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Published in The Folio: A journal for Focusing and Experiential Therapy, 19 (1) (2000-2004), pp. 137-145

 

 

Ethology and Gendlin’s  A Process Model

 

            In A Process Model Gendlin (1997, p. 180) writes: “Among the tasks of this work are to re-conceptualize the body so that we could understand how focusing is possible, how we can feel complex situations, how the body can come up with an answer to a complex human living question we cannot figure out, how body and cognition are not just split apart. That obviously requires a different conception of the body than physiology currently offers.”

 

Focusing is not just a therapeutic procedure; its theory and practice are rooted in philosophy.  One doesn’t have to know the philosophy in order to practice or teach focusing effectively, but I believe that the more we know of the philosophical roots of focusing, the more we know what focusing is, the more likely it is that our practice will flourish. 

 

In this article I will not be summarising or assessing Gendlin’s philosophical work, but rather relating to one part of it in a way that I hope will give some sense of its scope Gendlin’s philosophy reaches out to areas which seem at first sight to be far removed from focusing; for example he has himself applied it to certain problems arising in Einstein’s relativity theory (Gendlin & Lemke 1983), and others have made use of it in painting (Goldfarb 1992) and creative writing (Perl 1994).

 

An area  in which I worked a bit many years ago is ethology, the biological study of animal behaviour.  In Gendlin’s writings there are a number of references to ethology, and in a way ethology could be said to be quite central to Gendlin’s project of developing ways of thinking about the body which allow for the possibility of focusing.  For ethology is a branch of biology, not of psychology; ethology looks at the observable behaviour patterns of animals in their natural environments.  Animals, for the ethologist, are organic physical systems to be understood partly in terms of physiological function and partly in terms of  evolutionary development.   Yet we may sense something odd about this.   Animals can come into our lives in ways other than this detached scientific way.  My cat clearly shows affection for me; we are fond of each other.  How does that connect with movements patterns or physiology?   Ethologists look at animals, but rather disconcertingly animals can look back at us!  Where does that fit in?[1]

 

Such puzzles have intrigued me for a long time.   My University of London M.Phil. dissertation was on the philosophy of ethology, and a condensed version of it appeared in the journal Animal Behaviour.    These issues have remained important in ethology[2]. Later I came to focusing through my counselling work, and later still discovered the philosophical roots of focusing in Gendlin’s Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning,. Finally I  came to A Process Model, and there, extraordinarily for me, was Gendlin’s development of a framework of concepts which addresses just those issues about animal behaviour which had interested me thirty years ago. 

 

Since that time there have been some changes in ethology.  There is now a relatively small, but still significant, school of ‘cognitive ethology’, originating from the work of Donald Griffin, which is prepared to think of animals in terms of concepts such as ‘intention’, ‘wanting’, ‘hoping’ which mainstream ethologists still tend to regard as ‘anthropomorphic’.  Yet this cognitive ethology has its difficulties.  While from a common-sense point of view the cognitivists are surely right in speaking of ‘intention’ and ‘hope’ in the context of chimpanzee behaviour, it may seem not quite so right to apply these concepts to ants or amoebae.  People’s intuitions differ here, but for most of us there comes a point in the scale of life where we do not seriously think of an organism as hoping, intending, or even wanting.  At some point – perhaps we have to come down to the level of jellyfish or even cabbages – the kinds of concepts we employ in thinking about people no longer have an application.  Yet, from a common-sense point of view again, even a cabbage is alive: it is a different sort of thing from a pebble or a pool of water.  For the biologist too, a cabbage is different: cabbages, come within the scope of biology, whereas pebbles do not.  A cabbage has organs with complex functions, and it has an evolutionary history.  Yet the biologist in a curious way seems to evade the point that the cabbage is alive.  Biology thinks of cabbages as complex physical systems which have evolved through the essentially mechanistic process of mutation and natural selection.   Where is the life of the cabbage in all this?  That is the same sort of question as ‘Where are the animal’s feelings?’

 

Biology – especially ethology  –   seems to sit uneasily between the world of physics and the world of psychology, between body and mind.   This situation of course is not new.  It goes back to the origins of modern science in the seventeenth century, when Galileo, Descartes and others established the picture of the world as a gigantic mechanism (See e.g. Dijksterhuis 1961).  The place of mind and life in this scheme was always problematical.  (Descartes apparently had a dog, which he treated kindly, but other Cartesians were more consistent in regarding animals as automata on which live experiments could be performed with moral impunity (Gunderson 1971, pp. 14-15)). 

 

One of the themes which Gendlin discusses is how the mechanistic way of thinking about the world has come to be accepted as an account of how the world actually is.  The difference here is crucial:  The Galilean system[3] is a framework of thought which was developed for the very special purpose of predicting astronomical phenomena.  For that it was extraordinarily effective, and its success led to its application to, or creation of, other areas of physical science.  If we are concerned with predicting how things move and change in the world then the Galilean framework is the one to employ.  We really do need to think that way if something goes wrong with our car or if we break a leg.  Much of modern medicine is an effective and laudable application of the framework.  A surgeon regards his or her patient’s body as a Galilean system and is largely right to do so.  Surgery otherwise would be ineffective or impossible.   But to see a person as a Galilean system for the special purposes of surgery is quite different from saying that the patient is a Galilean system.

 

 It is the illicit move from saying we can look at a person like this to saying that a person is like this which generates the illusion that a human being is just  a physical system.  Then it can seem that something has been left out, and we have to invent ‘life forces’ or ‘minds’ to fill the gap.    But it is not that something has been left out; the issue is not about what kinds of things there are in the world (are there minds and bodies, or just bodies?).  The issue is a conceptual one:  we have got into a confused place because we have blurred the distinction between the world and our way of seeing the world.   The world, as Gendlin always insists, is rich beyond any of our conceptual patterns. The world is the world of our lives with other living beings, animals and people.  For special purposes of prediction and control we can picture it as a mechanistic system, but that is something special, which it is only sometimes appropriate to do.  It is not where we should start.

 

In  A Process Model Gendlin starts not with the Galilean framework but with a new framework of concepts which will allow us to think about ourselves (and plants and animals) in a way that the Galilean framework does not allow us to do.   One point of this was to allow for the possibility of focusing, but allowing for focusing of course means allowing  for us, including our animal-like and plant-like nature. 

It is much too early to say what the impact of Gendlin’s concepts could be on ethology.  What I will do in the rest of this article is simply to draw attention to some of the large issues that are involved.  I would like to think that readers may sense the excitement of being involved in this philosophical development.

 

 

Ethology is the biological study of animal behaviour.  Unlike the comparative psychologists, who study a very limited range of species in laboratory conditions, ethologists normally study the behaviour of  animals in their natural habitat.  And whereas the comparative psychologists  are concerned mainly with questions about the causation and mechanisms of behaviour, the ethologists have always insisted on the importance of trying to understand behaviour in terms of its function.

 

Questions about causation and questions about function can be raised in connection with any element of animal behaviour.  For example,  the sandwich tern uses a nodding of its head when threatening an intruder who has come close to its nest. The nod displays the black top of the bird’s head against its white breast which makes a striking visual impact.  We ask ‘Why is the tern nodding like this?’ and there are at least two different kinds of answer.  One would be in terms of what is going on in the bird’s nervous system which leads to the contraction of the neck muscles that result in the head movement.   This answer takes the ‘Why?’ question to mean ‘What causes the head movement?’.  The other answer takes the question to mean ‘What is this nodding behaviour for?  What is the bird doing?  What is the function of this nodding?’, to which the answer would be ‘The nodding has the function of  deterring intruders, the bird is threatening an intruder, and this helps to preserve its young chicks, and hence ensure that the species survives’.

 

Already we can see that the term ‘behaviour’ is equivocal.  There is the movement of the head that is to be explained in terms of physiological causes, and there is the threatening that is to be explained in terms of its biological function.   Not everything (indeed not much) which is of interest in biology can be specified in terms of  sheer form or patterns of movement  in space and time.   Biologists are interested for example in organs, and organs are functionally defined.  The physical form of a cow’s eye is quite different from the physical form of a fly’s eye; they are both eyes not because of a shared form, but because of the shared function of enabling the animal to see.  Of course biologists are also interested in how the eye works, but this interest in mechanisms operates within the overarching functional interest.  Biologists are concerned with how eyes work.

 

One of the great ideas of the ‘classical ethology’ of Lorenz (1970) and Tinbergen (1951) was that some behaviour patterns can be seen as analogous to organs, and can be classified in terms of their functions.   This way of looking at behaviour was particularly fruitful in connection with what came to be called ‘fixed action patterns’, that is behaviour sequences which are stereotyped and elicited by environmental configurations known as ‘releasing stimuli’.   Animals ‘have’ these fixed patterns of behaviour in the same sense that they ‘have’ organs. And as with organs the most natural way of classifying fixed action patterns is in terms of their functions.  This kind of classification cuts across a classification by form.  For example the night heron has a display which is formally similar to that of the sandwich tern.  It also nods its head, this time displaying three white feathers protruding from a black background.  Apart from the colour reversal this is formally the same behaviour.  But in the night heron the display is an appeasement display  – it functions to prevent attack.   The night heron in nodding is doing something quite different from what the sandwich tern is doing.  Understood formally, the behaviour is the same in the two species, whereas understood functionally the behaviour is different.

 

The concept of function does not have a place in physics.  Physicists do not speak of the function of the neutron in the hydrogen atom, for example.  On the other hand the concept of function has a natural place in engineering (‘What is the function of that wheel in this engine?’) and in anthropology and sociology (‘What is the function of this ritual in this society?’)  It seems that talk of function has a place where we are thinking in terms of  the contribution which some element in a system makes to the system as a whole.  But that is not the whole story: the neutron could well be said to contribute to the whole or ‘system’ which is the hydrogen atom.   What we have left out is that in the cases where we speak of function the system as a whole logically comes first.  We start with the fact that it is an engine, and then consider how the parts contribute to the engine doing what it does.  You can’t derive the concept of the engine from consideration of its parts and their physical interconnections.  An engine is an artefact, something put together for human purposes.  It is that wider context which determines that it is an engine in the first place. 

 

Similarly, talk of rituals only makes sense if we are already thinking in terms of the context of a society or culture.   You can’t start with the notion of a ritual and build the concept of a society from there.

 

The analogy in biology is that talk of organs and functional behaviour patterns presupposes organisms, that is species of living things with their characteristic cycles of life[4].  You can’t start with a set of organs and form them into a living being: they would not be organs before they were parts of a living being. 

 

The notion of a living being is curiously absent in much of modern biology.  Instead the biologist thinks in terms of complex physical systems.  The structure and behaviour of these systems can be analysed in terms of the component parts and their inter-relationships, but all this is not seen as fundamentally different from what is done in (classical) physics.  The underlying framework is an atomistic one:  complex systems can be analysed into, and in principle constructed from, simpler ones.  It is the Galilean framework.

 

I would argue that although the Galilean framework can be, and indeed must be, used to study the mechanisms of animal behaviour, it can’t accommodate living things as such.  But it is not that the Galilean framework leaves something out.  That was the mistake of the nineteenth-century vitalists who wanted to bring in ‘life-forces’ or ‘entelechies’ to account for the purposiveness of organic behaviour.  (In the same way it is tempting to bring in ‘minds’ or ‘spirits’ in trying to counteract an analysis of human beings in mechanistic terms).  The Galilean framework is perfectly satisfactory if what we are concerned with is the prediction of movement patterns;  what it can’t cope with is behaviour in the sense that the term is used  when speaking of living things.   Behaviour in that sense presupposes the ongoing life of the species to which the behaviour makes its contribution.  

 

A natural objection would be: but surely biological species are themselves just ongoing patterns of  physical change.  If there are no life-forces and so forth then what is there is just physical, and can be dealt with as any other physical system. 

 

It is the idea that something is ‘just there’ that causes the problem here.  Biological species are not ‘just there’.  It is we who think of the world in terms of species and living things.   And we think of the world this way as part of our interacting with it in a particular way.   Living things come into our lives in a different way from the non-living.  On the whole non-living things can be treated as material for our use.  We can determine their properties and then we can predict their behaviour and hence use them more effectively.  The Galilean framework and most of science is a development of this way of being in the world.   We can engage with living things in that way, but their being alive involves a different kind of engagement.   Living things have their  own patterns of life, which we need to adapt to.  If we are to grow crops or breed animals we have to take into account not just our needs and how the organisms can be used to satisfy those needs, but also their needs for food, shelter and so on.  But it is not just a matter of having to take into account their needs if they are to be useful to us.  We also share a lot with the plants.  Gendlin (1997, p. 101) remarks “We are at least plants”.  We share with them such things as growth, reproduction, ingestion, excretion, aging and death.  Their lives, like ours, are related to the seasons and to atmospheric conditions.  Their patterns and cycles of life inter-relate with ours.  Seedtime and harvest belong to both our worlds, or at least they did before the development of our technological civilization which allows us to eat strawberries in mid-winter.  In a whole host of ways plants come into our life in a way different from the way in which inanimate things come in, and our conception of something as a living thing is surely rooted in all that.  Where the basic pattern of our interaction with a realm is different, then our fundamental concepts of that realm will be different; but the interaction comes first[5].

 

Turning to the animals we find again a fundamentally new pattern of interaction.  Animals are living beings, like plants, but unlike plants they move about and an organism which moves about needs to have some means of registering the differences between the places it reaches.  (There is no point in going to new places if you can’t tell the difference between them).  So animals in addition to locomotion are also characterised by sensory perception[6]. A creature with sensory perception has in some sense a view of the world, it perceives the world from its current position in space.  Further, in seeing the world there must be some registering not just of the world but of the animal’s own state.  The tiger chasing a deer must register not just the deer, but how far away from the tiger the deer is, as well as how hungry the tiger is.   Gendlin argues that the world of the animal is not our world of empty space with objects in it; it is, rather, a dynamic behavioural space. He also has fascinating and original things to say about the way animals register their environment.  I will not go into this here but simply emphasise that with animals we come to a kind of being which sees the world, as well as being seen by us. 

 

But as in the case of plants I do not think our relationship with animals is based on our awareness of the differences which I have just articulated.  It is the other way round:  we encounter animals and find ourselves having relationships with them which are very different from the kind of relationships we have with plants (though all the relationships we have with plants we also have with animals:  ‘animals are at least plants’).   With animals there arise for example issues of competition and co-operation.  The cat wants to go out, but I don’t want to have to get up and open the door.  Yet if I don’t the cat will mew and scrabble and disturb me even more.   With a dog I can play a game of throwing and retrieving sticks.  The dog can be disappointed if I stop playing (just as I may be disappointed if the dog gets tired of the game before I do).   It is out of these primitive facts of relationship that our conception of an animal as another centre of consciousness arises.  With an animal ‘there is someone in there’ who wants things that may conflict with our wants.  Hence there is an issue about how we should treat animals which does not arise in connection with plants.  The whole pattern of relationship is fundamentally different.

 

For these reasons I would say that the question of whether animals ‘have conscious experiences’ is confused.  Of course animals  are conscious; to doubt whether something was conscious would be to doubt whether it was an animal (perhaps it is a cleverly-constructed robot – that would be a genuine, and answerable, question).  If this is right then the answer to the much discussed question of whether computers could ever be conscious is clearly negative.  Computers are hardly candidates for consciousness since they are not even alive .  We see how large the issues are here!

 

In the case of both plants and animals there is a fundamental incompatibility with the Galilean scheme of things.  I will say a little more about this, and connect it with a central notion in Gendlin’s philosophy.  The incompatibility is linked with the notion of purposiveness.   In Aristotle’s philosophy all behaviour (including physical motion in space) was in a sense purposive.  The falling stone was seeking its natural place at the centre of the world.   It was this way of thinking about the world in terms of natural tendencies which was completely eliminated by the Galilean/Cartesian scheme of things (or rather ‘purpose’ became exiled from the physical world and continued only as an aspect of ‘mind’).  What I have been suggesting is that notions of purpose are embedded in our concepts of plants and animals, and that these concepts themselves are deeply rooted in our relationships with living and sentient beings.  I suggest then that there is no way we can eliminate notions of purpose from our descriptions and explanations of the behaviour of plants and animals.   However, the conflict with the Galilean scheme is a serious one, since purposive accounts challenge the fundamental atomistic assumptions of the Galilean view.   In the Galilean scheme events are explained through identifying a state of a system at a particular time, and applying the appropriate laws of motion to deduce what the system’s state will be at a later time.  The states of the system can always be specified atomistically, that is, any state can in principle be what it is regardless of  what states precede or follow it[7].  The only connection between the states lies in the laws which we establish through our observations and theoretical constructions.  There is no inherent connection between the states.

 

However, in a purposive account of things, the atomistic principle breaks down.  To speak of  an animal, for example, as wanting to eat is to specify its present state in terms of what is needed for a future state.  It is to say that the animal is in a state such that (in favourable circumstances, other things being equal)  it will do what (in its view) is needed for obtaining food.  To speak of wants and needs is to speak of present states, but these states can’t be specified without reference to how the present connects with the future.  In other words the states of living and of sentient beings are not Galilean states.  They have a ‘going to be’ aspect that has no place in the Galilean scheme[8]

 

This point connects closely with Gendlin’s notions of ‘implying’ and of ‘carrying forward’.  Gendlin writes (1997, p. 73):  “… hunger implies something like feeding.  But the feeding is not occurring.  In hunger the feeding is not occurring in some implicit hidden way.  Hunger is not hidden feeding. Hunger is an actual occurring.’ “We call it carrying forward when what occurs changes the implying so that what was implied is no longer implied because ‘it’ has occurred” (1997,  p. 75).   Central to Gendlin’s scheme is the notion of an occurring which is an implying.  In focusing we stay with a felt sense which is an implying, a ‘something’ which leads to steps.  ‘Somethings’ of this sort have no place in the Galilean scheme of things; in the Galilean scheme occurrings are never implyings.

 

The concepts which Gendlin is formulating may be helpful to this issue in ethology.  Gendlin’s ‘implying’ covers cases such as the poet whose unfinished poem ‘implies’ its next line[9]. It would be wrong to say here that to write just  that line was the poet’s purpose.  Yet the poet’s state before the line comes is clearly a non-Galilean state:  it is the implying of something, though we do not yet know what the something is, except as ‘what will satisfy the implying’.

 

A lot of behaviour is like this.  I am on holiday and go for a walk in the forest.  I take this path, then that.  What was my purpose in going that way rather that?  It seems natural to say that I didn’t have any particular purpose; I was just exploring.  But then how are we to explain the fact that I went one way rather than the other?  Well, what happened at the fork in the path was probably something like this: I came to the fork and looked along the different possible paths ahead.  I had a vague feeling that the path to the left was more appealing. Perhaps I sensed that the path to the right was more likely to lead back to houses and roads.  All kinds of things may have come together here as they do in any felt sense.  My state at the fork implied (in Gendlin’s sense) going to the left, but I had no purpose in going to the left.  Purpose is something much more formulated – it would have been a purpose if I had reflected that what I wanted was to find a way to the top of the hill, and had noticed that one of the paths was leading upwards.  Then my choice would have been a ‘rational decision’, but as things were I didn’t exactly make a decision.   Yet I wasn’t a passive victim of my desires either -  taking the left path was not at all like compulsively reaching for the tobacco.  There is a fine structure here, and a whole range of possible concepts rather than just the single notion of purpose.  It is an example of what Gendlin calls the ‘intricacy’ of situations.

 

Now I suspect that one of the difficulties in current cognitive ethology is that the concepts currently available cannot capture much of the intricacy of animal behaviour.  Griffin (1981, p.115) writes.

 

I submit that it may actually clarify our thinking to entertain such thoughts as ‘Washoe hopes to go out for a romp, and intends to influence her human companions to that end,’ or ‘This bee likes one cavity better than the other, and wants  her swarm to occupy the preferred one.’ 

 

Traditional  ethologists would object to this. They would see terms such as ‘hope’, ‘intention’, ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’ as referring to unobservable inner states of the animal which have no use in ethological theory.  Such a view has long been abandoned by most philosophers, and Griffin is surely right that to entertain such thoughts can lead to better ethological descriptions and explanations.  However, the unease which the traditional ethologists feel is not entirely misplaced. Terms like ‘hope’ and ‘fear’ have intricate patterns of connections rooted in our human form of life.  They may not be applicable without modification to the context of animals.  (This is the familiar concern over the ‘anthropomorphization’ of animals).   Wittgenstein (1963) remarked:

 

One can imagine an animal angry, frightened, unhappy, startled.  But hopeful?  And why not?  

We say a dog is afraid his master will beat him, but not, he is afraid his master will beat him tomorrow.   (I, 650)

 

I think many people would feel that there are contexts where we could speak of a dog as hoping, but what about bees or ants?   It can seem that we have to make a decision about whether the animal in question ‘has a mind or not’. If it has we can apply all our ‘mentalistic’ concepts such as hope, intention and so on; if it hasn’t then we must describe it in purely mechanistic or functional terms.  But creatures such as ants or bees do not fit this dichotomy.  ‘Hope’ and ‘intention’ seem out of place in describing their behaviour  (the details of why this is so – if it is – need close examination), but that doesn’t mean that the only alternatives are mechanism or function.  Gendlin’s philosophy suggests that there can be non-Galilean concepts other than those which apply to only human beings and the primates.  

 

Griffin’s reference to the bee liking one cavity better than another does not strike me as out of place (though I would hesitate over bees hoping).  But ‘liking’ here probably doesn’t have quite the same web of connections which it would have if we were speaking of a human being liking one site for a house better than another.  It is a different, though related concept. I suspect that we get to it by the procedure Gendlin (1995; 1997, pp. 54-5) calls ‘crossing’; that is we bring our notion of human liking up to what we observe of bee behaviour  and let the human-liking concept draw out certain aspects of bee behaviour that wouldn’t otherwise be prominent.  Certainly there are implications in saying that a bee likes something.  We are not attributing to the bee some unobservable inner state (which traditional ethologists would rightly dismiss as irrelevant to their work).  When we say that the bee likes this cavity we are saying that there is some ‘press’ or tendency for the bee to do what is needed to get the swarm to settle there.  The bee’s (non-Galilean) state is one of  ‘going to behave in ways which will tend to lead to that cavity being selected’.

 

Whether the bee is in such a state is perfectly observable; we do not have to get into philosophical doubts about whether bees have minds.  What we do need, though, is something like Gendlin’s notion of implying.  Without that, without the possibility of non-Galilean concepts, ethology is caught between two unpalatable options: either see animals as automata, or anthropomorphise them.   If Gendlin’s philosophy can provide a way between these options I believe it will create a whole new situation in ethology.

 

 

                                                NOTES

 

[1]  The fact that animals look back at us, and that there is no place for this in our current ways of thinking about them was something that struck me very much when I was working in the philosophy of ethology, so I was delighted to find this passage in  Gendlin’s work (1995):  “Since Descartes, the scientists have had to avoid noticing the absurdity of the assumption that animals are just  patterned machines, that there is no one looking back at them, just bits of color.  We seem unable to think about what obviously looks at us.”  Gendlin has written more on this in an unpublished paper titled ‘On animals’: “I know that there is somebody in every dog, cat and cow.  They see you seeing them, and touching them can keep them from being lost in the night and fog..…our society treats animals – as mere raw material.  To become accustomed to it, one must be able to ignore the one in there who looks out at us.  As long as that one has to be ignored in them, people hardly relate to that one in each other.”

 

2 On looking through the ethology literature recently I was surprised and pleased to see that my 1978 paper has been referred to quite frequently  (for example Fagen (1981, Chapter 2); DiDomenico & Eaton (1988, p. 134); Millikan (1993), pp. 140-141),  and one author (Enç 1995, p. 527) refers to it as ‘seminal’!  I think this is a bit of an  exaggeration, but the issues themselves are still very much alive.

 

3 Speaking of it as the  ‘Galilean’ system may remind us of its origins in the very special field of astronomy, a field in which bodies move in ways which are simple and regular, and in which most of the cross-interactions (between the planets) can be ignored at a first approximation.  It is interesting to speculate whether modern science would have arisen at all if the Earth had been cloud-covered like Venus, so that we would never have experienced the extraordinary regularity in the motions of the heavenly bodies.

 

4 Taking the notion of the species as fundamental to our conception of a living being goes back to Aristotle:  “..it is the most natural function in living things…to produce another thing like themselves – an animal to produce an animal, a plant a plant – in order that they may partake of the everlasting and divine in so far as they can; for all desire that, and for the sake of that they do whatever they do in accordance with nature… what persists is not the thing itself but something like itself, not one in number but one in species.”   De Anima  415a22.  (Translation:  Hamlyn 1968).

 

5 ‘Interaction first’ is a central theme of A Process Model.

 

6 The conceptual links between locomotion and perception need more exploration.  Aristotle says “…it is because of sense-perception first of all that they will be animal, for even those things which do not move or change their place, but which do have sense-perception, we speak of as animals and not merely living.”   De Anima  413b1.    (Translation:  Hamlyn 1968) . I am not sure whether Gendlin would agree with this.  His own commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima has not yet been published,  but  promises to be deeply interesting.                                

 

7 See Taylor (1964) Chapter 1, for a discussion of  the crucial role that atomism plays in the Galilean scheme of things.

 

8 The concept of momentum is a possible exception.  In A Process Model  (p. 277) Gendlin says: ‘The moving body’s momentum seems describable as a being-about-to-be-there, in a further location, but the momentum is an attribute of it here now.’  Gendlin has a more detailed exploration of the concept of momentum in ‘A critique of relativity and localization’ (Gendlin & Lemke 1983), but so far as I know these ideas have not been picked up by the physicists.  There have for a long time existed formulations of the laws of physics in terms of extremal principles, such as the principle of least action, which can seem to have a ‘holistic’ and even teleological flavour, but what Gendlin is saying is different from this. (I took my first degree in physics and mathematics, but I suspect that too little of it remains with me for me to be able to form any competent judgement in this area - this takes me back even earlier than my ethology days!).

 

9 Gendlin uses this example in several places, for example in Gendlin (1991), pp 47-48.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

 

DiDomenico, R. and Eaton, R.C.  (1988)  Seven principles for command and the neural causation of behavior. Brain Behavior and Evolution 31, pp. 125-140.

 

Dijksterhuis, E.J. (1961) The Mechanization of the World Picture. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

 

Enç, Berent  (1995)  Units of behaviour.  Philosophy of Science, 62, pp. 523-542.

 

Fagen, R. (1981)  Animal Play Behavior.  New York: Oxford University Press.

 

Gendlin, E.T. (1991) ‘Thinking beyond patterns’ in  Bernard den Ouden and Marcia Moen  The Presence of Feeling in Thought.  New York:  Peter Lang,  pp.

 

Gendlin, E.T. (1995) ‘Ultimacy in Aristotle: in essence activity’ , in Being Human in the Ultimate: Studies in the Thought of John M. Anderson.  N. Georgopoloulos and Michael Heim (eds).  Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 135-166.  

 

Gendlin, E.T. and J. Lemke (1983) ‘A critique of relativity and localization’. Mathematical modelling  4 ,  pp. 61-72

 

Goldfarb, Mical (1992) ‘Making the unknown known: art as the speech of the body’.  In Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (ed) (1992) Giving the Body its Due.  New York SUNY Press, pp. 180-191.

 

Gendlin, E.T. (1995) ‘Crossing and dipping’ Mind and Machines 5 (1995), pp. 547-560.

 

Gendlin, E.T. (1997)  A Process Model.   New York:  Focusing Institute

 

Griffin, Donald  (1981)  The Question of Animal Awareness. Revised edition. Los Altos: William Kaufmann

 

Gunderson, Keith (1971)  Mentality and Machines.  New York: Doubleday

 

Hamlyn, D.W. (1968) Aristotle’s De Anima Books II and III.  Oxford: Clarendon Press

 

Lorenz, K. (1970)  Studies in Animal and Human Behaviour. Volume 1. London: Methuen.

 

Millikan, Ruth. (1993)  White Queen Psychology and Other Essays for Alice.  Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

 

Perl, Sondra (1994) ‘A writer’s way of knowing: guidelines for composing’.  In A.G. Brand and R.L.Graves (eds).  Presence of Mind: Writing and the Domain Beyond the Cognitive.  Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, pp. 77-87.

 

Purton, A.C. (1978) ‘Ethological categories of behaviour and some consequences of their conflation’.  Animal Behaviour,  26, pp. 653-670

 

Taylor, Charles (1964) The Explanation of Behaviour  (London: Routledge) 

 

Tinbergen, N. (1951) The Study of Instinct.  Oxford: Clarendon Press

 

Wittgenstein, L. (1963)   Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell

 

 

 

 


 

[1]  The fact that animals look back at us, and that there is no place for this in our current ways of thinking about them was something that struck me very much when I was working in the philosophy of ethology, so I was delighted to find this passage in  Gendlin’s work (1995):  “Since Descartes, the scientists have had to avoid noticing the absurdity of the assumption that animals are just  patterned machines, that there is no one looking back at them, just bits of color.  We seem unable to think about what obviously looks at us.”  Gendlin has written more on this in an unpublished paper titled ‘On animals’: “I know that there is somebody in every dog, cat and cow.  They see you seeing them, and touching them can keep them from being lost in the night and fog..…our society treats animals – as mere raw material.  To become accustomed to it, one must be able to ignore the one in there who looks out at us.  As long as that one has to be ignored in them, people hardly relate to that one in each other.”

 

[2]On looking through the ethology literature recently I was surprised and pleased to see that my 1978 paper has been referred to quite frequently  (for example Fagen (1981, Chapter 2); DiDomenico & Eaton (1988, p. 134); Millikan (1993), pp. 140-141),  and one author (Enç 1995, p. 527) refers to it as ‘seminal’!  I think this is a bit of an  exaggeration, but the issues themselves are still very much alive.

 

[3] Speaking of it as the  ‘Galilean’ system may remind us of its origins in the very special field of astronomy, a field in which bodies move in ways which are simple and regular, and in which most of the cross-interactions (between the planets) can be ignored at a first approximation.  It is interesting to speculate whether modern science would have arisen at all if the Earth had been cloud-covered like Venus, so that we would never have experienced the extraordinary regularity in the motions of the heavenly bodies.

 

[4] Taking the notion of the species as fundamental to our conception of a living being goes back to Aristotle:  “..it is the most natural function in living things…to produce another thing like themselves – an animal to produce an animal, a plant a plant – in order that they may partake of the everlasting and divine in so far as they can; for all desire that, and for the sake of that they do whatever they do in accordance with nature… what persists is not the thing itself but something like itself, not one in number but one in species.”   De Anima  415a22.  (Translation:  Hamlyn 1968).

 

[5] ‘Interaction first’ is a central theme of A Process Model.

 

[6] The conceptual links between locomotion and perception need more exploration.  Aristotle says “…it is because of sense-perception first of all that they will be animal, for even those things which do not move or change their place, but which do have sense-perception, we speak of as animals and not merely living.”   De Anima  413b1.    (Translation:  Hamlyn 1968) . I am not sure whether Gendlin would agree with this.  His own commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima has not yet been published,  but  promises to be deeply interesting.                                

 

[7] See Taylor (1964) Chapter 1, for a discussion of  the crucial role that atomism plays in the Galilean scheme of things.

 

[8] The concept of momentum is a possible exception.  In A Process Model  (p. 277) Gendlin says: ‘The moving body’s momentum seems describable as a being-about-to-be-there, in a further location, but the momentum is an attribute of it here now.’  Gendlin has a more detailed exploration of the concept of momentum in ‘A critique of relativity and localization’ (Gendlin & Lemke 1983), but so far as I know these ideas have not been picked up by the physicists.  There have for a long time existed formulations of the laws of physics in terms of extremal principles, such as the principle of least action, which can seem to have a ‘holistic’ and even teleological flavour, but what Gendlin is saying is different from this. (I took my first degree in physics and mathematics, but I suspect that too little of it remains with me for me to be able to form any competent judgement in this area - this takes me back even earlier than my ethology days!).

 

[9] Gendlin uses this example in several places, for example in Gendlin (1991), pp 47-48.

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