This is a digression from the discussion at Fundamentals/How are new input functions created?.
I engage in this with reluctance that has persisted for many years. The reluctance is due to conflict between wanting PCT to be successful and wanting to be a nice guy. More specifically, I like you, Rick, and I regard you as a friend, and I very highly value your good work in PCT research. But through a couple of decades more than a few people have told me that they and others were dropping away from CSG because of these phenomena, and then they did.
A good long time ago I said that PCT needed greater professionalism to be successful institutionally, and Bill asked me if I wanted, in effect, to control that perception with higher gain. At the time, that was not remotely possible for me to take on, nor had I the hubris. Now that the IAPCT board of directors controls that perception with high gain, and I am participating in that on the board, the conflict becomes acute.
Professionalism is a complex perception. It is a defense against aspersions by those to whose intellectual commitments PCT is a disturbance. It is consistent with attracting and welcoming newcomers, which in the past has conflicted sometimes with defending the theory from misinterpretation and misrepresentation. Worry about a repeat of e.g. the Glasser ripoff has receded, and we now have more than a few people capable of watching out for the theoretical integrity of PCT. Concern about alienating people—especially women but hardly exclusively—takes higher precedence than we previously afforded it.
In this critique I am aware of the chopping block that I am placing under my own head. Point a finger and that hand has three other fingers pointing back. I could not perceive these things if I were not capable of them myself. I will continue to call them out, as gently as I can, and I ask that the same be done when I do something of the kind.
I said, rather sharply,
You’re claiming that I posed you the logical fallacy familiarly called ‘loaded question’, a question framed so that it entails a false presupposition. “Have you stopped beating your wife yet” entails a presupposition that the person has been beating his wife, and the assumed context is that he has not. A loaded question is quite unfair to the person receiving it. Not every question that entails a presupposition is a fallacy. If the presupposition is true, it’s not a loaded question.
However unfairly you may feel treated by what I wrote, I am not covertly presupposing that you frequently discourage people by telling them what you feel that they are doing wrong, and that you have in each such case missed an opportunity to encourage them by suggesting how they could do better. I am directly telling you that. I will now lay out a bit of how you do it, with illustrative empirical evidence.
Too often you respond to only fragments of what has been written, each out of context by being taken in isolation. This imposition of incoherence makes it difficult to respond coherently when you ignore something essential or misstate or misinterpret the bits that you do quote. The ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ effect is that what the person wrote doesn’t merit a careful reading. Worse, your responses too often include expressions that come across as snide or sarcastic. This increases the likelihood of the recipient being emotionally reactive.
The immediate example is your response to Warren in the conversation from which this is a digression.
“Yes” would be an appropriate answer if Warren were asking whether you had seen that chapter. I doubt many readers would assume that was all that he meant. “Have you seen it?” “Yes, I have a copy of the book and I have seen that chapter.” In context, Warren is clearly answering your question, “What is the evidence that led you to that conclusion?” As such, it is not a question to which “yes” is an appropriate answer. Writing “yes” trivializes what Warren said and avoids acknowledging, much less responding to, his claim to have considered evidence to support his ideas.
I am asserting that “See that chapter?” is not a question even though it is a string of words followed by a question mark. Given that references to that chapter for evidence are in immediately prior context in the conversation, the question mark seems to me to be from “Why don’t you refer to that chapter? Isn’t it obvious from what we’ve been talking about?” It’s a fairly common use of question intonation in conversation. Warren could confirm, deny, or elaborate on that guess about his intention if he wishes. It seems undeniable that he wasn’t asking whether pages bearing that chapter had come within your visual field, but that’s what your “Yes” reduces it to, trivializing it and removing from you any need for serious response.
If that were a serious statement, it would have been a good place for you to stop and ask “What exactly did you mean?” before going on. But go on you do, so clearly it is not a serious statement. Can it best be understood as a passive-aggressive assertion that Warren is writing nonsense? Do you have another explanation of what you meant by that?
Bypassing that opportunity to find out what he meant, you go on directly to fault his use of the word ‘decompose’.
Verbal precision has long been our test of whether or not a person ‘gets’ PCT. Does this use of ‘decompose’ rather than ‘compose’ betray a failure to grasp PCT? Does it demonstrate that what Warren is saying is unreliable? Too often our terminological shibboleths have been wielded as put-downs. To your credit, you have phrased this in constructive, instructive terms. But is this something that Warren really needs to be taught at this point? Is he a novice just learning about PCT? That is the presupposition behind this seemingly helpful instruction. Is it demeaning?
Is it relevant or even actually correct in reference to the present conversation? In context (see above), Warren is clearly talking about language and about the PCT model, both. From a point of view looking at language as a natural phenomenon, it is quite reasonable to talk of language being “decomposed into each of the perceptual levels below the program level”. Decomposing language into discrete elements is called linguistics. Identifying those elements as controlled perceptions at different levels of the hierarchy is the project or reorganizing linguistics within PCT which is reported in the referenced chapter. Context in that chapter and in the present (referenced) conversation includes the proposal that language perceptions are below the program level.
But you are not cognizant of that context. You are correct to say “I have no idea what this means” because you have made no evident effort to understand what Warren means. (That’s why you blithely assert that language goes right up to the program level without bothering to acknowledge much less address or resist contrary assertions that are quite relevant parts of the context.)
Let’s look again at the paragraph from which you quoted a convenient part:
You deny what he was saying without troubling to acknowledge that he said it. You dogmatically insist that the program level is a level in the hierarchy. You do not address the proposal that the hierarchy includes a branch for language perceptions in the way that it includes a somatic branch parallel to the more familiar behavioral branch. There is abundant evidence of cross-connections, associative memory or otherwise TBD, between language perceptions and non-language perceptions, both behavioral and somatic, just as there are between somatic and behavioral perceptions.
Here, I think you’re in pretty good agreement with the rest of us so far, if what Warren is “talking about are words, phrases and sentences”, with the caveat that whatever we mean by ‘associated’ is far from settled.
But Warren is not talking about “words, phrases and sentences” as perceptions in the language branch of the hierarchy. Nor is he talking about their association with non-language perceptions; however that association is implemented and however it comes to be modeled, the associations themselves are not ‘descriptions’. A description is something more than this functional association. For example, the association between red and the range of sensation perceptions that we call “red” is not itself a perception, but a description is a perception. A description is a perception of a higher order than the perceptions participating in the language-nonlanguage associations. When we perceive a description as such we perceive both the language of it and (at least in imagination) the referents of that language. Is a description a concept? Such a concept is not necessarily a systems concept (which would undeniably be at a higher perceptual level), but whatever the perceptual level it certainly is a higher logical type than the simple association of language perceptions with non-language perceptions. Are those associative links themselves perceptions? An open question, and I think questionable.
We could talk about Bill’s Category level hypothesis over in the Fundamentals category. To the point here, Warren is talking about beliefs. (See context quoted above.) Reducing it to the association between a color term and its associated sensation perceptions ignores and trivializes that.
You contradict the finding (see cited chapter) that program perceptions are not needed for language without any indication that you have understood it, and then go skating merrily off in full confidence that you know all that any of us need to know about language and grammar—thin ice.
I don’t think it’s over your head at all, once you stop taking it out of context. Even the little bit of immediate context helps some.
But that in turn is a brief reference back to the paragraph that you have ignored from the beginning of this thread:
So in this context, what might it mean that “A symbolic description of our perception is not necessarily at a higher level. It differs in its attempt to be objective of the self rather than subjective.” A parallel branch provides a locus for awareness off to the side from the universe of nonverbal perceptions on which it comments. The language perceptions in that branch arise from and are maintained by collective control, and their subjective associations with non-language perceptions are also influenced by collective control. Collective control is the basis of intersubjective agreement. Intersubjective agreement about experience and experiment is the only basis that I know of for what we call objectivity.
Elaborating this point goes off topic in this thread, and reply to this paragraph does not belong here, but rather in the topic Fundamentals/How are new input functions created? from which this is a digression.
It is nonetheless relevant here in this way: I am not making this stuff up. It is a matter of intersubjective agreement with many participants. We like you, but we hate it when you do these things. I am not sure you are aware of the effect that it has on others, and the effect on whether or not we are perceived as a serious research community.
I believe you will perceive this as a personal attack, that you will be unhappy about it, and that you will experience in it disturbances to your self-perception which you will resist. As I said above, that is not the intent. In each case, you have alternatives which I believe are more consistent with a self-image as a nice guy extremely competent in PCT who wants people to learn and participate in PCT as a growing and institutionally recognized field of science. Recognizing and making the choice is the point.
I was about to add that I wish there were some less disturbing way to broach this with you—and then I realized that there is. Duh. Posting it here in the Dogmatic PCT category makes it a public conversation. I can refrain from doing that, and first send it to you privately. About noon ET on this Sunday 23 May that is what I am doing.
[In his reply to that email, which I expect will be represented in a reply here, Rick was amenable to my posting this publicly.]