Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Social Constructivism

Okay, so today we moved on to knowing and how we know which explained why ritual and practice was being pushed as so important. The professor claims to be a social constructivist. First, I will give two definitions regarding this position from wikipedia, then I will follow it with a question.

1. Constructivist Epistemology

Constructivism is a recent development in philosophy which criticizes essentialism, whether it is in the form of medieval realism, classical rationalism, or empiricism. It originated in sociology under the term social constructionism and has been given the name constructivism when referring to philosophical epistemology, though constructionism and constructivism are often used interchangeably.

Constructivism views all of our knowledge as "constructed", because it does not necessarily reflect any external "transcendent" realities; it is contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience. It is believed by constructivists that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, sexuality, and gender are socially constructed (Hegel, Garns, and Marx were among the first to suggest such an ambitious expansion of social determinism).
The common thread between all forms of constructivism is that they do not focus on an ontological reality, but instead on the constructed reality.

2. Social Constructivism

One version of social constructivism contends that categories of knowledge and reality are actively created by social relationships and interactions. These interactions also alter the way in which scientific episteme is organized.

Social activity presupposes human beings inhabiting shared forms of life, and in the case of social construction, utilizing semiotic resources (meaning making and meaning signifying) with reference to social structures and institutions. Several traditions use the term Social Constructivism: psychology (after Lev Vygotsky), sociology (after Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, themselves influenced by Alfred Schütz), sociology of knowledge (David Bloor), sociology of mathematics (Sal Restivo), philosophy of mathematics (Paul Ernest). Ludwig Wittgenstein's later philosophy can be seen as a foundation for Social Constructivism, with its key theoretical concepts of language games embedded in forms of life.
Question

Can this be linked to a Biblical understanding of knowledge? Here is why I ask. If knowledge is constructed, then our knowledge that Jesus Christ is God is a social construct. Is there anything redeemable in this theory?

God Bless,

Doug

P.S. Once again I will not be able to respond to your comments but I will certainly read them.

11 Comments:

At Friday, August 04, 2006 1:56:00 PM, Anonymous Erasure said...

If you assert that there is a world behind the world--an essential anything--you will end up doing mental gymnastics to prove your case. The power of constructivism is that it delineates the world that is knowable scientifically and gives us a system of signs by which to discuss our world. It also levels the intellectual playing field for Christians: None can know, empirically, whether God exists. While this makes us unable to prove the existence of God, through reason, it also makes disproving God's existence an impossible task. This theory does not say that there is nothing essential, just that our conception of the world does not necessarily correspond to an underlying reality. My question is, what do you see as destructive in this theory?

 
At Friday, August 04, 2006 2:35:00 PM, Anonymous X said...

Good points, Erasure. Please allow me to add to them. As Doug said, if this theory is true, our knowledge of Jesus is socially constructed. That doesn't seem like a problem to me because that says nothing about the Jesus that communicates with me spiritually or through the interaction of faith. It only says that the Jesus I know intellectually is a social construct. It doesnt say that the real Jesus is a social construct, only that the real Jesus is unknowable on a purely rational level. That is perfectly in line with the Bible, which says we should worship him in spirit and in truth.

 
At Sunday, August 06, 2006 9:30:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Erasure and X,

If the constructivist theory is true then everything you have just said is nonsense, because nothing you have just said is actually true. And if your theory is true (which it can't be) then you can contruct your knowledge that way and I'll do it another way because I don't like the way you do it.

Doug

 
At Monday, August 07, 2006 12:44:00 PM, Anonymous Erasure said...

I like the way you put that, Doug. You said some extreme things about constructivist theory without showing how your conclusion follows. I would certainly like to know why constructivism is inherantly nonsensical. You said that if my theory (as opposed to constructivism)is true, you will do it another way because you don't like it. If you want to bring it into the realm of opinion like that, I can't argue but I like the fact that instead of discussing what x and I said, you just said that you prefer your way of doing things. You have every right to your opinion.

 
At Monday, August 07, 2006 1:12:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Erasure,

You missed my point. I am arguing from your perspective on this. If language and propositions are simply social constructs then they can't actually be true. Even the theory of constructivism is a construct and not really true.

So if your position is true there is really no way judge between one opinion or another. This is why I can't even understand why you are trying to convince me that your positions is correct.

Do you actually think your propositions are true. If you do, then you have refuted your own position.

Doug

 
At Monday, August 07, 2006 3:00:00 PM, Anonymous Erasure said...

You have not understood my position. My propositions can be true in that they correspond to other constructed meaning. They are not to be judged against a truth beyond this world, but against foundational structures that have to be agreed upon in advance. The fact that we are having an intelligable conversation shows that the things we are discussing correspond to something we have agreed upon--at least tacitly. You would say that what we have agreed upon is a universal reality but what I am saying is that there is no way to intellectually discover a universal reality, so we must base our conversation on this agreed upon system of symbols (whether it be this language or some other signifying network).

 
At Monday, August 07, 2006 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Erasure,

I have understood your position, and what you just said confirms it. What does it matter if our constructed propositions line up with our constructed meanings? It is all constructed and therefore not true. Of course it's true for us but not for everyone. After all the eastern monist has his constructed propositions that line up with his constructed meanings, and so does the atheist.

You also keep saying there is an ultimate reality just that we can't know it. Isn't this just another one of your constructed propositions which by necessity of your position is something that does not correspond to ultimate reality?

When you say that we (as mankind) cannot know ultimate reality, is that ultimately true for everyone? If you say yes, then you will have refuted yourself, and if you say no, then I must ask you once again, if it is not ultimately true why are you trying to convince me of it? Also if you answer no to that question, it would mean that there are some who can know ultimate reality.

This is what I was talking about when I said it is all nonsense.

Doug

 
At Wednesday, August 09, 2006 9:47:00 PM, Anonymous Erasure said...

You are simplifying my arguement and then refuting a simplified version. I have said, just like the definition you posted, that social constructivism "does not necessarily reflect any external 'transcendent' realities." I have never made the argument that there is a transcendent reality. If I had argued that there is a transcendental reality that is intellectually knowable, you would be right in your refutation, but I never did. You haven't addressed my argument yet, and you seem to be giving me stock answers that someone has told you are good to refute a position like mine. My argument is internally consistent and a challenge you to show, from the comments I've made, that it is not. I eagerly await your reply.

 
At Wednesday, August 09, 2006 11:13:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Erasure

Let me reiterate your refutations against my arguments in order for you to see the weakness in them.

1. You said I have simplified your arguments and refuted the simplification, but you failed to show me how I simplified them.

2. You said that you never made the argument that there is a transcendent reality, and I never said you did. What you did say and I quote “what I am saying is that there is no way to intellectually discover a universal reality,” Then I argued and I quote again, “When you say that we (as mankind) cannot know ultimate reality, is that ultimately true for everyone?” I assumed by what you had said that you actually believe there is an ultimate reality that exists (an actual world). If you don’t, then you are really in a pickle. But my argument still stands and I ask you to address it again. If man cannot know universal (to use your word) reality, is that universally true for everyone?

3. You then called my arguments names like, “stock answers” and “something someone has told me.” I’m okay with that, they are stock answers and someone did tell me about them, so they should be no problem for you to answer.

4. You said that your position is internally consistent. Then all you have to do is answer my question which I will post again. When you say that we (as mankind) cannot know ultimate reality, is that ultimately true for everyone? If you say yes, then you will have refuted yourself, and if you say no, then I must ask you once again, if it is not ultimately true why are you trying to convince me of it? Also if you answer no to that question, it would mean that there are some who can know ultimate reality.

Also, you need to remember that every proposition that you have used to argue your point is, by your own position, not universally true. This leads to the other argument I have made several times now with no avail to get you to answer. Why (and I’m arguing from your position) are you trying to get me to change my non-universally true propositions to your non-universally true propositions. Do you think yours are better? If you do, then you must actually believe you know what “better” is, but if you don’t really know what is better, because we cannot know anything universally true, then it is only better for you, because that is how you have constructed it.

I look forward to your response to my questions.

Doug

P.S. I don't give you these arguments to be rude or mean spirited. In fact, I am actually praying for you as we are having this discussion, and I trust you are doing the same for me also.

 
At Saturday, August 12, 2006 11:20:00 AM, Anonymous erasure said...

I don't take any offense from this discussion, and I don't mean any offense to you.

I think we are proceeding far too quickly. Terms like, "universal reality" and "universal truth" are not synonymous and it seems like you might be using them interchangably. I'll give you the opportunity to define them if you like. Once we can agree on their definition, I will answer your central question.

 
At Saturday, August 12, 2006 9:37:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Erasure,

Those are great questions, and since I have only given arguements against the constructivist position and not explained mine, I thought this would be a good time to do it. So I am going to write a new post explaining it called Subject/Object and the Logos of God. I will define and explain my position there, and we can continue the discussion in the new post.

Because of Christ,

Doug

 

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