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Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Saussure, and Wolves

Hello All:

Hope people continue this discussion of a very important article.  I have 
a question that hopefully people can ruminate on and return with 
illumination.  When CHAT researchers discuss ontongenesis is it relevant 
to ontology or is it strictly the biological definition of an organism's 
lifespan?  Perhaps this is another example of the joke that David told 
pertaining to avoiding the banana peel and falling in the manhole.


David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
08/02/2009 08:35 AM
Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"

        To:     Culture ActivityeXtended Mind <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
        Subject:        Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Saussure, and Wolves

Speaking for myself, my silence had two causes. First of all, like Andy, I 
was rather awestruck by Martin's paragraphs on Marx's method, and like 
Martin himself I was reflecting on them. But secondly I was reading Paula 
and Carol's article, "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing" and reflecting on 
whether I should force my grads to read it next quarter. The first part of 
it contains the best synopsis of Vygotsky's sprawling, often contradictory 
presentation of the taxonomy of syncretic heaps, complexes, and 
preconceptual formations that I've ever read.
Before I do that, though, I want to know the answer to the following 
questions on the first page of Paula and Carol's piece, which I think are 
actually related to Martin's questions about what work has been done to 
find out whether children and the researchers who do word meaning research 
are not "sleeping on one bed but having different dreams".
a) In the abstract, Paula and Carol refer to the "ontogenesis of concept 
formation".  What does the ontogenesis of concept formation mean? Does it 
mean the same thing as concept formation or does it mean the way in which 
concept formation changes in the ontogenesis of the child?
b) "Lupine behavior" means conceptual FUNCTION. "Sheep's clothing" means 
that they are STRUCTURALLY similar to complexes. As Vygotsky says at the 
end of Chapter Seven, only the historical, genetic method can really 
reveal either. But the experimental method does not really test the 
history of concept use at all; Vygotsky saw it as a logical test which 
gives us the "essence of a genetic study in abstracted form" 
(see Minick translation, p. 146). This really gets us back to the "Strange 
Situation" question I asked over a year ago (which Vygotsky reverts to at 
the end of Chapter Six): to what extent CAN we extrapolate genetic 
processes from logical tests? This is what Martin is asking, and I really 
don't know the answer. I think Vygotsky changes his mind on this question 
somewhere between Chapter Five and Chapter Six. 

c) In the first paragraph, Paula and Carol discuss functional equivalence 
of pseudoconcepts and concepts.  in some places, Vygotsky talks about 
EVERYTHING--including syncretic heaps--as the child's functional 
equivalent's of concepts, so in places Vygotsky simply means what is IN 
THE CHILD'S EYES functionally equivalent. But in other places he suggests 
that the pseudoconcept alone is in EVERY WAY functionally equivalent to 
the concept (and therefore indistinguishable, even using questions). 
Obviously, functional "equivalence" must be relative, relational, and in 
the eyes of the beholder.
I think that the key is that pseudoconcepts and concepts are equivalent in 
function but they are not equivalent in structure, because the structure 
depends on the SYSTEM and of course the SYSTEM is quite different. For 
example, self-directed speech can be functionally different from social 
speech but structurally very similar at three, and still in the spoken 
aloud mode even at seven. Form follows function, but sometimes at quite a 
distance; exaptation means that we adopt things functionally first and 
only later adapt them structurally. 
d) Finally, I note that the word "pseudoconcept" is a good example of how 
adults as well as children have different dreams when they use the same 
word (or, to adopt Paula, Carol and Lev Semyonovich's expression, how they 
wear different clothing when they hunt in the same pack). It's not 
actually Lev Semyonovich's coinage at all; it's from Stern. But Vygotsky 
is always hollowing out other people's words, and placing his own candles 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
PS: Martin, I'm a little confused by your refs to folk psychology. In T&S 
Chapter Four (and also in Mescharyakov 2007, which Paula and Carol 
reference) we see that folk psychology and folk physics do NOT refer to 
the child's own concepts, but rather to everyday thinking taken from the 
child's social situation of development; they are the inter-mental forms 
of the functional equivalents of concepts tht we find intra-mentally in 
the children.
--- On Sat, 8/1/09, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:

From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky and Saussure
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Saturday, August 1, 2009, 8:19 AM

I'm going to use the silence as an opportunity to reflect on my own 
message - Reading what I wrote about Marx's method again in the context of 
the discussion here it occurs to me that Marx, like Vygotsky, was writing 
about the changing character of word-meaning. I'd not thought about 
Capital in quite that way before. On the other hand, LSV doesn't, to my 
knowledge, draw a distinction between children's analytic concepts and 
their dialectical concepts. Has anyone out there worked on this? (Paula?)

I'm currently reading the literature on young children's categories 
(folkbiology, folkpsychology), and much of this research seems to assume 
exactly the equivalence of adult and child word-meaning that LSV called 
into question, so the topic is important. For example, the researcher 
names for the child a picture of an animal, and then asks a question (Does 
X have a heart?) to which the child can reply only yes or no. The 
characteristics of the child's 'categories' are inferred on the basis of 
an assumed equivalence of word-meaning.

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