Ernst’s Answers to Questions - December 5th, 1997

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How, if at all, does your theory of Radical constructivism account for what I would term biologically determined biases which influence "experience"? The factors of the FFM would be examples. i.e., how do you separate what is constructed from artifacts or influences originating in the construction-instrument?

michael nowacki



The question concerning ‘biases which influence experience’ suggests that the questioner believes that there is a knowable objective reality relative to which experience could be shown to have a bias. Radical Constructivism does not deny a world beyond our experiential interface, but it denies the possibility of knowing it. Hence there is no sense in speaking of a bias in this context. Experience is what we believe it to be - if you and I agree that we have certain experiences in common, we may judge a third person’s experience to be biased. But, ultimately, the viability of what we do on the basis of our experiences is the only criterion.

Since I don’t know what the acronym FFM stands for, I cannot express any opinion about it.





Dear Ernst v. Glasersfeld,

I am a doctoral candidate in Archaeology and have been very interested in Radical Constructivism for a number of years. After studying in Germany (Tübingen and Hamburg) for 5 years, I am now based in Wales. I am very familiar with the German reception of your work specifically and of Radical Constructivism in general. Recently, I have tried to develop steps towards a Radical Constructivist approach in Archaeology. (I could send you a few papers of mine, if you are curious.) My question is this: do you know of any recent application or discussion of Radical Constructivism in Archaeology (or History) which (a) you find satisfactory, and (b) does not derive from the Schmidt/Rusch context in Germany?
Thanks for your reply in advance!

Yours sincerely
Cornelius J. Holtorf MA MA
Department of Archaeology, University of Wales, Lampeter



I do not know of anyone who has tried a constructivist approach to archaeology, nor have I thought about it myself. Off the top of my head I would say that the problems should not be unlike those encountered in hermeneutics and that the only ‘constructivist’ guide line would be to try to invent theories that are internally non-contradictory, and then to find as much experiential evidence as possible to fit them.





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