[From Fred Nickols (2014.01.19.1346 EST)]
My responses are embedded below...I also added my initials to the subject
line to make my responses more readily identifiable.
[From Rick Marken (2014.01.19.0900)]
Apparently everyone has a a copy of LCS III or will be getting one shortly
think we can start the course now with a one week discussion of the
Foreward (which can probably be done even without a text).
So here are some questions for discussion based on the Foreward:
1. The title of the Foreward (per the table of contents) is the same as
subtitle of the book: The Fact of Control. Why do you think Bill might
chosen to use this phase, rather than "The Theory of Control", to describe
what the book and the Foreward are about?
[Fred Nickols] For me it ties to the well-worn phrase "A fact of life."
Control is a fact of life. Control is a fact. It is an observable,
testable, verifiable phenomenon. PCT, however, is a theory; a way of
explaining or accounting for the fact of control. I believe Bill's focus in
this book was on the fact of control and less on PCT. The book is full of
examples, evidence, etc., as to the fact of control.
2. In the second paragraph of the Foreward (p. xi) Bill says "I can't
guess why it has taken so long, why so many people have explored the
phenomenon of negative feedback control in living systems without seeing
that they were looking at a revolution straining to happen..." What do you
understand Bill to be saying here? Who, for example, might the people be
who Bill refers to in this statement?
[Fred Nickols] I think he is saying that people can't see what is right
before their eyes. I rather imagine he refers to the many psychologists,
especially those of a behavioral bent and those who do not question
conventional research methodologies.
What is the "revolution" that is straining to happen?
[Fred Nickols] I don't think there is one. The world has gotten along for
thousands of years without PCT and without control theory being front and
center. Why should anyone beyond a small group of die-hard devotees be
interested? What are the promises and payoffs of PCT? A better
understanding of human behavior? What does one do with that? MOL seems to
be one area with payoffs. Are there others? What are its practical
implications and applications? I don't think you'll get the scientific
community interested unless the folks who fund it get interested and they
won't bother unless there's some big payoff in it for them. The promise of
behaviorism was the ability to manipulate human behavior. Hmm. That didn't
pan out quite as nicely as many thought/claimed but it sure held everyone's
attention for a while.
3. Paragraph 3 (p. xi) starts with a statement of Bill's goal for LCS
III: "to establish in the mind of the reader the literal reality of
feedback control as the basic organizing principle of human behavior". Do
you interpret Bill's goal as being to establish in the mind of the reader
"literal reality" of a theory or a fact?
[Fred Nickols] FACT. I think he's kind of set the theory off to one side in
Consider in you answer what Bill says next: Human beings do not plan
actions...they do not respond to stimuli...They control".
[Fred Nickols] I think that was a mistake. Try telling someone that the
D-Day invasion didn't involve the planning of actions. Ditto for just about
everyone other endeavor of humankind. We do plan actions. I think we even
plan (i.e., envision in advance) our behavior. That is what rehearsal and
prehearsal are all about. I think I get Bill's point in relation to
discrete human behaviors not being planned - for the most part - but I would
never stand in front of someone and say that human beings do not plan
actions. That statement beggars the imagination.
4. In paragraph 6 (p. xii) Bill says "This is my last chance to persuade
on this planet that prior to the 1930s we human beings had an entirely
idea, only partly supplanted at the time of this writing , of who we are,
we are constructed and and why we do what we do." What do you think is
the "wrong idea" to which Bill alludes here? What partly supplanted this
since the 1930s? Why the 1930s?
[Fred Nickols] What comes to mind to me is behaviorism and, subsequently,
the cognitive (i.e., programmed) views of human behavior.
5. In paragraph 7 (p. xiii) Bill ends the Foreward with "To me, this
beautiful, not because it is mine but because it is true.
That is why I present to you here the fact of control , so you can see and
it yourself, have that joyful shock of discovery, and understand it." The
theory to which he refers is presumably control theory -- Perceptual
Theory -- but he has not mentioned a theory at all up to this point in the
Foreward. And after saying that the theory is beautiful he says that he
now present the "fact of control". I believe that what Bill intends to
in this book is demonstrations of control phenomena -- the fact of control
that can only be explained by a theory of control -- control theory --
particular, the version of control theory that is applied to living
Perceptual Control Theory. But I would like to hear a discussion of what
think Bill might have been getting at in this final statement of the
[Fred Nickols] I think he was simply pointing to a quality or characteristic
of a fact; namely, its undeniability. In a way, it's kind of like he was
saying, "You might as well accept this because there is no denying it. It is
too eminently provable."
The answers to these questions presume an existing familiarity with
approach to understanding the behavior of living systems -- what we now
PCT. But since most of you have all been through the B:CP course or are
familiar with Powers work from other sources I think you can all make some
stab at this. Those who are reading LCS III as their first introduction to
might have a hard time answering them until after they have read the book.
I look forward to seeing your answers to these questions over the course
the next week. We should be able to start with the real stuff -- the
demonstrations -- beginning with Chapter 1 a week from this Monday.
Richard S. Marken PhD
The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.
-- Bertrand Russell