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Commentary on “Notes on the Relationship between Persons and Embodiment”, Notes N1 and N2

N.L. Kirsch, J. Jeffrey, & P. Zeiger

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A. The Conceptual Relationship Between Embodiment and Persons

N1. Human embodiment, including neurologically embodied mechanisms, provides for being a person.

N1a. Providing for being a Person is to provide for being “an individual whose history is, paradigmatically, a history of Deliberate Action in a Dramaturgical pattern” (Ossorio, 2006/2013).

N1b. Providing for being a Person is to provide for acquiring Person Characteristics [that is Dispositions, Powers, and Derivatives].

N1c. Providing for being a Person is to provide for acquiring and having a world and behaving in a world of other Persons.

(Etc., etc., in a manner consistent with the DP opus, BoP, Place, WAH, etc.)

N2. A characteristic of Persons is to have an embodiment sufficient for being a Person, which is to have sufficient embodied mechanisms for being a Person.
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1. Introduction. With N1 and N2 we leap fully equipped into the relationship between embodiment and Persons. This felicitous alternative offers a new way to talk about an old puzzling concern, that is, a focus on the relationship between, on one hand, our bodies, and on the other, the worlds we have and in which we take part. It offers a new way of talking because by reframing the targeted relationship in this way, we are constructively able to accredit each of these two worlds and the locutions they entail, while at the same time demarcating the relationship they share and its conceptual and methodological implications.

N1 and N2 are clear, straightforward, and offered not as empirical assertions, but as simple efforts to declare the boundaries of a target for inquiry. In fact, from the perspective of Descriptive Psychology they almost seem trivially self-evident. N1 and N2 cannot be proven or demonstrated; yet they carry the weight of tenets that guide behavior. It is our belief that by starting in this way, it is possible to discuss the relationship of neuroscience and DP constructively, to avoid many conceptual pitfalls, and perhaps most importantly, to act on the conceptual primacy of the behavioral world, that is, the world of Persons, in a way that does not degrade neuroscience.

It is absolutely critical to note that it is only because of the Descriptive Psychology opus, that is, specifically Pete Ossorio’s work, that it is possible to make a case for the relationship between embodiment and Persons as being one that is conceptually sound, informative, and in turn, useful. It is possible to do this because of the breadth and rigor of the DP concept of Person. Without such an explicated concept, it is nearly impossible to find a way to talk formally about the “Person” side of the “Person-Embodiment” relationship, but with support of that concept the waters we are diving into seem considerably less treacherous.

2. Some very highly selective background. It is important to acknowledge difficulties that have arisen for the communities that represent both sides of the Person-Embodiment conceptual relationship.

For neuroscience, the difficulty has been that as for any person who is an actor in the world of Persons, neuroscientists (being themselves competent Persons) pragmatically appreciate the behavioral focus of their research. However, they often do so without being able to formally and explicitly demarcate the conceptual parameters and boundaries of their behavioral focus of study. It is not surprising, as has frequently been noted by Descriptive Psychologists for many other areas of behavioral science inquiry, the behavioral concepts used by neuroscientists: (a) often differ significantly from one practitioner to another; (b) are “operationalized” in ways that are then challenging to compare; (c) often seem to require those very operationalizations as a primary method because the tools that would otherwise provide conceptual rigor haven’t been available; or (d) are simply identified by assertion. It is remarkable to note, in fact, that this lack of conceptual rigor about behavioral “targets” is in such dramatic contrast to the otherwise extreme methodological rigor of behavioral neuroscience experiments themselves. Because of that, it is also not surprising that the neurological mechanisms being studied (however well they are described and understood as mechanisms) therefore often seem to represent inadequately or incompletely the richness and variability of the behavioral target of interest.

In contrast, for the Descriptive Psychology community, it is the discussion of embodied mechanisms that has been approached with wariness and, we believe, this has prevented us from developing a more inclusive perspective regarding neurological embodiment as a component of Descriptive Psychology.

The reasons for this wariness, which have been discussed in detail by Bergner (2004, 2006), Jeffrey (1998a, 1998b)), Ossorio (1982), and others, are quite understandable, given claims in the neuroscience world that either ignore or at times denigrate the conceptual primacy of Persons. As observers of this wariness over the years, it appears to us that among these many reasons there are two that are of principal importance, but that we believe Descriptive Psychology is uniquely positioned to address.

The first reason, the rejection of the “causal” assertion (i.e., reductionism) by reason of non-reflexivity is, in fact, very familiar to those in the DP community, and has been discussed by Ossorio in many venues and publications. It is also a familiar argument offered by Wittgenstein (1972), where his “demonstration” is that taking the position that “uncertainty” is fundamentally necessary is untenable because to act in that way would leave no meaningful place in the “language game” we share, which includes offering locutions about fundamental uncertainty. To accept neurological determinism, just as accepting fundamentally necessary uncertainty, is to leave no place for those very assertions.

To summarize this argument specifically relative to embodiment, it has often appeared that neuroscientists discount the world of Persons by attributing causal significance to embodied mechanisms. In it’s most extreme form, the “causal” argument claims that behavior is: (a) merely the expression of neural events that determine those behaviors; or (b) that what we take to be competent behavior (for example, a simple choice) is causally attributable to embodied mechanisms to which Persons have no “access” and which they cannot control. This extreme argument therefore eliminates the conceptual legitimacy of both: (a) Persons as individuals who make choices based on reasons they take to be the case at any time; and (b) that making such choices is a fundamental component of Deliberate Action in worlds that have meaning.

In a conceptually related way, the attribution of causal status to embodied mechanisms therefore requires the additional claim that even in the case of person A observing what person B is doing (which includes the “special” case of Person A and Person B being the same person, that is, both the Actor and Observer) that what Person A takes to be the case about Person B is also itself a mere expression of neurological events. Taken to its extreme, from this perspective there are no worlds with meaning, but instead, nothing but impressions of meaning that are themselves neurologically determined.

It is easy to see that within DP (and, of course, in the everyday lives of people), this way of talking is untenable. In contrast, Descriptive Psychology (and by extension, as argued below, N1 and N2) provides “a place to stand” even for the observer (engaging in Deliberate Action) who insists on neurological determinism, however unsustainable that observer’s insistence may be.

The second reason for wariness about a broader inclusion of embodiment in DP, as a conceptual discipline, is that it has been difficult to develop alternative locutions that are, as required, non-reductionistic, reflexive, and also importantly, accrediting to both the world of neuroscience and the world of Persons. In the absence of such locutions (and the concepts to which they stand in “one to one relationship”, Ossorio, 2006/2013, pp. 131-135), it has been difficult to offer a DP alternative to causal neurological assertions, even though the basis for such alternative locutions has already been developed by Ossorio (see for example, Ossorio, 1982 and Ossorio, 2006/2013, pp 83-89). Without such alternative locutions, it becomes understandably difficult, in turn, to do anything more than simply reject causal descriptions because of their clear inadequacy.

3. N1 and N2. In order to address these concerns, in our last post we proposed a group of “Notes”, or reminders, about the relationship between Persons and Embodiment that we believe address the above difficulties and that provide language that Descriptive Psychology can use to expand its conceptual inclusion of neurological embodiment. These reminders do so by offering a “way of talking” that accredits both behavioral neuroscience and the world of Persons, but they do so in a way that: (a) is based on the conceptual primacy of Persons; and (b) avoids the category error of ascribing person concepts to neurological mechanisms. Instead, as represented by N1 and N2, embodiment provides the mechanisms for being a Person (which, of course, is explicated by Ossorio’s concept of Person), but it is only because of the world of Persons that we understand and recognize the significance of those neurological mechanisms.

Additionally, N1 and N2 make it clear that these Notes, as a group, do not focus only, or even primarily, on the acquisition of specific abilities, or the production of a specific behavior. Instead, by conceptualizing embodied mechanisms as providing for being a Person (which is, of course, to be a specific individual who may acquire person characteristics such as abilities, given an appropriate intervening history), N1 and N2 draw attention to embodied mechanisms as providing for the acquisition of person characteristics, in general. This is a very different approach than one that, say, focuses on the acquisition of a specific skill (or deficit) as being neurologically determined (e.g., being extroverted, or being characterologically anxious). Instead, these reminders represent broader language that supports discussing the embodied mechanisms for being a Person, and then, in turn, for being a specific Person.

However, N1 and N2 were also constructed in a way that does not exclude the possibility that embodied mechanisms will themselves vary and that, in turn, the boundaries on person characteristic acquisition for any individual will vary accordingly. Since being a Person includes, as one parameter, being a version of the paradigm case formulation of human embodiment (see for example, Ossorio, 1982; Ossorio, 2006/2013), there is also a place for discussing instances of neurologically embodied variations that limit the acquisition of certain person characteristics in specific ways, or perhaps that provide for the acquisition of exceptional abilities not often shared by others.

Consistent with concepts well known in the DP community, N1 and N2 achieve this by reminding the observer that to be a Person is to have a history (Ossorio, 2006/2013). Histories include the acquisition of skills and abilities. Given the language of N1 and N2, it is therefore also conceptually reasonable to discuss neurological “impairments” as limiting the skills that a specific individual (i.e., a version of a Person) can acquire (as is covered in some of the subsequent “Notes”). However, in doing this, there is no implication of causal determinism. Instead, there is a recognition that in providing for being a Person, human embodiment provides for the full range of possible person characteristics that humans can become, in any of the ways that can occur historically, and for the acquisition of the full range of person characteristics that Persons can acquire, including characteristics we would consider to be impairments or talents.

We believe that this way of talking is a very important “move”. Language that conceptually associates embodied mechanisms with Persons (and all of the conceptual implications of that association) is broadening and empowering. This language serves as a reminder that embodied mechanisms (however they may “work”) provide for deliberate action, choice, recognizing significance, making appraisals, verbal behavior, having relationships in which behaviors are an expression of eligibility (that is, Status), participating in communities, being subject to and having one’s behavioral Status altered by degradation and accreditation, having worlds and places in worlds, and all of the components of those and other features of Persons that are offered by the DP universe of concepts. In other words, to restate this as simply as it is stated by N1, a non-reductionistic and non-causal way of talking about embodiment is achieved by recognizing and stressing that what embodiment provides for is Persons.

4. Summary. To summarize this argument more formally, “Notes” N1 and N2, with associated sub-notes, are the primary explications of a specific conceptual relationship, with both sub-conceptual and methodological implications. Embodiment, which includes embodied mechanisms, provides for being a Person, which is to provide for “having a history of deliberate action in a dramaturgical model, (Ossorio, 2006/2013).” In providing for what we know to be the case about Persons, neurological embodiment is treated as whatever is sufficient for Persons and their worlds to be as we know them to be. N1 and N2 also support the relationship between embodiment and Persons by reminding the observer that any person requires a sufficient embodiment, whatever that embodiment may be (Schwartz, 1982; Putman, 1990).

5. Conclusion. The burden of explicating Persons and their worlds is carried by Descriptive Psychology. In doing this, Descriptive Psychology also carries the burden of identifying what must be the case about neurological embodiment (what embodied mechanisms must provide for, not what they are, how they are implemented, biologically or otherwise, how they operate, or how they interact) in order for there to be Persons and their worlds. The burden of explicating the specific embodied mechanisms by which the world of Persons is achieved, that is how those mechanisms provide for Persons, is carried by Neuroscience (at least, for humans). However, the embodied mechanisms that provide for Persons can only be identified as being what they are (that is, both predicted and recognized as having the significance of being contributing components to what is required neurologically for there to be human Persons, or in some other way for hypothetical non-human Persons), because there is a conceptually primary world of Persons that offers such guidance. What these two worlds share, and what we believe can be represented as an inextricable conceptual relationship, is recognition that there are no Persons without embodiment and that there is no significance for embodiment without a world of Persons.

There are several interesting implications of this way of talking that are then listed in subsequent sub-sections of “Notes”.
References

Bergner, R. (2004). Is it all really biological? Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 24, 30-49.

Bergner, R. (2006). Can psychological science be replaced by biological science? In K. E. Davis and R. M. Bergner (Eds), Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 8 (pp. 43-68). Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

Jeffrey, H. J. (1998a). Cognition without processes. In H. J. Jeffrey & R. M. Bergner (Eds). Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 7 (pp. 33-66). Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

Jeffrey, H. J. (1998b). Consciousness, experience, and a person’s world. In H. J. Jeffrey & R. M. Bergner (Eds). Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 7 (pp. 67-106). Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

Ossorio, P. G. (1980/1982). Embodiment. In K. E. Davis & T. O. Mitchell (Eds.),
Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 2 (pp. 11-32). Greenwich, CN: JAI Press. (Original work published 1980 as LRI Report No. 23. Boulder, CO: Linguistic Research Institute.)

Ossorio, P. G. (2006/2013). The Behavior of Persons. The collected works of Peter G. Ossorio, Vol. V. Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

Putman, A.O. (1990). Artificial Persons. In A. O. Putman & K. E. Davis (Eds). Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 5 (pp. 81-104). Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

Schwartz, W. (1982). The problem of other possible persons. In K. Davis (Ed). Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 2 (pp. 31-56). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Wittgenstein, L. (1972). On Certainty. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright (Eds). New York: Harper.

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Notes on the Relationship between Persons and Embodiment

N.L. Kirsch, J. Jeffrey, A. Putman, & P. Zeiger

“The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose.” Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §127.

The following is a set of “Notes” or “Reminders”, that summarize the conceptual “point” we believe we have now reached, given our previous posts and additional considerations. These may change, be added to, or deleted as our discussions continue, but we very much welcome your comments and contributions for this version.

This may be a surprising or challenging document. Whether it is or not, we plan to follow soon with a series of commentaries about each of the sections.
A. The Conceptual Relationship Between Embodiment and Persons

N1. Human embodiment, including neurologically embodied mechanisms, provides for being a person.

N1a. Providing for being a Person is to provide for being an individual whose history is, paradigmatically, a history of Deliberate Action in a Dramaturgical pattern.

N1b. Providing for being a Person is to provide for acquiring Person Characteristics [that is Dispositions, Powers, and Derivatives].

N1c. Providing for being a Person is to provide for acquiring and having a world and behaving in a world of other Persons.

(Etc., in a manner consistent with the DP opus, BoP, Place, WAH, and others)

N2. A characteristic of Persons is to have an embodiment sufficient for being a Person, which is to have sufficient embodied mechanisms for being a Person.

B. Embodiment and the Acquisition of Person Characteristics

N3. It is both empirically and conceptually necessary that human embodiment provides for everything a person can do (i.e., to be a Person).

N3a. If a person has acquired a person characteristic, there is some configuration of embodied mechanisms (that is, a neurologically embodied state-of-affairs) that provides for that individual to have acquired that person characteristic.

N3b. If a person has acquired a person characteristic, that person’s history has resulted in an embodied change (that is, a changed neurologically embodied state of affairs) that provides for having and retaining that person characteristic.

N3c. Being able to acquire a person characteristic (i.e., learning) is to have embodied mechanisms that provide for acquiring person characteristics, in general (for example, being able to acquire Knowledge and Know How), and for acquiring that specific person characteristic (given a relevant intervening history).

N3c1. Embodied mechanisms that provide for acquiring person characteristics in general, are those that would be represented by a Paradigm Case Formulation of Persons (rather than the description of a specific person and that person’s history).

N3d. For all of these cases, it makes sense to ask, “How is it possible that embodiment provides for those characteristics”, but that is a question about mechanisms, not about Persons.

N3d1. Observation of Persons cannot inform us about the biological structure and functioning of mechanisms, only what the person characteristics are that must be provided for.

C. Embodiment and the World of Persons

N4. It is not conceptually possible to examine or otherwise elucidate the embodied mechanisms that provide for acquiring a person characteristic without there being a world of Persons (in which, for example, it is observed that individuals acquire person characteristics in the way they do).

N4a. Examining or otherwise elucidating embodied mechanisms are behaviors in a world of Persons, provided for by embodied mechanisms.

N5. It is because of the systematic observation of Persons and what they do in their worlds that we are able to recognize what sufficient embodied mechanisms must provide for.

N5a. Human embodied mechanisms cannot be understood, that is, they cannot have the significance they do, without a concept of Person.

N5b. Any statement that appeals to neurological embodiment to inform the world of persons already presumes the world of persons and the meaningful distinctions persons make about what will or will not be informative.

N5c. Claims about sufficient embodiment must be, at least, claims of a sort that conceptually retain a place for the ability to engage in the types of behaviors that are represented by making claims about sufficient embodiment, as well as evaluating those claims.

N5d. The identification and description of embodied mechanisms may influence decision-making about the conceptual and observational adequacy of behavior description, but decisions about the adequacy of behavior descriptions, and therefore the adequacy of claims about sufficient embodiment are themselves behaviors in a world of persons and subject to the standards of behavior description in a world of Persons.

D. Methodological Implications

N6. A well articulated and conceptually sound formulation of a type, class, or domain of human behavior (e.g., a family of behaviors that may be identified by a PCF) offers guidance about whether a specifically targeted set of embodied mechanisms are sufficient to provide for the range and variability of that behavior, as observed.

N6a. Mechanisms that do not provide for the full range of behaviors represented by a well-articulated and conceptually sound formulation cannot be claimed to be sufficiently providing for that range of behaviors.

N6b. Behavioral variability across persons in regard to some behavioral family may provide additional information about the necessary variability of sufficient mechanisms across persons.

N6c. Behavioral variability across persons in regard to some behavioral family may provide information about other mechanisms that also necessarily provide for behaviors in the class of interest, other than those mechanisms that at some point had been considered to be sufficient.

N6d. Behavioral variability across persons in regard to some behavioral family may provide information about mechanisms that at some point had been considered to be necessary, but are not.

N7. Embodied mechanisms cannot be said to be insufficient if the type, class, or domain of human behavior of interest is not well-articulated and conceptually sound (i.e., the PCF is too restrictive, too expansive, or otherwise “incorrect.”).

N7a. The “burden of proof” for claims about the sufficiency of embodied mechanisms is that those mechanisms must provide for the full range of behaviors of interest and all parametric components of that range of behaviors. N.B. This is not the same as talking about standards for describing the mechanisms themselves.

N7b. The “burden of proof” for claims about the sufficiency of behavior descriptions that are used to guide the investigation of embodied mechanisms is that they must be conceptually and observationally sound, and therefore subject to standards within relevant communities (i.e., in a world of Persons), and the conceptual and empirical ways that such standards are developed and applied.

E. Implications for Intervention

N8. Person characteristic changes may express neurological embodiment changes.

N8a. A change of neurological embodiment may no longer provide for person characteristics that were provided for before that neurological change.

N8b. A change of neurological embodiment may provide for altered or new person characteristics.

N8c. A change in person characteristic may be taken by the person or others to be either a disability (that is, a restriction in behavior potential) or a new ability (that is, an enhancement of behavior potential).

N8d. As for any such observations, there is no guarantee that all observers will agree.

N9. Fully articulated formulations of a behavior type, class, or domain may provide additional information about embodied mechanisms by systematically associating those disabilities with specific mechanism impairments (e.g., lesions, dysfunctions and anomalies, deletions, and others).

N10. Fully articulated formulations of a behavior type, class, or domain, may therefore provide guidance about potential alternative embodied mechanisms and mechanism systems that can be recruited in order for a person to engage in a behavior that was otherwise compromised.

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Persons and Embodied Mechanisms

N.L. Kirsch, J. Jeffrey, A. Putman, & P. Zeiger

(with an acknowledgement to C.J. Stone, for editing above and beyond the call of duty)

In several places, including Ossorio (2006/2013), Behavior of Persons, pp. 83-89, Ossorio asks, how can the acquisition of person characteristics (PC) be conceptualized? He is not asking what the specific learning histories are that may lead to one PC or another, or what the state-of-affairs may be at any time that describes a person’s capacity to acquire some PC. Instead, he is asking whether or not there is a straightforward way to represent the development of persons over time and, in doing so, provide a logical reminder about the relationship between the potential to acquire a PC and having that characteristic. In other words, Ossorio presents a conceptual tool that serves as a reminder about what must be the case for someone to have become a specific person.

The relationship between capacity and having a specific PC is presented in Behavior of Persons, p. 84, “Figure 2. Recursive PC Formula,” as follows1 (with an added footnote):

Original Capacity2 + History ⇒ PC
                                ⇓
                                Capacity + history ⇒ PC
                                                      ⇓
                                                      Capacity + history ⇒ PC
                                                                            ⇓
                                                                            ...

What does this formula ask us to keep in mind? It reminds us of a simple relationship. At any point in time, having a PC is to have had, at some earlier time, the capacity to have acquired that PC, given the relevant intervening history.

It should be noted that there is a tautological component to this representation. For that reason, it is a powerful reminder. To acquire a PC is to have the capacity to acquire it, and to have a PC is to have the capacity to retain it. Given the deliberate construction of this formula, logically it can’t be otherwise. It makes no sense to say that a person has acquired an ability without having the capacity to acquire it. As Ossorio (2006/2013) notes, “The capacity for acquiring a given person characteristic is the potential for acquiring that person characteristic, p. 83.”

However, it is certainly possible to have the potential to acquire a PC, but never acquire it. For that circumstance, an observer might say, “It’s possible she had the capacity to be a great tennis star, but I guess we’ll never know.” At any specific time, “a person’s PC’s facilitate or hinder the acquisition of other PC’s and set some limits to the histories whereby the latter may be acquired (Ossorio, 2006/2013, p. 84).”

A PC, for example, an ability, can also be lost that had been acquired earlier. When this happens, there may be uncertainty about whether: (a) the ability was lost because of further intervening behavioral history (e.g., disuse); or (b) the capacity necessary to retain that ability was compromised (e.g., disease, trauma). The latter possibility is a consideration of particular importance when questions about the integrity of neurological embodiment arise.

For example, let’s say a star tennis player stopped practicing for three months. Her ability to play tennis at an internationally-competitive level may no longer be evident. If she were to practice again, and regain her competitive edge, we would say she had never lost the capacity to acquire the ability to play at that level. We would be conceptually confident in making that statement, because of our observation that she had regained that ability.

In comparison, let’s say that same tennis player, who was 16 when she won the US Open, is now 60 – an example specifically chosen because it entails embodiment change. Although she may then engage in a rigorous training program, regardless of effort, technique, and determination, it is unlikely that she will ever regain the ability to compete like she did at 16. Would we be willing to say in that circumstance that she had lost the embodied provision for acquiring the ability to play tennis at an international level?

As suggested by Tony Putman, we might say “there is no known learning history that can result in her attaining that ability now.” This is an extremely felicitous locution, (noted by Ossorio, 1998/2012, in Maxim D1a, p. 63), because it indicates that we never observe capacity directly, only abilities. There is always the possibility that our aging tennis star may, in fact, still retain the capacity to acquire the ability to play at the level she did when she was 16, if only the right learning history could be found.

However, as we’ve discussed in earlier posts, embodiment provides for the acquisition of PC’s. As such, embodiment may change in ways that restrict the acquisition or retention of an ability.

For the young tennis star, we might be willing to say that neglecting her workouts resulted in physical changes that limited her ability (i.e., her embodiment no longer provides for the retention of that ability), but subsequent history might demonstrate that those embodied restrictions were reversible. Abilities often need to be maintained through practice.

For the aging tennis star we might not be willing to make the same sorts of statements. As pragmatic observers, we might say instead that our tennis star’s aging embodiment no longer provides for re-acquiring an ability she once had. There are circumstances (states-of-affairs) an observer might describe as “losing ability because of intervening history.” However, there are circumstances that an observer might describe as “losing ability because of altered embodiment.”

This is clearly the case for human neurological embodiment (HNE). If the young tennis star acquires the ability to play at an international level, it is at least in part an expression of her embodiment3. Not everyone can play tennis at an international level, regardless of the training regimen they adopt. Some set of embodied provisions is necessary for those abilities to be acquired as an expression of history.

It is also the case that the embodied provisions for acquiring such exceptional ability can be compromised by any insult to which the HNE may be subjected, such as aging, stroke, degenerative disease, or infection. We would then say that certain alterations in the embodied mechanisms that provide for acquisition of an ability have been compromised. Having sustained a stroke would certainly be an element of the star tennis player’s intervening history, but it is an historical element of a very specific kind.

In the world of rehabilitation, these kinds of impairments are fairly well understood. At least they are understood as the basis for intervention. For example, clinically it is sometimes the case that through a rigorous training program a person who has lost the ability to recognize and read visually (typically observed in association with a specific neurological lesion pattern, referred to as “Pure Alexia” or “Alexia without Agraphia”) can sometimes be taught to use a finger to trace letters and then “read” by recognizing the spatial characteristics of the letters they’ve traced.

In this case, embodied mechanisms have been compromised that would otherwise provide for having abilities that are components of reading. We would not want to say that the ability to read has changed (at least in the sense of comprehending written material) but that the ability to read in a certain way has changed. Much of cognitively oriented rehabilitation (actually, much of all rehabilitation) relies on the expertise of therapists to find alternative ways to accomplish tasks. By capitalizing on alternative embodied mechanisms or mechanism systems, a new compensatory ability, provided for by the alternate mechanisms, can be acquired.

It now makes sense to ask a bit more formally how embodiment “fits” with Ossorio’s Developmental Schema. As we discussed in an earlier post (“Persons and Embodiment, Part 3”), human embodiment, which includes embodied neurological mechanisms, provides for being a Person. What are those mechanisms? In some ways, this is a trick question. The tautological answer is that embodied mechanisms are whatever they must be for individuals to acquire and retain the characteristics of Persons. However, if as suggested in Ossorio (1980/1982), human embodiment is represented as a Paradigm Case Formulation (PCF) that includes HNE, then the specific characteristics that any person can acquire (or lose) can be represented: (a) not only as expressions of their history; but (b) as expressions of their available embodied mechanisms that provide for acquiring those characteristics. At any point in time and for any characteristic, to have acquired that characteristic is to have the capacity to have acquired that characteristic. In the world of neuroscience, that includes the embodied mechanisms that provide for acquiring that characteristic, to retain that characteristic, and to lose that characteristic when embodied mechanisms degenerate.

Footnotes

1The formula as presented in Behavior of Persons is notationally abbreviated from an earlier more elaborated version (Ossorio, 1970/1981, p. 7), available at:

http://www.descriptivepsychologyinstitute.com/Ossorio_Outline_of_DP_Final.pdf

in which it is referred to as the “Developmental Schema”, as well as more recently in   Ossorio (1998/2012, p. 167). A narrative equivalent of this formula can also be found in Ossorio (1998/2012, pp 62 – 65).

2The concept of “Original Capacity”, is intended by Ossorio only as a formal “place keeper” – that is, a capacity that is necessary for all other capacities to be acquired later, given whatever theoretical perspective has been adopted by some describer. Original Capacity is specifically not a substantive capacity of any other kind.

3This is not a statement referring only to movement. It is a statement referring to all the person characteristics that must be provided for to permit the acquisition of the ability to play tennis in that way. This might include, as examples, exquisitely sensitive spatial perceptual reasoning, the ability to formulate strategies, the ability to “read” the other player, the ability to respond with exceptional quickness, the ability to adopt a certain “attitude” or perspective in regard to winning or defeat, in addition to strength, coordination and agility.

References

Ossorio, P. G. (1970/1981). Outline of Descriptive Psychology for personality theory and clinical applications. In K. E. Davis (Ed.), Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 1, pp. 57-82. Greenwich, CN: JAI Press. (Original work published 1970 as LRI Report No. 4d. Whittier, CA & Boulder, CO: Linguistic Research Institute.)

Ossorio, P. G. (1980/1982). Embodiment. In K. E. Davis & T. O. Mitchell (Eds.), Advances in Descriptive Psychology, Vol. 2, pp. 11-32. Greenwich, CN: JAI Press. (Original work published 1980 as LRI Report No. 23. Boulder, CO: Linguistic Research Institute.)

Ossorio, P.G. (1998/2012). Place. The collected works of Peter G. Ossorio, Vol. III. Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

Ossorio, P. G. (2006/2013). The Behavior of Persons. The collected works of Peter G. Ossorio, Vol. V. Ann Arbor, MI: Descriptive Psychology Press.

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Persons and Embodiment, Part 3

N.L. Kirsch, J. Jeffrey, A. Putman, & P. Zeiger

The post below (that is, the text below the double line) requires some explanation, including a summary of the negotiation stages that led to this version.

Specifically, it is a revision of a previously posted piece that was withdrawn because its use of the word “capacity” was incorrect.  As used in DP, Capacity is exclusively a behavioral concept.  Therefore, language like, “neurological embodiment provides capacity for being a Person…” is incorrect.  An alternative might be to say, “neurological embodiment provides for capacity.” This appears to be Descriptively correct, but because that locution only includes capacity on the behavioral side, it does a disservice, of sorts, to the neuroscience “side” of the relationship (for which a conceptually incorrect but corresponding claim for “capacity” could be made) that previous posts had been trying to develop.  Since a goal for explicating that “relationship” is to demonstrate that Descriptive Psychology can offer conceptual value to neuroscientists, it is important to use language that is also meaningful to that community.  Language like “provides for the capacity…” does not accredit the neuroscience perspective sufficiently.

Additionally, “provides for capacity” also seems to do a disservice to DP, since it is reasonable to state that in describing Persons what we are interested in as a Community is not capacities, but Personal Characteristics.

Another alternative would have been to use a locution like “embodied capacity” as a way to differentiate the use of “capacity” relative to neurological embodiment from its conceptual development in DP.  Although this choice also has much to recommend it, it is concerning because it still confuses two different conceptual uses for that locution. From a DP perspective, the use of “capacity” to talk about neurological provision is a category error (and it may be that several earlier posts, re-considered now with a fresher eye, would seem to include fatal errors of that sort).  However, from the neuroscience perspective, the use of “capacity” to talk about neurological provision is simply the use of that locution as a way to discuss what embodied mechanisms provide.

Given these considerations, a search ensued for alternate language that continued to build on earlier efforts to represent the conceptual relationship between Persons and Embodiment, but that was also of value (and accreditable) for both communities.

What you will see below is the latest effort to achieve that goal, based on very constructive (though at times challenging) feedback from several people.  The decision has been to move even closer to neuroscience language, for the neuroscience “side” of the relationship.  This means that in the post below you will see the locutions “mechanisms” and “embodied mechanisms.”  These are the types of locutions that neuroscientists use.  Although it is rare to never that you will hear the latter variation, the former is a deeply “embedded” locution that does not seem amenable to change. Given whatever examples of sound neuroscientific practice we might choose to discuss, that locution will be consistent with both the “practitioner’s” intention and methodology. When, for example, a behavioral neuroscientist is investigating a cognitive domain like working memory, the point of the fMRI study they might conduct would be to discover and describe the mechanisms that provide for what we observe behaviorally as working memory. That behavioral neuroscientist may also be interested in “how” those mechanisms operate (the mechanisms for the mechanisms, if you will), or how they operate together as a system in order to, in turn, provide for working memory.

Finally, once the move was made of replacing “provide capacity for” with variations such as “human embodiment, which includes neurologically embodied mechanisms, provides for …”, the need to use the word “capacity” was eliminated entirely, even from the “DP” side of the formulation. Instead the revision below is written to address, simply and straightforwardly, the acquisition of person characteristics.

In a subsequent post, these ideas will be teased out more as a series of “Notes” or “Reminders”, as well as some methodological and neuro-rehabilitation “corollaries”.

The use of locutions like “mechanisms” and “embodied mechanisms” are probably ones that the DP community is not comfortable with, perhaps even attaining the status of anathema, and that may also be a quite sufficient reason to reject the substance of the revision below. This post is therefore offered with the disclaimer that it may be objectionable, and perhaps even simply and fatally wrong, and perhaps even objectionable, but with the intention that it serves as a step toward moving forward.

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In the last post about the conceptual relationship between Persons and Human Neurological Embodiment (HNE), we dug a bit deeper into the implications of treating Persons as conceptually primary. However, there is another interesting implication worth considering: The conceptual primacy of Persons and inter-individual differences.

The conceptual relationship between Persons and human embodiment  that we’ve been developing so far argues against neurological embodiment as a determinant of individual variability, arguing instead that human embodiment, which includes neurologically embodied mechanisms, provides for being a person, which is to provide for being “an individual whose history is, paradigmatically, a history of Deliberate Action in a Dramaturgical Pattern (Ossorio, 2006/2013, p 69).” To state this in another (and perhaps redundant) way, providing for being a person is to provide for acquiring Person Characteristics, to have a world, and to behave in a world of other persons.

The Person concept makes this approach possible because it serves as guidance about what must be the case for Persons to be as we know them to be.

For example, two parameters of Intentional Action are K (Knowledge) and KH (Know How). HNE (i.e., the embodied mechanisms that comprise HNE), provides for acquiring Knowledge and Know How, but it does not dictate what Knowledge or Know How is acquired. For any individual, HNE may restrict what Knowledge and Know How can be acquired. That is, across individuals there will be different bounds on that Knowledge and Know How. However, within those intra- and inter-individual bounds, the Knowledge and Know How acquired will be the expression of a person’s capacity and intervening history (Ossorio, 2013, Behavior of Persons, pp. 83-84).

HNE provides for being a person, but HNE also provides for being a person of a specific kind.

Of course, descriptively formulating this conceptual basis for inter-individual variation says nothing about the mechanisms themselves by which these provisions are neurologically achieved (questions along those lines remain exclusively within the domain of neuroscience), or about the specific abilities that any person may have acquired (questions along those lines remain exclusively within the domain of Persons), but they do provide a standard that can be used to assess the behavioral adequacy of any empirically described mechanisms. As Ossorio notes, in his Chapter from What Actually Happens entitled “How not to reify biological and physical concepts” (pp. 85 – 105):

“…if a given physiological theory, no matter how rigorously backed up by experimental data, were to imply that the behavior which we observe could not occur, that physiological theory would be ipso facto false… Conversely, if physiologists had discovered only a chaotic and irregularly distributed set of structures and processes in people’s heads, we should not on that account conclude that people didn’t really feel and think or that the behavioral regularities which we see around us were an illusion.”  (Ossorio, 1971/1975/1978/2005, What Actually Happens, p. 95, emphasis in original).

What we are saying is that human neurological embodiment provides for a person of a particular type, kind or instance. Specifically: (a) human neurological embodiment provides for the general acquisition (development) of individual differences, as a conceptual component of being a person; (b) acquired in the ways people acquire such abilities, that is, in their worlds and given their histories, and then (c) the systematic description of individual differences (using tools that are well developed in Descriptive Psychology, such as Parametric Analysis as a calculation system, and Paradigm Case Formulation, which represent “families” of individual difference characteristics) may guide inquiry about neurological mechanisms both for a person and across persons. This may sound like a rather bold methodological claim, but it is a direct extension of the argument we’ve been making for the conceptual primacy of Persons (and it’s one we may expand on later).

Since individual differences can be supported or constrained in any number of ways, neurological embodiment therefore becomes interesting in regard to: (a) the embodied mechanisms that provide for the acquisition of individual differences; (b) retaining those individual differences once acquired; and therefore (c) variations of embodied mechanisms that may provide for the acquisition and maintenance of both enhanced and restricted individual differences.

There are, of course, many implications of this way of talking. However, we are moving closer to a set of locutions about the relationship between Persons and HNE that are conceptually inclusive, empirically inclusive, non-reductionistic, but perhaps most importantly, both informative and useful.

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Persons and embodiment, Part 2

N. Kirsch, J. Jeffrey, A. Putman & P. Zeiger

“Without people, nothing explains anything.” (Ossorio, 1966/1995, p. 33).

In the last post about the conceptual relationship between Persons and Embodiment, our conclusion was that “biological mechanisms have ‘meaning’ or significance because we understand them as providing for what people do.”

In this post and the next (or so), we’ll explore this a bit more. Continue reading

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Cause and Effect Descriptions, Part 2

N. Kirsch, J. Jeffrey, A. Putman, & P. Zeiger

What does it mean for a C-E description to have pragmatic value? Given that in the DP Community C-E descriptions are so often viewed with a deprecating eye, why does it even matter at this point to be considering this, and just as importantly, why is it worth our time?

One reason is that in certain worlds C-E descriptions are both ethically and clinically necessary, and critical in regard to other States-of-Affairs that someone might be hoping to achieve (for example, a medical outcome). It is, in our estimation, therefore important to understand how they are used, how they “fit in” and how they are to be pragmatically considered.  It is certainly reasonable to say that the conceptual status of “cause” is, at best, uncertain, but since the value of C-E descriptions is to say, “If I do X, Y will happen,” they play too large a role in human life to do without them.

For this post, we’ll focus on pragmatics.  We’ll return to the conceptual primacy of Persons at a later time, but even for this discussion, it is important to keep that primacy in mind. Continue reading

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