| Von Glasersfeld's answers - JUNE 2002 |




Question 1 -

Dear Mr. von Glasersfeld,

I'm a student of Journalism (2nd semester) and are writing an essay on Constructivism in the Media. During the research for this work I came upon a question that, until now, nobody has been able to answer. 
This is why I take the opportunity to address you  as estimated and often cited coryphée in the field of constructivism:
Why the German language makes a difference between "Realität" and "Wirklichkeit", whereas the English language only has "reality"?
What is the significance for each culture and mentality?


Andrea Mokosch

Sehr geehrter Herr von Glasersfeld,

ich bin eine Bremer Journalistikstudentin im 2. Semester und schreibe momentan an einer Hausarbeit zum Konstruktivismus in den Medien.
Nun bin ich während meiner Recherche auf eine Frage gestoßen, die zu  beantworten bislang niemand imstande war. 
Also ergreife ich die Gelegenheit und wende mich an Sie als geschätzte und  vielzitierte Koryphäe auf konstruktivistischem Terrain:
Wieso macht die deutsche Sprache einen Unterschied zwischen "Realität" und  "Wirklichkeit", während sich die englische wiederum auf "reality" begrenzt?
Was bedeutet das für die jeweilige Kultur und Mentalität?


Ihre Andrea Mokosch



Dear Andrea Mokosch,

I am answering in English because that is the language we use on this website.

Questions similar to the one you are asking, I have put innumerable times to anthropologists and linguists, but the most they would say was that it was a matter of cultural differences. Which, of course, explains nothing. 
The reason for their reluctance to entertain such questions (in my opinion) is that for a long time it was taboo to think or speak about mental operations.
Even the non-behaviorists were much afraid to do so.

To aswer your question one would have to invvestigate the particular way in which the given language group abstracted certain concepts from their actual experience. And since it is impossible to reconstruct the experience of the people who first developed the German or English language, we cannot say why the protoGerman speakers abstracted the concept of a world generated by their own "wirken", which would, indeed, be a constructivist notion.

A similar question has always bothered me: why do German and French have no word for "mind", whereas English and Italian have?

Best wishes,
Ernst von Glasersfeld


Question 2 - 

Dear professor Von Glaserfeld,

Many objections are being raised against Piaget's understanding of mathematical concepts.

For example Freudenthal in his "Mathematics as an educational task" (1973, p662-677), states that Piaget had inadequate mathematical ideas, used suggestive experimental designs and therefore Piaget's implications for didactics are a mistake (allthough his work, says Freudenthal, is probably not influenced by these misconceptions in a decisive way).> >

How do you evaluate these objections?

Yours sincerely,

Rob Kooijman (The Netherlands)



Dear Mr. Kooijman,


For a radical constructivist there is no such thing as a "right" or "correct" theory, explanation, or picture of the world. There are things that work and things that don't work under the given circumstances. 
Piaget's notion that numbers are constructed on the basis of the child's own actions was distasteful to Freudenthal; he wanted them to be more objectively "real".

Piaget's approach has, however, led to many useful ideas in the realm of learning theory and educators' attitudes - and that is what counts in the end. I only had one interaction with Freudenthal and he quickly made it clear that he did not like anything about Piaget's constructivism and consequently even less my radical form of it.

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld



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