Announcing: Answers To Top 10 Questions About The Brain

Mr Michael Bibby s4032484 at
Mon Jul 7 01:02:11 EST 2003

----- Original Message -----
From: David Longley <David at>
Date: Saturday, July 5, 2003 7:39 am
Subject: Re: re. your bionet.neuroscience forum posting on the 2nd of july
(forwarded post)

> Hi There,
> I've read what you've written below and can only conclude that you're
> probably quite young (still undergraduate?).

i am 25 Y.O, 2nd year undergraduate student studying psychological science. i
have been studying philosophy for about 6 years and pscyhology for about 4
years. but this means nothing: my arguments still stand. the fact that you didnt
engage any of my arguments leads me to infer that you consider my criticisms to
be vacuous philosophical arguments.  i know that the natural and social sciences
are important in western society; without it, this conversation would be next to
impossible. I know that science produces results, this is not a point of
contention as we are in agreement here (i hope).  i iterate this point because
it is this ‘fact’ that is often taken as ‘evidence’ in support of the view that
science describes ontic reality (that its theories ‘approximate reality’- this
view has been aptly named ‘accumulative fragmentalism’ by George Kelly).
scientists, for the most part, believe that their methods and methodologies
provide them with privaliged access to reality. when i say ‘scientists’ i can
only speak from personal experience. i have some contact with social scientists,
i have several friends who are pratictioners, both in clinical and laboratory
settings whom i am ‘helping’ with their research thesis’ (a good friend of mine
is doing his post-grad in cognitive neuro-psych and is currently working on
associative memory mechanisms using attentional paradigms; another friend is
woking on her research thesis which is looking at conscious representation of
action execution and negative feedback mechanisms that guide ballistic movements
in intercepting moving target of increased acceleration from a system theorist
perspective; and i am helping another friend who is doing his masters looking at
top-down processing models of music perception and the perceptual distinction
between noise and music); and intermittently i converse with research scientists
via email [as i am presently working on getting some papers published in
peer-review journals, you will be pleased to note, in the not so distant future,
hopefully]- and have further ‘contact’ through ‘authorative texts’ and
peer-review journals, and immediate contact through my lecturer’s who i also
converse with on a regular basis. i am passionate about psychology, no doubt as
are you, i am, however, disappointed with the arrogance displayed by many
scientists concerning the ‘truth’ of their claims which purport to capture and
describe some circumscibed domain of reality- when scientists talk, people
listen; therefore, i believe it encumbant  upon scientists to accept some
responcibility in the models they construct- especially in pscyhology! HUMAN
THEORIES HAVE HUMAN CONSEQUENCES, as i always say. i may be young, but i have
passioned and conviction on my side (‘youth is wasted on the young’ as they say)
and i dont consider myself an idealist for challanging accepted norms. i am a
pragmatist, as are you, perhaps we both have different ideas concerning what is
practical and within the realms of possibility, but that doesnt mean that one of
us is wrong. 

> I'm sorry, but after nearly 30 years in this business I've come to 
> see a
> few things more clearly (or at least in a more sober context) than 
> I did
> years ago.

NO DOUBT YOU HAVE! we all profit from our experiences, but your experiences are
uniquely yours and may not be at all like mine- JUST BECUASE YOU PROFITED FROM
EXPERIENCES!  i am sure that you have gleaned a lot of knowledge from your
experiences, knowledge which helps you to make sense of your experiences and
bring things into a logical order. i also know that it would be very difficult
for you to disentangle and extricate these knowledge structures from your own
experiences (they would be difficult to communicate to another). please, read
what i say below as i am sure that it will caste some light upon what i now say,
otherwise, this conversation can serve no other purpose than to reinforce what
you previously believed. 

> A word of warning - epistemological anarchism is bad for your long 
> termwell being.
> Kind regards,

i ‘appreciate’ the warning, and i thank you for imparting your 30years of
experiences to help me curb my wayward ways. you seem to be implying there that
there are no other alternatives (i have had similar arguments with lecturers on
this matter, as they too have voiced the same kind of criticism),
"epistemological anarchism"- quite the contrary, just because i criticize the
episetemological assumptions underlying modern empiricism, this is not to say
that i dont subscribe to or proscribe an alternative: its called ‘radical
constructivism’ (after Glasersfled, a pscyhologists and philosopher- it is
roughly based upon Piagets developmental theory i.e., to ‘learn’ is to construct
a model of reality, to ‘know’ is to have constructed a model of reality), it
will please you to know he has many ‘peer-review’ publications, if you have
access to any psychology or philosophy data bases, do an author search and i am
sure you will find some hits (‘Earnst Von Glasersfeld’). his epistemology has
become core essential to many constructivist theories; for example, it provides
the epistemic basis of second-order cybernetics (2nd order cybernetics or
cybernetics of cybernetics)

Essentially it is no different than pre-existing paradigms in epistomology; the
only difference is that instead of clinging to the ‘representationalist’ belief
that our knowledge reflects ontic reality (which is not tenable); we replace it
with the notion of ‘functional fit’. Conceptual structures (knowledge) which
help us to organize and make sense of our experiences (and controlled
observations) are viable and therefore retained- they are applied to an
observational domain to help us manage and organize that domain. the important
thing is that knowledge is no longer seen as ‘discovered’ but ‘constructed’ -by
us for us- knowledge helps us to ‘bring things into a logical order’ it doesnt
‘represent ontic reality’.

this constructivist epistemology places the responsibity square upon the
shoulders of the ‘constructor’ (they model themselves in their own models,
making them complete; contrast this with science where we treat observations as
if they were not made by observers, and observational models dont include the
observer!- this is why we write in the third person in scientific lit) and is
also ‘self-reflexive’ in that it can even be applied to itself! (this is the
intrinsic beauty of this theory of knowledge, it is itself a human specific
construct, a useful conceptual device that helps us to organise and manage our
experiential domains, the model is actually a model of itself!-a ‘metamodel’).
responciblity is built into the epistemology; it is also compatable with
hegelian dialectic logic (thesis, antithesis; synthesis) which means that
everything can be negotiated through discourse. it might sound like an ideology
but it is simple to follow- just model yourself in your own models- i.e., write
in the first person because your knowledge is specific to your experiences and
cannot be generalized accross experiential domains (***and most importantly, it
cannot be applied to a ‘trancsendental domain’ which exists outside of your
experiences****)- your knowledge structures are ‘built into your means and ways
of experiencing’ and you assimilate your experiences into these tacit knowledge
structures (you can still follow the scientific method, just dont leave out the
empirical observer: observations are made by observers, the observer is one half
of the observation! 

“objectivity is the delusion that observations could be made without observers”

like i said on the forum “this is my point of view, it is not up for discussion”
(i.e., in constructivist terms i might say that these knowledge structures are
applied to my experiential domain and not yours and i am the depository of the
evidence of the subject which i consider, therefore, nothing you can say can
possibly refute me- you can ‘orient’ me to different ‘means and ways of
experiencing’ but you cannot 'defeat' me just as i cannot defeat you)- but if
you do wish to ‘defend’ science against the criticism i levelled upon it,
please, endulge me, i would be more than glade to engage in a bit ‘mutual
orienting’- orienting each other to different ‘means and ways of thinking'. i
dont use words like ‘information’, i dont believe that ‘information’ is
exchanged or communicated in the conventional sense implied by that word;
‘information’ is an explanatory device; understanding is constructed, just as
knowledge is constructed i.e., you are constructing your understanding of what i
know say, no doubt you'll probably interpret everything i now say to support
what you already believed.

the author (‘I’) function to ‘orient’ the reader (‘you’) to different ‘means and
ways of thinking'- this is a constructivist perspective of communication,
similar to Gordan Pasks conversation theory.

to 'know' is to possess different means and ways of thinking and acting...- this
is not "epistemological anarchism", it is an epistemological position which
doesnt make any prententious ontological commitments, it is not a theory of
being (ontology), it is a theory of 'doing'. 


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