Jones, John WEN (JonesJ@ur.sdstate.edu)
Sat, 14 Dec 1996 11:27

PCP Collegues

I would like to perhaps start a dialogue in response to a statement by Dr.
Mancuso a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to get to this a little sooner, but
I needed some time to formulate my own thoughts. I particularly would like
Dr. Mancuso's response and others as well. I'm trying to debate here or
play the devil's advocate. I'm trying to come to grips with this myself,
and I feel a dialogue would be really helpful.

A couple of weeks ago in response to another message, Dr. Mancuso stated
that we should not get wrapped up in talking about "reality." As a
constructivist, I agree that we construct our "personal realities." One of
the issues I struggle with however, is what statements we can make about a
"reality" that is out there. Whar are we construing when we say something
is "real", and does that carry meaning beyond personal meaning to society
and our culture in general?

There are several reasons why I'm struggling with giving up the concept of
"real." One is evolution and adaptation. Although I agree that our mental
representations of "reality" are probably not a one-to-one correspondence,
can we claim that those representations have to be close enough that enables
our survival? If not, would we be here? Is there "something" out there to
which we must adapt, and isn't that "real"? What I'm not proposing is some
absolutistic stance. I tend to agree with Popper about knowledge being
tentative and non-justifiable. However, can we not make knowlege claims
that are "better" than others or propose theories that, at least in a point
in time, seem to offer "better" explanations than other theories? Is
quantum physics an "improvement" over Newtonian physics? And if so, why?

I may be asking the "wrong" kind of questions, or forming my questions in a
way that is not fruitful. I'm aware of the critical and radical camps in
constructivism, but I'm not totally clear on the differences and/or
similarities. Is it possible to integrate Popper's critical realism into a
constructivist approach without it being viewed in aboslutistic terms? And
is it possible to hold a constructivist epistemology without holding to a
radical relativism?

I would be interested in any input from others and perhaps beginning a
dialogue on these issues and see where it takes us if PCP collegues believe
it's interesting enough to follow up on.


Vic Jones