conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Am I a constructivist?

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Not sure. So I’ll jump.07262013-tumblr_mqipucFB1w1qbcporo1_1280

There’s an old notion—an image, really—of jumping off a high point and building wings as you fall. That’s the image Paul Watzlawick offered as he began his account of constructivism in The Invented Reality (NY: Norton, 1984). Constructivism is a way of thinking about how the world works and how we know anything. Constructivism would say we invent reality as we move forward, as we talk and walk and work. Wikipedia’s entry on constructivism as an educational theory seems like a reasonable synopsis. I definitely cannot buy into the whole thing (few “–ism’s” are entirely believable), but there are pieces of constructivism that ring true:

  • My growing theory of a conversation has elements of constructivism: what happens between us as we talk is a new thing constructed on the spot (and, frankly, from past conversations and experiences). Our communication and relationship morph with each engagement.
  • Aphorisms and self-fulfilling prophecies do have a certain amount of power in anyone’s life to adjust expectations if not experience—give or take/depends/your mileage may vary.
  • In writing, my argument or story unfolds entirely dependent on my word choices. Outcomes change before my eyes as I write, not just in fiction, but also as I sort through a business problem.

One wants to be very careful—of course—about agreeing entirely with any particular -ism. In philosophy and theology, to agree to one thing is to disagree with another, and sometimes unwittingly. All the threads are connected, so when you pull on one, something unravels on the other side of the garment. I can see from just this little glimpse that constructivism might be hostile toward the notion of a central truth in life, which would not fit with my theological commitments. Constructivism also has wise-cracks to make about the determinism/free-will debate raging in my brain. And yet, there is some truth to the constructivist way of seeing life.

What do you think? Are we all making it up as we go?


Image credit: Dustin Harbin via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 26, 2013 at 10:23 am

One Response

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  1. […] My friend was in one of the periodic slumps that happen to anyone building a business of their own. Those slumps squeeze out long-suppressed questions. These are the questions that precipitate momentary crises of faith for those constructing wings as they plummet. […]

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