The Development and Overcoming
of “Universal Pragmatics''
in Piaget's Thinking
Social Science Research Center, Berlin
Students of the humanities who have dealt with Piaget have repeatedly tried to play the early Piaget against the late Piaget (e.g., Furth, 1987; Habermas, 1981, 1983; Miller, 1986). The reason is that sociological considerations in Piaget's early writings seem to play a greater role than they do in the publications beginning with, say, Biology and Knowledge(1967/ 1971). The complaint of sociologists is usually that this deemphasis of sociological concerns in Piaget's thinking represents an unlearning—a loss of significant insights—and therefore must be reversed.
A different approach would be to check at least whether the “deemphasis of sociological concerns” is not purely contingent in nature (coinciding with the fact that Piaget only once had a chair in sociology). It is rarely considered whether the deemphasis of sociological concerns occurred at the deep structure of his theory. One might even ask whether this deemphasis rests on an insight that moves beyond current dichotomies such as individualistic-social, monologic-dialogic, or monologicdiscursive. According to this antithetical supposition, Piaget would have undergone a learning process. The plausibility of this interpretation is suggested by the fact that the considerations in Erkenntnistheorie der Wissenschaften vom Menschen(1970/1973)—that is, after Biology and Knowl edge—readily integrated the sociological thoughts of the young Piaget. Moreover, the third French edition of Sociological Studies (ttude Sociologiques, 1977) contained absolutely no disclaimers with respect to his former ideas. Despite Biology and Knowledge(1967/1971) and the “unsocio-