Constructivism, cognition, and science – an investigation of its links and possible shortcomings

Foundations of Science 6 (1-3):125-161 (2001)
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Abstract

This paper addresses the questions concerningthe relationship between scientific andcognitive processes. The fact that both,science and cognition, aim at acquiring somekind of knowledge or representationabout the world is the key for establishing alink between these two domains. It turns outthat the constructivist frameworkrepresents an adequate epistemologicalfoundation for this undertaking, as its focusof interest is on the (constructive)relationship between the world and itsrepresentation. More specifically, it will beshown how cognitive processes and their primaryconcern to construct a representation of theenvironment and to generate functionallyfitting behavior can act as the basis forembedding the activities and dynamics of theprocess of science in them by making use ofconstructivist concepts, such as functionalfitness, structure determinedness, etc.Cognitive science and artificiallife provide the conceptual framework of representational spaces and their interactionbetween each other and with the environmentenabling us to establish this link betweencognitive processes and thedevelopment/dynamics of scientific theories.The concepts of activation, synaptic weight,and genetic (representational) spaces arepowerful tools which can be used asexplanatory vehiclesfor a cognitivefoundation of science, more specifically forthe context of discovery (i.e., thedevelopment, construction, and dynamics ofscientific theories and paradigms).Representational spaces do not only offer us abetter understanding of embedding science incognition, but also show, how theconstructivist framework, both, can act as anadequate epistemological foundation for theseprocesses and can be instantiated by theserepresentational concepts from cognitivescience. The final part of this paper addresses somemore fundamental questions concerning thepositivistic and constructivist understandingof science and human cognition. Among otherthings it is asked, whether a purelyfunctionalist and quantitative view of theworld aiming almost exclusively at itsprediction and control is really satisfying forour intellect (having the goal of achieving aprofound understanding of reality).

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