Publication 446

Riegler A. (2012) Constructivism. In: L‘Abate L. (ed.) Paradigms in theory construction. Springer, New York: 235–256. Fulltext at
Constructivism expresses the idea that mental structures and operations are actively constructed by one’s mind rather than passively acquired. This paper focuses on the particular question of whether constructivism is an over-arching perspective that accommodates both Kuhn’s and Piaget’s respective philosophies of science. To this end, I first review some exemplary cases of constructivism ranging from Mach’s phenomenological constructivism to von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism, which is characterized in four principles. One of these principles says that reality constructions are entrenched due to the hierarchical organization of the constructed knowledge. I then show how central notions in Kuhn’s theory, such as “mental sets” and “incommensurability,” can be interpreted in terms of constructivism and its emphasis on an alternative approach to knowledge. I conclude that the constructivist principle mentioned above lends itself to explaining Kuhn’s notions of paradigms and incommensurability as well as orthogenesis in Piaget’s philosophy of science.

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