Reductio ad domesticam

This redirects the digression at Elections as collective control - #12 by rsmarken.

Before a conjecture or proposal can be modeled, it must be understood. Understanding a new idea is a process of integrating it with what is already known and understood.

If what was already known and understood does not change in this process, then either the idea was not new, or it was misunderstood. The misunderstanding re-states the new idea in a form that requires no change to established ideas.

We have seen this in psychologists distorting “behavior is the control of perception” and hearing it as “behavior controls perception”. When we concoct a PCT explanation of their resistance to change we adduce controlled variables like reputation in the field, being a consistent authority to students, admission of error, and so forth. This narrative of why PCT is not universally accepted is frankly speculation based sometimes on anecdotal information and rather free interpretation of correspondence, conversations, and interpersonal interactions as instances of the Test for controlled variables.

Rick, your motives for resisting new proposals in PCT are for you to identify, I won’t speculate. This has been a challenge for you for many years. I take as illustration your reduction of atenfel to ‘feedback function’. The acronym derives from ‘atomic environmental feedback links’. Here is your objection in June of 2016, five years ago.

Despite the explanation that Kent and Martin plainly and patiently laid out at that time, you persist in this distortion to this day.

What would be a constructive response? You could ask or propose how a new idea could be tested, what data are needed to model it, programming strategies for creating a computer simulation. These would be constructive responses. They are impossible to state without first accepting the new idea arguendo—for the sake of discussion.

You don’t have to agree with it in order to understand it, but you do have to understand it in order to discuss it.

Take some mental allergy medicine and actually read that “useless armchair speculation”; or if you really think it is useless and unworthy of your time to understand it, then stand aside. If your aim is to stop it and make it go away, muddying the water with gross distortions does not work. So stop doing that.

In other areas, you are much more open minded, as for example this very helpful reply about the notion of levels in MoL, which Martin lauded as worthy of preservation in a permanent collection of exemplary posts. Maybe this link is a step in that direction.

Bruce: Are you saying behavior is not the means by which we affect and, hopefully, control our perceptions?

Fred

Fred, what did I ever say that suggests that?

Hi Fred

FN: Bruce: Are you saying behavior is not the means by which we affect and, hopefully, control our perceptions?

BN: Fred, what did I ever say that suggests that?

RM: I think it’s because you (Bruce) said: "We have seen this in psychologists distorting “behavior is the control of perception” and hearing it as “behavior controls perception”.

RM: Which is absolutely correct. I think the idea that “behavior controls perception” is the most fundamental conceptual misunderstanding people have about PCT. It has led to the idea that all we can see is “behavior”, not the perceptions that are being controlled. This is errant pedantry up with which I will not put. I think it’s this misunderstanding that has led to the development of such errant pedantry as the notion of an atenfel, or whatever it’s called.

RM: In PCT behavior IS controlled perception. Virtually everything we see as “behavior” is controlled perceptual variables. As I show in my PCT in a Teacup tutorial, when looking at a behavior like “sipping tea” what you are seeing (from outside the behaving system) is the behavior of controlled perceptual variables. When you are able to see that this is the case you have learned to look at behavior through control theory glasses.

RM: I believe the Summer Olympics will provide a great opportunity to tune up those glasses. Having been a gymnast in my younger days, I love to watch the the behavior of gymnasts. What you will see when you watch these amazing athletes is the behavior of many different controlled variables. Watch as they control their balance (sensation) while transitioning their body into different configurations (an "L’ into an “iron cross” on the rings, for example) as they carry out their program of events so as best to represent the principles of good gymnastics.

RM: What you will be seeing if you watch the Olympics are controlled perceptual variables. Of course, you will only be seeing these controlled variables from outside the athlete, but you can get a pretty good idea of what those perceptual variables are because, through control theory glasses, you can see that these behaviors are being produced in the face of disturbances – the main disturbances being gravity and the forces generated by throwing you body around. So when you see a person doing an iron cross (I can’t believe I used to be able to do that!) toy can “see” that that is a controlled perception because it is being produced by forces you can’t see to compensate for forces (well, actually curves in spacetime) that you also can’t see.

RM: But control theory glasses only give you an approximate view of the perceptions being controlled by these athletes. In order to “see” these perceptions clearly, you have to do the test for controlled variables. But the view through control theory glasses is a good starting point for doing the test inasmuch as it provides the starting hypotheses you need to do it.

Best, Rick

The first sentence in the third paragraph of the message to which I replied.

I wouldn’t ordinarily comment on such a thread as this, but since my name was used extensively in what Bruce wrote (thank you, Bruce), I think I might be excused on this occasion.

Quite apart from any discussions here or offline with individuals, I have been asking myself what I might be controlling for in respect to my writings on PCT, and what I might perceive to be environmental states for which my control actions correct some perceptual error. I haven’t really come up with a coherent answer to myself, but some of what I have come up with may be worth sharing.

To start with, “I hold these truths to be self-evident”:
(1) that Scientific enquiry, experimental, observational, or analytic, is the best way to find out how the world works.
(2) that all current scientific ideas about how the world works are wrong in some respects.
(3) that what anybody claims to be a truth of science is therefore incorrect.
(4) that PCT is a science.
(5) that whatever I say about PCT is therefore wrong in some respect.

For me, this last self-evident truth creates an unresolvable error in a perception I control, which is that I have a correct understanding of what PCT implies about living control systems and their interactions. I don’t and can’t have such a comprehensive understanding. (Bill Powers said the same thing about his own understanding of PCT).

I have two means of controlling this perception, two atenfels if I want to link it to the previous discussion as quoted by Bruce (in which I see that my thinking on atenfels has evolved since then). These are (a) analyze more carefully and deeply, including experiment if that would seem likely to help, and (b) let people know what I currently think in the hope that someone will point out why something I say is unsupportable (if possible) and unsupported (if refutation is impossible).

To follow Bruce’s extensive quotes, I find that simple assertions that I am wrong, leaving the reason as a mystery, simply add to the disturbance to the perception I think I am controlling when I write something. The high probability that anything I write in this forum will be immediately followed either by a statement unsupported by a scientific reason that what I wrote is wrong, or that what I wrote is misrepresented in a way that it appears obviously wrong, is a prime reason why I have seldom contributed to this forum.
+++++++++++

As some of you know, for the last few years I have been learning about PCT and its implications by writing a book with the working title “Powers of Perceptual Control: an enquiry into language, culture, power and politics”. (The pun on the name Powers is intentional). Currently the book runs about 570K words in 42 Chapters divided into three “Volumes”, the last few Chapters either unwritten or in need of substantial rewriting in light of what I have learned about PCT in the process of writing, Many of the Chapters get edited or largely rewritten as I learn more, so from around the middle of the book, and especially the las half-dozen Chapters it is in a state of flux.

Because I perceive that there exist people who might like to learn about a wider range of things PCT can demonstrate than are “allowed” in this forum, I do hope some day to submit it for open-source publication, but as of now it suffers from “the best is the enemy of the good” (intolerance) syndrome. And as I said above, one of the “self-evident truths” is that the book is science, and is therefore full of errors.

Anyway, to sum up, my own perception of me is that I perceive myself to be a scientist doing science when I talk about PCT, and that entails controlling always for perceiving in what way I am wrong, not that I am wrong, which I already suppose to be the case…

Martin

2 Likes

The first sentence in the third paragraph is

Perhaps Rick is right, and you mean the fourth sentence?

“Behavior is the control of perception” is consistent with “behavior is the means by which we affect and, hopefully, control our perceptions.” The distortion “behavior controls perception” is not. I attribute that distortion to conventional psychologists resisting disturbance to their preconceptions. To attribute it to me as my belief would be wrong.

Hi Bruce

BN: “Behavior is the control of perception” is consistent with “behavior is the means by which we affect and, hopefully, control our perceptions.”

RM: No, it is not. As I said in an earlier post in this thread (which I don’t know how to point to but it’s post # 4) what we call “behavior” IS controlled perception seen from the point of view of the observer. Even a behavior we see as a means of controlling some perception is itself a controlled perception. When we are looking at a consistently produced behavior – a behavior we can name, like “a sip of tea” or “an arm movement” – then we are looking at a controlled perceptual variable (or something very close to it) from our (rather than the agent’s) perspective.

Best, Rick

Yes. We’ve noticed many times that there are two senses of ‘behavior’, behavior from the control system’s point of view and behavioral actions or outputs as seen from an observer’s point of view. “Behavior (from the organism’s point of view) is the control of perception” is consistent with “behavior (from the observer’s point of view) is the means by which we affect and, hopefully, control our perceptions.”

Martin, I very much like your post, especially the delineation of truths that are self-evident – or not so self evident. Your truths cover both the “hard” sciences and the “soft” life sciences. I have lang had a hard time to think of the soft ones as science.
Best, adg

RM: what we call “behavior” IS controlled perception seen from the point of view of the observer.

BN: Yes. We’ve noticed many times that there are two senses of ‘behavior’, behavior from the control system’s point of view and behavioral actions or outputs as seen from an observer’s point of view. “Behavior (from the organism’s point of view) is the control of perception” is consistent with “behavior (from the observer’s point of view) is the means by which we affect and, hopefully, control our perceptions.”

RM: This is such a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific basis of PCT that I think it merits its own Topic in Fundamentals of PCT. So if anyone is interested in following this discussion I’m going to continue it in a Topic called “What is Behavior?”

Best, Rick

I am interested.

Fred

Here’s the pointer to a continuation of the conversation in a new Topic.

Best, Rick