RE: [xmca] Vygotsky ?s historicism

From: Michael Glassman <MGlassman who-is-at>
Date: Wed Apr 09 2008 - 16:52:43 PDT



From: on behalf of David Kellogg
Sent: Wed 4/9/2008 7:39 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Vygotsky ?s historicism

Here's what I've never understood about the "learning paradox". In Fodor's version, the problem arises when we attempt to explain how a more powerful conceptual system arises from a less powerful one.
  For example, if we accept that "grammar" and "vocabulary" are two separate entities (which I don't), then we have to say that grammar is a more powerful system for meaning-making than vocabulary is. Vocabulary grows item by item, while grammar grows exponentially, generating a potentially infinite number of sentences from a very small number of abstract relationships.
  Since grammar is the more powerful conceptual system, it should be possible to derive vocabulary from grammar but not grammar from vocabulary. But how is it possible to imagine a 'grammar' without any vocabulary? What would such a thing look like?
  Of course, the developmental evidence is the other way around; a surprising amount of the language I hear on the subway has vocabulary but not grammar, and that's just the adults. I've never heard of babies speaking grammar without any vocabulary, or of languages developing the former before the latter. This has to be one of the least thinkable ideas I've ever tried to think up.
  Traditional Tibetan Buddhist developmental thought is highly speculative, and so rather odd in a lot of ways (they are fervant recapitulationists, for one thing: a woman's pregnancy recapitulates man's descent from the apes). But they are pretty good on the origins of language: they consider that "acting", "thinking" and "speaking" must have co-evolved during the course of many kalpas (eons). Besides, like all profoundly evolutionary thinkers, Tibetans have no problem with the idea of a higher level system arising from a lower level one!
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Wed Apr 9 16:54 PDT 2008

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