Context: Humberto Maturana has generated a coherent and extensive explicatory matrix that encompasses his research in neurophysiology, cognition, language, emotion, and love. Purpose: Can we formulate a map of Maturana’s work in a manner that is consistent with the systemic matrix it represents and that serves as an aid for understanding Maturana’s philosophy without reifying its representation? Method: Our arguments are based on experience gained from teaching and presentations. Results: We present a map that that represents Maturana’s main contributions as clusters of notions clustered according to how we see them to be related to each other as a projection of a matrix of ideas onto a two-dimensional space. We claim that there are many paths through these clusters of ideas. Though ideas relevant to individuals are obtained from various partial perspectives, a deep understanding of any element is dependent on an understanding of the whole matrix. Furthermore, we summarize the contributions to this special issue on Maturana.
A book that proposes to outline a systematic approach to psychotherapy cannot omit describing the psychological theory such an approach belongs to. George A. Kelly had the same opinion, in that he put an analysis of the differences between the philosophical assumptions of “accumulative fragmentalism” and “constructive alternativism” before the exposition of his theory of personality and his psychotherapeutic proposal. Choosing the title for the book “Constructivist Psychotherapy: A Narrative Hermeneutic Approach” represents the attempt to mark a significant differentiation from the more orthodox expositions of Kelly’s personal construct psychotherapy on which we heavily base our approach, and at the same time to specify as much as possible our metatheoretical and theoretical references. Relevance: The book has an extensive exposition of the different constructivist views on knowledge with their links with genetic epistemology, autopoietic theory, phenomenology, hermeneutics, social constructionism, radical constructivism.
Abstract: Under the aspect of constructivism evolution generates the varying boundary conditions to which evolution itself then is subject. This applies for organic as well as for cognitive evolution. The currently valid conditions for cognitive evolution we describe as laws of nature brought about by an independent reality. Within the constructivist evolutionary epistemology CEE), however. the regularities we perceive and which we condense to the laws of nature are seen as the invariants of phylogenetically formed cognitive operators. The extension of the inborn operators by means of experimental operators (i.e. by measurement facilities) will lead to the consolidation of the classical world picture if both _are _commutable. Otherwise there will be invariants which cannot be described in classical terms and, which therefore, will require non-classical theories. Likewise mathematical and logical structures can be seen as invariants of cognitive operators. It is shown that the propositions of Gödel would deal with what can be considered as the analogy of non-classical phenomena in physics. To renounce reality as an element of physical metatheory requires some rearrangements of those notions which explicitly refer to reality such as acting and perceiving, learning and adapting, and, partially, language. It turns out that the distinction between acting and perceiving is not unambiguous as it is in the “theory of reality.” Similarly we can see learning as a process of adaptation to the given environment as well as an independent development into something for which an appropriate environment or application still has to be found. It will be shown that both “adaptive” and “initiative” evolution occur in organic as well as in cultural evolution. Within CEE, language is seen as a “generative” theory rather than as a tool to portray independently existing facts. Its competence is based on the fact that it is generated by mechanisms closely related to those generating our physical perceptions. A similar genetically grounded relationship between mental operators enables mathematics to compress empirical data into a generating theory, and then, based on this theory, to extrapolate them (problem of induction). The linguistic equivalent of algorithmic data compression and the subsequent extrapolation is the recognition of a text’s meaning, and the subsequent drawing of conclusions from it, or semantic extrapolation as proposed to say. Accordingly, communication can be defined. Some parallels are discussed between verbal, cultural and genetic communication.
The constructivist evolutionary epistemology (CEE) has taken up the demand of modern physics that theoretical terms have to be operationalizable (i.e. the description of nature should comprise only quantities, variables or notions which are defined by means of measurement facilities or other physical processes) and extended it by the idea that operationalisation is something general which must be the constituting basis also for observational terms. This is realised by considering the regularities we perceive and which we condense to the laws of nature as the invariants of phylogenetically formed mental cognitive operators. Experimental operators (i.e. measurement facilities) can be seen as extensions of these inborn operators. This will lead to the consolidation of the classical world picture if the mental and the experimental operators involved are commutable. Otherwise there will be invariants which cannot be described in classical terms and, therefore, will require non-classical approaches such as the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics enunciated by Heisenberg. As the development of experimental facilities will never be completed and, therefore, will continue to bring about novel invariants, evolution of science cannot converge towards what many physicists envisage as the “theory of everything” describing definitively the structure of reality (Feynman, 1965; Hawking, 1979). So, both organic and scientific evolution are entirely open and non-deterministic. When seeing also mathematical objects and structures as invariants of mental operators we must expect similar phenomena. Indeed: Just as experimental operators, though constructed entirely according to the rules of classical physics, may lead to results which cannot be described in classical terms, there are also mathematical calculuses which, though based entirely on well tested axioms, can lead to statements which cannot be proven within the context of these axioms as shown by Gödel.
Most of what nowadays is called evolutionary epistemology tries to explain the phylogenetic acquisition of inborn ‘knowledge’ and the evolution of the mental instruments concerned – mostly in terms of adaptation to external conditions. These conditions, however, cannot be described but in terms of what is provided by the mental instruments which are said to be brought about just by these conditions themselves. So they cannot be defined in an objective and non-circular way. This problem is approached here by what is called the
Excerpt: Concluding that cognitive structures and instruments are unconditional or arbitrary because they are not, and cannot be derived from external boundary conditions, is mistaken, since internal boundary conditions must also be taken into account. Firstly, there are the developmental constraints of cognitive evolution itself; cognitive as well as organic evolution is subject to what has been evolved before. Cognitive evolution in our time, therefore, would find rather limited degrees of freedom. Further, cognitive instruments exert themselves in continuous co-evolution with organic instruments for meeting organically defined needs and requirements. This means that cognitive systems cannot be explained by reference to what is called their object, but only through their organic genesis. This justifies efforts made to look for a closer relationship between cognitive and organic evolution.
This paper is about a two year project to promote equality of opportunity for boys and girls in schools. It is made up of three interwoven elements: first, a description of the project; second, a constructivist analysis of gender perceptions in children; and third, an account of the ways in which ideas on how to do a project like this developed as we did it. The description of the project includes its origins, methods, and results. The acquisition of gender stereotypes is analysed from a constructivist viewpoint and the educational implications are considered. The aim of the project was to promote more adequate understandings of the ways in which men and women, girls and boys feel and act. The principal target was the children’s understandings, but the teacher’s own understandings were also of interest. Ideas about how to do a project like this developed during its course. Initially a set of teaching strategies was prescribed; in the second year the focus was more on the child and his or her identity while ensuring there was adequate time to discuss teaching strategies with the teachers. By the end of the project the ideas on tactics for teachers were refined during the project and materials in the form of stories and ideas for lessons were edited. A final comment I would have is that teachers who wish to be fully involved in this work will need to form self-organizing groups to support each other with plans, materials, and encouragement.
How might teachers think about moving to challenge prejudice against persons with handicap? Drawing on Piaget’s and Bateson’s constructivist theories, prejudices are examined in terms of the processes by which they are formed within the individual, the role they play in identity, and the reasons they may be resistant to change. Consideration is then given to strategies which may be useful in inviting reconsideration of cognitive items of this type. Looking at the learner’s experience these include certain types of questioning strategies and counterexamples. Looking at the teacher’s experience a number of techniques are recommended including, neutrality, circular questioning, and parenthesising. Relevance: This is a constructivist approach proposing a method of attitude change in the context of special education. Clearly though, it has implications for attitude change generally.
A research programme was initiated to promote positive attitudes towards children with special needs. Fifteen students each taught 4 lessons to children from second to sixth class in Primary Schools. Their approach was constructivist involving discussion and activities designed to provide opportunities for the children to reconsider their ideas. A post-test was given to 465 experimental and 326 control children. Experimental children were different from controls in being more prosocial in a number of ways. Children who knew somebody with a mental handicap were affected by the programme differently in comparison with inexperienced children, largely by becoming more aware of the difficulties of children with special needs. There were a number of age and gender differences in the ways children think about mental handicap. Relevance: This paper shows how constructivist classroom techniques can be used to facilitate children’s thinking about children with a disability
Our task is to work together to create learning contexts to promote awareness and mutual understanding amongst young European citizens. In this paper (1) I introduce the constructivist approach, (2) present results of three studies of baseline attitudes of Irish primary children towards children from (a) France, (b) Greece and (c) from the Third World, and (3) provide data of effects of classroom discussions on their views. I believe that this work is useful in understanding the problems associated with our task. The approach I take is explicitly constructivist and has grown out of the work of John Dewey, George Kelly, and Jean Piaget. Relevance: A constructivist approach to changing attitudes towards children from other countries.