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[xmca] Re:Walls, Bridges, Imitation and Creativity

Dear Larry:
Welcome back! Well...I can't help but feel that you are "pulling my leg" JUST A LITTLE with all those quotation marks and capitalizations. I know I overuse them; Andy has remonstrated with me more than once, but unfortunately self-control is rather beyond my ZPD at the present moment. Perhaps your gentle parody will help, at least for this post.
I guess what I get out of the "abductive logic" passacaglia you lay out is that abductive logic is a quite weak form of logic. Let's say, for example, that we are interested in why children sometimes answer a question in the present continuous with simple present, like this:
T: What is Jinho doing?
S: Jinho play (sic) soccer.
This is surprising because children tend to be economical; they will repeat the tense they just heard rather than switch to a new one. That is why "Jinho play (sic) soccer" seems to follow from "What does Jinho play?"
Now, you say that we can reason abductively as follows. The use of the simple present after a question in the present continuous is a surprising fact. But this surprising fact would be perfectly natural if:
a) The child doesn't understand and therefore can't imitate the tense of the question.
b) The child understands but cannot imitate the tense of the question.
c) The child understand and can imitate the tense of the question, but suffers from default condition called Universal Grammar which stipulates that when in doubt the speaker must use the simple present,
d) The child is imitating his own behavior in previous utterances ("I play soccer", "I like apples") rather than the grammar of the question. 
e) Children don't listen to teachers.
f) Language learning is a cognitive process which resists any and all variation in social context, etc.
You can see that some of these propositions are wildly plausible, and others are not. You can see why: they are at wildly different levels of generality. And you can probably tell that abductive logic as you lay it out does not give us much help in differentiating between them.
Here, on the other hand, is a nonabductive explanation, an inductive explanation taken from many many observations of real data. Unfortunately, it requires a bit of background, and some rather confusing terminology. 
In our previous discussion of Poehner and Lantolf, I was taken to task for using the term "imperfective" to describe the present perfect tense in English. Now what I meant was that statements like "I have been to China" or  "I have lived in Seoul since 1997" refer to events that are not well defined in the sense of having two clear defining endpoints on a timeline (the former example has no endpoints at all, and the latter has only one). 
For Korean kids, the definition of an event in time (that is, the ability to observe a clear beginning and a clear end) is a big problem with English verbs, in much the same way that the definition of an object in space (that is, the ability to observe how it is separated from other objects) is a big problem with our nouns (countability, pluralization, the use of articles, quantifiers and other specifiers). 
This problem, which seems to me both very general and quite specific to this data, is not in our abductive list and not likely to be there. But it does seem to me to hold the key to the problem. Our kids tend to think of anything after a copula as a noun ("That's a soccer ball") or an adjective ("I'm fine"). So as far as they can tell the question's got nothing to do with a verb at all.
Of course, the kids DO have verbs that are not copular. But the most popular, by far, verb in my data base of creative utterances (that is, utterances which are improvised and not produced by repeating a model) are mental process verbs, e.g. "like" and "want". And mental process verbs do not have a clear beginning or end in English, and for that very reason they almost always appear in a semantically "imperfect" form, that is, in the simple present (which presupposes rather murky beginnings and endings) rather than the continuous (which assumes HERE and NOW). 
The child's model of a verb, then, is not a physical action. It's also not a relationship between nouns, although the copula is the most common verb form they have at this particular age, thanks to their preoccupation with nouns. Instead, it's a mental process, like "like" or "want", which has a clear subject, and a clear object, but no clear beginning or end.
The child construes "play" along the lines of "like" or "want", and does not see that unlike the mental process verbs, playtime has a clear beginning and a clear end. Why doesn't the child see this? Well, for one thing, we don't teach it that way!
I can't be sure that this is the solution to the problem. But I do know that I didn't get here by building a bridge backwards, through abductive logic; I got here by charging through a morass of data and trying to see a pattern in real practice, not in potential explanations for a single soliton.  
And that is yet another reason why I think we should be very skeptical about about Mao Zedong's and Deng Xiaoping's idea that practice is the paramount criterion of truth: if practice is the cause, it does not help us very much to also call it the criterion.
Let me end by trying to tie this thread to Mike's kite of summarizing the debate on the Zoped, the ZBR, the ZeBRa. I think when Vygotsky says that imitation provides the practical content of the beast, he is not saying that imitation is development, or even that it is learning. 
He is only saying that in practice it's imitation which provides the content of the next zone of development. That content is always going to be changing, which accounts for the variability in the zone which Mike has noted (deplored?). In my example, and in most of the examples I have been thinking about, that content has something to do with the graspture of mastery and a consequent seizure of conscious awareness (which includes a deliberate analysis of the structure of an action or even a thought). 
There's a good reason for that; I'm talking about kids who are, developmentally, somewhere between the Crisis at Seven (the discovery of "acting out" and role playing, invisible friends, avatars, etc.) and the Crisis at Thirteen (the discovery that you can act out roles without any actual role model, by using abstract rules, concepts, ideas and ideals). 
This is a period where skills lead to knowledge, where mastery leads, slowly but surely, to the graspture of awareness. I think that creativity, the ability to act a role that nobody has ever shown you, is a key sign that awareness has been achieved. What happens after that, however, is a rather different kind of content and, as a consequence, a rather different species of zebra. 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Sat, 1/1/11, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

From: Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Linguistic Walls and Applied Linguistic Bridges
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Saturday, January 1, 2011, 12:14 PM

Hi David
I have been very busy and scattered over the last couple of weeks and so
left numerous posts unread. {I'm sure I'm the only one who does this}
However I've had a few moments to just meander through others reflections
and musings and this post I found intriguing.

David, your reflections on  "walls" and "bridges" are interesting
metaphorical images to "inhabit" and move around in. I do not have your
backgound knowledge in "Linguistics" or "applied linguistics" so am always
in the "position" of "receiving" and hesitating to "respond" to specific
points elaborated.  However, what I do appreciate [and where I find myself
having an internal dialogue - "bridging" -] is your continuous generation of
new iconic images to "explain" and "explore" the notions of "structure"
"dialogue" "functions" "practices" "activity" and the construction of
bridges between these concepts.

Bridges and walls are iconic images which hold our attention and orient us
to particular "perspectives" which "link" and "structure" experience.  My
reflections on "dwelling", "home", common "ground",  are examples of other
CONVENTIONALIZED metaphors which are "generated" in "creative activities of
bridging" as ways to co-ordinate and orient and "get our bearings" as we
"adapt" [do we react? reflect" or reflexively RESPOND] to our "contexts" [as
weavings of a tapestry].

This brings me to the conversation on "imitation" which is a fascinating
topic on its own. I am attempting to "bridge" or "link" imitation as a
concept to our iconic uses of metaphors as ways to "understand" being and
becoming human.  Imitation as "mimicry" and a "mirror" that "reproduce" the
SAME experience is being critiqued.  Alternative notions of "imitate" are
more intersubjective and dialogical and point to "bridging" or "linking" as
metaphors to replace imitation as "mirroring or reflecting THE SAME"  It is
at this point that I think Valsiner has an interesting perspective when he
elaborates on the dominance of inductive logic and the neglect of the
alternative abductive form of logic.  In the most recent article of Theory &
Psychology [Volume 20, 2010] he elaborates on abductive logic.  On page 26
he writes,

"Considering idiography as the negation of the possibility of generalization
is a symptom of how INDUCTIVE GENERALIZATION has been GENERALIZED to the
point of being considered the only MODEL of categorization - that is of
producing scientific knowledge.  A possible alternative to inductive
generalization is abductive INFERENCE. "

Valsiner refers to Peirce's understanding of abduction when he quotes

"It must be remembered that abduction, although it is very little hampered
BY LOGICAL RULES, nevertheless IS LOGICAL INFERENCE, asserting its
CONCLUSION only problematically or CONJECTURALLY.   The form of abductive

1] The surprising FACT "X" is OBSERVED
2]But if "Y" WERE true, "X" would be a matter of course
3] Hence, there is reason TO SUSPECT that "Y" IS true.

Valsiner, in elaborating on Peirce's notion of abduction as CONJECTURED
INFERENCE is developing a MODEL OF LOGIC that is local in its content,
because it REFERS TO [bridges] the specific experience under investigation
unique exemplar under investigation MOVES BACKWARDS to the UNDERLYING
possible CAUSAL SYSTEM of THAT exemplar.

Valsiner (p.827) suggests this MOVE BACKWARDS is "universal" in its bridging
format "since it is PRODUCED in TERMS OF some theoretical language and on
the GROUND of the set of general scientific rules of THAT language. It is
thanks to this general rule that the occurrences are connected [bridged] in
an organic picture -  Peirce speaks of the 'reunification OF the PREDICATES'
- and in this way meant AS THE CONSEQUENCE OF a GIVEN CAUSE"

Valsiner sees this abductive MODELING OF the occurrence {Vygotsky's notion
of the ideal} as the SEMIOTIZATION [bridging] of the phenomenon through the
MEDIATION OF the conventionalized model of scientific language.  The
modelled exemplar is used as the criterion of categorization.

Valsiner cautions that it is not possible to abductively fully MODEL or MAP
[structure] each experience because the model can only take into account a
finite subset of the combination of occurrences.  For Valsiner the MODEL
[metaphorical wall] is only ONE of the  possible FORMS of CONVEYING the
exemplar and can never be an exhaustive REPRESENTATION of the exemplar.  The
language of science is only one possible model to express the exemplar and
points to the proliferation of uniqueness in human conduct.

To return to the reflections on "imitation"  Abductive logic views the
exemplars of "imitation" as "logically" understood by MOVING BACKWARDS
TOWARDS CONVENTIONALIZED MODELS or "ideals".  The "fruit" of development as
"imitation" already exists in the sociocultural and HISTORICAL models that
are abductively reasoned AND RESPONDED TO by the more expert members of the

David, sorry if I went off on a "tangent" and built "bridges" over the
structured walls but this is often how I "think"


On Sat, Dec 11, 2010 at 1:36 AM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

> Well, I can think of two other reasons for rejecting "Pratice is the final
> (ultimate, etc.) criterion of truth".
> a) Practice is ONE instantiation of potential. But there are always an
> infinite number of others.
> b) Who says that truth has ANY "final" criterion? What would such a final
> criterion look like and how would we know it was the final one?
> And now for one of my geographical (or maybe ego-graphical) passacaglias,
> inspired by Mike's question about "applied linguistics" vs. the unapplied
> variety.
> At one stage in the development of Seoul, the city was held apart from the
> countryside and defined by its walls. Fenced in by mountains to the north,
> our kings built a great crenellated rampart running from East to West across
> the south, broken only by large fortresses at the gates.
> We can still see vestiges of this heroic stage in our development in the
> names of subway stops (“Great South Gate”, “Great East Gate Market”, and
> “Great West Gate”). Interestingly, all these areas are now nonresidential;
> the streetwork resembles a grid of longitude and latitude that enables
> everyone to get to anyplace even if they have never been there before and
> will never go there again.
> But today most of Seoul is a city of villages rather than a village-city,
> and it is really held together internally by bridges rather than externally
> by walls. The bridges simply spring up where the are needed, willy-nilly,
> like trails between residential areas.
> The neighborhood where I live is not a neat grid of parallels and meridians
> but a messy magpie’s nest of criss-crossing streets, once functionally
> trails rather than streets and now paved over, but not yet differentiated
> into driving lanes and sidewalks, given soft poetical names rather hastily
> during the 2002 World Cup (“Pear Blossom Street”). We can see that it is a
> place to live and work and not to visit.
> I think that the unity of linguistics was originally a unity of walls,
> while the unity of applied linguistics is one of bridges. Like any other
> conqueror, Saussure set out to build himself a capital. He did this by
> cutting us off from history and trying to create a kind of synchronic
> “culture” in the form of an arbitrary network of phonemes, words, and even
> whole utterances.
> But the walls came tumbling down as soon as people moved in to live and
> work, the city that Saussure founded began to expand, and people began to
> build bridges connecting the villages that were once well outside the
> perimeter: language teaching and learning, child development, psychology,
> and above all history.
> I think it’s in this sense that the term “sociocultural” is not
> particularly adequate: it somehow implies that culture can exist quite
> without history, like a moment of Saussure’s great game of chess. I also
> think that it’s in this sense that the term “applied linguistics” is
> defensible (although I remember that Michael Halliday really didn't like it;
> like Vygotsky who insists on "general psychology" he insisted on "general
> linguistics").
> My professor Henry Widdowson used to distinguish between “linguistics
> applied” and “applied linguistics”. Examples of the former included creating
> dictionaries out of computer corpora and “Critical Discourse Analysis”
> applied to newspapers, conversations in doctor’s offices, and literary
> texts. In each case, some demesne that once lay outside the city wall is
> annexed, and laid out in furrows and hedges, with the help of the
> linguistics grid.
> “Applied linguistics”, on the other hand, is basically an exercise in
> bridge building. We start with the little village of classroom language
> teaching-and-learning and we blaze trails to other communities, such as
> education, developmental psychology, and history. When we come to a river
> (such as the one that separates us from Saussure’s linguistics) we try to
> build a bridge.
> Sometimes bridges are not very sturdy. Here in Seoul, we have had at least
> one catastrophic bridge collapse here in recent memory. Sometimes they are
> brought down by design. There was a notorious incident during the war where
> the Americans strafed and bombed one of the bridges over the Han river,
> drowning hundreds of refugees. And sometimes, like the “Olympic Bridge”
> which daily causes traffic jams here, bridges are simply in the wrong place.
> I think there is a real problem with treating “tense” as a concept and
> seeking to “apply” Vygotsky’s ideas about teaching academic concepts and
> foreign language concepts. “Tense” is a concept in the minds of linguists,
> but not in the minds of users of the language, because when we use a
> language our attention tends to focus on the “what” rather than the “how” of
> what we are saying. For this reason, the goal of conscious awareness and
> mastery in the use of tense is not particularly helpful as an ultimate goal
> for use, unless we are talking about using DA as a set of assessment
> practices (which we apparently are!).
> As I said, I think that the editors erred in restricting the focus of the
> current issue of the journal to the TESOL-ACTFL view of language teaching
> (that is, teaching English to immigrants in the USA or teaching foreign
> languages at American universities of higher education).
> But if we must have a parochially North American view of the field, let us
> at least include an article on Canadian immersion teaching, where science
> concepts and other academic concepts really are formed through the medium of
> a second language, yet attention is still on the conceptual knot rather than
> the complex(ive) means of tying it.
> Carol Macdonald sent me this really wonderful set of immersion materials
> that she worked on with Len Lanham, when South Africa was still a racist
> dictatorship. Their project is teaching English to village kids who really
> have no understanding of city life. So there is a story about four friends
> who climb a mountain to see what birds and mapmakers see. What they see is a
> completely unfamiliar view of their own familiar village, with all its
> fences and bridges. And as they descend the mountain this new scientific
> concept of their hometown turns slowly back into an everyday concept.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Fri, 12/10/10, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] By Way of Continuing on Instruction/Assessment
> To: ablunden@mira.net, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Friday, December 10, 2010, 7:48 PM
> Who me? Insist that YOU answer me at length! Interpelation at XMCA! Argh.
> :-)
> Thanks for all of that background of the ideas concerning "theory" and
> "practice" and the contexts of their use, including your own.
> Like the concept of activity, which I came to by way of my cross- cultural
> research not Leontiev or Marx so I thought it was sort of an empirical
> term,
> a kind of substitute for "what people do a lot."  Ditto the idea of
> rejecting the theory/practice opposition; the kind of inquiry I do for a
> living moves constantly back and forth between different settings where
> both
> theoretical framework and the "context of use" are in constant dialogue. I
> often find myself captured by "theoretical thoughts" while in the midst of
> doing stuff like cooking or
> or playing shoots and ladders with kids. Conversely, by ideas of
> thoughts of how to arrange to get activities to work when daylight savings
> time kicks in and the kids have to be home by dark.
> For me, this has a lot to do with the two psychologies issue. But enough
> for
> one post. Learning about theory/practice relations theoretically is really
> interesting in light of my own dust bowl empiricist origins.
> mike
> On Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 7:10 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> > mike cole wrote:
> >
> >> I did not understand the exchange on this issue of practice as the
> >> criterion
> >> of theory. So more on this would be helpful.
> >>
> >>
> > Mike, I did not want to press this issue beyond a certain point, but
> since
> > you ask... It does seem to be splitting hairs to deny that for Marx
> > "practice is the criterion of truth" since Marx says "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, /i.e./,
> the
> > reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking, in practice. The
> > dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated
> from
> > practice is a purely scholastic question." But this is not the same
> thing,
> > and in the context of the other 10 theses can be seen to be making a
> > different point.
> >
> > 1. When examining a claim, we always have to ask what the claim is
> > /against/, what does it negates; that is its context. In 1845, Marx was
> > writing (1) Against Feuerbach's rejection of Hegel, and (2) Against the
> > Young-Hegelians. Without going into what this implies, let us just say
> that
> > it is a totally different context than the pages of MCA in 2010.
> Absolutely
> > no-one amongst the readers of MCA would deny that "the proof of the
> pudding
> > is in the eating," and actually /nor would Feuerbach or Hegel/! Probably
> > only the Catholic Church would deny this aphorism. This raises the
> question
> > of (a) why Marx bothered to say what was obvious, and (b) what it means
> when
> > someone not only says it but repeartedly says it in 2010 to an audience
> of
> > cultural psychologists.
> >
> > In my expereience over 45 years arguing things with fellow-Marxists, I
> find
> > that anyone who insists upon "practice is criterion of truth," this is to
> > belittle philosophy in favour of activism. In the context of science,
> maybe
> > the meaning is a little different. But in politics, it says "Bugger
> theory!
> > This is what happened!" So of course I react against it, even if I don't
> > exactly know why it is being insisted upon in the given case. After
> > "practice is criterion of truth" what will the writer go on to say? I
> don't
> > know, but am concerned. Truth is its own criterion, so why is it being
> > measured against something else?
> >
> > 2. So what is in thesis 2 which is more than "proof of the pudding is in
> > the eating"? Well, Marx explains this in the other theses. For example,
> > contra Feuerbach, it is not enough to show that a religious person is
> > deluded; on the contrary, the society which needs religion must be
> > revolutionised. Not because "the proof of the pudding is in the eating,"
> but
> > rather theory reflects the needs of practice. Tracing the social roots of
> > religious consciousness is of course a complex theoretical task which
> > remains before us today. Christopher Hitchins, the modern-day Feuerbach,
> > might well reflect on this! Theses 1 and 3 for example are directed
> squarely
> > against philosophical materialism, notably taking education as the
> example.
> > The thing is, I think, that for Marx, with his proto-Activity Theory
> > presented in the Theses, the truth is itself /in/ Activity. That is not
> the
> > same as activity /proves/ the truth, as if you can have a theory, and
> then
> > wait to see how things turn out, and be proved wrong or right. Marx
> waited
> > till the Paris Commune before he clarified a number of questions which
> were
> > left open in the Communist Manifesto. Marx did not try to reason this out
> in
> > his head. He did not make a proposal and see if it worked, but rather
> > followed the movement of the working class and tried to give voice to it.
> > The section of "Method of Political Economy" in the /Grundrisse/ most
> > clearly explains this difficult point contra Hegel.
> >
> > 3. BTW, in the tradition of Marxism that I come from,"practice" is used
> > with a dialectical meaning, and I therefore do not use the word "praxis."
> > For me, "practice" in its common-or-garden, non-dialectical meaning, is
> one
> > aspect of activity. Activity is purposive action, or a /unity of theory
> and
> > practice/, which are /inseparable/. To separate them and pose one against
> > the other, externally, confuses the matter. So the concept of "practice"
> as
> > something isolated from "theory" or vice versa - theory as something
> > isolated from practice, is an undialectical concept. This is just to head
> > off misunderstandings involved in making a contrast between "praxis" and
> > "practice" which belong to a different tradition. It is just words and is
> > not the issue here at all in my view.
> >
> > 4. For Marx, then, practice is the /substance/. As he says shortly after,
> > in /German Ideology/, "The premises from which we begin are ... the real
> > individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they
> > live." This is in contrast to other philosophical currents which take as
> > their substances "clear ideas" or "matter" or "the I," or whatever. To
> claim
> > that "practice is the criterion of truth" begs the question of the
> substance
> > of truth itself. Practice is the *substance* of truth, so how can truth
> be
> > tested against a /criterion/ of practice? This implies that something
> else
> > is meant by "practice". [For the concept of "substance" see my book "An
> > Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity" or the /Stanford Encyclopedia of
> > Philosophy/]
> >
> > 5. The whole content of the problem of truth is just what exactly is
> > understood by "practice" and "truth," their content, not whether one is
> the
> > criterion of the other. I suspect when this is done, the real meaning of
> > "practice is criterion of truth" will be shown to be "*experience is the
> > criterion of practice*."
> >
> > 6. A number of Marxists have pointed out that while "practice is
> criterion
> > of truth" has value, practice can never *completely* determine the truth
> of
> > a claim. This relates to the concept of /verifiability/. If you stick
> > dogmatically to the claim that "practice is criterion of truth" then all
> of
> > Marx's life was wasted. Socialism was not achieved and no-one observed
> his
> > "perihelion of mercury." This is a complex question. How do we know
> "truth"?
> > Is it really just a question of the eating? What if by the nature of the
> > question, we don't have the opportunity to taste the pie? And so we have
> the
> > practice, but how do we evaluate the practice, what theory do we use to
> > evaluate practice? It leads to an infinite regress if you separate theory
> > and practice and make one the criterion of the other.
> >
> > 7. A maxim which is worth paying heed to: "/Always observe moderation in
> > philosophy/," especially if you have extreme claims to make of a
> political
> > or practical nature. "Practice is criterion of truth" is OK - /up to a
> > point,/ but when absolutely insisted upon, as a one-sided assertion, it
> > becomes a falsehood. For example, "applied psychology /is/ psychology."
> And
> > what of the work of others, not engaged in what you call "applied
> > psychology"??
> >
> > We listen to what people say (eg right-wing politicians) and we presume
> > that their theory reflects, not so much their future action, but more
> > importantly their /past/ actions. Why? Because theory reflects practice,
> or
> > if you like "theory is the criterion of practice". Isn't that the whole
> > point of /Capital/? A certain way of life manifests in a certain way of
> > thinking and by studying political economy Marx could reveal  the
> practice
> > of bourgeois society. But a right-wing politician can say "people from
> poor
> > families have a lower IQ" and say that "practice is the criterion of
> truth"
> > and do a survey and prove it. So what!
> >
> > 8. True, "some Marxists" say "practice is criterion of truth." But "some
> > Marxists" say all sorts of things, and even then, if not insisted upon or
> if
> > qualified, it is not such a bad thing to say. But Marx did not say it and
> if
> > insisted upon or carried too far, it becomes wrong.
> >
> > 9. Mike: I am not at all sure that the "two psychologies" is the same
> > question. I think that what he meant by that needs separate attention.
> >
> > 10. Apologies to the long post. I always try to avoid typing more than
> one
> > screenful, but Mike insisted upon this point being clarified.
> >
> > 11. Feel free to consult the Encyclopedia of Marxism entry:
> > http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/t/r.htm#truth
> > I will try to write this up a bit better and post it on my home page.
> >
> > Andy
> >
> > __________________________________________
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