Persons: The Collected Works of Peter G. Ossorio, Volume 1

Dr. Peter G. Ossorio / Published September, 1995 / Hardcover

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Peter G. Ossorio’s works are unique.

In a trivial sense the same can be said of anyone’s work --it is Jones’ work, nobody has the same interests and style as Jones, thus the work is unique. But Ossorio’s works are unique in the most profound sense possible and on several counts: in the breadth of his subject matter, the depth and rigor of his analysis, the power and clarity of his exposition, and the absolute coherence of his conceptual framework. Most importantly, they are unique in their significance. Peter G. Ossorio has accomplished what nobody else has seriously attempted: he has articulated a rigorous and coherent framework for understanding persons as persons.

If past experience is any guide, this claim will strike some as impossibly overstated, while others wonder why that would seem to be a worthwhile accomplishment. These reactions say a great deal about the intellectual climate of "behavioral science" in the second half of the twentieth century--and they are substantially the same reactions which greeted Ossorio’s first book, Persons, in the early 1960’s. To those who doubt the possibility of such accomplishment, this series serves as a reality check: read the works and judge for yourself. The second group may be reassured by scanning the list of Ossorio’s publications; you will discover that the concept of "persons as persons" includes behavior, language, culture, the real world, and the doing of science, psychotherapy, computer-based simulations, and many other significant social practices.

Indeed, Ossorio’s work--which has become the foundation and core of a discipline called Descriptive Psychology by its practitioners--has had profound influence in a remarkably broad and diverse set of arenas. Directly, Ossorio has influenced the practice of psychotherapy and the conceptualization of psychopathology; the teaching of numerous aspects of behavioral science including personality theory, projective testing, and multi-cultural studies; the understanding of language, verbal behavior, and its technical implementations within computer environments; the practice and philosophy of science; the understanding of cultural differences and their implications; the technology of information storage, retrieval and utilization; and, most recently, the creation of robots that exhibit increasingly the important characteristics of persons. Indirectly, through his students and colleagues, Ossorio has influenced many other fields; among them are the theory of organizations and the practice of influencing organizational culture; the development of computer software and artificial persons; the conceptualization of spirituality; the theory of consciousness, hypnosis and altered states; and much more.

Any editor of a series of "collected works" faces an obvious question: why collect the works? Why not let them stand on their own, as published? The answer in this case is simple to give: the large majority of these works (including the first, seminal volume, Persons) have been published only in limited circulation working editions. These works, with few exceptions, were literally unpublishable within the "mainstream" of behavioral science when they were written. Ossorio was making, literally and intentionally, a "fresh start" on the doing of behavioral science, for reasons which he clearly articulates in Persons and elsewhere, and which have become increasingly cogent over time.

Metaphorically, Ossorio was talking chess to tic-tac-toe players, who responded, "That’s all well and good, but does it get you three-in-a-row?" Suffice it to say that the tic-tac-toe players decided what was worthy of publication in mainstream journals and books. And to extend the metaphor a bit further, it is evident that the mainstream of behavioral science has progressively realized that tic-tac-toe is a no-win game, and we perhaps should have been playing chess all along.

For those who have tired of the trivial insularity of tic-tac-toe behavioral science, the present series represents a substantive and substantial alternative. Descriptive Psychology Press intends to publish this series at the rate of at least one volume per year. In the spirit of making a fresh start, let’s begin.

Anthony O. Putman, Ph.D., Director of the Descriptive Psychology Press