To met, at least, you ARE splitting hairs, Andy. I would be really
helped by understanding the relationship of Dewey and CHAT (at least
for Dewey!). What is Dewey's great failing from a Marxist perspective?
What did he get wrong?
They share a lot, it seems to me. So what have I got wrong?
On Wed, Nov 24, 2010 at 1:54 AM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org
*Response to Poehner and Lantolf.*
Not being an L2 teacher or any other kind of teacher, I will limit
my comments to Poehner and Lantolf’s attack on philosophy. That
they can quote Vygotsky in support of their cause is neither here
nor there, as Vygotsky’s entire lifetime is testimony to the place
he gave to philosophy in his critique of psychology, and /vice
versa/, and the great admirer of Spinoza could be quoted in the
opposite spirit just as well.
“... Practice sets the tasks and serves as the supreme judge of
theory, as its truth criterion. It dictates how to construct the
concepts and how to formulate the laws.” (Vygotsky, 2004, p. 304)
Vygotsky concludes that the highest test of a theory is practice and
that the distinction that had been made between general and applied
psychology (e.g., industrial, educational psychology) was not only
invalid but in fact, as he convincingly argued in “The Crisis,”
applied psychology /is /psychology. This was, for Vygotsky, the full
implication of Marx’s Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach for the science
of psychology: “Marx has said that it was enough for philosophers to
have interpreted the world, now it’s time to change it” (Vygotsky,
1997b, pp. 9–10).
The claim that “practice is the truth criterion” for theory is the
position of pragmatism, not Marxism. This may seem like splitting
hairs, after all Marx does say in Thesis 2: “The question whether
objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a
question of theory but is a *practical* question. Man must prove
the truth ... in practice. The dispute over the reality or
non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a
purely scholastic question.”
But the passage of 150 years has clarified matters. “Applied
psychology /is /psychology,” and the interpretation of Thesis 11,
“... it was enough for philosophers to have interpreted the world,
now it’s time to change it” makes things clear. Thesis 11 is
saying that the point of philosophy is to change the world. In the
absence of the socialist utopia, then, philosophy is not done for.
The revolution Vygotsky wrought in /philosophy/ is testimony
enough to that. The cry that the time for philosophy is past is a
call to abandon philosophy.
In this context, L2 theory may be fraught with dualisms, but it
seems to me that there is a fashion nowadays to point to dualisms
everywhere without justification, so I am not impressed with the
claim of 20 dualisms which might just as well be 20 valid
distinctions. My suspicions are confirmed when the authors
themselves posit a false dichotomy: “mediation through cultural
concepts” versus “mediation through social interaction.” This is a
new dualism to me; probably it is what lies behind the neologism
of “SCT” which the authors use to supplant CHAT. But more of that
What on earth is a “/cultural/ concept”? What are “/non/-cultural
concepts”? And how is an action to be mediated by a (cultural)
concept /other than/ as part of a social interaction.” And what
kind of interactions are /not/ social? And what is it that is
being mediated other than the (social) use of a (cultural)
artefact? Is there any other way of using an artefact other than
in the course of a /socially/ meaningful action? How is a
“cultural artefact” used without “social interaction”? How is a
“social interaction” effected without the use of “cultural
artefacts” or some other type of non-cultural artefact?
So this is a false dichotomy. But what end does it serve? Well, it
justifies the use of SCT = Socio-Cultural Theory, by (1) inserting
“socio-” usually by contrast with “societal,” (2) dropping the
“Historical” dimension of development, and more importantly (3)
dropping Activity. So we have come full circle. The meaning of the
use of Theses on Feuerbach against itself is to reduce Activity to
being the test or manifestation of Theory. But the opposite is
just as valid: Theory is the manifestation of Activity, a.k.a.
Joint Editor MCA: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Journal/
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>
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