Context: The idea for this article sprang from a desire to revive a conversation with the late Ernst von Glasersfeld on the heuristic function - and epistemological status - of forms of ideations that resist linguistic or empirical scrutiny. A close look into the uses of humor seemed a thread worth pursuing, albeit tenuous, to further explore some of the controversies surrounding the evocative power of the imaginal and other oblique forms of knowing characteristic of creative individuals. Problem: People generally respond to humor, i.e., they are inclined to smile at things they find funny. People like to crack jokes, make puns, and, starting at age two, human infants engage in pretense or fantasy play. Research on creativity, on the other hand, has mostly scorned the trickster within. Cognitivists in particular are quick to relegate wit, whimsy, and even playfulness to the ranks of artful or poetic frivolities. Method: We use the emblems of the craftsman, the trickster, and the poet to highlight some of the oblique ways of knowing by which creative thinkers bring forth new insights. Each epitomizes dimensions intrinsic to the art of “possibilizing.” Taken together, they help us better understand what it means to be playful beyond curious, rigorous beyond reasonable, and why this should matter, even to constructivists! Results: The musings characteristic of creative individuals (artists, scientists, children) speak to intelligent beings’ ability to use glitches intentionally or serendipitously as a means to open up possibilities; to hold on to a thought before spelling it out; and to resist treating words or images as conventional and arbitrary signs regardless of their evocative power. To fall into nominalism, Bachelard insisted, is a poet’s nightmare! Implications: Psyche is image, said Jung, and when we feel alive we rely on the imaginal to guide our reason. Note that image is not here to be understood as a picture in the head or a photographic snapshot of the world. The imaginal does not represent, it brings forth what we understand beyond words. It does not lock us into a single mode. Instead, it is a call to be mindful, in Ellen Langer’s sense: in the present, mentally alert, and on the outlook for our psyche’s own surprising wisdom (sagacity. Constructivist content: Debates on the heuristic function and epistemological status of oblique ways of knowing have long occupied constructivist scholars. I can only guess whether my uses of Jung’s imaginal or Bachelard’s anti-nominalism would have amused or exasperated Ernst! I do know that, on occasion, Ernst the connoisseur, bricoleur, and translator allowed the rationalist-within to include the poet’s power to evoke as a legitimate form of rationality. He himself has written about oblique knowing as legit!
Minimalism is a useful element in the constructivist arsenal against objectivism. By reducing actions and sensory feedback to a bare minimum, it becomes possible to obtain a complete description of the sensory-motor dynamics; and this in turn reveals that the object of perception does not pre-exist in itself, but is actually constituted during the process of observation. In this paper, this minimalist approach is deployed for the case of the recognition of “the Other.” It is shown that the perception of another intentional subject is based on properties that are intrinsic to the joint perceptual activity itself.
Constructivism is an approach to knowledge and learning that focuses on the active role of knowers. Sanchez and Loredo propose a classification of constructivist thinkers and address what they perceive to be internal problems of present-day constructivism. The remedy they propose is a return to the genetic constructivism of James Mark Baldwin, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. In this article we first raise the question of whether thinkers like Baldwin, Vygotsky, Maturana and Varela are adequately depicted as constructivists, and subsequently argue that constructivism is caught in an overly epistemic version of the subject/object dichotomy. We then introduce a genetic logic that is not based on the Hegelian dialectics of negation and mediation, but rather on the idea of the recursive consensual coordination of actions that give rise to stylized cultural practices. We argue that a genuinely genetic and generative psychology should be concerned with the multifarious and ever-changing nature of human “life” and not merely with the construction of knowledge about life. Relevance: The article deals with perceived “internal” problems of constructivist approaches and proposes a genetic and generative psychology that is centrally concerned with human life-as-lived and not merely with life-as-known. The article furthermore raises the question whether key thinkers like Vygotsky, Maturana and Varela and are adequately depicted as constructivists.
What is the main characteristic of constructive explanation? In other words, what is the nature of a construct and, consequently, what kind of relationship is there between constructs and behavior? Kelly stated that a “psychological response is initially and basically the outcome of a construing act." (1955) Somewhere else, he asserts it more clearly: “Since they construe them differently, they will anticipate them differently and will behave differently as a consequence of their anticipations.” (Kelly, 1963, p. 90) The relationship between constructs and “psychological response” could be considered in terms of either “causation” or “implication." Relevance: This paper deals with the relation between constructs and words in George Kelly’s personal construct psychology.
Purpose: Yerkish is an artificial language created in 1971 for the specific purpose of exploring the linguistic potential of nonhuman primates. The aim of this paper is to remind the research community of some important issues and concepts related to Yerkish that seem to have been forgotten or appear to be distorted. These are, particularly, its success, its promising aspects for future research and last but not least that it was Ernst von Glasersfeld who invented Yerkish: he coined the term “lexigrams,” created the first 120 of them and designed the grammar that regulated their combination. Design: The first part of this paper begins with a short outline of the context in which the Yerkish language originated: the original LANA project. It continues by presenting the language itself in more detail: first, its design, focusing on its “lexigrams” and its “correlational” grammar (the connective functions or “correlators” and the combinations of lexigrams, or “correlations”), and then its use by the chimpanzee Lana in formulating sentences. The second part gives a brief introduction to the foundation of Yerkish in Silvio Ceccato’s Operational Methodology, particularly his idea of the correlational structure of thought and concludes with the main insights that can be derived from the Yerkish experiment seen in the light of Operational Methodology. Findings: Lana’s success in language learning and the success of Yerkish during the past decades are probably due to the characteristics of Yerkish, particularly its foundation in operational methodology. The operation of correlation could be what constitutes thinking in a chimpanzee and an attentional system could be what delivers the mental content that correlation assembles into triads and networks. Research implications: Since no other assessment or explanation of Lana’s performances has considered these foundational issues (findings), a new research project or program should validate the above-mentioned hypotheses, particularly the correlational structure of chimpanzee thinking.
Context: Both Luhmann and Pask have developed detailed theories of social systems that include accounts of the role of learning. Problem: Rather than see the theories as competing, we believe it is worthwhile to seek ways in which a useful synthesis of the two approaches may be developed. Method: We compare the two approaches by identifying key similarities and differences. Results: We show it is possible to make useful mappings between key concepts in the two theories. Implications: We believe it is worthwhile for social scientists to be familiar with the two theories and that it is not a case of “either/or,” rather, it is a case of “both/and.”
George Kelly’s personal construct theory (PCT) has been accused of disregarding the role of emotion in human life. This charge originates from a misunderstanding of PCT’s basic assumptions. Kelly deals with experiences commonly called “emotional” in terms of dimensions of transition according to a genuinely constructivist epistemology. A review of the literature shows few elaborations of Kelly’s original formulation of constructs relating to transitions, and even some contributions critical of Kelly’s approach to emotions. This article rebuts the criticisms while making clear the epistemological and theoretical bases of Kelly’s treatment of transitional experiences, its peculiarities, and its role in the diagnostic/therapeutic process. Relevance: It deals with the notion of emotion from a genuinely constructivist epistemology such as that envisioned by Kelly’s personal construct theory.
From the introduction: We will argue that OCD patients testify to the general condition that exercising an increased conscious control over actions can in fact diminish the sense of agency rather than increase the experience of freedom. Referring to Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty we argue that conscious control and deliberation may be useful when the natural flow of action is disturbed: for instance when a necessary tool is broken or missing or when one learns a new skill. However, deliberation itself may also disturb the flow of unreflective action. Too much deliberation on and analysis of one’s unreflective, habitual actions may cause insecurity and even a breakdown of what was once ‘second nature’. We introduce three different ways in which too much deliberation can have negative effects on patients with OCD, rendering them even more unfree.
In this article, I sketch an enactive account of autism. For the enactive approach to cognition, embodiment, experience, and social interaction are fundamental to understanding mind and subjectivity. Enaction defines cognition as sense-making: the way cognitive agents meaningfully connect with their world, based on their needs and goals as self-organizing, self-maintaining, embodied agents. In the social realm, the interactive coordination of embodied sense-making activities with others lets us participate in each other’s sense-making (social understanding = participatory sense-making). The enactive approach provides new concepts to overcome the problems of traditional functionalist accounts of autism, which can only give a piecemeal and disintegrated view because they consider cognition, communication, and perception separately, do not take embodied into account, and are methodologically individualistic. Applying the concepts of enaction to autism, I show: (1) How embodiment and sense-making connect, i.e., how autistic particularities of moving, perceiving, and emoting relate to how people with autism make sense of their world. For instance, restricted interests or preference for detail will have certain sensorimotor correlates, as well as specific meaning for autistic people. (2) That reduced flexibility in interactional coordination correlates with difficulties in participatory sense-making. At the same time, seemingly irrelevant “autistic behaviors” can be quite attuned to the interactive context. I illustrate this complexity in the case of echolalia. An enactive account of autism starts from the embodiment, experience, and social interactions of autistic people. Enaction brings together the sensorimotor, cognitive, social, experiential, and affective aspects of autism in a coherent framework based on a complex non-linear multi-causality. This foundation allows to build new bridges between autistic people and their often non-autistic context, and to improve quality of life prospects.
Context: The use of first-person micro-phenomenological interviews and their productive interaction with third-person physiological data is a challenging and pressing issue in order to offer an effective and fruitful application of Varela’s neurophenomenological hypothesis. Problem: We aim at offering a generative method of analysis of first-person micro-phenomenological interviews using third-person physiological data. Our challenge is to describe this generative first-person analysis with the third-person physiological framework rather than put Varela’s hypothesis into practice in a generative way (as we did in another paper. Method: The present contribution is a first pioneering study as far as the exposition of such an interactive generative methodology is concerned. It is also a new issue insofar as it deals with a case study, surprise in depression, that has not been thoroughly dealt with so far, either in philosophy or in psychopathology. Results: We show that the analysis of first-person data is an intrinsic generative one, insofar as new refined categories and multifarious circular micro- and macro-processes were discovered in the very process of analyzing. They provide the initial structural generic third-person description of surprise inherited both from philosophical phenomenological a priori categories and from the experimental startle setting with a refined micro-segmentation of the dynamic of the experience. Implications: Our article could be of interest to neurophenomenologists looking for an effective application and to researchers in quest of a method of analysis of first-person data. The present limitations are due to the still preliminary data-results we need to complete. Constructivist content: The article is directly linked to Varela’s neurophenomenological program and aims at extending and reforming it with a cardio-phenomenological approach. Keywords: First-person micro-phenomenological interviews, surprise, generative analysis of first-person data, depression, cardio-phenomenology, generative categories.