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[Xmca-l] Re: In Defense of Fuzzy Things

Many thanks to all of you who managed to make any sense at all of my last
post. Of course, the penultimate line was not supposed to be that clever.
What I meant to say was not, actually,  "The question is: is becomign an
insider a process of transforming undergoing into doing, or is it a process
of transforming undergoing into doing?"  I meant to say:

"The question is, is becoming an insider a process of transforming
undergoing into doing (e.g. passively taking part in a flash mob) or a
process of tranforming doing into undergoing (e.g. reflecting upon it in

Let me try to twist some of the strands you all unravelled from the fuzz (I
won't promise to twist them into a thread, though).

Mike asks if LSV ever presents an ontogenetic account of how "felt
experience" becomes "lived experience". One of the reasons we are
busy translating this material into Korean a country where the regime has
just expelled the working class opposition from parliament, sentenced its
leaders to twelve years in prison and banned the main teachers' union, is
that we need what Helen needs--some material that will appeal to militant
teachers in a pretty direct, understandable, and above all concrete way.
And the lectures on pedagogy are just that.

So in addition to the extra-textual comparison (the comparison with the
previous lecture on the environment) Vygotsky's presentation in "The
Problem of the Environment" contains a very important cross-sectional
comparison between three children who have an alcoholic, violence-prone,
and mentally disturbed mother who end up in Vygotsky's clinic. The
first has what I've called "felt experience": he responds to the drunken
mother as a mother, and not as a drunk--the experiences are funny or
terrifying, they are overwhelming and not operational, they are paralyzing
and not processable (that is, they have sense, or sensibility, but they do
not yet have significance). The second has  what I've called "thought"
experience: he responds to the drunken mother with what Vygotsky calls
the  Mutter-Hexkomplex,
('т.е. "комплекс матери-ведьмы"'), or the "mother-demoness" syndrome. I
haven't actually found ANY reference to this "syndrome" anywhere, but it's
pretty clear what Vygotsky means: the child cannot decide if the person
raging in the house is a mother or a drunk. At the moment, she is inclined
to respond as to her as a drunk and only upon reflection as a mother.The
third has what we can call "lived" experience. He has seen through the
mother and is resigned to seeing the mother through. The acts are those of
a drunk and not a mother, and so he must sacrifice his promising career as
a school child and look after the family.

It seems to me that it is pretty easy to see this cross-sectional
comparison as an ontogenetic sequence. What is a little LESS clear to me is
this. Vygotsky writes: "Пьяная мать или психически больная мать--это то же
самое, что психически больная няня, не то, что пьяный отец или пьяный
сосед." Is he really saying that having an alcoholic, mentally disturbed
mother is more like having a mentally disturbed nanny than like having an
alcoholic father? Is that because the mother but not the father is a
caretaker? (See 4-20 below, in case you are as confused as I am!)

Lubomir argues that what is "fuzzy" to us was actually very clear to
Vygotsky. But we know that Vygotsky, as far as nomenclature is concerned,
is "la gazza ladra", a thieving magpie who will steal your silver spoon to
build his nest. The terms he uses (egocentric speech, pseudoconcept,
learning, development, and even the word "pedology") are all words used by
someone else that he has co-opted and filled with his own, special content.
My point was that his special content is necessarily not fixed--it must
needs change with development. After all, the whole point of "Thinking and
Speech" is that word meanings develop ontogenetically, and microgenetically
the word "and" means one thing when I think and then speak, and it means
something quite different when you speak and then I think.  I agree,
though, that translating jokes is a very good test case (for example, when
Vygotsky leaves out English letters in the lecture on heredity,
in paragraph 3-35 below, is it a joke? That is, is Vygotsky leaving out E,
F, and G deliberately, to show us that there must be a gap?)

Many thanks to Mike on clarifying that verb--we learned it in Russian
class, but my Russian classes are conducted in Korean, and sometimes these
exta meanings escape me.

Andy--Halliday has a really good explanation of the rise of scientific
language in the seventeenth century--how we began to take processes
and nominalize them (e.g. "I grow fast" becomes "rapid growth"). He also
points out how this new language of science was co-opted for non-scientific
purposes--because of the need for a language of prestige that was not
obviously connected to religious discourse. This allowed, for example,
Newton to write sentences that looked something like mathematical equations
("Crack growth rate is proportional to pressure"), and it also allowed us
to create the kinds of hierarchies of concepts which you are quoted as
listing as a key property of academic concepts on p. 25 of Helen's new
book. (Note that the Tea Partiers are also hostile to scientific discourse,
and prefer good old religious discourse; they are essentially a neo-fascist
party very similar to the National Front in France or the UK Independence
Party or Pauline Whatzername in Queensland, and like many crypto-fascistic
phenomena, they are ideologically and even linguistically atavistic).

Fiinally, Beth. Did you notice that the video was made from clips shot from
cell phones? I wonder if any of the Chinese tourists contributed....

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


4-20] Так вот, выделить те особенности, которые сыграли роль при
определении отношения к данной ситуации, и помогает нам переживание.
Представьте, что я по конституции обладаю одними особенностями, ясно, что я
буду переживать это иначе. Я обладаю другими особенностями ясно, что я буду
переживать это иначе. Поэтому говорят о конституциональных особенностях
людей, различая возбудимых, общительных, живых, подвижных и людей более
эмоционально вялых, заторможенных, тупых. Ясно, что если мы будем иметь
двух людей с противоположными конституциональными свойствами, то одно и то
же событие вызовет у каждого из этих людей разное переживание.
Следовательно, конституциональные особенности человека, вообще личные
особенности ребенка, как бы мобилизуются данным переживанием,
откладываются, кристаллизуются в данном переживании, но одновременно с этим
переживание представляет собой не только совокупность этих личностных
особенностей ребенка, которые определяют, как ребенок пережил это событие,
но и разные события по-разному переживаются ребенком. Пьяная мать или
психически больная мать--это то же самое, что психически больная няня, не
то, что пьяный отец или пьяный сосед. Значит, среда, которая в данном
случае выступала в виде какой-то конкретной ситуации, тоже всегда является
представленной в данном переживании. Поэтому мы вправе рассматривать
переживание как единство средовых и личностных моментов. И именно поэтому
переживание является понятием, которое позволяет нам в анализе законов
развития характера изучать роль и влияние среды на психологическое развитие


 3-35] Допустим, что здесь начинаем с максимального расхождения.
Максимальное расхождение оказывается равным 0,60. Если возьмем ряд функций,
никогда не окажется равномерного падения этого расхождения: функция А-0,60,
В-0,55, С-0,50, D-0,45, Н-0,40, К-0,35, L - 0,30 и т. д. Долгое время
исследователи искали такую ступенеобразную лестницу, у которой бы на самом
верху были максимально наследственно обусловленные функции, на самом низу
минимально наследственно обусловленные, а между ними регулярно
располагались бы функции в убывающем порядке их наследственной
обусловленности. Полагали, что это можно найти. Но оказывается, что никогда
такой ряд получить нельзя. И если возьмем ряд функций, более или менее
полно охватывающих человеческие проявления в развитии ребенка, то всегда
окажутся какие-то резкие переломы, которые разделяют одну группу функций от
другой. Так что между одной и другой группой функций существует уже не
столь равномерный переход, как внутри одной группы функций, а существует
уже как бы скачок. Если в одной группе расхождение выражается десятками,
как 60 и 45, то в другой группе оно уже будет выражаться единицами в
пределах только до *\г>. *Не существует, следовательно, такого
равномерного, постоянного ступенчатого снижения наследственной
обусловленности во всем ряду функций. А когда мы изучаем все эти функции
вместе, мы находим перелом, который делит весь ряд функций резко на две

On 8 July 2014 14:09, Beth Ferholt <bferholt@gmail.com> wrote:

> I have two notes above my desk: "What does perezhivanie have to do with
> magic?" (serendipity) and "What does perezhivanie have to do with
> flashmobs?", so the above chain of emails is very exciting for me just
> because it contains all three.
> (Mike just wrote on facebook about 'almost whimsical Vygotskian chaining'
> -- this is not exactly what he meant but I am having a moment of snatching
> at another connection -- any help snatching is welcome, although I am here
> responding more to the facebook discussion than the above.)
> On Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 9:11 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> >    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone,
> >    "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
> >  "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so
> >    many different things."    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty,
> > "which is to be master -
> >    that's all."    /(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6
> >    <http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/books/2chpt6.html>)/
> >    //
> >
> > /
> > Thank you David for your (as ever) deep and amusing post. Thank you in
> > particular for Wordsworth!
> >
> > I think that our legislative and judicial systems prove something about
> > the relation between abstract simplicity and arcane complexity. Everyone
> > knows that X is a serious crime, but when our lawmakers set out to define
> > it so our judges can make judgments on it, they are still dotting i's and
> > crossing t's 500 years later. And along come our Tea Party types with
> their
> > mandatory sentencing and their firm conviction that it all really is
> quite
> > simple.
> >
> > Everything Lubomir said is true as well. We have a specific problem at
> > hand: failure of mutual understanding and failure to understand key
> > concepts at the root of the scientific current of which we are all a
> part.
> > I particularly appreciate Lubomir's words about the need to reconstruct,
> > from the beginning, terms and concepts which have been imported from one
> > context to another, rather than attempt to simply life up a word and drop
> > it into a different culture (though on occasion the use of a foreign word
> > may be appropriate, n'est-ce pas?) For that we need a simple starting
> point
> > upon which to build layers of complexity.
> >
> > If I love my meal at a French restaurant and ask the waiter for "un
> autre"
> > and he is forcing me out the door amidst a torrent of abuse, until a kind
> > fellow diner tells me that I should have asked for "un deuxieme" - the
> > waiter thinks that I am pretending to complain that the quality was
> > unsatisfactory and demanding a replacement after I have eaten the whole
> > meal - then I have to face the difference between the ineffable
> differences
> > between French and Anglo cultures and the question of simple
> > misunderstanding. N'est-ce pas?
> >
> > The problems with perezhivanie and the problems with unit are essentially
> > problems of a different kind. What predominates in the case of
> perezhivanie
> > is the cultural context and linguistic history; what predominates in the
> > case of unit is the analytical and dialectical logic. In both cases both
> > factors are at play and mutually complicating each other. I think that
> the
> > appearance of the general idea of perezhivanie in multiple cultural and
> > disciplinary contexts is an *aid* to mutual understanding and clarity.
> But
> > in the case of unit, I really think that an ability to recover the
> original
> > Goethean/Hegelian idea is essential.
> >
> > Andy
> >
> > /
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > *Andy Blunden*
> > http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> >
> >
> >
> > David Kellogg wrote:
> >
> >> Andy has written a number of posts in which he has implied clarity is a
> >> paramount goal in philosophical discussions, or, conversely, people are
> >> "confused" by having read key texts in an order which obscures their
> >> genetic relationship to each other.
> >>
> >> What I want to suggest  is that these two things are actually in
> >> contradiction: if we want to understand how texts are genetically
> related
> >> to each other, we have understand how the word meanings they contain can
> >> be
> >> "fuzzy" rather than clear.
> >>
> >> Fuzzy boundaries are, if you will pardon the expression, central to
> human
> >> languages, including philosophical language (which is, as Halliday
> points
> >> out, merely a tidied up version of naturally fuzzy language, an upstart
> >> which has come back to berate its slovenly parents). Let me take the
> very
> >> first sentence of "Thinking and Speech" as an example.
> >>
> >> "This work is a psychological study of one of the most difficult,
> complex,
> >> and intricately tangled questions of experimental psychology, the
> problem
> >> of thinking and speech."
> >>
> >> Vygotsky is very fond of triplets like these, and when we first read
> him,
> >> we often take it as redundancy, and we are comforted, because if we
> don't
> >> understand what he means by "complex" we can catch him on the rebound
> with
> >> "difficult" and if that doesn't work, we get a nice concrete image with
> >> "tangled".
> >>
> >> But as the text unfolds, it transpires that something can be difficult
> >> without being complex. For example, Vygotsky's interpretation of
> >> egocentric
> >> speech is actually less complex than Piaget's, because it has fewer
> parts,
> >> but it is quite a bit more difficult, precisely because it puts things
> >> that
> >> are apparently quite different together.
> >>
> >> Similarly, it transpires that something can be complex without being
> >> difficult, e.g. the different senses of "consciousness" used by Freud
> and
> >> Piaget, which Vygotsky sorts out with the simple example of tying his
> >> shoes. The question of learning and development is "tangled" and
> >> "difficult" but it has only two parts to it. So we have to say that
> there
> >> is a certain fuzziness here, not unrelated to the fuzziness of "unit"
> and
> >> "unity" that we've been discussing.
> >>
> >> Let me take one more example: the idea of  a "переживание".  Should it
> be
> >> "felt experience" or "thought over experience" or just "lived
> experience"?
> >> The difference seems extremely important; as Andy points out, the
> concept
> >> is undoubtedly related--genetically--to the emergence of "notion" or
> >> "concept" through contemplation. Andy is doubly right to relate it to
> the
> >> German Romantic idea of "Urphanomenon". We even find it in English in
> >> Wordsworth's famous preface to the Lyrical Ballads, where he defines
> >> poetry
> >> as "emotion recollected in tranquility":
> >>
> >> "(T)he emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the
> >> tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which
> >> was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does
> >> itself actually exist in the mind."
> >>
> >> But of course in order to see these quite distinct ideas as being
> linked,
> >> we can't just see them as clearly distinct--it's sometimes more useful
> to
> >> see them as being fuzzy. It seems to me that ontogenetically, a
> >> "переживание"
> >> must needs be at first mostly a "felt experience", because the child
> >> doesn't have much experience to recollect in tranquility. Only then can
> it
> >> become mostly a "thought over experience", and it is only in the minds
> of
> >> dinosaurs like me and Andy that we can say it is a thoroughly lived out
> >> experience. (I have sometimes felt a little like a
> >> placid, ruminant brontosaur set upon by a ferocious tyrannosaur, but I
> >> console myself with the thought that where Andy says I am confused, I am
> >> usually just plain wrong.)
> >>
> >> Still, I think this fuzziness of my language doesn't preclude setting up
> >> the kinds of distinctions that Andy finds so important in philosophical
> >> language; on the contrary, understanding how things move seems to
> >> necessitate a kind of "moving picture" approach where we can make many
> >> fine
> >> distinctions and then try to link them fluidly, simply because that is
> the
> >> way our language and our minds works. But there are two intellectual
> >> operations to this: the ability to separate things out into separate
> >> frames, and then the ability to join the frames in a single fluid
> motion.
> >> Once we clarify, we have to fuzz out.
> >>
> >> Take a look at this. It's actually a Flash Mob at Tesco's in Holland
> Park,
> >> London, carried out as a sort of publicity stunt by a local opera troop
> >> trying to publicize their rendition of Puccini's "La Rondine" (a kind of
> >> verismo version of "Traviata", except that nobody dies). Like any Flash
> >> Mob, the categories of experiencers are kind of fuzzy--at the beginning
> >> it's a little unclear whether the cashier's assistant is in on the joke
> or
> >> not: is she doing the Flash Mob or merely undergoing it? By the end
> it's a
> >> party to which everybody is invited, even the Chinese tourists with
> their
> >> cell phone cameras.
> >>
> >>  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsLivg6byjM
> >>
> >> I think categories of experience are similarly porous, which is another
> >> way
> >> of saying that they are warm and fuzzy: we all begin as outsiders, but
> >> understanding is a process of becoming an insider. The question is: is
> >> becomign an insider a process of transforming undergoing into doing, or
> is
> >> it a process of transforming undergoing into doing? It's kind of fuzzy.
> >>
> >> David Kellogg
> >> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >
> >
> --
> Beth Ferholt
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Early Childhood and Art Education
> Brooklyn College, City University of New York
> 2900 Bedford Avenue
> Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
> Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
> Phone: (718) 951-5205
> Fax: (718) 951-4816