Throughout history there have been many different ways to view the world, knowledge, and how it is gained. From constructivism to common sense and scientific realism the process of acquiring knowledge is widely debated. Constructivism, proposed by Immanuel Kant, suggests that there are three types of knowledge, and that all knowledge begins with experience and ends with our interpretations of the occurrences.
Common sense realism is a theory that, although it does hold some merit, is not entirely reliable. The theory is that all knowledge is based off of experience, but that the process of gaining knowledge ends at the conclusion of the experience. The most common example of common sense realism is that of the phone call experiment, in which is it stated that when listening to someone over the phone we do not actually hear their voice, rather we hear an altered version of their voice due to the filters and distortions that take place as the phone call is being relayed. The experiment concludes that “(1) we do not perceive the external world directly, only our representations of it; and (2) we have no good reason for believing that reality is like our representations.” These statements are true, however, they do not fully explain how knowledge is gained. One of the gaping holes in this theory is that we actually do see the external world as it really is, applying our personal bias to the situations and occurrences later. Another is the statement that, “we have no good reason for believing that reality is like our representation,” this statement is heavily misguided. If a person were to take a look at the phone call experiment and conclude that there was merit to it (which I have stated that there is) than they would read the conclusions drawn from it and be forced to ask themselves a question, “how many times have I heard someone’s voice over the phone and in person and seen a great difference in the two?” the answer would be that very rarely do they experience a great difference between the voice heard over the phone and the voice heard in person are very, very similar. It is known that there is a difference, and it is very reasonable to say that the way that human beings see the world with a similar amount of distortion. However, to say that “we have no good reason” to believe reality is close to our own formulated representation is asinine, and can be proven to be so due to various forms of evidence that can be found within the theory itself.
Scientific realism has marginally more merit than common sense realism. Scientific realism states the nature of reality is very different from the way that we describe it in ordinary language (or common sense realism). This statement is true; the world is very different than the way that common sense realism describes the world. In common sense realism it is stated that the world is very different from the way that we perceive it, scientific realism states that the world, and subsequently the future, can be predicted because the success of science in proving truths. One experiment that illustrates the theory of scientific realism is that of the pencil in the hand. If a person were to take a pencil in their hand and then open their hand with their palm facing downward, they would witness the pencil drop to the floor. If the same person were to do this 99 times they would be able to conclude that on the one hundredth time they conduct this experiment they would get the same results. Similar deductions can be made to other scenarios, such as when a person witnesses the sun rise every day for their entire life, the conclusion can be made that the sun will rise every day in the future. However, this theory of scientific realism does not apply to every situation. For occurrences that have no explicit consistency the scientific realism theory is irrelevant, making it unwise for someone to attempt to adopt it as their way of seeing the world.
“It is beyond a doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience,” said Kant. Kant believed that there were three different types of knowledge: analytic a priori (when something is taken as fact without need for further research (i.e. bachelors are unmarried men)), synthetic a posteriori (when new knowledge is introduced in the predicate (i.e. October 22, 13 was a sunny day)), and synthetic a priori (every event has a cause (the pen falling to the floor was a result of the person opening their hand at the same time their palm was facing the floor)). To Kant these represented the ways that all things can be learned. After one would have an experience one would take the information that they had obtained and process it, applying their own bias to the situation, a bias that is effected by various things such as: past experiences and personal beliefs, among other factors, would determine a person’s bias. From these three different types of knowledge Kant devised the theory of constructivism. Constructivism is the theory that most suits how individuals see the world. With the three avenues to acquire knowledge Kant’s theory of constructivism includes elements of both common sense and scientific realism, while expanding upon both theories to reach a definite conclusion that is applicable in all situations.
Constructivism is the way that human beings acquire knowledge of the world. With combining various aspects of common sense and scientific realism the theory of constructivism explains the acquisition of knowledge from every situation that the world has to offer. Kant stood on the shoulders of Decartes and philosophers before him in order to close the gaps left by their theories in order to formulate a concept and a blueprint for understanding the formation of knowledge inside the human mind.