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



Hi Aria!

Thanks for the next link in this chain of discourse! I'm afraid this post may be 2.5 screens, so I hope by non-conforming I'm not placed in the cemetery in Moscow. 

I wondered, Aria, if your reference to theories unique or not, true or false, had anything to do with my posts on Muybridge and stop-action photography?  :)

Our search for knowledge is not in question (even if it is a quest)! Then, it depends upon what we mean by knowledge! Do we mean knowledge in terms of convention? or in reaction to convention? or of knowledge of the world as it is? or something else?

To address your complication of the question, "If it isn't all biology or genetics, what is it?" And the definition of what is biology and what is genetics…

I think the matter is that we are more than matter. We are matter+! So do we have a biology? yes. Do we have genes? yes. It is impossible to fully understand what the biology is at this point in history! The key words there are "fully understand." 

We can't sit around and wait to determine what that biology is, how the genes interact. etc. This is not to say biology does not exist or is not important. It means it is a very hard problem to understand and in the meantime the world keeps spinning and problems must be solved. So what can we do about it now at this juncture? Let the biologists and the geneticists keep going, but we must keep going too.

With regard to Koko, I believe Koko was not trained, she was taught. There is something of a consciousness there that suggests her agency. For example, how to explain her sadness when she learned that Robin Williams died? He was not in the room when she learned this news. She asked questions about why others were crying, I seem to recall, so she may not have remembered Williams, but she certainly detected emotion in others present (see: http://www.koko.org/koko-tribute-robin-williams). 

I have no urgency to be fooled by appearances just so I can say apes are like us, because we already know that they are like us in many ways!  :) 

Sure, humans and apes are different too, by about 2%! There is biology that shows that we are who we are because of our ability to redirect with gesture in a more advanced manner than apes, that not only do we use tools like apes, but we go past that, making tools with other tools for example. One could argue that necessity did not require apes to do more than we do because the food they can eat was easily available in their environment. Apes possess two less proteins to digest carbs than we do, and perhaps because we have more digestive power we were able to move away from the equator and eat roots that were in the ground, and having an opposable thumb we could collect grains, all of which of course requires an ability to identify plants and to dig and eventually to farm these plants (and also pass this know-how on to the next generation). Moving away from the equator means different life challenges, like keeping warm, so it isn't just biology, it is also environmental *and* the help of your friends to make sure you can all dig up and safely store enough potatoes for winter solstice feasting! So there's a union of environment, society, and biology. 

When it comes to the differences between Chomsky and Vygotsky, I'd suggest the "incompatibility" that Vygotskians sense with Chomskians is the silence pertaining to the society, the culture, and the environment, and the tools (language being one tool of many). We don't dispute the importance of biology. We say biology *and* other important factors. We are interested in how these entities relate to one another. 

I have heard however, that Chomsky views Vygotsky as just another flavor of behaviorist, and this would be quite antagonistic to Camp Vygotsky. So there are two issues of incompatibility. Silence and superimposition. So we wait to hear something pertaining to that gap and to that overlap, both which sometimes feel like mistaken identity. 

Science after all is not a biological endeavor, it is a sociocultural endeavor, we use tools, we talk, we may do ideological battle, but I hope that in doing science we are attempting to find the meaning of ourselves in the world we find ourselves. Why? Because knowledge sets us free.

As you so aptly point out, science as we know it, owes much to nonconformists, including Descartes, who dissembled conformity, which is likely the best nonconformist one can be if only to keep one's enemies close! :)

The act of dividing the mind from the body was a trick against the Church. The problem is we have taken it too literally and have subsequently used this paradigm as a tool of oppression. 

Descartes was something like an older sibling protecting his younger brothers and sisters from an abusive parent. Mind/body split was a stopgap (emphasis upon the gap) to provide the space for intellectual freedom when there was none. If not for him, all of our brilliant non-conformists would be ash and we would never know much about them except that they were "pour encourager les autres." 

Well, Descartes was a master of language, which he used as a tool to obfuscate when it was urgently necessary to obfuscate. But you see, this was about 450 years ago! The time has come for us to find a means to unite the mind with the body and the body with other bodies and all these bodies with the world in which we live. 

In this quote, from the preface of his Meditations:

"I doubt not, if you but condescend to pay so much regard to this Treatise as to be willing, in the first place, to correct it (for mindful not only of my humanity, but chiefly also of my ignorance, I do not affirm that it is free from errors); in the second place, to supply what is wanting in it, to perfect what is incomplete, and to give more ample illustration where it is demanded, or at least to indicate these defects to myself that I may endeavor to remedy them. (Descartes, 1641)"

I cannot help but see this quote dripping in irony, in which I believe he was complicit. Thinking wrong thoughts were not only sinful back then, it was a capital offense. (Apparently, there is still this question of thinking wrong thoughts, but this has been answered by blanketing us all as sinners. Go figure.)

This is to say, we needed him for our liberation from a powerful agent of conformity, however the division no longer serves us, we must unite the mind with the body and with everything else here. 

This is my view of the Vygotskian enterprise and it's a great one to participate in because no one has to do science alone hidden in a tower in threat of execution anymore, but out in the light in community with others.

So this begs the answer to my original question, if Chomsky is not a Cartesian, then how does he unite mind with the body and then how does that unite with culture? with society? with tools? with history? 

This isn't clear to Camp Vygotsky.

Kind regards,

Annalisa