The personal and social construction of meaning.
This submission for a PhD comprises a collection of published work with a supportive
analysis and commentary. It is an investigation of how meaning resides in the world, while
still relying on personal and social construction. It provides a critique of both the
individualism of personal construct theorists and the anti-humanism of the social
constructionists. The project draws on clinical and experimental evidence, as well as on an
analysis of the work of George Kelly, contemporary constructivists, social constructionists,
and existential phenomenologists. Kelly's (1955) personal construct psychology (PCP) is
extended as an existential phenomenology that privileges the interpersonal realm in
construing. The fifteen papers in the collection are grouped around five themes:
i) the problem of cognitivism in personal construct psychology
iii) the integrity of the self
iv) the critique of social constructionism
v) constructivism and existential phenomenology.
Within these themes, a wide range of issues is focused on. This includes, firstly,
a variety of phenomena which occur in everyday life, but stand out in relief in psychotherapy
(for example, self-deception and 'neurotic' choices), which have generally been focused on by
clinical personality theories. And secondly, personal experience said to be characteristic in
post modernity (for example, individuals' sense of fragmentation and the proliferation of
sexual preferences and identities), which have traditionally been the province of sociology,
and more recently, of social constructionism.
In conclusion, it is argued that PCP can viably be seen as a theory of social action
when it is viewed as a type of existential phenomenology. Construing is seen as being
located in action in interpersonal contexts, and not 'inside' individuals. In conferring
meaning on events, individuals draw on surrounding social constructions, although they do
not absorb them uncritically. Personal construction is also limited by the individual's
experience as an embodied subject and to this extent, it is argued, meaning is both'made'