Constructivist epistemology

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Constructivist epistemology is a branch in philosophy of science maintaining that scientific knowledge is constructed by the scientific community, who seek to measure and construct models of the natural world. Natural science therefore consists of mental constructs that aim to explain sensory experience and measurements.

Philosophy of science is a sub-field of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions of this study concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. This discipline overlaps with metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, for example, when it explores the relationship between science and truth.

Natural science Branch of science about the natural world

Natural science is a branch of science concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer review and repeatability of findings are used to try to ensure the validity of scientific advances.

Contents

According to constructivists, the world is independent of human minds, but knowledge of the world is always a human and social construction. [1] Constructivism opposes the philosophy of objectivism, embracing the belief that a human can come to know the truth about the natural world not mediated by scientific approximations with different degrees of validity and accuracy.

Validity is the extent to which a concept, conclusion or measurement is well-founded and likely corresponds accurately to the real world. The word "valid" is derived from the Latin validus, meaning strong. This should not be confused with notions of certainty nor necessity. The validity of a measurement tool is considered to be the degree to which the tool measures what it claims to measure. Validity is based on the strength of a collection of different types of evidence described in greater detail below.

According to constructivists there is no single valid methodology in science, but rather a diversity of useful methods. [2]

Origin of the term

The term originates from psychology, education, and social constructivism. The expression "constructivist epistemology" was first used by Jean Piaget, 1967, with plural form in the famous article from the "Encyclopédie de la Pléiade" Logique et connaissance scientifique or "Logic and Scientific knowledge", an important text for epistemology.[ citation needed ] He refers directly to the mathematician Brouwer and his radical constructivism.

In psychology, constructivism refers to many schools of thought that, though extraordinarily different in their techniques, are all connected by a common critique of previous standard approaches, and by shared assumptions about the active constructive nature of human knowledge. In particular, the critique is aimed at the "associationist" postulate of empiricism, "by which the mind is conceived as a passive system that gathers its contents from its environment and, through the act of knowing, produces a copy of the order of reality".

Constructivism (philosophy of education) philosophical viewpoint about the nature of knowledge; theory of knowledge

Constructivism is a philosophical viewpoint about the nature of knowledge. Therefore, it represents an epistemological stance.

Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge according to which human development is socially situated and knowledge is constructed through interaction with others.

The terms Constructionism and constructivism are often, but should not be, used interchangeably. Constructionism is an approach to learning that was developed by Papert; the approach was greatly influenced by his work with Piaget, but it is very different. Constructionism involves the creation of a product to show learning. [3] It is believed by constructivists that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, sexuality, and gender, as well as tables, chairs and atoms are socially constructed. Marx was among the first to suggest such an ambitious expansion of the power of ideas to inform the material realities of people's lives.[ citation needed ]

Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually. This involves biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors. Because it is a broad term, which has varied over time, it lacks a precise definition. The biological and physical aspects of sexuality largely concern the human reproductive functions, including the human sexual response cycle. Someone's sexual orientation can influence that person's sexual interest and attraction for another person. Physical and emotional aspects of sexuality include bonds between individuals that are expressed through profound feelings or physical manifestations of love, trust, and care. Social aspects deal with the effects of human society on one's sexuality, while spirituality concerns an individual's spiritual connection with others. Sexuality also affects and is affected by cultural, political, legal, philosophical, moral, ethical, and religious aspects of life.

Gender Characteristics distinguishing between masculinity and femininity

Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex, sex-based social structures, or gender identity. Traditionally, people who identify as men or women or use masculine or feminine gender pronouns are using a system of gender binary whereas those who exist outside these groups fall under the umbrella terms non-binary or genderqueer. Some cultures have specific gender roles that are distinct from "man" and "woman," such as the hijras of South Asia. These are often referred to as third genders.

History

Constructivism stems from a number of philosophies. For instance, early development can be attributed to the thought of Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus (Everything flows, nothing stands still), Protagoras (Man is the measure of all things). Protagoras is clearly represented by Plato and hence the tradition as a relativist. The Pyrrhonist sceptics have also been so interpreted. (Although this is more contentious.)[ citation needed ]

Heraclitus pre-Socratic Greek philosopher

Heraclitus of Ephesus (; Greek: Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος, translit. Hērákleitos ho Ephésios; was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, and a native of the city of Ephesus, then part of the Persian Empire. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. From the lonely life he led, and still more from the apparently riddled and allegedly paradoxical nature of his philosophy and his stress upon the heedless unconsciousness of humankind, he was called "The Obscure" and the "Weeping Philosopher".

Protagoras pre-Socratic Greek philosopher

Protagoras was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with inventing the role of the professional sophist.

Following the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, with the phenomenology and the event, Kant gives a decisive contradiction to Cartesians' epistemology that has grown since Descartes despite Giambattista Vico calling in Scienza nuova ("New Science") in 1725 that "the norm of the truth is to have made it". The Enlightenment's claim of the universality of Reason as the only true source of knowledge generated a Romantic reaction involving an emphasis on the separate natures of races, species, sexes and types of human.[ citation needed ]

Constructivism and sciences

Social constructivism in sociology

One version of social constructivism contends that categories of knowledge and reality are actively created by social relationships and interactions. These interactions also alter the way in which scientific episteme is organized.

Social activity presupposes human beings inhabiting shared forms of life, and in the case of social construction, utilizing semiotic resources (meaning-making and signifying) with reference to social structures and institutions. Several traditions use the term Social Constructivism: psychology (after Lev Vygotsky), sociology (after Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, themselves influenced by Alfred Schütz), sociology of knowledge (David Bloor), sociology of mathematics (Sal Restivo), philosophy of mathematics (Paul Ernest). Ludwig Wittgenstein's later philosophy can be seen as a foundation for social constructivism, with its key theoretical concepts of language games embedded in forms of life.

Constructivism in philosophy of science

Thomas Kuhn argued that changes in scientists' views of reality not only contain subjective elements, but result from group dynamics, "revolutions" in scientific practice and changes in "paradigms". [4] As an example, Kuhn suggested that the Sun-centric Copernican "revolution" replaced the Earth-centric views of Ptolemy not because of empirical failures, but because of a new "paradigm" that exerted control over what scientists felt to be the more fruitful way to pursue their goals.

But paradigm debates are not really about relative problem-solving ability, though for good reasons they are usually couched in those terms. Instead, the issue is which paradigm should in future guide research on problems many of which neither competitor can yet claim to resolve completely. A decision between alternate ways of practicing science is called for, and in the circumstances that decision must be based less on past achievement than on future promise. ... A decision of that kind can only be made on faith.

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, pp 157-8

The view of reality as accessible only through models was called model-dependent realism by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. [5] While not rejecting an independent reality, model-dependent realism says that we can know only an approximation of it provided by the intermediary of models. [6] These models evolve over time as guided by scientific inspiration and experiment.

In the field of the social sciences, constructivism as an epistemology urges that researchers reflect upon the paradigms that may be underpinning their research, and in the light of this that they become more open to consider other ways of interpreting any results of the research. Furthermore, the focus is on presenting results as negotiable constructs rather than as models that aim to "represent" social realities more or less accurately. Norma Romm in her book Accountability in Social Research (2001) argues that social researchers can earn trust from participants and wider audiences insofar as they adopt this orientation and invite inputs from others regarding their inquiry practices and the results thereof.

Constructivism and psychology

In psychology, constructivism refers to many schools of thought that, though extraordinarily different in their techniques (applied in fields such as education and psychotherapy), are all connected by a common critique of previous standard approaches, and by shared assumptions about the active constructive nature of human knowledge. In particular, the critique is aimed at the "associationist" postulate of empiricism, "by which the mind is conceived as a passive system that gathers its contents from its environment and, through the act of knowing, produces a copy of the order of reality." [7] :16

In contrast, "constructivism is an epistemological premise grounded on the assertion that, in the act of knowing, it is the human mind that actively gives meaning and order to that reality to which it is responding". [7] :16 The constructivist psychologies theorize about and investigate how human beings create systems for meaningfully understanding their worlds and experiences. [8]

Constructivism and education

Joe L. Kincheloe has published numerous social and educational books on critical constructivism (2001, 2005, 2008), a version of constructivist epistemology that places emphasis on the exaggerated influence of political and cultural power in the construction of knowledge, consciousness, and views of reality. In the contemporary mediated electronic era, Kincheloe argues, dominant modes of power have never exerted such influence on human affairs. Coming from a critical pedagogical perspective, Kincheloe argues that understanding a critical constructivist epistemology is central to becoming an educated person and to the institution of just social change.

Kincheloe's characteristics of critical constructivism:

Cultural constructivism

Cultural constructivism asserts that knowledge and reality are a product of their cultural context, meaning that two independent cultures will likely form different observational methodologies.

Radical constructivism

Ernst von Glasersfeld was a prominent proponent of radical constructivism. This claims that knowledge is not a commodity which is transported from one mind into another. Rather, it is up to the individual to "link up" specific interpretations of experiences and ideas with their own reference of what is possible and viable. That is, the process of constructing knowledge, of understanding, is dependent on the individual's subjective interpretation of their active experience, not what "actually" occurs. Understanding and acting are seen by radical constructivists not as dualistic processes, but "circularly conjoined". [9]

Constructivist Foundations is a free online journal publishing peer reviewed articles on radical constructivism by researchers from multiple domains.

Relational constructivism

Relational constructivism can be perceived as a relational consequence of the radical constructivism. In contrary to social constructivism, it picks up the epistemological threads and maintains the radical constructivist idea that humans cannot overcome their limited conditions of reception (i.e. self referentially operating cognition). Therefore, humans are not able to come to objective conclusions about the world.

In spite of the subjectivity of human constructions of reality, relational constructivism focusses on the relational conditions applying to human perceptional processes. Björn Kraus puts it in a nutshell:

„It is substantial for relational constructivism that it basically originates from an epistemological point of view, thus from the subject and its construction processes. Coming from this perspective it then focusses on the (not only social, but also material) relations under which these cognitive construction processes are performed. Consequently, it‘s not only about social construction processes, but about cognitive construction processes performed under certain relational conditions.“ [10]

Critical constructivism

A series of articles published in the journal Critical Inquiry (1991) served as a manifesto for the movement of critical constructivism in various disciplines, including the natural sciences. Not only truth and reality, but also "evidence", "document", "experience", "fact", "proof", and other central categories of empirical research (in physics, biology, statistics, history, law, etc.) reveal their contingent character as a social and ideological construction. Thus, a "realist" or "rationalist" interpretation is subjected to criticism. Kincheloe's political and pedagogical notion (above) has emerged as a central articulation of the concept.

Genetic epistemology

James Mark Baldwin invented this expression, which was later popularized by Jean Piaget. From 1955 to 1980, Piaget was Director of the International Centre for Genetic Epistemology in Geneva.

Quotations

"the norm of the truth is to have made it," or
"the true is precisely what is made"
"the true and the made are convertible"
"And, irrespective of what one might assume, in the sciences, problems do not arise by themselves. It is, precisely, because all problems are posed that they embody the scientific spirit. If there were no question, there would be no scientific knowledge. Nothing proceeds from itself. Nothing is given. All is constructed."
"We have always sought explanations when it was only representations that we could seek to invent"
"My hand feels touched as well as it touches; real means this, and nothing more"

Criticisms

Numerous criticisms have been leveled at Constructivist epistemology. The most common one is that it either explicitly advocates or implicitly reduces to relativism. This is because it takes the concept of truth to be a socially "constructed" (and thereby socially relative) one. This leads to the charge of self-refutation: if what is to be regarded as "true" is relative to a particular social formation, then this very conception of truth must itself be only regarded as being "true" in this society. In another social formation, it may well be false. If so, then social constructivism itself would be false in that social formation. Further, one could then say that social constructivism could be both true and false simultaneously.

Another criticism of constructivism is that it holds that the concepts of two different social formations be entirely different and incommensurate. This being the case, it is impossible to make comparative judgements about statements made according to each worldview. This is because the criteria of judgement will themselves have to be based on some worldview or other. If this is the case, then it brings into question how communication between them about the truth or falsity of any given statement could be established.

The Wittgensteinian philosopher Gavin Kitching [11] argues that constructivists usually implicitly presuppose a deterministic view of language which severely constrains the minds and use of words by members of societies: they are not just "constructed" by language on this view, but are literally "determined" by it. Kitching notes the contradiction here: somehow the advocate of constructivism is not similarly constrained. While other individuals are controlled by the dominant concepts of society, the advocate of constructivism can transcend these concepts and see through them.

See also

Related Research Articles

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Jean Piaget Swiss psychologist, biologist, logician, philosopher and academic

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget's theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology".

Social constructionism

Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality. The theory centers on the notion that meanings are developed in coordination with others rather than separately within each individual.

Gaston Bachelard French writer and philosopher

Gaston Bachelard was a French philosopher. He made contributions in the fields of poetics and the philosophy of science. To the latter he introduced the concepts of epistemological obstacle and epistemological break. He influenced many subsequent French philosophers, among them Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Dominique Lecourt and Jacques Derrida, as well as the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.

Ernst von Glasersfeld was a philosopher, and emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, research associate at the Scientific Reasoning Research Institute, and adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was a member of the board of trustees of the American Society of Cybernetics, from which he received the McCulloch Memorial Award in 1991. He was a member of the scientific board of the Instituto Piaget, Lisbon.

Second-order cybernetics, also known as the cybernetics of cybernetics, is the recursive application of cybernetics to itself. It was developed between approximately 1968 and 1975 by Margaret Mead, Heinz von Foerster and others. Von Foerster referred to it as the cybernetics of "observing systems" whereas first order cybernetics is that of "observed systems". It is sometimes referred to as the "new cybernetics", the term preferred by Gordon Pask, and is closely allied to radical constructivism, which was developed around the same time by Ernst von Glasersfeld. While it is sometimes considered a radical break from the earlier concerns of cybernetics, there is much continuity with previous work and it can be thought of as the completion of the discipline, responding to issues evident during the Macy conferences in which cybernetics was initially developed. Its concerns include epistemology, ethics, autonomy, self-consistency, self-referentiality, and self-organizing capabilities of complex systems. It has been characterised as cybernetics where "circularity is taken seriously".

Constructionism (learning theory) learning theory

Constructionist learning is when learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. Constructionism advocates student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge. Students learn through participation in project-based learning where they make connections between different ideas and areas of knowledge facilitated by the teacher through coaching rather than using lectures or step-by-step guidance. Further, constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people are active in making tangible objects in the real world. In this sense, constructionism is connected with experiential learning and builds on Jean Piaget's epistemological theory of constructivism.

Meta-epistemology is a metaphilosophical study of the subject, matter, methods and aims of epistemology and of approaches to understanding and structuring our knowledge of knowledge itself.

Constructivist teaching is based on constructivist learning theory. Constructivist teaching is based on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction as opposed to passively receiving information. Learners are the makers of meaning and knowledge.

Enactivism argues that cognition arises through a dynamic interaction between an acting organism and its environment. It claims that our environment is one which we selectively create through our capacities to interact with the world. "Organisms do not passively receive information from their environments, which they then translate into internal representations. Natural cognitive systems...participate in the generation of meaning ...engaging in transformational and not merely informational interactions: they enact a world." These authors suggest that the increasing emphasis upon enactive terminology presages a new era in thinking about cognitive science. How the actions involved in enactivism relate to age-old questions about free will remains a topic of active debate.

Epistemology or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. It addresses the questions "What is knowledge?", "How is knowledge acquired?", "What do people know?", "How do we know what we know?", and "Why do we know what we know?". Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as skepticism about different knowledge claims.

Genetic epistemology or 'developmental theory of knowledge' is a study of the origins (genesis) of knowledge (epistemology) established by Jean Piaget.

Jean-Michel Berthelot was a French sociologist, philosopher, epistemologist and social theorist, specialist in philosophy of social sciences, history of sociology, sociology of education, sociology of knowledge, sociology of science and sociology of body.

Björn Kraus is a German philosopher, who unfolds epistemological theories for social work. He therefore picks up on the doubt about the possibilities of human perception, a topic that has been emphasized over and over in occidental philosophy. He thus stands in tradition of a skepticism as for example defined by Immanuel Kant and Ernst von Glasersfeld.

Constructivism has been considered as a dominant paradigm, or research programme, in the field of science education. The term constructivism is widely used in many fields, and not always with quite the same intention. This entry offers an account of how constructivism is most commonly understood in science education.

Relational constructivism can be perceived as a relational consequence of the radical constructivism. In contrary to social constructivism, it picks up the epistemological threads and maintains the radical constructivist idea that humans cannot overcome their limited conditions of reception. Therefore, humans are not able to come to objective conclusions about the world.

References

  1. Crotty, M. 1998. The Foundations of Social Science Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process, Sage.
  2. (Schofield, n.d.) Critical Theory and Constructivism Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine .
  3. National Science Foundation. Award Abstract #8751190, Constructionism: A New Opportunity for Elementary Science Education
  4. Thomas S Kuhn (1966). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (PDF) (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN   0226458121. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-03-28. A paradigm governs, in the first instance, not a subject matter but rather a group of practitioners. Any study ... must begin by locating the responsible group or groups.
  5. Eugene V. Koonin (2011). The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution. FT Press Science, a division of Pearson Education, Inc. p. 427. ISBN   013262317X.
  6. Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow (2011). The Grand Design. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 8. ISBN   0553907077. We shall adopt an approach that we call model-dependent realism. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one could model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such ...theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather we are free to use whichever model is the most convenient.
  7. 1 2 Balbi, Juan (2008). "Epistemological and theoretical foundations of constructivist cognitive therapies: post-rationalist developments" (PDF). Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences. pp. 15–27. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
  8. Raskin, Jonathan D. (Spring 2002). "Constructivism in psychology: personal construct psychology, radical constructivism, and social constructionism" (PDF). American Communication Journal. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2009-02-09. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  9. "Radical Constructivism". www.radicalconstructivism.com. Archived from the original on 19 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  10. Björn Kraus: Plädoyer für den Relationalen Konstruktivismus und eine Relationale Soziale Arbeit. in Forum Sozial (2017) 1 pp. 29-35, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-10-15. Retrieved 2017-06-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. Kitching, G. 2008. The Trouble with Theory: The Educational Costs of Postmodernism. Penn State University Press.

Further reading