Re: "Reality"

Robert Parks (
Sat, 14 Dec 1996 12:56:06 -0500

In response to Vic Jones' invitation to dialogue about "reality" and its
significance in a constructivist framework, while I don't have answers to
defend, I would like to tack on a question and a possible direction for

Could it be productive to take "reality" as an hypothesis about precisely
the sorts of things we "must" adapt to, the things that are irretrievably
(or inconceivably) beyoond our control? If we look at life as a process,
then even "things" must be taken as only relatively stable facets of that
process. We may never be able to determine definitively what aspects of
thing-processes are beyond influence. But we can operate within the rough
confines of the parts of the world we can influence, and are therefore
responsible for.

If this provides some direction for response, then my question is: could we
consider "language" as an hypothesis about those aspects of meaningful
social life that are to be taken as beyond control of the current social
processes? In other words, could we take "language" to be an hypothesis
about those aspects of interaction that must be stable and unmanipulable in
order to communicate?

Thanks for giving me the chance to write a couple of sentences, even if
this is a dead end for you. Ignore at your pleasure.

Bob Parks

>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