Abriszewski K. (2017) Are philosophers’ actions realist or constructivist. In: Kanzian C., Kletzl S., Mitterer J. & Neges K. (eds.) Realism – relativism – constructivism. De Gruyter, Berlin: 3–15. https://cepa.info/4199
In my article, I propose to discuss constructivism and realism in terms of actions instead of doing that in a usual way, in terms of theories, philosophers or general positions. To enable this, I offer two conceptual tools. First, I use modified model of four types of knowledge introduced by Andrzej Zybertowicz. It approaches any knowledge-building process as a cultural game, and recognizes reproduction, discovery, redefinition, and design of a new game. Second, I use Stanislaw Lem’s model of three types of geniuses. I illustrate my approach briefly using examples from Plato, Spinoza and Berkeley.
Responds to comments by D. T. Campbell; D. N. Robinson; M. J. Mahoney; K. M. Ford; and J. Adams-Webber on the present authors’ articles. Issues related to the concepts of pragmatic and existential constructivism, relativism, realism, and entrainment are addressed.
Agnew N. M. & Brown J. L. (1989) Foundations for a model of knowing II. Fallible but functional knowledge. Canadian Psychology 30(2): 168–183. https://cepa.info/7560
An evolving theory known as “constructivism” challenges the traditional view of how we generate and revise knowledge. Constructivism helps address a major issue raised by modern scholars of the history and philosophy of science, and decision theory. The question is: How do we reduce the search and solution space of complex and changing environments to “mind size” (i.e., to fit our limited memory and computational capacity)? One emerging answer is that we rely heavily upon robust presuppositions and simplified representations of environmental structure. However, such constructed knowledge is likely to be highly fallible, relying as it must on impoverished data bases in the service of strong expectations or paradigms. In this paper we address two issues: Under what conditions can knowledge be highly fallible and at the same time be highly functional?; Can we make a plausible case, within this constructivist frame of reference, for realism, for knowledge that approximates “reality”?
Beaton M. (2013) Phenomenology and Embodied Action. Constructivist Foundations 8(3): 298-313. https://constructivist.info/8/3/298
Context: The enactivist tradition, out of which neurophenomenology arose, rejects various internalisms – including the representationalist and information-processing metaphors – but remains wedded to one further internalism: the claim that the structure of perceptual experience is directly, constitutively linked only to internal, brain-based dynamics. Problem: I aim to reject this internalism and defend an alternative analysis. Method: The paper presents a direct-realist, externalist, sensorimotor account of perceptual experience. It uses the concept of counterfactual meaningful action to defend this view against various objections. Results: This account of experience matches certain first-person features of experience better than an internalist account could. It is fully tractable as “normal science.” Implications: The neuroscientific conception of brain function should change from that of internal representation or modelling to that of enabling meaningful, embodied action in ways that constitutively involve the world. Neurophenomenology should aim to match the structure of first-person experience with the structure of meaningful agent-world interactions, not with that of brain dynamics. Constructivist content: The sensorimotor approach shows us what external objects are, such that we may enact them, and what experience is, such that it may present us with those enacted objects.
Upshot: I offer responses to the commentaries on my target article in five short sections. The first section, about the plurality of lived worlds, concerns issues of quite general interest to readers of this journal. The second section presents some reasons for rejecting “enabling” as well as “constitutive” representational approaches to understanding the mind. In the remaining three sections, I clarify aspects of sensorimotor direct realism relating to the self, qualia, counterfactuals, and the notion of “mastery.”
Beaton M. (2016) Sensorimotor Direct Realism: How We Enact Our World. Constructivist Foundations 11(2): 265–276. https://cepa.info/2557
Context: Direct realism is a non-reductive, anti-representationalist theory of perception lying at the heart of mainstream analytic philosophy, where it is currently generating a lot of interest. For all that, it is widely held to be both controversial and anti-scientific. On the other hand, the sensorimotor theory of perception (which is a specific development of Gibsonian approaches to perception) initially generated a lot of interest within enactive philosophy of cognitive science, but has arguably not yet delivered on its initial promise. Problem: I aim to show that the sensorimotor theory and direct realism complement each other, and that the result is a philosophically radical, but fully scientifically realised, theory of perception. Method: The article uses (non-reductive) philosophical analysis and discussion. It also draws on empirical evidence from the relevant cognitive sciences. Results: Direct realism can be augmented by sensorimotor theory to become a scientifically tractable alternative to the mainstream, representationalist research programme within cognitive science. Implications: The article aims to further clarify the philosophical importance of the sensorimotor approach to perception. It also aims to show that the apparently radical claim that we perceive objects themselves is amenable to normal scientific study. Constructivist content: Objects are analysed as a kind of collaboration between the world and the perceiver. On this account, we can never perceive outside the categories of our own understanding, but we do perceive genuinely outside our own heads. Thus, the approach here is not exactly constructivism, though it shares many goals and results with constructivism.
There are many varieties of epistemological and cognitive constructivism. They have in common an appreciation of the failures of centuries of attempts to realize a correspondence notion of truth and representation, and they all propose some constructivist programme as an alternative. The programmatic proposals, however, can differ greatly. Some contemporary constructivisms that are being vigorously advocated propose a social form of idealism with a consequent relativism. Such proposals risk giving constructivism a bad name. The main burden of this article is to show that such an idealism and relativism is not forced by constructivism, but, instead, is the result of an additional and questionable presupposition. Constructivism per se is a strong epistemological position that is fully compatible with realism.
Diverse forms of constructivism can be found in the literature today. They exhibit a commonality regarding certain classical positions that they oppose – a unity in their negative identities – but a sometimes wild multiplicity and incompatibility regarding the positive proposals that they put forward. In particular, some constructivisms propose an epistemological idealism, with a concomitant relativism, while others are explicitly opposed to such positions, and move in multifarious different directions. This is a potentially confusing situation, and has resulted in some critics branding all constructivisms with the charge of relativism, and throwing out the baby with the bath water. In addition, since the epistemological foundations of even non-relativist constructivisms are not as familiar as the classical positions, there is a risk of mis-interpretation of constructivisms and their consequences, even by some who endorse them, not to mention those who criticize. Because I urge that some version of constructivism is an epistemological necessity, this situation strikes me as seriously unfortunate for philosophy, and potentially dangerous for the practice of education.
Excerpt: My purpose in this paper is to show that the two major options on which the current debate on the interpretation of quantum mechanics relies, namely realism and empiricism (or instrumentalism), are far from being exhaustive. There is at least one more position available; a position which has been widely known in the history of philosophy during the past two centuries but which, in spite of some momentous exceptions, has only attracted little interest until recently in relation to the foundational problems of quantum mechanics. According to this third position, one may provide a theory with much stronger justifications than mere a posteriori empirical adequacy, without invoking the slightest degree of isomorphism between this theory and the elusive things out there. Such an intermediate attitude, which is metaphysically as agnostic as empiricism, but which shares with realism a commitment to considering the structure of theories as highly significant, has been named transcendentalism after Kant. Of course, I have no intention in this paper to rehearse the procedures and concepts developed by Kant himself; for these particular procedures and concepts were mostly adapted to the state of physics in his time, namely to Newtonian mechanics. I rather wish to formulate a generalized version of his method and show how this can yield a reasoning that one is entitled to call a transcendental deduction of quantum mechanics. This will be done in three steps. To begin with, I shall define carefully the word “transcendental,” and the procedure of “transcendental deduction,” in terms which will make clear how they can have a much broader field of application than Kant ever dared to imagine. Then, I shall show briefly that the main structural features of quantum mechanics can indeed be transcendentally deduced in this modern sense. Finally, I shall discuss the significance, and also the limits, of these results.