Volume 6 · Number 2 · Pages 152–156
From Jean Piaget to Ernst von Glasersfeld: An Epistemological Itinerary in Review

Jean-Louis Le Moigne

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Problem: While the elaboration and framing of constructivist epistemologies in keeping with the “currents of contemporary scientific epistemology” can be attributed to Jean Piaget, their development under the banner of radical constructivist epistemology is a result of the epistemological work of Ernst von Glasersfeld. The development of this epistemological paradigm, pursued over the last 40 years with the objective of “linking knowledge to action and situating the subject and the object on the same, multiple levels,” warrants further exploration and contextualization within the framework of current scientific activity. Results: In what amounts to a historical coincidence, von Glasersfeld discovered the work of Piaget in 1973, the same year that the author of this article first began to read Piaget’s Epistemological Studies; this coincidence provides a starting point for describing the epistemological itinerary that led the author from a reading of Piaget in 1973 to a somewhat tardy reading of von Glasersfeld in 1988 (the same year of the translation of his “Introduction to Radical Constructivism” into French). He then explicates the subsequent developments of this paradigmatic conjunction over the last 30 years, interpreting them in the contexts of contemporary developments of scientific and operational interdisciplinarity as well as in terms of historical roots extending from Leonardo da Vinci to Paul Valéry. Implications: The paradigm of constructivist epistemologies (working from a phenomenologically-based gnoseological hypothesis) can be presented and supported with arguments that are at least as solid and legitimate as those invoked in favor of alternative paradigms of realist and post-positivist epistemologies (working from an ontologically-based gnoseological hypothesis).

Key words: contemporary scientific epistemology, non-Cartesian epistemology, gnoseological hypothesis, phenomenology, teleology, viability


Le Moigne J.-L. (2011) From Jean Piaget to Ernst von Glasersfeld: An epistemological itinerary in review. Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 152–156. http://constructivist.info/6/2/152

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