| Von Glasersfeld's answers - September 2005  |



Hello Professor von Glasersfeld. I am a visual artist, arts educator and
a new doctoral student hoping to survive the process of completing
doctorate in Education. Fortunately for me, I have recently been
introduced to your theory of knowing through a wonderful course at UMASS
Lowell. I am very interested in your way of thinking not only as an
educator, but as an artist. Historically I have faithfully used Piagetian
stage theory in my art teaching with children. However, I truly think
your theory of knowing, Radical Constructivism ( and I do hope you'll
tell me if I'm understanding incorrectly!) not only offers philosophical
clarity to the artistic process (we don't claim to know the truth, we
understand we can't know), but also a relief to many art educators such
as myself who struggle with the issue of how to acknowledge (measure?)
knowledge construction in the arts. A painting may have meaning, but it
may not be viable. Currently there is much talk about a new standardized
test for the arts in my state. I've just begun my studies, but I would
like to be able to approach the issue of knowledge construction through
the epistemological lens of Radical Constructivism. I find it to be
explicit, elegant and it cuts through much of the current fog surrounding
current postmodern feminist aesthetic socio/political agendas. I would
like to be able to know how knowledge construction in art looks through
Radical constructivism. Have you ever written anything regarding Radical
Constructivism's relationship to visual art? I'm very curious.
All the best,
Maureen C. Quinquis
Salem, Massachusetts


         Dear Ms Quinquis,
         "Art" has a wider meaning in the United States than in Europe, where
         technical drawings, quilt making, and pottery are not usually included. I
         say this, because my spontaneous reply to your question would be: From
         the constructivist point of view, art belongs to the domain of the
         mystical and what can be rationally said about it does not get anywhere
         near its core. A critic may say all sorts of intelligent things about
         composition, perspective, color values, etc., in, say, Giorgione's
         Tempesta, but none of that is relevant to the fact that the painting
         takes my breath away every time I see it. I don't expect a mystical
         experience from what is here in the US often referred to as "artwork".
         The diviision is of course not always neat and there are indeed Chinese
         celadon bowls, individual buildings, and even Ferraris that have a
         rationally inexplicable effect. Radical constructivism, which is a purely
         rational theory, has nothing to say about such mystical phenomena.
         I have, however used the work of artists (e.g. Matisse and Francesco
         Guardi) to suggest that they have the knack of incorporating in a few
         lines the perceptual scan paths we ordinarily construct when we
         "recognize" a specific flower or a person walking. There are line
         drawings by Matisse, that are ridiculously simple squiggles and yet
         immediately recognizable as a lily or some other specific flower. This,
         of course, is technical mastery - it may become art when the artist uses
         it in the service of some otherwise inexplicable intuition.
         Best wishes,
         Ernst von Glasersfeld





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