Genetic Epistemology

Genetic epistemology is a study of the origins (genesis) of knowledge (epistemology). The discipline was established by Jean Piaget.

The goal of genetic epistemology is to link the validity of knowledge to the model of its construction. In other words, it shows that the method in which the knowledge was obtained/created affects the validity of that knowledge. For example, our direct experience with gravity makes our knowledge of it more valid than our indirect experience with black holes. Genetic epistemology also explains the process of how a human being develops cognitively from birth throughout his or her life through four primary stages of development: sensorimotor (birth to age 2), preoperational (2-7), concrete operational (7-11), and formal operational (11 years onward). The main focus is on the younger years of development.

Progress from one stage to another comes by way of a process of development. Assimilation, which occurs when the perception of a new event or object occurs to the learner in an existing schema and is usually used in the context of self-motivation. Accommodation, one accommodates the experiences according to the outcome of the tasks. The highest form of development is equilibration. Equilibration encompasses both assimilation and accommodation as the learner changes their way of thinking in order to arrive at a correct or different answer. This is the upper level of development.

Jean Piaget did not consider himself a psychologist - instead he called his study Genetic Epistemology. In contemporary English, genetics refers to the functions of heredity, rather than the more broad reference to biological concerns. Contemporary reference to his studies would more likely give you the terminology 'developmental theory of knowledge'. Piaget believed that knowledge is a biological function that results from the actions of an individual and is borne out of change and transformation. He also stated that knowledge consists of structures, and comes about by the adaptation of these structures with the environment.

From the standpoint of logic, Piaget's genetic epistemology is a half-way house between formal logic and dialectical logic; from the standpoint of epistemology, Piaget's genetic epistemology is a half-way house between objective idealism and materialism.

Read more about Genetic Epistemology:  Piaget's Schema Theory, Types of Knowledge

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