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Social Constructionism in the context of an emerging paradigm in science summary

This study argues that social constructionism is an approach in social science that is part of an emerging paradigm in science. It is argued that in the convergence of cybernetics, computer science, neuroscience and linguistics a new unified perspective of the phenomena of perception and knowledge is built that has been configuring a new paradigm in science Using as an axis to unify these disciplines biology with a cybernetic approach, it is shown that this development is located in the ontological or metatheoric dimension of a paradigm and as such gives foundation onto/ epistemological to social constructionism. This new paradigm, which questions the original dualism in the  tradition inherited in science, states that knowledge is related to the fact of being in a world that is inseparable from our body, our language and our social history. He observes human systems using a neurophenomenology, to study the transverse emergence, the production of systems interwoven by lines that encompass the brain-body-environment relationship  always activated as a whole.



In science, discourse is a central concept that refers to what can be said and thought in the field of interest of a discipline.  It is commonplace to affirm that in the world of science there is a paradigm shift that integrally compromises its discourse.

In scientific spacesthere was an almost unanimous judgment in considering that the publication, in 1962, of Thomas Kuhn’s study «The Structure of Scientific Revolutions», constituted an enormous contribution to the understanding [1]and clarification of the paradigma. De acuerdo con Kuhn, un paradigma es un sistema de creencias, principios, valores y premisasque determinan la visión que una a certain scientific community has of reality, the type of questions and problems that it is legitimate to study, as well as the valid methods and techniques for the search for answers and solutions. Consequently, the approach or paradigm in which a study is inscribed, supports the method, purpose and objectives of the research.

However,some authors believe that the polysemy of meanings and applications of the term continues to be ofinteresttoday, particularly when a plurality of epistemological positions and new research perspectives under that term acquire relevance, which forces us to limit itsmeaning and meaning. In the sense kuhn assigns to the term, a «paradigma is an implicit, unconformedcommitment of a community of scholars who share a common conceptual framework.» From this heterogeneity of approaches it is important to rescue the coincidences that allow, with some precision, to identify a paradigm, which are characterized by:

1.- A certain way of conceiving and interpreting «reality».
2.- A vision of the world shared by a group of people.
3.- Its normative nature in relation to the research methods and techniques to be used.

Lee Shulman[2], an educational psychologist at the University of Chicago, considering these characteristics, points out that each paradigm contains anontologic dimension for the ways of conceiving reality; likewise, it assumes an epistemological  dimensionwhen it determines what can be known; and it also supposes a methodological dimension,  guiding the way in which the researcher should proceed to discover what is knowable.

For his part, Gregory Bateson draws a distinction by pointing out that «philosophers have perceived and separated two kinds of problems. First of all, there are the problems of how things are, what a person is and what kind of world this is.» According to their distinction these are the problems of ontology. Second, there are the problems of how we know something. The question of knowledge, this is how we know what kind[3] of world this is, what kind of creatures we are. These are the problems of epistemology. We will see later that, according to Bateson, these are inseparable problems, so, coinciding with his approach, in this study we understand that the questions of paradigms and their answer are onto/epistemological.

Egon Guba, [4]Professor at Indiana University’s School of Education, referencing the nature of paradigms as basic belief systems based on ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions. queestos pueden ser caracterizados de acuerdo a como sus representantes responden a tres preguntas decorte.

1.- What is the nature of the knowable or what is the nature of reality? This is the ontological question.
2.- What is the nature of the relationship between the one who knows (in this case the researcher) and the knowable (susceptible to being known) This is the epistemological question?
3.- How should the researcher proceed in the search for knowledge? This is the methodological question.

However, considering Kuhn’s important contribution to the understanding of the concept of paradigm, it should be noted that these change within a historical context.  My point of view is that these changes rather thanfollowing  a linear change in scientific thought, at certain moments in its history of transformations  there is the convergence of the development of stages that go from being discrete and simultaneous to being convergent in their evolution. When the construction and development of knowledge goes through one of those moments, it faces the complexity of the phenomenon being studied. The answer that science elaborates in these circumstances cannot but be complex. It is necessary, then, to develop a paradigm that takes charge of the complexity to observe the phenomenon under study[5].  I think this is one of those moments in the development of scientific thought in the world of modernity.
Tributary of the scientific research of the West, social science has been basically  nourished by the two traditions that have dominated the field of science: the empirical tradition and the rationalist or logic. Since the second half of the nineteenth century both have embraced empiricism and supported the dominant development of behaviorism at that stage of its history. At the end of this same period, the rationalist tradition makes its entrance that acquires form in the cognitive currents that in their various manifestations have preeminence until today in the field of science, particularly in the branches of  psychology and pedagogy.  This view is in the background of the developments of cognitive-behavioral psychology.

However, we are witnessing the exhaustion of this field of explanations of physical and human phenomena that are giving way to new holistic scientific perspectives.  One of those emerging perspectives is social constructionism.
This perspective suggests that when the epistemological impulses of tradition are exhausted, possibilities appear to open up to new discourses about knowledge, human sciences and openness to a transformative social and cultural practice.


In this section I will try to show how it is possible to read socio-constructionism that leads us to move from theory to metatheory. In a brief synthesis of social constructionism we can affirm that this approach states that ideas, concepts and memories arise in social exchange and are expressed in language and dialogue. It holds that all knowledge, both of the world and of oneself, evolves in interpersonal spaces.

His practice in the social field is supported by the vision that only through participation in social games and continued conversation with the world of intimate relationships, the individual can develop a sense of identity or an inner voice. For this discipline, families and communities should be approached as a flexible design composed of people who share meanings.

From this scientific perspective, the centers of meaning and meaning that organize subjectivity and interpersonal relationships are not an a priori entity, but are a function, a process. From the point of view of complexity they are emerging processes. An entity built, sustained and questioned in communication and social coordination

In these central affirmations of social constructionism it can be observed that the notion of language as representation is questioned and gives it a constructive role of knowledge. In this perspective, self-referentiality crosses both the construction of knowledge and social practice itself. As I point out later, they are processes that show the autonomy of living beings that   actively generate and maintain their identity by defining their own cognitive domains.

In this study I will argue that with these statements the social constructionist approach is introduced into the field of ontological or metatheoric explanations in science and that they make it possible to observe the convergence of this as a theory with biocybernetics as a metatheory.

Considering this scientific perspective, I have developed the hypothesis that in studies and research in science, it is necessary to observe and converge what cybernetic biologists define as an «ontological turn» in modernity, which implies a step from first-order to second-order cybernetics and, the «linguistic turn» operated in the tradition of the analytical philosophy of language,  that assumes it as a performative and non-constatative action of the world, [6]as proposed by socio-constructivism. In this way, language would be a relationship of the second and not of  the first order in the relationship of man with the world and nature.
These biologists observed that this phenomenon in living systems occurs in their operation with an operational closure. The understanding of the term operational closure is used in a sense of operation within a space of transformations and not as a synonym for closure or absence of interaction.
What it seeks is to characterize a new form of interaction mediated by the autonomy of the system. The principle of operational closure allows us to understand in the light of research that in nature all organisms, from the simplest to the most complex, are structurally determined systems, and nothing external to them can specify or determine what structural changes they experience in an interaction. Living beings are systems that in their structural dynamics are constituted and delimited as closed networks of production of their components from their own components and substances they take from the environment. This is the operation of living systems as systems that they called auto-utopian,

These scientific developments make it possible to observe theemergence of a new paradigm as a third-order cybernetics.

When there is such a rich nervous system in an organism, these scientists add, the interaction space makes possible the generation of new phenomena. In the case of the human being, this possibility of new dimensions of structural coupling is what has made possible the emergence of language.

Just as at the cellular level there are interactions between metacellular organisms, it is clear that from the internal dynamics of one organism, the other represents a source of disturbances. Given the operational closure nature of the system, these disturbances are indistinguishable from those that come from the «inert» environment, these biologists argue. This is what makes living beings in the expertise itself unable to distinguish illusion from perception, since the interpretative phenomenon is post experience It  isthanks to the fact that language is possessed that makes possible the interpretation of experience. In this way it is possible that these interactions between organisms in a continuum of inter-perturbations between them, acquire in their ontogeny a character of recurrent which gives rise to the social phenomenon that addresses the socio-constructionism.

When these couplings arise between organisms with nervous systems, according to these biologists,  a phenomenology of third-order couplings emerges.

This phenomenon of third-order coupling is not strange to occur, according to this scientific perspective, since they are possible because the same mechanisms that say relationship with the constitution of autonomous units of the second order are mobilized. What makes emerge a new phenomenon that will be of increasing complexity and degrees of stability, is the condition of recurrence that is the way that the living system has to ensure its survival, that is, its conservation and guarantee its reproduction as a species. This explains the emergence of the social phenomenon and the enactive nature of this phenomenon.

Here is the basis of what the cybernetic biologistFrancisco  Varela (2000) proposes when he affirms that «organisms are fundamentally a process of constitution of identity and, that the emergence of this provides the living system, logically and mechanically, the point of reference for a domain of interactions». The term [7]autopoiesis designates this minimal organization of the living»—which is the cell.» Every interaction of autopoietic identity occurs, not only in terms of its physico-chemical structure but also as an organized unit, that is, in reference to its self-produced identity.

It is in this scientific background that the formulation of varela’s «enactive» perspective makes sense. We can observe that Varela develops the concept «enactive» to unify several related ideas that are included within his affirmation that we are facing the presence of an «ontological turn» in science, that is, of a radical paradigmatic change. These ideas are:   [8]

The first is that organisms are autonomous agents that actively generate and maintain their identity by defining their own cognitive domains.
The second is that the nervous system is an autonomous system: it actively generates and maintains its own coherent patterns of activity according to its operation as an organizationally closed sensorimotor network of interacting neurons.
The third idea is that cognitive structures emerge from such recurrent sensory-motor couplings between the body, the nervous system, and the environment.

From this development of a holistic systems thinking, within the framework of cybernetic sciences, a unified approach is proposed in which the methodology of neurophenomenology is used to discuss the cross-sectional emergence, the production of distributed systems interwoven by lines that encompass the brain-body-environment relationship, as a whole. In this holistic scientific approach knowledge is ontological, that is, it can be observed as a metatheory  This vision is absolutely contrary to the metatheory of the so-called «inherited tradition in science» which supposes a relationship of inputs and output of the social agent with its environment operating as a system of the first order, that is, as if it were an open system and not a system that operates with operational closure,  as ours the scientific developments of cybernetic biology

This scientist states that it is from this perspective that it can be affirmed that the sciences of knowledge in the so-called «inherited tradition» are characterized by being «rationalist» «Cartesian» or «objectivist», which are some of the terms used today to characterize this dominant tradition in which we have grown up. He then puts forward the thesis that there are clear indications that the whole of the sciences of knowledge have slowly become aware that things have been raised the other way around and have initiated a radical paradigmatic or epistemic turn. The core of this emerging vision, he points out, is the conviction that true units of knowledge, that is, units of learning , are eminently concrete, embodied, embodied, vivid in nature.

This statement supported by the empirical scientific verification of the biological autonomy of living beings, (autopoiesis), is one of the first statements that must be taken care of by the agents that move in the field of social action. This perspective supports thatthis concrete and embodied knowledge, its historicity and its context are realized in the social practice of the subjects or social actors, converging in this explanatory space with socio-constructionism.  Therefore, embodied knowledge is not a «noise» that obscures the purity of a scheme that has to be captured in its true essence, an abstract or subjective configuration, nor is it a step towards something else, Varela points out, affirming that it is how we arrive and where we remain in our experiential world. .

It is my opinion that here you can observe the convergence of the epistemological gaze of socio-constructionism with the ontological gaze of cybernetic biology.  Both share the confrontation with the modern idea that proposes the existence of a real world to which we would have direct access.

The British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield[9], from the perspective that the raw material of social science is the human experience in the double individual and social dimension, argues that we are witnessing a change in its orientation The roots of this change in social research, understanding therefore the changes in our conception of the products that should be sought and the most appropriate techniques to advance in their search,  they are better understood if we locate their origin in the fundamental change that has occurred in the common experience of being-in-the-world.

The approach of this English neuroscientist puts us squarely in the ontological question of a paradigm. This is clear if we follow Bateson when he points out that philosophers have separated two kinds of problems, placing in the first place those of ontology, which are related to seeing how things are, what a person is and what kind of world this is, it is understood that the origin in the fundamental change that has occurred in the common experience of being-in-the-world is located in an ontological paradigmatic dimension,  which is the domain of metatheory
I will close this section by showing that, in addition to neuroscience, in the field of philosophy Emmanuel Lévinas[10] elaborates a synthesis of ethical experience based on subjectivity and otherness. He argues that these positions on being come from contemporary ontology that has allowed to renew the philosophical problem. He adds that this renewal of contemporary ontology no longer has anything in common with realism.
These new looks at ontology are leaving behind the question of the nature of reality. The renewal of research in the ontological dimension, adds Lévinas, does not suppose an affirmation of the existence of the external world and its primacy in relation to knowledge He affirms that the essential fact of human experience does not reside in our relationship with the things that make up the world, but is determined by a relationship that through our existence,  we already maintain from the outset with the very fact that there is Being, with the nakedness of that simple fact


At this point in the analysis we are able to observe the importance of considering socio-constructionism as part of an emerging and new paradigm in science.

In this sense, the development of Gergen (1996) is particularly interesting, in that in the attempts to respond to the demands of justification of knowledge, psychologists have built what they call auxiliary bodies or support the discourse of the psychological sciences. He points out that these have been primarily of two varieties: one metatheoric and the other methodological. [11]

In a first context as an auxiliary body or support for metatheoric discourse, it places the explanations and understandings of the philosophy of science, particularly the developments of logical empiricists. Psychology collects in this source not only the understanding dictated by common sense, but the two great philosophical traditions: the Anglo-Saxon analytical tradition and continental rationalism. In a second context as an auxiliary body, it is nourished by the fact that both traditions were consolidated in the logic of empirical methodology and, therefore, in the laboratory experiment.

From my point of view, the most important and significant contribution of this reading about the acquisition of knowledge is given by the next step taken by Gergen. It relates to the consideration of each of these auxiliary bodies of discourse in the psychological sciences, that is, psychological and/or pedagogical theory, scientific metatheory, and theory of methodology, as constituents of what he calls «core of intelligibility«. It goes on to state: «to participate in the core of intelligibility is to ‘interpret/make sense’ by criteria specific to a particular community». In the case of psychology «a theory of mental life, a theory of science or a theory of method, form a set of interrelated propositions that endow a community of interlocutors with a sense of description and/or explanation within a given field» (Gergen, 1996, p. 24). [12]

Me it seems that the concept nuclei of epistemological intelligibility», (NIE), is fertile enough to rely on it and develop from it what would be an onto/epistemological understanding of the processes of knowledge acquisition. The discursive practices that support action in the field of psychological sciences and that are also assumed by psychopedagogy and pedagogy itself, are presented as intelligible without showing the links with events that occur outside that core. These disciplines in their current development continue to be connected with «foundationism», that is, they assume the a priori of mental representations that are then connected with empiricism. This is the metatheoretical component of the intelligibility core that is never questioned and then operates as an assumption that underlies the methodology and the theory that supports it. Pedagogy is a tributary of this scientific perspective or vision that has its origin in the so-called «inherited tradition»

In the light of these statements it is possible to argue that due to the characteristics of the onto/epistemological debate at the level of the social sciences in today’s world, this is a gray area not exempt from severe paradigmatic contradictions that is expressed in disciplines such as pedagogy, both in the training of its professionals and in its  practices and that is,  eventually responsible for much of the crisis of education in our societies.[13] The same is true in the two branches of the social sciences which are psychology and sociology.

My point of view is that it is interesting to observe Gergen’s statement that  in attempts to respond to the demands of justification of knowledge, psychologists have built what they call auxiliary bodies or support the discourse of the psychological sciences, without realizing that they are not convergent as a methodology and metatheory.  This makes them constitute NIE (Núcleo de intelligibility epistemológica) in which the metatheoric, theoretical and methodological paradigmatic dimension keeps us a coherent relationship with each other, that is, they are carriers of contradictions that affect their practical exercise as disciplines.


What is the importance of a theory being part of a paradigmatic scientific explanation constituted as a coherent NIE?

As an example, biocybernetics states that organisms are autonomous agents that actively generate and maintain their identity by defining their own cognitive domains. If this scientific premise is accepted and, in addition, a theory takes over the metatheorical view that living systems, including the human, operate with operational closure as an organizationally closed sensorimotor network of neurons in interaction as a nervous system, therefore there is no relationship of input and output with the environment,  then to be consistent with it, as is the case in social constructionism, is to affirm that only through participation in social games and continued conversation with the world of intimate relationships, the individual can develop a sense of identity or an inner voice. Following its line of paradigmatic coherence in socio-constructionism, the methodology it uses responds to thismetatheoric vision. Thus, the construction of social dialogue must be done with actors who concur with narratives in the first person, to shape a world of meanings shared with others and reconstruct the social bond.
We can observe that other disciplines this does not happen. In pedagogy, for example, when it mostly focuses on teaching processes. If, on the other hand, it were to take charge of the metatheoric vision presented in this study, putting into practice a coherent NIE, it should focus on the learning processes and place in the middle of its work the subject who learns, not the one who teaches. (Leiva, 2020) .[14]

Continuing with examples, in the field of politics this vision is absent. Public policies are constructed without considering the direct participation of social actors. We have seen the result of this in political applications such as urban transport in my country’s capital.

To finally highlight the importance of a theory being part of a paradigmatic scientific explanation constituted as a coherent NIE, it can be observed that in the company the visions and the plans and strategies are often designs elaborated by the top management. If the metatheoric look that we show in this study is followed, processes built from the bottom up of the organization are required, (button up processes), so that the productive agents are committed to the future of their company.

The developments of this study aim to bring the look closer to the human phenomenon of disciplines that have an explanatory path of different origin. This is the case of biology with a focus on cybernetics that is located in the field of biological sciences and social constructionism that is located in the field of social sciences. The convergence of socio-constructionism in a core of epistemological intelligibility consistent with cybernetic biology responds to the intention of showing that both share a background of historical sensitivity of great importance.

The biologist Francisco Varela alludes to this background[15] as trends that today constitute a configuration of forces in many domains of cultural work.  The tendency to which he refers is the disappearance of the intellectual and social space that makes knowledge a mentalist representation and man a rational agent. He points out that it is the disappearance of what Heidegger calls the epoch of the image of the world and that it can also be designated as Cartesianism. The center of interest of this new and emerging trend is the interpretative capacity of the living being that conceives man not as an agent that «discovers» the world, but constitutes it. To this turn that shows the emergence of a new paradigm called this biologist «ontological turn of modernity», which in this century is emerging as a new space of social life and thought that is certainly progressively changing the face of science.


Bateson G. (1972), Pasos hacia una ecología de la mente, Ediciones Lohlé- Lumen, BuenosAires

Gergen, K. J., 1996 “Realidad y Relaciones”, , Barcelona, Ed. Paidós

Greenfield S., 2005, “ID: TheQuestforIdentity in the21st. Century” Barcelona Ediciones B.S.A

Guba Egon G. y Yvonna S. Lincoln (1998), CompetingParadigms in Qualitative
, en Denzin N.K. y Y.S. Lincoln, QualitativeResearch, ThousandOaks, Sage,
California, EE.UU.

Kuhn T., 1962 “Thestructureofscientificrevolutions”, Universityof Chicago Press

Leiva C., J. ,( 2020) De la pedagogía del oprimido a la del suprimido, Primera Edición, Santiago de Chile, Editorial ALTHAEA
Lévinas E., 2016 “De l’existence á l’existencet” Ed. Arena Libros  Madrid- España

Maturana H., y Varela F., (1984) “El árbol del conocimiento” Santiago Ed. Universitaria, Santiago-Chile

Maturana H. y Varela F., (1973),” De máquinas y seres vivos”,  Editorial Universitaria, Santiago-Chile

Maturana H., Varela F., 2003 “De maquinas y seres vivos: Autopoiesis.  La organización de lo vivo” Segunda Edición .Editorial Universitaria Santiago-Chile

Morin E., 1990 “Introducción al pensamiento complejo”  Editorial GEDISA- Barcelona
Shulman L.,1989,  Paradigmas y programas de investigación en el estudio de la enseñanza: Una perspectiva contemporánea, en Wittrock M. (1989), La Investigación de la enseñanza I –Enfoques, teorías y métodos, Editorial Paidós, Madrid.

Varela, F.,  2000 “El fenómeno de la vida” Editorial DOLMEN  Santiago-Chile

Varela F., 1996, “Conocer Las ciencias cognitivas: tendencias y perspectivas” Ed. Gedisa Barcelona

Varela F., Thompson E., Rosch E. 1992, “TheembodiedMind – Cognitive Science and. HumanExperience”, The MIT Press, EE.UU.


[1] Kuhn T., 1962 “The structure of scientific revolutions”, University of Chicago Press

[2] Shulman L., 1989,  Paradigms and Research Programs in the Study of Teaching: A Contemporary Perspective, in Wittrock M. (1989), Teaching Research I –

Approaches, theories and methods, Editorial Paidós, Madrid.

[3] Bateson G. (1972), Steps towards an ecology of the mind, Editions Lohlé-Lumen, Buenos Aires

[4] Guba Egon G. y Yvonna S. Lincoln (1998), Competing Paradigms in Qualitative

Research, en Denzin N.K. y Y.S. Lincoln, Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, Sage,

California, EE. UU.

[5] Morin E., 1990 «Introduction to complex thinking» Editorial GEDISA- Barcelona

[6]Maturana H., and Varela F., (1984) «El árbol del conocimiento» Santiago Ed. Universitaria, Santiago-Chile

[6]Maturana H. and Varela F., (1973),» De máquinas y seresvivos»,  EditorialUniversitaria, Santiago-Chile

[7] Varela, F., 2000 «El fenómeno de la vida» Editorial DOLMEN Santiago-Chile

[8] On. Cit Pag. 51

[9] Greenfield S., 2005, “ID: The Quest for Identity in the21st. Century” Barcelona Ediciones B.S.A

[10]Lévinas E., 2016 «De l’existence á l’existencet» Ed. Arena Libros Madrid- Spain

[11]Gergen, K. J., 1996 «Realidad y Relaciones», , Barcelona, Ed. Paidós

[12]  On. Cit.

[13] Leiva C., J. ,( 2020) De la pedagogía del oprimido a la del suppressed, Primera Edición, Santiago de Chile, Editorial ALTHAEA


[14] On. Cit.

[15]Maturana H., Varela F., 2003 «De maquinas y seresvivos: Autopoiesis.  The organization of the living» Second Edition. Pag. 34 Editorial Universitaria Santiago-Chile