World History and Golden Rules

[From Rick Marken (941210.1110)]

Bruce Buchanan (941210.07:00 EST) --

But it seems to me prima facia wrong to say that "the one with the
gold really doesn't rule" even though people think that happens. This
flies in the face of the history of the world!

Many new ideas flew in the face of world history. The test of the
correctness of an idea is not what world history thought but what science
reveals. When I say that "the one with the gold doesn't really rule" I am
simply stating a fact about the nature of living control systems. If
people are living control systems, then external circumstances (like
gold) do not determine or control (rule) their behavior.

The notion that "the one with the gold rules" is a colloquial
restatement of the Law of Effect. There are many circumstance where
the Law of Effect seems to hold; that's why people have believed in the
Law of Effect throughout world history. But they also believed that the
sun moved around a stationary earth for a good part of world history
too. Once a better explanation of a phenomenon is found -- one that
accounts for the phenomenon under more conditions -- the old
explanation can be abandoned. Or do you still believe that the notion
of the sun moving around a stationary earth still has some merit -- after
all, it does explain what you experience every day -- the sun rising in
the east, moving across the sky and setting in the west every day?

The Law of Effect is a plausible explanation of how people deal with the
consequences of behavior; it is so plausible and "obvious" that people
have taken it for granted for centuries. PCT happens to shows that this
Law is only an appearance. Does that mean that we accept the Law in
those cases where it seems to hold and reject it in cases where it doesn't?
Or do we accept the new model -- PCT-- that explains how people deal with
the consequences of their actions under all conditions? I'm afraid I
have to go with the latter path -- and world history be damned.

In a wonderful post this morning, Bill Powers (941210.0735 MST)
clearly explains why the Law of Effect has to be replealed. And he
concludes (as I do) that we might as well abandon it since it has been
replaced by a more general explanation of the phenomenon it is
designed to explain.

The Law of Effect, while plausible under certain conditions, is not a
general law, and in fact predicts incorrectly when disturbances are
allowed back into the picture.

I'm afraid you are talking to some scientists who don't really give a fat
rat's ass whether or not their explanations fly in the face of the history
of the world. Just call me the Joslyn Elders of psychology;-)

While I believe that PCT is valid enough within the individual
sphere it describes and explains, it strikes me as inappropriate to try to
apply it to societal and other phenomena simply because these are
phenomena that human beings perceive. They are that, but they are
more than that, and they have other principles and sometimes laws
by which they may be understood on their own terms - which are not
that of PCT.

Could you provide some kind of scientific evidence for that belief? It
sounds a tad religious to me. PCT is applicable to social phenomena
because those phenomena involve people. Until someone can
demonstrate otherwise, I have to assume that the laws, principles, and
rules that seem to characterize the interactions between people exist
inside people. Tom Bourbon (my hero) has done a considerable
amount of research showing how various social phenomena (conflict,
cooperation, interdependance) result from the interaction of
individual control systems. It would take some demos of similar rigor
to convince me that societal phenomena are not completely
understandable in terms of the principles of PCT.

An argument which puts anyone in the position of saying that
observations and relationships which do not accord with the PCT
concepts are illusions which only APPEARS to be true has to be

Suspect away! But that's not what I was doing. I have never argued
that "observations and relationships which do not accord with the PCT
concepts are illusions". You miss the point completely. The Law of
Effect (the notion that "the one with the gold rules") is both a
description of a phenomenon (the fact that people will work for
money) and an explanation of that phenomenon -- the money (the
effect) strengthens (rules) the behavior that produced it. PCT and the
Law of Effect agree on the description of the phenomenon -- people
will (sometimes) work for money. The illusion is in the explanation; the
Law of Effect says that the effect (money) selects (rules) the behavior; PCT
shows that this is an illusion (for the reasons given by Bill Powers
(941210.0735 MST) in his post this morning); what is really happening
is that the person is selecting the effect (money) and making it happen
by whatever means are necessary.

It is not only attempts to control the behavior of others, or failure to
recognize PCT or any other concepts or principles, that brings conflict
into situations, but conditions of existence which may present
mutually exclusive alternatives and the necessity for choices.

That's correct. And why do you think conflict results from
"conditions of existence which may present mutually exclusive
alternatives and the necessity for choices"? I think (and can
demonstrate on the computer) that it occurs when people are trying to
control (choose) those mutually exclusive alternatives.

My question is how PCT as a theory accommodates to other theories,
for I do not think PCT is or needs to be in principle irreconcilable with
theories about other aspects and dimensions of existence.

PCT doesn't accomodate to S-R and cognitive theories of behavior very
well. It accords quite nicely with physical and chemical theories and
some neurological theories. Many theories are so poorly articulated
that PCT doesn't really have much to say about them except "say

A serious response, in my view, would seek to relate PCT to other
conceptual frames of reference, not to insist that PCT includes

PCT is a model of living systems so it tries to explain what we know
about those systems. We know that they produce consistent results in a
distrubance prone world; they control. The things people control range
from bodily posture to political posture. We know that they learn to
control some variables and come equiped with the ability to control
others. We know that they sometimes control consciously and
sometimes unconsciously. We know that they control in the context of
other controllers. We know that systems that control have evolved
over eons and we suspect that that process of evolution is a type of
control process itself.

Everything else, besides that, is not included in PCT.