| Von Glasersfeld's answers - March 2006  |


Dear Professor von Glasersfeld,
in the book "Radical Constructivism - A Way of Knowing and Learning" you
start the definition of radical constructivism with this assumption: "...
knowledge, no matter how it is defined, is in the heads of persons, and
that the thinking subject has no alternative but to construct what he or
she knows on the basis of his or her own experience".
I take this assumption as a metaphor. I belive that a consequent
constructivist must consider that also concepts like "head",
"person", "assumption" and "knowledge" are just constructions. I
think that even notions as "subject" (or "self") and "construction" are
constructions. This results in an epistemological approach which
considers only constructions of constructions (or perhaps cognition of
cognition). In such an approach (which considers itself also as an
construction) there is no need of any ontological assumptions including
assumption of an ontological or substantial subject manifesting itself
through constructions. As I understand it, the assumption of such kind of
 substantial subject will lead to solipsism.
Do you agree? Or do you assume some kind of ontological subject?
Thank you very much for any help.
Best wishes,
Jan Burian
University of economics, Prague
Czech Republic
Dear Mr. Burian,
Yours is a good question and it's put in a way that makes an answer
relatively easy. If all I know stems from my experience, I cannot know
anything beyond experience - but I'm having it. This is not knowledge
about a world that "exists" apart from my experience, i.e., an ontic
world. Yours is essentially a metaphysical question, and because
constructivism considers itself a model of rational knowing, it has
nothing to say about metaphysics. But its point of contact with
metaphysics, or the mystical, is its acceptance of the mystery of
consciousness. I have no explanation or model or theory about the fact
that I am able to be aware of experiencing and of what I can
make/construct of it. Hence the statement you quoted is not intended as a
metaphor but as a statement of experiential fact.

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld



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