Publication 3635

Peschl M. F. (2001) Constructivism, cognition, and science: An investigation of its links and possible shortcomings. Special Issue “The Impact of Radical Constructivism on Science” edited by Alexander Riegler. Foundations of Science 6(1–3): 125–161. Fulltext at
This paper addresses the questions concerning the relationship between scientific and cognitive processes. The fact that both, science and cognition, aim at acquiring some kind of knowledge or representation about the “world” is the key for establishing a link between these two domains. It turns out that the constructivist framework represents an adequate epistemological foundation for this undertaking, as its focus of interest is on the (constructive) relationship between the world and its representation. More specifically, it will be shown how cognitive processes and their primary concern to construct a representation of the environment and to generate functionally fitting behavior can act as the basis for embedding the activities and dynamics of the process of science in them by making use of constructivist concepts, such as functional fitness, structure determinedness, etc. Cognitive science and artificial life provide the conceptual framework of representational spaces and their interaction between each other and with the environment enabling us to establish this link between cognitive processes and the development/dynamics of scientific theories. The concepts of activation, synaptic weight, and genetic (representational) spaces are powerful tools which can be used as “explanatory vehicles” for a cognitive foundation of science, more specifically for the “context of discovery” (i.e., the development, construction, and dynamics of scientific theories and paradigms). Representational spaces do not only offer us a better understanding of embedding science in cognition, but also show, how the constructivist framework, both, can act as an adequate epistemological foundation for these processes and can be instantiated by these representational concepts from cognitive science. The final part of this paper addresses some more fundamental questions concerning the positivistic and constructivist understanding of science and human cognition. Among other things it is asked, whether a purely functionalist and quantitative view of the world aiming almost exclusively at its prediction and control is really satisfying for our intellect (having the goal of achieving a profound understanding of reality).

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