Answering Questions, Suggestions for Bill

[From Rick Marken (961027.1245)]

I just thought of something else that I should have mentioned in response to
the following from Bill Benzon:

And I am stunned that you really seem to think that PCT has an answer for

One reason it is hard to get behavioral scientists interested in PCT is
because the most important questions it answers are the ones that are never
asked. For example, behavioral scientists never ask about one of greatest
of all mysteries of behavior: how are organisms able to produce consistent
results in an inconsistent environment? How, for example, does a person
consistently take sips of tea despite environmental inconsistencies
(changes in the amount of tea in the cup, the location of the cup relative
to the hand, etc) that should prevent such consistency?

The questions behavioral scientists ask about behavior assume that the
question "What is behavior?" has already been answered. Behavioral (and
life) scientists assume that behavior (like taking a sip of tea) is
_output_ generated by the nervous system. That is why behavioral
scientists ask questions about the _causes_ of behaviors -- as in the
recent post asking for help with research on the "causes of
procrastination" (which received a wonderful reply from Bill Spokes).
The assumption being made in that research (as in virtually all conventional
behavioral science research) is that behaviors (like procrastination)
are _outputs_ (or delay of output in the case of procrastination) that
are _caused_ by something, like one's mood or temperment. This is why
we say that the "input-output" model is the basis of conventional
behavioral research; behavior is assumed to be an output and the goal
of research is to find the inputs (including internal bodily states)
that cause it.

The PCT answer to the question "What is behavior?" is "Behavior is
controlled perception". So from a PCT perspective, a question like
"Does mood cause procrastination?" makes no sense. The more appropriate
question would be "what perceptual variables are being controlled when
we see the behavior that we call "procrastination".

Bill Powers (961025.0830 MDT) --

Somehow I find myself embroiled with a community of philosophers, with
200K of philosophical musings in the past two days to contend with.
That's not what I want to be doing with the rest of my life. I'm going
to have to give some serious thought to what I do want to be doing;
this, clearly, isn't it. Suggestions from PCTers welcome.

Just keep doing what you've been doing; posting your wonderful musings
(I treasure every one, if that makes any difference) and helping people
like Bruce Abbott and myself do research on PCT. Be kind (but strict) with
the philosophers; just remember they know not what they do;-)