| Von Glasersfeld's answers - December 2002  |



Dear Mr Glasersfeld,

I am a student of Nanjing Normal Unversity in China. Several days ago, i  read some your papers--Radical Constructivism and Education. I got a lot from  you. and i have got a lot papers of yours, i find it is new and  wonderful for  an educator.

However, i still have some questions to ask you if you are so kind to  tell me:

1. Is Piaget a constructivist or structruralist? (Maybe he wanted to  combine them together.)

2. What about you? do you think you are a radical construtivist or  a  radical structuralist?

I also read some essays of yours in Chinese version, and i find they were translated not as yours origional attention. The translator  considers you as a structuralist.

I am looking forward to your reply!!!



Liu Shufeng (Chinese name:xxx)

Dear Liu Shufeng,


Thank you for your questions and your interest in constructivism.

There is a website where I have been answering questions about constructivism  for several years http://www.oikos.org/vonen.htm . I am transferring your questions and my answer to that website and would ask you to send any further questions you might have to: kenny@oikos.org

Piaget considered himself a structuralist of a special kind and wrote a monograph - Le structuralisme, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1970) - to clarify his own position. It is a very interesting little  book. Among other instructive things it contains the statement that the cognitive  organism would construct a stable world for itself, even if the 'real' world  were in continuos flux.

Some of the anthropological structuralists would not have agreed with this view because they were hoping to discover structures that could be said to exist independently of individual people. What Piaget took from conventional  structuralism was the focus on relational patterns rather than on individual  fixed entities. He was, indeed, more structuralist than the originators  of the movement, becaused he thought that the items  interconnected in a  structure could themselves be characterized as structural patterns.

So the answer to your two questions is essentially the same. Piaget saw  no contradiction between structuralism and constructivism - and neither  do I.

If  you read some of the conceptual analyses I have published (e.g. Notes on the  concept of change, Cahiers de la Fondation Archives Jean Piaget, No.13,  91-96. Geneva: Fondation Archives Jean Piaget. 1993; or, A model for the  construction o elementary concepts, in D.M.Dubois (Ed.) Computing  anticipatory systems, 45-52. Woodbury, NY: American Institute of  Physics. 1999), you will find the patterns i suggest for some elementary structures.

What you say about the translations of my papers does not surprise me. I am  sure it never strikes current translators that my ideas may be much  closer to  the oldest Chinese philosphers than to the narrow realist views of  today's science writers.

Best wishes,
Ernst von Glasersfeld



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