Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
In the early 1960’s, Jerome Bruner, then a professor of psychology at Harvard University, published a collection of what he called “fugitive essays” entitled On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand (1962), in which he argued that to understand the nature of human cognition one needed an approach which went beyond that provided by the conceptual tools of the psychologist, an approach whose primary medium of exchange was the “metaphor paid out by the left hand.” Such is the way of the poet, Bruner said then, for poets’ hunches and intuitions create a grammar of their own. Bruner has done a considerable amount of important work in the fields of knowledge acquisition, education, and cognitive psychology since that collection. Now he returns to the topic of the poetic way of knowing in this sequel of sorts to his “left hand” essays, for which a group of essays written for various occasions between 1980 and 1984 have been revised and reorganized.
The result is a unified argument, developed in three stages. Part 1 contrasts two modes of thought: the paradigmatic, or the logical and scientific mode, and the narrative mode. Part 2, which constitutes the central section of the book, deals with the basic worldview of constructivism, a view Bruner shares with such thinkers as Nelson Goodman and Lev Vygotsky, which claims that there is no given world “out there,” at least no meaningful world, but rather that reality is constructed by the...
(The entire section is 1783 words.)
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