Realism vs. constructivism
Last updated: Mar 20, 2021
Realism and constructivism are two different epistemological positions, that is, two different ways of understanding how we know what we know.
A realist position see the world as – literally – real and posits that we know what we know because of some inherent quality that things in the world have. By contrast, a constructivist approach sees reality as socially constructed: we know what we know because of social practice. The former assumes that there is a neutral reference point ‘out there’ that exists independent of human experience; the latter rejects such an unbiased reference point and instead sees all our knowledge about the world as being influenced by how people experience and describe the world. To put it simply, realism would say that we recognise a rock as a ‘rock’ because of its inherent properties. Constructivism would say we recognise it as such because we‘ve learnt to do so.