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[Xmca-l] Re: Fate, Luck and Chance

I think it likely, Mike, that Vygotsky was not fully aware of mire he was walking into with that speculation. I think there is an inherent danger in both Marx and Hegel's approach in respect to cross-cultural social science. I do not say a weakness or a fallacy, because I think all the concepts necessary to clarify these problems are present in Hegel, Marx and Vygotsky. But none of them were fully aware of the pitfalls awaiting them in this area. In my personal view, it was only the alignment of social forces which arose after World War Two and the Post-War Settlement between the USSR and the USA, that the conditions emerged for Marxists to understand this problem.

The other point which you have said often troubles you, Mike, is this issue of the presence of the ideal in ontogenesis. It is this which distinguishes ontogenesis from phylogenesis and, with qualifications, cultural-historical genesis. I think your work in "Cultural Psychology. A Once and Future Discipline" where you showed how cultural difference prejudiced the results of experiments in a way which is usually as invisible to the researcher as it is to the subject, provided the key insight here. For example, Luria's observation that Uzbek peasants were "childlike" because they organised groups of items into functional sets, rather than according to contingent attributes (as suggested by formal, bureaucratic logic), is, I think, a completely wrong conclusion to draw from the data.

Nonetheless, I do think that ontogenetic development, when studied with the aid of dual stimulation using cultural artefacts, and the study of historical or cross-cultural psychology, have great potential to shed light on one another. But only with full consciousness of the complexity of the exercise. To an orthodox Marxist who has somehow avoided the women's movement and the civil rights movement, talking alone will never explain the problem.


*Andy Blunden*

mike cole wrote:
I really appreciated the opportunity to return to these texts. I am really
caught by the discussion of rudimentary functrions and where the discussion
leads because it brings me to a long standing concern of mine.
Cross-cultural comparisons which conclude that "primitives think like
children." This potential in LSV's work has been realized too often to make
us certain what is being claimed.

My concerns are reflected in the following cut and past from Andy's

--------------Rudimentary functions in the system of higher cultural forms
of behavior and analogous, developed, and active functions of the same kind
in more primitive systems make it possible for us to connect lower and
higher systems genetically. They supply a point of support for a historical
approach to higher mental functions and for connecting the psychology of
primitive man with the higher psychology of man. Also, ***they provide a
scale for transferring data from ethnic psychology to experimental
psychological research** * and a measure of homogeneity and similarity of
mental processes elicited in a genetic experiment and of higher mental
functions. Appearing as a connecting link, a transitional form between
experimentally simplified forms of behavior and the psychology of primitive
man, on the one hand, and higher mental functions on the other, rudimentary
forms are a kind of knot that joins three areas of study, a kind of focus
in which all lines of cultural development meet and intersect, a kind of
center of the whole problem. They lie halfway between what we observe in an
experiment in child psychology and ethnic psychology and what we call
higher mental functions that are the final link of all of cultural
what are these links between "experimentally simplified forms of behavior"
and the "psychology of primitive man?"

Are current people engaged in such research providing those links?


On Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 5:55 PM, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co

On Nov 19, 2014, at 4:56 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:

just means that something is seen as not subject to change by a
discourse community, even where that discourse community consists of
just me and my lonely self.
Perhaps, David. But with time and effort and study we can come to view
that something differently, no?

There's a small but growing literature on "constitution" - the way that a
water molecule is constituted of, not caused by, hydrogen and oxygen. And
the article I was reading today was making an interesting distinction
between 'internal constitution,' as in the case of water, and 'external
constitution,' as in the case of money. What makes a coin a token of
monetary value is *external* to it: the social institutions of banking and
the practices of buying and selling. These don't cause it, they constitute
it. The coin, taken at face value, is objective. But once we study it as it
circulates through these practice and institutions, we come to see that its
objectivity does not mean it cannot change. On the contrary.

Although LSV like to talk about the constituents of a meaningful word as
'internal' to that word, it seems more accurate to see them as external in
the same sense as the constituents of a coin or a bill are necessarily
external to it.