This paper challenges proceduralized, rule-bound approaches to ethics and considers how social workers and teams can develop an attitude of compassionate concern and become more effective in dealing with ethical problems in their day-to-day practice. It introduces the work of Humberto Maturana, a widely respected theorist, whose work has received little attention in social work. It stresses the importance of emotions, particularly love, and considers the way in which ethical action is shaped by culture. It emphasizes the importance of engaging in reflection on professional practices and team, professional and organizational culture in order for social workers to improve their awareness of ethical dilemmas and promote ethical practice. For those teaching ethics, this paper suggests an alternative to the rational consideration of moral dilemmas and proposes approaches to training that can help social workers become more attuned and responsive to ethical conflicts. Relevance: The paper argues that Maturana’s biology of cognition provides an approach to ethics that takes into account the spontaneous nature of everyday work in which social workers undertake their ethical actions.
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.
Is von Glasersfeld’s constructivism actually radical? In this article, I respond to this question by analyzing von Glasersfeld’s main works. I argue that the essential theoretical move of radical constructivism – namely the assertion that reality is the construction of a human mind that only responds to the subjective perception of ‘what fits’ – results in a conservative vision of reality, knowledge, and education. To the extent that the friction with, and the challenge of, reality is eliminated, knowledge remains only a subjective affair and the world is reduced to a living tautology. In this way, von Glasersfeld constructs a theory of ethical disengagement in which personal responsibility is de facto denied. Thus, to the extent that education entails (and, in a sense, is) responsibility, change, and comparison, radical constructivism is a theory that is unsuitable for education. I also attempt to argue that the equivalence between radical constructivism and relativism and nihilism that many support is incorrect; relativism and nihilism, indeed, stem from a strong moral stance; thus, they may be educationally promising.
We explore Ernst von Glaserfeld‘s radical constructivism, its criticisms, and our own thoughts on what it promises for the reform of science and mathematics teaching. Our investigation reveals that many criticisms of radical constructivism are unwarranted; nevertheless, in its current cognitivist form radical constructivism may be insufficient to empower teachers to overcome objectivist cultural traditions. Teachers need to be empowered with rich understandings of philosophies of science and mathematics that endorse relativist epistemologies; for without such they are unlikely to be prepared to reconstruct their pedagogical practices. More importantly, however, is a need for a powerful social epistemology to serve as a referent for regenerating the culture of science education. We recommend blending radical constructivism with Habermas‘ ’theory of communicative action‘ to provide science teachers with a moral imperative for adopting a constructivist epistemology.
Open peer commentary on the article “Ethics: A Radical-constructivist Approach” by Andreas Quale. Upshot: While Quale’s radical constructivist intervention into ethics is novel and insightful, I advance four counterpoints that underscore the social as opposed to personal nature of ethics. I argue that (1) the social nature of being always integrates individual knowers into a moral order; (2) that cognitive and non-cognitive knowledge are mutually reinforcing rather than mutually exclusive; (3) that non-cognitive knowledge can be communicated just as cognitive knowledge can be; (4) and that ethical standards develop from and ossify as cognitive knowledge all the time. I argue that because ethics are rooted in language, symbols and culture, they are capable of being debated and agreed upon just as cognitive understandings are.
Context: Introduced in 1970, bioethics is now more and more commonly used since it applies to a variety of concepts belonging to traditional Western thought. Just like other dualisms that are typical of traditional Western thought (e.g., mind/body, subject/object, philosophy/science), bioethics is developing in areas that are mostly isolated from each other, with each argument restricted to its specific space, without affecting the general concept of bioethics. It is also characterized by the dualism ought/being. Purpose: I maintain that the definition of a relevant moral criterion should include the whole scope of thinking and the whole adopted perspective. Consequently, the current conception of bioethics should be changed. Such an alternative view objects to the fragmentation of knowledge. In this way, specifically in bioethics, our way of living and life itself acquire an ethical dimension. Maturana’s theory is expected to be a useful instrument for dealing with the difficulties that the concept of “bioethics” brings. Method: First, traditional bioethics and its way of dealing with some of its typical problems are discussed. Then, Maturana’s epistemology, including his emphasis on the observer, his biology of cognition located in “languaging,” and his ethics of love are described. Its features, such as trust and respect, will be highlighted, taking into account his modality of speaking as a biologist, exposed to the risk of “naturalistic fallacy” but dispelling it thanks to – I argue – the radical difference between Maturana’s theory and the traditional Western epistemology. Results: Maturana’s definition of ethics leads to the conclusion that the whole of living is ethics, the whole of life is ethics, and there is no separation existing between the “ought” and the “being.” Bioethics, and also ethics, dissolve themselves in the circularity of the living, which operates in the living-acting of each human being in the systemic texture they belong to and which they contribute to creating in an open-ended process of “languaging.”
Problem: The task of developing an ethics for the media according to constructivist principles is heavily loaded in two respects. On the one hand, critics of constructivism insist that this discourse generally legitimates forgery, arbitrariness, and laissez-faire – a hotchpotch of facts and fictions; on the other, constructivists protest that their very school of thought inspires the maximum measure of personal responsibility and ethical-moral sensibility. Method: Taking as its point of departure a media falsification scandal that received wide publicity in Germany, this article seeks to outline some of the fundamental questions of a constructivist media ethics. The close scrutiny of the scandal involving the interview fabricator, Tom Kummer, leads the author to identify three fundamental questions of a constructivist media ethics: (1) the question of autonomy; (2) the question of fact and fiction; (3) the question of responsibility. These questions are discussed at length, and with particular attention to the current debates regarding the ethics of media and communication studies. Findings: The author is able to show that constructivist premises and postulates will certainly help to create ethical-moral sensibility, but cannot supply, as immediate derivatives of constructivist epistemology, programmes for action or concrete regulations of behaviour that can be implemented step by step. For an ethics of the media, constructivism can thus primarily provide meta-reflections and meta-rules.
Constructivism is at the heart of a pedagogical philosophy going back to Vico, whose view of the interrelationship of the arts and sciences sought to reconstitute the classical paideia. The Vichian idea that human beings can only know the truth of what they themselves have made has theoretical and practical consequences for Vico’s pedagogy and view of the university. Vico’s ideas on education are extended in the modern period by such thinkers as Cassirer, Piaget and Bateson. At the basis of Cassirer’s pedagogical philosophy is his theory of the symbol, the symbol being a universal and transcendent modality in culture. The result of this unifying theory is that symbolism, which is pervasive across the disciplines, provides a moral and ethical means for integrating communication about teaching. Cassirer’s thought is compatible with Piaget’s, which emphasizes the pluralism of experience and the role of dynamic learning in the construction of meaningful order. Piaget’s constructivism assumes that an operational bridge exists to link together the hard sciences, the human sciences, and the historical disciplines. This systems view of epistemological matters is similar in many respects to the one advanced by Gregory Bateson, which is explored in the paper’s final section.
Context: A number of objections that are frequently raised in the literature against radical constructivism, including: the charge of solipsism, allegations of self-refutation, social and moral reservations, and the accusation that RC cannot explain the success of science. Problem: These four objections are sought to be refuted. Results: 1. Solipsism is only troublesome against the background of a realist ontological perspective. 2. The truth-value of any proposition is only defined relative to some ontological context, thus self-refutation, as constituting a logical problem, does not arise. 3. Any ethical argumentation derives from one’s own personal views on ethical matters: their construction being a personal responsibility such that no one else can tell a person how to construct the “right ethics.” 4. In the relativist ontology of radical constructivism, a scientific theory is regarded as a model imposed on natural phenomena; its success is due to the capabilities of its constructor/scientists. Implications: It is found that the objections are based on an (overt or tacit) adoption of the antithetical viewpoint of scientific realism. In other words, radical constructivism is being criticised for not promoting a realist ontology.
This article is the prototype of a virus that recodes economy biased decision programs of capitalist organisations. To bypass the notorious firewalls of capitalism we developed a program that works as anti-capitalist malware program without being one. This is achieved by changing the programming language from moral code to functional differentiation. If executed, our program: a) decodes growth as both economic and non-economic form; b) installs a multifunctional subroutine that enables organisations to modulate the frequencies with which they code decisions in both economic and non-economic media. The more decisions coded in non-economic media, the less important the economy, and the more alternatives to anti-/capitalist visions of de-/growth emerge. Relevance: This paper draws on social systems theory (Niklas Luhmann) and form theory (George Spencer Brown). This article is the prototype of a virus that recodes economy biased decision programs of capitalist organisations. To bypass the notorious firewalls of capitalism we developed a program that works as anti-capitalist malware program without being one. This is achieved by changing the programming language from moral code to functional differentiation. If executed, our program: a) decodes growth as both economic and non-economic form; b) installs a multifunctional subroutine that enables organisations to modulate the frequencies with which they code decisions in both economic and non-economic media. The more decisions coded in non-economic media, the less important the economy, and the more alternatives to anti-/capitalist visions of de-/growth emerge.