Home > Philosophy > How I Read the Structure of the PM Text: What is a 'Kind' of Process?
1. As I read the Process Model, what it is doing is describing a set of KINDS of process that make up our lived experience. The main KINDS of process described are:
2. These KINDS of process are layered: focusing is a form of listening-speaking, speaking is a form of behaviour, and behaviour is a form of body tissue process. Each 'higher' layer is supported by the organismic processes that enable the'more primitive' layers to function. A new layer 'emerges' when a new kind of 'implying' or 'symbolising' or 'holding together the whole of what is in the previous layer' emerges ... Gene talks about this as a "doubling" of that which is 'implied': the body tissue process *is also* behaviour: so a penguin doing a mating dance on the snow is both body tissue process in a rudimentary sense - tissues pressing, stretching and contracting in patterns that enable feet, wings, head to move: these tissue processes *imply* gravity and ground - and behaviour - the dance *implies* awareness of the other penguin's responses. So (at least) two sets of implications are active at once: there is a "doubled implying".
3. This layering does not involve a sense of *separate* processes occurring concurrently. Rather, "there is only ONE implying" because there is only one life process. The PM therefore develops a set of concepts to account for mutual influence between processes that does not take *time* - that is about 'strands' of life process that are, in part, mutually influencing each other as they arise together: we have "interaffecting" and "everything crossing with everything". But, if every possible implication of everything had ALL its weight NOW, we could not account for forward movement, change - because all the implications would be played out now. So the Model includes a distinction between things implied but 'held', and things implied that are 'in play' ...
It's important to see what's happening here, as the model is being built. *If* we simply used ordinary words with their ordinary meanings we could not say what has just been said in the last paragraph. 'Interaffecting' seems to describe something that 'happens' but takes no time - which is impossible, if 'happen' and 'time' are understood in the usual way. But rather than be constrained by the assumptions - the cosmology - built into ordinary language, Gendlin is taking something complex and familiar from ordinary experience, and seeing what concepts need to be built to explicate it. He does this typically in two stages: he develops "leap" concepts - concepts in which we are saying what we want to say, even though they are paradoxical when considered in the context of ordinary understanding. *Then* he develops a more sophisticated model that builds to (an evolved version of) the "leap" concepts.
Reading my text, even though it draws on the PM, is like reading a set of "leap" concepts: I am sketching enough of the PM as I understand it to indicate that the Model is plausible, but not enough, I imagine, to render it 'natural' and 'easy' for a reader. *That* level of comfort could only come through one's own more intricate reading of / dialogue with the PM text.
4. Part of what motivates the development of this Model is the desire to explicitly account for the intricacy, richness and distinctiveness of FIRST PERSON PROCESS: what it is to live bodily in the world *as ourselves*: NOT as people-observed. For instance, *my* sense of the social spaces in which I live is *intensely* intricate and open-with-possibilities compared to what an observer interpreting my actions can see ... I am aware of the possibility of talking to many people, although I talk only to one, I am aware of the possibility of many alternative stances (wary-friendly, trusting, defensive, reserved-relaxed, ...), although I take a *particular* stance ... The observer can't *see* the social space in which I am making my choices ... If you had *only* third person data, you would have only a weak characterisation of social behaviour. As Gene has said on many occasions, the concepts that are "in the library" to describe human experiences are "too poor" to do justice to the intricacy and diversity of living-as-ourselves. For instance, describing focusing in our public (philosophical and psychological) language, we get stuck needing to say that focusing brings out meanings that are already there, OR that it creates meaning, neither of which does justice to the embeddedness and creativity of 'carrying forward' what was there just now ...
5. The fundamental manoeuvre that Gene makes to enable development of a Model that is a better tool for characterising our lived experience is to *assume* interaction (that body-process and environment-engaged are one happening) and to *derive* from this our experiences of separation, stability, etc. ...
5.1 To develop this intuition he inverts the usual relationship between 'perception' and 'explication' in philosophical models of experience: he derives 'perception' from a schematic of 'explication'. Ordinary language has many terms that take for granted that our observations inform us about *the world*, rather than about *ourselves*. So when we give 'perception' a central role as we characterise experience, we emphasise the *separation* of observer and observed. When we start from 'explication', ambiguities more evident within it are foregrounded: we cannot say what a text is*independently* of the readings we give of it. In a 'reading', author and reader both participate, but we cannot cut the 'reading' up to differentiate their contributions. Taking 'explication' as our paradigm, Gene places a radical 'interdependence' at the heart of his Model: it is not possible to define a (radical) 'boundary' between person (as process) and environment.
But texts are a special case. Is it sensible to build a model for *all* experiencing starting from 'explication'? 'Explication' seems to be 'perception + interpretation', so it seems to be more complex than 'perception', not something more basic. In essence Gene's answer to this is: the roots of explication are in the lives of plants.
Observing a plant we can 'read' it as a structure in which certain biochemical processes occur. Reading plant life in this way we take the entity, plant-as-structure, to be fundamental, and explain the processes *from* the structure. Yet we can also 'read' a plant in a way that takes *process itself* to be fundamental. And this is a very plausible model: *being alive* is far more fundamental to 'being a plant' than its physical structure is. The structure only survives if the life process maintains it. And (in our *experience*) life process always comes first: the first bits of an organism's structure are created by its parents' life processes, and its life process (as seed, egg, ...) is a carrying forward of its parents' life processes.
As a plant lives, it carries forward the interaction of sun, water, nutrients and living body, maintaining itself, extending roots towards water, and leaves (stems, twigs) towards the sun. This interaction - this living - 'carrying itself forward' is the plant tissue process doing its kind of 'explication'. Explication in a human sense is layered on top of this.
5.2 Taking aliveness as a starting point in this way suggests an alternative 'cosmology'.
a) Instead of the *physical* body being the core of an organism, the physical body is better understood as an intimate part of the *life process's* 'environment': an environmental layer that it creates and recreates for itself to continue on in.
b) From the perspective of life process, time needs to be understood via a more complex model. *Observing* a plant's life we might simply say: 'living happens in time'. But from the perspective of the life process itself, in some sense time is *interior* to the process. In the present, the past is often 'jelling' or 'focaling' or coming to expression. And in the 'jelling' or 'focaling' or coming to expression, there is (an intricate, open) 'implying' of the future. 'Implying' and 'unfolding' are each other's inverse. But they do not *mirror* each other. Rather, as we live, we 'lean into' our future: life processes imply their own forward movement (in a way that texts lead into their 'readings') ... but in an open way (in the way that a text can be faithfully explicated in many directions). And as we live from our past, its ongoing significance for living *now* unfolds. The past observed in space-time does not change, but the past's presence in ongoing living changes. Because 'implying' is 'open', we feel the weight of what *was* differently, after we recognise that it has carried forward to *this* (much as each generation has its own Shakespeare, even though the texts of Shakespeare's plays and poems do not change).
This relationship, implying and carrying forward, is at the heart of the Process Model: any living that occurs 'implies' further occurring that will carry it forward (e.g. hunger implies eating, eating transforms the hunger) ... but this'implying' is more open, indeterminate and unspecifying than the usual meaning of 'implies' conveys. The further occurring isn't determined by what has just occurred in the way that a logical implication is determined. Nor is the indeterminacy just contingency: we are not talking about openness to random intrusions. We are trying to characterise an openness that is, as it were, richly textured and evocative, but unresolved.
This openness is more obvious in conversation than in plant growth. As words come, many things are in play: an intricately felt history of being together, a sense of the movement of this conversation, and a multitude of other experiences ('knowing hows', 'knowing thats'). They 'cross' implicitly (*not* explicitly, as we are not conscious of most of what is in play) ... and together, in a fresh way, 'focal' what we say next: something sayable comes. What comes in a sense 'explicates' our situation as we sense it: it carries it forward ... what I have to say speaks to my situation: it 'expresses' being with my friend, *now*. And as I speak, my speaking 'occurs into' my friend's experience, 'implying' my friend's replying, and thus implying further experiencing for me - not deterministically - but significantly. And as I speak, what I *was* experiencing takes shape in a new way: as carried forward into ...
5.3 In this Model, objects are derived, not foundational. We *experience* objects as separate from us. But in the PM this is derived as a special case of ENGAGING; its not the paradigm case for 'being'. How does Gene derive 'separate objects' from 'interacting' ... from 'pre-separated', un-decomposed, un-strand-ed, flux? His starting point is recognising that when a process is *stopped*, you notice something is missing. For example, we are confronted by the components of our car's engine when our car won't start! If we *begin* with the-whole-flux-of-our-living, different kinds of interruption provide windows on the intricacies of our life process ... and the process of exploration is one of unfolding intricacy from a 'whole flux' that is never decomposed, is never broken into a set of constituent strands, is never broken up into discrete, individual processes.
Questions about 'how separate objects connect' disappear when you begin from this place (e.g. discussions of 'knowing other minds'). Instead, with processes central, and, in particular, *kinds* of body process, such as breathing and seeking food, the Process Model invites us to explore the dependence on *bodily* processes of the more sophisticated accomplishments that are *often* discussed in a quite disembodied way (e.g. language, culture, emotions, ...). How it is that language use layers a kind of symbol-using activity on top of the behaving we share with animals, and how the behaving is layered on top of the body tissue processes we share with plants, ... Talking is symbol-using, behaving and tissue process all at once. And, as *lived*, these are strands of our one life process ... and as *lived*, they are not, in the first instance, 'strands'. We are *one* life process: differentiating strands like this is the beginnings of *one* way of explicating the intricacy of our living.
By starting from interaction, and by understanding our *physical* bodies as a kind of *environment* in which life-process (us living) goes on, we can see *why* we have difficulty *identifying* ourselves with our bodies, when we are trying to describe how *important* being embodied is for us. We are not our-bodies-as-structure, we are living-process-that-is-remaking-our-bodies-as-structure.
6. Looking through the PM text for the pattern of its explications of different KINDS of process, as I read it, the main elements that need to be described to characterise a KIND of process are:
i) the new kind of OCCURRING, and the new kind of ENVIRONMENT (kind of SPACE) in which it arises / occurs ... (e.g. felt senses arise in a kind of interior space that we can 'clear' at the start of focusing; interaction occurs in a kind of 'social space'; ...);
ii) how an occurring of a particular kind *IMPLIES* further occurring ('implies' in the open way discussed above), and how further occurring CARRIES FORWARD the earlier ones ... or *can* carry it forward, as processes are interrupted when something environmental that's essential is missing ... (e.g. focusing *implies* the formation of a felt sense, a felt sense implies something more, a newly forming felt sense carries forward the one that occurred before, ... "all living is an occurring and also an implying (of ...)" and "implying and occurring are two strands of bodily process" (PM IV b));
["In every sequence some kind of environment carries the body forward into a bit of changed implying (which then makes for a further change in that environment, which again carries the body further." (PM VIII A) 'Occurring' always involves both body and environment - all the way in.]
iii) what that-which-implies encapsulates or holds from the more primitive KINDS of process (e.g. a felt sense is a "version of the whole life situation or theoretical problem" - a particular occurring is *relevant to* what has occurred within the simpler kind of process ... and what was happening in the simpler space is paused); and
iv) what the new implying-process *is* in the more primitive layer (e.g. behaviour is a form of movement; heeding a felt sense is "a kind of inward dance" ... i.e. felt sensing is built on the possibility of being social, cultural beings).
Greg Walkerden (email@example.com)
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Lane Cove NSW 2066
Sydney 12 July, 1999