Popper and Piaget on thought and action : a problem in evolutionary epistemology

Horwood, Robert Earl (1976) Popper and Piaget on thought and action : a problem in evolutionary epistemology. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The initial problem is 'Compton's problem’, as formulated by Popper: 'how does the universe of abstract meanings influence actions?' Popper solves this problem on the level of ‘knowing that’ by embedding his theory of the evolution of functions of language within a general theory of evolution. It is in virtue of the evolution of functions of language, from animal to human functions, that 'the universe of meanings’ - linguistically formulated theories - exerts a 'plastic control' upon actions. This is a control with freedom and feedback, as opposed to a 'cast-iron' or deterministic control. Within Popper's general evolutionary theory, this solution to Compton's problem 'bridges' animal and human evolution. Through it, both the 'trials' and the method of 'error-elimination' undergo a transition from animal to human evolution; respectively, genetically based 'expectations' or dispositions to react become linguistically formulated theories and error-elimination through 'natural selection’ becomes error-elimination through criticism and refutation. -- But there is a 'gap' in this bridge. The human use of language presupposes that 'expectations’ have become separate from biological organization. The central problem in this thesis is accounting for the emergence of the plastic control of theories upon actions through an account of the separation of 'expectations' from biological organizations. -- Piaget's theory of child intellectual development was employed to close this gap. This theory was interpreted by Piaget, through the postulate 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’, as providing an account of the intellectual evolution of prehistoric man. It provided a solution to Compton's problem on the level of 'knowing how' by demonstrating that the separation of expectations from biological organization occurs in various stages. These stages represent the attainment of subjective structures which simultaneously represent the 'form' of a series of actions taking place successively. Through these subjective structures, 'expectations' influence a plastic 'control upon action by enabling controlled experimentation and the linguistic formulation of experimental results. Piaget interpreted this theory through the postulate 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’ in order to demonstrate a merger of the contexts of discovery and justification; while, for Popper, any such merger is erroneous. Hence, the implications of the closure of the 'gap’ with respect to the roles of these two contexts in the growth of knowledge are considered.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5740
Item ID: 5740
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 161-171.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 1976
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Popper, Karl R. (Karl Raimund), 1902-1994; Piaget, Jean, 1896-1980; Knowledge, Theory of

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