Re: [xmca] concept and function

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Tue Apr 29 2008 - 13:14:41 PDT


This is the research that Sasha has critized because it employs "empty,"
"vacant" concepts, more like the formal concepts of (empiricist) John Locke
than the dialectical concepts of Hegel and Marx. I haven't figured out yet
whether I agree with him or not - this is just to clarify (perhaps, a


On 4/29/08 1:57 PM, "" <> wrote:

> If I may interject at this time my own obtuse interpretation of concept. I
> would like to return to Chapter 5 in Thought and Language. Cev bik, mur
> and lag are 4 nonsense words that Sakarov uses in his experiment to test
> varying age groups in their ability to form concepts. The meaning of these
> nonsense words is a mystery and upon the subject's experimentation with the
> blocks the subject begins to learn the "function" of the labels. As with
> Wittgenstein's "language games" the words assigned to objects can indeed be
> a mystery until the function of that label is revealed. The blocks have no
> use (other then for Sakarov to study concept formation) and so I would
> believe that concepts do not need a use but rather a function. Vygotsky
> and Sakarov borrowed this experiment from Ach but did not name it the
> method of double stimulation, they labeled it the "functional method of
> double stimulation". Scribner and Cole conducted a similar experment in
> their "Psychology of Literacy" research. They asked people to describe a
> new game they had learned verbally and then in written form. The results
> are extremely interesting. Very interesting conversation hope my input has
> been helpful.
> eric
> Ed Wall
> < To: "eXtended Mind,
> Culture, Activity" <>
>> cc:
> Sent by: Subject: Re: [xmca] DIALECTICAL
> xmca-bounces@web
> 04/28/2008 02:36
> PM
> Please respond
> to "eXtended
> Mind, Culture,
> Activity"
> Martin
> Now I'm confused. You say 'use a hammer' and then 'not use the
> concept of a 'hammer."' I suspect I don't know what a 'concept' of a
> hammer is, but wouldn't it include a bit of use?
> Ed
> On Apr 28, 2008, at 12:18 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
>> David, I'm confused. Are you saying it would be impossible for
>> someone to
>> use a hammer and not use the concept of "hammer"?
>> Martin
>> On 4/28/08 7:25 AM, "David Kellogg" <> wrote:
>>> I don't understand, Elinami. How is it possible to be a language
>>> user and NOT
>>> use concepts like "subject", "verb", "speaker", "grammar" etc.?
>>> Even if you
>>> say that concept use has to be conscious, isn't the self itself a
>>> concept?
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>> Elinami Swai <> wrote:
>>> I cannot resist Andy, who are these tribal people?
>>> Elinami.
>>> On 4/27/08, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>> Sasha,
>>>> I just wanted to probe you little on this question of concept
>>>> (Begriff) vs
>>>> "abstract general" (or complex or "representation", etc).
>>>> It seems to me that all of us, unless we have a psychiatric
>>>> problem or brain
>>>> damage or something serious, by the time we become adults operate
>>>> with
>>>> concepts. I notice that most theorists do not understand well
>>>> what a concept
>>>> is and even the average Nobel Prize Winner cannot distinguish
>>>> clearly
>>>> between an abstract general notion and a genuine concept. But
>>>> nonetheless we
>>>> all use genuine concepts. Difficulty in theoretically making this
>>>> distinction explicit is a matter really of whether you have been
>>>> exposed to
>>>> Hegelian ideas or Marx, Vygotsky, or other philosophy which
>>>> incorporates
>>>> these insights. Tribal people for example, just as much as Logical
>>>> Positivist philosophers, use concepts. Is that your understanding
>>>> as well?
>>>> Andy
>>>> Martin Packer wrote:
>>>>> ------ Forwarded Message
>>>>> From: Alexander Surmava
>>>>> Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2008 13:01:03 +0400
>>>>> To: 'Martin Packer'
>>>>> Cc: Mike Cole
>>>>> Subject: RE: Life, psyche, consciousness.doc
>>>>> Dear Martin,
>>>>> You write:
>>>>> To my reading, Ilyenkov's concept of ideality, based on the
>>>>> notion of the
>>>>> thinking-body, is not the same as suggesting that artifacts have a
>>>> cultural
>>>>> meaning. To me, this risks reintroducing a dualism between
>>>>> matter and
>>>>> meaning. It is a short step, to my view mistaken, to the belief
>>>>> that the
>>>>> natural sciences study matter, while the social sciences study
>>>>> meaning. It
>>>>> also leads one to think that each artifact has a single meaning.
>>>>> Sasha,
>>>> when
>>>>> you said that the child really understands "the meaning" of the
>>>>> knife, I'm
>>>>> sure you would agree that a child cannot grasp the complexity of
>>>>> the
>>>>> relations that a single artifact like a knife has with society
>>>>> as a whole.
>>>>> Nor can a peasant understand the full complexity of the social
>>>>> world in
>>>>> which they are living, even though they have great practical
>>>>> wisdom.
>>>>> I entirely share your idea that "Ilyenkov's concept of ideality,
>>>>> based on
>>>>> the notion of the thinking-body, is not the same as suggesting that
>>>>> artifacts have a cultural meaning? The latter is something banal
>>>>> and
>>>>> doesn't need the first. No one of semiotics will disagree with the
>>>> statement
>>>>> that each artifact has some "cultural meaning? while all of them
>>>>> have
>>>>> hardly ever heard the very concept of "thinking body?and
>>>>> evidently don't
>>>>> need in this notion.
>>>>> As well we never declare something like the statement "that the
>>>>> natural
>>>>> sciences study matter, while the social sciences study meaning?
>>>>> As for a child with a knife we do insist that to have a real
>>>> understanding,
>>>>> real idea of knife a child needs only to be taught by adult how
>>>>> to use it
>>>> in
>>>>> historically developed cultural manner. The knife is a tool
>>>>> which helps
>>>>> humans to cut something and a child who practically grasps this
>>>>> mode of
>>>>> operation and adequately utilizes the knife has a valid idea of
>>>>> knife. All
>>>>> complexities "of the relations that a single artifact like a
>>>>> knife has
>>>> with
>>>>> society as a whole?can add nothing to this plain fact. The role of
>>>> society
>>>>> consists in elaborating the artifact and in teaching new
>>>>> generations the
>>>> way
>>>>> to utilize it.
>>>>> The knife is something basically simple. The absolute majority
>>>>> of mankind,
>>>>> those who use knifes in their everyday life needs and have only
>>>>> practical
>>>>> notion of knives. On the contrary something that pretends to be a
>>>>> "scientific notion?of knife is something ridiculous and scholastic.
>>>>> In exactly the same way illiterate, but experienced peasant has
>>>>> real,
>>>>> practical notion say of melon, while a schoolboy with all his
>>>>> "scientific
>>>>> definitions?is far from real comprehension of it. He can
>>>>> successfully eat
>>>>> melon but he hardly can plant it. And here just as in previous
>>>>> case "the
>>>>> full complexity of the social world in which they are living?has
>>>>> nothing
>>>> to
>>>>> do with the idea of melon.
>>>>> Surely there are objects which can't be grasped practically by a
>>>>> single
>>>>> person. Thus for example an idea of agriculture as a socially and
>>>>> historically developed system of relations which combines
>>>>> individual
>>>> forces
>>>>> of people over the cooperative process of production and
>>>>> distribution
>>>> can't be realized in abstract practical manner. Such attempts can be
>>>> resulted in a
>>>>> way similar to famous fable about three blind and an elephant.
>>>>> The same we can say about such an object as atom or nuclear
>>>>> particle. A
>>>>> single person never deals practically with such objects. Only a
>>>> theoretical
>>>>> culture ?which is essentially a special type of cooperative
>>>>> practice
>>>>> ?lt;br>> can
>>>>> grasp the notion of such objects.
>>>>> Explaining all this I meet a great difficultness with the lack
>>>>> of proper
>>>>> English terminology (or, probably, my poor knowledge of
>>>>> English). In
>>>> German
>>>>> and in Russian there is a clear distinction between two notions,
>>>>> and two
>>>>> terms: Begriff = pon'atie, and Vorstellung = predstavlenije.
>>>>> The highest form in development of thinking is obviously pon'atie
>>>> (Begriff).
>>>>> And in the same time it is the universal form of thinking. While
>>>>> predstavlenije (Vorstellung) is subordinated notion. The obscheje
>>>> (general)
>>>>> predstavlenije is understood in dialectical culture as a meaning
>>>>> of word,
>>>>> like something that enables us to distinguish among the known
>>>>> and fixed in
>>>>> the matter of language culture objects. But one can have
>>>>> predsatavlenije
>>>>> without having understanding of the essence of the object.
>>>>> Thus the brilliant illustration of such divergence of two forms of
>>>> thinking
>>>>> (Predstavlenija and Pon'atia) are so called "artificial notions?
>>>>> from
>>>>> Vygotsky-Sakharov's experiments, as well as many similar
>>>>> constructions
>>>> from
>>>>> psychological theory. The artificial notion is an empty notion,
>>>>> which is
>>>>> something that cannot be understood not because their utmost
>>>>> complexity
>>>> but
>>>>> because their utmost vacancy. Logically as "artifcial notion?we
>>>>> have an
>>>>> evident example of general definition (obshchego
>>>>> predstavlenija), not
>>>>> understanding (ne pon'atie). So it corresponds not with
>>>>> dialectic logic
>>>> both
>>>>> in its Hegel and Marxist form, but with formal logic, with logic
>>>>> of John
>>>>> Locke.
>>>>> And this distinction is not something academically formal but
>>>>> the core
>>>>> distinction for dialectically thinking researcher. Thus Davydov
>>>>> based all
>>>>> his theory of developmental instruction just on this
>>>>> distinction. (I'm
>>>> going
>>>>> to ask Peter Moxhay ?the translator of Davidov's latest book -
>>>>> how he
>>>> cope
>>>>> the problem with insufficiency of English terminology in this
>>>>> case.)
>>>>> As for the idea of "thinking body?it is equal to basically new
>>>>> and in
>>>> the
>>>>> same time genuine Marxist and Spinozian idea of thinking as not
>>>>> banal
>>>>> manipulation with words and other conventional signs, but as a
>>>>> special way
>>>>> of acting of one (active or "thinking?body) according to the
>>>>> shape of the
>>>>> other body, taken in the moment of its live realization.
>>>>> All this was fundamentally explored in Ilyenkov's works and I
>>>>> agree with
>>>> you
>>>>> that the joint rereading of this works would be extremely useful
>>>>> for all
>>>> of
>>>>> us as a step to rethinking the traditional understanding of CHAT.
>>>>> Sincerely,
>>>>> Sasha
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> --
>>>> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> ----
>>>> Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 Skype
>>>> andy.blunden
>>>> _______________________________________________
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Received on Tue Apr 29 13:17 PDT 2008

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