Re: Constructivism,constructs, + Kellians
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 23:58:26 +0000

Gary writes, inter al.,

>[This is NEVER true of religious beliefs, so far as I know. Hence the
>fundamental difference between science and religion. Can you cite a
>single religious belief that can be, or better yet has been, tested
>according to the basic few steps of scientific investigation? Just one?

Of course. Psychic phenomena. Some of the most methodologically solid
investigations are written up in the psychic research journals. (Ah-ah!
Don't reach for your six-shooter... go and look one up in the nearest
library and check for yourself!)

Whether the findings are reproducible or not is an argument I won't get
into here; or whether the tests have substantiated the assertions. But of
course they've been tested "according to the basic few steps of scientific
investigation!". As have the claims for miracles at places like Lourdes or

To say that those with a predominantly religous epistemology are
fundamentally different to those with a "scientific" epistemology because
they eschew rational investigation of their belief systems whereas the
latter don't
is to make a distinction which doesn't exist, and which trivialises both
sets of terms, IMHO.

To be crystal clear: both the religous and the "scientific" engage in
rational investigation of their belief systems.

Devi Jankowicz

In another mailing, he goes on to ask me to define "inductive",
"hypothetico-deductive", "constructivist", and "positivist epsitemology",
at which point I begin to suspect a leg-pull, especially when he states
>I am just not fluent enough in this jargon, nor do I know you and your
>learning community well enough, to find these anything but
>presuppositions which may dazzle but do not necessarily delineate, at
>least for people like me.

Oh well.

1. They aren't Kellian jargon, as a quick glance at any general methodology
text or even good dictionary would demonstrate.

2. Yes, of course they're presuppositions, but I suspect Garry has a
different understanding of a presupposition than I do.

3. Definitions:

"Inductive" a process in which the patterns which a person discerns in
individual observations are used to infer a general statement which counts
as an explanation for those events for the person concerned. _Not_ what the
conventional science to which Garry appears to subscribe does (though
Grounded Theory uses a somewhat more sophisticated version of it).

"Hypothetico-deductive" a process in which a postulate is stated (often in
the form of a relationship between two variables) to account for some
events in general, following which a specific prediction is deduced in
order to permit testing in some specific instance (as in an experiment),
from which a verification of the plausibility of the postulate is
attempted. What the conventional science to which Garry appears to
subscribe usually does.

"Epistemology": a theory of what counts as knowledge and how knowledge is

"Constructivist": an epistemology which asserts that knowledge is developed
by an active process on the part of the individual, in contrast to
"Realist", an epistemology which asserts that knowledge is developed by
discovery of whatever is the case out there. (Kelly commits himself to a
particular constructivism by pointing out that the active process involves
mapping a personal model onto a reality out there as it is perceived by
that individual; other constructivists/constructionists like, e.g. Berger &
Luckman emphasise the social consensus involved in the process of knowledge

"Positivist" an epistemology which makes the following four assumptions:
-- Hypothetico-deductive method is not just one way of knowing things,
it's the only one which avoids the dangers of stereotyping, myth and
-- It should be applied, in the form of theories which provide an
underpinning to technology
-- Ultimately, and all talk of probabilities aside, people can identify
whether an assertion is true or false: we're always
capable of making this distinction
-- We recognise truth in only two ways: by seeing that an assertion is
consistent with deductions made from it (the basis
of truth in logic and mathematics); or by recognising
that it is supported by empirical evidence (the basis of truth in
everything else). The only alternatives are either sheer emotion which is
unreliable, or poetry which is nice but not to be taken too seriously as a
way of understanding the world; anything else is nonsense.

Would I be right in supposing from his previous postings, that Garry's a

He concludes by casting doubts on constructs like "dogmatic and righteous" vs.
"open and selfreflective" because
>These are simply assessments made by an observer,
>according to whatever standard they wish to use, one of which is
>generally regarded as positive and the other negative.

Exactly! _Every_ assessment is an
>assessment made by an observer,
>according to whatever standard they wish to use.

Tricky, what?

>How does that approach tell us whether that new pill to cure acne should be
>>taken by our children, or whether doing so may kill them?

By being supported by evidence which allows that person to make predictions
which generally turn out to work for him/her,
and which, (an essential addition),
seem to work in that way for other people too, as those people see it;
although, Kelly would add
alternative approaches to making predictions concerning a given set of
events are always possible.

G'night, sleep tight;
Ignore me, read Kelly and make up your own mind!

Kindest regards,

Devi Jankowicz

(Devi, repeat after me: 'you _will_ not respond to any further mailings for
at least one week'. 'You _will_ not' etc....)