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

I appreciate your comments on Levi-Strauss, Greg. I have read him, and with interest, but from your comments I think somewhat superificially! I am sure all those French guys read Marx, but they would not have necessartily wanted to emulate him. Levi-Strauss was at war with the Marxist Sartre at the time he wrote  "The Savage Mind". Vygotsky obviously did want to emaulate Marx. And I doubt Saussure ever red Marx or Hegel, personally. No sign of it.

(So there is a baby on the way at the Thompson household?)

Greg Thompson wrote:
You don't suppose that Saussure or Levi-Strauss read Marx? (not sure about Levy-Bruhl)
or perhaps the problem was that they read Marx wrongly?

Your reading of Vygotsky is many many times deeper than mine and so I trust your intuitions. But making those intuitions clear to others seems to be the problem at hand. I will happily look to your videos for guidance.

Many thanks for them and for your comments!

On Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 11:45 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
Greg, Vygotsky is not French, and in particular not Levi-Strauss or Saussure. His heritage is German: Marx and Hegel, though he never read Hegel, he was educated in an atmosphere saturated with Marx and Hegel. That's how I read him, anyway, right or wrong.

I think a good point to start with is that the distinction between true concepts and complexes is *not* a distinction between two types of concept. When you eventually get to read in T&S about *actual* concepts, you find that *actual* (i.e., not ideal) concepts have two roots and merge two lines of development. An actual concept is itself a process of development, actually, but I am not up on the literature of microgenesis so I can't make those connections for you. *Vyvgotsky does not have a typology of concepts*. You cannot understand a word of what Vygotsky says about concepts (in my opinion) until you accept this fact and read Vygotsky in the light of it. Some people (eg Anna Sfard) use the word "reification" to denote the process of mistaking a process for a thing.
I recommend my two videos on this (Part 2 in particular):



Greg Thompson wrote:

I love your long-ish posts -- we need more of them!

and I followed you until that last part that Vygotsky is not really about dualisms at all. I've got a decent handle on the dualisms being hammered home part, but can you say more about how these are not dualisms (it didn't come til the end of your post - perhaps as with Vygotsky's writings).
I'd love to put Vygotsky in the same camp as Levi-Strauss who insidiously introduces a dualism between engineer and bricoleur with the audience expecting that "modern" will be the engineer and the "primitive" will be the bricoleur. But then he says that both are both.
But more commonly, I tend to see Vygotsky as more kin to Levy-Bruhl and his somewhat more heavy handed distinction between "primitive" thinking and what "we" do. Even if not an alignment of Vygotsky with L-S, I'd love to see you further elaborate the argument that Vygotsky is non-dualist (even if only with respect to "development" and "learning").

Meanwhile, I have some microgenetic developments (i.e. a paper) to worry about and a new ontogenetic development at home to boot!

very best,

On Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Mike, in "Tool and Symbol in Child development," Vygotsky goes on
    at great length and detail in distinguishing between the changes
    in the child's functioning associated with the use of tools (e.g.
    a bicycle) and the use of a sign. (and he includes learning by
    rote under the heading of tool- not symbol-use) I hesitate to try
    to summarise this discussion. But he makes a distinction between
    acquiring the habit of using a tool, and adopting a symbol for use
    in controlling one's own and others' minds. I think this is the
    distinction which is /underlying /his elusive distinction between
    learning and development.

    Vygotsky's "clear-cut dualism" has to be understood in terms of
    its basis and the use he is making of it, i.e., to explain a
    conceptual distinction in understanding tendencies of
    developmental processes. Ultimately, a dichotomy between tool and
    sign, or even between tool-use and symbol-use is unsustainable,
    least of all in our times - one and the same keyboard can be used
    to control a machine or send a message to the operator.
    Controlling one's own body has to be counted as tool-use in some
    circumstances, and symbol-use in others.

    Vygotsky does explicitly recognise that use of a tool modifies the
    mental processes and enlarges the child's sphere of activity, but
    he wants to focus on what he sees as *voluntary* control of the
    child's own behaviour, and he does not see learning to use a tool
    as doing that: you have learnt to ride, but you still need to be
    on a bicycle to do it, I suppose. It is a bit like the distinction
    between a "potential concept" and a "true concept." A potential
    concept can be acquired as a system of actions organised around a
    tool, but it is still only potential. Once the same activity is
    organised even when the tool is not present, but by means of a
    true, semiotic representation of the tool, then you have a "higher
    psychological function."

    I don't think there is any easy way of representing Vygotsky's
    thought here in English and I suspect not in Russian either. He is
    not saying that there are two types of psychological activities,
    higher and lower; there are two types of concept, potential and
    true; there are two types of artefact, semiotic and material, even
    though this is precisely what he says on numerous occasions. He is
    talking about opposite tendencies and sources in *processes*, and
    the language doesn't offer us many means of communicating this
    other than saying "there are two types of ..." And because the
    distinctions he is making are brand new and original, he has to
    really hammer the distinction to the point of a "clear-cut
    dualism" in order to make his point, which is, in my opinion, not
    really about dualisms at all. I think the same goes for learning
    and development.

    That's my take,

    mike cole wrote:

        Hi David-- Thanks for all the re-minding.

        Why does Vygotsky reject bicycle riding (learning a phonetic
        alphabet to
        read for meaning too?) as an example of a developmental
        change? It is a
        qualitative change in the organization of consituent functions, it
        reorganizes not only the system of psychological/psychomotor
        functions, it
        is mediated by culture, it brings about a simultaneous change
        in the
        person's relationship to his/her environment.

        Seems to qualify. What's wrong here?

        On Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 3:16 PM, kellogg
        <kellogg59@hanmail.net <mailto:kellogg59@hanmail.net>> wrote:


            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

            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

            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
            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
            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
            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

            <kellogg59@hanmail.net <mailto:kellogg59@hanmail.net>>

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    --     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    *Andy Blunden*
    Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>

    Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Department of Anthropology
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602

*Andy Blunden*
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Department of Anthropology
Brigham Young University


*Andy Blunden*
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts
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