Volume 11 · Number 2 · Pages 375–385
Going Beyond Theory: Constructivism and Empirical Phenomenology

Urban Kordeš

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Context: Epistemologically, constructivism has reached its goals, particularly by emphasizing the idea of participatory observation, circularity, and the fact that construction is based on experience. However, rather than research, the main occupation of constructivists and second-order cyberneticians seems to lie in making the case for their epistemological idea, which has been exhausted in many aspects. Purpose: To counteract this exhaustion and an increasingly apparent lack of energy, it is argued that constructivism requires a dedicated field of research, a field where it would be possible to test constructivist concepts empirically and thus go beyond mere theoretical discourse. Method: Based on a review of basic constructivist premises and a critical examination of the field of empirical phenomenological research, the article connects their respective findings. Results: The article proposes that empirical research on lived experience (i.e., empirical phenomenology) requires a constructivist epistemological foundation and might therefore be a logical continuation of constructivist endeavours. In such a way, both fields might benefit considerably. Not only would constructivism acquire an empirical tool for testing its ideas, such a partnership might also provide empirical phenomenology with a more suitable epistemological platform than the realism-based research framework of cognitive science (of which it has become an integral part. The possibilities and problems of introducing empirical research into constructivism are also discussed. Implications: The article presents an opportunity to re-think the role and future of constructivism. It suggests educating a new generation of constructivist researchers whose principal goal would be the attempt to study lived human experience. That could also open a path to the experimental grounding of many constructivist insights.

Key words: Empirical phenomenology, radical constructivism, non-trivial systems, neurophenomenology, phenomenological reduction, Francisco Varela


Kordeš U. (2016) Going beyond theory: Constructivism and empirical phenomenology. Constructivist Foundations 11(2): 375–385. http://constructivist.info/11/2/375

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