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agency have been the subject of religious speculations for centuries. These invisible
forces include
Internal neural and biological forces (such as homeostatic processes and
autonomic activity) that exert regulatory forces that are largely hidden from
conscious experience or control
Strong emotions that seem to arise apart from conscious human intention
(such as rage, fear, and empathy)
Phenomena such as dreams or hallucinations that seemingly operate
independent from the human will
Motivations, biases, inclinations, and predilections (such as
anthropomorphism, ambiguity avoidance, and preference for simple
explanations) whose presence is so universal that, like language, the capacities
for their development or expression may have an evolutionary basis
Individual beliefs (such as the belief that there is a reality outside our head and
we are not dreaming
The belief in human freedom
The belief in values (such as equality, and so on), attitudes, preferences, goals,
or intentions
Aggregated beliefs that result in social norms, values, religion, culture, and
social movements or codified forces such as decrees, rules, alliances, and
laws.” (Chicago Social Brain Network, 2011)
In “An Introduction to Radical Constructivism,” Ernst von Glasersfeld (1984) argues that this
approach is radical because it “develops a theory of knowledge in which knowledge does not
reflect an ‘objective’ ontological reality, but exclusively an ordering and organization of a
world constituted by our experience. The radical constructivist has relinquished
‘metaphysical realism’ once and for all and finds himself in full agreement with Piaget, who
says, ‘Intelligence organizes the world by organizing itself.’” Von Glasersfeld writes that the
“experiencing consciousness creates structure in the flow of its experience; and this structure
is what conscious cognitive organisms experience as ‘reality’ – and since this reality is
created almost entirely without the experiencer’s awareness of his or her creative activity, it
comes to appear as given by an independently ‘existing’ world.”
While radical constructivism (and related positions such as second-order cybernetics)
highlighted the role of agency, a more pragmatic constructivism was developed out of that
same tradition. This “pragmatic constructivism” suggests that the material world can be
as if
it were as “real” as the realists claim it to be – for the material world provides the
“structure” and foundation for the constructivist world of sentient beings. For example,
Bechtel and Abrahamson (2005) insist that explanation is “essentially a cognitive activity.”