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[xmca] Women, the Disabled, and Other Primitives

Down by Boramae Park in Seoul where I go running in the morning there are special reserved parking places for disabled people, marked by the usual "wheelchair" sign that is used in the West. This morning, right next to them, I noticed three parking spaces with large pink "hanggeul" characters that say "Reserved for Women". 
I am still trying to decide why nobody finds this objectionable. I guess disability (and even being gay) is quite cool now; things have really changed, and some of these changes the current right wing regime is not really capable of rolling back. But more importantly, I think everybody would understand that the amalgam of disabled people with women is an example of complexive thinking (diffuse, or complex-collection, perhaps even a chain complex) not a concept.
In section thirteen of Chapter Five (of Thinking and Speech) LSV is trying to marshall evidence from other sources to support his argument about the role of complexive thinking in child language. This is the part that people usually cite to prove that he had social-imperialist ideas about "primitive" thinking, but it's actually a fairly common conceptual and rhetorical move with him: he is always examining his data from various philosophical points of view, functional, genetic (phylo-, socio-, and micro- as well as onto-), structural and even "logical", and he is never considering any one view (not even the "Marxist" one) to be the whole story.
So he's very interested in the fact that children use the same word to refer to many different things, while adults tend to use many different words to refer to the same thing. He points out that BOTH phenomena can be linked to the circumstance that concrete objects can be parts of very different groupings; the child is using the name of the object to refer to the grouping (metonymically) and the adult is using the name of the various groupings to refer to the example (conceptually). 
But of course he recognizes that both do both. Adult thinking is full of complexes, and so is so-called "modern" thinking. There is a relationship between the material conditions of life and the way in which objects are grouped, and it does indeed suggest that a specific mode of social life will produce languages that are more concrete about certain realms of social experience and more abstract about others. 
The word "primitive" is necessarily imprecise; it has to include children, schizophrenics, and the Bororo tribesmen of Central Brazil, but I don't think it is inherently more PERJORATIVE than a diffuse complex of disabled people and women (S.J. Gould likes to use it...a lot). Actually, when I am running in the park, before I've had my morning coffee, my own thought processes are not exactly what I would call conceptual. 
In contrast, I think that "germ cell" is an example of the SAME concept having two names, or perhaps what Professor Veresov (Nikolai, Kolya) would call the SAME philosophical tradition (as Marx, who also uses the term in Capital and of course Davydov) but different terminology. 
I think I would say the same thing about "analysis into units" and "microcosm". Yes, of course, Vygotsky knew about Mill and the example of the hydrogen and oxygen in a molecule of water. But in Chapter One of Thinking and Speech he's using "analysis into units" in HIS way, and it's quite consistent with the way he uses "microcosm" in Chapter Seven (written about the same time). 
Here's what he says on p. 46 of Vol. I of the Collected Works.
"In our view, an entirely different form of analysis is fundamental to further development of theories of thinking and speech. This form of analysis relies on the partitioning of the complex whole into units. In contrast to the term element, the term unit designates a product of anlaysis that possesses all the basic characteristics of the whole."
Then, on p. 47: "Is word meaning speech or is it thought? It is both at one and the same time; it is a unit of verbal thinking. It is obvious then that our method must be that of semantic analysis. Our method msut rely on the analysis of the meaningful aspect of speech; it must be a method for studying verbal meaning".
On p. 48: "...(I)n the same sense that word meaning is a unit of thnking, it is also a unit of both these speech functions"--that is, of social interaction and communication.
On p. 49: " (I)t may be appropriate to view word meaning not only as a unity of thinking and speech but as a unity of generlization and social interaction, a unity of thinking and communication."
I agree with Nikolai that that the word "microcosm" has to be read in context, but I think the most important context isn't this philosophical tradition or that one, but the context of THIS BOOK, especially the last, luminescent, image of consciousness refracted in word meaning like the sun in a raindrop and those last three paragraphs.
But maybe I'm wrong. And maybe the real reason that nobody objects to those parking places is the color. The characters are really a kind of hot bubblegum pink; not particularly girlish, the sort of thing that Chinese workers use to wear as tank tops back in the days when Malraux, who never got to look under people's shirts, referred to China as the "land of blue ants". Probably deliberate; real men would feel embarrassed to park there. 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
PS: Gosh, Carol, I'm very pleased you liked what I wrote about the untenability of the distinction between words and utterances. But it was too long, really, and as you can see, it can be quite a struggle to persuade people to read to the very end of my postings as it is. 
(For example--Andy says that word meaning CAN'T be a unit of consciousness, well, because Andy doesn't want it to be. And Nikolai thinks I am beside the point!)
Nikolai (if I may call you that!)--we'd be overjoyed to have you at the seminar no matter how you talk and no matter what you wear. Actually, the hot issue at our seminars is what you like to eat and drink!

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