A Reply to Hal

[From Rick Marken (930826.1600)]

Hal Pepinsky (26 Aug 1993 11:15:00 EST) --

I, personally, welcome your posts to CSGNet. My only problem with them
is that they don't seem to deal with the nature of the mechanisms --
the inner workings of individual human beings -- that might be responsible
for many of the phenomena that you describe -- peace, violence,
competition, management's treatment of workers, etc. This Net is
really about possible mechanisms -- theories or models -- that can
account for the behavioral phenomena that we see. CSGNet focuses on
PCT because many of us feel that this model provides a good start
at specifying the unseen mechanisms that are responsible for ALL
the interesting phenomena of human behavior (and the behavior of
living systems generally). We certainly welcome posts from
people who propose modifications or alternatives to the PCT model
of behavior. But these alternative only make sense if they are
alternative _mechanisms_ -- real working models that might account
for any interesting behavioral phenomenon (including subjective
phenomena). You don't seem to be particularly interested in behavior
modelling -- so your interests and those of most of us on the list cross
only at the intersection of phenomena; we're all interested in the fact
that people fight, make love, make music, etc. But even at the
level of phenomena you often seem given to be making what seem to
be overgeneralizations. For example, you say things like:

Management wants to maintain production schedules and build profits.

We'll, that's not really true of ALL people who would be called "managers";
at least, not in my experience. I think I know the sense in which you
make this claim -- but since you are not really interested in talking
about mechanisms (models) it seems like it would be wise to pay
attention to the quality of your descriptions of phenomena -- because
accurate descriptions of phenomena can be quite useful to modellers.

It feels as though I am being called upon to convert to
someone else's faith, rather than exploring the limits which any theory
must be presumed to have by those who believe in falsifiability.

I think this is because you have not learned the mechanisms of the
PCT model. It is definitely a testable (falsifiable) model. You would
see how it can be falsified once you learned how it works. In fact, one
of the main goals of this Net is to get people to think of experimental
tests that would falsify the model. EVERY test of the model puts the
model at risk; if the model behaves differently than the "modellee"
in the same circumstances then the model must be changed or discarded
in favor of a new one.

And I think that if PCT-ers
want outside acceptance, they need to enter dialogue with the
presumption that their own theory is as open to question as anyone

It's not only open to question -- it's open to TEST.

Are you equally open to giving my thinking credit for informing yours?

Of course.

Or is it a given that you know what you're talking
about, and that I question your world view only because I haven't
studied it hard enough?

Your "questioning" of our "world view" never touches on the mechanics
of the model and/or how the performance of the model compares to
real examples of behavior. In this sense, your questions do not seem
to reflect the fact that you have studied the model. I have never
seen a formal description of your alternative "model"; I suspect that
it is not a model in the sense that we use the term. That is, I don't
think your model is a working set of mechanisms that produces
behavioral phenomena as a result of the workings of these mechanisms.
If it is such a model, then just describe it to us; we'd love to hear about

Is it a given that I have more to gain by
reading more of your work than you have to gain by reading more of mine?

No. But I'd be more motivated to read more of your stuff if it seemed
like you were describing an alternative set of mechanisms to account
for the behavior of living systems.

Some of you have been praising each other for the eloquence of your
explanations to me of why PCT has none of the problems I raise. Why
should this or that book respond to my questions more cogently than your
direct (and sometimes article-length) responses to me?

Well, speaking for myself, the "Mind Readings" book contains a lot of
descriptions models and experimental data that is hard to put on
the net. Also, the publisher (CSG Press) needs every penny he can
get to pay off the costs of publishing it.

I'm tempted, just as some of y'all seem to be inclined to get
rid of my intrustion into your world. But I know you also want us
outsiders to attend more to what you're doing, and for now I'll try to
sustain the engagement.

I hope you do stay. But I think it might be pretty boring for you. You don't
seem to be interested in working models and that's really the main
focus of this group. Of course, we're interested in the models because
we're interested in the phenomena that they are designed to explain--
mainly the phenomena of human behavior. So we get into some
pretty weird discussions about things people do -- religion, politics,
sex (sometimes) -- but they are usually oriented toward seeing
what underlying mechanisms might be responsible for all these
wild, wonderful, crazy and diverse phenomena. The underlying mechanism
is usually assumed to be some type of perceptual control organization;
but we welcome alternative proposals.