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

On 18 July 2014 13:30, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com> wrote:

> Andy:  " The intellect is not the whole of consciousness - it is one
> aspect abstracted from the whole of consciousness. Vygotsky showed us how
> to study the semantic structure of consciousness - awful phrase - the
> intellectual aspect of mental activity."
> I think this abstract contingency is often insufficiently stressed in
> commentary regarding the unit of analysis.  If one fails to recognise the
> abstraction as a contingency (a pragmatic pretension, if you like) then one
> falls back on Aristotelian practices, albeit of a more sophisticated nature
> (but perhaps harder to see due to their sophistication).  Conversely, it is
> logically reasonable to assert that "everything is play" or "everything is
> communication" or "everything is cognition" etc, provided one realises that
> this is amorphous.
> David: "Meaning making, therefore, has to be disguised as "activity", of
> which the
> paradigmatic form is not speech at all, but rather labor. "
> "Nevertheless, when we read Chapter One of Thinking and Speech, we see
> that
> semantic structure, not activity structure, is precisely what Vygotsky has
> in mind: there is indeed a clear link between feeling and thinking (else
> children would never learn to think verbally), but there is also a
> dialectical leap (else children would already know how)"
> I fear your dialectical leap here is a metaphysical leap, David.  I see no
> contradiction between activity (motive) and meaning.  Are you considering
> meaning to the exclusion of its (ontogenetic) formation?
> The translations were concerning Zinchenko (and others) rather than
> Leontyev.  As it happens, P. I. Zinchenko, Zaraprozhets and Sereda (and
> presumably many others) had some interesting things to say in relation to
> holes in the theoretical and experimental work, which (for me) seem to
> point to blind-spots stemming from the dialectical thinking of the
> practitioners.
Zaporozhets, rather.  E.g.:

Zaporozhets, A. V. (1995) Problems in the Psychology of Activity.  Journal
of Russian and East European Psychology, 33(4).

> Best,
> Huw
> On 18 July 2014 01:59, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>> OK David, I *think* I get your line of argument here. Can I try to pick
>> out what are for me the key elements?
>> (1) When you referred to the child internalising thinking you were
>> referring to the actions (i.e., unity of behaviour and consciousness) in
>> which others are involving them - the "law" about categories appearing
>> first on the social plane and later on the psychical plane. "Later" of
>> course. That is, if "thinking" is a meaningful word, they are not yet
>> thinking. They are engaged in a process which all going well will become
>> thinking.
>> (2) You quite correctly note that one of the lines by which Vygotsky was
>> labelled idealist is on the basis of the orthodox Marxist idea of labour as
>> the paradigmatic form of activity, rather than speech. That is true, and
>> you and I and many here would agree that Vygotsky had a point. Labour is
>> the paradigmatic form of activity for a certain kind of historical
>> analysis, but I think that while there is some truth in that approach to
>> history, there are also severe problems. But labour is certainly inadequate
>> as a foundation for psychology.
>> (3) Semantic actions create "intellectual" structures in the mind. I.e.,
>> the interest in semantics and speech activity is the basis for the charge
>> of intellectualism.
>> On all these points I think we are close to agreement. The disagreement
>> is this: I see "Thinking and Speech" as a specialised investigation which
>> was to be an exemplar for how to conduct *any* psychological investigation,
>> but *not* to create a model for all psychological processes. By studying
>> thinking and speech, the target is what we like to reify as the intellect.
>> The intellect is not the whole of consciousness - it is one aspect
>> abstracted from the whole of consciousness. Vygotsky showed us how to study
>> the semantic structure of consciousness - awful phrase - the intellectual
>> aspect of mental activity.
>> So for example, I think your use of perezhivanie below is open to
>> criticism. I accept that there is no English word for perezhivanie other
>> than perezhivanie, and mostly the way Vygotsky uses it in "Problem of the
>> Environment" is open to an interpretation as "experiencing" - i.e., the
>> fundamental concept of empiricism. But when people are studying
>> perezhivanie they are not talking about the intellect, though undoubtedly
>> the intellect is involved, if we are to accept the word of those Russians
>> who exclude the possibility of perezhivanija for children. Perezhivanie is
>> a unit for the development of the personality, admittedly not a
>> well-defined term, but in my mind quite distinct from the intellect.
>> Andy
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> *Andy Blunden*
>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>> David Kellogg wrote:
>>> First of all,  in defence of Andy, I should point out that he is not
>>> really as pompous as he sounds when he is solemnly informing me of my gross
>>> misunderstanding and my utter confusion, or when he is stating that only
>>> certain works read in a particular order (which miraculously coincides with
>>> the selection of works he has effected and the precise order which he
>>> himself has read them in) can produce genuine clear thinking. Andy and I
>>> are old friends, and in addition we both come from societies where a
>>> certain amount of raillery is a mark of affection and an antidote to
>>> affectation (something that Andy and I are both prone to, alas).
>>> Secondly, in deference to Beth, and Francis and all lurkers who would
>>> join in the discussion if they could only make head or tail of it, let me
>>> defend some of this esoterica and try to link it to the parallel, more
>>> exoteric thread. What appears to be under discussion, for example, is
>>> whether a Russian word which means something like "social contact" should
>>> be translated as "society" or as "contact" (as Mike very perceptively
>>> points out, I do BOTH, translating the same word in two different ways). Or
>>> perhaps what is under discussion is whether "meaning" refers to
>>> consciousness quite generally and therefore includes the way a child who
>>> knows nothing about alcoholism might perceive a drunken mother or only
>>> consciousness as it has been transformed by verbal thinking. In other
>>> words, what appears to be under discussion is precisely what was under
>>> discussion in the other thread: other words, and the extent to which they
>>> really do represent other thoughts.
>>> A lot of the misunderstandings (to use Andy's term) between Helen and
>>> the other Mike (the Mike in Helen's data, not the Grand Old Man of xmca)
>>> are of precisely this nature. But not all of them. Sometimes we use the
>>> same word, e.g. "community of learners" or "meaning" and we actually mean
>>> totally different things, just as the child who hears "Some dinosaurs
>>> learned to swim and other dinosaurs learned to fly" may understand that
>>> dinosaurs are purely imaginary creatures that went to school in order to do
>>> these things. And THAT is what I meant when I said that the mere fact that
>>> a child has not fully internalized a socially, culturally worked out act of
>>> thinking does not make it any the less an act of thinking.
>>> Now, let me make the context of my two quotations a little clearer. They
>>> are both from Chapter One of Thinking and Speech, but the first quotation
>>> has nothing whatsoever to do with Sapir, and in fact my translation is
>>> rather inept. It should really be this:
>>>  "
>>> It has been assumed that the means of contact is the sign:--that is, the
>>> word, the sound."
>>>  Vygotsky's attacking Saussure, who holds that the "signifier" and the
>>> "signified" inhabit two different realms, like soul and body: one is made
>>> of meaning and the other is made of meat.
>>> Vygotsky's point is that "wording" actually includes both, but in an
>>> idealized form. Wording (speech) does not directly interface with the
>>> environment: the semantics interfaces with the environment because it is a
>>> representation of human experience and the phonology interfaces with the
>>> environment because it is phonetically realized by going through physical
>>> human organs like the lungs, larynx, and the lips, but lexicogrammar--words
>>> and wordings--must interface with the environment through the semantics and
>>> the phonology.
>>> True, later on in the Chapter he refers to phonemes, which to us, today,
>>> just means sounds. But I have since established that the word meant
>>> "morpheme" to Vygotsky, not phoneme. (His example, in the "Lectures on
>>> Pedology" is actually Russian CASE grammar, which has nothing to do with
>>> pronunciation. So Vygotsky is saying exactly what the good Moorish doctor
>>> Ibn Hakim says in the opera Iolanta (right before the line Vygotsky quotes
>>> about consciousness reflected like sunlight in the drop of water):
>>> "Два мира — плотский и духовный
>>> — Во всех явленьях бытия.
>>> Нами разлучены условно,
>>> Они едины, знаю я."
>>> (Two worlds, thinking and extension
>>> Found in all things that can be
>>> In ourselves, in intension
>>> Their one-ness is known to me.)
>>> Here's a Soviet version from 1963--Ibn Hakim's lesson in monism begins
>>> at 2:34.
>>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SXF6610O0I
>>> Experience (perezhivanie) and sounding are thus united in wording.
>>> BUT...first of all, we have to recognize that they are united in an
>>> idealized form: an abstraction. Secondly, we have to recognize that they
>>> are united in a generalized form--a historico-culturally evolved meaning.
>>> And finally, I think we have to accept that this act of abstraction and
>>> generalization is, ontogenetically, initially social and only in the long
>>> run individual and personal: word meanings develop as children grow up.
>>> So this bit of esoterica turns out to be pretty exoteric after all. I
>>> was actually, going to mention this earlier, when Huw said that his
>>> translation interests pointed more in the direction of Leontiev than in
>>> trying to recover Vygotsky's original ideas. Leontiev is, as Andy points
>>> out, a recovering Vygotskyan--he is working in a climate where Vygotskyan
>>> ideas must be carefully disguised as vulgar, behaviorist ones. Meaning
>>> making, therefore, has to be disguised as "activity", of which the
>>> paradigmatic form is not speech at all, but rather labor. It is actually
>>> much easier to live lies like this twenty-four seven if you actually try to
>>> believe them, and I think that by the end of his career Leontiev actually
>>> believed that his formulation was more Marxist than the "idealist",
>>> "intellectualist" alternative--the idea that says that the mind is actually
>>> semantic in structure rather than structured by physical or even social
>>> activities.
>>> Nevertheless, when we read Chapter One of Thinking and Speech, we see
>>> that semantic structure, not activity structure, is precisely what Vygotsky
>>> has in mind: there is indeed a clear link between feeling and thinking
>>> (else children would never learn to think verbally), but there is also a
>>> dialectical leap (else children would already know how). Children
>>> accomplish this dialectical leap through dialogue. That is, they are
>>> confronted with the finished form of word meaning, and they find there way
>>> to it through all kinds of misunderstandings (just as we do on this list).
>>> This word "day" that they thought they knew so well actually doesn't
>>> just mean the stretch of time between waking and sleeping, and that when
>>> you call your grandmother in Los Angeles on Tuesday, its still Monday over
>>> there, but that doesn't somehow make your grandmother one day younger than
>>> you are. That's what I meant when I said that the mere fact that the child
>>> is not thinking verbally does not make the generalization that we find in
>>> the word any less an act of thinking. It's just an act of cultural, social,
>>> inter-mental thinking, and not yet a act of individual, personal,
>>> intra-mental thought. Grandma and grandchild are not quite on the same
>>> page, but they are getting there.
>>> It's interesting that the precise example that Vygotsky uses in Chapter
>>> One is...the FEELING being cold, which must be generalized into the THOUGHT
>>> of coldness. He points out that you can communicate this feeling perfectly
>>> well by shivering and letting your teeth chatter, and even by simulating
>>> shivering and making your teeth chatter, but what you are communicating is
>>> a feeling...and not the idea of being cold. The idea of being cold is a
>>> generalization, and an act of thinking.
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>>> PS: Huw--the whole of Ganzheitpsychologie--from Wurzburg to Leipzig--was
>>> a "genetic" psychology, and in fact they are the ones who founded the
>>> concept of "microgenesis". The problem was that half of them became Nazis
>>> and the other half became their victims. The victims, like Otto Selz, never
>>> had a chance to complete their work--and their classmates and killer
>>> (Narziss Ach, Felix Krueger, Eduard Spranger) we only read about today
>>> because Vygotsky cites them.
>>> dk
>>> On 17 July 2014 11:24, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:
>>> ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>>     Could you elaborate on this one, David:
>>>     "The fact that the child has not yet fully internalized that act
>>>     of thinking does not make it any less an act of thinking" and how
>>>     it relates to generalization?
>>>     Andy
>>>     ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> ------------
>>>     *Andy Blunden*
>>>     http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>     <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>     David Kellogg wrote:
>>>         Andy:
>>>         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
>>>         identity.”
>>>         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
>>>         <mailto:ablunden@mira.net> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net
>>>         <mailto: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/
>>>         <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>             <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>             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. ...