EvGEdImp2 - Presented at ICMe-7, Working Group $ 4 Quebec,...

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Presented at ICMe-7, Working Group $4 Quebec, August 1992 Aspects of Radical Constructivism and its Educational Recommendations Ernst von Glasersfeld Scientific Reasoning Research Institute University of Massachusetts In the context of theories of knowledge, the name "radical constructivism" refers to an orientation that breaks with the Western epistemological tradition. It is an unconventional way of looking and therefore requires conceptual change. In particular, radical constructivism requires the change of several deeply rooted notions, such as knowledge, truth, representation, and reality. Because the dismantling of traditional ideas is never popular, proponents of radical constructivism are sometimes considered to be dangerous heretics. Some of the critics persist in disregarding conceptual differences that have been explicitly stated and point to contradictions that arise from their attempt to assimilate the constructivist view to traditional epistemological assumptions. This is analogous to interpreting a quantum-theoretical physics text with the concepts of a 19th- century corpuscular theory. It may be useful, therefore, to reiterate some points of our "post- epistemological" approach,I so that our discussion might have a better chance to start without misinterpretations. No Exit from Subjectivity Radical constructivsm is an attempt to develop a theory of knowing that is not made illusory from the outset by the traditional assumption that the cognizing activity should lead to a 'true' representation of a world that exists in itself and by itself independently of the cognizing agent Instead, radical constructivism assumes that the cognizing activity is instrumental and neither does nor can concern anything but the experiental world of the knower This I I ow thi, expression to \J Moddings who us~d it m a rc\icw of on~ of mv papfcrs
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experiential world is constituted and structured by the knower's own ways and means of perceiving and conceiving, and in this elementary sense it is always and irrevocably subjective. It is the knower who segments the manifold of experience into raw elementary particles, combines these to form viable 'things', abstracts concepts from them, relates them by means of conceptual relations, and thus constructs a relatively stable experiential reality. The viability of these concepts and constructs has a hierarchy of levels that begins with simple repeatability in the sensory-motor domain and turns, on levels of higher abstraction, into operational coherence, and ultimately concerns the non- contradictor~ness of the entire repertoire of conceptual structures. The statement that the construction of the experiential world is irrevocably subjective, has been interpreted as a declaration of solipsism and as the denial of any 'real' world. This is unwarranted. Constructivism has never denied an ulterior reality; it merely says that this reality is unknowable and that it makes no sense to speak of a representation of something that is inherently
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EvGEdImp2 - Presented at ICMe-7, Working Group $ 4 Quebec,...

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