Question 3: Why is Piaget’s constructivism not seen as ‘naive’ rather
than ‘radical’ [given that commentators criticise his discussion of the relationships between ‘cognition’
and ‘language’ as falling short of being a comprehensive account of the genesis of a languaging observer’s
The criticism of the anonymous ‘commentators’ seems to spring from an
interpretation of Maturana’s theory, and Maturana has made it clear that he does not like the term ‘constructivism’
with or without the qualification ‘radical’. Indeed, both Piaget and myself do not quite agree with Maturana’s
view of language, its genesis, and the contention that it precedes cognition.
I follow Piaget’s idea that language begins to develop when the cognitive organism
begins deliberately to re-present to itself experiences that are remembered but not available at the moment.
According to this view, conceptual construction, which is part of cognition, has to begin before language.
Part of this difference has no doubt to do with how one defines ‘language’.
Piaget sees language as a specialization of a preceding symbolic activity that is purely subjective. Maturana, I
believe, includes this in his use of the term ‘language’.
As for ‘consciousness’ or ‘self-awareness’, I consider it mysterious or, as
Hans Vaihinger would say, as an heuristic fiction.
There is no question in my mind that Piaget’s theory is ‘radical’, because he
has stated innumerable times that knowledge does not have the purpose of ‘representing’ an external world, but
serves the organism’s adaptation. Consequently, it is not assessed on the basis of its ‘truth’, but on its