Ernst von Glasersfeld's answers
October 1998


Dear Professor von Glasersfeld
Can constructivism help me understand how humans organize the levels of abstraction of phenomena, be their origins in the physical world or in the abstracted world itself - except for telling me that they seem to work in our daily life?
Peter Stecher

Answer to Peter Stecher, October 19th, 1998

Dear Mr. Stecher,
I am not sure what you mean by "organizing levels of abstraction". Higher-level abstractions, I would say, are always made from lower-level ones; e.g the concept of acceleration seems to be made from the comparison of two abstractions of the kind we call "velocity" and is therefore on a higher level. If you mean, how human individuals relate their abstractions and jump about among them, you will have to ask a psychotherapist (for instance Vincent Kenny) whether he has been able to formulate generalizable patterns of association in his clients. If you want to know how abstractions are actually made, all I can tell you is that the mysterious entity we call "consciousness" or "awareness" finds similarities in experiences and can therefore construct regularities. Donít ask me what consciousness is - I have no explanatory model, nor, I believe, has anyone else. If you are connected with IBM, you probably hold that as a scientist one has to be a monist, and then I am the wrong person to ask, because I am an unrepenting dualist with regard to consciousness.

Best wishes,

Ernst von Glasersfeld




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