another forwarded msg: the responsive/initiatory dichotomy

I wrote:

"Minds are not essentially responsive.
The responsive/initiatory dichotomy is
a false one."

Calls have been made for elaboration.

The sort of things we are (or should be) talking about
are things that
are actively, continuously engaged with their
environments. It is
inept to ask whether behavior is responsive or
initiated because,
whatever is being done is being done before the
particular subset of
changes in the environment and the organism occur.

Yes, should a brick come hurtling through the air we
may well see a
man move his head in a manner that prevents collision
between head and
brick. In such a case, however, we must not overlook
the prior lack
of collision between that head and the floor, which
may have been
going on for days, if not years. Why not also call
*that* a reaction,
this avoidance of collision with the floor? Well,
largely because it
strikes us as absurd to apply the term in that way --
but that is a
clue: It will not fit our understanding of "reaction"
to generalize
the label and apply it to such events, especially
since most behavior
that accomplishes the same thing is a mismatch to this

As another example, consider a manufacturing company
that suddenly
begins to stockpile a particular component, because
the managers have
noticed a change (some sort of "news") by which they
sharply increasing prices for these components, in
contrast with other
materials. In a casual sense of the word we may call
this a reaction,
but we'll muddle things horribly if we attempt to
explain market
processes in general in terms of "reactions." The
*absence* of
stockpiling prior to the crucial news counts as
behavior on the part
of the firm no less than the *presence* of stockpiling
in its wake.

The most important thing here is the presence of
profit seeking. The
manufacturer is striving to obtain profit (and avoid
loss -- two ways
of stating the same thing). In order to understand
what is happening
we must keep this in mind, which is not what happens
if we try to
characterize a local set of purchases as strictly
or "initiations". (To see how this example can be seen
through the
other category, note how it would be true to
interpreting their
increased demand for the stockpiled items as *driving*
the very price
increase they anticipate.)

This is tied in with what I understood Ellen to be
saying about
consciousness not being initiated when thinking
occurs. The
systematic accomplishment is already underway before
particular "event" occurs, the one we want to catch in
our net of
words. The ongoing action of what-is-going-on involves
changes to the
environment by the system, and changes to the system
by the
environment. The fully cyclic nature of it precludes
choosing between
action as response *or* initiation.

Tracy B. Harms


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