| Von Glasersfeld's answers - April 2006  |


Dear professor Von Glasersfeld,

Is there a difference between radical constructivism and pragmatism (James, Dewey)?
And is there any difference between radical constructivism and Piaget's genetic constructivism?

James Mcdermot

Dear Mr. Mcdermot,
Your questions are admirably brief and if I were younger and had unlimited time I might take them as triggers for two 20-page essays. But I am not and cannot re-read much of James, Dewey, and Peirce, which your first question would require. So I, too, shall be brief.
The pragmatists, as I understood them, did not cut loose from the hope that what continues to
function, i.e., what is "true because it works", will ultimately reveal something of an ontic
reality. Radical constructivism relinquished that hope and focuses interest on HOW the
knowledge we find functional could be built up.
Piaget's Genetic Epistemology implies radical constructivism as inevitable conclusion. I am
convinced that Piaget was well aware of this (conversations with Bärbel Inhelder and Rolando
Garcia did not demolish this belief), but he had occasional qualms about it. There are many
statements in his works that leave no doubt, but there are also quite a few where he fudges. I
was told that someone once asked him what he thought of reality and he answered: Je m'en fou
del la réalité! (more politely: I couldn't care less about reality!). It was, I think, his later
emphasis on equilibration, rather than on the development of logic, that confirmed his radical streak.

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld



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