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RE: [xmca] Re: microcosm/unit of analysis and xmca discourse

Greetings for all...

One more question, please:

What do you think about the ontological/methodological role that "unit of analysis" 
and/or "microcosm" can play in the actual relation between the "object of study" 
and its "explanatory principle(s)"?

Thank you.

> From: vygotsky@unm.edu
> To: vaughndogblack@yahoo.com; xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: microcosm/unit of analysis and xmca discourse
> Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 10:29:13 -0700
> CC: 
> David,
> Your last message provided a very clear analysis of the microcosm/unit
> analysis.
> Thanks, Vera
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "David Kellogg" <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
> To: <mcole@weber.ucsd.edu>; "xmca" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Sent: Monday, February 23, 2009 5:29 AM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: microcosm/unit of analysis and xmca discourse
> On the subject of dress. Until I was forty years old, I didn't really know 
> how to tie a necktie. When I got a job at a university, it became every 
> important for me to learn, and I asked my father, who, being rather old 
> fashioned, wore a necktie every single day of this teaching life.
> My father was enough of a teacher to realize that this was a skill that had 
> to be imparted through ACTION and not through WORD MEANING. So he tried to 
> SHOW me. But he was also enough of a teacher to realize that tying a necktie 
> requires a mirror-image reversal of perspective, and so he made the mistake 
> of trying to show me how to tie a necktie on MY neck rather than just 
> showing me how to tie a necktie on HIS neck.
> He couldn't do it. This is a man who has tied quite literally thousands of 
> neckties. But the skill of tying a necktie on your OWN neck does not seem to 
> generalize to tying neckties on other people's necks. This is, of course, 
> what Thorndike found when he looked at perceptually based skills like 
> estimating line segments. He found that these skills (and also motor skills 
> like tying knots) did not generalize.
> But notice that SOME of my father's skills DID generalize. For instance, he 
> knew that in order to teach somebody a motor skill you need to SHOW them and 
> not TELL them. He also knew that it's better to take THEIR perspective in 
> showing them than to take your OWN. These skills are NOT perceptually based. 
> They are not motor based. They are higher level "skills" (I'm rather unsure 
> whether we should continue to call them skills; it seems to me that 
> "knowledge" might be more appropriate here.)
> Of course, that's what Vygotsky told Thorndike. He said that the reason why 
> the various skills on his tests wouldn't generalize was that they were all 
> lower level psychological functions, which are embedded in separate motor 
> routines. But that's NOT true of higher level psychological functions, all 
> of which are mediated by word meanings. My father's teaching skills are now 
> almost completely unconscious (because they have been automatized) but they 
> were painstakingly built up through decades of three hour lectures and 
> workshops and laboratory sessions.
> Now, it seems to me that I understand what Nikolai was saying very well (and 
> I understand Andy not at all!). Nikolai argued that a microcosm is different 
> from a unit because a macrocosm is not reducible, without remainder, to many 
> many "cosms" which are in turn reducible (again without remainder) to 
> "microcosms". But a "unit of analysis" has to be reducible in this way.
> This is essentially what Leontiev believes about "activity", which is 
> reducible without remainder to "actions", in turn reducible without 
> remainder to operational conditions. But of course it is absolutely NOT true 
> of Vygotsky's real model, which is not Leontiev's "mediated action" but 
> instead Marx's commodity. We cannot say that capitalist economic relations 
> are reducible without remainder to commodities.
> Some commodities are mostly exchange value and other commodities are mostly 
> use value and they are not even reducible to each other. In the same way, 
> some mediating artefacts are mostly symbols and others are mostly tools, and 
> these are qualitatively different; by interacting, they produce a whole 
> macrocosm which is not reducible to the some of its microcosmic parts.
> Symbols are not reducible to tools, because they have an additional 
> function, that of acting on the user's mind, which is not found in the tool. 
> For that reason, we cannot say that a mind is reducible to nothing but 
> tools, or for that matter to nothing but symbols. A mind is a macrocosm 
> which cannot be reduced to the microcosms of word meanings.
> Nikolai is quite right that the philosophical tradition of Goethe, the 
> Gestalt and the "macrocosm" is one philosophical tradition, and the 
> philosophical tradition of Democratus, the atom, and the analytical unit is 
> another. But I do NOT think this means that Vygotsky was following one 
> philosophical tradition in Chapter One of Thinking and Speech where he 
> argues that the meaningful word is a unit of thinking and of speech (and of 
> social interaction and communication) and a completely different one in 
> Chapter Seven where he says that the meaningful word is a microcosm of 
> consciousness.
> I think it means that in Chapter One he is laying out what his analysis will 
> accomplish, and in Chapter Seven he is summing up what it has accomplished. 
> That is why he uses "unit" in the first chapter and "microcosm" in the last.
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