Constructivist epistemology

From Academic Kids

Constructivism is a new criticism in philosophy directed against medieval realism, classical rationalism and empiricism. It originated in sociology under the term social constructionism and has been given the name constructivism when referring to philosophical epistemology. Constructionism and constructivism are often used interchangeably as words describing a new interdisciplinary field. Constructivism views all of our knowledge as "constructed," it does not reflect any external "transcendent" realities, but is contingent on convention, human perception and social experience. It is believed by constructivists that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, nation, and gender are socially constructed (Marx was first to suggest such an ambitious expansion of social determinism).

The common thread between all forms of constructivism is not focusing on an ontological reality and instead focusing on the constructed reality.


Trivial constructivism

Also known as cognitive constructivism. Knowledge and reality is actively constructed by the individual, not passively received from the environment. This is the simplest form of constructivism.

Social constructivism

Social constructivism is a form of constructivism based on the sociological and social psychological concept of social constructionism. 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 categories are created and scientific objects are perceived.

Cultural constructivism

The view that knowledge and reality are constructed culturally. That is that two independent cultures will likely come up with different categorizations. For instance, whereas Western culture generally relies on objects for scientific descriptions, American Indian culture instead relies on events for descriptions. This case shows there are two completely different ways in which the world is broken down.

Radical constructivism

Main article: Radical constructivism

Ernst von Glasersfeld is the prominent proponent of this form of constructivism. Radical constructivism claims that knowledge is the self-organized cognitive process of the human brain. That is the process of constructing knowledge regulates itself, and since knowledge is a construct rather than a compilation of empirical data, it's not possible to know the degree to which knowledge reflects upon an ontological reality.

Critical constructivism

A series of articles published in 1991 in the journal "Critical Inquiry" served as a manifesto for this movement of critical constructivism in various disciplines including 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 the “realist” or “rationalist” interpretation is subjected to criticism.

While recognizing the constructedness of reality, many representatives of this critical paradigm deny to philosophy the task of the creative construction of reality. They eagerly criticize realistic judgments, but they do not dare to move beyond analytic procedures based on subtle tautologies. They wish to remain in the critical paradigm and consider it to be a standard of scientific philosophy per se. The problem of critical constructivism is that it is excessively critical and insufficiently constructive.

See also


de:Radikaler Konstruktivismus


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