Threshold, Theory

[From Dag Forssell (930504.1120) Bill Powers (930501.1010)

There is an intellectual threshold effect here: a little knowledge
is more dangerous than total ignorance. To grasp the logic of
control, one must invest some considerable effort in the
beginning, because normal causal concepts are simply inadequate
for an understanding a closed loop of causation.

The key word inspiring me here is: threshold.

There are many thresholds in life. Learning to control at the next
level as an infant. Learning to drive a car. Mastering another
language (learning the grammar first). Learning to swim well enough
to enjoy it. Learning to ride a bike. Earning a degree so one can
practice some profession.

The concept is clear. Hard work (pain and suffering) early.
Increased effectiveness, safety, comfort, satisfaction later.

What makes anyone work past the threshold is the vision (reference
perception) of that satisfaction.

It occurs to me that it may be worthwhile to spell out the PCT
threshold in greater detail, so it becomes more understandable and
thereby more manageable.

It is of course also important to spell out that satisfaction. The
satisfaction is not the subject of this post, but I would suggest
that anyone who feels for PCT spell out their own, so we get a
kaleidoscope of satisfactions from many perspectives. Both
clinicians and researchers. Could that be a more powerful project
than the joint paper? (In terms of attracting interest).




People naturally develop an understanding about their world, self
and others from experience and stories (indirect experience). They
deduce or are given rules for behavior. The validity of this mostly
untested (unchallenged) understanding is sometimes marginal. That
is why we resort to (intuitive) probabilities and statistics to
express our confidence in our predictions and plans.

PCT requires the detailed understanding of a few functional
relationships. (Plus laws of nature and properties of nerve cells
for deeper study). From those relationships follow an understanding
of what makes people do what they do that is valid 100% of the
time. No statistics necessary.

The threshold here is that few people are in the habit of
contemplating functional relationships in any depth or detail. Few
people have considered the testing and validity of explanations.
Most people have an (incorrect with regards to behavior)
understanding and are satisfied with it.
Conversely: Which people have a low threshold here?


People naturally express their understanding and reasoning in the
form of descriptions of phenomena, with explanations which are
sometimes generative (explanations from which one can deduce the
phenomenon), but more often descriptive and general.

Descriptive and general explanations are very hard to test and
verify with 100% accuracy. Confidence is questionable.

Generative theory - engineering formulas, rigorously defined
models, physical models - can be tested and verified with 100%
accuracy and allow better confidence. This level of verification
has made it possible to develop engineering to unimagined heights
in the last few centuries.

The threshold here is that thinking in terms of theory with these
qualities requires an up-front investment of time and attention.
Conversely: Which people have a low threshold here?


PCT does not offer rules for behavior (but shows why they are
inappropriate since circumstances change).

PCT does offer clarity of underlying processes. From that one can
determine what to do under widely changing circumstances.

The threshold here is that the theory must be studied and
understood before the clarity hits you.
Conversely: Which people have a low threshold here?

Other aspect of threshold?
On theory............

I find as I compose this post (In the beginning of the para on
thinking) that the distinction between generative and descriptive
that I expressed in my post (940318 12.00), paper Quality of Theory
and above may be off the mark. Perhaps all explanations are
generative. That is the nature and intent of any explanation!!??
The difference more accurately should be ascribed to the
testability and verification of the explanation. An engineering
formula, a logical model, a mechanism - all lend themselves to
testing and 100% verification. Any suggestions for terminology?

Having thought on the above in the shower, I am beginning to think
that there is only one kind of theory (besides pure reasoning) -
generative. All descriptive theory is meant to be generative. The
difference is only quality, not kind. All explanation is meant to
allow generation. In a recent post, Bill spelled out the difference
between IV-DV research that can be called science and IV-DV
research that should not be published. Quality! Testing and
verification to a *high* standard of proof.

I have now half persuaded myself that instead of talking about
*descriptive* "soft" theory, I want a term that connotes lack of
testing, verification, validity and confidence. "Soft" does, but
poorly and it connotes an insult. Any suggestions? Guess it will
take two or three words. It should perhaps also connote

Instead of talking about "hard" *generative* theory, I want a term
that connotes rigorous formulation, testing, verification, 100 %
validity and very high confidence. Suggestions? Comments?

Another aspect of this qualitative distinction is quantity. With
the soft stuff, you need an enormous quantity of "experience" and
are still not able to predict much with confidence.

With the hard stuff, a minute amount of information can lay a
concrete foundation for extremely dependable conclusions on a wide
range of subjects or circumstances.

The graphic illustrations (940318 12.00), (930418 14.30) as
finalized in my paper Quality of Theory stay the same but
illustrate qualitative and quantitative difference, not any
difference in kind.

I can see logical correctness in this revised view as well as a
uniformity which removes any "class barrier" or suggestion that
there is any difference in how you and I think. We are all of the
same species, so why should there be any difference. But there can
be shades of gray in the quality and quantity of said similar

Best, Dag

correction: the line: Increased effectiveness, safety,...
Increased effectiveness, safety, comfort, control and satisfaction later.