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Dimensions of Embodiment
Towards a Conversational Science of Human Action.

Part 1 of 3

by David M. Mills, Ph.D.


This is the first of three chapters excerpted from my 1996 doctoral dissertation, Dimensions of Embodiment: Towards a Conversational Science of Human Action.

Part 1 (This page)
Chapter IV: "The Posture of Anticipation: Kelly and Alexander
considers the value of viewing Personal Construct Psychology and the Alexander Technique from each other's perspective, using John Dewey as the link between them.

Part 2
Chapter V: "Evolution of a Technique and a Teaching Method"
considers the scientific character of Alexander's work. It is based on a paper that first appeared in Marjory Barstow: Her Teaching and Training, Barbara Conable (ed.) 1989.

Part 3
Chapter VI: "Commentary on the Principles Underlying The Alexander Technique"
a brief summary of the central principles underlying Alexander's work with comments.


Chapter IV

The Posture of Anticipation: Kelly and Alexander

"The posture of anticipation...silently asks questions, and earnest questions erupt in actions." Kelly, 1969 p.31).

IV.1 Earnest Questions

Our actions, be they verbal, mental, bodily or whatever, be they directed toward ourselves, other people or the physical world, pose "earnest questions" to our world, and thus each action is taken in anticipation of a reply. Every action a person takes, whether an action commonly thought of as thinking, perceiving, moving or even the act of constructing personal meaning, is an act of that person as a whole and thus is expressive of the conditions of the coordination of the whole person. Although methodologies such as, for example Kelly's repertory grids, tend to force us to focus on certain explicitly expressible aspects of a person's construing, we are all reminded from time to time of the deeper dimensions of our conversation with the world. There is open to us a wider sense of construing of a person's situation, which encompasses the whole of their thoughts, feelings and actions in a single field, one which does not take Kelly's phrase, "posture of anticipation," to be merely metaphorical. What has been lacking however has been a practical means of pursuing that wider view. One of my central arguments is that the core of such a means is to be found in the work of F. Matthias Alexander. In this section I will provide a basis for considering Alexander's work from the perspective of Kelly's personal construct theory (and vice versa) in order to produce an approach to a wider view of both bodies of work. I have enlisted John Dewey to act as a bridge between the two.

The germ from which Personal Construct Theory grows, Kelly's Fundamental Postulate, states simply that "a person's processes are psychologically channelized by the ways in which he anticipates events" (Kelly, 1963, p.46). What I want to do is open a fresh consideration of the particular significance of the words "processes" and "psychologically" and the way Kelly explains his use of them. He makes it quite clear that "processes" is intended to refer to the actions of the person as a whole "behaving organism." He goes so far as to say that, "For our purposes, the person is not an object which is temporarily in a moving state but is himself a form of motion" (ibid., p. 48). Regarding the word "psychologically" Kelly means "that we are conceptualizing processes in a psychological manner, not that the processes are psychological rather than something else" (ibid., p. 48). The Postulate does not say that a person's psychological processes are channelized, but that the person's processes, in the sense of the whole of their actions, are channelized in ways which may be construed psychologically. What is being delimited is our way of attempting to construe a person's processes and not the processes themselves.

The whole notion of "Psychology" is based on the observation of "mental" or "psychological facts" which we find it convenient to construe "psychologically" as distinguished from facts which are "physical" or "physiological" and thus more conveniently construed within a system of "natural science" constructs. The ranges of convenience of these alternate construction systems are not, however, exclusive. As Kelly points out, "the events upon which facts are based hold no institutional loyalties" (ibid., p. 10). A person's processes might be fruitfully construed physically, psychologically or both, but the processes themselves are, "something else." In Kelly's terms, it is the constructs and not necessarily the elements that are psychological. Constructs, as the psychological dimensions of whole experience, are the ways in which we may anticipate that an element of experience will be like or not like other elements. The essential point is that we need not construe them as being psychological in order to construe them psychologically. In practice, however, it seems to be rather easy to miss this distinction and to treat personal processes as if they could be sorted into distinct "mental" and "physical" categories (standing, walking, making a tennis stroke, etc. being physical; thinking, perceiving, construing, etc., mental). Of course we may sort them thus, but there is always a price to be paid. It may be convenient to view events in the first set from the perspective of physics, biomechanics, etc. and the second set from a psychological perspective, but we encounter many events which fall in the borderlands between the two realms. Are drawing a landscape from memory, improvising at the piano or making a presentation at a conference, or for that matter, sitting at a computer, composing a doctoral dissertation, mental or physical acts? In regarding these borderland acts, and especially when I, as a living person regard my own acts, the issue becomes not only the value of recognizing that I may construe events in either way, but that "mental-physical" is itself a very pervasive construct which may have become "inconvenient." Constructs are abstractions in that they are drawn from experience and are not prior to it. Yet this abstracting is a two way process–elements of experience lead to abstract concepts which become a framework that structures experience. A preferred set of dimensions, that is, an habitual way of anticipating the consequences of my actions, amounts to a constructive "posture." This "posture of anticipation" is a stance taken up by a whole person in relation to their environment and is as physical as it is metaphorical. Every act, including the act of construing, that is, of placing an interpretation on events, is an act of the whole person–in other words, meaning is embodied.

To anyone familiar with Kelly's perspective, this may seem obvious. What is called for, however, is a practical way of taking the obvious into account in order to transcend it. Kelly himself asserts the essential scientific humility of his psychology of personal constructs by noting that "no one has yet proved wise enough to propound a universal system of constructs," (ibid., p. 10) and then recognizing the constant need to be careful in our application of our "miniature systems." What an individual person needs is not so much a personal version of a universal system of constructs but a means of continuing the "conversation" about their own meaning–both the "explicitly formulated" or verbally expressible and the "utterly inarticulate" meanings which are embodied in the organization of their actions. This is no easy task. Emphasizing that since "many of one's constructs have no symbols to be used as convenient word handles," it is difficult to bring them within the organization of the "verbally labelled parts of the system," (ibid., p. 110) Kelly notes that this makes it very difficult to be articulate about how one feels or to predict one's future actions. For example,

A person may say that he will not take a drink if he is offered one tomorrow. But when he says so he is aware only of what he can verbally label; he is not fully aware of what it will be like tomorrow when tomorrow's situation actually confronts him. The situation which he envisions is, to be sure, one in which he would not take the drink. But the situation which actually rolls around may loom up quite differently and he may do what he has promised himself and others he would not do. There may be a failure of his structure, or, more particularly, that part of it which is verbally labelled, to subsume adequately certain aspects of the rest of the system. (ibid., p. 110)

It is little wonder that we so often seem to others to be unwilling, and to ourselves, unable to reconstrue our situation–or to do very much to change matters. Often the only parts which we can conceive of reconstruing are those parts which we can explicitly become aware of having construed, and so long as the conversation is limited to the verbal or conceptual domain, too much of our construction lies hidden in the inarticulate. We cannot reflect on this unarticulated experience because we lack a language in which to converse about it. Kelly says that the reality of a concept "exists in its actual employment by its user" (ibid., p. 106). But to employ a particular construction is to act out of a commitment to it, not merely to project it into some disembodied abstract space. Meaning, for me, is a relationship between myself and the situation in which I find myself and in which I must act. The construction of meaning has to do not only with the anticipation of events, but with anticipated action. Thus an action is not only a behavioural "experiment," but my engagement in conversation with my world, and an event in my experience is not only the result of an experiment, it is a response. To act out of commitment to a construction is to "live in anticipation" of that response. The task at hand is to find a means of bringing my part in the conversation to a more reflective level. We shall see that Alexander provides a means for meeting just that task.


IV.2 "Body" and "Mind"

In my view John Dewey provides a natural bridge between Kelly and Alexander. Kelly says of Dewey that his "philosophy and psychology can be read between many of the lines of the psychology of personal constructs" (ibid., p. 154). He finds Dewey's view "that we understand events through anticipating them" (ibid., p. 157) beneath his own claim "that our lives are wholly oriented toward anticipation of events" (a claim with which Dewey would have agreed). I have already cited Dewey's biographical statement that his ideas of mind-body etc. required his work with the Alexander brothers "to transform the into realities."

In a talk given to the New York Academy of Medicine in 1927, Dewey discussed what he considered the vital importance of the issue at hand. After lamenting the fact that the mind-body split is so pervasive in our experience that we seem to have no way of even expressing the unity except by such hyphenations as "mind-body," which actually serve to perpetuate the split, Dewey proposed that the way out the trap is to centre our attention on "unity in action." And he felt it vitally important that we do find a way out. The talk was later published under the title, "Body and Mind." (Dewey, 1931, p. 299) He writes,

Thus the question of integration of mind-body in action is the most practical of all questions we can ask of our civilization....Until this integration is effected in the only place where it can be carried out, in action itself, we shall continue to live in a society in which a soulless and heartless materialism is compensated for by a soulful but futile idealism and spiritualism...for materialism is not a theory, but a condition of action...and spiritualism is not a theory but a state of action. (ibid., p. 304)

It is precisely in the practical continuity of human action that Dewey finds the unity of mind and body. Indeed, he finds in the degree of their unity that is evident in our actions, a measure of humanity.

The more human mankind becomes, the more civilized it is, the less is there some behaviour which is purely physical and some other purely mental. So true is this statement that we may use the amount of distance which separates them in our society as a test of the lack of human development in that community. ( ibid., p. 304)

In order to find this unity, or rather this continuity, of mind and body in action, we must be able to distinguish other dimensions of meaning within our actions.

We need to distinguish between action that is routine and action alive with purpose and desire; between that which is cold, and as we significantly say inhuman, and that which is warm and sympathetic; between that which marks a withdrawal from the conditions of the present and a retrogression to split off conditions of the past and that which faces actualities; between that which is expansive and developing because including what is new and varying and that which applies only to the uniform and repetitious; between that which is bestial and that which is godlike in its humanity; between that which is spasmodic and centrifugal, dispersive and dissipating, and that which is centered and consecutive.... What most stands in the way of our achieving a working technique for making such discriminations and applying them in the guidance of the actions of those who stand in need of assistance is our habit of splitting up the qualities of action into two disjoint things. (ibid., p. 305)

It is certainly possible to read Kelly's ideas between the lines here and say that Dewey is speaking for an alternate way of construing the quality of human action. But why do we then seem to be "unwilling to reconstrue" ourselves and our actions in this new way? Dewey points us in Alexander's direction in search of an answer when he refers to Alexander in pointing out that,

Until we have a procedure in actual practice which demonstrates this continuity [of mind and body], we shall continue to engage in some other specific thing, some other broken off affair, to restore connectedness and unity [and thus] increase the disease in the means used to cure it. (Dewey, 1958, p. 296)


IV.3 A New Field of Inquiry

The opening chapter of The Use of the Self, "The Evolution of a Technique," (Alexander, 1932) is Alexander's own account of how he came to develop just such a procedure. In 1890 F.M. Alexander was a young Australian with a promising career before him as an actor and recitationist. He was, however, plagued by one serious, recurring difficulty–at some point during an evening on stage, his voice would become hoarse, sometimes so much so that he could scarcely speak by the end of the performance. His doctors could find nothing medically wrong and could advise no treatment beyond rest for his voice. After this happened at one particularly important engagement, young Alexander decided to find out for himself just what was causing his troubles and what he might do to prevent their return. He reasoned that as he only had his vocal difficulty while on stage, there must be something different about the way he used his vocal mechanism in the act of reciting that caused his trouble. His years of patient self-observation opened up what he saw as a "new field of enquiry" about the "psycho-physical" functioning of the human individual as a whole. His investigations produced a set of principles and an evolving method of putting those principles to practical use in daily activity. What Alexander discovered about himself was that his difficulties, and the means for addressing them, could not be separated into distinct categories of mental and physical. He found that every specific act was taken in the context of the functioning of the entirety of his "psycho-physical mechanisms" and thus that the quality of every act was determined by the conditions of the coordination of his whole self. This proved to be equally the case for the "mental" conception of the act to be performed, the "physical" movements made in carrying out that conception and the "sensory appreciation" by which he judged the fit between the two.

He found himself in the midst of a serious dilemma, however. Having become accustomed to performing the act of reciting in his familiar way, his sensory appreciation had become as habituated as had his muscular efforts. Thus even when he had demonstrated that he was not doing what he thought he was doing, it nevertheless "felt right." Worse still, he found that at the "critical moment" of actually initiating some movement, the moment, as he experienced it, of putting his intention to speak into practice, he relied on that very same faulty sensory appreciation to guide his action. These habitual patterns, both the specific patterns which defined acts such as "reciting" and the more general patterns which constituted what he called the "general manner of use" of himself, involved components which interfered with the very coordinating processes which otherwise would have brought about the result he desired. One could suppose that Alexander might have elicited a set of constructs underlying his conception of, for example, the act of reciting, a set of kinesthetic dimensions of how various ways of "using" himself in speaking differed from one another. From the perspective being developed here, however, his construction of any particular act to be performed would be inseparable from his construing of himself in the performance. This would include the interpretation provided by his sensory appreciation and thus would be in large part what might be termed a kinesthetic construction. To be capable of performing an act in a different way was also to conceive of the act itself differently–and thus to reconstrue himself in the doing. This he found himself unable to do. Indeed, he labelled as a "delusion which is almost universal" the assumption that because we find ourselves able to act at will in carrying out familiar habitual acts, we expect to be equally able to do so when the act we conceive is unfamiliar and counter to our habit. No matter how he might reconstrue the act at a verbal level by telling himself to do it differently, when the moment came and in spite of his best efforts, he carried it out in the familiar way. In fact, he discovered, the situation was worse; it was because of his effort that he found himself trapped in the familiar, and the greater the effort, the more he seemed dominated by his habit and the greater the amplification of the interference with his natural functioning. This is a phenomenon Alexander termed "end-gaining" and it proved to be the root cause of his original vocal problem. Eventually Alexander came to realize that his original hypothesis had been only partially correct on two counts. It was not only his vocal apparatus that was involved, and not just in the act of reciting, but his habitual use of his whole self in every act he performed. It was the malcoordination inherent in his everyday speaking habits, amplified by the effort of "reciting" as he construed it, which resulted in his loss of voice.

How are we to account for this inability to change? The situation is very similar to that in Kelly's example of taking a drink. In effect, when a way of acting becomes habitual all of the constructs used to conceive it become subsumed under the single kinesthetic construct "feels normal–feels not normal" or to use a common alternate label, "feels right–feels wrong." As Alexander wrote, "The act and the particular feeling associated with it become one in our recognition" (Alexander, 1923, p. 132). We might also say that the associated feeling, as an element of experience, becomes a figure symbol for, and thus hides, the whole system of underlying constructs. The situation is self-perpetuating because continuing to act in commitment to that construction makes extremely unlikely just the sort of "unfamiliar sensory experience" which could provide the basis for significant reconstruction. Kelly refers to habit as "a convenient kind of stupidity which leaves a person free to act intelligently elsewhere." But he adds, "whether he takes advantage of the opportunity or not is another question." (Kelly, 1963, p. 169) In Alexander's view this failure to take advantage is not a matter of mere oversight. When what we hold fixed is just those aspects of our whole functioning which could coordinate our response to changing conditions and requirements, we hold ourselves in that unfortunate state in which our every effort to improve makes our situation worse:

The truth is that so far man has failed to understand fully what is required for changing habit if the change is to be a fundamental one because he has not realized that the establishment of a particular habit in a person is associated in that person with a certain habitual manner of using the self, and that because the organism works as an integrated whole, change of a particular habit in the fundamental sense is impossible as long as this habitual manner of use persists. (Alexander, 1941 p. 93)

It doesn't matter what sort of habit we are speaking of. Chronic muscular patterns, stereotyped reactive behaviours and rigid opinions or "fixed ideas" are all examples of the same phenomenon, and, as Alexander noted,

...the majority of people fall into a mechanical habit of thought as easily as they fall into the mechanical habit of body which is its immediate consequence. (Alexander, 1910, p. 20)

Fixed construction, the inability to reconstrue one's situation, can also be seen as habitual in Alexander's sense. That is, it is just the doing–in this case construing–in the old way which prevents a person from being able to even fully conceive of, let alone carry out, doing in a new way. More precisely, in Alexander's view, it is the fact that the old way, however obviously unsatisfactory we may know it to be, "feels right" to us. We know we are performing a particular action "our way" by how it feels, and this feeling is a sensory interpretation which we place on our own physical response to our situation. It is itself constructed and constructive. When I am faced with a stimulus from my environment, I respond, in ways channelized by how I have construed the stimulus. What I "feel" is my sensations of my own response. I perceive my own movement. But I also construe the meaning of that feeling (sensory appreciation) and my awareness of "how I feel" becomes itself a stimulus to further response. I had a student once who, after working with me for several minutes, was able to release a good bit of habitual excess tension, particularly across the upper part of her chest. Her movements took on a freedom and quality of softness and grace that were immediately recognizable by her and her friends who were watching. But then she put her hand to her chest and said, "You know what this is." We were all puzzled, wondering what "this" referred to. We were even more puzzled when she continued, "This is defeat." Here was a person who on several occasions in her life had felt a need to be "strong"–and had done so in part by means of a certain pattern of pushing and holding up her chest. It had been, unnoticed by her, her way of embodying her concept of strength. The only times when she was without the feeling which she associated with this unconscious push had been on those occasions when her strength had not been enough and someone or something had "defeated" her. Hence, when in the context of an improved general coordination she was able to give up her push, at first the only available interpretation she could find for the absence of the associated feeling was a construal based on past kinesthetic experience. What looked to us like power and freedom, and despite the fact that she "knew" that it was, nevertheless to her "feelings" literally meant "defeat." I have seen many other similar, if usually less dramatic, examples of this sort of kinesthetic conception. The change in, for example, a person's way of standing, is already the embodiment of a reconstrual, and the same context of general coordination within which it was possible also permits a reinterpretation of the meaning of the feelings that the change elicits. My defeated friend was able to recognize her felt interpretation as such. She was able to feel what she felt and at the same time to appreciate that the feeling (or more properly, the meaning she attributed to what she felt) was in essence an opinion she held and was itself open to change. It is often claimed that emotional memories etc. are somehow "stored" in a person's body, and thus can be "released" when changes are made. What I have found in this and similar episodes is that rather than being stored in the tissue these states are embodied in dynamic patterns of movement. Thus to move differently is already to embody a reinterpretation.

This doubly constructive process is elaborative. In principle, it may be either expansive or constrictive depending on the stance taken. To be habitual is, in Kelly's terms, to expect the duplication of events rather than anticipating their replication. It is to see, and respond to, every event as a repeated instance of something already known. Alexander saw it as a failure to recognize the psycho-physical unity of our self in action:'s most tragic mistake has been his failure to acquire knowledge of himself as an individual functioning as a psycho-physical whole in his daily activities, for this has deprived him of the key to knowledge which could give him a new technique in living (Alexander, 1941 p. 218).

Whatever insights this discussion might provide into how we trap ourselves in this constrictive choice would be of only mild interest and indeed, would be, in Alexander's opinion, so much "useless philosophical speculation" unless it helped us come into possession of a means for doing something about it, a means for demonstrating the continuity of mind and body in practice. It was the possession of such a means that was Alexander's goal:

...I was concerned with a technique for dealing with the working of the living human organism as a whole, which called for a knowledge of the so-called mental (psychological) and the physical (physiological and anatomical) working of the human organism as an indivisible unity. (ibid., p. 135)

In essence, what Alexander developed was a coherent way of implementing the experimental method in the context of that indivisible unity, a comprehensive method for being a "personal scientist" regarding the "new field of inquiry" of the directing of our own actions, and thus a context within which certain kinds of reconstruing can take place. Among the conditions which Kelly discusses as "unfavourable to the formation of new constructs" is the unavailability of a laboratory, a space in which to "try them out" (Kelly, 1963 p. 169). But a laboratory situation implies that there is not only a space in which to experiment, but also a method of experimenting. If we recognize that when Kelly speaks of anticipating or construing he is not referring to "mental" acts, but to acts performed by the person as a whole in relation to their situation, and if we further take explicit note of the fact that such acts, like any others, involve just that "unity of mind-body in action" to which Dewey referred, then Alexander's work can be seen as providing just the sort of experimental method needed for the laboratory of new constructs. Such a method will prove equally vital whether the matters being reconstrued are those commonly thought of as physical, mental or otherwise.


IV.4 All Together, One After The Other

It is easy to see how a rigid habitual stance also sustains Kelly's other two unfavourable conditions. We find it difficult to reconstrue in a context of "threat." In our ordinary habitual mode, where there has been a reduction to the "feels right vs. feels wrong" construct, any new, unfamiliar experience can only "feel wrong." Thus any unfamiliar new sensory experience is by construction, threatening. Also, if the primary kinesthetic criterion for evaluating the performance of any habitual action is that it feels essentially the same as it always has, we are kinesthetically always preoccupied with "old material." Construing is an abstractive process of interpreting experience in terms of similarity and difference. Habitual action, by focusing us on what feels the same, "marks a withdrawal from the conditions of the present" by attempting to escape their uniqueness. It is as if the dimensions of the familiar so dominate a person's experience that they have no access to the very fresh material in the present conditions which might lead them to a new construction. A common, but nonetheless curious, illustration of this channelling of experience is seen, or rather heard, in the case of phonological differences between languages. In English the letters l and r represent distinct phonemes. Native Japanese speakers have notorious difficulty with the pronunciation of these sounds. The situation is more subtle than it at first appears, however. The "obvious" explanation for the Japanese speakers' difficulty is that their native language does not have a phoneme corresponding precisely with either the English l or r, and thus, if they have learned English later in life, they lack the requisite experience with producing those sounds and therefore often interchange them. Japanese does have a phoneme which does not precisely correspond with either l or r, but, from the English point of view, lies somewhere between them. The influence of their experience with this phoneme in their native language does lead to an imprecision in producing the English sounds. What is most curious, however, is the experience of the native English "listener." It is as though their auditory perception system includes a construct that could be labelled "sounds like l–sounds like r." Or rather, if for example hearing the word "around" and thus anticipating the sound of r, there is a simultaneous use of two constructs–the one above and another, "sounds like r–sounds not like r." The effect then is that any sound that is not quite the anticipated r sound is perceived as an l. Similarly any imprecise pronunciation of l is perceived as an r. The hearer of course attributes the switching of the phonemes to the speaker. The same switching often occurs when native Spanish speakers pronounce the English b or v, and of course with native English speakers trying to pronounce the Japanese or Spanish phonemes. What is strange is that any sound which is not quite right should always sound like the "wrong" sound. Similarly, any feeling we have in association with our action which does not quite "feel right" tends to feel "wrong" rather than "nearly right."

There are, however, some conditions which are favourable to the formation of new constructs: use of fresh elements, experimentation, and availability of validating data. (ibid., p. 161) Alexander's experimental technique meets each of them. The experimentation, by achieving a means of using aspects of one's physical experience normally frozen in habit as validating data, provides a context within which the fresh elements of unfamiliar sensory experience become possible. Indeed, as I will discuss later, this is precisely what Dewey found most significant about Alexander's work. It is a method for generating new experience, and what is more, a new kind experience.

There is, I believe, one more significant parallel to be drawn between Kelly's insistence that it is only by engaging in the full cycle of experience that we begin to see the significance of a person's construing, and Alexander's insistence that it is only in relation to the use of the self as a psycho-physical whole that any specific act has meaning or utility. In Kelly's case it is not merely the whole of experience that matters, but the whole cycle of experience. To Alexander, an individual is not only "whole," but an organized whole, and it is attention to the organizing principle of the functioning of the whole that is the key to his experimental "new technique in living." For both men there was a clear sense that a person's processes are both integral and sequential–in a phrase Alexander liked to use, "all together, one after the other." The implicit logical structure of these processes is what I refer to as "conductive," and from the present perspective a person's dynamic engagement with that logical structure is an engagement in "conductive reasoning."

It is in this interplay of thought and action, of the ways in which meaning is embodied and bodily action is meaningful, of the all together and the one after the other of our "posture of anticipation," that a view which is both constructive in Kelly's sense and psycho-physical in Alexander's promises to be very fruitful. As a person reflects upon their own construing, the more dimensions of that process that can be brought explicitly into the conversation the better.

Bibliography of Excerpt

Alexander, F.M. (1910) Man's Supreme Inheritance, Methuen, London (Reprinted by Centerline, Long Beach, 1988).

Alexander, F.M. (1923) Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, Dutton, NY (Reprinted by Centerline, Long Beach, 1985).

Alexander, F.M. (1932) The Use of the Self, Dutton, NY (Reprinted by Centerline, Long Beach, 1984).

Alexander, F.M. (1941) The Universal Constant in Living, Dutton, NY (Reprinted by Centerline, Long Beach, 1986).

Dewey, John (1931) Philosophy and Civilization, Minton, Balch and Co., NY, 1931.

Dewey, J. (1957) Human Nature and Conduct, (reprint of 1922 edition) The Modern Library, NY.

Dewey, J. (1958) Experience and Nature, (reprint of Second edition, 1930) Dover, NY.

Harri-Augstein, S. and Thomas, L. (1991) Learning Conversations, Routledge, London.

Jones, F.P. (1974) "Learning How to Learn: An Operational Definition of The Alexander Technique," Sheldrake Press, London.

Jones, F.P. (1976) Body Awareness in Action, Schocken Books, NY.

Kelly, G.A. (1963) A Theory of Personality: The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Norton, NY.

Kelly, G.A. (1969) "Ontological Acceleration," in Clinical Psychology and Personality: Selected Papers of George Kelly, B. Maher (ed.), Krieger Pub., Huntington, NY, 1979.

Kelly, G.A. (1977) "The Psychology of the Unknown," in D. Bannister (ed.), New Perspectives in Personal Construct Theory, Academic Press, London, 1977.

Weyl, H. (1949) Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science, Princeton U. Press, NJ.

Dissertation Abstract

George Kelly's Personal Construct Theory, especially as subsumed within the "conversational science" paradigm developed by Thomas and Harri-Augstein, is fundamentally a framework for a geometry of personal meaning in which all of the dimensions of distinction within a person's experience are like the dimensions of geometric space. A person's system of constructs is not just a framework for predicting the attributes of future events; it is a coordinate system for navigating the dimensionality of experience. The work of F.M. Alexander is primarily concerned with the "psycho-physical unity of the individual," and thus with the continuity of experience.

The present work has two aims. The first, drawing on the work of Merleau-Ponty and John Dewey, and culminating in the concept of "Conductive Reasoning," is to lay a theoretical foundation for a synthesis of the practical work of Kelly and Alexander. The primary premise is that the act of comprehending is an embodied act, and as such is as subject to the conditions of the coordination of the whole person as is any other act.

The second, practical, aim has been to develop a conversational methodology for dealing with learning in a more fully embodied way. This method of "conductive conversation," formally derived from the "Learning Conversation," evolved from the author's teaching experience with the Alexander Technique.

Appendix 1, "A Conversational Introduction to Conductive Reasoning," is an interactive conversational structure which incorporates a development of these concepts in the context of personal experiments for generating the kinds of experiences from which the reader may draw something of the intended meaning, and some skill in using the conductive conversational tools for exploring embodied dimensions in their own meaning. It is intended as a piece that will stand on its own as a conversational research instrument for personal scientists.


About The Writer

David Mills
6836 21st Av. NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA
Tel: +1 206-522-3584, e-mail: David Mills


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