Saturday, 7 August 2010

Not-Quite-So-Radical Constructivism

Von Glasersfeld's assertion in the unreality of causes has got me thinking. I want to avoid the typical gain-saying of whether something is real or not, but I do worry that the radical view leaves out something important. Many things are contained in his Radical Constructivism: notably something which appears very similar to Harre's model of the self and positioning theory. The bit on communication is anchored in Peircian semiotics, which maintains the irrealist trend (I would cite Luhmann in this instance, but that upsets constructivists)

What isn't there explicitly is anything about ethics or politics. The political emerges when I accept that my reality and the behaviour which emerges from it has an impact on yours. This derives from positioning theory, but is also in R.D.Laing, and Radical Constructivism. Equally, my reality is dependent on your behaviour arising from your reality. Equally, my wellbeing is dependent on your behaviour, my freedom, etc... and we both know that there is a decent way to behave to one another. With regard to right action (decent behaviour) abstraction is pretty useless at best, and dangerous at worst. If I believe my constructs to be merely constructs with no ontological component, I might be tempted to do with them what I will. But my constructs have an impact on others - they are, for want of a better word, causal and have concrete moral impacts. In denying reality, we get carried away with a hubris of human understanding which is individualised and revolves around an incomplete understanding of the relationship between mind and nature. Realists like Marx, in reacting to 19th century idealism (not least Hegel, Schopenhauer, etc), understood this, I think.

Cybernetics can allow us to be free with our distinctions and play with them. I'd like to apply that freedom to considering the possibility of real world of causes.

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