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Re: [xmca] concepts
- Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
- From: Andy Blunden <email@example.com>
- Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 15:47:07 +1000
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I'd like to mount a defence of continuing to use "concept" in my work,
for its own value, rather than to maintain links with people still
trapped in the use of "old language." Following Steve, I will include
lots of quotes from LSV because I think people like to have original
quotes to refer to, even when the interlocurtor is talking nonsense, as
may be the case here.
Part of my motivation is expressed well by Marx when he said:
"One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to
descend from the world of thought to the actual world. /Language /is
the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given
thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make
language into an independent realm" (German Ideology, ch 3).
I can see the problem linguists have in incorporating "concepts" into
their system of concepts (or "into their language"), because as I see
it, "concept" is not a concept of linguistics, but rather is a unit of
an entire social formation. As such, they are acquired by thinking and
expressed in language, but fundamentally, "concept" is a concept which
belongs to the unity of thinking and activity, not linguistics.
When Jay gave us (on my request) a Linguistics 101 list of the
"concepts" of linguistics, he explained that each of the distinctions
reflected the resolution of disputes which had arisen in the past within
the formation. Of course. Which nicely illustrates what Vygotsky calls a
concept (in its true rather than embryonic sense).
"Concepts are always formed during a process of finding a solution
to some problem facing the adolescent’s thinking process. The
creation of the concept is dependent on a solution to this problem
being found" (Vygotsky Reader p. 257-8).
"The concept is formed only with the emergence of a need that can be
satisfied in the concept, only in the process of some meaningful
goal-oriented activity directed on the attainment of a particular
goal or the resolution of a definite task" (Vol. 1, p 127).
"The /functional conditions of the concept’s origins /are ... in
connection with a particular task or need that arises in thinking,
in connection with understanding or communication and with the
fulfillment of a task or instruction that cannot be carried out
without the formation of the concept" (Vol. 1, p. 123).
"the concept exists only within a general structure of judgments,
that it exists only as an inseparable part of that structure" (Vol.
1, p. 164).
Thinking and speech do not coincide and nor do language-use and activity.
“The word is comparable to the living cell in that it is a unit of
sound and meaning that contains – in simple form – all the
characteristics of the integral development of verbal thinking” (T&S 1)
“The units of thought and speech do not coincide. The two processes
manifest a unity but not an identity. ... thought does not
immediately coincide with verbal expression ...What is contained
simultaneously in thought unfolds sequentially in speech ...
Therefore, thought is never the direct equivalent of word meanings”
"all the higher mental functions are mediated processes. A central
and basic aspect of their structure is the use of the sign as a
means of directing and mastering mental processes. In the problem of
interest to us, the problem of concept formation, this sign is the
word. The word functions as the means for the formation of the
concept. Later, it becomes its symbol. (Vol, 1, Ch 5)
So, while I can see that it is not possible to transform "concept" into
the language of linguistics, "concept" is one of the things that people
talk about and orient their activity towards, and therefore concepts
make their appearance in language. I think it is in the dissonant unity
of words and other symbols and artefacts, activity, including speech-use
and thinking, that concept exist.
What do you think?
Jay Lemke wrote:
I agree that there is both a rhetorical-political dimension to the issue of "concepts" and a theoretical one. If you're talking to people who don't have any other way to make sense of some things except with a notion of "concepts", then you have to create some hybrid third-space or translation bridge or common pool in which to swim communicatively. ...
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