| Von Glasersfeld's answers - May IV 2006  |

 
 
 



QUESTION:

 

Dear Dr. Von Glasersfeld:
First off, thank you for answering! I deeply appreciate it, as it is
exciting for me to actually correspond with someone else on these matters.
Here are a couple quotes from you Q & A answers:
 
Quote1, from http://www.oikos.org/vonansfeb03.htm  :
"I have said that I don't deny an ultimate reality - because
it makes no sense to deny something of which one cannot have any
knowledge."
 
Quote2, from http://www.oikos.org/vonansjan06.htm  :
"A point of radical constructivism, that many interpreters
have shied away from, is that the inaccessibility of an objective
reality is total."
Quote3 from your answer (to my own question! :),
 
http://www.oikos.org/vonansmay06.htm  :
"I have said often enough that I consider RC one way of
thinking - which implies that there may be others"
 
Next, I reiterate the main intent of my previous question(s): I think that
your phrasing of responses to questioners, whom I see as obviously
ontologically-oriented, is misleading. The above quotes 1 and 2 are only
snippets of examples that explicitly state my more general impression of
an imbalance in your responses, ie "misleading".
 
In Quote1, I actually strongly agree with the "not denying" first
part, but the reason given I read as representing an absolutist
stance on our inability to have "knowledge" of an "ultimate reality". This
is even more explicitly stated in Quote2. Interestingly, in your response
to me (Quote3), you use "often enough" and "implies". I disagree with your
evaluation of the "often enough" part in your responses, and your use of
"implies" is a nice, although trivial, example of word-level inconsistency
with the concept-level tenets of RC. I say this because when I'm trying to
be precise, I tend to shy away from using "imply" and instead use "infer"
as it incorporates the action of an "observer" creating meaning from
something. At this point, let me say that I do not say these things with
disrespect, but actually out of great respect - otherwise, I wouldn't even
be writing you. ;) Anyway, my response so far as been in negative space as
I call it, or saying what I disagree with.
 
Which brings me to my "moving past" the tenets of RC. To justify
precisely the framework that I use would take more space than I think is
proper for this Q & A (I would be *extremely* interested in communicating
directly with you via email or here if you wouldn't mind), but I'll offer
a little bit on how I would phrase the "inaccessibility" of some absolute,
objective Truth. I would say something like:
"Truth may be accessible, and if someone wishes to continue
creating constructs that emphasize that access as a goal, by all
means go ahead. But RC stipulates that the concept of any absolute
Truth is becoming less and less viable, and that focus on an
observer-based experiential Truth is proving to be more and more
viable, especially in the fields of education, artificial
intelligence, etc. Since, within RC, truth is used as a measurement
of viability, you could say that this interpretation of 'Truth' is
true, but not True."
 
This quick example, to me, seems more internally consistent with the
tenets of RC, as it applies the high-level RC concepts at the relatively
low level of communication with words. It would be more balanced, in that
it includes both the "inaccessibility" of some nonsensical Truth, as well
as the "tentative" quality of RC to which you did indeed refer
occasionally.
 
And just a little bit more from my perspective and I'll curtail this: Two
aspects I see missing in the core tenets of RC are observer-interest
(self-interest) and economics (in the general sense of allocating limited
resources). This key aspect of economics is largely why I asked if you
thought that the inconsistency stems from the "spontaneous" aspect of your
answers, ie your relatively small (although huge since I find no others
doing this online for free!) amount of limited time allocated to answering
these questions, which did I mention "Thank You"? ;)
Anyway, I have to run. Thanks (again) for your time, and best wishes to
you :)
 
Bill Raiford
PS By the way, you might be interested in looking up "truthiness" on
wikipedia, if you are not already aware of its recent revival. Highly
entertaining, and probably fruitful grounds for application of an RC-like
analysis.
 

ANSWER:

Dear Mr. Raiford,
 
1. That we cannot gain objective knowledge of something beyond our
experience (quotes 1 and 2) is not an experiential statement within RC
but a logical one. All our concepts are based on abstractions from
experience and are therefore not capable of capturing anything beyond
this.
 
 2. It's your prerogative to complain that I haven't said certain
 things often enough. In the case in question it may be because you
 haven't read enough of my writings.
 
3. As the implication I mention in quote 3 stems from something I
have written myself, it would make no sense for me to "infer" what I
intend to imply.
 
4, With regard to your "moving past", I would say, go ahead! But try to
avoid misstatements such as "within RC, truth is used as a measurement of
viability..." As I have explained in one of my earlier answers to you:
In the constructivist view, "something is true if it is considered
adequately to reflect the original description of an earlier experience."
Depending on the purpose you have in mind, an adequate description may be
less viable than a lie.

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld
 

 

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