Applications: Introduction

Some acquaintance with BFPS – minimally the 13 précis – is assumed. Back-references to BFPS’s sections, 0-XII, abound. Cross-references within Applications also occur.

What are we to make of, and especially with, the Behavioral Foundations of Problem Solving (BFPS)? With a series of applications, we shall try to make both of these matters clearer. We’ll look at six areas: helping; community; cognition and communication; education; health: and science … and touch on many more. (All of these matters – and more – will be discussed further in Comments (C-1 … C-N).

First, what do we make of the BFPS? Discussion of the applications will bring out the implications of, as well as the relevance of, the BFPS to various aspects of these concerns – areas so broad as to encompass huge amounts of experience and frustratingly extensive literatures. Familiar particulars, serving as examples, provide an introductory way to grasp what is being talked about. (But at a risk, as we shall see.)

Second, what can we make with the BFPS? Two purposes stand out here. The one has to do with the path forward for humanity and its endeavors in art and science. (Not to produce a recipe, but a launching platform on which to build. Build is key here.) The other has to do with attacking some crippling qualities of previous intellectual work in regard to behavior, most notably the use of concepts in lieu of applicable principled theory. (Nothing like an exhaustive analysis of these topics is attempted. Rather, the point is to bring out neglected behavioral aspects – not just of behavior observed but in the behavior of observing, especially in tools and procedures used by observers – professional and otherwise.)

A few words about these two purposes we have in mind…. While BFPS can make a contribution to solving this or that particular problem, the problem of problems – of what problems as a fact of life imply – concerns us more.

In the first case, if we think of humans, individually and/or collectively, as operating systems (but not metaphorically, as we do with the notion of humans as computers), we are looking forward to their further development toward more fully realized beings. Then, and perhaps only then, we might better design computers and other such artificial operating systems to work more productively with them. The art and science of the artificial need assistance from the art and science of the possible.

We might also then do better with the still imperiled articulation of individual with community, as exemplified by the “Tragedy of the Commons” problem.) Invention is the primary means of such development. Principled theory is the prime engine of invention. (While lack of technical solutions may appear the bain of problems like the Tragedy of the Commons [Crowe], only the absence of applicable behavioral theory makes it so.) Historically, invention has sometimes preceded a theoretical understanding whose principles have then enabled a burgeoning of related inventions. Think of the steam engine – or, more generally, of alchemy as the progenitor of chemistry.. Human behavior has seen much, by default, of such ad hoc development in advance of fundamental principles.

(Normative and actuarial principles collate behavioral experiences; but they have limited foundational worth.)

BFPS’s two new kinds of principles derive from analysis of the problem of problems, of seeing behavioral necessity, along with logical necessity, as a source of theoretical principle. We are looking to build a developmental path forward toward more constructive behavior.

In the second case, we look at topics via BFPS to clear (up and out) our view of these domains, to better focus on what is being talked about or what needs talking about. Topics like community and communication embrace a tangled mess of particulars and categories. (Note the secondary observation and identification, a sorting within a sorting, of various kinds of communities and communication.) As summary concepts (aka topics) they resist defining. (Some of their manifestations barely resemble each other – if they do at all. We have seen one of the reasons for this in the Behavioral Manifold:.) What else can we do instead of, or at least in addition to, defining? What’s being talked about needs theoretical explication. We know that there are consequential conditions in these topics. (Just think of “community problems” and “communication problems.”) We shall use BFPS as an analytic framework to bring out as much as we can of the consequentiality (: not just particular consequences).

In doing so, we set aside the assumption that such overblown conceptual terms are helping us to build principled theory.

“Sift and winnow” is but modestly suggestive of the method we should take to these concepts. “Smelting the ore” comes closer to the mark because chunks of behavior have been forcefully imbedded in bodies and their particular relationships (e.g., as properties by observers). As daunting as the many problems in the areas of community, communication et al seem, the challenge to develop more productive intellectual methods rivals them. These mind-binding concepts stand in the way of human development, our first purpose. We do not figure to progress all that much as humans until we remove these blinders.

(A personal note: Make use of BFPS and its applications as you will. These are observations made of behavior and behaviors over five decades. They are now more journalism than scholarship. This is one reason why I am not undertaking the Herculean task of reviewing related scholarly literatures in light of BFPS. Another reason is that these observations suggest extensions of familiar intellectual traditions, so my point is to add to, not set aside, productive scholarly contributions. Thus we add consequentiality per se to pragmatism’s particular consequences, behavioral necessity to logical necessity, behavioral necessity to functionalism’s “is as does”; effectiveness and helping to utilitarianism’s “bottom line,” “all that it takes” to causation, principled development and research [D&R] to research and development [R&D]. “Forward!” – as Wisconsin’s state motto puts it. Look to the future, to possibility, via behavioral development. Those familiar with the Wisconsin Idea will see the point of all this.)

(c) 2010 R. F. Carter