presuppositions of
that general type are what are in question. It is not a question whether
they are right or wrong, useful or not, for they are clearly right and
useful for certain purposes. The question is whether they are sufficient to
be accepted as the whole story. And my contention is that they are not,
for they depend logically and practically on the givenness of (1) i.e.
human experience.

I expect that is enough for now! Whether it is a sufficient argument is
another question! In any case, I thank you for the occasion and
opportunity to try to think through my own ideas more clearly and possibly
elicit feedback and constructive dialogue.

Cheers!

Bruce B.

Tom Bourbon [940913.1001]

Bruce, I am running behind in my replies and in the meantime this thread has
continued. However, after reading the very latest posts I believe the
topic I address in this reply is still relevant.

[From Bruce Buchanan (940910.13:45 EDT)]

Tom Bourbon (940909.17:27 CST) writes:

. . .

Tom then:

Yes, but our perception is on the output side of the input function and
_on that side of the function_ nothing remains of the world on the other
side. It seems to me the particular manner in which, at any given moment, a
perception is a function of what is on the other side of the input function
is unknown to the perceiver. If that is so, then we know and control the
perceptions, not the world on the other side of the input function.

Bruce:

. . . In an alternative formulation, which I think has
much to commend it, one may say that we control (some _events in) the
world_ _by means of_ the agency of our perceptions.

Perhaps, Bruce, but in which way(s) do you offer an alternative to the idea
that, on the inside of the perceptual functions, nothing remains of that
external world? How would the controller, who _is_ "inside" those perceptual
functions, know anything about the world outside, other than by way of
whatever "signals" are on the inside?

All the higher controls
and the regulative principles and systems concepts which we develop are
used to enhance the effectiveness of perceptual agencies in enabling us to
control the real world.

Again, how do those "higher" controls, principles and systems know anything
about the real world other than through the perceptual functions? (When
I say "perceptual functions" I imply the the hierarchichal organization Bill
Powers has described in recent posts to you. In that hierarchy, there are
input functions for perceptions of systems, principles, and other
hjigher-order perceptions.) I am not criticizing you, but I am trying to
develop a clearer understanding of what you offer as an alternative. Other
than by way of perception, how would a higher agency know it was enhancing
the effectiveness of the perceptual control systems, which you were thinking
of as "lower" functions? How would the higher agency know "the real world?"

I think this is a basic presupposition which we all
make, one which is necessary for our existence. (It is this which allows a
control system to survive, surely one of the criteria for existential if
not theoretical success - a point which may be under discussion in another
thread. ?)

Bill Powers, Rick Marken and Bill Leach, and probably others, have
addressed this already, but here is my brief contribution. We make no
supposition at all. We simply perceive the world and act in it, and "it"
is all perception. For people who understand PCT, nothing changes, in
terms of going about our daily business, except for (sometimes startling)
thoughts now and then about how "all of this" that I experience (meaning the
world, ourselves, our thoughts, and our actions) is perception. Controlling
perceptions is not an exercise in philosophical analysis, unless, of course,
we engage in the business of controlling perceptions of ourselves performing
philosophical analyses.

An aside:
In one of your replies to someone else (the exact reference escapes me), you
mentioned Zen masters who tell their students something like, "This is all
there is," and you interpreted it as meaning that the real world outside is
all there is and it is experienced directly. My admittedly limited
understanding of Zen, Tao and other such psychologies is that the master
is saying something more like, "what you see is what you see." The
experience is to be experienced uncritically and taken "as is." But with
regard to "the real world" as something apart from experience, it cannot be
known. In Tao, there is the Tao, then there is our experience which
inevitably turns the Tao into "the ten thousand things." The Tao that can
be fit into the ten thousand things is not the Tao. We know the ten
thousand things (our perceptions and ideas -- which in PCT are also
perceptions) directly, they are "about themselves,"
but they are not the Tao.

In a similar manner, when a Zen master says, "all that you see is illusion,"
I understand it to mean, not that perception has failed to contain a
veridical representation of reality, but that perception is directly "about"
itself. It follows that perception is always "true," but it is never
directly "about" anything else.
End of aside.

I do recognize that this is not the way the scientist with an exclusively
analytic orientation may see his task. However scientists should be very
free to consider alternative hypotheses within which to conceptualize their
work.

Yes. When they do that, I am interested in learning their ideas about
their perceptions of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Rick
Marken, [From Rick Marken (940912.0900)], made some _excellent_ remarks on
that topic when he illustrated a PCT interpretation of relationships among
"Reality" and the perceptions experienced by (a) an observer and (b) the
one observed.

To clarify this it may be important to recognize that the word Perception
in normal usage can refer to two categorically different kinds of
phenomena -

(1) direct experience, as felt individually by each one of us in "conscious
awareness" (technically difficult words but in this context intended to be
taken naively at face value!), and

(2) the concepts of perception which are part of physical science and PCT.

It is in this latter sense that you use the term, and it is the basis upon
which you propose models and tests. However this is not the ground on which
my argument rests.

Others got to this section before me and I have very little new to add to
their replies. We mean perception in _all_ senses of the word. PCT is
about sense (1), and that means the "concepts of perception" in sense (2)
are _themselves_ perceptions.

From the perspective of (1) above, it is just nonsense
to say that "nothing remains of the world on the other side" of the input
function. This is a statement that can only be justified within the
confines of particular theoretical presuppositions, and presuppositions of
that general type are what are in question. It is not a question whether
they are right or wrong, useful or not, for they are clearly right and
useful for certain purposes.

I certainly don't want to deliberately propagate nonsense. That probably
happens often enough by accident.

Once again, I am open to examining any evidence you might provide to
demonstrate that the world outside my perceptual functions passes into and
through those functions and survives on their output side. That chain of
events would imply that I perceive the world outside myself directly, "as it
is." In contrast with that idea, I am stuck with this peculiar notion that
all I experience is my experience, which I am convinced is affected by
something more than what I experience.

Sorry to have been so late with my reply. I am busy trying to keep on
earning a living!

Later,

Tom

[From Bruce Gregory (971222.1320 EST)]

I suggest that we place the hardware/software allegory
wherever we have put the stimulus/response allegory. Neither has
a place in PCT and this is the topic we are purporting to
discuss.

Bruce