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

I fully accept that there is as much confusion among Russians as there is amongst English-speakers and anyone else, Mike. The reason is that it is not just a matter of having the right word, but of having the concept indicated by the word! :) "Unit of analysis" - introduced for the first time in Chapter 1 of "Thinking and Speech" is both a longstanding concept of social science, understood by philosophers of science pretty well, and a new name for the Hegelian concept of "abstract concept," the first category of Volume Two of the Science of Logic. Goethe was the first to introduce the idea in the form of Urphanomen, Hegel then developed this to a high degree, and Marx took it up in writing Capital, and that's where Vygotsky got it from. But instead of using 'Urphanomen', or 'germ-cell' or 'abstract concept', he *brilliantly* merged the idea with the existing widely-understood concept of "unit of analysis"! So this is a concept with two roots. But one of these roots is Hegel's Logic. Nowadays almost no-one reads Hegel's Logic. Those who come to Hegel at all read his early book, The Phenomenology of Spirit, which sheds no light on this issue. And among those who read and study Hegel's Logic, how many understand it? and of those who understand it, how many of them are familiar with Vygotsky? Very few. Unfortunately, in the confusion, most people who are familiar with Vygotsky's writing seem to be forgotten the meaning of the word "unit" (or to be willing to think it has some special meaning for Vygotsky), and are unfamiliar with the discussions about units of analysis in the social sciences, so the challenge of understanding the Hegelian concept (never having read Hegel) is formidable. The tendency of people to cover up their confusion with neologs, utterly implausible claims and convoluted writing compounds the problem. I was lucky in having read Marx and Hegel (and Ilyenkov) before I ever read Vygotsky, and before I read any present-day interpretations or explanations of Vygotsky. I am sure if I had read that material in the reverse order I would be as confused as I believe almost everyone else is.

with apologies,

*Andy Blunden*

mike cole wrote:
The Russian language has more than a little ambiguity here as well, Andy.
Check out David's translation and how/when Vygotsky moves from using
edinitsa (translated as unit) to edinstvo (translated as unity). Then look at how google translate indicates the overlap between these two terms.

Translations of Единица (edinitsa)




блок, единица, подразделение, агрегат, узел, целое




единство, единица, единение, сплоченность, согласие, слитность




единица, одиночка, число один

Translations of единство (edinstvo)





единство, единица, единение, сплоченность, согласие, слитность




единство, исключительность, тождество, единичность, согласие, одиночество




солидарность, сплоченность, единство, общность, единение




соответствие, согласие, соглашение, договоренность, аккорд, единство

So far as I can tell, the Russians are no clearer on this matter than those trying to sort through the matter in English.


On Sat, Jul 5, 2014 at 1:43 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    For sure Alfredo, Dewey seems to be suggesting that "an experience" is
    what we would call a unit of artistic creation or appreciation, and if
    this is the case, then certainly his concept of "an experience"
    would have
    a much wider application. But I am hesitant to go too far into
    this just
    now because (1) I don't think Dewey was himself entirely clear on this
    concept of "unit", and (2) most of the CHAT people who are
    in this discussion around perezhivanie are certainly confused
    about what
    Vygotsky meant by "unit." Vygotsky was not confused, but Nikolai
    has drawn my attention to the fact that even the authoritative Minnick
    translation of "Thinking and Speech" has, on occasion, mixed up
    'unit' and
    'unity' in the process of translating into English.
    So before we get into Dewey on units and experiences, I am very
    that we are all very clear on what Vygotsky said on the subject!

    > Thank you Andy for furthering the discussion. I was trying to
    > follow the scheme of thinking presented in your paper when I
    typed that
    > "doing and undergoing" was a microcosm, and I realize now (and
    agree with
    > you) that that was not correct. If a unit is relative to "some
    > process whose analysis is at issue," I find the unit that Dewey
    > in defining "/an/ experience" as being relative not only to the
    process of
    > producing/interpreting a work of art, but to the more general human
    > sense-full experience, as opposed to "incohate" experience. Is
    not there
    > something  common to art-making in any making? I find
    formulations very
    > close to his notion of /an/ experience in "Experience and
    Education" and
    > in "Logic: theory of inquiry," where the complex process whose
    analysis is
    > at issue is not art. The most prevalent topic is that experience
    > both temporally and socially. In following up the discussion on
    unity and
    > unit, I suggest that what Dewey defines as /an/ experience can
    be thought
    > as a microcosm of human sense-full experience during joint
    activity, and
    > that is the problem that I attempt to address my self in the
    episodes of
    > interest in my own research, which all have in common people
    > doing things and thereby changing both themselves and their
    settings in
    > the making. I guess that a larger question would be how well the
    unit that
    > we may call /an/ experience retains all the aspects of the complex
    > phenomenon of sense-full experience in activity. I think we do
    part of the
    > work with regard to that discussion in the paper the link of
    which I have
    > given before by drawing possible connections between Dewey,
    Vygotsky, and
    > other phenomenological thinking. I think the issue of unit/unity is
    > important, and will continue elaborating on it in my further
    > thinking/writing/doing.
    > Best,
    > Alfredo
    > ________________________________________
    > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
    <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>> on
    > behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
    > Sent: 04 July 2014 14:22
    > 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
    > been made. But there is still some more to do. :)
    > Here's Dewey's "Having An Experience" by the way:
    > 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
    > 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
    > 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
    > 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
    >> 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,
    >> elements, retains all the basic properties of the whole and which
    >> cannot be further divided without losing them." That is how we
    >> 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
    >> 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
    >> here is my attempt to be more specific about it: One could
    argue that
    >> "an experience", rather than "experience" as general conception
    >> this difference may not be clear enough in any of my previous
    >> writings), could be thought of as a unit of analysis for the
    >> 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"
    >> 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 <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>
    >> Sent: 04 July 2014 07:25:45
    >> To: lchcmike@gmail.com <mailto: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
    >> 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/
    >> 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>
    >> > <mailto: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*.
    >> 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
    >> 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
    >> >     After the
    >> >     > fact, an experience "has a unity that gives it its
    name, that
    >> >     meal, that
    >> >     > storm, that rupture of friendship", Dewey writes. He
    >> >     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
    >> >     > 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
    >> >     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
    >> >     > constructions as who puts the cart before the horse.
    >> >     >
    >> >     > But this is my reading, which may have obviated other
    >> >     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
    <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>>> on
    >> >     > behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
    >> >     <mailto: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
    >> >     >
    >> >     > Alfredo, what did you mean by:
    >> >     >> ... as he argued, experience is a unit of doing and
    >> >     >
    >> >     > Andy
    >> >     >
    >> >     >
    >> >     >
    >> >
    >> >
    >> >