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[Xmca-l] Re: LSV on language as a model of development



I wish to follow up on Michael's interesting (and I believe, correct) comment that experience is "always coming from somewhere and always going somewhere". Michael seems to suggest that turning that into a "unit" may be problematic, but I think that precisely what Dewey offers, and which might be interesting connecting to Vygotskyan notions, is a way of thinking/theorizing of activity as a becoming, as going through, which perhaps is an aspect not so evident in other articulations of activity theory that have followed. With regard to the note that Dewey "regretted" using experience, I'd like to quote Dewey & Bentley (1949):

"Experience: This word has two radically opposed uses in current discussion. These overlap and shift so as to cause continual confusion and unintentional misrepresentation. One stands for short extensive-durational process, an extreme form of which is identification of an isolated sensory event or “sensation” as an ultimate unit of inquiry. The other covers the entire spatially extensive, temporally durational application; and here it is a counterpart for the word “cosmos.” The word “experience” should be dropped entirely from discussion unless held strictly to a single definite use: that, namely, of calling attention to the fact that Existence has organism and environment as its aspects, and can not be identified with either as an independent isolate"
 
In the quote, the temporal/spatial extension of experience is clearly that which makes a difference between experience in the empiricist tradition (first sense in the quote), and experience as "transaction", which is "counterpart for the word "cosmos". I think there is here both a possibility of talking both of unit, and of unity: experience "has organism and evironment as its aspects." To agree with you that taking experience as a unit would be taking out of the analysis the context would be to assume experience from the first sense in Dewey & Bentley's quote, that is, the empiricist sense. If, on the contrary, one takes the general conception of experience to be what the authors articulate at the end of the quote, I think that a unit of analysis should retain precisely those temporal and social dimensions that Dewey articulates in several of his works.

I find very interesting the examples of doing crossword puzzles, and your following thoughts on testing, and I think they capture a lot of what I read Dewey aims to point at.

Alfredo
________________________________________
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu>
Sent: 04 July 2014 16:45
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture,  Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: LSV on language as a model of development

I thought I might make a few comments on experience both because it seems to be Dewey's most important concept and because figuring it out really helps a great deal in understanding Dewey (I admit I am still in the process but have been going deeply into it the last year reading Experience and Nature with a student which I think has his best - I don't want to say description or definition because Dewey didn't do that - we have to deal with this - I would say the laying out of not what experience is but what is means in our day to day life.

First I would say that maybe that Art as Experience is not the best place to go for a comprehensive understanding of Dewey's experience.  As said in the piece Andy sent along it was written in the later stages of Dewey's life (I don't much like the term late Dewey because that suggests his thinking development was linear which I'm not sure it was).  It was also in response to an argument he was having with Stephen Pepper (or so I am led to believe) about a Pragmatists view of art.  Pepper makes the argument that beauty in art is contextual while Dewey really wants to say that there is such a thing as beauty in art.  It's probably a really complicated argument that I don't have the ability to discuss with any intelligence - but Pepper and other Pragmatists of the time I guess were arguing that Dewey's view of art may have been a step away from Pragmatism - so his use of experience may not completely represent his overall thinking about experience.

The second thing about experience is something I noticed recently.  I a class we had been discussing how precise Dewey so often way in the way he wrote things (this is why you can't read him once) and a student asked why he called one of his great books Democracy and Education instead of Education and Democracy (which is seems would have made more sense).  We spent three hours discussing this, but it made me think of the way Dewey used Experience in his titles.  When the conjunction (is that right?) is and, Experience always comes first.  Experience and Nature, Experience and Understanding.  I am not sure about this, and if anybody has something different please let me know.  The book under discussion is Art AS Experience, which I think is very different.  But to the point I think this suggests that experience is very much the original sin of the human condition.  I wonder if it can be related to the way Vygotsky sees the Word as the original sin of the human condition.  Experience is always where we start and where we end, if vital experience always coming from somewhere and always going somewhere.  I am not quite sure how this would fit with the concept of unit.  As a matter of fact if you define it as a unit for analysis you are taking it out of its context and making it separate from its role in ongoing human action, which at least in Experience and Nature is an idea he absolutely hates (thinks it smacks of intellectual elitism).

Again, where he is talking about true experience or vital experience he is talking about a sequence of events leading to a proximal goal.  What is important (and it has taken me a long time to get this, and perhaps I have it wrong but I'm becoming more confident) is the sequence and finding satisfaction in the sequence rather than the actual goal.  The reason turning away from a plow is not vital experience is not because they have given up on the goal per se, but in the fact that they do not see the joy in the sequence of actions moving towards the goal so the activity itself become unimportant to them.  My favorite example right now is people who love crossword puzzles.  My dad used to love crossword puzzles.  I would pick them up because people seemed to enjoy them so much.  I would then be focused on getting the answers asking different people questions, or copying from my dad.  I would finish the puzzles but there was no joy in it.  I soon started putting down crosswords a few minutes after I picked them up.  I knew how to get the answer but there was no vision, let alone satisfaction of the sequence leading to achieving the goal.  The goal was meaningless.  Experience then, at least the best of experience is in the goal.  I sometimes think about what this means with testing these days.  The goal is to get children to do well on tests.  The sequence of learning is treated as unimportant.  After the test the students will never go back to learning.

Anyway my thinking right now on experience (and remember late in life Dewey regretted using that word.  But if he used a new word like transactional nobody would know what he meant.  Damned if you do and damned if you don't).

Michael
________________________________________
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] on behalf of Andy Blunden [ablunden@mira.net]
Sent: Friday, July 04, 2014 8:22 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: LSV on language as a model of development

Thank you, Alfredo, I think you have made a lot of progress in
clarifying these problems and these formulations I do find much more
satisfactory. Thank you, because in taking my apparently petty and
nit-picking criticism seriously, some real steps towards clarity have
been made. But there is still some more to do. :)

Here's Dewey's "Having An Experience" by the way:
http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/an-experience.htm

A unit is always *also a unity*. "An experience" is a unity in the sense
which Dewey so graphically describes, in that it marks itself off from
the general background of experience and has an inherent completeness
about it: "complete in itself, standing out because marked out from what
went before and what came after."

And it is invariably is also a unity of disparate elements, such as
sound and meaning, recognition and self-consciousness, doing and
suffering,defect andf compensation, use and exchange-value, etc..
Generally, I think people recognise this aspect of units. What is I
think widely not understood is the relation of the unit to the whole
process.

Unit is always a relative term, i.e., it is a unit of some complex
process whose analysis is at issue: the process at issue is seen to be
made up of a large number of said units. Your claim is that an
experience is "a unit of analysis for the relation between doing and
undergoing." But I find this "relation between doing and undergoing" an
entirely unclear concept. It sounds more like a readymade answer than a
question or problem to be solved. Usually, if there is a concept, there
is a word for it already at hand. Who asked for an analysis of the
relation-between-doing-and-undergoing? When Vygotsky posed the problem
of the relation of thinking and speaking this question already had a
long and well-known history in Western philosophy and psychology, and I
believe it was already understood to be related to the problem of the
intellect. I think Dewey was prompted to write this article by a
consideration of *art*: "Every work of art follows the plan of, and
pattern of, a complete experience, rendering it more intensely and
concentratedly felt."

But Dewey's article has lately been picked up out of interest in
perezhivanie, hasn't it? For me, it was because Dewey reminded us that
"an experience" can have a meaning and power much like the Russian
perezhivanie, and that it is very different from "experience." So I
question this supposed definition of the problem - "the relation of
doing and undergoing." The unit of analysis is a singular concept of the
process as a whole, and if we do not have a provisional concept of the
process as a whole, then I think we are on very uncertain ground.

Also, in the article you cited, I was at pains to point out that a
"unit" is *not* a "microcosm." Marx selected a commodity as the unit of
bourgeois society; if he had wanted a *microcosm* he would have selected
a capitalist firm (= a unit of capital), the *highest* product, a whole
"world" in which the entire process (bourgeois society = the world
market) is contained complete in miniature form - the most developed
relation of the whole process. The commodity only contains all the
phenomena of bourgeois society *in embryo* (=cell form). But did you
mean that "the relation of doing and undergoing" is the microcosm? Not
clear on that.

You refer to "joint development". Is this the subject matter of
interest? What *is* the problem in fact? Until we are clear on that
units of analysis are not in the frame.

Andy

------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Andy Blunden*
http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/


Alfredo Gil Jornet wrote:
> Initially, I meant unity of doing and undergoing in the sense that, in
> /an/ experience, the one aspect cannot be reduced to the
> other. So, doing and undergoing, as I read them in Dewey, and as you
> agree, constitute a unity. It is precisely in the difference/distance
> between the doing and the undergoing that an experience extends in
> time and action as a real, dynamic, but unitary phenomenon. I guess we
> all agree on this.
>
> I acknowledge my loose use of the term "unit" in the
> previous description, and understand your concern about it. So far, I
> have been using the notion "unit" to mean "unit of analysis." As unit,
> /an/ experience may be thought as "a product of analysis which, unlike
> elements, retains all the basic properties of the whole and which
> cannot be further divided without losing them." That is how we attempt
> to articulate it here in the context of science education:
>  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1002/sce.21085/ I have
> further expanded those ideas in other works under review.
>
> However, after Andy raised concern about the difference between "unit"
> and "unity," I realized that I had not a clear-enough answer as to the
> differences between the two. So I quickly went to the literature to
> make my mind clearer before answering. Following an initial reading,
> here is my attempt to be more specific about it: One could argue that
> "an experience", rather than "experience" as general conception (and
> this difference may not be clear enough in any of my previous
> writings), could be thought of as a unit of analysis for the relation
> between doing and undergoing, which is a "microcosm" of human
> experience during episodes of joint development. Obviously, here I
> am trying to roughly follow a scheme you provide in "Outlines" (2009).
> Does this line of thought make sense?
>
> Thanks to this discussion, I realize that I need to make clearer
> statements about how the connections that I entertain between Dewey
> and Vygotsky in my dissertation constitute a "unit", a "substance", or
> neither of them. Thank you very much for opening this dimension of
> inquiry to me!
>
> Best,
> Alfredo
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________________
> From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
> Sent: 04 July 2014 07:25:45
> To: lchcmike@gmail.com
> Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Alfredo Gil Jornet
> Subject: Re: [Xmca-l] Re: LSV on language as a model of development
>
> Maybe, but Alfredo has been working with W-M Roth, and in a recent paper
> Roth claims to quote Vygotsky saying that experience is "the dynamic
> unit of affective and intellectual processes" (Roth's translation) and
> goes on to make it clear that this was not a slip of the pen, but he
> means "unit".
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/ <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>
>
> mike cole wrote:
> > That is how I interpreted Alfredo, Andy.
> > (signed)
> >
> > an /in/-experienced oldtimer
> > mike
> >
> >
> > On Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 6:45 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
> > <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
> >
> >     I am familiar with Dewey's work on this, Alfredo, and I too have
> >     found it
> >     very useful. That was not my problem. But thinking about it, I
> >     suspect it
> >     was just an English expression problem.
> >     You said "experience is a unit of doing and undergoing". But I
> >     think you
> >     meant to say "experience is a unity of doing and undergoing,"
> which is
> >     certainly true. Just as activity is a unity of consciousness and
> >     behaviour, or identity is a unity of recognition and
> >     self-consciousness,
> >     etc.
> >     But a *unit* is something different from *unity*. "Experience"
> in this
> >     sense is not a unit at all; "an experience" can be a unit, but not
> >     a unit
> >     of doing and undergoing.
> >
> >     Is that right, Alfredo?
> >     Andy
> >
> >     > Dewey, most extensively in chapter 3 of "Art as experience",
> makes a
> >     > distinction between the general stream of experience, and an
> >     experience,
> >     > which, according to him, is the experience that "is a whole and
> >     carries
> >     > with it its own individualizing quality and self-sufficiency".
> >     After the
> >     > fact, an experience "has a unity that gives it its name, that
> >     meal, that
> >     > storm, that rupture of friendship", Dewey writes. He further
> >     says that,
> >     > within that unity, there is both an aspect of doing, of
> >     initiation, and
> >     > another of undergoing, "of suffering in its large sense". He
> further
> >     > articulates the relation between the doing and the undergoing in
> >     terms of
> >     > "anticipation" and "consummation" "Anticipation" he writes "is the
> >     > connecting link between the next doing and its outcome for
> >     sense. What is
> >     > done and what is undergone are thus reciprocally,
> cumulatively, and
> >     > continuously instrumental to each other"
> >     >
> >     > Although in most passages these notes have a rather
> >     individualistic taste,
> >     > he goes on to clarify that there is a prominent public
> character in
> >     > experience: "without external embodiment, an experience remains
> >     > incomplete" he says. In the same chapter, he also argues that
> >     "it is not
> >     > possible to divide in a vital experience the practical,
> >     emotional, and
> >     > intellectual from one another." Both these conditions may make
> >     it possible
> >     > to draw connections between Dewey's notion of experience and
> >     Vygotsky's
> >     > perezivanie.
> >     >
> >     > In any case, I find interesting the dialectic Dewey proposes
> >     between doing
> >     > and undergoing as aspects of a minimal unit of sense-full
> experience
> >     > because it allows for thinking of being immersed in a
> developmental
> >     > situation in which the final form already exists before the
> >     intellect
> >     > grasps it, so that we do not need to put individual knowledge
> >     > constructions as who puts the cart before the horse.
> >     >
> >     > But this is my reading, which may have obviated other aspects
> >     that would
> >     > preclude this reading?
> >     > Hope this was of help.
> >     > Best,
> >     >
> >     > Alfredo
> >     > ________________________________________
> >     > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
> >     <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> >     <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
> >     <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>> on
> >     > behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
> >     <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>
> >     > Sent: 03 July 2014 17:17
> >     > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> >     > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: LSV on language as a model of development
> >     >
> >     > Alfredo, what did you mean by:
> >     >> ... as he argued, experience is a unit of doing and undergoing,
> >     >
> >     > Andy
> >     >
> >     >
> >     >
> >
> >
> >
>