Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwin and Bohr

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sat Jun 23 2007 - 18:03:51 PDT

Dear Erik and Mike:
  Erik makes the main point I wanted to make far better than my own maunderings did. It was precisely that the grandiose epistemological and philosophical and even political meanings that we often attach to particular scientific breakthroughs tend to reflect our own ontological predispositions and philosophical predilections rather than any thorough assimilation of the technological breakthrough at hand.
  The Russian affinity for Darwinism reflects, as Erik says, the atmosphere of anticipation in late 19th Century Russia rather than any deep understanding of the precise mechanism that Darwin was proposing. But of course the same could be said of the Western distaste for Darwin.
  In fact, we can even say the same for Darwin's own phrase "natural selection". Janet pointed out that this particular expression was anthropomorphic, and it was for that reason that Darwin, via Wallace, began to use the phrase "survival of the fittest" (and of course this has been found to be tautological by people who do not differentiate between species, organisms, phenotypes and genotypes). Darwin's own understanding of his theory is deeply colored by Malthus and political economy, and this was one of the reasons why it could be so easily picked up by Spencer (who actually coined the phrase "survival of the fittest").
  I don't mean to change the subject, but I think that another weakness of the "toolforthoughts" approach is that it at least potentially constricts LSV's concept of mediation to intellectual concepts. Mediation was also part of LSV's vision of emotional development, as Gunilla Lindqvist's article (2000) makes very clear.
  "Tools" are not artworks. LSV (2004, based on a previous discussion in Ribot) divides creativity into four basic types:
  a) combinatorial (the creation of unicorns, manticores, dragons, imaginary friends, huts on chicken legs). Here the child is simply juxtaposing actual aspects of experience in new ways.
  b) reconstructive (the way children conceptualize experiences they have NEVER had, such as the children in Thinking and Speech Chapter Five who imagined that serf-owners lived in ten story houses with electricity). Here there is a "reality check" function that makes the child's creativity socially shareable with adults.
  c) emotional (the way children use creativity to control their emotions and even create new ones, such as the child who uses Harry Potter or Tom Sawyer to imagine a world without parents and make it bearable).
  d) innovative (the way children use creativity to bring into being the kind of objects that Popper associates with "World Three", music, drawing, drama, etc.
  I see perfectly well how "tools" can mediate the kind of creativity we see in a), b), and even d). But it's much less clear to me how tools (as opposed to symbols) mediate the kind of creativity we see in c). In fact, I would argue that in many ways the kinds of instant gratification we see developing in computer based role-play games (and Hollywood movies such as "Pirates of the Carribean") are INIMICAL to the development of higher emotions such as justice out of rage, caution out of fear, empathy out of pain.
  There is always an interaction between a particular tool and its content, and I do not think it is accidental that books evolved into novels, while web-based games are evolving into long but only very narrowly interactive shopping lists of monsters to kill, cars to hijack, prisoners to torture, women to abuse.
  So I'm inclined to impute the starry-eyed anticipation of people who believe that web-based games will replace literacy altogether to the kind of wildly innaccurate (because asocial) foresight which, twenty or thirty years ago, imagined a world twenty or thirty years hence where people commute using individual rocket belts.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Sat Jun 23 18:06 PDT 2007

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