Genetic epistemology

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

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".



The goal of genetic epistemology is to link the validity of knowledge to the model of its construction. It shows that how the knowledge was gained affects how valid it is. For example, our experience of gravity makes our knowledge of it more valid than our theory about black holes. Genetic epistemology also explains the process of how people develop cognitively from birth throughout their lives in four primary stages: sensorimotor (birth to age 2), pre-operational (2-7), concrete operational (7-11), and formal operational (11 years onward). The main focus is on the younger years of development. Assimilation occurs when the perception of a new event or object occurs to the learner in an existing schema and is usually used in the context of self-motivation. In Accommodation , one accommodates the experiences according to the outcome of the tasks. The highest form of development is equilibration. Equilibration encompasses both assimilation and accommodation as the learner changes how they think to get a better answer. This is the upper level of development.

Black hole astronomical object so massive that anything falling into it, including light, cannot escape its gravity

A black hole is a region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing—not even particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from inside it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole. The boundary of the region from which no escape is possible is called the event horizon. Although the event horizon has an enormous effect on the fate and circumstances of an object crossing it, no locally detectable features appear to be observed. In many ways a black hole acts like an ideal black body, as it reflects no light. Moreover, quantum field theory in curved spacetime predicts that event horizons emit Hawking radiation, with the same spectrum as a black body of a temperature inversely proportional to its mass. This temperature is on the order of billionths of a kelvin for black holes of stellar mass, making it essentially impossible to observe.

Piaget believed that knowledge is a biological function that results from the actions of an individual through change. He also stated that knowledge consists of structures, and comes about by the adaptation of these structures with the environment.

Piaget's genetic epistemology is halfway between formal logic and dialectical logic. Piaget's epistemology is midway between objective idealism and materialism.

Objective idealism is an idealistic metaphysics that postulates that there is in an important sense only one perceiver, and that this perceiver is one with that which is perceived. One important advocate of such a metaphysics, Josiah Royce, wrote that he was indifferent "whether anybody calls all this Theism or Pantheism". Plato is regarded as one of the earliest representatives of objective idealism. It is distinct from the subjective idealism of George Berkeley, and it abandons the thing-in-itself of Kant's dualism.

Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental aspects and consciousness, are results of material interactions.

Piaget's schema theory

  1. Thought passes through a series of stages of development; at each stage there applies formal logic at a specific stage of differentiation which may be characterized by an algebra in which exactly such-and-such a mathematical structure applies, corresponding to the axioms of logic at that stage; this logic is manifested first in actions, then at a relatively early stage in sensorimotor operations (in the specific mathematical sense of the word, as opposed to "actions" which are equivalent to relations but not yet mathematical operations), and finally in operations which express thoughts, conscious purposive activity.
  2. The material basis for transition from sensorimotor intelligence to representation and from representation to conceptual thought is the interiorisation of practical activity.
  3. The successive stages of concepts manifested in child development imply relations of deduction in mathematical logic and in the development of thinking in other planes of development, such as in the history of science and the history of knowledge in the anthropological domain. [1]

Piaget draws on the full range of contemporary mathematical knowledge, a vast empirical base of observation of the learning of very young children built up at his institute and reports of observations of older children and a general knowledge of the development of knowledge in history.

(1) From the standpoint of dialectical logic, we must agree that at each stage of development, at each "definition of the Absolute" in Hegel's terminology, formal logic is applicable. Piaget's proof of this is striking, and his demonstration of how the stages of development in child thought pass through a specific series which is deductive in a specific sense from the standpoint of mathematics is original and profound.

However, from the standpoint of understanding development (and this is Piaget's standpoint), what is important is not the definition of each stage but the transition from one to the next; and for this it is necessary to demonstrate the internal contradiction within the logic of that plane.

Since Piaget draws on mathematical logic more developed than what was known to Hegel, it will be necessary to investigate these structures to see if this speculative proposition proves to be valid.

(2) The concept of interiorisation is indeed the basis of the materialist view of the development of thought. However, Piaget, as a professional child-psychologist falls prey to the objective idealism of any professional, of elevating the subject matter of his particular profession from being an aspect of the material world to being its master. [The charge of objective idealism is qualified, for Piaget is quite unambiguous that relations conceived of in thought exist objectively in the material world].

In philosophy, Idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, Idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to Materialism, Idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

Thus, since his body of authoritative empirical work is in relation to early childhood development, he imposes the schema appropriate to this semi-human subject on to adolescent development, speculates on its possible reflection in anthropological development and confounds it with the history of development of science and philosophy. I say "confounds" because Piaget is aware that his schemas do not seem to apply in this domain. In this sense, the charge of objective idealism would seem unfair, but from confounding he does not go further and seek the implication of this lack of correspondence, but seeks to minimize it.

In psychology and cognitive science, a schema describes a pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information. Schemata influence attention and the absorption of new knowledge: people are more likely to notice things that fit into their schema, while re-interpreting contradictions to the schema as exceptions or distorting them to fit. Schemata have a tendency to remain unchanged, even in the face of contradictory information. Schemata can help in understanding the world and the rapidly changing environment. People can organize new perceptions into schemata quickly as most situations do not require complex thought when using schema, since automatic thought is all that is required.

Philosophy intellectual and/or logical study of general and fundamental problems

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

By focusing on early childhood (as indeed he must; that is his profession, and his institute has contributed a vast body of empirical material), Piaget sees what is biologically (zoologically?) human but not what is socially (historically) human, and humanity is essentially social, after all.

(3) On the plus side, it has to be said that Piaget deals once and for all with any idea of innate intelligence, and makes fully convincing the prospect of a fully genetic (i.e. developmental) elaboration of intelligence, assuming only animal instincts such as grasping and sucking and sensorimotor "equipment" capable of reflecting highly developed relations. A weakness in Piaget's theory could be that there isn't proof in how one transitions from one stage to the next. Can someone progress from one stage forward, but revert backwards, and then move forward again?

Types of knowledge

Piaget proposes three types of knowledge: physical, logical mathematical, and social knowledge.

Physical knowledge: It refers to knowledge related to objects in the world, which can be acquired through perceptual properties. The acquisition of physical knowledge has been equated with learning in Piaget's theory (Gruber and Voneche, 1995). In other words, thought is fit directly to experience.

"Piaget also called his view constructivism, because he firmly believed that knowledge acquisition is a process of continuous self-construction. That is, Knowledge is not out there, external to the child and waiting to be discovered. But neither is it wholly performed within the child, ready to emerge as the child develops with the world surrounding her ... Piaget believed that children actively approach their environments and acquire knowledge through their actions." [2]

"Piaget distinguished among three types of knowledge that children acquire: Physical, logical-mathematical, and social knowledge. Physical knowledge, also called empirical knowledge, has to do with knowledge about objects in the world, which can be gained through their perceptual properties... Logical-Mathematical knowledge is abstract and must be invented, but through actions on objects that are fundamentally different from those actions enabling physical knowledge.... Social Knowledge is culture-specific and can be learned only from other people within one's cultural group." [ citation needed ]

See also


  1. "Genetic Epistemology" by Jean Piaget (1968)
  2. Driscoll, Marcy P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston, MA: Pearson Allyn and Bacon. p. 191. ISBN   0-205-37519-7.

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Infant cognitive development is the first stage of human cognitive development, in the youngest children. The academic field of infant cognitive development studies of how psychological processes involved in thinking and knowing develop in young children. Information is acquired in a number of ways including through sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and language, all of which require processing by our cognitive system.

Neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development criticize and build upon Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development.