Constructivist Discourse

In contrast to other journals Constructivist Foundations emphasizes the constructivist way of conducting academic discourse, which entails avoiding expressions and formulations suggesting absolute points of reference and absolutist statements. Claiming authority by referring to an external reality and truth makes one’s own point of view unassailable: Asserting that there is only “one truth” and “one reality” reduces the plurality of perspectives or interpretations of (empirical/computational) experiments to a single one, which, conveniently, is the opinion of the author. Insisting on “reality” and “facts” makes any alternative interpretation or view illegitimate. This, however, is in contradiction with the ideals of academic discourse, which emphasize that scholarly writing is an exchange among scholars that should not be cut short by absolutist claims.

Therefore, authors are asked to be careful with philosophically burdened and ambiguous notions such as “real,” “actual,” “true” and “fact,” and their derivatives “reality,” “really,” “truth,” “factual,” etc. These notions, even though they may appear harmless from a colloquial point of view, suggest a realist way of thinking and arguing, making them incompatible with constructivist reasoning. A claim such as “This is really the case” is empty rhetoric as it does not say why. Choose alternative expressions and formulations that are more detailed and concrete, and which emphasize human agency as well as dynamic processes over absolute existence. For example, replacing an expression such as “This is true for x” by “This applies to x” or “This can be said for x” underlines that insights are due to human agency. Similarly, “The real issue here” only raises questions: What makes an issue “real”? Are other issues just fake and illusionary? Or does “real issue” express that this is about the fundamental issue, an issue that after being resolved, automatically solves all other issues associated with the given problem? Or is it an issue that must be solved first before we can try to solve the remaining ones? Furthermore, are “real objects” tangible objects, physical objects, or natural objects? And “actual sensory consequences” gains in precision with “measured/experienced sensory consequences.” In many cases “real” may be better expressed by “meaningful,” “genuine,” “serious,” or “life-like.” Claims such as “This is based on the fact that” leave open the question of how this “fact” came about. The claim becomes clearer by putting it as “This is based on the insight/finding that.” Starting a claim with “the fact,” forgoes the question of whether there might be another interpretation possible and thus worth discussion, rather than considered illegitimate and wrong? By frequently seeking refuge in using “facts” the manuscript creates the impression that there is only a single, canonical view possible.

Statements such as “What she writes is not true/incorrect…” make an absolutist claim and depend on the premise or perspective of one’s own position, even if this premise or perspective would be common sense. In the interest of having a continuous scholarly dialog they should be substituted by “I do not agree with her when she writes….” Further examples are “In reality, …” which for the same reasons should be replaced by, e.g., “In our reading, …”

Supporting a pluralism of perspectives does not mean supporting arbitrariness. In Constructivist Foundations, like in other journals, scholarly papers are about presenting original claims and attempting to vindicate these claims by referring to experiments and to the literature. Therefore, refrain from using formulations that express a bias in your thinking without proper justification. Examples are “I believe that…,” “I doubt that…,” “I think that…” without saying what the belief, doubt or reasoning is based on. Experimental evidence and/or arguments from the scholarly literature should be used to support one’s claims and convictions. For example, “Based on… I have reasons to assume that…”