Piaget, J. (1970). Genetic epistemology. New York, NY, US: Columbia University Press.
Piaget’s presents a “genetic epistemology” in that he elaborates how our understanding of knowledge (epistemology) develops in actual people (children) instead of simply as an abstract philosophy based on our adult intuitions about knowledge (the traditional epistemological approach).
According to Jean Piaget, genetic epistemology “attempts to explain knowledge, and in particular scientific knowledge, on the basis of its history, its sociogenesis, and especially the psychological origins of the notions and operations upon which it is based”. Piaget believed he could test epistemological questions by studying the development of thought and action in children. As a result Piaget created a field known as genetic epistemology with its own methods and problems. He defined this field as the study of child development as a means of answering epistemological questions.
GENETIC EPISTEMOLOGY attempts to explain knowledge, and in particular scientific knowledge, on the basis of its history, its sociogenesis, and especially the psychological origins of the notions and operations upon which it is based. (p. 1)
The description that I have given of the nature of genetic epistemology runs into a major problem, namely, the traditional philosophical view of epistemology. For many philosophers and epistemologists, epistemology is the study of knowledge as it exists at the present moment; it is the analysis of knowledge for its own sake and within its own framework without regard for its development. For these persons, tracing the development of ideas or (p. 1)
the development of operations may be of interest to historians or to psychologists but is of no direct concern to epistemologists. This is the major objection to the discipline of genetic epistemology, which I have outlined here. (p. 2)
The current state of knowledge is a moment in history, changing just as rapidly as the state of knowledge in the past has ever changed and, in many instances, more rapidly. Scientific thought, then, is not momentary; it is not a static instance; it is a process. More specifically, it is a process of continual construction and reorganisation. (p. 2)
Our problem, from the point of view of psychology and from the point of view of genetic epistemology, is to explain how the transition is made from a lower level of knowledge to a level that is judged to be higher. The nature of these transitions is a factual question. The transitions are historical or psychological or sometimes even biological, as I shall attempt to show later. (p. 12)