Dear Prof. Glasersfeld,
I'm working in the field of Geographic Information Science - an
applied informatics concerned with geographic data and phenomena
like navigation systems and google maps.
Our group is working on the problem that users of such data -
because the particular context in which the data was produced is
stripped away in information environments like the web - need to
know (or reconstruct) its intended meaning.
We came to believe that the constructivist perspective is
promising for a method that allows to describe such data in
terms of basic human operations (very similar to Bridgman's
operational definitions, like the symbol "1m Length" being
decomposable into a description of how to arrive at such an
This operational approach in our view should encompass mental
operations as well as physical measurements (which are - of
course - just mental operations in disguise ;-) ).
Are there any formal descriptions of Ceccato's or your attention
model available that could be used for such a purpose?
But methodologically, the open point for me is how to
practically arrive at an inter-subjective interpretation of such
descriptions (because, they are -in the end - only symbolic
descriptions of the actual operations). This is were I think
your idea of "mutual adaption of individual constructions" (in
so far as I managed to understand it) would need some
concretization in order to be put to the test. In my current
view, one essential element here must be the basic human act of
ostension (someone else coordinating your attention to something
by pointing at it). This is at least how W.V.O Quine explained
how humans reach an agreement about what he called "observation
sentences". And this is obviously the way how measurement
standards are introduced (by referring to a commonly observable
phenomenon, like the platinum bar "Metres des archives").
My ideas about this are not settled yet and I would appreciate
any comments as well as any hint to literature.
Vielen Dank dass Sie mir ihr Ohr leihen ;-) !
Münster Semantic Interoperability Lab (MUSIL)
Institut für Geoinformatik
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Dear Mr. Scheider,
- Your question involves more than one. I
am going to give you brief answers in the hope that you will
come back with more specific queries.
1. Ceccato's gross description of his ideas about attention
is in his un Tecnicpo fra i Filosofi, vol.2 (Marsilio, Padova)
1966. A fulller exposition in La mente vista da un
ciberneticoo. Torino, 1973.
Ceccato analyses only the "attentional" form of concepts,
i.e., the combinatorics of attentional moments without any
reference to their application in sensorimotor experience.
I have done very little in that direction. My paper: An
attentional model for the conceptual construction of units and
number,. J. for Research in Mathematics Education, 12 (2),
(1981) 83-94. and the Sketch "Gedanken über Zeit und Raum" in
Unverbindliche Erinnerungen are the only things I have written
about attentional moments. Neither of these pieces may be of
much help to you in your research; but they'll show you that,
unlike Ceccato, I am interested in an application to
2. The question of "ostension" is very complicated from a
constructivist point of view: If you don't believe that things
exist as you see them, it's clear that no one can point to
them. One can only point to where one believes one is able to
construct them. I have recently come across the work of
Rizzolatti and his colleagues on Mirror Neurons (http//www.scholarpedia.org/article/Mirror_neurons)
(1981), and I think that it would be very useful in working
out how we "understand" someone's pointing to something in his
or her experiential field. This is highly complex. If you
think it might be useful to you, let's discuss it the next
time - if you ask the specific question.
3. I don't remember or maybe never knew, how Quine deals with
the problem of ostension without assuming that there are
objects we can all point to - in which case he descends into
I would certainly like to continue this correspondence, but
need questions about specific concepts.
Ernst von Glasersfeld