Please note that almost everything in this and the next post has already been discussed in my comment last evening in response to W. Schwartz and C.J. Stone. I had prepared this two post sequence before submitting that comment, but I decided to comment anyway in the context of community discussion. I’ll post the second part in the next couple of days.
Please click-through only if you’re interested in some more extended but now redundant thoughts on “Original Capacity.”
Please note that the second paragraph of item 3 was edited and modified from the original post in order to clarify further one of the arguments.
1. Providing for behavioral competence. As suggested by K. Davis and elaborated by T. Putman, “Provide for” is a way of talking about human capacities being embodied, such that the behaviors that express those capacities only have significance in a behavioral world.
For example, it may be that certain neurological systems provide necessary capacities for understanding facts about other people, such as the capacity to recognize the actions of others in ways that we describe as empathy. The neurological system “provides for” this behavioral competence. The competence is acquired through practice and experience.
However, certain Personal Characteristics may be described by the Critic as certain sorts of Powers. These are personal characteristics for which “success is purely and simply attributed to the individual rather than to the circumstances, BOP, p. 85.” In other words, these are PCs that cannot be explained based on prior experience. Ossorio refers to these capacities as “Original Capacities.” An Original Capacity is one for which “successful participation in the pattern of behavior which results in the acquisition of a PC is not accidental” (BOP, p. 85, italics added.).
2. Original Capacity supports a conceptually sound way of talking about neurological embodiment. I’ve suggested that the achievement of being a Person represents an application of the concept of Original Capacity. Becoming and being a person are not accidental in this way.
The statement that being a person is an expression of an Original Capacity is an instructive tautology. Rephrased as a Maxim, this statement might read: “To be a person is to have the Original Capacity to be a person.” However, there is also a component of this relationship that is not tautological. The embodied capacity to be a Person must be sufficient to do that job. In a world of persons we recognize Personal Characteristics. In a world of neuroscience we recognize neurophysiological processes, and organizational and functional patterns. In a world that conceptually bridges the two we recognize what must be the case about the neurological system for there to be Persons at all, including being able to assign the statuses of Person and non-Person (or any status). I believe that in this way, a Descriptive Psychology perspective provides entrée to neuroscientific conceptual and empirical inquiry.
3. Original Capacity and behavioral deficiencies. Original Capacity is a limiting case for recursive operations based on the developmental schema. Achieving the status of person, given Original Capacity, requires a sufficient developmental history and a world of other persons. Not all individuals achieve this status and many achieve what a Critic might describe as being a Person with a degraded or deficient status. Deficient versions of being a Person may be attributable to a variant of Original Capacity (in a world where the only way to communicate is by singing, being tone-deaf is an impairment, not just a disability) or may be attributable to the capacity constraints based on specifics of an individual’s developmental history (in a world where the only way to communicate is by playing the piano, having lost one’s fingers is an impairment, not just a disability.) What counts as being a deficiency depends on the communities of which a Person is a member, but a Community will recognize both types of broad categorical impairments, expressed by a Critic who represents that Community.
I believe, that this logic is not just a restatement of the “Nature-Nurture” debate. Embodiment is not the “cause” of achievements that a Critic might claim to be deficient or not deficient and behavior does not merely “supervene” on capacity. Alterations of Original Capacity provide for a different range or quality of behaviors that a person can achieve. However, more than just a body is required to be a Person. The achievement of being a Person also requires other Persons. To paraphrase Ossorio, embodied Persons engage with a world of embodied Persons and their ways, who themselves engage as embodied Persons with a world of embodied Persons and their ways. Developmental histories, interpersonal states of affairs, limited opportunities for practice and experience, as well as many other facts about a person can alter the expression of capacity in ways that have significance in communities. Delineation of the histories that actually may limit or enhance these expressions are empirical questions.
As noted earlier, and will be reviewed again in a subsequent post, we only know what our capacities are by observing our behavior; just as we only recognize exceptional or deficient capacity by observing behaviors that count as exceptional or impaired in our communities. Capacity makes possible what behavioral worlds make actual. To recognize a case of something, within any community, is to logically require that there be the capacity for that case of something. When there is no history that can account for that case of something, then embodiment as Original Capacity conceptually serves as the capacity required.
If this reasoning is itself deficient, which may certainly be the case, there must be some alternative that will do the job.
Additional thoughts regarding these issues will follow in the next post.