| Von Glasersfeld's answers - December II 2005  |


Dear Prof. Dr. von Glasersfeld,


This question seems double, but it is about the same thing:
Can you tell me what "learning" (apprendimento) means for you?
For a radical constructivist learning is always a matter (and
responsibility, is it correct?) of individuals: everything we can
learn and construct, it's always a work which cannot be made by
external subjects (educational agencies, for example).
But, I ask you, can you better explain me what happens if, as I think,
the "words to see" the shared human world come from the society, and not
from ourselves? Words to create our worlds, they come from the human
Although once we've interiorized our communicative system, we seem to
have the power to create infinite worlds, even totally different ones
from our original culture. (But this way brings us to creativity, which
is not not the focus of my question...)


A graduating student and musician from Italy


Dear Mr. Fortunati,
The first part of your question has a general answer in psychogy
textbooks: Learning is the modification of behaviour (or thinking) as a
result of experience.
This is perfectly compatiible with radical constructivism which, as you
say, maintains that "learning is always a matter (and responsibility) of
individuals ... it's always a work which cannot be made by external
What is learned arises from the subject's interpretation of experience.
This applies also to what teachers, other people, and "society" say; but
there are several levels of interpretation:
First, experience interpreted as teachers, other people, or society;
second, experience interpreted as spoken or written words;
third, the interpretation of words in terms of the meanings the subject
has come to attribute to them.
All this is work the subject him- or herself has to do. The notion of
"shared" meaning or knowledge is a misleading metaphor for the fact that
we construct and imagine others pretty much in our own image.


Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld



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