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[Xmca-l] Re: labour and signs

Thank you , Andy ! These are very good points to discuss and read about and we agree that dogmas are not the solution . With the idea that consciousness is !! immaterial or mostly (opinions) immaterial , one move of googling on the Net was enough but we , here , ascended to 100+plus posts to see what Vygotsky's text meant and for what reasons . This is the way one learns . I worried about Folks' tolerance ; now I see many posts . Good to hear others' words .  

Things are really very complex and at times very confusing and the appetite for learning is unlimited . Thanks again !

"Since the principle of signification leads us into the area of artificial devices, the question arises as to its relation to other forms of artificial devices, of its place in the general system of man's adaptation. <In a certain specific relation>, the use of signs shows a certain analogy to the use of tools.  Like all other analogies, this analogy cannot be carried to the bitter end, to a full or partial coincidence of the major essential characteristics of the concepts being compared. For this reason, we must not anticipate finding much similarity to working tools in these devices that we call signs. Moreover, together with similar and common characteristics in one activity or another, we must ascertain the essential characteristics of the difference in a certain relation-contrast."

"The second point whose presence explains the possibility of the appearance of a new regulatory principle of behavior consists of the fact of social life and interaction of people. In the process of social life,  man created and developed more complex systems of psychological connections without which work activity and all social life would be impossible. The devices of psychological connection in their very nature and in their essential function are signs, that is, stimuli artificially created to affect behavior by the development of new conditioned connections in the human brain. Both points taken together lead us to understanding the possibility of the development of a new regulatory principle. Social life creates the need to subject the behavior of the individual to social requirements and together with this,  creates complex signalization systems, means of communication that guide and regulate the development of conditioned connections in the brain of each person. The organization of higher nervous activity creates the necessary prerequisites, creates the possibility of external regulation of behavior."   
      From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
 To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu> 
 Sent: Thursday, 4 December 2014, 5:58:56
 Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: labour and signs
Haydi, exactly what Vygotsky's idea was about this or that, at this or 
that time, is something beyond my powers to know. I just try to make 
sense as best I can of what I find in his writings. So I can only say 
what conclusions this has led me to. Participation in the labour process 
obviously conditions our activity and our thinking. But I take it that 
*true concepts* appear only through the use of signs. It will still be 
the case that such concept formation rests on tool-use - you can't eat 
words. Participation in the labour process (however broadly understood) 
necessarily entails using tools. I think the relation between tool and 
sign in concept formation is found in those two passages to which you 
drew our attention on "Word and Action":


I don't think these two lines of development are separate - they are 
*distinct*, but not separate.

I tend think that "historically" tool use was "prior" but it may not be 
the case, and I don't really think it matters. For example, according to 
Marx, the first phase of development of capital entailed gathering 
workers together in a workshop as wage workers, without making any 
change whatsoever in the labour process itself, and all the 
revolutionising of machinery only happened later.


So if that was how it worked in the dawn of humanity, that is, that the 
form of cooperation preceded the revolutionising of the means of labour, 
this would support the claim for sign use to pre-date tool-use in the 
formation of intellect. But I don't know and I doubt that anyone knows. 
The point is just that these two lines of development have their 
distinct bases and develop side by side in connection with one another.

Hope that helps, Haydi.

*Andy Blunden*

Haydi Zulfei wrote:

> 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 ?
> Haydi