Von Glasersfeld's answers
January 2001










Dear Dr Glasersfeld,

Just wondering, how does your concept of a metaphor differ from Charles Sanders Peirce's concept of a triadic sign? Please find, for information and reference only, an attachment that attempts to introduce Peircean concepts into the field of Information Fusion. In it is a description of the Peircean Triadic Sign (Figures 1 and 2). 

Thank you very much.

Most Respectfully yours,

E.T. Nozawa



Dear Mr. Nozawa,

Your figures of Peirce's triadic arrangement did not come through on the  e-mail message. I have now looked it up in one of my books, and here is my answer:

I do not think Peirce would have agreed with my type of constructivism because, as far as I understand him, he had a realist attachment that he did  not want to give up. But much of what he wrote is quite compatible with constructivism. With regard to his theory of signs I would say the following: He considers signs triadic because a sign is related to an "object' and the object requires an 'interpretant'. A couple of paragraphs later, P. gives a sentence about a vessel out at sea as an example; at the end of his explanation he says: "The sentence as a whole has, for the person supposed, no other Object than that with which it finds him already acquainted."

In my terms, this entails that a piece of language, be it a sentence or a single word, can have for the language-user no more and no less meaning than the experiences or experiential situations to which he or she is able to relate to it.

Thus, on this point, I am in full agreement with Peirce; but I am not at all sure that he would have felt he same.

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld


Professor Glaserfeld,


I have been interested in the issue of cognitive styles for some time now, in particular Roger Sperry's view that the left hemisphere processes detail and the right handles context and spatial concepts. In practice the neurophysiological evidence for this is questionable but as thinking styles I believe that the simple left right division has a high degree of validity. In terms of memory I find that my students who have a right brained preference are very visual and more experiential in their approaches to learning. By contrast those with a left brained orientation tend to function in a more linguistic and abstract fashion. 

When faced with a new situation, left brainers tend to fare better than right brainers because they are able to theorise and extrapolate. (Though this advantage seems diminish if the right brainers are provided with visual/experiential contexts). I was curious as to whether you had considered the issues of cognitive style and constructivism and would appreciate hearing your views.

Best wishes,

Steve Benson


Dear Mr. Benson,


The characterization of the hemispheres' activity is part of a neurophysiological model and, not being a neurophysiologist, there is not much I can say about it. I am not aware of a location where my thinking takes  place and cannot say whether it happens in a hemisphere. I may take the expert's word for it, but whether that is a good or a bad model, the experts themselves will have to decide according to how well it serves in  the systematization of their experiences and experiments. No matter how well it fits there, however, as a constructivist I cannot accept it as a description of an observer-independent reality.

This may not be the sort of answer you expected, but have a merry Christmas anyway!

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld


Dear Dr Glasersfeld,

I notice a striking similarity between Radical Constructivism and Taoism
(as I understand them). Are you familiar with Taoism? And if so, would
you agree? Or how do you see them as different?

Thank you,

Robert Crosby


Dear Mr. Crosby,

I am afraid I don't know much about Taoism. From the little I do know about Budhism, I would guess that what RC shares with it is not unlike what it shares with Taoism; namely that the world we construct on the basis of our experience does not have "ontological" reality. But Oriental philosophies tend to say that experiential reality therefore is an illusion. RC cannot say this because, as it is not concerned with metaphysics, it has no other rationally knowable reality to fall back on.

I would be interested to hear what YOU see as the similarities.

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld




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