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Re: [xmca] Thinking about writing
Vera's quote is a metaphor, that is, a kind of an equation: language is bridge, and a bridge that spans two very different valleys (she might also have added that is a bridge thrown over the valley between the living and the dead).
One thing we don't get with a metaphor is an explanation of WHY this is so. Metaphors are not like this: metaphors are God's way of saying (or rather, Man's way of answering) if you gotta ask you ain't never gonna really know.
And that sounds very phenomenological, yes? Well, I have been thinking about phenomenology a lot (partly because, as Larry's longtime instigation, I have finally begun to read Merleau-Ponty and partly because we are translating the first chapter of Vygotsky's "History of the Development of the Higher Psychological Functions" into Korean, and, as Martin has always told me, Vygotsky does turn out to be rather positive about phenomenology, although I think he is positive about it rather perversely, the way he is positive about "formal discipline" and Herbart!)
At the end of Tool and Sign, Vygotsky says that functions like speech, counting, writing, and even DRAWING are really the external lines of development of more obviously "psychological" functions like verbalized memory (vocabulary), logical attention (calculation), selective memory (hierarchization and concept formation).
Of course, it's very tempting, particularly when I am sitting here writing this, to think that the inner somehow causes the outer. I am sitting here thinking stuff, and then I write it down. But as Greg points out that Auden points out, the absolutel reverse is almost equally true: that is, I am sitting here writing stuff and then it leaps off the page and I think it, and that is why I have to use the delete key so often. (I just did again.)
We know that Vygotsky's later argument is that consciousness itself has "semantic" structure. But what the devil does that mean? It seems to me that if it means anything it means that what we find in the mind has a semantic rather than a natual-causal relationship to what we find outside the mind.
In other words, it doesn't "cause" what we find outside the mind and it is not "caused" by it either. Instead, it STANDS for it, the way that language stands for a bridge and a bridge stands for language. It MEANS it, the way that a piece of writing means a thought and vice versa.
It does sound rather speculative and inexplicable, metaphorical and phenomenological, doesn't it?And yet I will swear that my writing has a semantic relationship to my higher psychological functions is quite literally true, as I sit here writing this.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Mon, 1/9/12, Robert Lake <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Robert Lake <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Thinking about writing
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, January 9, 2012, 6:00 AM
Hi Greg, Larry and Andy,
I love the quotes and thoughts that each of have contributed. I
will touch on an aspect that each of you have
addressed.Language is communication; as such it serves as a:
bridge between individuals who wish to overcome divisions born of the
diversity of human experience. It is also a bridge between inner thought
and shared understanding: the past and the present, the world of the senses
and the realm of thought. (John-Steiner, 1985, p. 111)
The act of writing is often motivated by a person's own desire for making
meaning and the discovery of personal voice.
Thinking evolves into communication in the process of writing as it passes
over the bridge of inner thought to shared understanding that John-Steiner
mentions. She goes on to cite the playwright Arthur Miller :
For myself it has never been possible to generate the energy to write and
complete a play if I know in advance everything it signifies and all it
will contain. The very impulse to write, I think, springs from an inner
chaos crying for order, for meaning, and meaning must be discovered in the
process of writing or the work lies dead as it is finished. ( I will refer
you back to the original citation in Miller's work 1960, p. 275)
On Sun, Jan 8, 2012 at 10:57 PM, Greg Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
> Just came across a few quotes that felt very CHAT-y and which I found to be
> very helpful in my own thinking about writing. One of my problems in
> writing (or so I gather) has been my assumption that writing is a process
> of mental transcription - I think about something in my head and then
> figure out what to say and then I write out my thoughts. But smarter minds
> (and better writers!) than I have suggested the opposite insight. Here are
> a couple gems I came across:
> Edward Albee: "I write to find out what I'm thinking about."
> W. H. Auden: "Language is the mother, not the handmaiden, of thought; words
> will tell you things you never thought or felt before."
> Alan Dugan: "When I'm successful, I find the poem will come out saying
> something that I didn't previously know, believe, or had intellectually
> agreed with."
> As a belated New Year wish, I hope that we all are able to write so that we
> might, through our writing, be taught something new and worthwhile (and
> beautiful?) by our words.
> Here's to wishing.
> p.s., I originally heard the Albee quote (ascribed to Auden) in an
> interview with Jonathan Safran Foer (
> http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2012/01/06/foer-loud-close), but he appears to
> have improperly ascribed Albee's quote to Auden, who said something
> similar, but different. Here is the website with lots more wonderful quotes
> from great writers, Enjoy:
> xmca mailing list
*Robert Lake Ed.D.
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-5125
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA 30460
*Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
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