Thyssen O. (2004) Constructivism Revisited. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 11(3): 102–106.
Cybernetics & Human Knowing 11(3): 102–106.
Review of Bernhard Poerksen, The Certainty of Uncertainty: Dialogues Introducing Constructivism, translated from German by Alison Rosemary Koeck and Wolfram Karl Koeck, Imprint Academic, 2003, 192 pp., £14. 95/$29. 90. Bernhard Poerksen, a Junior Professor of journalism and communication theory at the University of Hamburg, has composed a very nice little book, consisting of interviews with some of the leading proponents of the constructivist school-which is probably not a school, but a convenient expression for some similarities between some writers, leaving apart their differences. His victims are Heinz von Foerster, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Humberto R. Maturana, Francisco J. Varela, Gerhard Roth, Siegfried J. Schmidt, Helm Stierlin, and Paul Watzlawick. He has taken the role of the television interviewer, using his favorite position face to face with a series of celebrities to pose all the questions which the viewer would like to pose himself, and pressing them on their logic and consistency. Poerksen is well acquainted with their works and well prepared, so that he can follow them to their pet areas, whether is in pragmatism, brain theory or therapy. Often his questions are what Heinz von Foerster calls positive, meaning that they are not based on a conflicting theory, but accept the point of view of the interviewee in order to clarify and elaborate. In this way, you can do propaganda for a theory even by criticizing it. Poerksen is a sympathetic interviewer, and as he is too young to be a competitor, he is getting an excellent treatment by his chosen theorists, according to the principle that an old cat will fight another old cat, but never a kitten.