Politics and Philosophy – a PCT introduction

PCT takes a strongly scientific approach to human nature. It proposes that people and other living systems are purposeful – and that the systems that are responsible for purposeful action are explainable in mechanistic terms. The stance is reminiscent of Aristotle’s hierarchy of goods. PCT also takes the paradigm of model-building within physics and engineering and applies it to biology and psychology.

The philosopher Thomas S. Kuhn expressed his praise over Powers (1973) book: “this manuscript is among the most exciting I have read in some time; the achieved synthesis is thoroughly original.”

In his book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Approaches to a Science of Life, Dag Forssell explains the great importance of PCT as a ‘true’ science within psychology. Yet the debate continues – see the discussion about PCT having claims that are too bold on the website Lesswrong. A recent student research project documents the obstacles to learning and accepting PCT within university education.

Powers’ approach has major implications for key areas of philosophy and politics:

Does science interface with religion?

Read Lynndal Daniels’ blog on PCT and Buddhism.

What is knowledge?

Philip Jerair Yeranosian (2014) has written a thorough examination of the nature of behaviour, intelligence and knowledge in this article published at PCTWeb.

What is consciousness?

What is ‘will’? Can we model ‘volition’?

Mark Olson approaches this issue from a PCT perspective in his Masters thesis. Also, the book ‘Volitional Action: Conation and Control’ provides a range of articles on the topic.

Can we explain political catastrophes through the drive for power and control?

What is the nature of reality?

See Martin Taylor’s (2013) comments on this topic.

How do we best test a scientific theory?

The links on the right provide just some of the essays on these topics that are available.

Rick Marken takes a visionary approach in an online article in which he imagines a future society that embraces PCT.

In March 2011, Steve Hayes met Bill Powers and they compared views on ‘functional contextualism’ and PCT. This discussion is now available online.

Note: this page was drafted a few years ago on http://pctweb.org/: information needs to be updated. Volunteers welcome.

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