Re: [xmca] LCA:Complementarity

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Sun Jul 24 2005 - 19:44:51 PDT

Dear Sasha and all,
In a way, this discussion of "predmet" (object) and the verb "polagat'"
(presume), really connects to the discussion we have here on XMCA on the
meaning and sense and an explanation we can make within the activity theory.
My own take on "akt polagania" -- is within the joint activity (of
communication) in which one of the participants needs to "lay down"
(polozhit) a "mentioned" object to the other participant(s). The act of
pointing to an "object" within communication is a real, practical
activity -- yet it is in a way "ideational" because the said "object"
may not be present in the space/time -- or may be something that cannot
be handled with senses and muscles (like: "honor", "love", etc).
So I really do not understand why would it be dangerous to say that the
term "polagat'" (translated as "presume" or "assume") has more than a
physical character..
I need more explanation.

The way I see the difference between meaning and sense is more
functional: to establish a meaning is an act of pointing to ("polozhit")
a culturally shared "object" of the symbolic code -- for the
co-locutors. On the other had, to make sense is to establish a special
set of relationships between the "object", the participants in the
conversation and the situation (with its history) in which such act is
taking place. In other words: it is to incorporate an "object" of the
symbolic code into a set of relationships which are being built between
the participants through communicative acts.
So, for instance, Mike was wondering if we should cross post between
XMCA and the XBDG:
"/I am uncertain of what the niceities are concerning cross posting
between xmca and xbdg (meaning? I missed something) groups./" (Mike)

His "object" (topic) about which he was creating meaning was: "Cross
posting". Taken alone these words point to a certain practice of
"posting from one group discussion to another". This is already a
The sense Mike was giving that practice was in his establishment of
special relationships between him himself ["am I missing something?"]
and the people who do these acts of cross posting ["are they being nice?
is there a nice way to do that? is there something not nice about it?"],
and the rest of the people who "listen" to these groups ["do we perceive
this (cross posting) as "nice" or not "nice"? is there a way to do it
nicely?"]. So "Cross Posting" becomes something meaningful for us, and
establishes new relationships between people who do that or do not do
that, who like it or don't, who do it in a nice way or not nicely...

All if these acts are real and practical acts -- but at the same time
they are acts with symbols -- across great distances and time
(Internet), even languages and cultures. I agree that in the finest
analysis, there is nothing but material acts (of making sounds, or
typing on a keyboard) -- but at the same time, I am not sure that these
material acts of communication can be understood and explained in the
same way as physical acts like "chopping wood" or "moving chairs around".

Does this make sense?

Alexander Surmava wrote:

>Dear Ana,
>I'm sorry for the delay with answer to your post.
>Your linguistic analysis of term "POLAGAT'" is very interesting. It reveals
>a real risk of misunderstanding the theoretic meaning of this concept.
>The point is that in context of spinozian approach which I am trying to
>conduct the "ideational" taste of the term is something dangerous.
>The explanation of this one can read in more detail in my post on Yahoo
>discussion groop.
>Thank you,
>From: [] On
>Behalf Of Ana Marjanovic-Shane
>Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2005 3:08 AM
>To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>Subject: Re: [xmca] LCA:Complementarity
>Mike and all
>Maybe even a Serbo-Croatian can help. A three (or four) way translation can
>throw some light on the "POLAGAET". The verb has a root in "LAG" - to "put"
>(down) or to "lay something down". German "LIEGEN" and English "LAY" have
>the same root (LAG, or LG). Serbian translation of the Russian "Polagaet
>(polozhit)" is "PRET-(PO)STAVITI" which means "to assume", but literally it
>means "to make it STAND in front of you" == or in English "to underSTAND" --
>to put it down in front of you.
>In Serbian, it can also act as a synonym for "imagine".
>It is an act of focusing one's attention to an object (predmet) - "to put it
>down in front of one's mind's eye". Even the act of focusing attention onto
>something, gives this something an "ideational" dimension - a dimension of a
>relationship between a person who perceives it and the object itself.
>What is important, I think, for describing the semiotic function, is that
>language makes it possible to "hold" the "ideational" aspect of an object in
>mind, and to orient others toward the same object.
>Mike, I think that all these "digressions" we are experiencing are actually
>necessary because they deal with central aspects of language. I am learning
>a great deal. And I agree that we should follow this part of the discussion
>on language, by reading Ilyenkov.
>Mike Cole wrote:
>Hi Sasha-- your English is just fine, thanks very much!
>How can we plan for, and organize, "the detailed discussion of the subject"
>of "predmet" and "predmetnaya deyatel'nost"? At present we are seeking to
>reach at least a place to pause, rest, and reflect
>on the discussion of CHAT and SFL. We have made a little headway, but the
>subject keeps slipping between the letters on our keyboards and slithers
>away through our differening schedules, backgrounds,
>and committments.
>We have some key readings we have committed ourselves to for this exercise.
>There is a promised reading of an Ilyenkov chapter waiting to begin when the
>organizers feel the time is ripe. Every discussion
>opens onto more discussions.
>Might you proposed some readings that we could read together, say, in the
>fall, that would address Barbara's question? Perhaps we will get some help
>from Yrjo and Michael R, but they may be too busy with
>other matters to respond and we clearly need a combination of Russian,
>German, and English (a least!) contributors to give Barbara the kind of
>answer we all need.
>Perhaps others have organizing suggestions?
>Meantime, what I take for your note is that perhaps the first two chapters
>of Ilyenov's *Dialectical Logic" might be added to our reading.
>PS. Pologaet. I think I would translate this as "presumes" or "assumes" not
>poses. But I sure could be wrong!
>On 7/11/05, Alexander Surmava <> wrote:
>Dear colleges,
>As far as my English allows me to understand the theoretical nuances Barbara
>hits the mark with here question. The "distinction between object, and
>object embedded in activity" which is definitely "related to the German
>concept of Gegenstand" or Russian terms "predmet" or "predmetnost" is the
>core problem of the so called "AT". And that's why one can answer to
>Barbara's question only by formulating the whole Activity Theory.
>But that is only the first and relatively simple problem. The second and
>much harder one are the theoretic difficulties with the Activity Theory
>itself. In spite of the fact that "predmet" and "predmetnaja dejatelnost"
>(object related activity - if I've correctly translated the Russian term)
>are the fundamental category of A.N.Leont'iev's conception Leont'iev himself
>could hardly give the clear and consistent answer to Barbara's question.
>That's why the answer to here question needs the solving not a kind of
>training task, but real research work.
>Recently Wolf-Michael Roth put forward a question "why does nobody talk
>about those who took Vygotsky's work further?" I agree with him and I'd
>like to stress that it is useless to try to study the CHAT theory concerning
>exclusively to L.S.Vygotsky and A.N.Leont'ev because... they didn't left us
>any finished theory. Vygotsky died at the peak of his powers. He had
>brilliantly put the questions but he had too little time to give the
>answers. A.N.Leont'ev and other members of vigotskian schools of thought did
>their best to continue the investigation. But they've done what they could
>do. A.N.Leontiev in his last days have confessed that he failed in solving
>some fundamental theoretic questions. So we have noting to do but to try to
>make the next step in solving this theoretic problem ourselves. And it is
>quite real task for us because now we are armed much better then our
>predecessor were. The great step forward in the field of theoretical
>psychology was done after mid thirties of the last century by Evald
>Ilyenkov, Vasiliy Davidov, Felix Mikhailov and their collaborators. So
>trying to give an answer to Barbara's question we need to reread the first
>two chapters of EVI's "Dialectical logic" for a start.
>Running a few steps forward I can assert that "predmet" is a category
>relevant to life as itself. The living subject (a unicellular organism, a
>plant, an animal or a human) puts (or poses = "polagaet" - rus.) the
>"predmet" by its spontaneous vital activity (the idea of this approach
>derives from Fichte). This act of posing (akt polagania) is not a mental
>act, but realizes by sensual contact with an external perceptible thing. In
>abstraction from this contact (from activity of living subject) the external
>thing stays in its mechanical or chemical properties and doesn't exist in
>relation to living subject.
>Here I have to stop because the detailed discussion of the subject demands
>substantially more time...
>Sasha Surmava
>From: [mailto:
><> ] On Behalf Of Mike Cole
>Sent: Monday, July 11, 2005 7:02 PM
>To: Barbara Crossouard
>Cc: eXtended Media, Culture, Activity
>Subject: Re: [xmca] LCA:Complementarity
>I am unsure of the answer to your question, Barbara. I can help more with
>Russian than with German. I expect that
>either Yrjo, who was an advisor to Kirsten's thesis or Wolf-Michael Roth can
>provide a better answer than I could.
>And thanks for asking! I do not understand if, ask Yrjo has written. "the
>activity is the context" one can make a distinction
>between " object, and object embedded in activity."
>Lets hope we can get some help!
>On 7/11/05, Barbara Crossouard <> wrote:
>As one of the silent readers so far, I'm encouraged by your appeal below for
>questions.. In trying to engage wtih activity theory, I discovered recently
>the distinction between object, and object embedded in activity, which I
>understand is related to the German concept of Gegenstand. Not being a
>German speaker however, I am trying to work out if I have any handle on the
>distinction. I should say that although I came across gegenstand in
>Leont'ev, it didn't mean anything to me in his text, and it's only by
>reading Kirsten Foot (2002) Pursuing the Evolving Object, in MCA vol 9 issue
>2, that I picked up on the distinction to any extent.
>To check my understanding, I am wondering if what Ruqaiya raised in general
>terms below about developing an academic identity, if this can be related to
>gegenstand for example, where an academic progressively develops both within
>a conceptual framework at the same time as contributing to it in a dialectic
>way, and if for me at the moment, as a doctoral student lurking at the edge
>of this, and looking for a way of conceptualising what I'm researching, if
>that might be an instance of an evolving object. Is that the way this
>distinction might be applied - would appreciate any comments.
> It seems this distinction is important in the formation of activity
>systems, but I don't often see it raised, as Kirsten also points out in her
>At 14:27 06/07/2005, you wrote:
>Phillip-- Seems to me that it is simply axiomatic that we cannot fully
>understand a system we are inside of.
>Yesterday several of us at LCHC discussed the need, once we are through all
>the papers, to double back
>and try to summarize the major points that have emerged with general
>agreement and to identify (potential)
>points of disagreement. Given our different languages of description (passim
>Ruqaiya via Bernstein) finding
>REAL disagreements is likely to be difficult because we will constantly be
>confusing concepts that are derived
>from somewhat different theoretical approaches and will not catch the
>differences. But it is worth a try.
>Ruqaiya-- We do not disagree about the restrictions of Luria's central asian
>work so far as I can tell. You have
>made the point convincingly that the interpersonal uses of language/mind
>are underplayed in the Russian
>cultural-historical tradition as represented in the readings we have
>discussed and that is certainly true of
>Luria's central asian work.
>By coincidence. I was thinking of all of Luria's work on neurolinguistics
>and the followups of that work by
>Akhutina and others when, our of the great byte bucket in the sky, I
>received a note from Tanya Akhutina
>this mornig about another matter. Given that many of those most
>knowledgeable about SFL are more or
>less unavailable in the next couple of weeks it seems impossible to consider
>adding to the readings for
>now. We need to get a more comprehensive overview of what we have
>collectively learned, or produced (at
>least that would be my priority). But we WILL return to this topic, in
>January if not before, when we have
>another course on mediational theories of mind, and when we do, we need to
>open up the issue of how to advance
>the idea of developing the ideas of complementarity that have been in this
>discussion. (I am still made uneasy
>by the slippage in AALeontiev's work regarding language and activity, but
>that may be my shortcoming. Perhaps
>an effort at summarizing will reveal a fuller picture; perhaps a more
>extensive discussion of Landolf and Thorne will
>help, I am unsure).
>Anyway, at LCHC there will be some efforts in this direction and help from
>ALL would be appreciated. What questions
>do those who have been silent have? Questions are so helpful in revealing
>areas of understanding and differences in
>interpretation or simply holes in what we are talking about.
>Off to other matters for a while.
>On 7/5/05, ruqaiya hasan <
><> > wrote:
> yes Mike, you are right, but there is a slippage here. Most
>of the
> experiments in Luria concerned concept formation,
>classification, and/or
> (syl)logical reasoning; these are often also cited as the
>prime examples of
> higher mental function -- which is what might explain the
>slippage, though
> not quite excuse it! I will certainly be more careful with
>my formulation
> next time.
> Yes, I like this listserve precisely for the reason that it
>opens up
> different orientations to the same problem -- that's great
>and I certainly
> hope that I am learning from it. One thing that might
>perhaps be already
> available somewhere information about which might help is a
>Readings Advice
> section (preferably for people like me a graded list!) which
>might guide one
> into understanding the vocabulary (what Bernstein used to
>call "the language
> od description"). Something of that kind would help me
>immensely with the
> concept of activity.
> I use "politics of academia" as another expression referring
>to roughly what
> Bourdieu called "appropriation of intellectual capital".
>There is also what
> Bernstein's phrase"formation of pedagogic identity"; we
>learn through one
> theory and may be 'the least effort principle' persuades us
>to stay within
> those safe boundaries.
> Ruqaiya
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Mike Cole" <
><> >
> To: "ruqaiya hasan" <
><> >
> Cc: "eXtended Media, Culture, Activity" <
> <> >
> Sent: Wednesday, July 06, 2005 9:10 AM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] LCA:Complementarity
> Hi Ruqaiya-
> It is only late in the day that I have time to get to xmca.
>Perhaps in time
> for your morning cofee?
> Anyway, the passage about Luria I was referring to is the
>following: With
> regard to his Uzbek subjects Luria suggested that the
>absence of higher
> mental functions was due to
> the lack of schooling in his subjects, as if the lack of
>schooling, ie
> failure to 'benefit' from official
> pedagogy.
> Yes, Ochs at least (I only have a couple of the books here)
> Halliday. But he does not appear
> to be a key figure in her fermament. Nor, desipte Gordon's
>gentle urging,
> has he been one in mine. A number of
> the criticisms fairly levelled at Vygotsky could easily be
>sent my way as
> well, I am sure.
> It seems to me that one important function of an enterprise
>such as this
> (eXtended mind, culture and activity)
> sort of discussion group is the cross-polination of ideas
>that it affords.
> And the acdemic politics are greatly
> muted by the highly distributed nature of the discussion --
>very few of us
> have, or care to have, control over the
> academic fates of those with whom we are conversing. But we
>know we don't
> know, even if it is that we don't
> know what it is that we don't know that we should know. And
>to those who are
> in it as a matter of politics, good luck
> to them. They would almost certainly be better of at the
>moment studying how
> to do research on education that
> wins the approval of our education bureaucracies or learning
>how to conduct
> fmri studies of undergraduates solving
> math problems.
> I think that the set of article laid before us provide a lot
> opportunities for learning. Whether we avail ourselves of
> the opportunity or not is pretty much up to the
> On to the rest of the days xmca thoughts.
> mike
> On 7/4/05, ruqaiya hasan <
><> > wrote:
> >
> > Hello Mike
> > yes I am in total agreement with you. If something I wrote
>gives the
> > impression that Luria thought his Uzbek subjects did not
>have 'higher
> > mental
> > functions' then that is a bad piece of writing by me, for
>which apologies.
> > In fact I can't quite recall but somewhere I have
>expressly quoted Luria
> > as
> > attributing the results to the educational experience of
>the subjects (may
> > be in Reading picture reading: a study in ideology and
>inference in Foley
> > (ed) Language, Education and Discourse. London: Continuum
>2004). And I
> > also
> > share your "scepticism about the enthusiasm for schooling
>that Luria
> > espoused". I guess I was arguing more that knowing the
>careful thinking of
> > both Vygotsky and Luria, it is to be doubted that they
>would have
> > attributed
> > the Uzbek results to absence of higher mental function; I
>was particularly
> > keen to bring into the debate that the "symbolic" function
>of language as
> > envisaged by Vygotsky is a function that every normal
>human has; if that
> > is
> > the quality of language essential to semiotic mediation
>then all of us
> > have
> > this experience; if there are distinct orders of semiotic
>mediation (shall
> > we say Bernstein's codes) then it is only reasonable to
>ask that they and
> > their etiology be identified nonambiguously. Has this been
> >
> > On Ochs and Schiefflin, I guess their work post-dates
>Halliday's. Are
> > their
> > many references to Halliday in their work? SFL linguists
>typically like to
> > have an explicit analysis of language along with
>statements relating
> > language to culture, cognition etc. So that maybe one
>reason for the
> > absence
> > of reference to Ochs and Schiefflin's work. On another
>tack, I have often
> > thought it would be great to have someone doing their
>doctoral research on
> > "the politics of academic referencing"!
> >
> > Ruqaiya
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Mike Cole" <
><> >
> > To: "eXtended Media, Culture, Activity" <
> > Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 3:18 AM
> > Subject: [xmca] LCA:Complementarity
> >
> >
> > Bruce tells me that my problems with receiving xmca
>messages has been
> > fixed.
> > We'll see.
> >
> > Based on my readings of Wells, Halliday, and Hasan, I find
>the proposal
> > for
> > the complementarity
> > of LSV, Halliday, and Bernstein compelling. This past
>winter I conducted a
> > graduate class where
> > we read Jim wertsch's 1985 book on Vygotsky and the Social
>Formation of
> > Mind
> > which Ruquaiya
> > refers to in her first article in the readings. Jim
>focuses there on
> > discourse and propositional referentiality
> > and his commentary seems important background for actually
>working out a
> > unified cultural historical
> > approach that incorporates contemporary work on
>lexiocgrammar. But I do
> > not
> > know how to bring that
> > into a discussion that is already packed with things to
> >
> > I also believe that the work of Ochs and Schiefflin, who
>make a strong
> > case
> > for the idea that the acquisition
> > of language is simultaneously acquisition of the
>sociocultural order into
> > which children are born needs to be
> > brought into the discussion. It seems to fit very well
>with Halliday's
> > emphases but does not seem to been
> > into the discussion by SFL folks, or at least, not in my
>limited reading.
> > Does anyone else think this work
> > relevant?
> >
> > There is one point on which I think Ruqaiya errs in her
>discussion of
> > Luria's Central Asian work (if I understand her
> > characterization correctly) and it is important to get
>straight in seeking
> > to deal with issues of cultural historical variation
> > in thought. It is not the case that Luria claimed that
>Uzbeki peasants
> > lack
> > higher psycholgical functions. All humans
> > are said to have higher psychological functions by virtue
>of the fact that
> > their thought and action is mediated by
> > culture. Rather, as Wertsch discusses, LSV and ARL
>believed that one must
> > include an analysis of evolution/development
> > of cultural means as a cultural historical process. They
>use the term
> > "rudimentary" mediational means, for example, in
> > connection with what they referred to as "primitive
> > Specifically,
> > Luria believed that traditional central asian
> > peasants used functional graphic modes of mediation which
>were superceded
> > by
> > taxonomic logical modes of mediation
> > associated with literacy, schooling, and involvement in
>industrial modes
> > of
> > life.
> >
> > I have my quarrels with Luria's conclusion and share
>scepticism about the
> > enthusiasm for schooling that Luria espoused. But
> > it is not correct, in my view, to believe that he
>attributed only
> > elementary
> > (not culturally mediated) forms of mental life
> > to Uzbeki peasants.
> >
> > This issue may not be central to the question of the
>complementarity of
> > the
> > views of Halliday and Vygotsky, but it certainly
> > touches directly on questions of Bernstein/Luria/LSV
>connections, so I
> > wanted to raise it here. I still have Ruqaiya's second
>paper to get
> > through and look forward to others comments on this work.
> > mike
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> --
> > ----
> >
> >
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > xmca mailing list
> > > <>
> > >
> > >
> >
> >
> >
> ----
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> > <>
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> <>
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Aug 01 2005 - 01:01:09 PDT