In article <D2722t.I1D@news.cis.umn.edu> Rollin Denniston
>This all works as long as it is applied to the external physical realm.
>Once you turn the 'Observation' step inward to the domain of the Psyche,
>you are dealing with a different set of governing laws and it is neither
>useful nor appropriate to apply the epistemology designed for developing
>knowledge of the physical to the development of knowledge of the metaphysical.
> ... In fact if psychology is the study of the
>mind, then there is only one directly observable sample for each observer.
>All other observations are indirect interpretations subject to high levels
>NLP itself presents an alternative epistemology for the domain of subjective
>experience. At one time there was (and still may be) a rather tongue-
>in-cheek journal called the 'Journal of Irreproducible Results.' We
That's the way you see NLP. I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong, but I just want to make it clear to the folks in sci.psychology that what you've just said is one interpretation of NLP, not something inherent within NLP.
To me, the thing that was really striking when I first started reading about NLP was exactly the opposite of what you have stated. Namely, I realized that there is indeed a way of studying subjective experience objectively --- or at least more objectively than is possible by introspection.
Namely, even though one can never experience another person's subjective experience, one can still learn about it by asking that person questions.
Now certainly psychologists (as well as many ordinary people) were doing that long before NLP. But the problem has always been the lack of a good language for discussing subjective experience. I don't even know whether the experience that you call ``red'' is anything at all like my experience of red. And when it comes to those words denoting what I call higher level concepts --- words such as ``thought,'' ``anger,'' ``honesty'' --- there is no way of knowing that two different people mean the same thing when using the same words.
This is because there is no objective referrent for words referring to internal subjective experience. You and I can't be sure that we mean the same thing by the word ``thought'' because we can't reduce this word to things we can point to. (I think that a little discussion between several people can demonstrate that this difficulty is not merely hypothetical.)
To me, the amazing thing I realised when I first started reading NLP is that one can think of objective experience as being made up of atoms for which there indeed exists consensual referrents --- namely, images, sounds, somasthetic (``kinesthetic,'' as NLP says) feelings, smells, and tastes. Even though I don't know for sure what your subjective experience is when you see a cat, if you say to me ``I see an image of a cat,'' I have a referrent for your experience, because I know what it's like to see things (although I don't claim to know what it's like for you to see things) and I know what a cat is.
So once you start asking people questions about their subjective experience in terms of images, sounds, words, feelings, smells, and tastes, you get answers by which you can compare the experience of different people without getting lost in a fog of confusion. Even though you can't know what another person's experience is actually like, you can know that two people are talking about the same thing when they use the same words.
In fact, in many ways this methodology seems superior to introspection even for understanding one's own subjective experience. Many people find that they develop surprising insights into their own thinking when others ask them questions about it during NLP trainings. One is also likely to find that one is better able to understand and control one's thought processes by paying attention to one's thinking in terms of images, words, feelings and the like rather than using higher level concepts.
Now I'm not saying that this point of view was original with NLP. But one way of looking at NLP is to think of NLP as a massive experiment trying out this point of view and seeing how useful it can be. Furthermore, the best way of doing such an experiment is not by paying groups of college sophomores to answer questions and then gathering statistics, but by actually seeing whether the sensory approach can be used to effectively change people's experience.
Now if you start doing experiments with human subjects where you change people, you run into a very obvious ethical problem. But what if, instead of doing the usual sort of university psychology experiments, you work with people who are actually seeking to be changed? People, in short, who want therapy. Except that one should interpret ``therapy'' as referring to any sort of change the subject desires, even if this amounts to a cure for nail-biting or procrastination or a desire to be more resourceful in approaching members of the appropriate sex. (This generality is the reason many NLPers prefer the word ``changework'' rather than ``therapy.'')
For years, I have tried to get the scientific psychologists to see how exciting this idea is. But in sci.psycholog we continually get bogged down in questions of the clinical effectiveness of NLP. These are important questions, but for the scientist, to concentrate on these questions is to miss the real excitement of NLP, which is as an approach to epistemology. Not ``epistemology'' in the bastardized sense it's usually used here, the question of what empirical methodology is the correct one, but ``epistemology'' in its original sense --- the study of the question ``How do human beings know things and how do they organize their knowledge?''
But it's really hard to get academics to look outside their usual frame. Those on the scientific side of psychology say, ``Clinical applications are not our concern.'' (But they should be, because they are such a marvelous laboratory to test one's theories.) They say, ``These are not the sort of questions we study.'' (Precisely! If they were then NLP wouldn't offer anything new. One of the most valuable things NLP has to offer the academic psychologist is the questions it raises.)
``We're only concerned with understanding people, not changing them.'' (But one of the most effective ways of understanding any system is to try and change it.) They say, ``There are no good clinical studies showing the effectiveness of NLP.''
But all this is beside the point.
Well, I guess if there had been physicists in the time of Galileo they would have had the same response to his telescopes. (``Heavenly bodies have no relevance for us. We only want to understand the motion of things like cannonballs. Looking through telescopes is not scientific because you can't do an experiment with objects which are millions of miles away.'')
The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. -- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird