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RE: Re: Re: [xmca] Help? - Microgenesis, Microgenetic, Microgeny?



The funny thing is that in Korean there is an identical _expression_: "halka malka". And in Chinese the yes/no question is essentially nothing but an elaboration of "willy-nilly".


It's hard to imagine that there is NOTHING at the basis of the legal-juridical model of human action except contractualism, just as it's hard to imagine that Saussurean linguistics is ONLY based on an infinite number of curiously non-negotiable agreements about word meanings.


It seems to me that there's just a kernel of truth here. In order to engage in any semiotic behavior at all, you have to recognize that something is a sign. And in order to recognize that something is a sign, you have to recognize that it was intended to stand for something else. And in order to recognize that sometime was intended to stand for something else, you have to recognize that there is intelligent life out there after all.


I guess if I were looking for a single "a-ha!" moment, a moment where one can point to a hair and see a beard, that would be it!




"Riding a bicycle" is a perfect example of where our bicycle built for two meets a fork in the road.


Bike riding is actually one of the activities that Vygotsky explicitly rules out as instances of development (along with typing and playing golf). It is an instance of learning, but not development. So I thought we ought to reserve the term "microgenesis" for only those types of learning which in a given social context (that of education) can be linked to the ontogenesis of mind. And that meant, after the age of one, those types of learning that are centrally about language.


Unfortunately, I think that unreadable book review by me in MCA is the only written record of our conversation on whether microgenesis was a kind of learning or learning a kind of microgenesis. It was mostly over the telephone. I had just discovered Mescheryakov's brilliant article on Vygotskyan terminology (in the Cambridge Companion) and I was looking, in my usual little-boy-with-a-toy-hammer mode, for ways to over-extend it:


1) Natural functions are acquired before cultural ones, but within cultural functions...

2) Social functions are acquired before individual ones, but within individual functions...

3) Extramental functions are acquired before intra-mental functions, but within intra-mental functions..

4) Spontaneous, everyday functions are acquired before nonspontaneous, academic ones


I thought all of these could be seen as instances of a very general principle "Outside-in!" so long as we accept "outside" as referring to the environmental and "inside" as referring to the semiotic. It could then be differentiated according to:


1) The phylogenetic zone of proximal devleopment (caves before houses, hair before clothes)

2) The sociogenetic zone of proximal development (discourse before grammar, speech before verbal thinking)

3) The ontogenetic zone of proximal development (egocentric speech beore inner, finger counting before mental math)

4) The microgenetic zone of proximal development (in English--Germanic vocabulary before Latinate and Greek, in Korean, pure Korean words before those of Chinese origin)


You pointed out to me that this assumed that microgenesis was a rather special kind of microgenesis--the kind that linked learning to ontogenetic development. And you said, correctly, that this was not the way the term is normally used. You then recommended that I review this book, and I did. I also wrote an article on the subject (which was indignantly rejected by MCA but eventually published by the Modern Language Journal).




The problem with the microgenesis book I reviewed was that I didn't really find the discussions of exactly when a person could be said to have perceived a dot as a man very enlightening, and I found that some of the studies in the book were of activities that were clearly not linked to mental development in any way (e.g. murder and suicide).


Of course, people do tend to prefer their own inventions, and I found myself sticking to my own understanding of microgenesis, that is, that microgenesis should really be reserved for the kind of learning that leads to ontogenesis, just as iin Vygotsky the ontogenesis of mind is really reserved for the kind of growth that culminates in sociogenesis or socio-re-genesis rather than simply growth in general (and, of course, sociogenesis should be reserved for forms of culture which increase man's mastery of his environment as well as of that part of the environment which is his own behavior).


Now, I know that this is the kind of selective and directed developmental view which many people on the list reject. I have been thinking a bit about why this is so, since it seems to be at the bottom of my inability to integrate my own thinking with that of people to whom I otherwise feel a very strong intellectual affinity (e.g. you and Martin). It seems to me that, since the 2008 collapse in particular, there has been a strong tendency amongst Western intellectuals to REVERSE the millenium old assumption that we had about nature and nurture, according to which if something is natural there is nothing to be done, but if something is "socially constructed" then it can be easily deconstructed and re-constructed. Since 2008, we have had almost the reverse prejudice: if something is natural, it may easily be altered; our tragedy is that we cannot seem to change our own behavior.


Needless to say, there is a great deal of truth in this insight; I think it is one of the great insights of our time. The problem is that I seem to be stuck in an earlier time, when the semiotic behavior of Chinese people was very  far in advance of their ability to control the environment, and mass literacy simply meant that large quantities of materials which might otherwise have been usefully employed as toilet paper, could now only be read, simply because in order to shit you have to be able to eat.


(My mother-in-law, who survived the famine, still thinks of food as the only real private property, and then only when it has actually been eaten.)


David Kellogg

Hankuk University of Foreign Studies



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