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Ernst Von Glasersfeld Bibliography Website

Ernst von Glasersfeld (March 8, – November 12, ) was an Austrian-born American philosopher, and Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia.


  • Once knowing is no longer understood as the search for an iconic representation of ontological reality but, instead, as a search for fitting ways of behaving and thinking, the traditional problem disappears. Knowledge can now be seen as something which the organism builds up in the attempt to order the as such amorphous flow of experience by establishing repeatable experiences and relatively reliable relations between them. The possibilities of constructing such an order are determined and perpetually constrained by the preceding steps in the construction. That means that the “real” world manifests itself exclusively there where our constructions break down. But since we can describe and explain these breakdowns only in the very concepts that we have used to build the failing structures, this process can never yield a picture of a world that we could hold responsible for their failure.
    • Glasersfeld () "An Introduction to Radical Constructivism", as cited in: Frederick Burwick, Walter Pape () Aesthetic Illusion: Theoretical and Historical Approaches. pp
  • From an explorer who is condemned to seek 'structural properties' of an inaccessible reality, the experiencing organism now turns-into a builder of cognitive structures intended to solve such problems as the organism perceives.
    • Von Glasersfeld () cited in: Gary D. Phye () Handbook of Academic Learning: Construction of Knowledge. p.
  • .. in spite of the fact that it often feels as though the meaning of words and sentences were conveyed to us by the sounds of speech or the signs on a printed page, It is easy to show that meanings do not travel through space and must under all circumstances be constructed in the head of the language users.
    • Von Glasersfeld (, p. ) cited in: Wolff-Michael Roth () Passibility: At the Limits of the Constructivist Metaphor. p.
  • I believe I have come to adopt a cybernetic way of thinking I became aware of this in the many conversations with students who were worrying about their future and asked for advice. I heard myself telling them that it was far more important to know what one did not want to do, than to have detailed plans of what one did want to do. One day it dawned on me that this was plain cybernetic advice; It is more useful to specify constraints rather than goals. - And then I explained it by adding that in one’s teens or twenties one usually has already discovered a number of things that one cannot stand, whereas it is quite impossible to foresee what, ten or twenty years later, will provide the satisfactions needed to maintain one’s equilibrium.
  • What we call knowledge does not and cannot have the purpose of producing representations of an independent reality, but instead has an adaptive function.
    • Von Glasersfeld cited in: E. John Capaldi, Robert W. Proctor () Contextualism in psychological research?: a critical review. p. 10
  • For me, as I later came to say, cybernetics is the art of creating equilibrium in a world of possibilities and constraints. This is not just a romantic description, it portrays the new way of thinking quite accurately. Cybernetics differs from the traditional scientific procedure, because it does not try to explain phenomena by searching for their causes, but rather by specifying the constraints that determine the direction of their development.
  • ( Von Glasersfeld () Partial Memories: Sketches from an Improbable Life. p.

Cybernetics, Experience and the Concept of Self, [edit]

  • As a metaphor - and I stress that it is intended as a metaphor - the concept of an invariant that arises out of mutually or cyclically balancing changes may help us to approach the concept of self. In cybernetics this metaphor is implemented in the ‘closed loop’, the circular arrangement of feedback mechanisms that maintain a given value within certain limits. They work toward an invariant, but the invariant is achieved not by a steady resistance, the way a rock stands unmoved in the wind, but by compensation over time. Whenever we happen to look in a feedback loop, we find the present act pitted against the immediate past, but already on the way to being compensated itself by the immediate future. The invariant the system achieves can, therefore, never be found or frozen in a single element because, by its very nature, it consists in one or more relationships - and relationships are not in things but between them.
    If the self, as I suggest, is a relational entity, it cannot have a locus in the world of experiential objects. It does not reside in the heart, as Aristotle thought, nor in the brain, as we tend to think today. It resides in no place at all, but merely manifests itself in the continuity of our acts of differentiating and relating and in the intuitive certainty we have that our experience is truly ours.

Quotes about Ernst von Glasersfeld[edit]

  • Ernst von Glasersfeld, who founded radical constructivism (RC) in the s, is clearly on Kuhn's side
    • Luciano L'Abate () Paradigms in Theory Construction. p.

External links[edit]

Ernst von Glasersfeld,
What we call knowledge does not and cannot have the purpose of producing representations of an independent reality, but instead has an adaptive function.
- Glasersfeld,

Ernst von Glasersfeld
Philosopher and cybernetician (born in in Munich with Austrian citizenship), he spent large parts of his life in Ireland (s, where he worked as a farmer), in Italy (s, where he worked for Silvio Ceccato and the Italian Operational School) and the USA (where he is currently Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia and Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst).

Elaborating upon Vico, Piaget&#;s genetic epistemology, &#;s theory of perception, von Glasersfeld developed his model of radical constructivism, giving a great contribution to the development and spreading of such epistemology.
  • von Glasersfeld, E. (). The construction of knowledge: Contributions to conceptual semantics. : Intersystems Publications. 
  • von Glasersfeld, E. (, April). The incommensurability of scientific and poetic knowledge. Expanded Translation of a talk given at the International Congress on Science, Mysticism, Poetry, and Consciousness, Instituto Piaget, .
  • von Glasersfeld, E. (). Radical constructivism: A way of knowing and learning. & : The Falmer Press. 
  • von Glasersfeld, E. (). The conceptual construction of time. Presented at Mind and Time, Neuchâtel, September  
  • von Glasersfeld, E. (). Distinguishing the observer: An attempt at interpreting Maturana. 
  • von Glasersfeld, E. (). An exposition of constructivism: Why some like it radical.
Gabriele Chiari & M. Laura Nuzzo

Last update: 15 February

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