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Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural

Hi Michael,
just read the Rorty of Contingency, Irony . . , especially the first chapter where he writes about the contingency of language, and has a longer quote from Donald Davidson, and then look at the Derrida of Donner le temps (Giving time) where he discusses Heidegger's term of Geflecht from Unterwegs zur Sprache, you would see the similarities in the position. You can also go to Derrida, Résistance à la psychanalyse (Resistance to psychoanalysis) and you see it.
	Above all, you should read his discussion of Jean-Luc Nancy's work, Le toucher – Jean-Luc Nancy, where it is all about the body and its interlacing with language----which by the way is very similar to the move of Heidegger to interlace the hand and language . . . .

On 2010-04-03, at 6:44 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:

Hi Michael,

I have to admit the next time I understand something from Derrida it may be the first time (and then I'm going to go have a drink), but bringing Rorty into this is both confusing and enlightening.  The later Rorty was a dyed in the wool Pragmatist.  I always felt like his view of meaning (combining Dewey and Wittgenstein - but then I always felt Wittgenstein must have been influence by Dewey on his Road to Damascus moment - the same way that Rorty was influenced by Dewey in his Road to Damascus moment) 

Anyway, that is view of meaning was more Pragmatic than the way you describe Derrida.  That is that meaning does exist, but that it has limited applicability as a mediating force in communication.  That you cannot assume that somebody understands what you are trying to communicate by assuming the meaning inherent in the symbol.  There is meaning in symbols but it becomes dangerous to remove it from the moment, and the further you get from the moment the more dangerous it is.  Is this what you are saying Derrida was trying to say (I know Rorty wrote a book on Derrida, but I never read it - wasn't it to claim that Derrida was a playful Pragmatist type?)



From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
Sent: Sat 4/3/2010 8:40 AM
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural

Germans do have the word Essenz . . . but it covers only part of the territory.
       That you use "everything is text" ironically suggests to me that you don't understand Derrida. Again, reading this philosopher in English tends to miss precisely what he is about, the essence of his writing. Derrida actually speaks of Geflecht, and interlacing, and it is, like in Rorty's case, an interlacing of language and life. . ..
       Derrida's "exaggeration" is produced in translation, to a great extent . . .. His playfulness is ever so serious.

On 2010-04-02, at 8:56 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:


Every text has a context, a history and a speaker. To understand a text it is certainly necessary to access each of these resources. Every German speaker will know without a moment's reflection the semantic connection between Tätigkeit, Tat and tun, but I find that few German speakers are aware of the history of the concept from Herder to Fichte to Hess to Marx. It is possible to exactly what Marx is talking about in Theses on Feuerbach, even though Marx never explains what he means by Tätigkeit, because we know the history of the word and who Marx was talking to at the time and the context of Germany after the suppression of Hegelianism. Key words like Tätigkeit have to be studied, and I find that this study is as necessary for German speakers as it is for Anglophile monoglots like me ... especially if they believe that "there is nothing outside of the text" :).

What I don't like about Derrida is that he exaggerates the incompatibility of semantic networks. If he were right, then not just critical reading, but human life would be impossible. :) Thanks to shared material culture, shared activity, shared history and knowing the speaker, people always manage somehow to make each other understood, ... so long as there is an effort. As old Schleiermacher said, we start in the middle, and work backward and forward, we are never completely ignorant of the writer's cultural context because we too are human beings and share ideals.

BTW, the other side of it for English speakers is that English has its Latin and Greek roots, as well as its Anglo-Saxon origins, embedded in the  words, and for philosophy it is quite useful. For example, a German speaker can understand a lot about Wesen (Essence) because of its connection with the verb Sein (to be), but on the other hand, English speakers have the esse before their eyes.

Such a wonderful rich tapestry of meaning ...


Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
> Rather than thinking in terms of the concept :-) interpretation, I think in terms of reading. There are scholarly communities, and they decide which readings are within its bounds and which ones are outside. And there is a lot of politics. There is also a lot of colonialism in the policing and setting up of boundaries. Last night, a doctoral student in one of my methods classes said that there are a lot of bad readings of Vygotksy out there in the educational community, some shallow (Hegel called it "abstract") and others just plain out inconsistent. You cannot flatten all readings into a equal ideas. In any event, the recurrent suggestion to use an automatic translation system cannot help us better understand one another or a philosophically thinking scholar.
> Michael  On 2010-04-02, at 11:41 AM, mike cole wrote:
> Two points seem more or less clear from the point you are making about
> translation issues, Michael R.
> 1. They inhere in the subject matter, even within a single language,
> depending, upon other things, on theoretical orientation.
> 2. They are made more damaging from translation from one language to
> another.
> David kel has been very focused on the second issue. The problems are indeed
> very challenging. The best way i can think of to address them is by people
> offering their interpretations, discussing the virtues of various ideas that
> emerge, and for everyone to exercise a LOT of self-constraint in assuming
> that they know the one true story, even as they are convinced that the OTHER
> has it wrong.
> At present, i am still struggling to understand David Kel's discussion of
> concepts moving between the evidence in
> whichever translation of LSV and his own, always-challenging, examples from
> classroom discourse derived from
> his everyday practices and targeted examples-to-think with.
> mike
> On Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 11:14 AM, Wolff-Michael Roth <mroth@uvic.ca> wrote:
>> HI Michael,
>> you seem to be ascribing to me a position that I don't hold. I don't think
>> this is the one that Derrida holds. But the one meaning or whatever is a way
>> of talking about words that has been used here, not by myself. But you don't
>> understand Heidegger's thinking, form/content, in English,
>> THe non-dialectical readings of Vygotsky, Leont'ev, Bakhtin and others that
>> is so pervasive in the Anglo-Saxon culture would not be so convincing if you
>> were to read the originals, precisely because there is no single "meaning"
>> (a word that is not used by hEidegger, Derrida, and others) but webs of
>> significations that are inseparable from the world we live in and are
>> conscious of---Heidegger uses Geflecht, Derrida picks up on it. It is
>> inherent in Leont'ev's work, where the object exists twice, once ideally
>> once materially . . . .
>> The problem is that English translations allow readings that the original
>> never would allow . . . and you can see this in scholarship
>> Michael
>> On 2010-04-02, at 10:08 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:
>> Michael,
>> I suppose there is one point of view - but an entire philosophical school
>> developed in the United States in contradiction to this idea that you can
>> "know" words and symbols in general - that they have specific meanings
>> beyond their immediate context, and beyond the immediate relationships and
>> connections that they have in that context.  Peirce's ideas of semiosis
>> reflects on the idea that when we use words they are part of a much larger
>> communication structure and our understanding of the words occurs within
>> that structure.  Mead's idea on the danger of claiming some type of
>> ownership or knowledge of symbols outside of their immediate pruposes cedes
>> too much control to those who claim this knowledge - leading to the
>> development of symbolic interactionism.  When you say translatable it is not
>> just about words but larger communication structures involving time and
>> place and purposes, and it is ever changing.  It is simply impossible to
>> know how these connections might play out at any given point in time, and
>> you never know where insight might come, and you must always be open to that
>> insight.  Vygotsky, of Leontiev, or Heiddeger do not exist anywhere as
>> reified entities who we must "understand" - at least I think in the world of
>> Peirce and Mead.  They exist as tools to solve problems.  Because those
>> problems exist in the here and now and not in 1931 Soviet Union or Germany
>> the only way we can know them is in the here and now in the context of the
>> problem we are trying to solve.  There is the possibility that the new
>> student who doesn't know any language but English may come up with an
>> insight that is lost to the seasoned scholar who speaks many languages.
>> Michael
>> ________________________________
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
>> Sent: Fri 4/2/2010 12:49 PM
>> To: ablunden@mira.net
>> Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
>> I am thinking about what Vygotsky says, about the intertwining of thought
>> and language, I prefer to say, thinking and speaking. And if this is the
>> case, then Heidegger, Hegel, Vygotsky, Leont'ev are, strictly speaking,
>> untranslatable. This is the point that Ricoeur and Derrida make. But
>> equally, because there is translation from English into another such English
>> every time you are asked "what do you mean," and you give it a second try,
>> there is an inner contradiction or continual dialogue that makes every
>> language non-identical with itself. THis is precisely the engine for the
>> change of language Bakhtin writes about, the point that makes a language to
>> live, and a language no longer spoken is a dead language precisely because
>> it is dead, nobody speaks it, and so it is fixed.
>> So grammarians, many linguists, are dealing with corpses, well, they say
>> they deal with corpuses, perhaps corpuses are corpses. . . . telling us
>> little about the life of language, which is the language of life . . .
>> Michael
>> On 2010-04-02, at 6:51 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>> Why not use it? Absolutely, and German has so many absolutely beautiful and
>> untranslatble words! (Russian is a closed book to me unfortunately) ...
>> Gestalt, Bildung, Schwerpunkt, Anschauung, and others who semantic netowrk
>> is so extensive and rich, Begriff, Wesen, and so on, .. ... the list goes on
>> forever. Since Kant taught philosophy to speak German, I think any English
>> speaker has struggled to keep up. You can imagine that studying Hegel
>> without fluency in German has always been a struggle. There is an excellent
>> Hegel Dictionary by Michael Inwood, which helps a great deal in navigating
>> through these multilingual mazes.
>> Andy
>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>> Andy, in a footnote of an article I am working on with Luis Radford,
>> where we do a Leont'ev reading of mathematical activity, I wrote this:
>>> We ground our reading in the German version, which is in many ways more
>> just to the original than the English translation. For example, the Russian
>> and German versions distinguish between two very different nouns, Tätigkeit
>> (deyatel'nost' [????????????]) and Aktivität (activnost' [??????????]), both
>> of which are rendered in English as activity. The Russian and German
>> versions distinguish phenomena that are societal (gesellschaftlich,
>> obshchestvennoi [????????????]) from those that are social (sozial, sozial'n
>> [????????]), but the English version renders both as "social." In English,
>> we find the word "meaning" that translates znachenie (????????)/ Bedeutung
>> even though the Russian / German equivalents refer to an objective
>> phenomenon at the cultural-historical level rather than the personal sense
>> (Sinn, smisl [?????]) students make ("construct") as part of lessons. Our
>> specific word choices have b
>> een made such as to promote the specific, the very different reading of
>> Leont'ev's work that the German version allows.
>>> As you can see, other languages do make the difference. We do have the
>> means to make the distinction when it comes to the adjective
>> social/societal, so why not employ it? Cheers,
>>> Michael
>>> On 2010-04-02, at 6:26 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>> Michael, I only heard the word "societal" for the first time in 2005. It
>> is a technical word not found in the ordinary language or even in Marxism,
>> SFAIK, ... well that's my excuse for going 60 years without learning it.  :)
>> It was only when I came into contact with academic psychology and sociology
>> that I discovered that "social" had an interpersonal meaning actually! :)
>> Otherwise what I now call societal was what I used to call social.
>>> It was Weber who said that the task of sociology is to reduce concepts
>> about society to "understandable action, that is, without exception, to the
>> actions of participating
>>> individual [persons]."
>>> But I think most people don't even think of societal phenomena as
>> relevant to psychology. Societal phenomena are just objects of perception.
>> Conversely, Weber was saying this because people generally believed the
>> converse, that, like the weather, societal phenomena exist independently of
>> the actions of individual people.
>>> Andy
>>> Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
>>>> Jay,
>>>> one of the sources of this problem is that in many cases, where another
>> language (Russian, German) uses the adjective "societal" the English
>> translations use social. The former has all the political and cultural
>> dimensions you want to see, whereas the "social" becomes unpolitical and
>> uncultural.
>>>> Michael
>>>> On 2010-04-01, at 10:25 PM, Jay Lemke wrote:
>>>> In the course, and on the exams, I found it necessary to push students
>> very hard to understand that "social" did not simply mean interpersonal, but
>> also cultural. Whether talking about ZPD or scaffolding or any sort of
>> social theory of learning, students, even good, bright, phd students, unless
>> previously trained in anthropology (rare) and even if with some training in
>> sociology or political science, simply saw the social as always the
>> interaction among individuals. (Non-American students seemed to have less of
>> this problem.)
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>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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>> Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:
>> http://www.marxists.org/admin/books/index.htm
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