CASH only: Constitutive autonomy through motorsensory self-programming.
Cognitive Systems Research 58: 366–374
Constitutive autonomy is the capacity of an entity to perpetually develop its individual constitution and coupling with its environment. We argue that computational entities (i.e., entities that can perform computation) can gain constitutive autonomy through motorsensory self-programming – a mechanism by which the entity acquires new computational processes as a series of patterns of interaction that the entity can learn through experience, simulate internally, and enact in the environment. Motorsensory self-programming allows the evolution of the cognitive coupling between the entity’s behavior selection mechanism and the environment as it appears from the viewpoint of the behavior selection mechanism. Constitutive autonomy of computational entities could lead to genuine agency.
Publish or perish: Opportunities for constructivists.
In: Hug T., Mitterer J. & Schorner M. (eds.) Radical constructivism: Past, present and future. Proceedings of the Ernst von Glasersfeld Centenary Conference 2017. Innsbruck University Press, Innsbruck: 455–474
I review historical and conceptual aspects of the journal Constructivist Foundations and discuss two new ideas that are currently being implemented: (a) the Constructivist E-Paper Archive (CEPA.INFO), a research tool providing a single-point access to the scholarly literature on con-structivism, and (b) the Constructivist Encyclopedia (CE), an open-access publishing initiative where qualified authors with relevant expertise provide an accurate and reliable source of infor-mation relevant to constructivist approaches.
A Plea for not Watering Down the Unseemly: Reconsidering Francisco Varela’s Contribution to Science.
Constructivist Foundations 13(1): 1–10
Context: In the past three decades, the work of Varela has had an enormous impact on current developments in contemporary science. Problem: Varela’s thought was extremely complex and multifaceted, and while some aspects – notably his contributions to the autopoietic theory of living and enactivist approach to cognition – have gained widespread acclaim, others have been ignored or watered down. Method: We identify three dimensions of Varela’s thought: (i) anti-realism of the “middle way”; (ii) anti-foundationalism of the circular/recursive onto-epistemology; and (iii) ethical/social implications of the circularity/recursivity. The discussion of these dimensions is followed by a concise overview of the individual target articles in this issue and the topics they cover. Finally, we discuss in what ways the articles extend and relate to Varela’s work. We do this by means of a concrete example: the relation between “enaction” and “enactivism. Results: We show that the ignoring-cum-watering-down process of Varela’s contributions to science is at least partly linked to the three dimensions of Varela’s thought. Based on our examination we also find that the more narrow research topics are always interrelated with broader philosophical reflection. Researching into ignored and watered-down aspects of Varela’s work enables us to not only gain fresh insights into Varela’s overall philosophy and rekindle interest in the topics and themes that have been brushed aside, but also cast a fresh light on those that are currently in full bloom. Implications: Reviving interest in Varela’s work in toto could lead to fruitful research and discussion in numerous scientific fields. To illustrate this idea, we delineate, tentatively, three domains – theoretical, empirical, and existential – where Varela’s contribution to philosophy and science could instigate prolific exchange of views. Constructivist content: All three dimensions of Varela’s philosophy have strong affinities with radical constructivist critique of realism and some of its epistemological and ethical implications.
Missing the Woods for the Trees: Neglected Aspects of Francisco Varela’s Work.
Constructivist Foundations 13(1)
In the past three decades, the work of Francisco Varela has had an enormous impact on current developments in contemporary science. His thought was extremely complex and multifaceted, and while some aspects – notably his contributions to the autopoietic theory of living and enactivist approach to cognition – have gained widespread acclaim, others have been ignored or watered down. In the new special issue that was published today 55 target articles and open peer commentaries shed light on Varela‘s contributions to science.
Thinking in eigenbehaviors as a transdisciplinary approach.
Constructivist Foundations 12(3): 239–245
Context: By proposing to regard objects as “tokens for eigenbehavior,” von Foerster’s seminal paper opposes the intuitive subject-object dualism of traditional philosophy, which considers objects to be instances of an external world Problem: We argue that this proposal has two implications, one for epistemology and one for the demarcation between the natural sciences and the humanities. Method: Our arguments are based on insights gained in computational models and from reviewing the contributions to this special issue. Results: Epistemologically, von Foerster’s proposal suggests that what is called “reality” could be seen as an ensemble of eigenforms generated by the eigenbehavior that arises in the interaction of multiple dynamics. Regarding science, the contributions to this special issue demonstrate that the concept of eigenbehavior can be applied to a variety of disciplines from the formal and natural sciences to the humanities. Its universal applicability provides a strong argument for transdisciplinarity, and its emphasis on the observer points in the direction of an observer-inclusive science. Implications: Thinking in eigenbehavior may not only have implications for tearing down the barriers between sciences and humanities (although a common methodology based on von Foerster’s transdisciplinary approach is still to crystalize), a better understanding of eigenbehaviors may also have profound effects on our understanding of ourselves. This also opens the way to innovative behavior design/modification technologies.
Key words: Eigenbehavior · eigenform · Heinz von Foerster · computational philosophy · scientific methodology · observer-inclusive science · transdisciplinarity · nondualism
Constructivist Foundations 12(3)
The special issues on “Eigenbehavior” contains 35 target articles and commentaries from authors such as Louis Kauffman, Donald Hoffman, Gerard de Zeeuw, and Raul Espejo. It discusses the applicability of the concepts of eigenbehavior and eigenform to a variety of scientific fields including mathematics, physics, philosophy, performing arts, and musicology.
New Horizons for Second-Order Cybernetics.
World Scientific, Singapore
In almost 60 articles this book reviews the current state of second-order cybernetics and investigates which new research methods second-order cybernetics can offer to tackle wicked problems in science and in society. The contributions explore its application to both scientific fields (such as mathematics, psychology and consciousness research) and non-scientific ones (such as design theory and theater science). The book uses a pluralistic, multifaceted approach to discuss these applications: Each main article is accompanied by several commentaries and author responses, which together allow the reader to discover further perspectives than in the original article alone. This procedure shows that second-order cybernetics is already on its way to becoming an idea shared by many researchers in a variety of disciplines.
Building a science of experience: Neurophenomenology and related disciplines.
Constructivist Foundations 12(2): 131–138
Context: More than 20 years ago Varela initiated a research program to advance in the scientific study of consciousness, neurophenomenology. Problem: Has Varela’s neurophenomenology, the solution to the “hard problem,” been successful? Which issues remain unresolved, and why? Method: This introduction sketches the progress that has been made since then and links it to the contributions to this special issue. Results: Instead of a unified research field, today we find a variety of different interpretations and implementations of neurophenomenology. We argue that neurophenomenology needs to give additional attention to its experiential dimension by addressing first-person methods’ specific challenges and by rethinking the relationship between the frameworks of the first- and third-person approaches.
Building a Science of Experience.
Constructivist Foundations 12(2)
This special issue contains 26 articles and commentaries. It explores the current state, the challenges and the possibilities of neurophenomenology (and related disciplines) as a proposal for building a science of experience.
Mapping the Varieties of Second-Order Cybernetics.
Constructivist Foundations 11(3): 443–454
Context: Although second-order cybernetics was proposed as a new way of cybernetic investigations around 1970, its general status and its modus operandi are still far from obvious. Problem: We want to provide a new perspective on the scope and the currently available potential of second-order cybernetics within today’s science landscapes. Method: We invited a group of scholars who have produced foundational work on second-order cybernetics in recent years, and organized an open call for new approaches to second-order cybernetics. The accepted contributions are discussed and mapped. We also investigate the relations between second-order cybernetics and second-order science. Results: We present a coherent outlook on the scope of second-order cybernetics today, identify a general methodology of science (with second-order cybernetics as a special instance) and show that second-order cybernetics can be used in a large number of disciplines that go well beyond purely scientific domains. These results are based on a new epistemic mode “from within,” which can be traced back directly to von Foerster. We also arrived at the conclusion that from its early years onwards second-order cybernetics was developed in two different ways, so that second-order cybernetics and second-order science operate in different domains. Implications: Both the coherent perspective of the scope of second-order cybernetics with a new five-part agenda and the outline for a general methodology of science based on a new epistemic mode that was created within and for second-order cybernetics demonstrate the growing importance of reflexivity in science, which, so far, has not been widely recognized.
Epistemological Odyssey: Introduction to Special Issue on the Diversity of Enactivism and Neurophenomenology.
Constructivist Foundations 11(2): 189–204
Context: In the past two decades, the so-called 4E approaches to the mind and cognition have been rapidly gaining in recognition and have become an integral part of various disciplines. Problem: Recently, however, questions have been raised as to whether, and to what degree, these different approaches actually cohere with one another. Specifically, it seems that many of them endorse mutually incompatible, perhaps even contradictory, epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions. Method: By retracing the roots of an alternative conception of mind and cognition, as propounded by Varela, Thompson & Rosch, we provide an outline of the original philosophical framework of enactivism and neurophenomenology. We focus on its three central tenets – reflexivity, subject-world co-determination, and the construal of cognition as situated, skillful and embodied action – and show how they collectively add up to a radical change in attitude towards the age-old philosophical dilemmas. Results: We show how contemporary enactivist and embodied approaches relate to the original Varelian conception, and argue that many of them, despite frequent claims to the contrary, adopt significantly less radical philosophical positions. Further, we provide some tentative suggestions as to why this dilution of the original impetus might have occurred, paying special attention to the deep-rooted disparities that span the field. Implications: It is argued that more attention should be paid to epistemological and metaphysical tenets of different proposals within the 4E movement in general and enactivism in particular. Additionally, in emphasizing the inescapable multilayeredness and contextuality of scientific knowledge, enactivism and neurophenomenology accord with pluralist accounts of science and might provide important contributions to contemporary debates in the field. Constructivist content: The epistemological odyssey, construed as a journey to find a middle way between realism and idealism, is a central tenet of anti-representationalist, non-dualist constructivist approaches aimed at avoiding age-old philosophical traps.
Exploring the Diversity within Enactivism and Neurophenomenology.
Constructivist Foundations 11(2)
The theoretical and pragmatic presuppositions of recent enactive and neuro-phenomenological cognitive science have been greatly influenced by three intellectual traditions: philosophy of mind (analytic tradition), phenomenology, and radical constructivism. All of these traditions have made important, often mutually enriching, yet sometimes also mutually incompatible contributions. To make these differences more explicit and to potentially address and overcome them, the contributions in the special issue discuss two closely related topics: What is the nature and structure of the subject-world relation? What is the nature and structure of experience?
Knowledge and Belief: Some Clarifications.
Special issue on “Belief systems in science and engineering,” edited by Josué Antonio Nescolarde-Selva, José Luis Usó-Doménech and Hugh Gash. Cybernetics & Systems 46(6–7): 484–509
The notions of knowledge and belief play an important role in philosophy. Unfortunately, the literature is not very consistent about defining these notions. Is belief more fundamental than knowledge or the other way around? Many accounts rely on the widely accepted strategy of appealing to the intuition of the reader. Such an argumentative methodology is fundamentally flawed as it lets the problems of common sense reasoning in through the front door. Instead, I suggest that philosophical arguments should be based on formal-computational models to (a) reduce the ambiguities and uncertainties that come with intuitive arguments and reasoning, and (b) capture the dynamic nature of many philosophical concepts. I present a model of knowledge and belief that lends itself to being implemented on computers. Its purpose is to resolve terminological confusion in favor of a more transparent account. The position I defend is an anti-realist naturalized one: knowledge is best conceived as arising from experience, and is fundamental to belief.
What does the future hold for radical constructivism?
In: Raskin J. D., Bridges S. K. & Kahn J. S. (eds.) Studies in meaning 5: Perturbing the status quo in constructivist psychology. Pace University Press, New York: 64–90
In the light of its heterogeneous nature, radical constructivism (RC) was recently referred to as a tool for problem solving. Can it re-invent itself to have a future as a major paradigm? To answer this question, RC is defined in terms of three increasingly larger sets of theoretical core principles and then aligned with possible empirical, methodological, and programmatic content to check its applicability for Gerhard Schurz’s definition of paradigms. Based on Peter Cariani’s list of intellectual, organizational, and social factors that help intellectual movements to sustain themselves and grow, it is pointed out which elements are already present and which still need to be developed. I argue that RC must be defined as paradigm rather than as a problem-solving tool in order to attract the researchers necessary to make it a self-sustaining community. As such, I believe it has a future in a variety of disciplines, including those that are traditionally linked with it such as communication science and family therapy, as well as new research domains such as quantum mechanics and computational theory.
Second-Order Science: A Vast and Largely Unexplored Science Frontier.
Constructivist Foundations 10(1): 7–15
Context: Many recent research areas such as human cognition and quantum physics call the observer-independence of traditional science into question. Also, there is a growing need for self-reflexivity in science, i.e., a science that reflects on its own outcomes and products. Problem: We introduce the concept of second-order science that is based on the operation of re-entry. Our goal is to provide an overview of this largely unexplored science domain and of potential approaches in second-order fields. Method: We provide the necessary conceptual groundwork for explorations in second-order science, in which we discuss the differences between first- and second-order science and where we present a roadmap for second-order science. The article operates mainly with conceptual differentiations such as the separation between three seemingly identical concepts such as Science II, Science 2.0 and second-order science. Results: Compared with first-order science, the potential of second-order science lies in 1. higher levels of novelty and innovations, 2. higher levels of robustness and 3. wider integration as well as higher generality. As first-order science advances, second-order science, with re-entry as its basic operation, provides three vital functions for first-order science, namely a rich source of novelty and innovation, the necessary quality control and greater integration and generality. Implications: Second-order science should be viewed as a major expansion of traditional scientific fields and as a scientific breakthrough towards a new wave of innovative research. Constructivist content: Second-order science has strong ties with radical constructivism, which can be qualified as the most important root/origin of second-order science. Moreover, it will be argued that a new form of cybernetics is needed to cope with the new problems and challenges of second-order science.
Key words: Philosophy of science · methodology of science · first-order science · second-order science · Science 2.0 · Science II · new cybernetics · second-order cybernetics · scientific novelty · re-entry
A New Course of Action.
Constructivist Foundations 10(1): 1–6
Context: The journal Constructivist Foundations celebrates ten years of publishing articles on constructivist approaches, in particular radical constructivism. Problem: In order to preserve the sustainability of radical constructivism and regain its appeal to new generations of researchers, we set up a new course of action for and with the radical constructivist community to study its innovative potential. This new avenue is “second-order science.” Method: We specify two motivations of second-order science, i.e., the inclusion of the observer, and self-reflexivity that allows second-order science to operate on the products of normal or first-order science. Also, we present a short overview of the contributions that we have collected for this inaugural issue on second-order science. Results: These six initial contributions demonstrate the potential of the new set of approaches to second-order science across several disciplines. Implications: Second-order science is believed to be a cogent concept in the evolution of science, leading to a new wave of innovations, novel experiments and a much closer relationship with current research in the cognitive neurosciences in particular, and with evolutionary and complexity theories in general.
Key words: Radical constructivism · second-order science · observer · self-reflexivity
“What Is the Teacher Trying to Teach Students if They Are All Busy Constructing Their Own Private Worlds?”: Introduction to the Special Issue.
Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 297–301
Context: Ernst von Glasersfeld introduced radical constructivism in 1974 as a new interpretation of Jean Piaget’s constructivism to give new meanings to the notions of knowledge, communication, and reality. He also claimed that RC would affect traditional theories of education. Problem: After 40 years it has become necessary to review and evaluate von Glasersfeld’s claim. Also, has RC been successful in taking the “social turn” in educational research, or is it unable to go beyond “private worlds? Method: We provide an overview of contributed articles that were written with the aim of showing whether RC has an impact on educational research, and we discuss three core issues: Can RC account for inter-individual aspects? Is RC a theory of learning? And should Piaget be regarded as a radical constructivist? Results: We argue that the contributed papers demonstrate the efficiency of the application of RC to educational research and practice. Our argumentation also shows that in RC it would be misleading to claim a dichotomy between cognition and social interaction (rather, social constructivism is a radical constructivism), that RC does not contain a theory of mathematics learning any more or less than it contains a theory of mathematics teaching, and that Piaget should not be considered a mere trivial constructivist. Implications: Still one of the most challenging influences on educational research and practice, RC is ready to embark on many further questions, including its relationship with other constructivist paradigms, and to make progress in the social dimension. Key words: Educational research · social aspects of learning · theory of learning · theory of teaching · Ernst von Glasersfeld · Jean Piaget
Forty Years of Radical Constructivism in Educational Research.
Special Issue. Constructivist Foundations 9(3)
This special issue contains 43 articles and open peer commentaries focussing on the influence Ernst von Glasersfeld’s ambitious program of radical constructivism, which he started in 1974, has had on educational research.
Towards the consistent construction of nature.
Special Issue on Ripensare la “natura”/ Rethinking “Nature” edited by Flavia Monceri, Teoria, 1/2014: 33–44
For a realist, nature embodies the ultimate arbiter, while for social constructivists nature is the projection of social interests. In this paper, the highly ambiguous term “nature” is discussed from yet another position, i.e., radical constructivism. It is argued that this position is incompatible with realism and, for reasons of consistency, also with social constructivism. Furthermore, from an ethical perspective, the radical constructivist conception of nature shifts responsibility further away from God, nature, and society to the individual.
In: Ruzzeddu M. (ed.) Keywords of systemic vision. Lambert, Saarbrücken: 205–217
Reality (German: Wirklichkeit, French: réalité) has been defined in widely different
ways, ranging from denoting an (ontological) transexperiential realm to referring
to the totality of one’s (subjective) experiences. Yet others consider reality to
be the (social) realm of things and events created and caused by humans.
Computation, cognition and constructivism: Introduction to the special issue.
Constructivist Foundations 9(1): 1–6
Context: Most constructivist discourse is situated at the philosophical-conceptual level, where arguments appeal to the intuition of the reader, while formal-computational models have only been taken into account to a very limited degree so far. Problem: Two types of problems need to be addressed: Synthetically, can constructivist concepts be turned into actual computational implementations? Can these be further conceptual developments in constructivist theory as such, or are they just an application thereof? Conceptually, does the notion of computation square with constructivist approaches at all? Method: Paradigmatically, we discuss the meaning of “computational” in cognitive agents that comply with constructivist concepts. Also, we summarize the contributions. Results: From a constructivist point of view, the concept of “computational model” is ambiguous and depends on whether it is used in the sense of the computational(ist) theory of mind or simply as a tool. Implications: The insights presented in the contributions to this special issue point in the direction of a computational extension of constructivist approaches as well as a constructivist extension to computational approaches. However, while many of the questions we posed were discussed in the contributions and open peer commentaries, some of them were largely neglected and thus are subject to further discussion.
Computational approaches to constructivism.
Special Issue. Constructivist Foundations 9(1)
A collection of 42 papers, open peer commentaries and author‘s responses discussing constructivist epistemology in terms of computer models.
Non-dualism: A new understanding of language.
Constructivist Foundations 8(2): 139–142
Context: Non-dualism suggests a new way of utilizing language without the assumption of categorically extralinguistic objects denoted by language. Problem: What is the innovative potential, what is the special value of non-dualism for science? Is non-dualism a fruitful conceptual revision or just a philosophical thought experiment with no or little significance for science? Method: We provide a concise introduction to non-dualism’s central new proposals and an overview of the papers. Results: Fourteen contributors show how this way of thinking and speaking can be operationalized creatively, but also address some of its boundaries. Implications: Since not all of the aspects and problems highlighted for discussion in the original Call for Papers were answered satisfactorily, further research is necessary. For example, research is needed on the relationship between dualism’s distinction between object language and metalanguage on the one hand and non-dualism’s distinction between descriptions so far and descriptions from now on on the other; or on the infinite regress allegations by non-dualism against dualism. Constructivist content: Some authors show that non-dualist thinking is anti-essentialist, in a similar way as constructivist thinking. Some also show that comparable questions arise; for example, the question of whether non-dualism denies the material world (containing extralinguistic objects).
Key words: Dualism · non-dualism · constructivism · descriptions · Josef Mitterer
Non-dualism: A conceptual revision?
Special Issue. Constructivist Foundations 8(2)
A collection of 16 papers discussing non-dualizing philosophy.
Niklas Luhmann and the Sociological Turn in Constructivism.
Constructivist Foundations 8(1): 1–4
Context: Niklas Luhmann is considered to be a major proponent of the constructivist movement who based his highly complex sociological theory on constructivist concepts such as Maturana’s autopoiesis and Spencer Brown’s distinction. Problem: Despite heavily borrowing from constructivism, there are doubts as to whether his epistemological standpoint was properly constructivist. Method: In six papers and 14 Open Peer Commentaries, Luhmann’s epistemological understanding, understanding of science, and use and development of constructivist concepts is examined. Results: The authors’ papers and commentaries cover a broad range of topics including the concepts of the observer, meaning, environment, and structural coupling. Key words: Luhmann · Maturana · Kant · observer · realism · autopoiesis · structural coupling · meaning · social system · epistemology
In: L‘Abate L. (ed.) Paradigms in theory construction. Springer, New York, pp. 235–256
Constructivism expresses the idea that mental structures and operations are actively constructed by one’s mind rather than passively acquired. This paper focuses on the particular question of whether constructivism is an over-arching perspective that accommodates both Kuhn’s and Piaget’s respective philosophies of science. To this end, I first review some exemplary cases of constructivism ranging from Mach’s phenomenological constructivism to von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivism, which is characterized in four principles. One of these principles says that reality constructions are entrenched due to the hierarchical organization of the constructed knowledge. I then show how central notions in Kuhn’s theory, such as “mental sets” and “incommensurability,” can be interpreted in terms of constructivism and its emphasis on an alternative approach to knowledge. I conclude that the constructivist principle mentioned above lends itself to explaining Kuhn’s notions of paradigms and incommensurability as well as orthogenesis in Piaget’s philosophy of science.
Maturana across the disciplines.
Constructivist Foundations 6(3): 287–292
Context: Humberto Maturana has generated a coherent and extensive explicatory matrix that encompasses his research in neurophysiology, cognition, language, emotion, and love. Purpose: Can we formulate a map of Maturana’s work in a manner that is consistent with the systemic matrix it represents and that serves as an aid for understanding Maturana’s philosophy without reifying its representation? Method: Our arguments are based on experience gained from teaching and presentations. Results: We present a map that that represents Maturana’s main contributions as clusters of notions clustered according to how we see them to be related to each other as a projection of a matrix of ideas onto a two-dimensional space. We claim that there are many paths through these clusters of ideas. Though ideas relevant to individuals are obtained from various partial perspectives, a deep understanding of any element is dependent on an understanding of the whole matrix. Furthermore, we summarize the contributions to this special issue on Maturana. Key words: Generative process, matrix of concepts, systemic, conceptual map, pedagogy
Legacy of a great thinker.
Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 135–137
Context: On 12 November 2010, Ernst von Glasersfeld passed away. He was one of the most important, if not the most important, proponents of constructivist philosophy. Problem: In his life Ernst influenced many other scientists and philosophers. By whom was he himself influenced; who shaped his intellectual development? By collecting contributions from those who knew him closely or have an excellent understanding of radical constructvism we aim at presenting a cartography of the past and current state of affairs of radical constructivism. These contributions should also shed light on the question of the legacy that Ernst leaves behind. Method: Some 25 authors accepted our invitation to contribute to this commemorative issue. Some texts are reminiscence essays expressing their friendship with Ernst, others are academic papers that investigate Ernst’s influence in various disciplines. Two contributions Ernst von Glasersfeld authored himself. Results: Ernst von Glasersfeld is described as an intellectual mentor for many of his students. His legacy is alive in many disciplines ranging from education science to linguistics. Implications: Ernst’s impact on mathematics education is described in some detail in these articles. However, his impact on science education has also been extensive. Constructivism is a foundation stone in the thinking behind the curriculum in many countries and this collection of papers should be useful to practitioners and researchers in education. We think that the work on conceptual analysis could be used more fully as a tool for modelling emerging concepts and hope that the articles here will facilitate interest in this aspect of Ernst’s work. Key words: radical constructivism, education science, language, conceptual analysis.
Editorial: Can radical constructivism become a mainstream endeavor?
Constructivist Foundations 6(1): 1–5
Context: Despite many obvious advantages (radical) constructivism has over other philosophies it has failed to become a mainstream philosophy that is widely taught and discussed. Problem: What are the reasons for this failure? Can we identify issues that make it difficult for scholars to accept and even embrace radical constructivist ideas? What is the best way to characterize, explain, and eventually refute objections? Method: By collecting articles from both proponents and opponents of radical constructivism the editors of the special issue tried to present a range of answers to these questions. Results: Some problems are due to known objections to radical constructivism, in particular the idea that being responsible for one’s own constructions opens doors to a “whatever” attitude. Another important insight is that constructivism seems to resemble a river delta with ever branching new sub-disciplines that become increasingly incompatible with each other. Implications: The insights gained from the contributions may lead to a re-orientation of (radical) constructivism that will include less misunderstandings among its critics and to a higher acceptance in the academic community. Key words: Scientific movements, philosophy of science, society, anything goes, science management strategies.
Die Dritte Philosophie. Kritische Beiträge zu Josef Mitterers Dualismuskritik.
Velbrück Wissenschaft: Weilerswist
Der österreichische Philosoph Josef Mitterer hat in zwei Werken – Das Jenseits der Philosophie (1992) und Die Flucht aus der Beliebigkeit (2001) – sowohl realistische als auch idealistische bzw. konstruktivistische Positionen einer radikalen Kritik unterzogen und eine non-dualistische Alternative des Denkens entwickelt, die auf die kategoriale Unterscheidung von Beschreibung und beschreibungs- verschiedener Wirklichkeit verzichtet.
Wie der vorliegende Band zeigt, beschäftigen sich mittlerweile Wissenschaftler verschiedener Fächer international mit Mitterers Denkweise. Autorinnen und Autoren aus den Bereichen Philosophie, Psychologie, Pädagogik, Soziologie, Kunstwis- senschaft, Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaft sowie Politikwissenschaft erproben das Potenzial der Dualismuskritik Mitterers für zentrale Probleme und offene Fragen.
Knowledge dynamics and (radical) constructivism.
Research report, WISDOM: Vienna
[From the Introduction] Knowledge can be defined as the capacity of a system to bridge momentary perceptions and older experiences. While in most of mainstream epistemology knowledge is considered a static propositional quality, in (radical) constructivism (RC), knowledge is characterized as dynamic: the basic tenet of constructivism is the idea that mental structures such as cognition and perception are actively built by one’s mind rather than passively acquired. Radical constructivism tries to avoid the dualistic position according to which constructed mental structures gradually adapt to the structures of the real world, and skeptically rejects that the structures of the real world can be compared with mental ones, independently of the senses through which the mental structures were constructed in the first place. In RC, therefore, concepts such as “truth” are relative to a set of antecedent experiences or statements rather than absolute in the sense of matching an objective reality. In mainstream philosophy, knowledge is defined as justified true beliefs (JTB), i.e., all those beliefs a person holds that are true in an absolute sense and that can be justified. This traditional perspective (and its subsequent extensions) suffers from the problem that its three components do not seem to be sufficient to account for knowledge, as demonstrated by Edmund Gettier (1963) and others who further extended Gettier’s original counter examples. In contrast, RC emphasizes that knowledge is a circular yet non-tautological quality that arises in the ongoing dynamics of cognitive processes. Since RC suggests that the cognitive system is organizationally closed, the chain of cognitive processes determines which perceptual content is transformed into experiential elements. Knowledge arises from situated cognitive processes whose dynamics is merely modulated by their environment on the request of the cognitive apparatus rather than by being instructed by it. As a result, knowledge is a relational dynamical structure and does not consist of propositions that could be referentially justified with an outside reality according to the conventional JTB definition of knowledge (Riegler 2007). In this report, some important conceptual and computational constructivist models of knowledge and its dynamics are reviewed, ranging from precursors such as Ernst Mach and Jean Piaget to contemporary computer models.
Wissensdynamiken, Evolution des Wissens, Wissenslandschaften und Wissensdriften.
Research report, WISDOM: Vienna.
Extending the Hegselmann–Krause model II.
In: Czarnecki T., Kijania-Placek K., Poller O. & Wolenski J. (eds.) The analytical way. College Publications: London, pp. 245–258
Hegselmann and Krause have developed a computational model for studying the dynamics of belief formation in a population of epistemically interacting agents who try to determine, and also get evidence concerning, the value of some unspecified parameter. In a previous paper, we extended the Hegselmann–Krause (HK) model in various ways, using the extensions to investigate whether, in situations in which random noise affects the evidence the agents receive, certain forms of epistemic interaction can help the agents to approach the true value of the relevant parameter. This paper presents an arguably more radical extension of the HK model. Whereas in the original HK model each agent is solely characterized by its belief, in the model described in the current paper, the agents also have a location in a discrete two-dimensional space in which they are able to move and to meet with other agents; their epistemic interactions depend in part on who they happen to meet. We again focus on situations in which the evidence is noisy. The results obtained in the new model will be seen to agree qualitatively with the results obtained in our previous extensions of the HK model.
Extending the Hegselmann-Krause model I.
The Logic Journal of the IGPL 18(2): 323–335
Hegselmann and Krause have developed a simple yet powerful computational model for studying the opinion dynamics in societies of epistemically interacting truth-seeking agents. We present various extensions of this model and show their relevance to the investigation of socio-epistemic questions, with an emphasis on normative questions.
Extending the Hegselmann–Krause model III: From single beliefs to complex belief states.
Episteme 6(2): 145–163
In recent years, various computational models have been developed for studying the dynamics of belief formation in a population of epistemically interacting agents that try to determine the numerical value of a given parameter. Whereas in those models, agents’ belief states consist of single numerical beliefs, the present paper describes a model that equips agents with richer belief states containing many beliefs that, moreover, are logically interconnected. Correspondingly, the truth the agents are after is a theory (a set of sentences of a given language) rather than a numerical value. The agents epistemically interact with each other and also receive evidence in varying degrees of informativeness about the truth. We use computer simulations to study how fast and accurately such populations as wholes are able to approach the truth under differing combinations of settings of the key parameters of the model, such as the degree of informativeness of the evidence and the weight the agents give to the evidence.
The arrival of the fittest: Evolution of novelty from a cybernetic perspective.
In: Wallis, S. E. (ed.) Cybernetics and systems theory in management: Tools, views and advancements. IGI Global, pp. 217–228
Organizations and organisms are both complex systems exposed to evolutionary changes. We challenge the perspective of mainstream evolutionary theory, according to which evolutionary progress is accomplished in terms of blind variation and external selection. Instead, we present a perspective that complies with Bateson’s emphasis on the “negative” character of cybernetic explanation, which offers explanations in terms of constraints rather than causes or forces. His concept of “pathways of viability” is aligned with the work of evolutionary theorists such as Waddington, von Bertalanffy, Riedl, and Kauffman, who reject external physical causation in favor of internally-driven “stimulus-and-response” and therefore move the focus from external selection to epigenetic mechanisms. Such a cybernetic evolutionary theory responds to various open questions in biology and management theory, including the dispute between homogenists and heterogenists as well as “path-dependence” in companies. We conclude that the strongest players are not those who adapt to the economic environment but those who emerge from it by co-creating it.
Natural or internal selection? The case of canalization in complex evolutionary systems.
Artificial Life 14(3): 345–362
Using biological examples and theoretical arguments, the case is presented for extending the notion of natural selection to include internal selection in order to account for the evolution of complex systems. It is suggested that we take into consideration internal factors that arise from the hierarchical dynamics of complex systems. In addition to environmental selection, it is argued, decisive constraints are created by the system itself. Canalization is shown to be an indispensable ingredient for evolutionary processes in both biological and artificial complex systems. In artificial life systems canalization is not only an instrument for controlling complexity, it also increases the speed and stability of evolutionary processes.
The paradox of autonomy: The interaction between humans and autonomous cognitive artifacts.
In: Dodig-Crnkovic, G. & Stuart, S. (eds.) Computing, philosophy, and cognitive science. The nexus and the liminal. Cambridge Scholars Publishing: Cambridge, pp. 292–301
According to Thrun and others, personal service robots need increasingly more autonomy in order to function in the highly unpredictable company of humans. At the same time, the cognitive processes in artifacts will become increasingly alien to us. This has several reasons: 1. Maturana‘s concept of structural determinism questions conventional forms of interaction. 2. Considerably different ways of embodiment result in incompatible referential frameworks (worldviews). 3. Engineers focus on the output of artifacts, whereas autonomous cognitive systems seek to control their input state. As a result, instructional interaction – the basic ingredient of conventional man-machine relationships – with genuine autonomous systems will become impossible. Therefore the increase of autonomy will eventually lead to a paradox. Today we are still in a position to anthropomorphically trivialize the behavioral pattern of current robots (von Foerster). Eventually, however, when self-organizing systems will have reached the high levels of autonomy we wished for interacting with them may become impossible since their goals will be completely independent of ours.
The non-dualizing philosophy of Josef Mitterer.
Special issue, Constructivist Foundations 3(3)
Is Josef Mitterer’s non-dualizing philosophy yet another philosophical flavor, of which there are so many in the academic world? Yet another philosophical trinket that arouses the short-lived attention of some people and disappears quickly thereafter? Yet another dalliance without implications either for philosophy or for science? We are convinced of the contrary. For many years Mitterer has steadily built up a reputation as an innovative but at the same time also very careful thinker. His claims have been discussed in various circles, but, unfortunately, this has so far happened in German- and Polish-speaking countries only. Meanwhile “take your time” has taken time and Mitterer celebrated his 60th birthday in July 2008, an opportunity we used to gather connoisseurs of his work to discuss, for the first time in the English language, his achievements and impact. The result is in no relation to the limited spread of his ideas so far. We have collected some 22 contributions covering a large variety of intellectual terrain and pointing out the potential impact of his philosophy from now on.
Non-dualizing from now on?
Constructivist Foundations 3(3): 120–122
[Excerpt] Is Josef Mitterer’s non-dualizing philosophy yet another philosophical flavor, of which there are so many in the academic world? Yet another philosophical trinket that arouses the short-lived attention of some people and disappears quickly thereafter? Yet another dalliance without implications either for philosophy or for science? We are convinced of the contrary. For many years Mitterer has steadily built up a reputation as an innovative but at the same time also very careful thinker. His claims have been discussed in various circles, but, unfortunately, this has so far happened in German- and Polish-speaking countries only. Meanwhile “take your time” has taken time and Mitterer celebrated his 60th birthday in July 2008, an opportunity we used to gather connoisseurs of his work to discuss, for the first time in the English language, his achievements and impact. The result is in no relation to the limited spread of his ideas so far. We have collected some 22 contributions covering a large variety of intellectual terrain and point- ing out the potential impact of his philosophy from now on.
Festschrift for Ernst von Glasersfeld at the occasion of his 90th birthday.
Constructivist Foundations 2(2–3). Enlarged edition reprinted as: Glanville, R. & Riegler, A. (eds.) The importance of being Ernst. Echoraum: Vienna
In 8 March 2007 Ernst von Glasersfeld attains the age of 90. In celebration of this, we take great pride in publishing this festschrift as our way of saying thank you, and of sending greetings and our affection to this remarkable, honest and modest man. A festschrift is a particular publication, and we have a particular approach. We require that in the all pieces we will publish, the work of von Glasersfeld will take centre stage. We also invite two types of contribution: the more normal academic paper, and more anecdotal pieces which carry a more personal message. We are grateful to our authors for helping us realise a festschrift that attains these aims. We add our thanks, too, to photographers, artists and poets who have enriched the von Glasersfeld related material we have been able to publish, which, we believe, enhances the general quality.
Ninety years of constructing.
Constructivist Foundations 2 (2–3): 2–4
On 8 March 2007 Ernst von Glasersfeld attains the age of 90. In celebration of this, we take great pride in publishing this festschrift as our way of saying thank you, and of sending greetings and our affection to this remarkable, honest and modest man.
Is Glasersfeld’s constructivism a dangerous intellectual tendency?
In: Glanville R. & Riegler A. (eds.) The importance of being Ernst. Echoraum: Vienna, pp. 263–275
Purpose: Radical Constructivism has been subject to extensive criticism and denigration such as that it is a naturalized biologism which supports an “anything goes” philosophy of arbitrarily constructed realities. In an extreme case RC is equated with intellectual silliness. These accusations are to be refuted. Approach: Based on the concept that cognition can work only with experiences, we investigate the question of where their apparent order comes from. Arguments are presented that favor the amorphousness of the “external” world. To support the idea of “internal” order we review results in formal network research. Findings: The properties of networks suggest that order arises without influence from the outside. Conclusions: RC based on network models (a) does not need any empirical support and is therefore no biologism nor naturalism, (b) forgoes arbitrariness, and (c) goes beyond narrative (armchair) philosophy.
Superstition in the machine.
In: Butz, M. V. et al. (eds.) Anticipatory behavior in adaptive learning systems: From brains to individual and social behavior. Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence. Springer: New York, pp. 57–72
It seems characteristic for humans to detect structural patterns in the world to anticipate future states. Therefore, scientific and common sense cognition could be described as information processing which infers rule-like laws from patterns in data-sets. Since information processing is the domain of computers, artificial cognitive systems are generally designed as pattern discoverers.
The radical constructivist dynamics of cognition.
In: Wallace, B. (ed.) The Mind, the Body and the World: Psychology After Cognitivism? Imprint: London, pp. 91–115
In summary, the radical constructivist perspective points in the direction of a post-cognitivist psychology which (a) does not get stuck in perceptual overload, (b) does not run into epistemological problems of (propositional) knowledge representation, (c) takes the undifferentiated encoding of nervous signals into consideration, (d) does not exclude animals from being cognitive, and (e) accounts for implicit knowledge.
The impact of the interdisciplinary radical constructivist framework on cognitive research.
In: Vanchevsky, M. A. (ed.) Focus on cognitive psychology research. Nova Science Publishers: Hauppauge, NY, pp. 153–170
The term “radical constructivism” (RC) was introduced in the 1970s by E. von Glasersfeld based on his interpretation of J. Piaget’s work of cognitive development and S. Ceccato’s operational semantics. Later, it was merged with biological-cybernetic concepts that had been developed in the 1960s, including H. von Foerster’s work on second order cybernetics, and with H. Maturana and F. Varela’s theory of autopoietic systems, which is based on the concept of closure. Since the 1990s RC has become a successful paradigm in pedagogy in the US and in media and literature science in Germany. However, despite the fact that RC draws on an individual-based perspective of knowledge acquisition and rational behavior, its impact on cognitive psychology (CP) has remained slight so far. The present article discusses the applicability of RC to CP. It first points out the common ground between RC and CP. Then the article develops the basic assumptions of RC, including (1) the concept of organizational closure of the cognitive apparatus, which agrees with both biological findings and formal considerations; and (2) the methodological implications for both cognitive models and experimental setups that follow from the endogenous information-producing perspective. Furthermore, the article explores core concepts of CP from the perspective of RC including the information-processing paradigm, hypothesizing internal mental states, and the functioning and purpose of memory. The conclusion summarizes the arguments and assesses their value.
The goose, the fly, and the submarine navigator: The case for interdisciplinarity in artificial cognition research.
In: Loula, A., Gudwin, R. & Queiroz, J. (eds.) Artificial cognition systems. Idea Group Publishing: Hershey, PA, pp. 1–26. Reprinted in: Sugumaran, V. (ed.) (2008) Intelligent information technologies, pp. 1636–1657
Interdisciplinary research provides inspirations and insights on how a variety of disciplines can contribute to the formulation of an alternative path to artificial cognition systems. It is suggested how results from ethology, evolutionary theory, and epistemology can be condensed into four boundary conditions. They lead to the outline of an architecture for genuine cognitive systems, which seeks to overcome traditional problems known from artificial intelligence research. Two major points are stressed: (a) The maintenance of explanatory power by favoring an advanced rule-based system rather than neuronal systems, and (b) the organizational closure of the cognitive apparatus, which has far-reaching implications for the creation of meaningful agents.
Is a closed-loop discovery system feasible?
In: Magnani, L. (ed.) Computing and philosophy. Associated International Academic Publishers: Pavia, pp. 141–149
In order to construct scientifically reasoning artifacts we not only have to close the loop between hypothesis generation and evaluation but also to make the system embodied. To genuinely understand scientific insights, “robot scientists” need to represent scientific knowledge within their own representational structure rather than in terms of a priori defined logical propositions. Two main features of such systems are identified: projective constructivism that reverses the flow of information processing, and cognitive canalization that reduces computational requirements.
The constructivist challenge.
Constructivist Foundations 1(1): 1–8
Purpose: This is an attempt to define constructivism in a pluralistic way. It categorizes constructivist work within a three-dimensional space rather than along one dimension only. Practical implications: The interdisciplinary definition makes it possible to perceive the rather heterogenous constructivist community as a coherent and largely consistent scien- tific effort to provide answers to demanding complex problems. Furthermore it gives authors of Constructivist Foundation the opportunity to locate their own position within the community. Conclusions: I offer a catalogue of ten points that outline the constructivist program. Each of these aspects invites authors to extensively reflect on it and to approach it from their disciplinary background to do work in any of the types of investigations the journal covers. Key words: constructivist approaches, interdisciplinarity, dogmatism.
Kybernetes 34 (1/2): 89–104
Purpose of this paper – From the radical constructivist point of view the mainstream conception of
memory as an encoding-storage-retrieval device is considered questionable. The paper aims at an
alternative perspective on memory and its interaction with cognition.
Design/methodology/approach – The argumentation is based on various experimental data such
as cognitive problem-solving, change blindness, and childhood amnesia. Theoretical insights of the
radical constructivist epistemology developed by Heinz von Foerster and others contribute as well.
Findings – Describing memory as storage-retrieval device separated from cognition is rejected.
Rather, memory is the expression of a static snapshot of otherwise dynamical cognitive processes.
As an embodied network of constructive components, the evolutionary evolved cognition-memory
compound is not geared toward reproducing “true” facts. Rather, its goal is to produce structure that
maintains coherence with the rest of the network.
Research limitations/implications – Memory research should not judge recognition in terms of
“correct” or “false” but rather reassess its performance in terms of the super-ordinate cognitive faculty.
Practical implications – The results imply that the role of memory should be reconsidered both in
memory research as well as in practical areas such as psychotherapy and law.
Originality/value – The new characterization of memory rejects the narrow computational theory of
mind. It provides a better account for memory distortion phenomena such as false recognition,
intrusion, and confabulation.
Keywords Memory, Language, Child psychology, Cognition
Cognitive systems do not pick up knowledge from the environment.
In: Russell, A. et al. (eds.) Proceedings of AMKLC’05. International symposium on adaptive models of knowledge, language and cognition. Helsinki University of Technology, Espoo, Finland, pp. 1–7
The conventional philosophical perspective on knowledge and meaning suffers from at least two problems: the proper definition of truth, and the use of propositions as a basic vehicle for knowledge. By contrast, naturalized accounts such as evolutionary epistemology and radical constructivism offer a broader conceptual frame which allows to include the cognition of animals and artifacts as well. The paper explores a possible mechanism, the cognitive psychologist notion of schemata-controlled information pickup against a radical constructivist backdrop. I outline the importance of embodiment and autopoietic systems, which control their input rather than their output. The latter is considered the perspective of the observer-designer of cognitive artifacts. Using insights from philosophy and empirical results, the paper presents the implications of a radical constructivist understanding of knowledge and meaning. These include the rejection of premises evolutionary epistemology is based upon, and point in the direction of how to implement knowledge systems. The paper concludes with a call for closed-loop systems.
Act always so as to increase the number of scientific perspectives. Introduction to the Heinz von Foerster volume.
Kybernetes 34 (1/2): 6–14
The paper serves as an introduction to the special issue on Heinz von Foerster. Major episodes of his life are sketched and related to his scientific convictions regarding transdisciplinary research and radical constructivist. In the second part the contributions to the issue are summarized. Finally, the relevance of Foerster‘s work is discussed.
Like cats and dogs: Radical constructivism and evolutionary epistemology.
In: Evolutionary epistemology, language and culture: A non-adaptationist, systems theoretical approach. Springer-Verlag: Dordrecht, pp.47–65
I identify two similarities between evolutionary epistemology (EE) and radical constructivism (RC): (1) They were founded primarily by biologists and (2) their respective claims can be related to Kant. Despite this fact there seems to be an abyss between them. I present an attempt to reconcile this gap and characterize EE as the approach that focuses on external behaviour, while RC emphasizes the perspective from within. The central concept of hypothetical realism is criticized as unnecessarily narrowing down the scope of EE. Finally, methodological and philosophical conclusions are drawn.
Konstruierte oder konstruierende Seele? Gedanken zum Seelebegriff aus kognitiv-konstruktivistischer Perspektive.
In: Peschl, F. (ed.) Die Rolle der Seele in der Kognitionswissenschaft und der Neurowissenschaft. Auf der Suche nach dem Substrat der Seele. Königshausen und Neumann: Würzburg, pp. 215–230
Gemäß des Konstruktivismus sind wir die Konstrukteure unserer eigenen Welt und nicht durch eine externe Realität determiniert. Seine am meisten konsistente Formulierung, der Radikale Konstruktivismus (RK), behauptet, daß wir unsere Erfahrung nicht transzendieren können. Deshalb macht es wenig Sinn zu sagen, daß sich unsere Konstruktionen den Strukturen einer externen Realität annähern. Was sind die Konsequenzen einer derartigen Sichtweise? Können wir sie benutzen, um kognitive Artefakte zu bauen -- eine Möglichkeit, der Freizügigkeit philosophischer Spekulationen über Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit zu entrinnen? Der vorliegende Beitrag soll die Grundzüge des RK darstellen, sofern dies bei seiner Heterogenität möglich ist. Fragen werden behandelt wie etwa: Sind unsere Konstruktionen arbiträr? Wie können wir miteinander reden, wenn unsere Kognition organisationell abgeschlossen ist, wie es der RK behauptet? Und schließlich die für mich interessanteste Frage: Wer macht wirklich die Konstruktionen? Zeichnet dafür eine Seele verantwortlich?
Inclusive worldviews: Interdisciplinary research from a radical constructivist perspective.
In: Aerts, D., D’Hooghe, B. & Note, N. (eds.) Worldviews, science and us: Redemarcating knowledge and its social and ethical implications. World Scientific: Singapore, pp. 20–37
Interdisciplinary inquiry presupposes an open worldview to enable the researcher to transcend the confinements of a specific discipline in order to become aware of aspects that are necessary to satisfyingly solve a problem. Radical constructivism offers a way of engineering such interdisciplinarity that goes beyond mere multi or pluridisciplinary approaches. In this paper I describe epistemological and methodological aspects of interdisciplinarity, discuss typical problems it faces, and carve out its relationship with knowledge and communication from a constructivist perspective. Five implications for interdisciplinary practice and science education conclude the paper.
Der Radikale Konstruktivismus als historistische Netzwerktheorie.
In: Stadler, F. & Stöltner, M. (eds.) Proceedings of the 28th International Wittgenstein Symposium
Kritiker des Radikalen Konstruktivismus werfen diesem vor, er bediene sich biologischer, psychologischer, und neurowissenschaftlicher Erkenntnisse, um die Unmöglichkeit derselben zu beweisen. Dieser naturalistischen, selbstaufhebenden und zur Vulgarisierung und zum Solipsismus neigenden Darstellung stelle ich Argumente entgegen, die für eine konstruktivistische Annäherung an Erkenntnisfragen mit den Mitteln rezenter Netzwerkmodellen sprechen. Damit weicht die biologisch-psychologische Fundierung des Radikalen Konstruktivismus zugunsten einer abstrakt-formalen.
Decision-making and anticipations: Why Buridani’s ass is an unlikely creature.
In: Smit, I., Wallach, W. & Lasker, G. E. (eds.) Cognitive, emotive and ethical aspects of decision making in humans and in AI. Volume IV. Windsor, Canada: The International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, pp. 35–40
Asinus Buridani starved because it could not decide whether to feed from the left or right haystack. Naturally, decisions need to be triggered. Where does this bias come from? Usually conscious free will is held responsible despite warnings such as Huxley’s Helpless Spectator Theory, which degrades consciousness to mere surveillance unable to do anything, and Freud’s claim that human consciousness is not the ‘master in its own house’. Similarly, in Libet’s empirical results free will appears to be at the mercy of the limbic unconsciousness. Prinz framed this remarkable result as “We don’t do what we want, but we want what we do.” The consequences are obvious. What is referred to as a ‘decision maker’ is actually constructed at a level that obviously eludes conscious access. I propose an algorithmic account for decision making in humans and artificial cognitive agents that not only take the empirical results into consideration but also link decision making to the concept of anticipation. My claim is that decisions are the result of internal canalizations that arise from the dynamical hierarchical interlocking of structural elements in the cognitive system. This inevitably forces a particular path of how to react to certain contexts. I present psychological, ethological, and evolutionary evidence that support my account.
Turing’s choice: Human and artificial volition.
First global conference “Artificial intelligence: Exploring critical issues” in Vienna, Austria, 20–22 October 2003
[From the Introduction] Already more than 50 years ago Alan Turing (1950) set out to correct the view that a machine is not human-like until “it can write a sonnet… [however] not only write it but know that it had written it.” His solution, however, to settle at the “polite convention that everyone thinks” in order to prevent us from falling prey to solipsism, did not catch on among proponents of A.I. If we declare fellow humans equipped with free will there will be no reason to assume that we have to exclude sophisticated artifacts from becoming conscious as well. Let us reconsider the “polite convention” by picking up the idea that we indeed cognitively construct our world. This perspective rests on the insight that cognition is an organizationally closed system, a network of dynamically interacting elements whose properties are solely determined by the properties of other elements. However, what appears to be a solipsistic position – the one Turing warned us to take – is merely agnostic in a Wittgensteinian sense. How so?
The phenomenological-constructivist approach to interdisciplinary inquiry.
In: Milutinovic, V. (ed.) International conference on advances in internet, processing, systems, and interdisciplinary research. CD-ROM publication
What is the nature of our world? How does it work? How are we to act and to create in this world? Science has been struggling with providing answers to these and many more questions ever since. Attempting to find explanations for both “internal,” e.g., psychological, and “external,” e.g., physical, phenomena, many scientists have shifted their focus of attention toward interdisciplinary approaches. Interdisciplinary inquiry implies openness which enables the investigator to escape the confinements of a specific discipline in order to become aware of aspects that are necessary to satisfyingly solve a problem. Both, hermeneutic phenomenology and radical constructivism offer perspectives on how to engineer such interdisciplinarity that goes beyond mere multi- or pluridisciplinary approaches. In this paper we carve out the essence of these perspectives, discuss typical problems in contemporary attempts toward interdisciplinarity, and expound how phenomenology and constructivism make genuine interdisciplinary work possible.
In: Butz, M., Sigaud, O., and Gerard, P. (eds) Anticipatory behavior in adaptive learning systems: Foundations, theories, and systems. Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence. Springer-Verlag: Dordrecht, pp. 11–22
The central question in this paper is: Who (or what) constructs anticipations? I challenge the (tacit) assumption of Rosen‘s standard definition of anticipatory systems according to which the cognitive system actively constructs a predictive model based on which it carries out anticipations. My arguments show that so-called implicit anticipatory systems are at the root of any other form of anticipatory systems as the nature of the “decision maker” in the latter cannot be a conscious one.
Memory ain’t no fridge: A constructivist interpretation of constructive memory.
In: Kokinov, B. and Hirst, W. (eds) Constructive memory. NBU Series in Cognitive Science: Sofia, pp. 277–289
This paper suggests an alternative framework for looking at phenomena of memory distortion. It provides evidences that focus on the anticipation-driven nature of cognition, which in turn gives rise to the assumption that cognitive constructs are primary to perceptions. In this radical constructivist perspective, memory is inseparably embedded in cognitive processes rather than a neural device for storing and retrieving knowledge. Radical constructivism is presented on the basis of four principles and its consequences for research on constructive memory are investigated.
When is a cognitive system embodied?
Cognitive Systems Research, special issue on “Situated and Embodied Cognition” 3:339–348
For cognitive systems, embodiment appears to be of crucial importance. Unfortunately, nobody seems to be able to define embodiment in a way that would prevent it from also covering its trivial interpretations such as mere situatedness in complex environments. The paper focuses on the definition of embodiment, especially whether physical embodiment is necessary and/or sufficient for cognitive systems. Cognition is characterized as a continuous complex process rather than ahistorical logical capability. Furthermore, the paper investigates the relationship between cognitive embodiment and the issues of understanding, representation and task specification.
Keywords: complexity; constructivism; design; embeddedness; representation; teleonomy; understanding
A better world?
Karl Jaspers Forum: An electronic journal for target articles TA40 C4
Dewey Dykstra’s target article, together with his response R2, forms an important treatise on why radical constructivism (RC) has more potential than realism. It is an interesting paper for several reasons. It examines the solipsism-reproach radical constructivism is often confronted with, it sheds light on how RC performs in science education, and explains how it relates to science. While I do support many of his arguments, I am skeptical with regard to some other points he makes, especially concerning whether a scientific world dominated by RC would unavoidably turn into a better world.
The impact of radical constructivism on science. Part 2: Physics, reasoning and learning.
Special issue of Foundations of Science 6(4)
With contributions by Helmut Schwegler, Gerhard Grössing, Olaf Diettrich, Bernard Scott, and Hans Rudi Fischer.
The impact of radical constructivism on science. Part 1: The Paradigm, biology and cognition.
Special issue of Foundations of Science 6(1–3)
With contributions by Alexander Riegler, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Ranulph Glanville, Gerard de Zeeuw, John Stewart, Markus Peschl, and Tom Ziemke.
Towards a radical constructivist understanding of science.
Foundations of Science, special issue on “The Impact of Radical Constructivism on Science” 6(1–3): 1–30
Constructivism is the idea that we construct our own world rather than it being determined by an outside reality. Its most consistent form, Radical Constructivism (RC), claims that we cannot transcend our experiences. Thus it doesn’t make sense to say that our constructions gradually approach the structure of an external reality. The mind is necessarily an epistemological solipsist, in contrast to being an ontological solipsist who maintains that this is all there is, namely a single mind within which the only world exists. RC recognizes the impossibility of the claim that the world does not exist. Yet, RC has the potential to go much further. I claim that RC provides the foundation of a new world-view in which we can overcome hard scientific problems. Thus, the paper is urging us to carry RC further, not just on philosophical grounds, but also into the domain of science.
KEY WORDS: epistemology, instrumentalism, scientific realism, solipsism, truth
Virtual science: Virtuality and knowledge acquisition in science and cognition.
In: Riegler A. et al. (eds.) Virtual reality. Peter Lang Verlag: Frankfurt/M., pp. 9–32
The focus of this paper is the process of knowledge acquisition (KA) and which role virtuality plays in this context. We argue that there are three different modes of knowledge acquisition which can be identified both in the domains of cognition and science: the empirical, the “constructive”, and the “synthetic” mode. We show that the method of constructing knowledge in the virtual domain (i.e., the synthetic mode of KA) is not only a principal mode of KA in our cognition (e.g., thought experiments, making plans, etc.). It becomes increasingly important in the field of (natural) science in the form of simulations and virtual experiments. The attempt to find an answer to the question of whether simulation can be an information source for science, and to validate the computational approach in science, leads to a new interpretation of the nature of virtual models. This new perspective renders the problem of “feature extraction” obsolete.
The role of anticipation in cognition.
In: Dubois, D. M. (ed.) Computing anticipatory systems. Proceedings of the American Institute of Physics 573, pp. 534–541
According to the standard definition of anticipatory systems, anticipation is based on a predictive model of the system itself and its environment. The paper abandons this perspective of weak anticipation in favor of what has been called strong anticipation. It is proposed that anticipation is a consequence of canalization caused by the organization of the structural building-blocks of which the system in question consists. Strong anticipation can account for the anticipatory behavior in animals to which we would not impute the ability of creating internal models of themselves.
Virtual reality: Cognitive foundations, technological issues & philosophical implications.
Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main
The concept of “virtuality” has introduced a completely new mode of representing, presenting, as well as acquiring knowledge. The present collection of papers acknowledges this development and gives a survey over the most important developments, issues, and foundations from an interdisciplinary perspective.
This book intends to enlarge the definition of virtual reality in order to go beyond the toy character it may still have in the public. The contributions show that virtuality has not only been successfully applied in various technical and medical domains but also touches basic philosophical problems and questions related to cognitive science. In fact, developing the concept of virtuality further will be the key to many challenges in both theoretical and technical domains.
Können wir das Problem der Echtzeitkognition lösen?
In: Edlinger K., Feigl W. & Fleck G. (eds) Reduktion – Spiel – Kreation. Probleme des molekularbiologischen Reduktionismus und des Künstlichen Lebens. Frankfurt am MaIn: Peter Lang, pp. 48–59
Eines der größten Probleme in der Artifical Life ist die Frage, wie Lebewesen mit dem “Information Overload” zurecht kommen, d.h. wie sie aus der Flut der Umweltreize die für sie relevante Information in Echtzeit heraus-filtern. Ausgeklügelte informationsverarbeitende Mechanismen wurden konstruiert, die das Problem aber nur noch verschlimmern: Wie können Lebewesen mit ihren in der Regel begrenzten kognitiven Fähigkeiten jemals eine derartige computationale Maschinerie beherbergen? Einem Vorschlag Karl Poppers folgend möchte ich für eine alternative Perspektive argumentieren und daraus generelle Richtlinien für künstliche Systeme darlegen.
The cognitive ratchet. The ratchet effect as a fundamental principle in evolution and cognition.
Cybernetics and Systems 32 (3–4): 411–427
Is the evolution and performance of cognition an asymmetric, directed process? The standard externalist definition of evolution as a mechanism of variation and selection cannot account for directed developments such as an increase in complexity of cognition. A separate cause which is responsible for complexification requires us to deviate from the usual description of cognition as ahistorical logical problem-solving: the anticipation-driven nature of behavior, and hence cognition based on a ratchet effect. On a structural level it is evident that the growth of behavioral competence, similar to biological structures, must build on previously available components, thus yielding a canalization of development. This unavoidably introduces asymmetry in the cognitive evolution. Numerous examples show the relevance of the proposed mechanisms in biology, psychology, and the artificial sciences.
Asymmetry of behavior and evolution.
In: Trappl, R. (ed) Cybernetics and systems 2000. Proceedings of the 15th European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research (EMCSR-2000). Vienna: Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies, pp. 211–214
In this paper I discuss the relevance of asymmetric processes in living systems, both in a procedural and structural perspective. I do not consider behavior as ahistorical logical problem-solving. Rather I emphasize the anticipation-driven nature of behavior and hence cognition. On a structural level it is evident that the growth of behavioral competence, similar to biological structures, has to build on previously available components. However, reversibility can occur. Finally I will outline the implications of asymmetry for the design of artificial life systems.
Moving on with constructivism.
Karl Jaspers Forum: An electronic journal for target articles TA24 C15
In this commentary I want to stress two issues: My appreciation for the overview of MIR-related theories (it can be considered a challenging first step toward an even more comprehensive overview) and the need to move on with constructivist issues. I am writing from a pragmatic perspective. The sophisticated formulation of radical constructivism (RC) seems to be the result of a long historical line of argumentation. Now the interesting questions arise: how can we use it? Will it provide insights and mechanisms which can actually be used to alter the way we approach (everyday and scientific) problems?
The evolution of complexity.
The Evolution of Complexity is addressed to a broad audience of academics and researchers from different disciplines, who are interested in the picture of our world emerging from the new sciences of complexity. This book reviews the new concepts proposed by the diverse theories of evolution, self-organisation, general systems, cybernetics, and the ‘complex adaptive systems’ approach pioneered by the Santa Fe institute. The thread which holds everything together is the growth of complexity during the history of the universe: from elementary particles, via atoms, molecules, living cells, multicellular organisms, plants, and animals to human beings, and societies. The different sections of the book discuss the foundations and philosophy of complexity evolution, its mathematical and computer models, its explanation of self-organising and living systems, the insights it provides into the origin of mind, language and culture, and its practical applications in areas such as management and system design.
Does representation need reality?
In: Riegler A., Peschl M. F. & Stein A. von (eds.) (1999) Understanding representation in the cognitive sciences. Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers: New York, pp. 9–17
This paper discusses the notion of representation and outlines the ideas and questions which led to the organization of this volume. We argue for a distinction between the classical view of referential representation, and the alternative concept of system-relative representation. The latter refers to situated cognitive processes whose dynamics are merely modulated by their environment rather than being instructed and determined by it.
Understanding representation in the cognitive sciences.
Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers: New York
This volume argues in favor of rethinking basic issues in cognitive science in the context of recent developments. Some issues that are investigated include: the importance of simulation as a methodological tool for theory development in cognitive science, the necessity of linguistic transparency in models of cognition, and the embodiment of knowledge in its substratum, for example, in neural structure. The volume sketches the epistemological and methodological implications for cognitive science and its related disciplines. These issues include the evolution of semantics and symbol grounding as well as the design of autonomous systems acting in the `real’ world, either as robots or as software.
The end of science: Can we overcome cognitive limitations?
Evolution & Cognition 4(1): 37–50
“Why is the universe knowable?” Davies (1990) wonders. In this paper, I argue that science is not a matter of knowing any universe. Rather, it is a — as history has shown — superior method of guidelines of how to organize experiences yielding predictive power. Historically, two types of models have given rise to the effectiveness of science, narrative and mathematical models. Based on cognitive psychological investigations, I point out that due to the human nature of scientific reasoning both types of models are limited. With the advent of computational devices scientific investigation may now be extended to “externalized deductions”, which are not subject to a limited shortterm memory and slow performance. To shift this to computational science we have to recognize that models in all three approaches have basically the same function. Although this might not solve the realist’s question of how models relate to the world (at a deep philosophical sense), it will guarantee the continued existence of contemporary science beyond the cognitive barrier.
Ein kybernetisch-konstruktivistisches Modell der Kognition.
In: Müller, A, Müller, K. H. & Stadler, F. (eds.) Konstruktivismus und Kognitionswissenschaft. Kulturelle Wurzeln und Ergebnisse. Springer: Wien, New York, pp. 75–88
[From Introduction] Der Anspruch des hier vorgestellten Constructivist Artificial Life Models (CALM) besteht darin, Artificial Life auch auf eine kognitive Ebene zu bringen, d.h. auf die Ebene der Organisation und Evolution von zunehmend komplexeren Verhaltensweisen. Kognition kennzeichnet in diesem Kontext die Fähigkeit von Individuen, in ihrer Umwelt zu überleben und im Sinne des Konstruktivismus ein viables Weltbild zu konstruieren… Zunächst sollen die motivationalen Aspekte dargelegt werden, die zur Formulierung von CALM führten. Diese gründen in der Ethologie, in der Systemtheorie der Evolution und im Radikalen Konstruktivismus. In Sektion 3 wird das Modell im Detail vorgestellt. Sektion 4 beschreibt eine Beispielumwelt, in der sich mit dem konstruktivistischen Kognitionsapparat ausgerüstete Agenten bewähren müssen. Schließlich wird in den Sektionen 5 und 6 eine Zusammenfassung des Modells und ein Ausblick auf mögliche Erweiterungen gegeben.
A cognitive architecture based on Piagetian and radical constructivism.
In: Schachner, W. (ed.) Constructivism, interactionism and their applications. Symposium proceedings at the conference “The growing mind: Multidisciplinary approaches” in Geneva, Switzerland, 14–18 September 1996
This paper addresses the epistemological background of the constructivist artificial life (CLife) approach and sketches the cognitive architecture based on CLife. The approach aims at providing a new cognitive architecture which shows how an individual creates his or her own world. This is in a line with Jean Piaget’s “L’ intelligence… organise le monde ens’organisant elle-même”. Furthermore, the architecture maintains the explainability of cognitive processes at a functional level. What is the process by which we make sense of the world? If such constructions are to occur inside an organism there must be some type of separation between cognitive processes going on inside an agent and its sensor and effector surfaces (unspecifity of nervous signals). Thus we must not define apriori categories of perceivable objects and actions an agent can take. No new semantics will ever emerge in such systems. Furthermore, the usage of constructivist concepts implies an expectation-driven behavior: The behavior is controlled by schemata which, once invoked, ask for sensory or internal data only when it needs it: The agent neglects environmental events except for the demands of the current action pattern. The overall algorithm performs the process of assimilation in the Piagetian sense. Schemata have the following properties: (a) They are fuzzy to reflect the fact that in nature are no crisp entities and relationships. (b) By introducing functional couplings, simple schemata can be organized and combined into bigger chunks of knowledge. Couplings provide for increasing multimodal coordination by which an creature constructs the idea of invariant permanent objects.
CALM – Eine konstruktivistische Kognitionsarchitektur für Artificial Life.
In: Dautenhahn, K. et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the workshop “Artificial Life”, 12–13 October 1995 in Sankt Augustin, Germany. GMD Studien No. 271, pp. 73–82
Die konstruktivistische Kognitionsarchitektur stellt eine neue Methodologie für einen evolutionären Ansatz der Artificial Intelligence zur Verfügung. Zwei Merkmale finden dabei besondere Berücksichtigung: Die Entwicklung höherer kognitiver Strukturen, die ausgehend von einfachen sensomotorisch organisierten Individuen durch Invariantenbildung entstehen, und die Aufrechterhaltung der Erklärbarkeit der ablaufenden „kognitiven“ Prozesse.
Fuzzy interval stack schemata for sensorimotor beings.
In: Gaussier, P. & Nicoud, J.-D. (eds.) Proceedings of the conference “From perception to action” (PerAc94). IEEE Computer Society Press: Los Alamitos, pp. 392–395
Within this paper I present an Artificial Life model equipped with fuzzy interval stack schemata (FISS). The schemata are chained thus forming hypotheses. This constructivist-anticipatory algorithm guides perception and behavior of sensorimotor beings.
Constructivist artificial life: The constructivist-anticipatory principle and functional coupling.
In: Hopf, J. (ed.) Proceedings of the 18th German conference on artificial intelligence (KI-94). Workshop on genetic algorithms within the framework of evolutionary computation. Max-Planck-Institute Report No. MPI-I-94–241, pp. 73–83
Both the system theory of evolution and the epistemology of radical constructivism provide fertile inspiration for enhancements of artificial life. Within this paper I will demonstrate that (a) one can move the emphasis on sensory information processing to a more expectation-driven algorithm; and (b) that a separation between the operational closed brain on the one hand and sensors and motor elements on the other hand will enable the study of cognitive mechanisms independent of the actual environment.
Constructivist artificial life, and beyond.
In: McMullin, B. (ed.) Proceedings of the workshop on “Autopoiesis and Perception”, Dublin City University, 25–26 August 1992. Dublin City University: Dublin, pp. 121–136
Within this paper I provide an epistemological context for Artificial Life projects. Later on, the insights which such projects will exhibit may be used as a general direction for further Artificial Life implementations. The purpose of such a model is to demonstrate by way of simulation how higher cognitive structures may emerge from building invariants by simple sensorimotor beings. By using the bottom-up methodology of Artificial Life, it is hoped to overcome problems that arise from dealing with complex systems, such as the phenomenon of cognition. The research will lead to both epistemological and technical implications. The proposed ALife model is intended to point out the usefulness of an interdisciplinary approach including methodological approaches from disciplines such as Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science, Theoretical Biology, and Artificial Life. I try to put them in one single context. The epistemological background which is necessary for this purpose comes from the ideas developed in both epistemological and psychological Constructivism. The model differs from other ALife approaches-- and is somewhat radical in this sense--as it tries to start on the lowest possible level, i.e. avoids several a priori assumptions and anthropocentric ascriptions. Due to this characterization, the project may be alternatively viewed as testing the complementary relationship between epistemology and methodology.