Thoughts on B:CP

[From Bill Powers (2002.06.20.1129 MDT)]

Bruce Abbott remarked that if all the theoretical points in B:CP had had to
be verified experimentally , it would have been a pretty thin book. I
browsed through it a bit just to see how much thinner it would have been,
and while doing so realized something that was going on that I never
actually talked about -- I just did it.

Starting with chapter 7, a large part of the book is concerned with the
types of perceptions that we control. As I skimmed through some of these
chapters, I realized that the main unspoken point that is made over and
over is not that the control model is the right model, but that all these
different aspects of experience to which I refer ARE PERCEPTIONS that have
to find a home, somewhere, in the model. I can see now how easy it would be
for a confirmed realist to miss this point completely -- in fact I've never
seen a review or citation that recognized it. It would be very easy to read
these chapters as if the perceptions being mentioned were simply aspects of
reality, and I was proposing that the brain perceives them and uses them in
controlling things.

I recommend scanning the middle part of the book with this in mind. Just
about every page is brimming with examples of aspects of experience being
referred to as perceptions rather than as objective features of reality.
What I'm doing over and over is raising the subject of how such-and-such a
thing, like a musical chord, is brought into existence by the operation of
the brain's perceptual functions. I am taking the entire world as evidence,
direct and irrefutible evidence, about the nature and content of human
perception. While proposing levels of perception, I am also pointing to
multitudinous examples of such perceptions -- which of course some people
will simply think are aspects of the environment.

It seems to me that _every other theory of behavior_ divides the totality
of human experience into two kinds: the kinds that arise from
interpretations and preferences and opinions and habits and so forth, and
are clearly part of the internal operation of the brain, and the kinds that
are simply reports on the state of the objective world outside us. In such
theories one can talk about the causal influence of A on B as if it existed
independently and the observer simply noticed it. The idea that this
self-evident and obvious relationship is an interpretation by someone's
brain would simply never arise: the observer is not what is being
discussed, but only the observed. The fact that it takes a brain to make an
observation is not even within the universe of discourse in other theories
of behavior.

By the time I got down to the final draft of B:CP, it no longer occurred to
me that any aspect of experience, whether concrete or abstract, was
anything other than a perception in my own brain. I spoke of _appearances_,
how things _seem_ to us human beings, and I was trying to remind other
brains of all the kinds of experience that we had to consider in making a
model of how a brain works. Nothing was exempt, nothing at all. Anything I
could catch myself noticing, doing, or thinking was grist for the mill. An
example would be this paragraph, in which there are letter- and
word-configurations with terms referring to transitions, events,
relationships, categories, and sequences, all being set forth in a
sequential pattern that conveys certain logical propositions that pertain
to principles within the whole system-concept of control theory. At the
moment I'm the only one experiencing this paragraph, but I'm trying to
imagine how others will read it, how some terms could be misread or
misinterpreted, and what meanings other than those I intend could be
extracted from it. I just went back and inserted "terms referring to", so
as not to imply that the paragraph contains the actual transitions etc. to
which I allude. And I even spent a few leisurely seconds appreciating what
a nice, exact word "allude" is -- as I think of it.

Actually,. B:CP would not have been much thinner if evidence were required
for all the statements in it. I consider that the bulk of the book consists
of evidence, evidence derived from simple ordinary experiences we all
share, or from observations by scientists reporting what they have found in
the laboratory. And the evidence is recursive, for the mere fact that I
cite a given piece of evidence shows that I expect the reader to recognize
what I'm talking about, and to realize that if recognition does take place,
it is yet another example of the reader's own perceptions that I am
describing.

Of course that realization would depend on the reader's catching on to the
fact that the discussion and his own recognition of what is being discussed
-- like a musical chord -- is direct evidence that the reader, too, has
perceptual functions of the appropriate type. Practically every page in the
book is overflowing with such informal little perceptual experiments. If I
had left them out, the book would have been slim indeed -- as well as
totally unbelievable.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (2002.06.20.1129 MDT)]

Starting with chapter 7, a large part of the book is concerned with the
types of perceptions that we control. As I skimmed through some of these
chapters, I realized that the main unspoken point that is made over and
over is not that the control model is the right model, but that all these
different aspects of experience to which I refer ARE PERCEPTIONS that have
to find a home, somewhere, in the model. I can see now how easy it would

be

for a confirmed realist to miss this point completely -- in fact I've

never

seen a review or citation that recognized it. It would be very easy to

read

these chapters as if the perceptions being mentioned were simply aspects

of

reality, and I was proposing that the brain perceives them and uses them

in

controlling things.

Bill, I really appreciated this last posting. It got me reflecting on the
phenomena, reported by von Senden, 50 years or so ago, that a group of
patients, blind from cataracts for many years, when their cataracts were
removed they had to relearn how to get around on the streets of their town.

You also got me wondering about the Buddhists and meditation ....... how
much of that is creating and playing around with perceptions.

One of today's more successful approaches to teaching and learning is
called "constructivism". They have no trouble with the assumption that all
students constructs their own world from what is experienced in and out of
class. But, I suspect, almost none of them ever heard of BCP.

David (from Victoria, B.C. where our Premier is trying to control all our
perceptions from his office)

from Bill Powers (2002.06.20.1129 MDT)

[From Bjorn Simonsen (2002.06.23,08:30EST)]

chapters, I realized that the main unspoken point that is made over and
over is not that the control model is the right model, but that all these
different aspects of experience to which I refer ARE PERCEPTIONS that have
to find a home, somewhere, in the model. I can see now how easy it would be
for a confirmed realist to miss this point completely -- in fact I've never
seen a review or citation that recognized it. It would be very easy to read
these chapters as if the perceptions being mentioned were simply aspects of
reality, and I was proposing that the brain perceives them and uses them in
controlling things.

If I understand you, all different aspects of experience you refer to in
B:CP were perceptions for you when you studied them and they are perceptions
for me when I read your B:CP.
You explained that very good in chapter 13 where you wrote about the
experimenter who studied retroactive inhibition: "His own ability to see
events in terms of relationships may go unnoticed because it is part of
himself, not an attribute of the observed events."
I myself carried this forward to all experiments you referred to at all
levels. What the experimenters observed where perceptions for them when they
controlled what they controlled when they studied. What they wrote about
their studies were perceptions for you when you controlled what you
controlled when you wrote B:CP. What I read in B:CP is perceptions for me
when I control what I control reading your book. (I guess we controlled
different things.)

You deepened that at the bottom of page 172 where you wrote: " But no matter
how such concepts arise, what governs a persons behavior at the ninth level
of organization is his own structure of system-concept perceptions, and his
own set of reference levels for those system concepts."
I read this as if the structure and the function of all systems in HPCT are
peculiar for each human being.

So if I understood your "From Bill Powers (2002.06.20.1129 MDT)" correct,
you really communicated that well in your B:CP.

Le me go back to

Bruce Abbott remarked that if all the theoretical points in B:CP had had to
be verified experimentally , it would have been a pretty thin book.

and

An example would be this paragraph, in which there are letter- and
word-configurations with terms referring to transitions, events,
relationships, categories, and sequences, all being set forth in a
sequential pattern that conveys certain logical propositions that pertain
to principles within the whole system-concept of control theory.

I can just think what Bruce Abbot mean about verified experiments. But I
don't have fantasy to imagine the kind of experiments which can (and could
in 1973) verify that word-configurations activate nerve cells in all the
levels we think they do in HPCT, other than PC-Simulating programs using the
HPCT model. And this is our great challenge.
I know about them who works with a fMR (functionel Magneto
resonance-tomography) machine and scan the nerve cells to studying speech
defects. But they do not know anything about HPCT.

I will also bring some Thoughts on B:CP.

Your PCT and HPCT tell me that the entire world around me are perceptions in
my brain. People around me insist to be evaluated as genuine existing
valuable human beings. According to PCT I know nothing real about my
environments, I just have perceptions about them. I know I will have a
problem if I say that my colleagues are perceptions in my brain and that I
am not sure what they really are. I am therefore silent about this.
Is this a problem for other than me, or do I misunderstand PCT here.

Bjorn

[From Bill Powers (2002.06.23.0831 MDT)]

Bjorn Simonsen (2002.06.23,08:30EST)--

>If I understand you, all different aspects of experience you refer to in

B:CP were perceptions for you when you studied them and they are perceptions
for me when I read your B:CP.

Right, that's what I had in mind.

You explained that very good in chapter 13 where you wrote about the
experimenter who studied retroactive inhibition: "His own ability to see
events in terms of relationships may go unnoticed because it is part of
himself, not an attribute of the observed events."

Exactly the passage I came across when re-reading the book! I think that
when I wrote that, I had the background thought that the reader might
realize that there were perceptions in the reader, too, that were not being
recognized as perceptions. But I never _said_ that was what I was doing. I
wonder if it would have helped.

I myself carried this forward to all experiments you referred to at all
levels. What the experimenters observed where perceptions for them when they
controlled what they controlled when they studied. What they wrote about
their studies were perceptions for you when you controlled what you
controlled when you wrote B:CP. What I read in B:CP is perceptions for me
when I control what I control reading your book. (I guess we controlled
different things.)

I think you understand me very well.

Your PCT and HPCT tell me that the entire world around me are perceptions in
my brain. People around me insist to be evaluated as genuine existing
valuable human beings. According to PCT I know nothing real about my
environments, I just have perceptions about them. I know I will have a
problem if I say that my colleagues are perceptions in my brain and that I
am not sure what they really are. I am therefore silent about this.
Is this a problem for other than me, or do I misunderstand PCT here.

There is one last twist to this problem: The idea that the world consists
of perceptions is, of course, also a perception, as is the idea that we
have something called "a brain" organized into control systems, and so on.
Why doesn't this leave us with only solipsism?

Because the same theory requires that a real world exist outside us,
through which our actions affect our perceptions, and it tells us that
there are other agencies in that real world that can affect our perceptions
even when we do nothing. Indeed, most of our actions are needed to nullify
the effect of unwanted independent disturbances. Learning to control our
own perceptions is very much dependent on learning the effects of actions
applied to the real but invisible world. From these actions and their
perceived effects, in innumerable experiments conducted every moment of the
day, we build up a picture that is at least consistent, as far as it goes,
with the properties of reality. So while we may never have any direct
knowledge of the real world, we are continuously in contact with it as it's
reflected in our perceptual abstractions from it. We are always acting on
it and experiencing the consequences of its actions on us. That's a pretty
close relationship, although it's not what a passionate realist wants.

Best,

Bill P.