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[Xmca-l] Re: FW: Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology



Hi Aria,

In a stance of good-will, I'd like to extend this thread with childlike curiosity in the hope it is received with a playful and creative spirit.

I have heard of the controversy of Chomsky and the Behaviorists, as it is quite notorious, and I'm grateful to Chomsky for breaking the log-jam in the US for Behaviorism. However, I have never heard of the controversy between Vygotsky and Pavlovian-Marxist Psychology, or that Vygotsky's claim against them was to promote creativity. So thanks for that. I hope others will give this some additional light.

My sense though is, and maybe I'm wrong about this, Vygotsky was interested in creating a general psychology and he felt that language was the means of connecting culture with phylogeny, and phylogeny with culture. This approach has provided wide vistas for inquiry apparently. So Vygotsky was more concerned with understanding the way these processes developed, and like Darwin, was more concerned with describing these processes before explaining them completely (in the sense of tying culture to biology precisely). [Any peanuts from the peanut gallery here?]

I am at a loss to compare this to Chomsky, for my surface understanding is that he is what is called a "nativist," and my understanding of this term is that proponents claim there are solely genetic explanations for human language, that there is something innate in us that emerges in maturation, along the lines of Piaget (I hope I've not gummed things up here by making that comparison), whereby "development leads learning." That it is all biology. 

I'm not sure either what Chomsky's claims are for creativity through this path, if everything is determined through biology. We can all want creativity for humankind, but how is creativity explained in Chomsky's model?

[An aside: I'm curious how Chomsky explains Koko the signing ape? And where are the other signing apes?]

Forgive me please if I have posed these juxtapositions in limited and simplistic constructs. I don't think it's my biology, but rather that my knowledge of the subject matter is sorely limited, and that can be (and I hope will be) changed through my interaction with all the lovely knowing others on this list. :)

Trawling around lchc, I found this quote by Toulmin (From: One is Not Born a Personality by Karl Levitin (1980)):

"Through his brief career, Vygotsky’s preoccupations centred on consciousness: more specifically, on the modes in which consciousness is “represented” – both mentally and neurologically – in the life of the individual. In his view, these problems cannot be convincingly dealt with by focusing either on our genetic inheritance and innate capacities alone or on the influence of external, environmental factors alone. Vygotsky was willing to take neither the “nativist” route preferred today by Chomsky ... nor the “external conditioning” route followed by Skinner ... Those two routes – he insisted – were not the only options available to us. Instead, he undertook a new kind of developmental attack on these problems."

This book was written in 1980 and so apparently this is how Chomsky was perceived back then, as a nativist. Is this no longer the case? If he is no longer a nativist, then please explain the changes of mind that occurred? 

My understanding is that the Cartesian claim is made (to describe Chomsky) because there is no means of linking the mind to the body, no means of linking the culture, the history, the tool, the society to the individual. The mind is seen as separate. I'm ready to be shown (not told) how that connection is made. I don't think anyone means that he is adopting the carbon-copy of Descartes's philosophy. Many things can be Cartesian, even number lines, for example, which exist in a very abstract place!

The "battle for consciousness" is that our creativity manifests (overall) in response to the outside, beginning (as in the genesis of) with our caregivers as infants, and these initial interactions eventually manifest in language as a response to gesture (pointing). This is frequently given short-shrift from those not familiar with Vygotsky. 

One can take creativity (as may be linked to an expression of consciousness) a couple ways. One is that our creativity is fatally determined, with an internal engine for problem solving. Another is that we are totally plastic entities reacting to the outside without much filtering going on. Both of these models seem mechanical to me. 

A third, more dynamic version, is that there is something dynamic going on, a three-way process that over time responds to itself and to outside influences at once, and so there is something like a spiral development going on throughout the life of the individual, always in regard to oneself *and* the broad soup of one's culture and environment, activity is (for many here) the engine for that interaction. Yet the genesis for this spiral begins from the outside, through the caregiver.

What is the genesis for the nativist model?

In any case, even if one adopts (what I'm calling) the dynamic model of consciousness (as a dialectical process), one can interpret this as: There is only one "proper" way that this dynamic process can optimally occur, or: There can be plural means for this dynamic process to optimally occur. Moreover, maybe there can be no feasible definition of what is optimal, because it all depends upon so many factors, known and unknown. 

By the way, in my search of lchc, I also found a book review (2009) by our own David Kellogg (which I've attached), who explains there are at least three Vygotskies (as indicated by Norris Minick). Much like there are two Wittgensteins, I gather? So I wonder, which Vygotsky you might be referring to? 

And then it occurred to me this may mean there are more than one Chomksy, perhaps? If so, how many are there?  :)  And to which one are you referring to?

At the genesis of his short career Vygotsky jumped into a conference in Moscow between Chelpanov and Pavlov to present his first paper, and as David writes, "According to Luria’s account (1979: 38), Vygotsky’s paper, from both ends of the room simultaneously, brought the house down."

It might be easy to make the comparison of splashes into established academic circles, but I wonder if this might reduce the nature of Vygotsky's work as reactionary (as against the Pavlov-Marxist psychologists) rather than as creative and even consciousness-raising in his attempt to unite the two psychologies? 

But of course, I am biased!

Incidentally, David makes an interesting comparison between Vygotsky and Volosinov in his review. I wonder if David's book review might be a vehicle for comparison and contrast in this thread? It appears that both Vygotsky and Volosinov made observations that were similar in terms of the value of the social influences of development.

There are many here on this list who are not linguists, myself being one! So if I've made any grievous generalizations concerning linguistics and linguists that are totally in error, I hope you will forgive me. I also would enjoy any clarifications from old timers of our community if they feel any energy after the eggnog.

My search is for understanding so I might be knowledgeable about these things.

Kind regards,

Annalisa






________________________________________
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Aria Razfar <arazfar@uic.edu>
Sent: Sunday, December 21, 2014 12:38 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: FW: Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology

Annalisa,

The two different contexts are early 20th century Soviet Psychology and mid-20th Century U.S. Psychology. While different in terms of space and time, it was similar in terms of content. Chomsky arguing for creativity and freedom of thought in a context dominated by Skinner's Behaviorism. Vygotsky arguing for creativity in a context dominated by the behaviorism of Pavlovian-Marxist Psychology.

Aria

Aria Razfar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture
Director of Graduate Studies, Curriculum and Instruction
University of Illinois at Chicago
1040 W. Harrison St. M/C 147
Chicago, IL, 60607

Director of English Learning through Mathematics, Science and Action Research (ELMSA)
www.elmsa.org

Webpage: http://education.uic.edu/personnel/faculty/aria-razfar-phd
Tel: 312-413-8373
Fax: 312-996-8134


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Annalisa Aguilar
Sent: Sunday, December 21, 2014 12:42 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: FW: Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology

Aria,

Thanks for something more specific. It helps.

Would you mind clarifying, when you say:

> He sees his goal and Vygotsky's goal of arguing for creativity to be the same although in two different contexts.

What are the two different contexts?


Annalisa

________________________________________
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Aria Razfar <arazfar@uic.edu>
Sent: Sunday, December 21, 2014 8:43 AM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: FW: Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology

Greg,

The topic that seemed to interest him most about Vygotsky was "inner speech" and its connection to culture, social activities and even history. The representation of Chomsky's "nativist" position in sociocultural literature seems to be decontextualized, acultural, and ahistorical, and to some degree rightfully so. Although he would include culture, social activity, and even history as part of "stable cognitive elements" and are definitely "more than habits" which was the main goal of his writings in the 50s and 60s.  He sees his goal and Vygotsky's goal of arguing for creativity to be the same although in two different contexts. It was clear to me that he doesn't see the controversies, at least not the same way post "social turn" scholars and self-proclaimed Chomskians have framed it. He sees his views of language and cognition as very much compatible with Vygotsky's insights, especially the ones he's read closely. It's been years since he's written about these topics, so unf
   ortunately there isn't a paper. His take on the roots of the "controversies" and the subsequent careers built on it are "quite interesting." Did you have any specific questions?

Aria

Aria Razfar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture Director of Graduate Studies, Curriculum and Instruction University of Illinois at Chicago
1040 W. Harrison St. M/C 147
Chicago, IL, 60607

Director of English Learning through Mathematics, Science and Action Research (ELMSA) www.elmsa.org

Webpage: http://education.uic.edu/personnel/faculty/aria-razfar-phd
Tel: 312-413-8373
Fax: 312-996-8134


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Greg Thompson
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2014 10:54 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: FW: Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology

​Aria,
Any updates to report on Professor Chomsky's take on Vygotsky?
-greg​

On Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 5:59 PM, Aria Razfar <arazfar@uic.edu> wrote:
>
>
> Hi Martin,
>
> See below. He finds Vygotsky's work "quite interesting." Let's see if
> he elaborates. I find his persepctive on the "Linguistic Wars" also
> interesting.
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistics_Wars
>
> Aria
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Noam Chomsky [mailto:chomsky@mit.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 6:09 PM
> To: Aria Razfar
> Subject: RE: [Xmca-l] Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology
>
> The "linguistic wars" are largely an invention of overheated
> imaginations of those who thought they were fighting them.  If you
> check the record you'll discover that I barely participated, and
> didn't consider them any different from interchanges within what's
> claimed to be "my side" of the non-existent wars.
>
> Vygotsky did quite interesting work.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Aria Razfar [mailto:arazfar@uic.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 6:28 PM
> To: Noam Chomsky
> Cc: arazfar@uic.edu
> Subject: FW: [Xmca-l] Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology
>
> See question below re: "opinion on Vygotsky"?
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
> [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin John
> Packer
> Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 5:12 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology
>
> Since we have Professor Chomsky online, might we be able to ask him
> his opinion of Vygotsky?
>
> Martin
>
> On Dec 17, 2014, at 4:59 PM, Aria Razfar <arazfar@uic.edu> wrote:
>
> > Hi Martin,
> >
> > Metaphor was my take and other cognitive linguist's take (i.e.
> > Lakoff). I believe his rejection of "Metaphor" at least in the
> > embodied cognition sense is rooted in the "Linguistics Wars."
> > Several people in this thread as well others in the field of
> > cognitive linguistics made the claim that he was and remains a
> > Cartesian dualist. He definitely does not consider himself as such.
> > In order to establish the field of linguistics, he had to position
> > it within the broader arch of western enlightenment and romanticism.
> > Hence, the title of
> the book.
> >
> > Aria
> >
> > Aria Razfar, Ph.D.
> > Associate Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture Director of
> > Graduate Studies, Curriculum and Instruction University of Illinois
> > at Chicago
> > 1040 W. Harrison St. M/C 147
> > Chicago, IL, 60607
> >
> > Director of English Learning through Mathematics, Science and Action
> > Research (ELMSA) www.elmsa.org
> >
> > Webpage: http://education.uic.edu/personnel/faculty/aria-razfar-phd
> > Tel: 312-413-8373
> > Fax: 312-996-8134
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
> > [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin John
> > Packer
> > Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 3:47 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: FW: Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology
> >
> > Hi Aria,
> >
> > It would help to see the message that Noam is responding to! I don't
> > see, for example, how metaphor crept into this discussion.
> > (Actually, looking back through the thread, I see that this was your
> > proposal.)
> >
> > I suppose a lot depends on what one means by being "a Cartesian." As
> > I just wrote in another message, Chomsky was, I think, positioning
> > his approach to linguistics in a tradition in which Descartes was
> > prominent: in which one tries to figure out what makes possible a
> > specific characteristic or ability of the mind. Chomsky asked what
> > universal competence would be necessary to make language possible -
> > any
> language.
> >
> > I'm not trying to attach a label to the man; but he give the book
> > its title for a reason, and a very respectable one.
> >
> > Martin
> >
> > On Dec 17, 2014, at 4:34 PM, Aria Razfar <arazfar@uic.edu> wrote:
> >
> >> Here is Chomsky's response to whether or not he is a Cartesian. Not
> > surprisingly, he categorically rejects the idea of "metaphor" as well.
> > At least he's open to change. Now whether our subject is dead or
> > alive that is a different question.
> >>
> >> Aria
> >>
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: Noam Chomsky [mailto:chomsky@mit.edu]
> >> Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 3:16 PM
> >> To: Aria Razfar
> >> Subject: RE: [Xmca-l] Re: Chomsky, Vygotsky, and phenomenology
> >>
The reason for the phrase "Cartesian linguistics" was explained very clearly in the opening pages of the book.  No one who read at least that far could believe that I am "a Cartesian," let alone anyone who read farther.  I can't account for the illiteracy of "notable folks."
> >>
 It's also not a metaphor.  Rather, exactly as I described it, which I would repeat verbatim today.
> >>
There's no need to argue against "mind-body dualism." As I've discussed repeatedly, Newton's discoveries terminated the thesis, at least in its classical form, through Descartes and beyond.
> >>
Of course I've changed my views since the '50s and '60s, in fact in the past few months.  That's normal in subjects that are not dead.
> >>
> >> Noam Chomsky



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