Dear Ms. Christensen,
The concepts and conceptual relations
we employ in the building of 'knowledge', i.e. the constructs
that we find viable in our living, are,
indeed, personal, cognitive constructions. But the domain in
which they have to prove viable includes not only the physical
objects we have constructed, but also
'others' in whose construction we are now more free than in
the construction of the wall through which we cannot
walk. We do live in a world of constraints and 'others'
are among those that generate the most
Only people who have never understood Radical
Constructivism will write or tell you that it disregards the
importance of social interaction.
Ernst non Glasersfeld
Sehr geehrter Herr von Glasersfeld
Ich habe soeben Ihr Buch „Unverbindliche Erinnerungen“ gelesen
und danke Ihnen, dass Sie mir als Leser Gelegenheit gegeben
haben, an einem Teil Ihres sehr interessanten Lebens
teilzuhaben; viele Stellen haben mich sehr berührt. Ich bekam
den Eindruck, dass Sie eigentlich ein Künstler sind. Statt zu
malen oder musizieren, denken Sie. Das war sehr inspirierend!
Ich wünsche Ihnen alles Gute. Mögen mehr Menschen denken wie
Sie, zum Wohle von uns allen!
Mit herzlichen Grüssen vom schönen Zürichsee
Wolfgang A. Haas,
Dear Mr. Haas,
Thank you for your heart-warming message
(which, of course should have been in English for this web
site!). I looked at your home page and can only tell you that
anything you can do to teach and encourage people to develop
their self-reliance and self-responsibility is in agreement
with the way of thinking I have been working on.
Ernst von Glasersfeld
Dear Prof. Glasersfeld,
please allow me to ask a quite general question. I am
interested in the connection between the history of technology
and the history of philosophical
thinking. After reading some of your (and Silvio Ceccato's)
papers on machine translation I had the strong impression
that there might be a systematical link between MT and
radical constructivism. Although the following example is from
1969, sentences like these made me
think about it: The "Platonic view of the world
[...] was possible and workable
as long as the use of language was
restricted to organisms [...] With the advent of digital
computers the situation was radically changed".
The point seems to me that computers have to translate
something meaningful from one language to another without
having a profound concept of
"Lebenswelt" (which human translators usually have). This
might be an analogy to sucessfully
communicating or doing research without
having a concept of "objective reality".
Am I on a completely wrong track, or do you think that your
work in machine translation was some kind of fundament for
elaboration of a constructvist epistemology?
With best wishes from Vienna
Dear Mr. Pias,
As far as I am concerned, there is close
link between Ceccato's thinking and mine. He was the first to
generalize Pery Bridgman's notion of 'operational definition'
to all linguistic items, a notion that is fundamental in
As for the passage you quote, I don't know where it comes from
and it surprises me. For Ceccato the "Platonic view of the
world" ceased to be possible long before he became involved in
computational linguistics. It is correct, however, that the
idea of constructing a machine "that perceives and thinks"
became one of his goals in the mis-fifties and deepened the
rift between our thinking and traditional psychology.
I am sure there are connections between the
history of technology and that of philosophy, but it might be
good to remember that there are constructivist suggestions as
early as the Pre-Socratics and quite definite constructivist
beginnings in Vico and Kant,long before technology as we know
it took off.
Ernst von Glasersfeld
Dear Professor von Glasersfeld
I am a PhD student at the University of Queensland in
Australia. I am looking at designing 'mental model'
elicitation techniques to be used within the domain of natural
resource management. I am interested in capturing how
different people, or groups of people, understand a given
system or environment.
If you are familiar with the theory of mental models, how does
this theory relate to RC?
Dear Ms. Jones,
I am afraid I have not heard of any specific "theory of mental
models". If you tell me who is behind it and send me a brief
paper or summary, I may be able to see
how it relates to Radical Constructivism.
Ernst von Glasersfeld