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Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
Thanks for this work in progress.
As I was reading or conversing with your work in progress further
questions came to mind. They are not specific to understanding Vygotsky so
may be more appropriate as another thread.
The central premise seems to be *higher* functions refers to *reflective*
functions or the ability to become aware OF processes which were
previously automatic or habitual forms of consciousness [implicit
consciousness] This movement FROM consciousness TO awareness is labelled
*higher* because it is transformative and becomes reflective conscious
awareness. Therefore *conscious awareness* and *higher* psychological
functions are pointing to the same human potential.
If I've read this notion of hierarchical development acurately then
conscious awareness [as transformation of consciousness that becomes
explicit] is the central guiding metaphor of *higher* What was automatic
[habitual conduct in Dewey's language] develops to come under the control
and deliberation of the person as awareness.
You point out one explanation of HOW this transformation may happen as a
more *general way* of understanding this development. This hierarchical
movement [consciousness that transforms into volitional awareness] is
presumably true at any age, and reflects the developmental movement of any
psychological function. THIS *general* explanation perhaps "applies to
forms of mastery in prior stages".
Martin, you suggest Vygotsky explores the second more specific *way* this
transformation from consciousness TO awareness happens is through
developing scientific concepts.
Is THIS hierarchical movement of developing scientific concepts as
conscious awareness a universal human potential or is this form of
conscious awareness a historically and culturally situated phenomena?
If awareness is a reflective phenomena of making what was implicit more
explicit and more volitional [and therefore higher] is there a
universal human potential to *see through* or *unveil* [NOT reveal] the
implicit historical formation of earlier forms of consciousness, including
scientific consciousness? In other words, is this hierarchical process of
implicit consciousness moving *higher* [transforming to reflective
awareness] pointing to particular historically formed kinds of
Or is this movement a *general* universal human movement higher [as
a continuous emergence openning to further awareness? A "deeper"
understanding of the continually emerging hermeneutical movement of
consciousness, which can be labelled, using a geographical metaphor, as
*higher* psychological functions?
Martin, I'm not sure if this is going too far afield and should be a new
thread, but as I read your *general way* of understanding consciousness
becoming awareness, I was wondering if scientific concepts as our current
taken for granted form of consciousness as a form of knowing will be
transformed through continuing reflective awareness and scientific
concepts will be transformed into newer "HIGHER" forms of awareness which
*sees through* [becomes aware of] scientific consciousness? This is the
horizontal hermeneutical axis of temporality interweaving with the vertical
axis of hierarchical reflectivity as emerging awareness.
On Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 11:14 AM, Martin Packer <email@example.com> wrote:
> Lots of interesting messages to respond to, and too many things to try to
> keep in mind at once! Meanwhile, I've been trying to get clearer on the
> argument by which LSV linked scientific concepts to the higher
> psychological functions, by digging back into Pedology of the Adolescent
> and Chapter 6 of T&L. I'm going to post a short summary here - it's a work
> in progress; there are points I still don't understand, and surely things
> I've got wrong. So I'm tossing it into the cloud for collective improvement!
> Recall that the higher psychological functions are characterized by
> deliberate control and conscious awareness. The central issue in Chap 6 is
> how conscious awareness arises in the school-aged child. Scientific
> concepts are the culmination of a sequence of heaps, complexes,
> First, LSV draws a distinction between 'consciousness' and 'awareness.'
> Consciousness "always presents a piece of reality." Awareness is
> consciousness applied to itself; awareness is an act consciousness for
> which the object is that activity of consciousness itself.
> The child arrives at school with a bunch of "everyday concepts" (EC), and
> an awareness of their own psychological functions of perception (the
> dominant function in toddlerhood) and of memory (the dominant function in
> early childhood, i.e. preschoolers), as a consequence of a new
> differentiation between inner and outer, visual and ideal, fields. Thinking
> amounts to remembering past experience.
> While in school, however, the child will be actively taught scientific
> concepts (SC).
> Now, the *generalizing* kind of consciousness that words make possible is
> consciousness that grasps its object through some kind of concept (I say
> 'some kind' because this includes complexes, heaps, pseudoconcepts as well
> as scientific concepts).
> From the assertion that generalizing consciousness grasps its object by
> means of a concept it follows that to become conscious of a concept in a
> way that generalizes it requires grasping it through another concept. And
> this is why SC can be conscious: because they form a system, a hierarchy of
> generalization, so that for each concept a higher concept is available by
> means of which it can be grasped.
> EC, on the other hand, are non-conscious because there is, so to speak, no
> way of getting above them. They have no system; no hierarchy.
> In and by learning SC, then, the school child becomes conscious of
> concepts, and aware of the function of thinking with concepts. Awareness
> "enters through the gate of SC." This consciousness and awareness then
> expand to EC as well.
> Furthermore, the teaching of reading, writing, and the other disciplines,
> requires an awareness of psychological activities that were non-conscious
> in speaking and listening. Learning to read and write *fosters* this
> awareness, in the "knot" of learning and development. The child's
> capacities "pass from a non-conscious automatic plane to one which is
> voluntary, intentional and conscious."
> Overall, "the fundamental neoformations of the school age [are] the
> seizure of conscious awareness and mastery." Because one awareness of
> concepts is achieved, their volitional control will follow.
> How does this happen? We seem to get two explanations for the price of
> one. The first is that to be conscious of something in a generalizing way
> is to acquire new potentials, new possibilities, for acting with respect to
> it. (LSV cites De Groot on chess players.) This kind of generalizing
> consciousness of an activity makes possible the mastery of that activity.
> This is presumably true at any age, of any psychological function. So
> perhaps this explanation applies to forms of mastery in prior stages.
> The other explanation is specific to scientific conceptual thinking. It is
> that SC grasp the *necessary* connections among entities in the world.
> Thinking in true concepts “penetrates into the internal essence” of
> phenomena, disclosing their “connections and relations” and their
> “movement” and “development.” SC do this because they themselves form an
> interconnected system. Once again LSV quotes Engels quoting Hegel: the
> grasp of necessity is what leads to freedom, because once we grasp the laws
> of nature (including those of psychology) we can turn them around to master
> nature (including the mind). The adolescent now uses language (in a way
> that is not spelled out as far as I can find) to master the other
> psychological functions.
> Once scientific concepts are in place, at the start of adolescence, the
> other psychological functions can now be reorganized again. Both the form
> and the content of thinking have been transformed. In adolescence, thinking
> now "comes to the fore" as the principal line of development, and the other
> functions “are intellectualized, reformed, and reconstructed.”
> To pick just one example, perception is again transformed. In adolescence,
> perception is organized by the synthesis of the concrete and the general
> that conceptual thinking provides. The adolescent sees with “an ordered,
> categorical perception.” "The adolescent is not only conscious of and
> comprehends the reality that he perceives, but also comprehends it in
> concepts, that is, in the act of visual perception, abstract and concrete
> thinking are completely synthesized.”
> Adolescence is a step closer to the summit of LSV’s account of
> development: the human being who was 'in itself' now becomes 'for itself,'
> and in doing so becomes logical, deliberate, and free. There is a new level
> of self- awareness: “the adolescent is differentiated internally into the
> acting ‘I’ and into another ‘I’ - the reflecting ‘I.’”
> On Jun 28, 2012, at 11:45 AM, Peter Feigenbaum wrote:
> > The relevance of this seeming digression has to do with Vygotsky's use
> of *scientific* concepts as evidence
> > that children have developed dialectical, rational thinking. In so
> doing, he also links rational thinking to
> > *schooling*, leading us to jump to the conclusion that *true* concepts
> are the product of education. While I
> > cannot cite any evidence (yet), I see no reason to believe that
> typically developing children have ever required
> > overt instruction in learning to think *dialogically*. Dialogical
> thinking develops in private speech as a result
> > of a child's own activity, not through explicit training or
> instruction--unlike scientific concepts.
> > If the developmental process of learning to master the activity of
> speaking and thinking occurs without instruction,
> > then primitive peoples should be able to think dialogically, although
> they may be unable to think *scientifically*.
> > This distinction might well be crucial to understanding the reasoning
> abilities of uneducated people.
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