Sciences and Ideologies - I

From Greg Williams (920904)

Bill Powers (920904.0700)

The problem with reading all those quotes from Skinner (for which
labor many thanks!) is that one mistakenly tends to put meanings into
his words that make common sense (and in our case that jibe with PCT).
Skinner arranged his choices of words this way deliberately. Common
sense generally sides with control theory. But it is possible to talk
what is heard as good control theory in words that are defined by the
speaker in absolute contradiction with control theory. This makes it
seem that the speaker was ahead of his time, when in fact he was
crusading against the purposive overtones of common-sense descriptions
in part by trying to pre-empt the language.

I hope that netters will not misunderstand my purpose in posting the Skinner
quotes. I did not want to make it seem as if Skinner was a control theorist.
Rather, as I said to Dennis Delprato in my previous post, I wanted to show
that Skinner's ideas are essentially -- radically -- in opposition to those of
(at least some) PCTers. (I also wanted to counter the claims that Skinner was
(a) stupid/incoherent and/or (b) inconsistent.) To be more precise about my
claims about the radical opposition (I'm beginning to think of it as a
complementarity, wherein each pole is self-consistent and, to its supporters,
seems complete and in a sense "finished," yet each is only part of a larger,
more complete story) between Skinner's ideas on "control" and -- to make it
concrete -- Bill's ideas:

I think Skinner's IDEOLOGY of radical environmentalism wrongly (because he
can't get as far as he could otherwise in explaining behavior) downplays what
is happening in the present moment. I also think Bill's IDEOLOGY of radical
autonomy wrongly (because he can't get as far as he could otherwise in
explaining behavior) downplays what has happened up to now. These two
ideologies are complementary -- they are actually two mutually incompatible
world-views which are each self-consistent but, I think, fundamentally
inadequate to the task of explaining behavior.

So what is adequate to the task? Skinner's SCIENCE, as opposed to his
IDEOLOGY, is certainly NOT adequate. I believe he allowed his ideology to sway
his notions of an adequate science of behavior to the degree that he was self-
defeating.

PCT SCIENCE -- again, not IDEOLOGY -- IS, I think, adequate. Skinner was
model-less; PCT is based on models. And those models, aside from confirming
folk notions of how organisms "work," are constructed in such a way as to make
the two mutually incompatible "complementary" world-views described above fit
together in a plausible way. I think the science could heal that ideological
rift, and lead to a new sort of ideology noting the importance of BOTH history
and the present situation. PCT SCIENCE is capable of doing this because it is
a sufficiently DETAILED, MECHANICAL (by which I simply mean LAWFUL) model for
explaining behavior. Yet there is the tendency of Bill (also Rick, and others)
to see PCT science as supporting the ideology of radical autonomy and denying
an ideology of radical environmentalism. I have little hope of changing their
opinion on this; but others without ideological axes to grind might see some
merit in my arguments. I would not like to see the potential of PCT science
sacrificed on the altar of ideology, as Skinner sacrificed his "science of
behavior."

So much for the outcome of my argument. It will take some time for my outputs
to lead (I hope) there.

Greg Williams (920903 - 3) --

1. Is controlling a person possible with THREAT of force (which might
be included in what you mean by "direct use of force")?

Yes, I think so. It doesn't even have to be an offered threat; it can
simply be a perceived threat.

All right, then, I THINK we arrive at the following more complete formulation
of your definition: "Controlling another person" means altering variables
associated with that person so as to maintain certain of your perceptions as
you desire. Another person's output variables (actions) can be so controlled
(I have been calling this "manipulation") if you have appropriate knowledge
(or adequate prediction) of the person's control structure, without the threat
of or direct use of overwhelming physical force by you. Another person's
control structure (reference signals) cannot be so controlled regardless of
the threat (or perceived threat) of or direct use of overwhelming physical
force by you. Nor can another person's CONTROLLED (by him/her) perceptions be
so controlled without the threat (or perceived threat) of or direct use of
overwhelming physical force by you.

Question: Do you have any problems with the above paragraph? I need to
know whether it is OK before proceeding further. Thanks!

To be continued,

Greg

[From Rick Marken (920904.1430)]

Greg Williams (920904) --

Skinner was
model-less; PCT is based on models. And those models, aside from confirming
folk notions of how organisms "work," are constructed in such a way as to make
the two mutually incompatible "complementary" world-views described above fit
together in a plausible way. I think the science could heal that ideological
rift, and lead to a new sort of ideology noting the importance of BOTH history
and the present situation.

Talk about synchronicity. I had just posted my last post on using models
to heal our apparent rift on "control of behavior" and then I read this.
Sounds good to me, Greg.

Yet there is the tendency of Bill (also Rick, and others)
to see PCT science as supporting the ideology of radical autonomy and denying
an ideology of radical environmentalism. I have little hope of changing their
opinion on this; but others without ideological axes to grind might see some
merit in my arguments. I would not like to see the potential of PCT science
sacrificed on the altar of ideology, as Skinner sacrificed his "science of
behavior."

I don't want to see PCT sacrificed on the alter of ideology either! Help.
Stop me before I sacrifice again! Tell me what I am doing that's
wrong. How can I stop?

I swear. I am (at least, I think I am) only trying to describe
(verbally) what I think is implied by the PCT model of behavior
(at least, as far as control of behavior goes). I agree that you
can control behavior -- via deception, disturbance to controlled variables
(including changes in the feedback function -- ie operant conditioning),
asking, etc. It's just that you can't do it arbitrarily (you might pick
a variable to control that the other person is also controlling) or for
long (the controllee might eventually catch on). That's all. My only ideology
(that I know of) is that I believe (based on my understanding of the nature of
control) that controlling is not a very good way for controllers to interact,
my own behavior notwithstanding. (As I always say to my kids, "do as I say,
not as I do; better yet, do as your mother says; even better yet, do what
you want").

Best regards

Rick

···

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Richard S. Marken USMail: 10459 Holman Ave
The Aerospace Corporation Los Angeles, CA 90024
E-mail: marken@aero.org
(310) 336-6214 (day)
(310) 474-0313 (evening)

Curt McNamara (920904.1730 CDT)

[From Rick Marken (920904.1430)]

My only ideology
(that I know of) is that I believe (based on my understanding of the nature of
control) that controlling is not a very good way for controllers to interact,
my own behavior notwithstanding. (As I always say to my kids, "do as I say,
not as I do; better yet, do as your mother says; even better yet, do what
you want").

  Really? Is this how you raised your kids? No time-outs,
loss of privelieges, etc.? Or was there something more?
  Seriously, I would very much appreciate those of you who have
raised/are raising children would pass on your tips on "aligning thier
control structures" with those of civilization.
  BTW it appears to me that some CSG-L folks don't believe in
manipulation because they think everyone's control structures are
perfectly aligned with their highest principles. In fact, I would
guess that none of us are actually organized this well. The
non-alignment is what allows manipulation to occur.

            Curt

···

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Curt McNamara (mcnamara@mgi.com) |"Mistakes are part of the dues
Mgmt. Graphics, Inc. |one pays for a full life."
1401 E. 79th St. | Sophia Loren
Mpls., MN 55425 |
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My wife & I have three children. Girl, boy, boy. All are
          out of college & are "responsible adults"...as far as we
          know. All three are doing well in professions & seem to be
          sane. We know of no serious anti-social behavior.
          What I am about to say will probably mortify some folks, but
          I believe it to be accurate. Our kids were raised much the
          same way we raise our dogs. First they are housebroken &
          taught the rudiments of personal hygene & responsibility for
          personal actions. With the kids its a little easier,
          because the language barrier is not as difficult. The dogs
          learn faster up to a point, however. The next thing is
          learning how to learn. This requires figuring out what the
          kid (or dog) pays attention to, then using that as the
          channel through which to impart knowledge & stimulate
          curiosity. Next, necessary limits on curiosity and behavior
          must be imparted. Both kids & dogs must be socialized lest
          they get killed crossing the road or someone dangerous.
          Also, they must be socialized so that they do not become
          unable to learn how to recognize when their behavior is
          likely to result in their not being able to obtain adequate
          food, clothing, shelter & affection. In order to make any
          progress on these latter points, one must, again, establish
          reference signals that are personnaly meaningful to the
          child/dog. Any insistance on my part to force the kid or
          pup to see things my way have been pretty fruitless. I
          have to see things their way, then establish why their
          viewpoint is in error. By the way. I am an ex-Army Special
          Operations Officer. I don't think I'm a patsy. BUT!! I
          have NEVER had to resort to "Because I said so." Both kids
          & dogs will come to respect your judgement about things if
          you have established a way of expressing that judgement in
          referrence to things they value, & the result of which is an
          experience that they can rely on for making their own
          judgement in the future. Inconsistant messages or behavior
          on my part always causes more problems than the kind of
          working through the situation so that both of us are
          satisfied.
          The lastest dog, by the way, fetches the paper (in the
          snow), closes the door behind herself, brings her leash when
          its time to go for a walk, leaves the kitchen or dining room
          when the humans sit down to eat, & is generally a great
          pleasure to share time with.
          Whatever we're doing, it works.