The Philosophical Paradigms - Positivism and Constructivism – Essay Example

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The paper “ The Philosophical Paradigms - Positivism and Constructivism” is an intriguing example of an essay on philosophy. The Philosophical Paradigms: Positivism and ConstructivismA. Introduction: The word philosophy came from two Greek words: ‘ philein’ meaning ‘ LOVE’ and ‘ SOPHIA’ meaning ‘ WISDOM’ . Combining the two words, we get the meaning of PHILOSOPHY as the ‘ LOVE for WISDOM’ , or the ‘ DESIRE FOR IT’ . Although the word ‘ wisdom’ is an original English word, the philosophical inquiry, that is, the examination of the grounds for fundamental beliefs and its analysis of basic concepts is a central element that the Greeks have pioneered and the Western world is grateful for. Two of the most popular philosophies of our time are the POSITIVISM and CONSTRUCTIVISM. B.

Definition: Positivism, also commonly known as ‘ Conventional’ is a philosophy that promulgates the scientific knowledge as the only authentic knowledge, hence, knowledge and theories being accepted and positively confirmed are only those which have undergone the rigid and strict standards of the scientific method. Developed by Auguste Comte, widely regarded as the first true sociologist during the middle of the 19th century, positivism highlights the positivist view, that is, the scientist ideology.

This view was shared by technocrats who believed in the necessity of progress through scientific progress, and by naturalists who argue that any method for gaining knowledge should be limited to natural, physical and material approaches. Positivism predominates in science and assumes that science quantitatively measures independent facts about a single apprehensible reality (Healy & Perry, 2000). In other words, the data and its analysis are value-free and data do not change because they are being observed. That is, researchers view the world through a “ one-way mirror” (Healy & Perry, 2000).

In its broadest sense, positivism is a rejection of metaphysics, a position emphasizing the point that the goal of knowledge is simply to describe the phenomena as experienced first hand. Science, after all, sticks to the truth based on what was observed and measured. Anything beyond that is unbelievable, if not impossible (Trochim 2000). As such, positivists separate themselves from the world they study, while researchers within other paradigms acknowledge that they have to participate in real-world life to some extent so as to better understand and express its emergent properties and features (Healy & Perry, 2000).

On the other hand, Constructivism/Naturalist is a philosophy that states that developmentally appropriate facilitator-supported learning is initiated and directed by the learner. Learning this is an active process in which the learners actively construct knowledge as they try to comprehend their worlds and build-up on it. Each of us generates our own mental models or schemas through which we make sense of our experiences. These mental models are constructed by our prior knowledge, current mental structures, and existing beliefs.

Learning is simply adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences. As promoted by the earliest proponents of CONSTRUCTIVISM, structuring and organizing processes are the conceptual heart of constructivism. Lao Tzu (6th Century BC), Buddha (560-477 BC), Heraclitus (540-475 BC), Giambattista Vico (1966-1744), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and Hans Vaihinger (1852 – 1933) to name a few. C. Comparison & SimilaritiesThe most obvious difference between the “ conventional” positivist belief system and that of the ``naturalist'' or constructive system in terms of epistemology is that the former is essentially objectivist, or, there is the belief that it is possible for an observer to exteriorize the reality studied, remaining detached from it and uninvolved with it (Al Zeera, 2001).

On the other hand, the naturalistic posture contends that epistemologically, the inquirer and the inquired, General View of Positivism (1830-42). from A General View of Positivism, translated by J H Bridges, Robert Speller, and Sons, 1957 are interlocked in such a way that the findings of the investigation are the literal creation of the inquiry process (Al Zeera, 2001). The constructivist, therefore, takes the position that the knower and the known are co-created during the inquiry.

As an example, let us take psychiatry. Psychiatrists essentially say that the thing that is really real is ordinary sense experience. The spiritual experience of any sort is considered psychotic. This is basically Logical Positivism. Logical Positivism argues, wrongly, that reality is best found through sense experience and rigorous logical inferences therefrom. If you can't see it with your eyes or touch it with your fingers, according to Logical Positivism, what you are experiencing is a hallucination.

Now, Logical Positivists are required by their own rules to accept the validity of logic itself. An A Now, logically, if sense experience is not a universally reliable indicator of reality, then sense experience, and thus the Logical Positivism upon which it is based, is false, wrong, and stupid. An A A Sense experience cannot account for the fact that a straight stick looks crooked when place in a glass tank of water and is looked upon through the glass of the side of the tank.

Here's another example of the unreliability of sense experience. Cognitive Psychologists have run an experiment that shows that ordinary human eye perception can easily be fooled with a simple demonstration. Here it is. Look at example one and example two below. Is the distance between signs in each case is the same? 1. < > 2. > < Now, most people will say that the space between the signs in sample one is smaller than that of sample two. But the fact is, they are exactly the same. This visual perceptual illusion once again demonstrates that sense experience is not a universally reliable indicator of reality.

Thus, the Logical Positivism upon which sense experience is based is crap. D. Position/Conclusion: Different modes of research allow us to understand different phenomena and for different reasons (Deetz, 1996). The methodology chosen depends on what one is trying to do rather than a commitment to a particular paradigm (Cavaye, 1996). Thus, the methodology employed must match a particular phenomenon of interest. Different phenomena may require the use of different methodologies. By focusing on the phenomenon under examination, rather than the methodology, researchers can select appropriate methodologies for their inquiries (Falconer & Mackay, 1999).

As a personal preference, I am inclined towards the Constructivist paradigm for the simple reason that learning is more participatory. Emphasis is given to the experiential process of discovering already established truths. This kind of participatory learning is more lasting since the mind and the emotions interplay in the learning/teaching process. To stress this point, the following characteristics are highlighted: Concepts and content presented in multiple perspectives and representations are encouraged Learner derives goals and objectives in negotiation with the teacher who acts as facilitator, coach, guide, mentor, tutor Metacognition, self-analysis regulation, reflection, and awareness is encouraged through the provision of activities, opportunities, and tools in conducive learning environments Knowledge process is focused since the approach is learner-based, taking into account the learner’ s previous knowledge base, beliefs, and attitudes An exploration into the inner depths and heights of an idea Learning is more authentic as ‘ natural real-world complexities’ is simulated in ‘ real world’ learning situations and environments through relevant skills, content, and tasks as well as the use of primary sources of data Reproduction is not encouraged, but knowledge construction/build-up is, which takes place individually through social negotiation, collaboration, and experience Depth in insight is achieved as errors are encountered, hence errors are looked upon as learning opportunities to build-up on the previous knowledge base Additional learning opportunities are provided through problem-solving, high-order thinking skills Authentic and realistic evaluation, monitoring and assessment is achieved as these elements are engrained in the teaching approach Apprenticeship learning is achieved once learners are encouraged to individually explore an increasing complexity of tasks, skills and knowledge acquisition  



General View of Positivism (1830-42). from A General View of Positivism, translated by J H Bridges, Robert Speller, and Sons, 1957

Ausubel, D. (1968). Educational psychology: A cognitive view. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Anthony J. Fejfar, B.A., J.D. Esq., Coif 2007

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