Volume 9 · Number 2 · Pages 256–261
Ethics: A Radical-constructivist Approach

Andreas Quale

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Context: The theory of radical constructivism offers a tool for the evaluation of knowledge in general: especially with regard to its epistemic and ontological character. This applies in particular to knowledge that is non-cognitive, such as, e.g., ethical convictions. Problem: What impact can radical constructivism have on the topic of ethics? Specifically, how can ethical issues be resolved within a radical-constructivist epistemic approach? Method: I extend the theory of radical constructivism to include also items of non-cognitive knowledge. This makes it possible to discuss ethical issues, which are non-cognitive, in a constructivist epistemic and ontological perspective. Some arguments against this conception of “strictly personal ethics” are discussed. Results: Radical constructivism is neutral on ethical issues, and thus cannot be invoked to endorse any particular ethical position. However, this causes no problem for the theory: the individual knower will construct her own ethical values and convictions, as part of her store of non-cognitive knowledge, in interaction with her environment (including other individuals. Hence ethical values cannot be argued in cognitive terms; and this elevates the knower into a position of personal responsibility with respect to ethical issues. Constructivist content: I focus on the role played by radical constructivism in the approach to cognitive vs. non-cognitive knowledge. The construction of knowledge (of any kind) emerges as a strictly personal enterprise. For instance, in the context addressed here, constructed non-cognitive knowledge forms a basis for the individual knower’s ethical position.

Key words: Radical constructivism, knowledge construction, cognition, non-cognitive knowledge, ethics, rational self-interest, ethical responsibility.


Quale A. (2014) Ethics: A radical-constructivist approach. Constructivist Foundations 9(2): 256–261. http://constructivist.info/9/2/256

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