Purpose: Appreciating the relationship between Sylvio Ceccato and Ernst von Glasersfeld, both as people and in their work. Approach: historical and personal accounts, archeological approach to written evidence. Findings: Ceccato’s work is introduced to an English speaking audience, and the roots of Glasersfeld’s work in Ceccato’s is explored. Flaws in Ceccato’s approach are indicated, together with how Glasersfeld’s work overcomes these, specially in language and automatic translation, and what became Radical Constructivism. Conclusion: Glasersfeld willingly acknowledges Ceccato, who he still refers to as the Master. But Ceccato’s work is little known, specially in the English speaking world. The introduction, critique and delineation of extension and resolution of Ceccato’s ideas in Glasersfeld’s work is the intended value of the paper.
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!
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. Excerpt: The question I am most interested in is the question raised by von Glasersfeld as to whether Luhmann’s talk of “eigen-values” of society actually is, or is not, just a loose metaphor as von Glaserfeld maintains by emphasizing that in the society of human beings “the recursion of operations of observation or description is not governed by fixed rules, unlike the recursion of functions that produce mathematical eigenwerte” (§44, Fn. 4). Indeed, how are we to conceive of the possible eigen-values of society? And who are we to possibly be able to conceive of possible eigen-values?
In this paper, the author has discussed the epistemological and the pedagogical dilemma he faced in the past and that he is still facing within radical and social constructivist paradigms. He built up an understanding of radical constructivism from the works of Ernst von Glasersfeld and social constructivism from the works of Paul Ernest. He introduced the notion of constructivism including both radical constructivism and social constructivism in brief. Then he reconceptualized these forms of constructivism in terms of epistemological and pedagogical motivation leading to a dilemma. He emphasized how the dilemma within these paradigms might impact one’s actions and how resolving this dilemma leads to eclecticism. He summarized that one paradigm world does not function well in the context of teaching and learning of mathematics (and science). Finally, he concluded the dilemma issue with epistemological and pedagogical eclecticism.
Purpose: Ernst von Glasersfeld has actively contributed to the development of the ideas of the Scuola Operativa Italiana (SOI) from 1947. The paper outlines the theoretical status of the SOI research around 1965, which also marks the conclusion of an important phase of this development. The aim is to contribute to better understanding of the continuity of Glasersfeld’s research.
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.
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. First paragraph: Issues such as social interaction and communication play an essential role in my recent approach to knowledge management called “Knowledge Cooperation”, conceived as “the participative cultivation of knowledge in a voluntary, informal social group”. Radical Constructivism (RC) provides a substantial support to the foundations of this approach, which aims at equilibrating intellectual and social capital. So I warmly welcome Ernst von Glasersfeld’s clarification of the constructivist position in regard to “society.”
Context: Meeting Ernst von Glasersfeld for the first time in 1985, when about 70% of his work had still to be conceived, written and published, was a great stroke of fortune for me; it was based on my collaboration with Silvio Ceccato that had started in 1981 and it profoundly influenced my contributions to radical constructivism in the following 25 years of our friendship. Problem: Presenting the details of how it all began can shed a light on the development of constructivist ideas. Method: Anecdotes from 1979 to 1985 about how I came to meet Silvio Ceccato in Milan in 1981 and the influence of these events on preparing the 1985 meeting with Ernst von Glasersfeld, also in Milan. Results: The article describes the timeline of 50 years of publications by von Glasersfeld, an anecdote about a connection between Ceccato and the University of Zurich in the 60s, the attempt to present Ceccato’s ideas as compatible and complementary with the neuroscience discourse in 1985, von Glasersfeld’s opinion about this attempt, and this attempt’s potential influence on the emergence of a new concept in neuroscience, “EEG microstates.” Implications: The events and facts reported in the article help us to understand some aspects of an early phase in the development of radical constructivism, especially the relationship between Ceccato, von Glasersfeld and other members of the Italian Operational School such as Bruna Zonta, Felice Accame, and the author himself.
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. Excerpt: In the face of modern neuroscience we should give up on constructivism, even more so on radical constructivism, and stick to the physical and psychological reality given in science and daily life, even if it is the brain’s illusion from associative networks. The illusion of constructivism may hurt!
Context: Radical Constructivism is an issue that deeply divides the cognitive science community: most researchers reject it, but an increasing number do not. Problem: Constructivists stress that our knowledge starts from experience. Some (“ontic” constructivists) deny the existence of a mind-independent world, while others (“radical” constructivists) claim merely that, if such a world exists, we can know nothing about it. Both positions conflict with scientific realism. It is not clear that the conflict can be resolved. Method: This paper uses philosophical argument to ask whether constructivism can be rationally preferred over realism in science. Results: Ontic constructivism cannot be disproved by any knock-down argument. Nevertheless, it is irrational to accept it, because it ignores the strategy of “inference to the best explanation”: realism is the best explanation of the successes of science. Radical constructivism, too, fails to explain these successes. Some radical constructivists have tried to offer theories more sympathetic to realism. For instance, Ernst von Glasersfeld sees science as a coherent ordering of experience, and appeals to Piagetian psychology as support. There are close similarities. But Piaget was also caught in a constructivist anti-realism, despite his attempt to evade it. Implications: The constructivist’s claim that scientific concepts and theories are generated by human minds is correct. But this important insight should not be used to deny realism, which is the best explanation of the many undeniable successes of science and engineering.