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Re: [xmca] Re: Vygotsky and Saussure and Whorf and language, meaning, and culture

There is an awful lot to chew on inn this post, as your opening paragraph
warns us, Greg.
And i suspect, others, like myself, may have difficulty connecting all the
parts together for lack
of familiarity with key constituents: Silverstein's development of Piercian
semiotics, Goffman's
article being among places where my background is inadequate.

On a couple of points where I might have something relevant to say.
If one is so inclined, it is certainly possible to treat Vygotsky as a
dualist. Alfred Lange, Swiss
semiotic psychologist once active on xmca (or maybe it was lchc) thought so.
I do not find this
a useful way to think about LSV's ideas, at least as they have been
developed by various colleagues
over the years (not sure what is original, what derivative). Personally, I
see all mediators as fungible
"third parts" in human action that blur any simple inside/outside discussion
for human mental processes.
Sort of along the lines of the parable of the blind man and the stick and
the question of where the mind
ends (from several sources - discovered it in Bateson, but its there in
Merleau-Ponty and elsewhere).

I also see an incestuous co-constitution of emotion, cognition, activity,
although our analytic distinctions
often get us to reify and separate simply to be able to communicate at all
about the tangled web of experience.

gotta stop here. My household is waking up and i have to return from this
hall of shadows, to invert LSV and Mandelshtam.

On Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 1:03 PM, Gregory Allan Thompson <
gathomps@uchicago.edu> wrote:

> I'm rather fond of trying to pull threads together, so bear
> with me as I try to do so with this post by speaking to both
> my original post on language ideology, Michael Glassman's
> response, and on Joseph Gilbert's post on emotion (the phrase
> "biting off more than you can chew" comes to mind, but I've
> got too big of a mouthful to be able to say it).
> First, in response to Michael's response to my post, a few
> quick points. I should start by noting a similar conversation
> on XMCA that was started by Dot Robbins a few years back:
> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Mail/xmcamail.2000_04.dir/0018.html
> Aside from being a rich source on this topic of what Vygotsky
> means by "smysl" and "znachenie"), I noticed that Robbins
> (Dot?) makes reference to "a trend to get away from
> internalization within sociocultural theory" and was wondering
> how this conversation articulates with the concerns raised by
> Peter Jones (any reference to a link or previous conversation
> would be appreciated - no need to explain it all since I
> assume there is a longish explanation behind the comment about
> the trend to get away from sociocultural theory).
> FOr me, the real question with Vygotsky and Saussure (and I'll
> briefly add Peirce) is whether or not Vygotsky has room for
> something like Peirce's signs which function indexically. The
> notion of indexicality seems crucial for any semiotic theory
> because it provides a way to avoid the infinitely vast
> separation of word and world that leads you to either
> Derrida's meaninglessnes or Searle's intentionalist semantics
> where meaning is "what you mean". This gap can be arrived at
> through Saussure's langue and parole or signifier and
> signified or Frege's sense and reference - and I wonder
> whether Vygotsky would have been influenced by Frege's work
> either directly or indirectly. Does Vygtosky head us down this
> road? I've noticed a lot of people bring Peirce into this
> discussion board but I wasn't clear whether people felt that
> the two semiotic theories are really complementary.
> Peirce's notion of indexicality and iconicity (and developed
> as such most notably by Michael Silverstein and other
> linguistic anthropologists)  provides a way of grounding
> meaning in reality. A sign functioning indexically is a sign
> whose relationship to its object of signification is an
> "indexical" or "pointing to" relationship. Thus, in contrast
> to Saussure's approach (which only picks up on signs
> functioning symbolically and in which the world of signs and
> the world of the things that they signify are separated by an
> insurmountable gap), Peirce's approach provides a grounding of
> semiosis in real experienced context while at the same time
> providing a way of maintaining a certain unity of the event of
> semiosis.
> Building this out to the other thread currently out there, I
> think that this gives us a more agnostic (cynical?) and less
> emic understanding of emotion. Michael, in your response, your
> sense of "emotion" seems to split it off from activity and
> from the social in a way that I'm a little uncomfortable with
> (e.g., "The first level of meaning belongs to society and
> allows us to function in society and simply get the things
> done we need to get done.  The second level however, sense, if
> I am reading Paulhan correctly, is very emotion based").
> I see emotion as much more performative (and this can also be
> seen as a critical response to Joseph Gilbert's post), and let
> me mention three bits of evidence to flesh this out. In the
> view that I am putting forward here, emotion is a sort of
> complex semiotic form that is called up by various indexes of
> subject-hood including language forms, prosody, and bodily
> behaviors. This puts "emotion" on a more equal footing with
> other forms of semiosis (as being somewhere between individual
> and society) rather than cordoning them off inside of the
> individual as if they are authentically produced from the
> insides of the individual, only becoming social when they are
> put into words. So here is some evidence to consider:
> 1) First is my experience with my own kids. When they are
> first able to express themselves emotionally, they seem to
> jump from one emotion to another. One could interpret this as
> the fickle-ness of children (as if they actually "have" these
> varying emotions), or alternatively, one could view this as
> the child's attempt at testing out various emotions to see
> which one works for whatever activity they are engaging. In my
> experience, the latter view seems to fit the facts much better
> (and unfortunately too often the way that kids get things done
> is by crying or whining rather than by being quietly
> cooperative -- but this is really our fault as parents).
> Sometimes I can even catch my daughter in a "performance" of
> emotion (although this can be incredibly difficult) and she'll
> start laughing. Whether or not the performance is "authentic"
> or not depends largely on my response.
> 2) Second is Goffman's paper on response cries. This paper can
> be seen as evidence of how emotional states are signalled
> through language. Importantly, he argues that these are
> "managed" depending on social contexts. Here again emotion is
> constituted (mediated?) in part by social context.
> 3) Third is work by a colleague of mine (and a student of
> Mike's) Bianca Dahl, on the socialization of emotion. To
> oversimplify what is a really lovely chapter of her
> dissertation titled "Singing with Sad Faces", Bianca presents
> evidence that particular emotional responses to something like
> the death of a loved one are culturally contingent. She was
> able to observe moments where Westerners would re-train these
> children to "sing with sad faces" as they are singing a song
> about the death of their parents and the performance of which
> is intended to raise money from wealthy Westerners for the
> AIDS orphanage in which they live. She notes how some of the
> older children and young adults have begun to "internalize"
> this Western way of mourning and how strange it is to their
> non-Western elders. To me, this points to the way in which
> emotion is not simply something that comes from the inside and
> is then put into words. Rather, the emotion is a part of an
> activity and is constituted by social and cultural context as
> much as it is by individual experience (or maybe rather,
> individual experience is conditioned by social contexts).
> The emotion based notion of "sense" taken from Paulhan seems
> like it would a bit too much of an individualistic theory (in
> Marx's sense from the Grundrisse). But then again, the whole
> inner/outer dualism that carries through much of Vygtosky's
> writings (as with Bakhtin/Volosinov) seems the sort of thing
> that I would have thought these non-dualistic thinkers would
> have not been comfortable with. Am I reading Vygotsky (and
> Bakhtin/Volosinov) wrongly? Or is there an inherent dualism in
> the inner-outer dichotomy? (and I suspect there is a previous
> post discussing this, so feel free to point me in that direction).
> Enjoying the conversation.
> -greg
> ---------------------------------------
> Greg Thompson
> Ph.D. Candidate
> The Department of Comparative Human Development
> The University of Chicago
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