Epistemological positions have practical consequences that are of great concern to psychologists and educators. The way we view knowledge and its acquisition is likely to have an increasingly large impact as scientific and technical knowledge are likely to play a more central role in the future than they have in the past. and to become increasingly central to our economic, social, and physical well being.
Three general conceptual frameworks have contributed to our understanding of knowledge and its acquisition during this century: (1) the empiricist, (2) the rationalist and (3) the sociohistoric
Views of Knowledge
Empiricist position: knowledge of the world is acquired by a process in which the sensory organs first detect stimuli in the external world, and the mind then detects the customary patterns or "conjunctions" in these stimuli (David Hume, 1748). Our knowledge of the world is a repertoire of patterns that we have learned to detect and operations that we can execute on these patterns;
Rationalist position: Kant suggested that knowledge is acquired by a process in which order is imposed by the human mind on the data that the senses provide, not merely detected in them. Knowledge is seen as something that is constructed by the mind, and evaluated according to rational criteria such as coherence, consistency, and parsimony.
Socio-historic position: knowledge does not have its primary origin in the structure of the objective world. Rather, it has its primary origin in the social and material history of the culture of which the subject is a part. If we want to understand the knowledge that children acquire in the course or their development. then, we must first examine the technology that the culture has evolved in the course of its history, and the use to which that technology has been put. (Hegel and Marx) Knowledge is seen as the creation of a social group, as it engages in its daily interaction and praxis, and both adapts to and transforms the environment around it
Views of Learning
Empiricists: learning is the process that generates knowledge: it begins when we are exposed to a new pattern, continues as we learn to recognize and respond to that pattern in an efficient manner, and does not end until we can recognize the new pattern in other contexts. and generalize our response in an appropriate manner
Rationalists: learning is seen as the process that takes place when the mind applies an existing structure to new experience in order to understand it
Socio-cultural view: learning is seen as the process of being initiated in to the life of a group, so that one can assume a role in its dally praxis (technologies that a culture has evolved in the course of its history)
For rationalists, the fundamental problem with the empiricist tradition is that it views human knowledge in a fashion that is far too atomistic, and far too rooted in external as opposed to internal processes.
For socio-historic theorists, the fundamental problem with the rationalist tradition is that it locates human knowledge in the cognitive processes of the individual, rather than the patterns of activity of the human group.