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Re: [xmca] Visual Thinking?

The best way I can try to express how I think that Vygotsky thought of pseudo-concepts is to use a pseudoconcept that we all use in everyday life -- even though we could use a real concept instead.

Here is the example:
What is tomato? A fruit or a vegetable.
If you use conceptual thinking -- it is a fruit -- based on a systematic definition of fruits (as a part of a plant, its ovary full of seeds), while "vegetables" are plants themselves. But would you put a tomato in a Fruit Salad?? I guess, no! Tomatoes are vegetables when it comes to our culinary thinking -- which is a remnant of copmlexes -- a pseudoconcept at best. If you classify a tomato into vegetables -- you are using CONCRETE, PERCEPTUAL (in this example -taste) and culturally-historically inherited classification -- whether strictly conceptually right or wrong is immaterial. This is what happens to children (according to Vygotsky) : their "word meanings are not developing freely, spontaneously, directed by the child her/him-self; but rather they develop through paths directed by the ways that are established in the speech of the adults." (This is now my free translation from the translation into Serbo-Croatian, which is usually also very similar to Russian)

That is I think what Vygotsky meant. The principles of organizing meanings lead by the predefined inherited language usage ("of the adults"), might be supported by very concrete, perceptual traits of objects -- and that is a pseudo-concept. It is rigid and not "free" -- and the child (and the adult who uses it when s/he classifies tomato into vegetables) cannot usually "explain" this meaning in the same way as a true concept can be explained.

Hope it helps


Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane

On Feb 8, 2009, at 10:22 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

Can I have a little bit of help from some of the Russophones on the list (Anton, Mike, Achilles)?

At the end of section 9 in Chapter Five, Vygotsky is telling us about the difference between a pseudoconcept and a real concept. Prout, translating this in the Vygotsky Reader, renders it thus:

"This type of complex and this form of visual thinking dominate a child 's real thinking both from the functional and from the genetic point of view."

Seve claims that he writes this:

"Ce type de complexe, cette forme de pense/e intuitive (sic) joue un ro^le pre/dominant dans la pense/e re/elle de l'enfant tant par sa fonction que sous le rapport ge/ne/tique. (This type of complex, this type of intuitive (???) thinking plays a predominant role in the real thinking of the child as much by its function as by its genetic relations.)"

"Intuitive"? That can't be right. Let's try the Italian. Meccaci, who almost always sticks RELIGIOUSLY to Vygotsky's actual paragraph breaks, in this one case breaks his rule and adds a sentence from the previous paragraph to begin the paragraph, and comes up with:

"Egli ha costruito un complesso associativo limitato; e` arrivato allo stesso punto, ma allo stesso tempo ci e` arrivato un'altra via. (The child has constructed a limited associative complex; arriving at the same point at the same pace but by another road) Questo tipo di complesso, questa forma di pensiero concreto ha un ruolo predominante nel pensiero reale del bambino sia sotto l'aspetto funzionale che quello genetico (This type of complex, this form of concrete thinking has a predominant role in the real thinkign of the child in its functional as well as in its genetic aspect)"

"Concrete"? Hmmm...Well, what Vygotsky's REALLY got is this: Форма наглядного мышления.

So that's literally "form visual of thinking". But it seems to me that what is really going on here, what threw Seve (who as van der Veer says is normally quite scrupulous) is that Vygotsky means something like APPERCEPTIVE, practical, actual, factual.

It's easier for me to understand how the pseudoconcept is different from the DIFFUSE complex than how it is different from the true concept. The diffuse complex has a trait at its centre (rather than a concrete object with all its different traits), but that trait varies in an unbounded fasion, as if it were a chain of things rather than an abstract trait: yellow, then yellow-green, then yellow-green-blue, then yellow-green-blue-black.

With the pseudoconcept there are LIMITS and BOUNDARIES to that variation, but these LIMITS are factual, concrete, apperceptive limits rather than general, abstract, conceptual ones. So for example with a pseudoconcept we can actually see the child picking up the yellow triangle and physically comparing it to the green one, or matching the sides of a triangle to those of a trapezoid.

Am I on the right track? Is "visual thinking" really a kind of practical intelligence?

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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