Print Version of Essences Article Published

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical PsychologyMy article, “On Essences in Constructivist Psychology,” was published in print form this week. Full reference and abstract below.

Raskin, J. D. (2011). On essences in constructivist psychologyJournal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology31(4), 223-239. doi: 10.1037/a0025006


The notion of essence in psychology is examined from a constructivist viewpoint. The constructivist position is summarized and differentiated from social constructionism, after which constructs are distinguished from concepts in order to position ontology and epistemology as modes of construing. After situating constructivism in relation to philosophical approaches to essences, the distinction between essences and kinds is examined and the presumed constructivist critique of essences in psychology outlined. It is argued that criticizing constructivism as an “anything goes” form of antirealism fails to grasp how constructivist psychology, by emphasizing structure and viability, does indeed place limits on the constructions people may hold. In applying a constructivist understanding of essences in general to those fundamental to human psychology, people can be seen as having three essential psychological qualities: they are closed systems, active meaning-makers, and irreducibly social beings. Yet a constructivist view also maintains that these psychological essences only hold while operating within and committed to a constructivist perspective. In other words, what counts as an essence always depends on one’s assumptions, or how one construes events. Finally, a personal construct theory model of essentialist and nonessentialist construing is introduced based on the assumption that everyone construes in both essentialist and nonessentialist ways at different times because doing so is pragmatically viable. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)

Constructivism Lecture at TLC

I will be giving a lecture, “Constructivism and the Myth of Instructive Interaction,” at the SUNY New Paltz Teaching and Learning Center on Friday, October 21 at 11:00 AM. The lecture will address the basics of constructivist theory and constructivism’s relevance for thinking about teaching. Hope to see you there!

Here is a PDF of the PowerPoint slides for this presentation:
Constructivism and Instructive Interaction TLC

For more on constructivism, check out the website of the Constructivist Psychology Network.

Constructivist Psychology Network

PCP2011 Congress Participation

I am co-organizing the 19th International Congress on Personal Construct Psychology, which will be held in Boston July 18-22, 2o11.

At the congress, I am presenting a paper with graduate student Benjamin Brett: “Stigma and the Reverse Golden Section Among Counselors.”

I am also moderating a discussion panel entitled “Personal Construct Psychology, Radical Constructivism, and Social Constructionism–Points of Contact and Divergence.” The panel participants are Bill Warren, Jay Efran, and Sheila McNamee.