Problem: The question of the moral and social effects of non-dualism has not yet been clarified to the necessary extent. The relation of truth claims, power and violence has been simplified; critical questions of non-dualist practises have not yet been addressed. Approach: By discussing relevant philosophy and political theory, this paper draws the attention of non-realists towards the issues of power, conflict and discourse rules and asks to rethink the issue of the pragmatic justification of non-realist epistemology. Findings: (1) Constructivists, as well as the non-dualist Josef Mitterer, are critical of the discursive effects of truth claims. Yet, neither constructivism nor non-dualism solve the power issues that are ascribed to realism by constructivists and dualism by Mitterer. Even if participants abstained from truth claims in discourses, many of the power issues would still be prevalent. (2) The question arises of whether a practical difference between non-dualism and dualism exists. (3) There is a tendency in constructivist and non-dualist theory to regard any form of influence on others as illegitimate. This tendency is not sound. Instead, the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate power is necessary in non-dualism as well. Implications: Constructivist and non-dualist theory need to scrutinise statements about the moral implications of the respective theories and to emphasise power issues not solely by extrapolating from epistemology, but by acknowledging the social dynamics of discourses and conflicts. Non-dualist social scientists could contribute to the discussion through empirical analyses of the effects of the use and the debunking of truth claims.
Purpose: This contribution to the Festschrift honoring Ernst von Glasersfeld gives some insight into the perpetual problem of understanding radical constructivism (RC). Parallels with the Middle Way school of Buddhism appear to shed light on this challenge. Conclusion: The hegemony realism has over the thinking of even the most highly educated in our civilization plays a major role in their failure to understand RC. Those still subject to realism in their thinking interpret statements by those in RC in ways incompatible with RC. Until realists disequilibrate over mismatches between realist expectations and experiences, no alternative way of thinking is accessible to them and misinterpretations of RC will continue. Practical implications: While we cannot change someone else’s understanding, in our interactions with them we can focus on creating situations in which those who do not understand us might disequilibrate. If we are successful, they are likely to begin to escape the domination of realism in their thinking. Original value: This insight may enable eventual success in our assisting others to understand RC.
The Kalahari Bushmen shamans of southern Africa practice an implicit cybernetic epistemology based on the idea of thuru, referring to the never ending shape-shifting aspect of nature. It is argued that their way of thinking and being in relationship demonstrates how difficult it is to express any understanding of circularity and systemic process through narrative means. Challenging the hegemony of literacy and narrative, Bushman epistemology points toward different interactional forms of evoking sacred knowing. Social science and psychotherapy disciplines, most notably the.eld of family therapy, though historically influenced by cybernetic thinking, too easily abandon Gregory Bateson’s call for the importance of circular and ecosystemic understanding. With an imaginary dialogue between Bateson and a Bushman shaman, scholars and therapists are encouraged to re-instate dynamic circularity as the heart of human encounter.
Excerpt: Like the economy and the royal family, autopoiesis has been receiving some bad publicity recently in Britain. What are we to make of a theory which apparently sees the legal system as firmly closed to all external influences and which refuses even to accept the obvious fact that ‘people make decisions’? Surely our sympathies must lie with the critic who dismisses this unpronounceable theory as a lawyers’ attempt ‘to aggrandize the legal discourse by writing of law in half-apologetic and half-admiring tones? Or is what we have here not so much a social theory but a recognition of law’s ‘need to defend and perpetuate its traditional hegemony by defining itself as closed – a new and virulent form of legal positivism perhaps?
This article offers a critique of constructivism in science education which is an attempt to define and identify not only the weaknesses, but the successes of constructivism. Its success has been to generate a significant body of empirical data which has contributed to our knowledge and understanding of difficulties in the learning of science. That knowledge has also enabled the development of some innovative methodology for the pedagogy of science and a greater awareness of the learner. However, as a theoretical referent, it suffers from a flawed instrumental epistemology which is a misrepresentation of the views and practice of science and scientists. Further it has confused the manner in which new knowledge is made with the manner in which old knowledge is learned, assuming that the two are one and the same thing. The result of these failings is that it offers no guidance on adjudication between theories, the organization and sequencing of content within the science curriculum and rejects any value for didacticism. The failure of constructivism to recognize its own limitations has lead to it enjoying a hegemony in the research community which is undeserved. Instead, it is proposed that an alternative of modest realism offers, not only a better representation of the practice of science, but additionally some value in determining issues of pedagogy.