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Re: [xmca] Vygotsky's Sunbeam and Lewin's Overcoat
Yes, at risk of adding more length, I have to apologize for the length of the messages. Unfortunately, it's just not true that MCA belongs to xmca; it's far truer that xmca exists to expiate the sins of MCA editors. :)
Take a look at this, from Tool and Sign:
"Because of this circumstance the possibility arises of combining in a single field of attention a figure of the future situation comprised of elements of the past and present sensory fields. In this way, the field of attention, thus, covers not one perception, but a whole series of potential perceptions, which form a general dynamic successive structure over time. The transition from the simultaneous structure of the visual field to the successive structure of the dynamic field of attention is accomplished as a result of reconstruction, on the basis of the inclusion of speech, of all the basic connections between the separate functions, which participate in the operation: the field of attention is separated from the field of perception and is unfolded over time, including the immediate situation as one of the moments of a dynamic series."
This paragraph is an almost pure example of Vygotsky's Gestalt period: it has "the field", and implicitly the "vector" that Lewin talked about. Now, it's true that there is also some chatter about the importance of speech in transposing a spatial field to a temporal one. But it's basically unconvincing chatter, which is why it goes on and on and on and on.
When Vygotsky and Luria begin to repeat obsessively and overuse words like "indubitable", "undoubted", "utterly obvious", etc, you can tell that there is some nagging problem under it all.
Sure enough, the problem is that this kind of cinematic explosion of the Galton photograph into a moving picture, is no way specifically human: it exists where ever animals observe and adapt to motion. Motion is not conceivable without it.
I think that the inclusion of the FUTURE in the PRESENT (e.g. the use of modals like "wanna" and "gonna" and "will") is less representational, and thus more developmentally urgent, than the inclusion of the PAST in the present (e.g. the past tense and perfective tenses).
That's why future tenses tend to develop before past tenses, whether we are talking about first or second language acquisition. But the future can still be visualized, and in fact we usually do so on the basis of the past (e.g. seeing a toy car enter a tunnel and expecting it to emerge from the other side).
But I don't think that's why Vygotsky changed his mind about the role of speech in creating a field of action. I think that the whole system of genetic laws of "Outside In" and "Two Before One" (that is, the external, objective relation before the internal, subjective one, and the intermental before the intramental) doesn't work if you imagine that speech does nothing more than transfer an intra-mental spatially distributed perception into another intra-mental temporally distributed one.
It only works if we understand the sign as something qualitatively different from Galton's photographs and Lewin's movie footage: something that exists for two before it exists for one. But if the sign exists for the other BEFORE it exists for me, then its origins can hardly lie in my perceptions.
That's why Vygotsky says that the leap from the perceptual to the nonperceptual is quite literally a salto mortale (or rather a salto vitale); it is every bit as large as the leap from nonliving to living matter.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Sat, 6/25/11, Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Martin Packer <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky's Sunbeam and Lewin's Overcoat
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Saturday, June 25, 2011, 5:05 PM
Very interesting, David! For once, I wanted your message to be longer! :)
So would you say that LSV of 1930 considered speech to merely *extend* perception (into future and past), while LSV of 1934 considered speech to *transform* perception? When a word names an object, the child learns what that object is *for others* (for the general other, one could add; he writes after all of this as a process of 'generalization'). The toddler's world shifts from one of affordances to one of stable objects - those that are recognized in his/her culture.
On Jun 25, 2011, at 5:11 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
> Our discussion of Professor Chaiklin’s article has (correctly) focused on action research, where Vygotsky and Lewin can be seen as two independent variants of a common theme, that is, the non-separation of social research from psychological research, and of both from transformative action.
> Before we take up another article, though, I’d like to consider some striking differences, not only between Lewin and Vygotsky but between Luria and Vygotsky circa 1930-1931 on the one hand and Vygotsky circa 1933-34 (during his period of direct contact with Lewin) on the other.
> In “Tool and Sign in Child Development”, Vygotsky and Luria borrow a number of tools from Gestaltism and Kurt Lewin: the idea of “vectors” in a field, for example, and the idea that speech simply extends the child’s perceptual field to the future (planning) and to the past (memory). The picture of development that appears is really a structural picture: the tool and the sign enter into a new structure, which is well described by “mediation” and the strong analogy between tools and signs (i.e. that they are both variations on the idea of mediated action).
> But in Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech Vygotsky subjects Gestaltism to rather savage criticism. In particular, the idea that speech simply has the structure of “problemàsolution” or “stickàbanana” is taken to task. In Part One, Vygotsky says that this is essentially no different from the old associative relationship between a man and his coat.
> Of course, it is true that when the sun shines I can take off my coat, and when the wind blows I cling to it harder, as the man in Aesop’s fable. But whether the sun shines or the wind blows, the coat does not grow into my flesh, nor does my epidermis begin to form seams, buttons, and zippers. They form a structure; they do not fundamentally transform each other.
> Vygotsky wittily points out that this is, in the end, the old associationist psychology in another guise (which is why he ends Section One with a world-weary reference from Heine, who is commenting on how similar the new Bonapartist regime in France is to the old one). But he also objects that this view cannot account for the clear distinction between higher and lower psychological functions (for Gestaltists, and especially for Lewin, figure-ground perception is the model for mental functions in general).
> The Lewin view (which is still that of Vygotsky and Luria in 1930) doesn’t give us a very clear mechanism for the operation of the genetic law. Somehow artifacts “bring” culture from the social environment into the mind. They are not neutral stimuli but culturally marked in some way. In what way?
> Signs are not like tools. They stand for something else TO SOMEONE ELSE. That is, they always imply a second person and another consciousness in a way that tools do not. We can say of signs (but not of tools) that what is impossible for one is inevitable for two. We can say of signs (but not of tools) that they are initially “external” to consciousness but that they become “interiorized”, and in so doing they change their own structure and the structure of consciousness itself. The ability to say these two things seems essential to the operation of the four “genetic laws” in Mescheryakov 2006 (which, Spinozan that I am, I cannot help but think of as one basic principle, namely “Outside In” or perhaps “Two Before One”)
> In Tchaikovsky’s opera “Iolantha”, based on Henrik Herz’s play “King Rene’s Daughter”, a Moorish doctor called Ibn Hakia acts as a mediator between the philosophical dualism of the King and the monism of the author. Although a Muslim, he has clearly read Maimonides and Spinoza.
> “Two worlds, mind-made and ;made of flesh
> Make up God’s realm. In us, His will
> Made them inseparable friends. And so
> Before light can flood our mortal eyes
> We must feel the concept of vision
> Within our minds.”
> When Iolantha’s sight is at last restored she thanks God in terms that Vygotsky clearly took up in the closing moments of Chapter Seven:
> Even in your smallest creatures
> The light shines like sunlight in a drop of water. :
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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