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Louise Larsson (23/5-2018) within the course "The Odysee of Philopsophy and Information" facilitated by J.M.Díaz) 

Contructivism is a viewpoint within philosophy about knowledge, which have had a big impact on several disciplines such as education, sociology, psychology, philosophy of science and history (Wikipedia, 2018). This entry will explain and define the concept of constructivism and its connection to information. Different philosophers who are related to this concept will also be mentioned. The content of this entry is also explaining that the concept of constructivism can be divided into different subconcepts, such as radical constructivism and social constructivism. These are different approaches and of constructivism. Moreover, it is explained that there are different interpretations of these subconcepts as well. 

The relation to information

This theory is strongly connected to information. The word information is used in order to explain the content which is exchanged when adjusting to the environment. It can also be explained by the Batestonian definition of information as ”the difference that makes a difference”. This means that the difference is an observational approach that is created between the perceptive structure of the system and the environment when presented to it. In other words, the difference is not taking place in observer or in the environment, but in the interaction between them (s. Endogenous information, Aguado, 2009)

In connection to information, constructivism is explained as the observational occurrence created through ”the systematic reflection on the contradictions pointed out in the objectivist approach”. It suggests that the communication is not dependent on the environments contribution to the system, but on how the system reacts in the interaction between the environment and the system itself (s. Endogenous information, Aguado, 2009). 

Philosophers within constructivism

There are many different views and theorists within constructivism, but the most known of them all within this subject is Jean Piaget. He is a philosopher which can be seen as the father of the theory of constructivism. During the infancy of constructivism, the theory studied the connection between the experiences of the human, and its behaviors and reflexes. These systems were, by Jean Piaget, called schemes. Schemes are concepts. For example, people often have shemes for ”egg” or ”grandmother”. These schemes should not be connected to the word ”schema” which is another term within another subject and has nothing to do with the ”schemes” (Wikipedia, 2018). 

Jean Piaget was focusing on how we as humans are able to create meaning by the interactions between our ideas and our experiences. Piaget himself, considered him as a genetic epistemologist. This means that he had big interests in the genesis of knowledge. Most of his attention tented to turn to the development of the human, in relation to what happens with an individual that is distinct from the development that is affected by other persons (Wikipedia, 2018). 

Jean Piaget believed that the human collects knowledge only through the correlation with the experiences and the knowledge we already have through these. We therefore ”construct” our own interpretations and understanding of the world. This suggests that all new information we interpret is based on the knowledge we already posses, which creates a broader understanding of the surrounding environment (Anon, 2012). Within learning, the theory of constructivism has had a big influence on teaching methods and learning theories in school and educations (Wikipedia, 2018). 

It can also be defined through the explanations that we as humans are responsible for our own thinking, our knowledge and our actions. Behaviorists believe that the responsibility is on the environment, and the sociobiologists try to push it on to the genes. But the constructivists believe that only ourselves are responsible for our living (Watzlawick, 1984).

Another philosopher named Ernst Von Glasersfeld, which was influenced by Piaget himself, argues that reality and knowledge is made out of a network of objectives and relationships which we trust and believe, which makes other believe in as well. The reality is interpreted in a way that is based on the previous experiences and the contact with the environment. Ernst Von Glaserstfeld is mostly correlated with radical constructivism (Gergen, 1997). 

Radical constructivism

This perspective could also be defined with Bateson’s definition, but with a twist of words, which would therefore instead be explained by ”the different that finds a difference”. This explains the idea that the environment only is based on the system no matter the operative structure and with the obligations to restrain functional determinism of the cause-effect connection in the meeting with the system environment, especially when being careful to put forward that the communication was under no circumstanced a traffic of differences between the environment and the system, and the other way around (s. Endogenous information, Aguado, 2009).  

This constructivism is radical since it goes against the convention and creates a knowledge theory where the knowledge does not mirror an objective ontological reality, but only a system and an ordering of the world composed be our experiences. Representations or pictures do not have the possibilities to make us interpret knowledge, it is only a key which which we can use in order to open up different paths for us (Watslawick, 1984).

The radical view of constructivism

Ernst von Glasersfeld states that according to constructivism, every cognitive activity is taking place in the world of experiences and goal-directed consciousness. The goals in this situation is highlighted by the reason that a cognitive experience always estimates its own experiences, and because of that, there is a tendency that certain experiences are repeated and certain experiences are avoided. Therefore, in the conscious cognitive activity, they always have a purpose and are often determined based on how that purpose is served. Therefore, you can say that the future is always resembling the past. If the opposite is concluded, that the past does not have an affect on the future, then all experiences are useless (Watslawick, 1984).

Another approach within constructivism is regarding the regularities that a cognitive organism can find or produce in its world of experience. Always when claiming that anything is constant, regular or invariant in some way, there has to always be a comparison. This indicates that anything that already has been experienced before, is compared in the relation of a second experience, which is not coinciding to the first experience. Either if the comparison concludes differences or similarities, it will probably be possible for it to be connected to different concepts, so called ”equivalence” or ”individual identity”. Piaget has shown that these two concepts are not hereditary, but is built up. In fact, most of all children build it up before the second year of their life. What makes it possible for the comparison between a past experience or perception and a present experience to take place, is the capability to re-present the past experience to oneself. Although, that capability to re-present it to oneself, is what makes us consider reoccured perceptions as objects and place these in a space of which is independent of the own motion of the subject as well as a time that is independent of the flow of experiences of the subject (Watslawick, 1984). 

To this development, there are two different ways of comparing. Because if there are two experiential items, they can be externalized as independent objects, but they can also be seen as two experiences of one individual object that is existing. This has nothing to do with the result of a comparison between these two experiences. Although, it is caused by the conceptual character of the compared items. If the comparison of those result in a sameness, it could be either that both of the objects are equivalent , or that one of the objects has been unchanged along the interval between these experiences. But if the experiment results in a difference, we can either have two objects that have dissimilar properties, or one object of which has changed since the last experience. Everyday when we experience things, we of course create contexts which push us to a certain conceptualization, but without consciously needing to characterize it as individual identity or equivalence (Watslawick, 1984).

Sameness is in every case the result of an examination, and with regard to certain properties. If we take eggs as an example, two of them can be considered as the same, since they both have the same size, color and shape. But the fact that they were born in different times will make a clear difference between the two eggs. Therefore, all eggs and all other objects that has been experienced by oneself, are seen as the same for the reason that one have isolated the objects as unitary and bounded. This suggests that the criteria for if this is established as sameness or difference, are chosen and created by the subject which is experiencing and judging it, and can therefore not be assigned for a world that is experiencer-independent (Watslawick, 1984). 

When it comes to radical constructivism the importance of appreciating the active function of the subject is even bigger. It enables invariances and regularities in the world of experiences. Both constancy and regularity assumes experience that is repeated, and this repetition can only be established through a comparison which judges the sameness. However, sameness is in every case relative. This means that objects, and also experiences in general are (with the components and properties checked in the comparison in mind) the same. Therefore, for example if an experience consists of the factors a, b and c, it can be seen as the same as for another experience which includes a, b, c and x, but only if x is not registered. This is the principles of assimilation. In a situation where a and b find c, all objects that consists of a, b and c are acceptable and none of these objects are to be discriminable from objects which also consists of a, b and c (if no other factor is included into the comparison). However, this situation will be changed if one of the objects behaves in a different way from the behavior which is, based on previous experience, expected from a-b-c-objects. If this occur, it will cause so called perturbation, which is a disturbance. This can contribute to the examination of other components or properties and enables discrimination of the object that is disturbing, that is based on the x element. Then we have an occasion of accommodation, which is a main part within Piaget’s theory of cognitive development and action schemes. Here, Ernst von Glasersfeld wants to highlight that the concept of fit is in that principle incorporated since no matter what the object is from an objective perspective or in the ”reality”, it does not matter. The thing that matter is only if it behaves or performs as it is expected to be performed. Consequently, if it fits or not (Watslawick, 1984).

If repetition, based on that comparison, is able to be constructed, it is important that it is the same for all regularities. Every concept which involves repetition are reliant on a certain perspective, that is to say, what is considered and what kind of sameness is requested. If the material in the experiential world is rich enough, consciousness is able to construct order and regularities in a more chaotic world as well. How well this would succeed depends heavily on the starting-point that is already constructed and the goal, rather than on what would be given in the ”reality”. Although, always in our own experiences, which are resolute by our chosen goals, we have a tendency to refer the complications we face to an unreal reality, instead of to the way we are operating (Watslawick, 1984).

Social constructivism

Social constructivism focuses on the learning of an individual and that the learning is dependent on interactions with other people. Therefore, things is existing only in the interaction with the observer, and if the observer is understanding the perception of the social interaction. Hence, the understanding of all experiences are a social construction. Although, different groups are able to construct different views of the same experience. Beyond the interactions, no truths can be constructed. It suggests that the truths are social. It also states that in one topic, there are the same amount of truths, as there are in the amount of communities that have constructed them. These truths can in one topic be consistent, but can also in another topic be contradictory. This depends on the social linguistic and perceptual contexts from the community that is creating the interpretations (Wikipedia, 2018).

In other words, social constructivism stands for the argument that social practices are what creates knowledge. Therefore, knowledge is inescapably to be from a certain perspective or standpoint. In this view, no knowledge is objective or privileged. This means that any codified or specialized knowledge is the same as the knowledge we see as common sense in our everyday life, it is simply the knowledge that other people have (Wikipedia, 2018). 

Although, there can be two different kinds of interpretations of what social constructivism stands for, in relation to knowledge. One of these interpretations can be described as the one which focuses on the interest that is underlying the knowledge and the other interpretation can be described as the one that see the creation of knowledge as a process. We call the first one an ”interest-based” interpretation and the second one an ”process-based interpretation”. The interest-based interpretation of social constructivism was created in relation to Marx´s theory of ideology. Max theory was more concerning the interest in class. Although, his approach is today generalized and referring to all kinds of different social groups. This approach to knowledge mean that any knowledge is an  expressed social interest or represent a certain format of power relations. The other interpretation called ”process-based” interpretation have its roots in the social theorists like George Herbert Mead and Dewey. These theorists handled pragmatism and symbolic interactionism and for them, knowledge is always part of a context and it is always produced (Young, 2008). 

The complication about both of these different interpretations of social constructivism is that none of them are objective perspectives. Concerning the interest-based interpretation, the question which appears in this approach is who it is that has the power? The complications of the process-based interpretation is that they are not able to tell the difference between different types of situations of knowledge. For instance, the knowledge that a receptionist need is mostly situated, or it is connected to a certain context, meanwhile the needed knowledge of an accountant is not situated. Even though almost every job require specified or situated knowledge , a lot of them are also requiring knowledge in forms of specialists who are not bounded to any specific context (Young, 2008). 

When focusing either only on the practices or interests in the process of having and producing knowledge, the knowledge can easily be equalized with or reduced to the practices or interests of a group of knowers. Then content will be impulsive and arbitrary. Hence, social constructivism is fairly limited when it comes to expressions about certain subjects, since the distinction between knowledge in different subjects is big (Young, 2008).


  • Anon. (2012). Constructivism. Jean-Piaget Wikispace, TES. [Online] <> [Accessed: 11/5/2018]

  • Anon. (2018). Constructivism. The University of Sydney School of Education and Social Work. [Online].> [Accessed: 11/5/2018]
  • Gergen.K . (1997). Constructivism: Philosophical & Epistemological Foundations. [Online]. [Accessed: 12/5/2018]

  • Young, M.F.D., 2008. Bringing knowledge back in : from social constructivism to social realism in the sociology of education, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 

  • Watzlawick. P. (ed.) (1984) The invented reality. New York: Norton, pp. 17–40. English translation of: Glasersfeld, E. (1981) Einführung in den Radikalen Konstruktivismus. In: Watzlawick, P. (ed.) Die Erfundene Wirklichkeit, Munich: Piper, pp. 16–38. 

  • Wikipedia. (2018). Constructivism (philosophy of education). Wikipedia. [Online].> [Accessed: 27/5/2018]

  • Wikipedia. (2018). Social constructivism. Wikipedia. [Online].> [Accessed: 27/5/2018]