Is Social Constructivism an Ontology or Epistemology?


Diego Sanchez

Social constructivism is a theory that emphasizes the importance of social interaction and language in the construction of knowledge. However, there is often confusion about whether social constructivism is an ontology or an epistemology. In this article, we will explore this question and provide a clear understanding of the nature of social constructivism.

Ontology and Epistemology

Before we delve into the question at hand, it’s important to understand what ontology and epistemology mean. Ontology refers to the study of existence or being.

It deals with questions about what exists in the world and how it exists. Epistemology, on the other hand, is concerned with knowledge – how we know what we know.

Social Constructivism as an Epistemology

Many scholars believe that social constructivism is primarily an epistemological theory. This is because it focuses on how individuals come to know and understand reality through their interactions with others and their environment. According to social constructivists, knowledge is not simply discovered but actively constructed through social processes.

Construction of Knowledge

In social constructivism, knowledge is seen as a product of human activity rather than something that exists outside of human experience. Knowledge is constructed through interaction with others in society, through language use, and through cultural practices. Social constructivists argue that individuals actively interpret information based on their experiences and prior knowledge.

Social Interaction

Social interaction plays a crucial role in the construction of knowledge in social constructivism. People learn from each other by sharing their experiences, perspectives, and ideas. By engaging in dialogue with others who hold different views or experiences, individuals can broaden their understanding of reality.

Social Constructivism as an Ontology

Some scholars argue that social constructivism should be viewed as an ontology rather than just an epistemological theory. This is because social constructivism also emphasizes the social construction of reality. According to this view, reality is not something that exists independently of human experience but is actively constructed through social processes.

Construction of Reality

In social constructivism as an ontology, reality is seen as a product of human activity. It is constructed through language and social practices. Individuals interpret their experiences based on the cultural norms and values they have been exposed to, which shapes their understanding of reality.

Impact on Society

Social constructivism as an ontology has important implications for society. It suggests that there are multiple realities that exist simultaneously and that these realities are shaped by cultural and historical factors. This means that individuals from different cultural backgrounds may have fundamentally different understandings of reality.


In summary, social constructivism can be viewed as both an epistemological theory and an ontology. While it primarily focuses on the construction of knowledge through social interaction, it also emphasizes the role of culture and language in shaping our understanding of reality. By acknowledging the importance of these factors, we can gain a deeper understanding of how individuals come to know and understand the world around them.