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Re: [xmca] Educational neuroscience

Thank you for this, Lubomir.

Are you able to identify (key?) papers that articulate the unit of analysis
as a cornerstone of research, please?

As I understand it, research employing the functional systems view can be
carried out quite independently of these appreciations, but it may benefit
from them.

On 30 July 2013 15:24, Lubomir Savov Popov <lspopov@bgsu.edu> wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
> Just a few clarifications about dialectical and historical materialism
> (diamat and [h]istmat). Dialectical materialism is about the study of
> natural world phenomena, while historical materialism is about social
> phenomena. There is not even a slightest hint in diamat that it studies
> things the way they should be. It is about the things the way they are.  If
> we search for a discipline that studies the dynamics of producing human
> artifacts, this is design theory. In some way, we can claim that historical
> materialism also studies the dynamics of producing human artifacts,
> although at a macro level, and at a very high level of abstraction. If we
> assume that social phenomena are artifacts, then we can claim that istmat
> is studying the dynamics of producing human artifacts. However, istmat has
> a very clear position about the dialectics of the natural foundations of
> the social processes and the human role (design, production of artifacts)
> in modifying the natural influences in these processes. The presumption is
> that social processes can also be treated as natural in the sense that to
> some degree they are beyond the influence by the will and the intent of the
> humans. There are a lot of publications about this dialectic.
> The concept of unit of analysis, although phrased differently in dia/hist
> mat, is a cornerstone of the research methodologies guided by this
> philosophy.
> Another important thing is that the way Marxist philosophy is discussed
> right now on this list, it evidently refers to the East European version --
> dia/ist mat. We can even call it a Russian version because it was developed
> by the Russian social democrats before being institutionalized by the
> Bolsheviks as a Party ideology and as a state "religion." The West European
> versions of Marx' philosophy is developed very differently and its most
> important and well-known representatives are very different from the
> Russian school. I hope no one will try to find similarities between Walter
> Benjamin and any of the representatives of the Russian school, except at a
> very high level of abstraction. Actually, the West European Marxists were
> taboo in Soviet Union and some of the satellite states until the early
> 1980. Only then the Soviets started more often to translate Strauss,
> Benjamin, and Lukacs. Before that time, there were occasional translations
> in very low volumes, only for information of the higher echelon of
> philosophers.
> Best wishes,
> Lubomir
> Lubomir Popov, Ph.D.
> School of Family and Consumer Sciences
> American Culture Studies Affiliated Faculty
> Bowling Green State University
> 309 Johnston Hall,
> Bowling Green, Ohio 43403-0059
> Lspopov@bgsu.edu
> 419.372.7835
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Andy Blunden
> Sent: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 9:42 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Educational neuroscience
> You cover such ground, Huw, and so many points of controversy, I cannot do
> justice in a brief reply. Let me make just a couple of points.
> As a Marxist of 46 years' standing, so far as I know, it is only the
> current of thinking initiated by Vygotsky where "unit of analysis" is
> explicitly recognised in its central role. This is despite the fact that
> Marx used the concept in formulating "Capital" and learnt it from Hegel and
> Goethe. In Hegel it was alas too mystified to be widely understood and was
> never explicitly elaborated by Marx. There are just some suggestive
> passages here and there.
> But, restricting ourselves to Marxism as known to Vygotsky, Ilyenkov,
> Davydov & Co., I don't believe the distinction you propose stands. It is
> true that the subject matter of Marxist study is human activity and
> activity constitutes the *substance* of Marx's philosophy, insofar as he
> did elaborate a "philosophy." Natural science is based on the assumption
> that the object of study exists independently of human activity but can be
> known through human activity. But I don't see that the idea of "unit of
> analysis" as a really-existing concept of the whole is something special to
> either human science or natural science. As a Marxist would understand it,
> it must always be a simple (abstract) concept. The idea did originate with
> Goethe after all, who saw it as part of the natural sciences.
> As to Model. You are correct. I did not attempt in that post to deal with
> every issue. I am not quite sure about this concept. I think it is closer
> to the System Concept than Unit of Analysis. A model sets out the chief
> elements of the process and their forms of action and interaction, with the
> aim of approximating the system's behaviour. It could be an analogue. I am
> not sure, but perhaps "Model" is just not such a well-defined concept, and
> it simply lacks the sharp definition which we have of "system concept" and
> "unit of analysis"? But model does aim to describe the whole system and
> open it to analysis. It is not the idea of "model" that the Gestalt is a
> mass of realisations of the model, so far as I know.
> When we are dealing with human life, there are always at least two levels
> of analysis, a molecular and a molar level. Analytical science does have
> difficulty, in my experience, with the idea of a molar unit (i.e. an
> activity), and yet one can never make sense of an action without knowing
> the activity which is serves. It is interesting your observation about "two
> systems of thought", psychological system and (?) concept or ideal. I am
> sure that human life could never be grasped without such competing
> concepts. All these ideas have their origin in Vygotsky and his
> collaborators, but he just did not live long enough to see them fully
> developed.
> Only touched on what you have said, Huw.
> Andy
> Huw Lloyd wrote:
> >
> >
> > Andy,
> >
> > As far as I am aware, the Marxian dialectical materialism addresses
> > dynamics of producing human artifacts and is not concerned with
> > natural phenomena as an object of study.
> >
> > You mentioned Model but did not figure this into your formulation.
> > The model seems necessary to distinguish the study of natural
> > phenomena (but we can, ofcourse model artificial phenomena too).  The
> > model is such an artifact which is "created" in the process of
> > studying the natural phenomena.
> >
> > A Marxian unit of analysis is required to be reducible to a single
> > basis (Marx, Davydov).  But there is no such requirement for natural
> > phenomena to reduce to a single basis, although I believe attempts
> > have been made to formulate this (e.g. negentropy).
> >
> > From the position of the natural scientists (with their models and
> > experiments) there is no such deep need to identify the unit of
> > analysis in Marxian terms.  Rather, the natural scientist's "unit of
> > analysis" contributes toward the genetic understanding of the origins
> > of the natural phenomena studies, which is achieved through an
> > appreciation of the unfolding, interacting, systemic relations of
> > natural phenomena.  The "unit" under these circumstances is the system
> > of interest (system to the un-initiated is not easily defined).  But
> > it is also appreciated that a system is not isolated from all other
> > natural phenomena (which is in basic agreement with the materialist
> > conception of mind).
> >
> > This leaves us in the interesting position of having two complementary
> > systems of thought applicable to two related phenomena.
> >
> > 1. The image-ideal elaborated upon by Ilyenkov, Davydov etc, which
> > traces the genesis of the (artificial) concept.
> >
> > 2. The psychological system elaborated by Vygotsky, Luria etc, which
> > traces the changing (genesis) functional relations of the system in
> > support of these artificial concepts.
> >
> > The interaction of these two systems of thought yields further
> > considerations such as:
> >
> > 1. The tentative demarcation of a functional system of interest on the
> > basis of a dialectical-materialist unit of analysis (e.g. those
> > changing systems at play in "thought and speech") and the system of
> > activity that the subject participates in.
> >
> > 2. The genesis (of the concept?) of the model and its social influence
> > etc, which includes the history of the concept of system.
> >
> > With respect to your comment "The unit of analysis suggests the
> > method", I would say, rather, that the awareness of the holistic
> > nature of the activity system and the conceived of sub-systems
> > necessary participation in this configuration affords the method. Or,
> > the problem of modelling this psychological behaviour is facillitated
> > by the appreciation of object-oriented activity as a holistic system.
> >
> > I have not had much time to disconfirm the points I have inferred
> > (e.g. I have some Davydov & Ilyenkov, but not much Marx and less
> > Hegel), but have yet to find anything that contradicts this.
> >
> > I look forward to your comments!
> >
> > Huw
> >
> > On 30 July 2013 04:42, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
> > <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
> >
> >     So we have 4 distinct but interrelated concepts: system, model,
> >     unit of analysis and method.
> >     I will try to formulate a view on unit of analysis and method.
> >     The idea of "artefact-mediated (collaborative) action" as a unit
> >     of analysis (a generalisation of "word meaning") is the basis for
> >     the "method of dual stimulation," as I see it.
> >     Once you have a concept of that S - X - R triangle, as the unit of
> >     action, then it suggests a method of investigation based on
> >     offering the auxilliary stimulus, the artifact X, to the subject,
> >     S, to assist them to complete the task, R. By varying teh artefact
> >     X and the task R, investigation of S is possible.
> >
> >     Likewise, let us suppose that you see the mind as a psychological
> >     system made up of functional subsystems each of which are
> >     interconnected, irrespective of whether the subsystem in question
> >     itself produces observable phenomena. This could be represented in
> >     a diagram, too, something like S -> Ssys1 ---> Ssys2 -> R, meaning
> >     that every subsystem (Ssys1) is connected with every other
> >     (Ssys2), and disturbance of Ssys1 will cause a disturbance to
> >     Ssys2, which may be manifeted in an observable response, R.
> >     So the implication of this is that the "unit of analysis" of an
> >     entire psychological system is two functional subsystems with an
> >     interconnection.  Ssys1 --- Ssys2.
> >     This is not trivial, because much of Ssys1 will not be observable,
> >     and this unit of analysis allows the investigator to study Ssys1
> >     by means of the observable responses via Ssys2.
> >
> >     The unit of analysis suggests the method.
> >
> >     Andy
> >