Self—Continual Assimilation Of Structures Restructuring

Piaget’s Self Is Located In The Interdependence Of The Activity Of
Content/Form—Reciprocal Movement

The locus of the “constructionist self ” is called by Piaget the center of
functional activity. The center of functional activity is not, according to
Piaget, located in the traditional “me space” that we so often take for granted;
nor is it located in the “lived space” that is described in the works of various
phenomenologists and existentialists; nor is it located in the positivists
physico-chemical brain activity, Nietzsche’s will to power, Marx’s economic
determinate or Durkheim’s normative order. Rather, Piaget locates the
“constructionist self,” in general terms, “somewhere midway between the nervous
system and conscious behavior (because) `psychology is first of all a biology.'”
[Piaget, 1970, p. 138] In more specific terms, Piaget locates the
“constructionist self” in the structure of content/form interdependence. Piaget

“But what manner of existence is left, then, for the mind, if it is neither
social, nor mental in the subjective sense, nor organic?
…If it is, as Levi-Strauss says, necessary to “reintegrate content with
form,” it is no less essential to recall that neither forms nor contents exist
per se: in nature as in mathematics every form is content for “higher” forms and
every content form of what it “contains.”‘ [Piaget, 1970, p. 112]

We see in this “double movement” of form and content the real location of
Piaget’s self. In this situation it becomes tempting to identify Piaget’s self
as the structure of structures but this conclusion is prohibited, as Piaget
points out, by Gödel’s proof that the ideal of the structure of all structures is
unrealizable. Therefore, Piaget retreats into the only description of self that
is left, given the limiting conditions set down in his constructionist
philosophy. He says:

“…the subject’s activity calls for a continual “de-centering” without which
he cannot become free from his spontaneous intellectual egocentricity. This
“de-centering” makes the subject enter upon, not so much an already available
and therefore external universality, as an uninterrupted process of coordinating
and setting in reciprocal relations. It is the latter process which is the true
“generator” of structures as constantly under construction and reconstruction.
The subject exists because, to put it very briefly, the being of structures
consists in their coming to be, that is, their being “under construction.”
[Piaget, 1970, p. 140]

Piaget’s structuralism is a positive force in the structural movement,
but considered from a personal point of view, the continual state
of “structuring structures,” it seems to me at least, is an exceptionally sterile notion,
especially at bedtime when I tuck my children in for the night. As
the lyrics of that gorgeous song by Peggy Lee suggests, “Is that all there is?
Is that all there is my friend? Then lets…break out the booze…” If, indeed,
that is all there is, then perhaps we should hope Anthony Giddens was right when he declared structuralism to be a dead movement!

In addition to having an ahistorical and apolitical bent, structuralism also is
criticized for its lack of aesthetic and moral values. Structuralism
underestimates the significance of dialectics and social determinism. At times,
structuralism brutally depersonalizes the individual and, in some cases, lacks
the content that can be submitted to empirical confirmation. Levi-Strauss’s
structural interpretation of myth comes to mind as an obvious example of an
untestable theory. Having recognized structuralism’s flaws, however, there still
must be something there to induce all this intellectual activity. I happen to
believe there is. I would not have chosen structuralism as a paper topic for
this class if I had thought otherwise. In the third part of this paper, I will
describe what I believe this something is, and, in the process, dismiss the above
criticisms. But, before I get to the third part of this paper, I want to briefly
consider the structuralist thought (some might say post-structuralist thought) of
Michel Foucault. Ironically, it is in the thought of Foucault, the man who found little or no value in “self concepts,” where we may find a healthy, even spiritual, self concept.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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