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Constructivism, Cognition, and Duality

Hannes Peltonen



The history of social constructivism in International Relations (IR) is marked by cognitive change and continuity. This paper’s argument begins by assuming that constructivism is a contested concept. Yet, Wittgenstein’s notion of family resemblances helps in understanding why an essence of constructivism need not be found. Within this constructivist family, there are different modes of cognition, or different understandings of legitimate processes of knowing. The paper identifies two different modes, one joined, the other separate but equal. Third generation constructivists could contribute to constructivism’s evolution by communicating (better) their mode of cognition. The paper draws from Wittgenstein, Gestalt psychology, and modern physics to suggest cognitive duality, illustrated with an example from global law. Physics-envy may be healthy if it differs from what IR is accustomed to.

Keywords: social constructivism, third generation, cognition, Gestalt psychology, duality, Wittgenstein


Bibliography: Peltonen, Hannes: Constructivism, Cognition, and Duality, ERIS, 3-2016, pp. 76-86.


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