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Re: [xmca] Re: xmca Digest, Vol 53, Issue 8

you are confusing apples and oranges. In the squirrel case, you already took a gods eye view, you already presupposed that it can be seen as squirrel, someone at least, and that is why it can exist for your person even if she doesn't see it. A nicer example is Schrödinger's cat. You only know whether it is dead or alive when you (one, science) look.

Ask if the squirrel was invisible whether it existed, if there is no way that it could appear in our senses or devices that mediate our perception, would the squirrel exist? Does the unicorn exist?


On 9-Oct-09, at 7:00 AM, ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org wrote:


I would agree.  I wasn't exampling existence though; I was trying to
correlate the squirrel to context. Different horses but still in the same

Your take would be consistant seeing as James and Hegel were not


Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
10/09/2009 08:57 AM
Please respond to ablunden; Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture,

To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
        Subject:        Re: [xmca] Re: xmca Digest, Vol 53, Issue 8

I don't mind an operational definition of existence, but I'm
not so happy about the category of existence for me, i.e.,
an individual subjective definition of existence. I mean,
the existence of the squirrel depends on me? "Existence" is
surely something that is not dependent on my personal view
of things at the moment. Isn't that what "existence" means?


ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org wrote:
Could we return to James' example of the squirrel circling the tree. If
person circles the tree so the squirrel is never in view does that
the existance of the squirrel for that person?  A person's context may
as the squirrel.  Hence, the talking past each other that happens
sooooooooo frequently on this listserv! I being as guilty as any in my
misinterpretation based on my particular contextual understandings.

Jokes also fall into this category.  Some find Chris Rock to be
other view him as a blight on the American cultural landscape.

Context makes all the difference.

What do other's think?

Gregory Allan Thompson <gathomps@uchicago.edu>
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
10/08/2009 03:26 PM
Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"

        To:     xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
        Subject:        [xmca] Re: xmca Digest, Vol 53, Issue 8

Ha! (to Mike)

Now the question, of course, with any instance of chaining
complexes is: What precisely is it that is being chained i.e.,
does Mike's "academic bullshit" refer to Bush/Palin or
Silverstein? or even, and this is a stretch, to me?. The
question being asked here is a question of the
entextualization of talk-as-text - i.e., how does an instance
of talk (as text) become entextualized such that it is
decodable as an instance of "talking about X" (or, for that
matter, "arguing about X").

As participants in conversation, we build a coherent
understanding of our interlocutor's utterance via a complex
ethnometapragmatics of indexicalities (aka "contextualization
cues"). It is through the congeries of indexicalities present
in a stretch of talk that individuals can then begin to
constitute an "X" that was being discussed. The catch is that
the meaning of individual indexicalities will depend on other
elements of the context of talk (which themselves are also
invoked through various layers of indexicality, some via
language, some via things like insittutional roles). In
particular, the frame of the interaction (what is going on
here? - i.e. what are we "doing" here - collegially chatting?
arguing? berating? joking?) becomes essential for decoding
what is being indexically conjured up as the entexutalized
"chain complex". In addition, it is further helpful to have
knowledge of the identities of participants (who is this
person that has suggested this?), along with our own
ethnopsychologies of speakers' intentionalities and things
like this (what might such a person have "intended" by this
utterance?). (as a footnote, I liken the complexity of
interactions to the three body problem in Physics, each layer
of determining context is affecting the other such that, just
as it is impossible to predict the movement of three bodies in
orbit around one another in three dimenasions, it is
impossible to predict the precise outcome of a given stretch
of talk.). And after all that, there is always the possibility
that as a participant A) you could be wrong or B) something
new is introduced into the conversation that flips the meaning
of what came before (what Silverstein calls the defeasibility
of contexts).

[Did someone say something about academic bullshit? (but this
does indeed point to an interesting way in which chaining of
complexes in the denotata of discourse can cross over into the
interactional plane such that the suggestion of "academic
bullshit" by another can provoke me to inhabit the identity of
"academic bullshitter" or alternatively, an identity of
plain(s)speaker (whether one speaks 'plainly' or as one from
the 'plains' - i.e. Midwest, "accentless", down-to-earth
English), a tell it like it is sort of person who uses words
like "bullshit" to cut to the core of all that high falutin'

The above is just an idea of what the world of Silverstein can
"do" in the pursuit of understanding language and social
interaction (and I certainly haven't done justice to his
ideas). I think it is an immensely powerful way of seeing
language and yields great insights into how language and
social interaction work. I'd also note that I'm comfortable
with the argument that the obtuseness of the language is
necessary precisely because we have emic ways of understanding
language that hide many of its properties from view.

At the same time, I think that it is often the case that
employing Silverstein's framework for understanding something
like activity or classroom learning is much like trying to use
quantum mechanics to fix a car. An engineer can do better. A
car mechanic could do still better. But that then raises
questions about whether or not CHAT/MCA folk see their project
as one that is more equivalent to engineering or to
theoretical physics or to car mechanics.

And btw, for an interesting syllabus on teaching bullshit,
check out:
http://nathaniel.hansen.googlepages.com/ TellingtheTruthfinalversion.pdf.

Oh, and please call me "Greg", or even "greg", I use "Gregory"
on my email "handle" in order to project the identity of
someone who can competently inhabit the identity of an
academic bullshitter, but it takes some work...


Message: 3
Date: Thu, 8 Oct 2009 06:29:42 -0700
From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Leontiev and Sign (Silverstein and complexes)
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8

Perfect timing, Gregory. This morning my senior seminarian
will be
discussing Peter et al's paper on academic bullshit......

(just chaining)

Greg Thompson
Ph.D. Candidate
The Department of Comparative Human Development
The University of Chicago
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Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov,
Ilyenkov $20 ea

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