Foundations of Science

, Volume 6, Issue 1–3, pp 1–30 | Cite as

Towards a Radical Constructivist Understanding of Science

  • Alexander Riegler


Constructivism is the idea thatwe construct our own world rather than it beingdetermined by an outside reality. Its mostconsistent form, Radical Constructivism (RC),claims that we cannot transcend ourexperiences. Thus it doesn't make sense to saythat our constructions gradually approach thestructure of an external reality. The mind isnecessarily an epistemological solipsist, incontrast to being an ontological solipsist whomaintains that this is all there is, namely asingle mind within which the only world exists.RC recognizes the impossibility of the claimthat the world does not exist. Yet, RC has thepotential to go much further. I claim that RCprovides the foundation of a new world-view inwhich we can overcome hard scientific problems.Thus, the paper is urging us to carry RCfurther, not just on philosophical grounds, butalso into the domain of science.

epistemology instrumentalism scientific realism solipsism truth 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. de Camp, L.S.: 1974, The Ancient Engineers. New York: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  2. Duncker, K.: 1935, Zur Psychologie des produktiven Denkens. Berlin: Springer. Translated: (1945) On Problem Solving. Psychological Monographs 58(270): 1–112.Google Scholar
  3. Feynman, R.: 1985, Surely You're Joking,Mr. Feynman! New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  4. Foerster, H. von: 1981, On Constructing a Reality. In: H. von Foerster (ed.), Observing Systems. Intersystems Publications, 288–309. Originally published in F.E. Preiser (ed.): 1973, Environmental Design Research, Vol. 2. Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Stroudberg, 35–46. Also available at Scholar
  5. Franklin, S.: 1995, Artificial Minds. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Gardenförs, P.: 1994, The Role of Expectations in Reasoning. In M. Masuch and L. Pólos (eds.), Knowledge Representation and Reasoning Under Uncertainty. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1–16.Google Scholar
  7. Glasersfeld, E. von: 1988, The Reluctance to Change a Way of Thinking. The Irish Journal of Psychology 9(1): 83–90.Google Scholar
  8. Glasersfeld, E. von: 1991a, An Exposition of Constructivism: Why Some Like it Radical. In G.J. Klir (ed.), Facets of System Science. New York, London: Plenum Press, 229–238.Google Scholar
  9. Glasersfeld, E. von: 1991b, Knowing without Metaphysics: Aspects of the Radical Constructivist Position. In F. Steier (ed.), Research and Reflexivity (Inquiries into Social Construction). London: Sage Publications, 12–29. Also available at Scholar
  10. Glasersfeld, E. von: 1995, Radical Constructivism. A Way of Knowing and Learning. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  11. Horgan, J.: 1996, The End of Science. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  12. Jammer, M.: 1957, Concepts of Force. A Study in the Foundations of Dynamics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Janich, P.: 1993, Erkennen als Handeln. Erlangen. Jena: Palm & Enke.Google Scholar
  14. Klein, M.: 1972, The Use and Abuse of Historical Teaching in Physics. In S.G. Brush and A. L. King (eds.), History in the Teaching of Physics. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 12–18.Google Scholar
  15. Knorr-Cetina, K.: 1981, The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  16. Kuhn, T.: 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  17. Latour, B.: 1987, Science in Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Luchins, A.S.: 1942, Mechanization in Problem Solving. In: Psychological Monographs 54/248.Google Scholar
  19. Maturana, H.R.: 1978, Biology of Language: The Epistemology of Reality. In G.A. Miller and E. Lenneberg (eds.), Psychology and Biology of Language and Thought: Essays in Honor of Eric Lenneberg. New York: Academic Press, 27–63. Also available at: Scholar
  20. Maturana, H.R. and F.J. Varela: 1980, Maturana and F.J. Varela (eds.), Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Sciences, Vol. 42. Boston, Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing.Google Scholar
  21. Maturana, H.R.: 1988, Reality: The Search for Objectivity or the Quest for a CompellingArgument. The Irish Journal of Psychology 9(1), 25–82.Also available at Scholar
  22. Müller, A.: 2000, Eine kurze Geschichte des BCL [A short history of the BCL]. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften 11(1), 9–30. Also available at Scholar
  23. Osler, M.J.: 1970, John Locke and the Changing Ideal of Scientific Knowledge. Journal of the History of Ideas 31(1).Google Scholar
  24. Pagels, H.R.: 1988, The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity.New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  25. Penrose, R.: 1986, Gravity and State Vector Reduction. In R. Penrose and C. Isham (eds.), Quantum Concepts in Space & Time. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 129–146.Google Scholar
  26. Peschl, M. and A. Riegler: 1999, Does Representation Need Reality? In A. Riegler, M. Peschl and A. von Stein (eds.), Understanding Representation in the Cognitive Sciences. New York: Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers, 9–17. Also available at: peschlriegler.pdfGoogle Scholar
  27. Piaget, J.: 1954, The Construction of Reality in the Child. New York: Ballentine.Google Scholar
  28. Putnam, H.: 1990, Realism with a Human Face. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Reichenbach, H.: 1938, Experience and Prediction: An Analysis of the Foundations and the Structure of Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Riedl, R.: 1977, A Systems-analytical Approach to Macro-evolutionary Phenomena. Quarterly Review of Biology 52: 351–370.Google Scholar
  31. Riegler, A.: 1992, Constructivist Artificial Life, and Beyond In B. McMullin (ed.), Proceedings of the Workshop “Autopoiesis and Perception”, Dublin City University. Also available at Scholar
  32. Riegler, A.: 1997, Ein kybernetisch–konstruktivistisches Modell der Kognition. In A. Müller, K.H. Müller and F. Stadler (eds.), Konstruktivismus und Kognitionswissenschaft. Kulturelle Wurzeln und Ergebnisse. Wien, New York: Springer, 75–88.Google Scholar
  33. Riegler, A.: 2001, The Cognitive Ratchet. The Ratchet Effect as a Fundamental Principle in Evolution and Cognition. Cybernetics and Systems 32(3–4): in press.Google Scholar
  34. Schmidt, S.J. (ed.): 1987, Der Diskurs des Radikalen Konstruktivismus. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a. M.Google Scholar
  35. Searle, J.R.: 1995, The Construction of Social Reality. The Free Press.Google Scholar
  36. Searle, J.R.: 1999, The Future of Philosophy. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences (The Royal Society) 354(1392): 2069–2080.Google Scholar
  37. Sokal, A.: 1996, A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies. Lingua Franca May/June 1996: 62–64.Google Scholar
  38. Spivey, N.N.: 1997, The Constructivist Metaphor. Reading, Writing, and the Making of Meaning. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  39. Tarski, A.: 1944, The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4, 341–375.Google Scholar
  40. Umpleby, S.A.: 1990, The Science of Cybernetics and the Cybernetics of Science. Cybernetics and Systems 21(1), 109–121.Google Scholar
  41. Van Fraassen, B.: 1980, The Scientific Image. Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  42. Watzlawick, P.: 1976, How Real is Real? New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  43. Watzlawick, P.: 1990, Munchhausen's Pigtail: Or Psychotherapy & “Reality” – Essays and Lectures. New York: W.W. Norton&Company.Google Scholar
  44. Weinberg, S.: 1998, The Revolution That Didn't Happen. The New York Book Review October 8: 48–52.Google Scholar
  45. Winograd, T. and F. Flores: 1986, Understanding Computers and Cognition. Norwood: Ablex.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Riegler
    • 1
  1. 1.CLEAVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

Personalised recommendations