[from Jeff Vancouver 980407.0850 EST]
[from Mary Powers 980404]
*When you talk on the net about what you are trying to accomplish in the
paper it sounds fine, but what you say on the net is not what you seem to be
saying in the paper. Are you compromising or does it just seem that way?
Both. A point I think I make is that PCT is a systems theory unlike most
other theories in psychology. It is articulated at a different level - an
architectural/structural level. What Bill recently refered to as a
"systems analysis." As such, the others, what I call results-level
theories, are not incompatible. However, some of the things said in those
results-level theories, how they are tested, and what they really mean are
questionable, which is always the case. Yet, if these theorists were to
attempt to understand the nature of the underlying architecture they might
be less inclined to make these mistakes. Meanwhile, all the architectural
issues have not been resolved, fully tested, or even fully articulated,
which is also always the case. Hence, one should be circumspect in their
endorsing of a theory (of either kind). And, one might not want to suggest
to the results-oriented theorists that they are completely missing the
boat, for they can rightly point out that the boat is not finished.
Further, I do not believe in taking the "in your face" approach that Rick
takes. As I have said, I am much more inclined to take Anthony's approach
("I am not here to praise Caesar...").
In addition, I believe that some other architecturally oriented-models are
around. I believe ACT is one of those and it fills in a gap in PCT (of
course, PCT fills in a lot of gaps in ACT). I believe many of the
results-oriented theories are useful. I believe that were PCT as big a
thing as, say, the connectionist models, that it would be put to the same
scrutiny and that it _might not_ stand up to the test of being structurally
sound (i.e., it is incompatable with the physical system). I am hoping
that it will because I think it makes sense and I have invested I lot of
time into understanding and promoting it (whether I do or not is another
question). But time and empirical evidence (particularly from skeptics)
Am I compromising? Yes and no (sorry, could not resist). Seriously, I
believe PCT has gone places no theory of human systems has gone and I try
to say that. But I am a scientist first and my skepticism reigns.
Furthermore, I try to respect that skepticism in others. Hence, I
_suspect_ PCT will engulf the other theories, but I am not going to say
that outright (nor do I need to - if it is the theory we suspect it is, it
will simply engulf).
* * *
I'm not about to convince you here that living systems are not the same as
systems of interacting living systems (social systems) or systems of
interacting living and non-living systems (the planet). It doesn't seem to
me to be so hard to grasp that idea, and maybe start to appreciate the idea
that control systems are physical and have to be embodied, and the only
natural systems around that seem to do that are individual living creatures,
no matter how interdependent they are.
No, you are not. I suspect this is like the behavioral illusion. Humans
look so embodied compared to social organizations. That does not mean they
I also realize that neither you nor I know nearly enough about symbiosis,
reciprocity, parasitism, predation, communication, the finer points of
eukaryotic biology, etc. to really have a final opinion on the subject.
Exactly, yet some on this net do.
You say: "I agree that 'theories' is a seriously devalued currency...
Although it is probably more accurate to say it is an ambiguous word. But
it is the word used by these people, so what can I do?"
You could refuse to buy into it. It is not an ambiguous word; it is a word
that has been used to inflate the value of various notions and in the
process has become debased until the popular understanding is that it means
"a guess". But it is still needed in its original sense so some effort
needs to go to educating people in what that is (see any good dictionary).
It is a guess about why something is happening, but the why is often not at
the architectural level for many of these theories. But in any case
(ambiguity or denotation), it deserves more space to disentangle the
different meanings then I can devote in my chapter (which I perceive as too
long as it is). If I start refusing to buy into it, communication becomes
much more difficult.
[From Fred Nickols (980406.1730 EDT)]
The interest, however, will appear only if the "successes" are defined in
terms that are recognizeable by the academics. This is a dilemma, because
the problems that academics are trying to solve are defined by their
existing frames of reference.
I don't agree with the statement above. My point was that if practical
successes can be achieved and then explained using PCT instead of some
more widely accepted theory, the academics will have to pay attention.
and Fred later to Bill
Again, I disagree with your assessment above. I think people are perfectly
willing to abandon their favorite theories -- when and if something better
I fall in between the extremes here (not surprising if you know me).
I think that it is very easy for academics to think their pet theories are
compatible with some practical application. Bruce Nevin's (?) idea of the
robotics applications are less easy for academics to do that, but many
academics will not pay attention to it because they do not think machines
apply to humans. Nonetheless, practical applications can have an influence.
Meanwhile, I also think that more academically oriented inroads will help.
There will need to be some funerals (or retirements anyway), but in the
meantime, if no efforts are made, the young new faculty will be exposed
only to the currently hot old ideas. I want PCT to be one of those
currently hot old ideas for it to have a chance.