Social Interaction and the Development of Knowledge

Social Interaction and the Development of Knowledge

Social Interaction and the Development of Knowledge

Social Interaction and the Development of Knowledge

Synopsis

Written by highly respected theorists in psychology and philosophy, the chapters in this book explicate and address fundamental epistemological issues involved in the problem of the relationship between the individual and the collective. Different theoretical viewpoints are presented on this relationship, as well as between the nature of rationality and morality, relativism and universalism, and enculturation and internalization. Many chapters also highlight similarities and differences between these alternative frameworks and Piaget's theory, and thus correct the misperception that Piaget had nothing to say about the social dimension of development. Other chapters focus on the implications of these debates for the important topic areas of pedagogy, moral development, and the development of social understanding in infancy and childhood. Although Piaget's theory will be presented and evaluated by some of the chapters in this collection, the authors remain critical and do not shy away from revising or extending Piaget's theory whenever it is deemed necessary. Even though the topic covered in this book is of fundamental importance in the social sciences it is rarely addressed in a sustained way as it is in this collection of chapters. The book will be of interest to social scientists interested in fundamental epistemological issues, especially as these concern the relationship between the individual and the collective, and implications for the conceptualization of morality and rationality.

Excerpt

One of the most important questions that can be asked about development is how the psychological development of the individual is influenced by society. Any complete developmental theory must address this issue, and the task of conceptually clarifying the role of society in development raises many important epistemological questions. Chief among these are the multifaceted problems of how to conceptualize (a) the relation between the individual and society or collective, and (b) the contribution of society to the emergence of rational and moral norms. A major goal of (his book is to elaborate on the process of socialization and the epistemological issues involved in this process. These issues are the topics of a number of chapters of this book and are dealt with from a variety of theoretical perspectives.

Another goal of this book is to present and evaluate Piaget's (1977/ 1995) unique but still widely bypassed treatment of these issues (Kitchener, 2000). Piaget is considered one of the giants of developmental psychology, but his theoretical and empirical contributions are mostly placed in the domain of individual cognitive development. Serious consideration of the social dimension of development is not credited to Piaget. In fact Piaget's theory has been and still is considered by many psychologists (e.g., Bruner, 1997; Tappan, 1997) to be the avatar of an individualist approach to development. A number of chapters in this book (e.g., Amin & Valsiner, chap. 5; Boom, chap. 4; Dobert, chap. 7; Kitchener, chap. 3; Smith, chap. 9; Lourenco, chap. 12) show that Piaget's theory is funda-

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