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


Here's what Vygotsky says in Chapter One of "Thinking and Speech".

Общение, основанное на разумном понимании и на намеренной передаче мысли и
переживаний, непременно требует известной системы средств, прототипом
которой была, есть и всегда останется человеческая речь, возникшая из
потребности в общении в процессе труда. Но до самого последнего времени
дело представлено сообразно с господствовавшим в психологии взглядом в
чрезвычайно упрощенном виде. Полагали, что средством общения является знак,
слово, звук. Между тем это заблуждение проистекало только из неправильно
применяемого к решению всей проблемы речи анализа, разлагающего на элементы.

That is:

"Society, based on rational understanding and intentional transfer of
thinking and perizhivanie, requires without fail some system of means, the
prototype of which is, was, and will always remain that of human speech,
which arose of necessity through social conotact in the process of labor.
But until now the matter has been presented in conformity with the
dominating view in psychology, in an extremely simplified way. It has been
assumed that the means of contact is the sign, the word, the sound. This
error stems solely from the incorrect use in the solution of the problem of
speech an analysis which decomposes speech into elements."

Vygotsky then points out that this analysis is incorrect because it does
not take into account that each word is a generalization--an act of
thinking. He quotes a passage of Edward Sapir which has been cut from the
Soviet version int the Collected Works (but which Kozulin has included in
his update of the Hanfmann-Vakar translation).

В сфере инстинктивного сознания, в котором господствует восприятие и аффект,
возможно только заражение, но не понимание и не общение в собственном
смысле этого слова. Эдвард Сэпир прекрасно выяснил это в своих работах по
психологии речи. ≪Элементарный язык, . говорит он, . должен быть связан с
целой группой, с определенным классом нашего опыта. Мир опыта должен быть
чрезвычайно упрощен и обобщен, чтобы возможно было символизировать его. Только
так становится возможной коммуникация, ибо единичный опыт живет в единичном
сознании и, строго говоря, не сообщаем. Для того чтобы стать сообщаемым, он
должен быть отнесен к известному классу, который, по молчаливому соглашению,
рассматривается обществом как единство≫.

"In the sphere of instinctive consciousness, in which rules perception and
passion, only infection and contagion is possible, not understanding and
social contact in the true sense of the word. Edward Sapir has wonderfully
explained this in his work on the psychology of speech. Elements of
language,” he says must be connected to an entire group, to a defined class
of our experience. “The world of our experiences must be enormously
simplified and generalized before it is possible to make a symbolic
inventory of all our experiences of things and relations; and this
inventory is imperative before we can convey ideas. The elements of
language, the symbols that ticket off experience, must therefore be
associated with whole groups, delimited classes, of experience rather than
with the single experiences themselves. Only so is communication possible,
for the single experience lodges in an individual consciousness and is,
strictly speaking, incommunicable. To be communicated it needs to be
referred to a class which is tacitly accepted by the community as an

Vygotsky concludes that a word meaning is a generalization, and that a
generalization is an act of thinking. Ergo, the rational and intentional
transfer of thinking and of perizhivanie requires an act of thinking. The
fact that the child has not yet fully internalized that act of thinking
does not make it any less an act of thinking.

Nor does the fact that this view was criticized by Stalinists make it any
less true for me. Stalinists criticized Darwinism, you know!

David Kellogg

Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 16 July 2014 14:34, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> David, it may seem picky, but I can't agree with this formulation below,
> in particular the use of "thinking". To interpret Vyotsky's observation in
> terms of "thinking" is to *intellectualise* Vygotsky, or to put it another
> way, to impute to Vygotsky an intellectualisation of human life. This move
> was a principal line of attack of Vygotsky during the Stalinist years after
> his death, so it is important not to repeat it now. You correctly analysed
> the difference for a child of having a drunk for a mother, rather than for
> a father or a neighbour. But this was not a question of what the child
> *thought* about these relations, but the real significance of each relation
> for the child having its vital needs met, within the horizon of
> consciousness of the child. And I use "consciousness" here as a Marxist, to
> indicate the entirety of subjective processes of the child which mediate
> between their physiology and their behaviour, not as a synonym for the
> intellect. The child will perceive their situation (and threats to it) in
> the only way they can, that is, in an age-appropriate way. And they will
> change their own activity in response to the perceived threat also in an
> age- and circumstances-appropriate way too. All of this - significance,
> perception, needs - are not to be interpreted as categories of thinking,
> but categories of the life-activity of living beings, that's all, not
> necessarily thinking. But of course, the capacity for thinking - the use of
> symbolic actions - and the capacity for extended reflection on an
> experience, are additional resources and points of vulnerability, over and
> above vital relations which do not imply intellectual relations.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> David Kellogg wrote: ...
>> It's not that nothing is real until thinking makes it so; it is only that
>> meaning is made by thinking and not simply by experiencing. ...