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[Xmca-l] Re: labour and signs


Thanks !

I'd like to get finished up with everything ; hope folks will tolerate brevity . 

If I may , ask you to read within the body of your well-constituted message !
      From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
 To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu> 
 Sent: Wednesday, 3 December 2014, 22:44:22
 Subject: [Xmca-l] labour and signs

I will try and respond to your point 2., on the relation between the 
"labour (tool) paradigm" and the "semiotic paradigm". This is a complex 
question because the two lines of development implied here are distinct 
but interconnected in the history of Marxist psychology and in 
Vygotsky's own theoretical development, as well as in both phylogenesis 
and ontogenesis. On top of this, the question has become entangled in 
disputes involving the counterposition of Activity Theory and Vygotsky's 
original work. So the first and most important thing to note is that 
both these lines of development have their place in all the relevant 
processes and they are interconnected throughout, and I personally would 
be very hesitant to ascribe an unambiguous priority to one or the other.


I think the "labour paradigm" is what Vygotsky is referring to when he 
writes to ANL about instrumental psychology being an "unprofitable 
pursuit", but in the same group of letters we see that he advocates and 
promotes "the instrumental method". There is no question that offering 
subjects artefacts which the subject can use as symbols to control their 
own behaviour is a central part of Vygotsky's unique approach (emulating 
in the laboratory the cultural process of providing symbols for people), 
and I presume this is what "the instrumental method" means. But even in 
Thinking and Speech, he finds a place for tool-use in the development of 
intelligence, but he describes this as a "pre-linguistic" stage, both 
phylogenetically and ontogenetically.

I'm no authority to say things act this way or that way but I'm allowed to display my understanding . In this very piece , V challenges "instrumental method" . In "Crisis" , he does the same . I wonder what you might take by encountering so much talk about the "New Psychology" or the "New Methodology" with lots of evidence he showers on us to document his sayings . Shortly , was he a Marxist of the Day or Not ? This could help us with many things . What seems to be ambiguous for me is the last three lines of the paragraph . Is that what you mean by pre-linguistic stage that after this stage , no use of tools is to be observed ? I'm sure you won't . Mike is all right with the term 'rudimentary' because the to-be MAN (primitive) acts on the instant , is interested in THROWING bones or dice not in their physical or chemical properties as is the case with later stages . Hence use of stimulus-device not sign-device . But with full use of tools and their sophistication we approach the appearance of language which converts the NATURAL functions . V even locates their due places , one the stem of the brain , the other the different layers of the cortex . We know about ANL saying a day might be reached when scientists become full workers and workers full scientists or quasi-scientists but that day has not yet arrived . Not to become lengthy , I refer to the important point that we do not internalize tools but we do internalize signs , speech and this is where V warns us against .  
The reason that Vygotsky gives us this story about the knot in the 
handkerchief and the coin-toss is that he wants to suggest a genesis of 
the semiotic use of artefacts which does *not* originate from the use of 
tools for working on matter.

Yes , yes , Vygotsky says , I parrot it many times . Then , I put the question where does it come from (before rudiments) . Let me once again stress on the fact that V asserts the two lines of development are separate one from the other in phylogenesis . 

His claim is of course entirely speculative 
and I take it to be a rhetorical move. So far as I know, Vygotsky is in 
agreement with the idea that collaboration creates the situation in 
which people need to share generalisations and thus "invent" speech 
properly so called. Here is in agreement with Engels, but I think he 
wants to assign only a very early (pre-linguistic) role to the tool, 
holding that the tool can only give rise to the *potential concept* and 
not a *true concept* as such. This idea is consistent with what the 
distributed cognition people want to do and also with the phylogenetic 
story told in the labour paradigm. In our own day, the role of tools in 
the formation of mind is really unmistakable. But I think we need to be 
just as flexible as I think Vygotsky was on these questions.

What V says is use of tools finds its meaning within 'work activity' of which you are a master . But these lines smack of historic precedence of speech and co-constructing of speech over working activity . Where have I got wrong ?

*Andy Blunden*

Haydi Zulfei wrote:
> 2. Mike is so and for good reasons enchanted in "rudiments" of culture phenomena (throwing dice and bones , knots , notches in the wood to remember speech) . Good for him and us all . Yes , Buridan's ass gets spoilt in its indecision But man through inventing stimulus-device gets to salvation . But the problem is how many times has Mike , our Boss and confirmed global figure no need for it to be documented , asked himself what went before that juncture of time for the man to become 'MAN' ?? At this moment we are with LSV and at a very critical point of time . No more return to 'culture' to prove 'culture' . LSV says the error for some is to recount the story of mental through mental while they should know that mental processes go parallel with 'social' processes . What I gather at this very point is that he expects us to infer that the 'our present man of some will' owes his man/ness and decisiveness to his previous work activity necessitating use of tools . It seems we cannot take the idea to the uterine because V focuses on use of tools for a baby of 6 or of 10-12 months of age . It seems , both phylogenetically and ontogenetically , that it's not the case that 'gestures' ' eye contacts' come of their own and because of the man/ness and for the tuning-up with the universe through sounds and hymns and angels , etc. Man worked for life , performed ups and downs , shook his extremeties (one pair of hand) , consumed ! collective yellings and gesturing (as concomitant of work) . V says we can distinguish independent history of natural processes and independent history of cultural development separately 'phylogenetically' but not ontogenetically . In ontology , nature and culture work simultaneously contrary to phylogenesis . One cannot with ease and comfort say whichone goes with whichone .