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RE: [xmca] perception/conception etc
"Functional" is defined by the culture and therefore cannot exist as constructed separately and this rules out all of the learning theories that place the location of human intelligence strictly within the realm of the individual. This is why I appreciated Vygotsky to begin with and why I feel his work is so relevant to our understanding of education. I have to attribute my understanding of "functional" both in the context of Vygotsky and the discussion of applicable neuroscience to many hours with the work of Luria.
I have also been thinking about the use of the word "detour" in describing the actions of the chimp. "Detour" does not just suggest a shortcut, or a more efficient operation. "Detour" suggests an alternate route, an indirect route and this is the value of the use of this word in describing mental functions. The practice of logic gives a sense of simple operations, when examined with scientific methods based on positivist traditions that there is an absolute physical reality that is determinable and verifiable through this methods. In examining mental functions it is not so "straightforward". Vygotsky, Luria, and even Barsalou are under no false impression that the mental operation is as simple as it might seem on the outside. There is an indirect route in the process by which mental representations are formed and used by individuals to construct meaning and become conscious of their own learning and development. It is this invisible level of the mental function that has been left out of empirical study. While I do not agree with everything in Barsalou's work, his acknowledgement of this indirect level of function and the influence of current neuroscience on the cognitive sciences gives me hope that this acknowledgement, will increase the relevancy of research pertaining to theories of social cognition. The dominant conceptual framework used by many researchers to clarify questions of learning and development are the same tat have been used to obscure our understanding, rather than elucidate it. Conceptual frameworks based on the notion of knowledge as an objectified material commodity that can moved, measured and relocated are really a difficulty in practical activity. Even in neuroscience, studies are done to show the location of words in the semantic lexicon. Results from these studies can be used to support and disprove various theories and are often used both ways depending on interpretation. Barsalou is not the only theorist trying to take research from the neurobiological level to develop larger integrated frameworks. Allan Paivio has also worked to integrate the findings of neuroscience, neuropschycology, cognitive psychology into a larger integrated theory. Antonio Damasio work also leads in this direction, with more specifics at the neural level of how the body actually fulfills some of the more complex processes we know to exist. Specifics in these larger theories may be incompatible, but they all share one thing in common that makes sense to me and that is framework that allows for dynamic relationships between the components of the body and our shared construction of knowledge and meaningful experience--rather than a limited, fixed and rigid reality.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
Sent: Sunday, July 18, 2010 1:12 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] perception/conception etc
Thanks, Monica, you raise some very interesting points about what
functional use means. You focus on the issue of *understanding* when
it comes to internalization and intrapersonal processes. You ask:
does the chimp really understand the performed operation? As distinct
from just mentally manipulating an image, or decoding a word, you
suggest that full participation in the meaningful use of a word/image/
operation is required for human understanding. You attribute this
ability in humans to an increased level of generalization and
abstraction, which is made possible by systematic exploration with
others. Did I capture your basic idea?
On Jul 17, 2010, at 12:37 PM, Monica Hansen wrote:
> Before reading David's response, Steve, I considered your question:
> and came up with this.
> "Functional" use implies the level of complexity indicative of not
> only "what" the sign represents but "how" it is to be used and
> understood. A reference point in understanding this distinction is
> the discussion of the series of transformations required for the
> process of internalization (Mind in Society, p. 56). Not only does
> the sign need to go from external to internal representation, but it
> must also be understood interpersonally and intrapersonally. In the
> case of the chimp and the banana, does the chimp really understand
> the operation that has been successfully performed as a result of
> his action? And for how long? The last in this series of
> transformations is a reference to the qualitative, and lasting
> change that occurs from developmental reconstruction:"The
> transformation of an interpersonal process into an intrapersonal one
> is the result of a long series of developmental events."
> This difference between mentally manipulating an image that
> represents an immediate physical operation is qualitatively
> different from internalizing what has been done, affecting a
> developmental change in thinking. This is also different from a
> similar ability in humans when learning the complexities of language
> and language use. It is not enough to be able to decode or repeat a
> particular word in a line of text(which can be learned as a
> conditioned response), but one must also understand what it means
> (which requires full participation in meaningful use). This is both
> socially constructed and is it right to use "historically
> constructed" here? This qualitative difference in level of
> understanding is the result of understandings of increased level of
> generalization and abstraction, made possible by the systematic
> exploration of experience and ideas with others. This is genuine
> concept development as described in chapters 4, 5, and 6 of Thought
> and Language?
> I also want to throw in one comment on David's observation, "I think
> that Vygotsky does not want to set up ANY single criterion
>> for the appearance of speech."
> He may not want to, nor can he. The point is, that there is no ONE
> criteria for the appearance of speech/language: The complexity of
> the system is what Barsalou refers to as "the magic of human
> cognition". Barsalou's work dwells in the possible intricacies of
> just such a complex system, one compatible with this understanding
> of "functional" use.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:xmca-
> email@example.com] On Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
> Sent: Friday, July 16, 2010 7:49 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] perception/conception etc
> David's post got me looking at the text. I have a side question that
> goes along with some of David's thoughts - about what Vygotsky meant
> by "functional use of signs in a manner appropriate to human speech."
> The passages David analyzes follow Vygotsky's discussion of the
> possibility that chimps could respond to sign language - an
> interesting idea he picks up from Yerkes. He says that the chimp
> could be able to "master a conditioned gesture" with hand movements.
> "The critical issue is not the use of sounds, but the *functional use
> of signs* in a manner appropriate to human speech." The next
> paragraph begins with "Since experiments of this kind have not been
> carried out, we cannot predict with any certainty what the results
> would be."
> We now know the answer to Vygotsky's question - chimps under human
> tutelage can indeed get pretty good with both hand-based sign language
> and keyboard-based sign use, eventually acquiring a vocabulary of up
> to maybe 250 words, or something like that, in the case of Washoe. I
> understand that chimps trained this way also sometimes use it with one
> another, to a limited extent. But there are also severe limits on
> what these chimps actually do with these signs. We also now know
> there are cases of some other highly trained animals that seem to be
> able to use signs to a limited extent. How does what we now know
> about teaching animals to use signs influence the answer to that
> critical question Vygotsky asked - can chimps "functionally" use signs
> in a manner appropriate to human speech? What exactly did Vygotsky
> mean by this formulation?
> - Steve
> On Jul 16, 2010, at 6:56 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>> Dear Martin:
>> Thanks for the second dose of Barsalou; I'm digesting it. It's not
>> concise like the other one!
>> But it seems to me that in both cases the crucial text for
>> comparison here is Chapter FOUR of Thinking and Speech. Let me
>> present THREE paragraphs for close scrutiny, corresponding to pp.
>> 106-107 of the Minick translation (but the Minick translation really
>> leaves a lot to be desired here, just in terms of English grammar!).
>> I'm pretty clear on the first two paragraphs, but the third one is
>> hard for me to understand. Help from Russianophones much
>> appreciated, as usual!
>> Но все, что мы знаем о поведении
>> шимпанзе, в том числе и из опытов
>> Иеркса, не дает ни малейшего
>> основания ожидать, что шимпанзе
>> действительно овладеет речью в
>> функциональном смысле. Мы полагаем
>> так просто потому, что мы не знаем ни
>> одного намека на употребление знака у
>> шимпанзе. Единственное, что мы знаем
>> об интеллекте шимпанзе с объективной
>> достоверностью, это не наличие
>> ≪идеации≫, а тот факт, что при
>> известных условиях шимпанзе способен
>> к употреблению и изготовлению
>> простейших орудий и применению
>> путей≫. "Everything that we know about the behavior of the
>> chimpanzee, including what we know from the experiments of Yerkes
>> gives us not the least foundation for expecting that the chimpanzee
>> can actually assimilate speech in the functional sense. We assume
>> this simply because we know of not one single case of sign use in
>> chimpanzees. All that we know about the intellect of chimpanzee with
>> objective certainty is not the presence of “ideation”, but simply
>> the fact that under given conditions the chimpanzee is capable of
>> the use and the production of the simplest instruments and the
>> application of “detours”."
>> Why does Vygotsky insist that there is not one single case of sign
>> use in chimpanzees? He has just said that not only the experiments
>> of Yerkes but also the more thorough and reliable work of Kohler
>> showed that chimps could (for example) use social-expressive
>> gestures, beckon to and invite each other, and even use “simple
>> explanations” such as reaching for a stick to explain the use of a
>> stick or moving a box. Why doesn't that count?
>> Vygotsky sees two things as partial steps in the direction of sign
>> use, and neither one is sufficient. The first is the use and
>> production of the simplest instruments. Now, the fact that Vygotsky
>> does NOT consider this to be enough to qualify the chimpanzee as a
>> sign user tells us that Vygotsky DOES make a distinction between
>> tools and signs. This distinction is later obscured by Leontiev and
>> even explicitly denied by activity theorists (and even in MCA we
>> find articles that speak of "tools for signs").
>> Vygotsky does not obscure this distinction. The material of a sign
>> is not essential to its function. But the material of a tool is.
>> Functionally, tool use does not necessarily include ideation, for
>> either the producer of the tool or for the consumer. I can produce
>> tools without knowing very specifically what they are going to be
>> used for, and I can and do consume, for example, food, clothing and
>> shelter without know very specifically about the tools which
>> produced them. The same thing is not true of a sign; in order to
>> understand a sign as a sign, we have to revisit the conditions of
>> its production: we must always know who is using it and why.
>> The second partial step towards ideation that Vygotsky sees in
>> chimpanzee behavior looks, at least at first glance, more promising.
>> It is the use of “detours”. I at first thought what was meant was
>> a «short cut», but in fact almost the opposite is the case.
>> Imagine, for example, a U-shaped cage. A banana is placed near one
>> of the arms of the “U” but it is out of reach even using a stick.
>> The chimpanzee can, however, use a stick to PUSH the banana near the
>> other arm of the “U” and then walk around the “U” to get the
>> banana. So the chimpanzee uses a detour and not a shortcut to get
>> the banana.
>> Now it will be seen that this really does involve a very early form
>> of ideation, because the chimpanzee has to have an imaginary picture
>> of the situation in order to achieve the solution. So why can’t we
>> consider this to be a precursor of sign use?
>> I think Vygotsky would probably answer that although there are the
>> rudiments of ideation, this ideation is qualitatively different from
>> social ideation. It is not a culturally shared ideation; it is an
>> ideation which is really a kind of mental copy of the visual field.
>> Мы не хотим вовсе сказать этим, что
>> наличие ≪идеации≫ является
>> необходимым условием для
>> возникновения речи. Это вопрос
>> дальнейший. Но для Иеркса несомненно
>> существует связь между допущением
>> ≪идеации≫ как основной формы
>> интеллектуальной деятельности
>> антропоидов и утверждением о
>> доступности человеческой речи для
>> них. Связь эта столь очевидна и столь
>> важна, что стоит рухнуть теории
>> ≪идеации≫, т.е. стоит принять другую
>> теорию интеллектуального поведения
>> шимпанзе, как вместе с ней рушится и
>> тезис о доступности шимпанзе
>> человекоподобной речи. "We do not want to
>> completely affirm that the presence of “ideation” is the
>> necessary condition for the appearance of speech. That is another
>> question. But for Yerkes there is undoubtedly a connection between
>> the assumption of “ideation” as the basic form of the
>> intellectual activity of anthropoids and the assertion of the
>> accessibility of human speech for them. This connection is so
>> obvious and important that it is sufficient for the theory of
>> “ideation” to crumble , i.e., it is enough to accept another
>> theory of the intellectual behavior of chimpanzee, for the whole
>> thesis concerning the chimpanzees access to human like speech to
>> I think that Vygotsky does not want to set up ANY single criterion
>> for the appearance of speech.
>> First of all, that would go against his triangulatory method of
>> examining phenomena from a functional, a structural and a genetic
>> point of view simultaneously.
>> Secondly, if a phenomenon really does have a single necessary and
>> sufficient cause, then at least from a causal-dynamic point of view,
>> that cause is not a cause at all; it’s part of the phenomenon
>> itself, and consequently the explanation is not an explanation (this
>> is what Vygotsky says about, for example, the use of “libido” or
>> “Gestalt” or “personality” in his essay the Historical
>> Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology).
>> Thirdly, this is a book about thinking and speech, and for the
>> purpose of his argument, it is absolutely essential that ideation,
>> which is a phenomenon of thinking, should be both linked to and
>> distinct from speech. Vygotsky is going to argue that thinking and
>> speech do not diverge from a single common root as physiological
>> functions do (adaptation), but rather converge from separate roots
>> as cultural and historical phenomena do (exaptation).
>> В самом деле, если именно ≪идеация≫
>> лежит в основе интеллектуальной
>> деятельности шимпанзе, то почему
>> нельзя допустить, что он так же
>> человекоподобно ≪решит задачу≫,
>> представляемую речью, знаком вообще,
>> как он решает задачу с применением
>> орудия (правда, и тогда это остается
>> не больше чем предположением, а
>> отнюдь не установленным фактом). "In fact,
>> if “ideation” alone is the basis of the intellectual activity of
>> chimpanzee, then why can we not assume that the anthropoids would
>> “resolve a task” expressed in speech, or in the use of general
>> signs, as they solve problems with the application of instruments
>> (this would, of course, be no more than an assumption, far from an
>> established fact)."
>> This is the bit where I get lost. As usual, Vygotsky takes several
>> logical leaps that are not really spelled out in the text.
>> If, as Yerkes assumes, the mental capacity for ideation is at the
>> basis of the chimpanzees practical intelligence (and not, as Kohler
>> argues, the chimp’s ability to notice and make use of affordances
>> actually present in the visual field) then we should be able to ask
>> yes/no questions and get coherent answers.
>> We do this all the time with children in foreign language classes.
>> The teacher assumes that the child has the idea, but not the
>> language in which it is expressed, and so we ask yes/no questions
>> and we find, very often, that children can guess what we mean and
>> answer appropriately, using “yes” or “no” or using their
>> hands to show “X” or “O”.
>> It seems to me that Vygotsky is asking why it doesn’t occur to us
>> to ASSUME that we can do this with chimpanzees. After all, chimps do
>> solve tasks with tools, and in some cases (e.g. the “detour”
>> described above) there is clear evidence of rudimentary ideation.
>> But we don’t assume that the chimp will answer a simple yes/no
>> question by, for example, using a pencil or another tool to mark
>> “X” or “O” on a test.
>> It seems to me that Vygotsky is not asking why we cannot do this
>> with chimpanzees. Whether we can or cannot do it with chimpanzees is
>> a matter of hypothesis and future empirical research (and in fact
>> Savage-Rumbaugh’s work suggests strongly that it is possible).
>> What Vygotsky is asking is why we don’t look at the chimpanzee with
>> this ASSUMPTION, with this HYPOTHESIS. Perhaps it is because we
>> suspect that “ideation” is far from being the only basis, or even
>> the main basis, of chimpanzee thinking. Perhaps we suspect that what
>> chimpanzees think with is a lot more like a percept than a concept.
>> David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
>> --- On Thu, 7/15/10, Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> From: Martin Packer <email@example.com>
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] perception/conception etc
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> Date: Thursday, July 15, 2010, 3:37 PM
>> A few days ago Andy commented on a paper by Barsalou that Mike had
>> sent around. I am attaching another paper by the same author, with
>> the question, how similar is this analysis of cognition to what LSV
>> was writing about in T&L?
>> -----Inline Attachment Follows-----
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