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Constructivism: a ‘next’ area of scientific development?

By Gerard de Zeeuw

Abstract

Radical Constructivism has been defined as an ‘unconventional approach to the\ud problem of knowledge and knowing’. Its unconventionality is summarised by\ud its claim that it is impossible to attribute unique meaning to experience-as no\ud mind-independent yardstick can be assumed to exist against which to identify\ud uniqueness, and hence to produce knowledge and knowing. In other words, it\ud is claimed that there is no ‘reality’ that is knowable to all individual knowers.\ud This claim appears indefensible by itself, as it does not explain why the\ud successes of traditional science appear as such. However, it is defensible in the\ud context of numerous failures to achieve unique attributions, or of the history of\ud science. Even so, what is missing are concrete methods and research designs.\ud This often leaves Radical Constructivism to be critical only, to concentrate on\ud justifying the impossibility of success without contributing itself.\ud Where this is the case it reduces scientists to individuals considered unable\ud to communicate with others on public (and unique) attributions-who may do so\ud only by borrowing methods from previous approaches. It is argued that a more\ud valuable contribution is possible if Radical Constructivism is seen as a response\ud to the challenge defined by frequent failures of traditional approaches. The\ud latter may be extended such that the extensions converge to Radical\ud Constructivism. Such extensions are based on reported observations, rather\ud than on experiences in general, and are to be attributed meanings-uniquely as\ud well as non-uniquely-by way of a collective. The latter should allow its ‘actors’\ud to restrict what maintains the collective to what is observable to others, as well\ud as use the collective to restrict their own observations. The study of collectives\ud thus allows for the study of restrictions or values, and hence for including\ud subjective or constructivist experiences beyond (reportable) observations

Topics: L220 Political Systems
Year: 2001
DOI identifier: 10.1023/A:1011361409819
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lincoln.ac.uk:604
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