| Von Glasersfeld's answers - October II 2009 |

 
 
 


QUESTION 1:
 
Dear Prof. von Glasersfeld:

I hope you don’t mind contacting you directly, especially about something you might have already addressed in the past and I just don’t know it.  However, I would very much appreciate your feedback – even if it is just a pointer to one of your many written contributions in which you might have already addressed the issue I am addressing.

I am writing a book which uses constructivism as its cardinal viewpoint.  Btw, a friend of mine who did her PhD here in CA (Heinz von Foerster was her external examiner) first referred me to HvF’s and your work years ago – for which I am grateful.

Anyway, here is the issue:
In the Paper “Constructivism: Pre-historical to Post-modern” / / (http://mason.gmu.edu/~wwarrick/Portfolio/Products/constructivism.html)

William R.  Warrick (George Mason University) writes:
“Thus, there is some paradox in proposing a definition of constructivism in that its central tenet is that there is no external truth or knowledge outside of a knower's experience.  Indeed, von Glasersfeld (1989), a radical constructivist, writes, "To claim that one's theory of knowing is true, in the traditional sense of an experiencer-independent world, would be perjury for a radical constructivist" (p. 1).”

Question:  Would you be able to support the following argumentation – if not, I would very much appreciate you correcting me:

I think that William R.  Warrick is wrong in his interpretation of what von Glasersfeld is actually saying. (It is, however, an example how quickly one can misunderstand and be misunderstood – something, I found, happens a lot, especially in the criticism of constructivism.)

EvG’s statement means to me that we humans cannot construct in our minds an absolute of reality or truth, or – in other words “that one’s theory of knowing is true.” He didn’t state that – and therefore it is also not the “central tenet of constructivism” – that “there is no external truth or knowledge outside of a knower's experience.”   All EvG and constructivism is claiming is that we humans are not able to construct an “absolute truth” with our minds. This also means  there is no paradox as William R.  Warrick claims above.

I look forward to your response.  Thank you so very much in advance.

Kindest regards,
Horst Lehrheuer
Dipl.-Ing. Horst Lehrheuer
156 Flynn Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
LHorst@mindspring.com
ANSWER 1:

Dear Mr. Lehrheuer,

Your objection to Warrick's position is close to what I would say. I would add  that "Truth" can pertain only to an observer's description
of something - and if you posit an observer who describes Reality,  you are in the domain of constructivism. I would also add that there
is a viable concept of "truth" (never absolute) within the constructivist Model: compatibility of a description with the actual
experience.

Thank you for the reference to Warrick's book, of which I had not heard!

Best wishes,


Ernst von Glasersfeld
 

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