Piaget and Genetic Epistemology

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) , was a biologist and psychologist who developed in Geneva the theory of genetic epistemology, advocating an interdisciplinary approach to epistemological research. He defended an epistemological theory based on the genetics of human thought.

He developed some Claparède theories, which he expanded through the genesis studies and cognitive processing of children and youth. Piaget delimits a field of study on children’s thinking and logical reasoning.

His theory of developmental stages, formalized between 1940 and 1945, resulted from the observation of his children’s development, which defines the four stages of cognitive development in humans:

  • The Motor sensory, which emerges with birth, is where sensations manifest through practices stimulated by the senses. The categories of space and time, causality, and relation to the outside world are formed through objects.
  • Then, by the 2-3 years, the Preoperative stage develops, characterized by an essentially inductive, egocentric self-based thinking, without a differentiation of the different points of view of others. There is a duality of understanding of the world.
  • At the stage of concrete operations, around the age of 7-8, the self-centering begins. One proceeds from the intuition to the logic of the concrete, begins the decentralization. Acquisition of the ability to perceive the reversibility of operations, causal explanations, notions of permanence of substance, weight and volume. Feelings of mutual respect and justice (distributive and retributive), moral of cooperation (correlate with the logic of reversibility), emergence of the will as regulation of action
  • In the fourth and final stage, from the 10-12 years onwards, formal operations or abstract thinking emerge: The ability to abstract operative logical reasoning develops, the self is more fully decentralized, propositional and hypothetical thinking emerges. -deductive. Formal schemes of combinatory logic and proportions are elaborated. The construction of autonomy occurs.

These stages depend on individual to individual and the social contexts in which they live. According to Piaget, each child only learns what he is prepared to learn and assimilate, and the teacher has the role of directing and improving the students’ discovery process.

Piaget was a critic of the traditional school, of masterful and authoritarian teaching, inherited from the nineteenth century, in opposition to a new critical school, not directive. Piaget’s educational theory is based on three pillars: Understanding the genesis of thought in the child, the construction of the real in the child and the formation of symbols. With them demonstrates that the cognitive capacity of the human being is born and develops in a process that can be oriented and enhanced.

Knowledge for Piaget arises from the interaction between “subject-object”. An intersubjective knowledge in interaction