Re: reply to Danny Yee

Sat, 26 Feb 1994 18:12:00 PST

Yee writes:

"It seems to me that there are processes and
events that he [Lieber] has included in his system that do make a difference
to fishermen, but are NOT incorporated into their own understanding of the
world. As a result I took the constraints as being on the system *as a
whole* rather than on individuals within it or the internalised models
of individuals.
So, assuming that we are talking about everything relative to the chosen
system, Read's argument that "indirect constraints" have to be
considered doesn't hold water, because all such constraints can act only
via direct influences across the boundary of the system. "

Yee seems to be arguing himself into a corner by the implicit assumption that
there is a single system and the issue has to do with what is in or not in
that system. His first statement quoted above is merely a paraphrase of what
I wrote in my post; i.e., whether or not the fisherman know about water
temperature, water temperature affects the behavior of the fish and the
behavior of the fish affects the efficiency, and hence the behavior,
of the fishermen. I called these indirect constraints (since the referent
was to phenomena not known to the fishermen); Yee wants to call them
"proceses ... that do make a difference ...but are not incorported into their
own understanding of the world." Yee seems to be bothered by my term
"indirect constraint". Quibbling over terminology, paticularly in e-mail
posts which are not polished publications, is not very helpful or useful.

Yee seems to not want to recognize the fundamental aspect of what I
understand Lieber to be doing, namely Lieber is providing a cultural accoutn
of what the fishermen are doing framed in terms of their own understandings
and knowledge of the world around them and how they deal with it. Does this
"cultural system" constitute a domain in its own right, which I take to be
Lieber's argument, or is it merely a part system and analysis of this part
system is defective as the account must be of the whole system, as I
understand Yee's argument? This raises the question: What IS the "system as
a whole"--all those processes, things etc. that are in some way or another
interconnected? How much interconnectedness is needed? In the extreme this
reduces to absurdity. If it is not reduced to its extreme, then it is
necessary to delineate one's criteria for what shall be included in, and what
shall be exculded from, what is called a "system". I take it that Lieber has
done this through wanting to examine the system constituted by the
fishermen's knowledge and in that account those ecological factors that Yee
wants included are properly excluded. To put it another way, Yee seems to be
argueing in this post that, in effect, Lieber made the wrong definition of a
system, but hasn't demonstrated how Lieber's definition is wrong.

My quibble with Lieber in my previous post had to do with the quesiton of
understanding behavior--I understand (probably wrongly) that Lieber was
rejecting factors such as temperature-of-the-water as relevant for an
accounting of the fishermen's BEHAVIOR (as opposed to an accounting of their
conceptual system where things such as termperature-of-the-water are
irrelevant). That is, I was arguing against (but without knowing if this was
in fact Lieber's position) the old (but largely if not completely
discredited) idea that behavior is driven by ideational systems.

Yee seems to want an accounting of the system composed of
fish/environment/fishermen viewed at a the level of behavior, action,
reaction, etc. That is certainly a legitimate framework. But I udnerstand
that Lieber was doing something very different, and to criticise Lieber for
not doing research that matches one's own perception of what are the research
issues is not very helpful without first establishing that the framework used
by Lieber is in fact faulty in terms of its stated goals. Yee, as I read his
review and subsequent posts, has not done this.

D. Read