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.
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.
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.
Purpose: At Silvio Ceccato’s suggestion, I invited Ernst von Glasersfeld to the “Séminaire Leibniz” which took place in Brussels, in February 1961. The paper he delivered then, Operational Semantics: Analysis of Meaning in Terms of Operations, was included in a Euratom internal report and is published here for the first time. Conclusion: These early works clearly show von Glasersfeld’s methodological and philosophical coherence as well as his faithfulness to Ceccato’s endeavour.
Context: Ernst von Glasersfeld collaborated with the Italian Operational School from the early 1960s when the project on the mechanization of higher human activities began. Problem: To analyze the cognitive processes in terms of a mnemonic-attentional dynamic and to study every thought content in light of the interdependence between observer and observed. Method: The project comprised two research areas: the linguistic translation, in which von Glasersfeld participated; and the semantic analysis of words, in which I participated. The common basis was the analysis of attentional dynamisms. This allowed the syntactic complexity of a sentence to be transferred to the correlational structure of the thought. The semantic analysis, especially of the observational words, was based on the attentional dynamisms used for the categorization, perception, and representation processes. Results: The analysis of visual processes led to the “constitutive structures.” These structures allowed me to establish an operative didactic based on the awareness of mental operations. Implications: The comparison between von Glasersfeld’s and my experiences revealed the equivalence of some analyses, which was due to the common presumption that the experiential units depend on the operation performed by the perceiver.