Constructivism rejects the metaphysical position that “truth,” and thus knowledge in science, can represent an “objective” reality, independent of the knower. It modifies the role of knowledge from “true” representation to functional viability. In this interview, Ernst von Glasersfeld, the leading proponent of Radical Constructivism underlines the inaccessibility of reality, and proposes his view that the function of cognition is adaptive, in the biological sense: the adaptation is the result of the elimination of all that is not adapted. There is no rational way of knowing anything outside the domain of our experience and we construct our world of experiences. In addition to these philosophical claims, the interviewee provides some personal insights; he also gives some suggestions about better teaching and problem solving. These are the aspects of constructivism that have had a major impact on instruction and have modified the manner many of us teach. The process of teaching as linguistic communication, he says, needs to change in a way to involve actively the students in the construction of their knowledge. Because knowledge is not a transferable commodity, learning is mainly identified with the activity of the construction of personal meaning. This interview also provides glimpses on von Glasersfeld’s life.
Vico’s constructivist epistemology is compared with that of Piaget with a view to clarifying Piaget’s theory of knowledge. Piaget’s interpreters often show a lack of concern with the metaphysical foundations of cognitive structures. Vico’s emphasis on the limitations of human knowledge, therefore, is helpful in avoiding interpretive inconsistency. In Vico’s and in Piaget’s radical constructivism, knowledge is non-ontological in the sense that no claims may be made about the relation between cognitive structures and reality. Structural adequacy is derived from the consistency of the self-referencing cognitive system.