[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: [xmca] Re: microcosm/unit of analysis and xmca discourse
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
- Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: microcosm/unit of analysis and xmca discourse
- From: Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2009 18:17:35 +1100
- Delivered-to: email@example.com
- Domainkey-signature: a=rsa-sha1; s=2007001; d=ucsd.edu; c=simple; q=dns; b=EzvWTapPdWLYQTac/qC9DYZ9QkXduybLRT0yRXFCDbw13QgRIYN1QUHydii8iP6pG peLip75Fo2Ru5JxSaG/QA==
- In-reply-to: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- List-archive: <http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/private/xmca>
- List-help: <mailto:email@example.com?subject=help>
- List-id: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca.weber.ucsd.edu>
- List-post: <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
- List-subscribe: <http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca>, <mailto:email@example.com?subject=subscribe>
- List-unsubscribe: <http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca>, <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=unsubscribe>
- References: <email@example.com>
- Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
- Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org
- User-agent: Thunderbird 126.96.36.199 (Windows/20080421)
For what it's worth, this is the context for LSV's use of
the idea of "microcosm" in "Crisis":
When our Marxists explain the Hegelian principle in Marxist
methodology they rightly claim that each thing can be
examined as a *microcosm*, as a universal measure in which
the whole big world is reflected. On this basis they say
that to study one single thing, one subject, one phenomenon
*until the end*, exhaustively, means to know the world in
all its connections. In this sense it can be said that each
person is to some degree a measure of the society, or rather
class, to which he belongs, for the whole totality of social
relationships is reflected in him. From this alone we see
that knowledge gained on the path from the special to the
general is the key to all social psychology. ...
Pavlov is studying the activity of the *salivary gland in
dogs*. What gives him the right to call his experiments the
study of the higher nervous activity of *animals*? Perhaps,
he should have verified his experiments on horses, crows,
etc., on all, or at least the majority of animals, in order
to have the right to draw these conclusions? Or, perhaps, he
should have called his experiments “a study of salivation in
dogs”? But it is precisely the salivation of dogs per se
which Pavlov did not study and his experiments have not for
one bit increased our knowledge of dogs as such and of
salivation as such. In the dogs he did not study the dog,
but *an animal in general*, and in salivation *a reflex in
general*, i.e., in this animal and in this phenomenon he
distinguished what they have in common with all homogeneous
phenomena. That is why his conclusions do not just concern
all animals, but the whole of biology as well. The
established fact that Pavlov’s dogs salivated to signals
given by Pavlov immediately became a general biological
principle - the principle of the transformation of inherited
experience into personal experience. This proved possible
because Pavlov *maximally abstracted* the phenomenon he
studied from the specific conditions of the particular
phenomenon. He brilliantly *perceived the general in the
I have tried to introduce such a method into conscious
psychology and to deduce the laws of the psychology of art
on the basis of the analysis of one fable, one short story,
and one tragedy. In doing so I proceeded from the idea that
the well-developed forms of art provide the key to the
underdeveloped ones, just as the anatomy of man provides the
key to the anatomy of the ape. I assumed that Shakespeare’s
tragedy explains the enigmas of primitive art and not the
other way around. ...
David Kellogg wrote:
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.
xmca mailing list
Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:
xmca mailing list