Publication 3771

Peterson T. E. (2011) Constructivist pedagogy and symbolism: Vico, Cassirer, Piaget, Bateson. Educational Philosophy and Theory 44(8): 878–891. Fulltext at
Constructivism is at the heart of a pedagogical philosophy going back to Vico, whose view of the interrelationship of the arts and sciences sought to reconstitute the classical paideia. The Vichian idea that human beings can only know the truth of what they themselves have made has theoretical and practical consequences for Vico’s pedagogy and view of the university. Vico’s ideas on education are extended in the modern period by such thinkers as Cassirer, Piaget and Bateson. At the basis of Cassirer’s pedagogical philosophy is his theory of the symbol, the symbol being a universal and transcendent modality in culture. The result of this unifying theory is that symbolism, which is pervasive across the disciplines, provides a moral and ethical means for integrating communication about teaching. Cassirer’s thought is compatible with Piaget’s, which emphasizes the pluralism of experience and the role of dynamic learning in the construction of meaningful order. Piaget’s constructivism assumes that an operational bridge exists to link together the hard sciences, the human sciences, and the historical disciplines. This systems view of epistemological matters is similar in many respects to the one advanced by Gregory Bateson, which is explored in the paper’s final section.

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