Excerpt: In 1995, the Leo Apostel Centre in Brussels, Belgium, organised an international conference called “Einstein meets Magritte”. Nobel prize winner Ilya Prigogine held the opening lecture at the conference, and Heinz von Foerster’s lecture was scheduled last… Heinz von Foerster was enchanted by the conference theme and – in the spirit of surrealist Belgian painter René Magritte – had chosen an appropriate title for his talk: “Ceci n’est pas Albert Einstein”. … [H]e was delighted to grant the organisers the following interview, in which he tells us about an even longer journey – that of his remarkable life and scientific career.
Context: The problems that are most in need of interdisciplinary collaboration are “wicked problems,” such as food crises, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development, with many relevant aspects, disagreement on what the problem is, and contradicting solutions. Such complex problems both require and challenge interdisciplinarity. Problem: The conventional methods of interdisciplinary research fall short in the case of wicked problems because they remain first-order science. Our aim is to present workable methods and research designs for doing second-order science in domains where there are many different scientific knowledges on any complex problem. Method: We synthesize and elaborate a framework for second-order science in interdisciplinary research based on a number of earlier publications, experiences from large interdisciplinary research projects, and a perspectivist theory of science. Results: The second-order polyocular framework for interdisciplinary research is characterized by five principles. Second-order science of interdisciplinary research must: 1. draw on the observations of first-order perspectives, 2. address a shared dynamical object, 3. establish a shared problem, 4. rely on first-order perspectives to see themselves as perspectives, and 5. be based on other rules than first-order research. Implications: The perspectivist insights of second-order science provide a new way of understanding interdisciplinary research that leads to new polyocular methods and research designs. It also points to more reflexive ways of dealing with scientific expertise in democratic processes. The main challenge is that this is a paradigmatic shift, which demands that the involved disciplines, at least to some degree, subscribe to a perspectivist view. Constructivist content: Our perspectivist approach to science is based on the second-order cybernetics and systems theories of von Foerster, Maruyama, Maturana & Varela, and Luhmann, coupled with embodied theories of cognition and semiotics as a general theory of meaning from von Uexküll and Peirce.
Neurophenomenological (NP) methods integrate objective and subjective data in ways that retain the statistical power of established disciplines (like cognitive science) while embracing the value of first-person reports of experience. The present paper positions neurophenomenology as an approach that pulls from traditions of cognitive science but includes techniques that are challenging for cognitive science in some ways. A baseline study is reviewed for “lessons learned,” that is, the potential methodological improvements that will support advancements in understanding consciousness and cognition using neurophenomenology. These improvements, we suggest, include (1) addressing issues of interdisciplinarity by purposefully and systematically creating and maintaining shared mental models among research team members; (2) making sure that NP experiments include high standards of experimental design and execution to achieve variable control, reliability, generalizability, and replication of results; and (3) conceiving of phenomenological interview techniques as placing the impetus on the interviewer in interaction with the experimental subject.
Context: Distributed language and interactivity are central members of a set of concepts that are rapidly developing into rigorous, exciting additions to 4E cognitive science. Because they share certain assumptions and methodological commitments with enactivism, the two have sometimes been confused; additionally, while enactivism is a well-developed paradigm, interactivity has relied more on methodological development and on a set of focal examples. Problem: The goal of this article is to clarify the core conceptual commitments of both interactivity-based and enactive approaches to cognitive science by contrasting the two and highlighting their differences in assumptions, focus, and explanatory strategies. Method: We begin with the shared commitments of interactivity and enactivism - e.g., antirepresentationalism, naturalism, interdisciplinarity, the importance of biology, etc. We then give an overview of several important varieties of enactivism, including sensorimotor and anti-representationalist enactivism, and then walk through the history of the “core” varieties, taking care to contrast Maturana’s approach with that of Varela and the current researchers following in Varela’s footsteps. We then describe the differences between this latter group and interactivity-based approaches to cognitive science. Results: We argue that enactivism’s core concepts are explanatorily inadequate in two ways. First, they mis-portray the organization of many living systems, which are not operationally closed. Second, they fail to realize that most epistemic activity (i.e., “sense-making”) depends on engagement with non-local resources. Both problems can be dealt with by adopting an interactivity-based perspective, in which agency and cognition are fundamentally distributed and involve integration of non-local resources into the local coupling of organism and environment. Implications: The article’s primary goal is theoretical clarification and exposition; its primary implication is that enactive concepts need to be modified or extended in some way in order to explain fully many aspects of cognition and directed biological activity. Or, read another way, the article’s primary implication is that interactivity already provides a rich set of concepts for doing just that, which, while closely allied with enactivism in several ways, are not enactivist concepts. Constructivist content: The article consists entirely of a comparison between two constructivist fields of theory. Key Words: Interactivity, enactivism, distributed language, radical embodied cognitive science, ecological psychology, autonomy.
Open peer commentary on the article “Varela’s Radical Proposal: How to Embody and Open Up Cognitive Science” by Kristian Moltke Martiny. Upshot: I welcome the perspective presented in Martiny’s target article. In this commentary I push for clarity on three matters: (a) The concept of embodiment; (b) The status of the type of knowledge generated in the phenomenological interview; and (c) The notion of openness in relation to interdisciplinarity and the disciplinary identity of the cognitive sciences.
Problem: While the elaboration and framing of constructivist epistemologies in keeping with the “currents of contemporary scientific epistemology” can be attributed to Jean Piaget, their development under the banner of radical constructivist epistemology is a result of the epistemological work of Ernst von Glasersfeld. The development of this epistemological paradigm, pursued over the last 40 years with the objective of “linking knowledge to action and situating the subject and the object on the same, multiple levels,” warrants further exploration and contextualization within the framework of current scientific activity. Results: In what amounts to a historical coincidence, von Glasersfeld discovered the work of Piaget in 1973, the same year that the author of this article first began to read Piaget’s Epistemological Studies; this coincidence provides a starting point for describing the epistemological itinerary that led the author from a reading of Piaget in 1973 to a somewhat tardy reading of von Glasersfeld in 1988 (the same year of the translation of his “Introduction to Radical Constructivism” into French). He then explicates the subsequent developments of this paradigmatic conjunction over the last 30 years, interpreting them in the contexts of contemporary developments of scientific and operational interdisciplinarity as well as in terms of historical roots extending from Leonardo da Vinci to Paul Valéry. Implications: The paradigm of constructivist epistemologies (working from a phenomenologically-based gnoseological hypothesis) can be presented and supported with arguments that are at least as solid and legitimate as those invoked in favor of alternative paradigms of realist and post-positivist epistemologies (working from an ontologically-based gnoseological hypothesis).
Purpose: This is an attempt to define constructivism in a pluralistic way. It categorizes constructivist work within a three-dimensional space rather than along one dimension only. Practical implications: The interdisciplinary definition makes it possible to perceive the rather heterogeneous constructivist community as a coherent and largely consistent scientific effort to provide answers to demanding complex problems. Furthermore it gives authors of Constructivist Foundation the opportunity to locate their own position within the community. Conclusion: I offer a catalogue of ten points that outline the constructivist program. Each of these aspects invites authors to extensively reflect on it and to approach it from their disciplinary background to do work in any of the types of investigations the journal covers.
Interdisciplinary inquiry presupposes an open worldview to enable the researcher to transcend the confinements of a specific discipline in order to become aware of aspects that are necessary to satisfyingly solve a problem. Radical constructivism offers a way of engineering such interdisciplinarity that goes beyond mere multi or pluridisciplinary approaches. In this paper I describe epistemological and methodological aspects of interdisciplinarity, discuss typical problems it faces, and carve out its relationship with knowledge and communication from a constructivist perspective. Five implications for interdisciplinary practice and science education conclude the paper.
Purpose: – The purpose of this theoretical research paper in philosophy and theory of science is to argue for the necessity of developing transdisciplinary frameworks in order to be able to interact in an interdisciplinary fashion. Design/methodology/approach: – Reflects on interdisciplinarity and the prerequisites of doing scientific and scholarly research and develops a non‐reductionistic and transdisciplinary view on human knowing in the light of the growing development of interdisciplinary practices and sciences. Findings: – It is argued that there is at present an incompatibility between scientific and phenomenological approaches to cognition and communication. A broader framework is, therefore, needed to encompass both, if one wants to make coherent theories and models in this subject area. The work, therefore, focuses on the relation between information science and semiotics and creates a framework for the analysis of both meaning and truth. Research limitations/implications: – The framework is very abstract here in the description. It has to be developed in detail and its effect demonstrated in practical examples. Practical implications: – They have to be judged both on how well their descriptions fit better than others with what actually goes on in the sciences and humanities and on their usefulness to function as a common map coordinating interdisciplinary work. Originality/value: – A trans‐scientific framework, which is suggested as a basis for the sciences and humanities to understand themselves in relation to other kinds of knowledge such as philosophy, art, religion, political ideology, etc. New also are the visual structural models.
Purpose: The paper provides an overview of Ernst von Glasersfeld’s life and theory, concentrating on subjects such as the acquisition of knowledge, language and communication, ethical questions, and aspects of teaching and learning. Conclusion: Ernst von Glasersfeld interests cover a wide range of disciplines. Therefore his work is genuinely rooted in interdisciplinarity.