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Re: [xmca] Adult before their time?

I have no doubt that the point you make is correct Mike.

All I was concerned with was LSV's claim that (1) thinking in concepts is an ability which is the outcome of a protracted period of ontogenetic development, (2) is distinct and different from the type of thinking based on abstracting attributes (pseudoconcepts etc) which is one of the necessary preconditions for conceptual thinking, and (3) that conceptual thinking is made possible by participation in wider social life (the same domain where language comes from).

I don't see anything in what you say to suggest that *these* claims are relative and historically-specific. It was my interest to see if there were historical conditions somewhere sometime which disentangled the sequence of experiences LSV was assuming so that the 3 issues could be observed separately,


mike cole wrote:
Andy, Jon, et al.

To make progress in this discussion, it seems to me that we have to keep in mind that Vygotsky is taking for granted in the writings cited that about the age of 13-14 (in his day and place) young people would be entering secondary/high school with a long history of forms of discourse that he deemed essential to the formation of "true concepts."

There is great uncertainty that adolescence exists as a universal stage of human development with people arguing both sides of the issue. But that the specific character of a transition from childhood (itself an historically contingent "stage of life") to adulthood (ANOTHER historically contingent stage of life) is hugely variable in its cultural manifestations seems beyond question to me. Citations, starting with Cole and Cole, The Development of Children back as far as edition one in the late 1980's, are abundent.

So Elkind is talking about a particular class and historical moment. The child soldiers of this world have had, in general very little exposure either to decent nutrition or anything like education as Vygotsky understood it.

My basic suggestion to avoid needless controversy (I am assuming controversy is necessary, and can be generative of our own conceptual
development) we make clear in such discussions that cultural-historical
conditions in question.

That doped up 8 year olds, scared out of their wits and blasting their
neighbors with uzis are not controlling themselves from the outside via scientific concepts would not surprise me.


On Fri, Oct 23, 2009 at 5:45 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    The issue came up from a qualification of a qualification. It is
    true what you said, that the Heidegger thread is also relevant to my
    book, because it is about concepts.

    The issue came up because I had a couple of pages describing
    Vygotsky's claim that only in adolescence are children able to
    acquire true concepts, the difference between true concepts and
    pseudoconcepts and the unity of the two, and how it is only because
    of the young person's entry into a social position with professional
    responsibilities, participation in politics, and so on, outside the
    protection of the home and school support system, that they can
    acquire true concepts.

    But then I thought, what is the evidence? how would one know anyway?
    and what would happen if a child still too immature for true
    conceptual thinking were to be thrown into responsibility in the
    wider world, having the rug pulled out from under them too early, so
    to speak? True conceptual thought is (1) impossible because they
    have not yet laid down an adequate substratum of pseudo- and
    potential concepts, but (2) possible because they are participating
    in societal activity, with a social position, etc. And then I
    remembered this phrase "grown up before their time," so I thought:
    what does that look like? what sort of concepts does the child
    acquire? do we have pre-adolescents learning concepts? what is the
    negative effect of such precocity?

    The same section of Vygotsky (vol 5 pp 26ff) where I found him
    talking about the adolescent learning concepts in the context of
    *ideology* as a result of participating in societal life
    (instability, rigidity, romanticism), I found things like "The unit
    ..., the simplest action with which the intellect of the adolescent
    operates, is, of course, not a representation, but a concept," and
    "The word, becoming a carrier of the concept, is ... the real theory
    of the object to which it refers," and lots of other stuff relevant
    to the other thread.


    Duvall, Emily wrote:

        Good points, Jon.
        I wonder, Andy, if you are looking more at children who take on
        rolls due to traumatic/ unplanned change in their sociocultural
        conditions/ in the necessity of the activit(ies) they must

        -----Original Message-----
        From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
        On Behalf Of Jonathan Tudge JRTUDGE
        Sent: Friday, October 23, 2009 7:46 AM
        To: ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>; eXtended Mind,
        Culture, Activity
        Subject: Re: [xmca] Adult before their time?

        Greetings, chaps!

        Don't we need to distinguish between children who have been
        recruited as

        child soldiers or who currently live in war zones and others who
        are viewed as "adult before their time"? Just because many of us
        have become

        accustomed to a lengthy adolescence and an adulthood that may
        not start until the 20s, it was typical until the last couple of
        hundred years in most places for adulthood to start far earlier.
        Even after passage of
        the Factory Acts in England at the start of the 19th century
        were still working up to 12 hours a day. In rural parts of
        Africa, at least until the advent of universal (or at least
        widespread) primary education

        girls as young as five were routinely expected to care for their

        siblings, and there was no expectation that engaging in productive
        labour would only start at age 10.

        Jonathan Tudge
        155 Stone

        Mailing address:
        248 Stone Building
        Department of Human Development and Family Studies
        PO Box 26170
        The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
        Greensboro, NC 27402-6170

        phone (336) 256-0131
        fax   (336) 334-5076


        Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> Sent
        by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu>
        10/23/2009 05:30 AM
        Please respond to
        ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>; Please respond to
        "eXtended Mind, Culture,        Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu

        "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu

        Re: [xmca] Adult before their time?

        I think the answer to my question may be found in the
        combination of a paper which Emily sent me: "What Children Can
        Tell Us About Living in Danger" (by James Garbarino, Kathieen
        Kostelny, and Nancy Dubrow Erikson Institute for Advanced Study
        in Child Development, Chicago), and Vygotsky's chapter on
        "Development of Thinking and Formation of Concepts in the
        Adolescent" in Volume 5 of the LSV CW.

        Garbarino & Co. look at a number of zones of conflict, such as
        the Gaza Strip, and among other things observe that "fanatical"
        ideology is a vital support for people, especially children, who
        are faced with enormous moral and emotional pressures. Not hard
        to see why.

        Vygotsky mentions first of all in his explanation of how
        adolescents acquire concepts as part of a completely new type of
        thinking characteristic of the "transitional period," the entry
        into and an interest in ideology. Ideology has the same
        psychological structure as "science" (cf Davydov's paper on
        "scientific concepts") especially the abstract sciences like
        maths and physics. He also says that the child who has just
        arrived at concepts cannot acquire dialectical thought. This
        means that adolescents first acquire conceptual thought in the
        form of relatively rigid systems of meaning, a.k.a., "fanatical"

        This rings true to me. The child forced to grow up before their
        time who have to make sense of the wider world of societal life,
        politics and war, acquires fanatical, or at least, overly rigid
        or simplified *ideology*. What greater ideologist is there than
        the young Red Guard?

        Does this ring true or false to people who have more experience
        than I do in this business?


        Duvall, Emily wrote:

            Beah's story is amazing... there was a very good interview
            with him


            is well worth digging for and listening to/viewing. If you
            search, child soldier, on amazon you will find a plethora of

            I would also suggest a few others...

            Iqbal by F. D'Adamo about the rug making industry in
            Pakistan (Iqbal


            assassinated for his work in fighting child labor after he
            escaped and
            became an international icon in the war)... there are other


            on his life

            The Circuit, by F. Jimenez may be a bit out of the realm...
            child of


            illegal immigrant... it is autobiographical, by the way.

            Peter Sis' book, The Wall, is an interesting memoir/ graphic
            novel on
            growing up behind the Iron Curtain as a child... being
            encouraged to
            report on loved ones, etc makes for an interesting view of

            The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
            is another
            interesting perspective on children coming from war

            Another direction that could be interesting are Viet Nam and
            other vet
            memoirs... my husband went over as a teenager and his
            experiences in
            recon totally changed him... in other words, the PTSD... I


            this is the underlying, common effect that you will find in many


            involving children war, being stolen/sold, abandoned, etc.
            Some texts, such as Hiroshima, No Pika by T. Maruki,
            narrative, don't really get at the child's experience with a
            voice, but are powerful nonetheless.

            I also have on my 'to be read' shelf:
            Shattered: Stories of Children and War, by J. Armstrong
            Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust A. Zullo
            Stolen Voices: Young People's War Diaries by Z Filipovic

            Best, Em

            -----Original Message-----
            From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
            On Behalf Of David Preiss
            Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 11:15 AM
            To: lchcmike@gmail.com <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>; eXtended
            Mind, Culture,Activity
            Subject: Re: [xmca] Adult before their time?

            Dear Andy,

            As regards child soldiers, this recent book is a good
            reference: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by
            Ishmael Beah.
            It is testimonial.



            On Oct 22, 2009, at 11:33 AM, mike cole wrote:

                Andy --

                Two quick points:

                1. The consequences are for development of the whole
                child in society so
                focusing on the cognitive seems especially
                counterproductive in the cases of
                interest to you and xmca. And may, indeed, provide a
                privileged site for
                inquiry. But its very dangerous. A colleague of a friend
                of mine doing such
                research was shot and killed in Rio a few days ago.

                2. Good Brazilian street children or child soldiers or


                categories and you should be inundated. I was.


                On Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 6:19 AM, Andy Blunden
                <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

                    Mmm that looks interesting in itself, about the
                    modern fad among middle
                    class parents for pushing their children to
                    overperform academically. But I
                    suspect I am not going to get an answer to what's
                    intriguing me that way.

                    When a child is suddenly deprived of their support
                    systems - becoming a
                    street urchin or a child soldier for example or
                    having to look after their
                    siblings if the parents become dysfunctional - then
                    they are thrown into a
                    social situation which we talked of before, in which
                    it is possible to learn
                    concepts, the very opposite of course of the
                    "scientific concepts"
                    inculcated at school. I was wondering if the result
                    is a very stunted kind
                    of thinking (like the policeman who knows how to
                    spot a criminal by age,
                    race, and so on) or precocious wisdom which
                    understands that words express
                    social meanings, not just what they appear to mean
                    on the surface, and
                    watches the lay of the land.

                    But what is that precocious worldliness in cognitive


                    mike cole wrote:

                        Early claims:
                        David Elkind, The hurried child. Cambridge.
                        DeCapo Press. 1981

                        On Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 3:25 AM, Peter
                        Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu
                        <mailto:smago@uga.edu>> wrote:

                        Not quite the same sort of trauma, but there's
                        plenty of pop analysis on

                            the life of Michael Jackson these days. p

                            Peter Smagorinsky
                            Professor of English Education
                            Department of Language and Literacy Education
                            The University of Georgia
                            125 Aderhold Hall
                            Athens, GA 30602
                            smago@uga.edu <mailto:smago@uga.edu>

                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu


                            Behalf Of Andy Blunden
                            Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 4:19 AM
                            To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                            Subject: [xmca] Adult before their time?

                            Can anyone tell me of any research done on
                            the idea of
                            children who have "grown up before their
                            time," as a result
                            of war, family disaster or otherwise having
                            been projected
                            into the adult world on their own? And how
                            is such a
                            characterization "adult before their time"
                            made? On the
                            basis of the use of concepts?? Lack of
                            interest in play??


                            Tony Whitson wrote:

                                I would add Nietzsche, along with
                                Heidegger and Derrida, to what Michael

                                Heidegger is sometimes dismissed as
                                incomprehensible, but Nietzsche and
                                Derrida are more often treated as wild
                                and reckless writers who can be
                                fun to read, but without looking for any
                                careful argument.

                                If you don't expect either of them to be
                                writing seriously, you won't
                                read them seriously and you won't see
                                what they're writing. N said as
                                much, but then if you're not taking him
                                seriously, you won't take him
                                seriously when he says that, either.

                                I saw an interview with D once where the
                                interviewer, in the interview,
                                in D's presence, ventured that
                                deconstruction was basically the same as
                                the US sitcom "Seinfeld"--It's just a
                                matter of taking everything
                                ironically. D replied that if you want
                                to know anything about
                                deconstruction, you need to do some
                                reading. The interview was pretty
                                much over at that point.

                                On Wed, 21 Oct 2009, Wolff-Michael Roth

                                I don't know what people read that
                                Heidegger has written. I personally

                                    have not met a person who has read
                                    Sein und Zeit to the end, people
                                    appear to read secondary literature
                                    rather than the primary. Moreover,
                                    nobody appears to be talking/writing
                                    about Unterwegs zur Sprache
                                    (David K., this should be of
                                    interest to you), or about Holzwege and
                                    other works. First, I can't see
                                    anything that would fit the political
                                    ideas of Nazism, for one, and I
                                    can't see anything that would be
                                    understandable in terms of the quote
                                    that Steve contributes below.

                                    I do understand that Heidegger is
                                    difficult to read---I had to take
                                    repeated stabs since I first
                                    purchased Sein und Zeit in 1977.

                                    Heidegger, by the way, does very
                                    close readings of some ancient Greek
                                    philosophers. And when you pay
                                    attention to his writing, and do the
                                    same with Derrida, for example, then
                                    you begin to realize that the
                                    latter has learned a lot from the

                                    Now that my English is better than
                                    my German ever has been (although
                                    it was my main language for 25
                                    years) I personally know about


                                    problems of translations. Above all,
                                    any of the mechanical
                                    translations that have been proposed
                                    on this list won't do even the
                                    simplest of texts. And it is about
                                    more than literal content.

                                    We can learn from both of them,
                                    Heidegger and Derrida, that things are
                                    more difficult than they look, and
                                    even more difficult than reading
                                    their texts.


                                    On 21-Oct-09, at 7:37 PM, Steve
                                    Gabosch wrote:

                                    I appreciate Martin's insights on
                                    Heidegger, as I do those of others.
                                    I for one don't really know that
                                    much about Heidegger's ideas. I am
                                    glad to learn from those that have
                                    studied him.

                                    Here is an interesting glossary
                                    entry on Heidegger in a book of
                                    Marxist essays by George Novack
                                    (1905-1992), Polemics in Marxist
                                    Philosophy: Essays on Sartre,
                                    Plekhanov, Lukacs, Engels, Kolalkowski,
                                    Trotsky, Timpanaro, Colletti (1978).
                                     The glossary to the book was
                                    written by Leslie Evans and edited
                                    by Novack.

                                    "Heidegger, Martin (1889-1976) -
                                    German existentialist philosopher.
                                    His ideas were best expounded in
                                    Sein un Zeit (Being and Time, 1927).
                                    A philosopher of irrationalism.
                                     Heidegger maintained that the chief
                                    impediment to human self-development
                                    was reason and science, which led
                                    to a view of the world based on
                                    subject-object relations. Humans were
                                    reduced to the status of entities in
                                    the thing-world which they were
                                    thrown (the condition of
                                    "thrownness").  This state of
                                    being could be overcome neither
                                    through theory (science) nor social
                                    practice, but only by an
                                    inward-turning orientation toward
                                    one's self,
                                    particularly in the contemplation of
                                    death. Heidegger was influenced
                                    by Kierkegaard and Husserl (see
                                    entries), and in turn deeply affected
                                    the thought of Sartre, Camus, and
                                    Marcuse.  He was himself a chair of
                                    philosophy at the University of
                                    Freiburg in 1928 after his mentor,
                                    Edmund Husserl, had been forced to
                                    relinquish it by the Nazis.
                                    Heidegger supported Hitler, which
                                    led to his disgrace at the end of
                                    World War II and his retirement in
                                    1951 to a life of rural
                                    seclusion."  (pg 307-308)

                                    - Steve

                                    On Oct 21, 2009, at 5:04 PM, Andy
                                    Blunden wrote:

                                    I think Martin is completely right
                                    in the proposition that (taking

                                        account of the continuing
                                        fascination the academy has with
                                        his works should be read to
                                        understand why and how Fascism and
                                        Heidegger's philosophy supported
                                        each other and what should be done
                                        about it.

                                        As Goethe said "The greatest
                                        discoveries are made not by
                                        but by their age," or more
                                        particularly every age is bequeated


                                        certain problematic by their
                                        predecessors, but the different
                                        philosophers confront that
                                        problematic in different ways.
                                        To say that
                                        those on either side of the
                                        battle lines in the struggle of a
                                        particular times have something
                                        in common, seems to be in danger of
                                        missing the point.

                                        Also, in my opinion, Husserl and
                                        Heidegger may have been responding
                                        to Hegel, but between them they
                                        erected the gretest barrier to
                                        understanding Hegel until Kojeve
                                        arrived on the scene. But that's
                                        just me. A grumpy old hegelian.


                                        Martin Packer wrote:

                                            A few days ago Steve made
                                            passing reference to an
                                            article that
                                            apparently Tony had drawn
                                            his attention to, titled
                                            "Heil Heidegger."
                                            I Googled and found that it
                                            is a recent article in the
                                            Chronicle of
                                            Higher Education.
                                            The focus of the article is
                                            Heidegger's links with and
                                            support of
                                            the Nazis, and its principal
                                            recommendations are that we
                                            should stop
                                            paying attention to
                                            Heidegger, stop translating
                                            and publishing his
                                            writing, and "mock him to
                                            the hilt."
                                            I feel I should comment on
                                            this, since I have
                                            occasionally drawn on
                                            Heidegger's work in these
                                            discussions. I certainly
                                            have no intention
                                            of apologizing for
                                            Heidegger, who seems to have
                                            been a very nasty
                                            person, who was responsible
                                            for some deplorable actions.
                                            I do want
                                            to question, however, the
                                            proposal that because of
                                            these facts we
                                            all would be better off
                                            ignoring his writing.
                                            I was introduced to
                                            Heidegger by a Jewish
                                            professor of philosophy
                                            who shared his last name
                                            (coincidentally as far as I
                                            know) with one
                                            of the best-known victims of
                                            antisemitism. At that time
                                            less was
                                            known about Heidegger's
                                            Narzism, but by no means
                                            nothing, and


                                            recall discussion in the
                                            classroom of the issue. I
                                            came to feel that
                                            the last thing one should
                                            try to do is separate the
                                            man's work from
                                            his life. Perhaps if he had
                                            been working on some obscure
                                            area of
                                            symbolic logic, say, that
                                            would have been possible,
                                            but Heidegger
                                            had written a philosophy of
                                            human existence, and this
                                            would seem to
                                            *demand* that there be
                                            consistency between what he
                                            wrote and how he
                                            lived. Indeed, perhaps it
                                            would be important to study the


                                            writings to try to
                                            understand where he went
                                            wrong; at what point in
                                            his analysis of human being
                                            did Heidegger open the door
                                            to the
                                            possibility of fascism? I
                                            think in fact that it is in
                                            Division II of
                                            Being and Time, where
                                            Heidegger is describing what
                                            he called
                                            'authentic Dasein,' which
                                            amounts to a way that a
                                            person relates to
                                            time, specifically to the
                                            certainty of their own
                                            death, that the
                                            mistake is made and the door
                                            is opened to evil.
                                            Carlin Romano, the author of
                                            the article, doesn't seem to
                                            Heidegger's work very well.
                                            Dasein ("being there," i.e.

                                            the-world) is not a
                                            "cultural world," nor do
                                            "Daseins intersect," as
                                            he puts it. (But I suppose
                                            that he is mocking
                                            Heidegger.) And that
                                            brings me to my other reason
                                            for recommending that we
                                            continue to
                                            read Heidegger, his politics
                                            and (lack of) ethics
                                            It is that his analysis
                                            throws light on issues that
                                            have been raised
                                            in this group, and were
                                            important  to LSV and
                                            others. I am sure it
                                            seems odd to link a Nazi
                                            philosopher to a socialist
                                            but I am hardly the first to
                                            see connections. Lucien
                                            Goldmann wrote
                                            "Lukacs and Heidegger," a
                                            book in which he
                                            acknowledged the
                                            incongruity but argued that
                                            there are "fundamental
                                            bonds" between
                                            the two men's work, that at
                                            the beginning of the 20th
                                            century "on
                                            the basis of a new
                                            problematic first
                                            represented by Lukacs, and then
                                            later on by Heidegger, the
                                            contemporary situation was
                                            created. I would add that
                                            this perspective will also
                                            enable us to
                                            display a whole range of
                                            elements common to both
                                            philosophers, which
                                            are not very visible at
                                            first sight, but which
                                            constitute the common basis
                                            on which undeniable antagonisms


                                            elaborated" (p. 1).
                                            What is this common basis?
                                            It is that of overcoming the
                                            between subject and object
                                            in traditional thought,
                                            subject/object dualism, by
                                            recognizing the role of
                                            history in
                                            individual and collective
                                            human life, and rethinking
                                            the relation
                                            between theory and practice.
                                            As Michael wrote, Heidegger
                                            the traditional
                                            philosophical distinction
                                            between an object (a
                                            being) and what it *is* (its
                                            Being), and rejected both
                                            idealism and
                                            essentialism to argue that
                                            what an object is (and not
                                            just what it
                                            'means') is defined by the
                                            human social practices in
                                            which it is
                                            involved, and in which
                                            people encounter it. These


                                            course, change over
                                            historical time, so the
                                            conditions for an object
                                            to 'be' are practical,
                                            social, and historical. And


                                            define themselves in terms
                                            of the objects they work
                                            with, the basis
                                            of human being is practical,
                                            social, and historical too.
                                            I continue to believe that
                                            this new kind of ontological
                                            visible according to
                                            Goldmann in the work of both
                                            Lukacs and
                                            Heidegger, influenced in
                                            both cases by Hegel, is
                                            important. If we can learn
                                            from studying Heidegger how to
                                            acknowledge these cultural
                                            conditions without falling
                                            into a
                                            valorization of the folk,
                                            without dissolving
                                            individuals in


                                            collective (a failing of the
                                            Left just as much as the
                                            Right), then
                                            we will have gained, not
                                            lost, by reading his texts.


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