Luhmann and the Constructivist Heritage: A Critical Reflection

Constructivist Foundations 8 (1):19-28 (2012)

Context: Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic social systems is increasingly receiving attention in the scholarly dispute about constructivism. Problem: The paper explores the transition from Kant’s “transcendental/empirical” to Luhmann’s “system/environment” distinction to provide a deepened understanding of Luhmann’s constructivist approach. Method: Luhmann’s construction of reality via the system/environment distinction is discussed with respect to preceding concepts provided by philosophical and system/cybernetic scholars such as Kant, Husserl, Piaget, von Glasersfeld, von Foerster, and Maturana & Varela. The innovativeness of Luhmann’s approach is then critically evaluated. Results: Luhmann’s contribution to constructivism is innovative only in the context of his stringent theory architecture of autopoietic meaning-based systems. Implications: The text is a contribution to the positioning of this approach as part of the philosophical and systems/cybernetics constructivist heritage
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