Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)


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Jean Piaget

Following this, I will present a short history of hermeneutic understanding and its role in the story of science, again, as told in the context of the modern project. Finally, I will examine the outlines of the integrated relational methodology that emerged and continues to evolve out of the revolutionary events of the s. The narrative of modernity is defined by both a quest for absolute certainty of knowledge Toulmin, and an effort to expand individual freedom, especially freedom of thought.

Building knowledge on rational and reasoned grounds, rather than on the grounds of authority and dogma, was understood as the key to each of these goals. The early protagonists who developed the basic story line were Galileo Galilei and his physics of a natural world disconnected from mind, Ren6 Descartes, whose epistemology elevated disconnection to a first principle, and Thomas Hobbes, who saw both mind and nature in a vision of atomistic materialism. Of the three, Descartes was to have the greatest and most lasting impact on the text and subtexts that we now refer to as modern scientific methodology.

Splitting is the formation of a dichotomy-of an exclusive either-or relationship-and foundationalism is the claim that one or the other elements of the formed dichotomy constitutes the ultimate real.


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Nature and nurture, idealism and materialism form and matter , reason and observation, subject and object, constancy and change, biology and culture, and so forth can all be-and under the influence of Cartesian epistemology are-thought of as split-off competing alternatives. Choose the one as the real-as the foundation-and it follows under a split interpretation that the other is mere appearance or epiphenomenal.

Assimilation facts

The foundation here is the final achievement of absolute certainty and the end of doubt. The foundation is not a vantage point, standpoint, or point of view and certainty and doubt are not dialectically related as an identity of opposites. It constitutes an absolute, fixed, unchanging bedrock-a final Archimedes point Descartes, With splitting and foundationalism in place, the theme of reductionism is firmly planted in the story and virtually all change to the present day represents elaboration and variation.

However, the specification of the nature of the ultimate foundation remained at issue. It was left to Hobbes and later empiricists to operate within the frame of subject split from object, mind split from body, and ideas split from matter, and to build into this frame the materialist identification of atomistic matter as the ultimate ontological foundation-the Real. Furthermore, the epistemological rhetoric of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume operated to suppress subjectivity, mind, or ideas, thereby creating objectivism, or the belief that the ultimate material reality exists as an absolute-independent of mind or knower Searle, Objectivist matter thus came to constitute the ontological Real to which the manifold of common-sense experience would be reduced to arrive at 2.

It must be cautioned at this point that there is a critical distinction to be made between the use of the term real in everyday common-sense life and the foundational Real.

No one argues, or has ever argued, that there is a lack of reality or realness in the experienced everyday world. This is common-sense realism. Common-sense realism accepts the material existence of a real, actual, or manifest world and all ontological or epistemological perspectives treat people, animals, and physical objects as having such a real existence. It concerns the current issue of having an a b solute base or foundation from which everything else emerges. In this limited sense, the Real is defined as that which is not dependent on something else and cannot be reduced to something else.

Central among these contributions was the redefinition of the nature of matter in a way that conceived of all bodies as fundamentally inactive. Prior to Newton, matter was understood as inherently active. Matter had been conceived of in terms of the relation of being static, fixed and becoming active, changing. Newton, however, through his concept of inertia, split activity and matter and redefined matter as inactivity Prosch, The redefinition of bodies as inert matter and the assumption of the atomicity of matter i.

However, they were also ideas that a later generation generalized into a metaphysical world view that identified the nature of the Real as fixed inert matter and only fixed inert matter. With these themes at hand-splitting, foundationalism, materialism, objectivism-it was a short step to the formulation of a complete scientific methodology, termed mechanical explanation, that, with relatively minor modifications, has extended to the present day as the basic methodology of neopositivism and later instrumentalism, conventionalism, and functionalism.

Mechanical Explanation The methodology of mechanical explanation continues the splitting process by dichotomizing empirical science into two airtight compartments: description and explanation. There are three steps to mechanical explanation. Step I : Reduction Description. The first step of mechanical explanation entails addressing the common-sense object of inquiry and reducing it to the absolute material, objective, fixed, unchanging, foundational elements or atoms.

Terms like reductionism, atomism, elementarism, and analytic attitude all identify this step.

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In psychology for many years the atoms were stimuli and responses. Today they tend to be neurons and behaviors or contextual factors and behaviors-the story line changes but the themes remain the same. I briefly consider here the impact of this first step on developmental inquiry.

Immediately, stages of development and mental organizations that change during development become suspect as being somehow derivative. At best, under this story line, they can only function as summary statements for an underlying, more molecular Real. In fact, the drive throughout this step is toward the ever more molecular in the belief that it is in the realm of the molecular that the Real is found.

Lev Vygotsky

This is particularly well illustrated in the recent enthusiasm for a so-called microgenetic method e. In this approach, an intensive trial-by-trial analysis reduces the very notion of development to the molecular bedrock of visible behavioral differences as they appear across learning trials. It is important to recognize that the aim of Step 1 is to drive out interpretations from the common-sense phenomena under investigation. Under the objectivist theme, commonsense observation is error laden and it is only through ever more careful neutral observation that science can eliminate this error and ultimately arrive at the elementary bedrock that constitutes the level of fact or data.

Step 2: CuusuI Grplunution. Step 2 of mechanical explanation begins to move inquiry into the second compartment of compartmentalized scienceexplanation. Step 2 consists of the instruction to find the relations among the elements described in Step 1. More specifically, given our objects of study-behavior and behavior change-this step directs inquiry to locate antecedents. These antecedents, when they meet certain criteria of necessity and sufficiency, will be termed causes and the discovery of cause defines explanation.

The antecedents are also often referred to as mechanisms, but the meaning is identical. This is the most extraordinary feature of the whole narrative. The word explanation comes to be defined as antecedentconsequent relation, or the efficient-material cause of the object of inquiry, and science comes to be 2.

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It is critically important to remember here that Aristotle Randall, had earlier p r o duced a story of scientific explanation that entailed a complementary relation among four types of explanation. Two of these were causal explanations i. Two, however, were explanations according to the pattern, organization, or form of the object of inquiry.

Today, the structure of the atom, the structure of DNA, the structure of the solar system, and the structure of the universe are all familiar examples of formal pattern principles drawn from the natural sciences. Kinship structures, mental structures, mental organization, dynamic systems, attachment behavior systems, structures of language, ego and superego, dynamisms, schemes, operations, and cognitive structures are familiar examples of formal pattern principles drawn from the human sciences.

Similarly, reference to the sequence and directionality found in the second law of thermodynamics, self-organizing systems, the equilibration process or reflective abstraction, the orthogenetic principle, or the epigenetic principle are all examples of final pattern principles. Both formal and final pattern principles entail interpretations that make the phenomena under investigation intelligible.

Both, within the Aristotelian Randall, relational scheme, constitute legitimate explanations. However, within the split story of mechanical explanation, as guided by reductionism and objectivism, formal and final principles completely lose any explanatory status. At best, within the mechanical story, they may reappear in the descriptive compartment as mere summary statements of the underlying molecular descriptive Real discussed in Step 1.

Step 3 of mechanical explanation installs induction as the founda- tional logic of science. Step 3 establishes the prescription that ultimate explanations in science are found in fixed, unchanging laws and these are to be inductively derived as empirical generalizations from the repeated o b servation of cause-effect relations found in Step 2. Weak generalizations from Step 2 regularities constitute interpretation-free hypotheses.

Stronger generalizations constitute interpretation-free theoretical propositions. Theoretical propositions joined as logical conjunctions i. Laws represent the strongest and final inductions. The hypothesis of hypothetico has nothing to do with interpretation, but is simply a datadriven empirical generalization that then serves as a major premise in a formal deductive argument.

Similarly, when instrumentalism moved away from the Hypothetico-Deductive stance to the employment of models, models themselves functioned merely as the same type of interpretation-free heuristic devices. Another important variation-but a variation nevertheless-on this same theme was called the covering law model of scientific explanation. This was introduced by Carl Hempel , and became the prototype of all later explanations formulated within this language game cf.


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Suppe, The covering law model was particularly important for developmental inquiry because it treated historical events as analogous to physical events in the sense that earlier events were considered the causal antecedents of later events Ricoeur, As noted, variations appear throughout history. In fact, it would be misleading not to acknowledge that probability has replaced certainty as the favored lexical item in the story as it is told today.

Indeed, induction is itself statistical and probabilistic in nature. This type of fallibilistic stance continues to pit doubt against certainty as competing alternatives, rather than understanding doubt and certainty as a dialectic, framed by the concept of plausibility. More generally, all of the variations that have been introduced since the origin of Newtonian explanation-including those formulated under the methodological banners of neopositivism, instrumentalism, conventionalism, and functionalism-have in no way changed the basic themes.

To a significant degree, we remain prisoners of the mechanical language game. The movement from Leibniz to Kant to Hegel-the whole German Enlightenment-along with the later n e d b n t i a n revival can be seen as an attempt to heal the Cartesian splitting found in foundationalism, materialism, and objectivism. This critical effort sought to heal fundamental splits by recasting the dichotomous bifurcations found, for example, in subject versus object, mind versus body, cause versus reason, and interpretation versus observation, as dialectic complementary reflections of the same underlying identity.

This alternative picture arose within the hermeneutic tradition and it championed Understanding, in contrast to explanation, as the methodology of science, or at least as the scientific methodology for the behavioral and social sciences, including the humanities. Broadly, hermeneutics is the theory or philosophy of the interpretation of meaning.

Hermeneutics elevates to a heroic role the very concept that mechanical explanation casts as demon error: interpretation. Our brief focus here is on the effort that Dilthey promoted at the turn of the present century to construct a methodology for the social sciences. This was termed the methodology of understanding. Within this methodology, understandingoperates as an epistemological rather than a psychological concept and, most importantly, interpretation operates as the methodology that results in understanding.

Action Theory. As a methodology of the social and behavioral sciences, understanding is closely related to action theory. Action theory stands in contrast to variablecentered approaches to human behavior, which are externalist and event-oriented in their focus. For, to speak of events [variables], we enter a language game including notions like cause, law, fact, explanation and so on..

It is. For, if we have begun to speak in terms of action, we shall continue to speak in terms of projects, intentions, motives, reasons for acting, agents [interpretation, understanding], and so forth. Ricoeur, , pp. This account relies heavily on the intentional quality of action. To intend, is to do something "for the sake of. Note here, however, that this focus on action patterns, action organization, or the form of the object of inquiry is little different from Aristotle's formal and final explanations as they were designed to make the object of inquiry intelligible and gave reasons for the nature and functioning of the object.

At this point, a dichotomy of two competing alternative accounts of human functioning and human development thus stood as guardians against Cartesian anxiety, the natural science game of Aristotelian some would say Galilean efficient and material cause, and the human science game of Aristotelian formal and final understanding. Efficient and material causal explanation stands squarely committed to a materialist foundationalism.

Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series) Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)
Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series) Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)
Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series) Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)
Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series) Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)
Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series) Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)
Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series) Conceptual Development: Piagets Legacy (Jean Piaget Symposia Series)

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