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[Xmca-l] Re: The Ideological Footprint of Artifacts



Dear Larry:

So Zinchenko says that if I go on a journey through the desert and choose
to take a map instead of  an ice-axe I am being an idealist!

Of course, I know that by choosing an ice-axe, I am confusing the error of
taking a tool instead of a symbol with taking the WRONG tool instead of the
RIGHT symbol. But I also think that by choosing an ice-axe I am drawing
some attention to the underlying dishonesty--the demagogy--of a lot of the
criticisms made of Vygotsky--how they are reducible to name-calling
("Idealist!" "Subjectivist!" "Word-Fetishist!")

I suppose the real problem with Zinchenko is the one that Andy's already
pointed to. What makes humans human is that they don't live in an
"environment" that is oblivious to them to which they must adapt or die.
They have the ability to make the environment adapt to them and sometimes
even die--as I am reminded by the potted plant withering on my window
sill. Our nature is really not the same as the nature that animals live in.

It's quite literally a "human' nature; a society is nature humanized
by consciousness. Beyond the ficus dying on my window sill lies Seoul, the
second largest city on earth. When I go out and do my grocery shopping, I
don't take a tool or even a map; I take a mind full of symbols, and the
same thing is true when I go out to "earn" my daily bread. So, as Andy
says, the "environment" has to include an element of human consciousness,
of my consciousness and the consciousness I must share with seventy-five
million other Koreans every time I use a Korean word. If this be idealism,
make the most of it!

There was a good review of my book in the journal "System" recently
(attached). When I got over the warm feeling brought about by
the (apparently heartfelt) praise, I felt slightly irked by the attempt to
link Vygotsky's reading of Hamlet with that of Florensky, who really WAS an
idealist. Florensky's "Hamlet" came out when Vygotsky was nine years old!
But of course the author is right--Florensky, later a priest, a Russian
Orthodox theologian, and ultimately a victim of Stalin's goons, was one of
the founders of the Symbolist movement, and Vygotsky could not help but
have felt his long cool shadow as he wrestled with the question of whether
Hamlet is a psycho-drama (and all the characters but Hamlet are only
symbols) or a socio-drama (and all the characters--with the exception of
the players--are flesh and blood).

Saussure, who did more than anyone to make the insights of the Symbolists
into a coherent world view, said that thought and language, both chaotic,
organize each other through decomposing each other, and of course that's
correct. Saussure's big mistake was to turn his back on the process by
which this happens. And the strangest thing about this mistake is that it
was the very process in which he'd made his own career--historical
linguistics!

David Kellogg

On Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 10:21 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

> David,
> A fascinating way to explore the long shadow that concepts entail back to
> the sensory "ground" of concepts.
>
> I would like to ask how you situate a third term "symbol" in its
> relationship to the "sensory sound" and the "conceptual"
>
> Zinchenko offers one approach to symbols [to prime the pumps of this
> question]
>
> "The psychological theory of activity was concerned with the problem of
> real [i.e. concrete] tools and objects that humans, also in accordance with
> Marxism, place between themselves and nature.  In other words, what makes a
> human human? Symbol or thing? The crucifix or the hammer and sickle? If it
> is the symbol then this is idealism. If it is the thing then this is
> materialism or perhaps dialectical materialism"
>
> "Reading" this question  through your response above I wonder if the answer
> is unfinalizable and may depend on the "reciprocal" interpenetration of the
> symbolic and sensory.  I am assuming the symbolic as "figurative" and
> "con/figurative" phenomena that expresses co-existence.
>
> I am Reading Jan Derry's 2013 book "Vygotsky: Philosophy and Education" and
> Zinchenko's quote is on page 14.
>
> Larry
>
> On Mon, Jun 1, 2015 at 5:38 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > The other day I was listening to Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette". It's the
> > wedding night, and they got to bed. Because they have no alarm clock,
> they
> > must listen carefully for the sound of the lark, else Romeo will be
> > captured by the guards of Verona and hanged.
> >
> > Romeo is sleeping with one ear open, and he is the first to awake. Romeo
> > hears a bird and tells Juliette, and Juliette replies:
> >
> > Non, ce n'est pas le jour.
> > Ce n'est pas l'allouette.
> > Dont le chant a frappe
> > Ton orielle inquiete
> >
> > (No, it is not the day
> > That is not the lark
> > Whose song has struck
> > Your sleepless ear)
> >
> > But of course the song persists. Juliette reassures him:
> >
> > C'est le doux rossignol
> > Confidant d'amour!
> >
> > (It's the sweet nightengale
> > The confidant of love!)
> >
> > And Romeo decides, for probably just for the sake of being able to
> reverse
> > roles and sing the song himself, that he will go along with Juliette's
> idea
> > and go back to sleep. So then Juliette hears the sound and realizes that
> > you must leave, helas! And Romeo sings, "Non, ce n'est pas le jour...."
> >
> > All of which reminded me of the crucial fact that in the sixteenth
> century
> > they did not yet have alarm clocks. But when you hear the woodwinds come
> in
> > precisely at 1:47:35, what you hear, if you are a modern listener, is an
> > electric alarm clock.
> >
> > Now of course, in Gounod's time they no more had electric alarm clocks
> than
> > in Shakespeare's. But such is the ideological footprint of artifacts;
> they
> > heard the sound of the woodwinds as that of a nightengale, and we hear it
> > as battery powered alarm clock.  Or is it the other way around, and the
> > alarm is designed  to mimick a lark?
> >
> > Last night we were working on ways of teaching vocabulary which are
> > GENERALIZABLE. It is of course the case, as Vygotsky points out, that
> > MEANINGS can be related easily to each other, in one way (hierarchically)
> > when we teach scientific concepts and in another (sensually,
> > experientially) when we are not. It's also true that the WORDINGS are
> > related easily toe ach other, as nouns and verbs, as participants and
> > processes, and as circumstances. But what kids want are to be able to
> match
> > the soundings and the imagery. In most languages this seems arbitrary and
> > so vocabulary seems a piecemeal affair.
> >
> > It isn't. As Vygotsky points out, when you go back in time, you find that
> > there are (at least) three kinds of associative links which must help the
> > young vocabulary learner. We had the following list of Canadian animals
> to
> > teach brought in by a hakweon teacher from Canada:
> >
> > moose, goose, badger, beaver, eagle, porcupine
> >
> > With "moose" and "goose' the link is sounding--try bellowing the first
> like
> > a moose, and hooting the second like a goose. With "badger" and "beaver"
> > the link is wording--badgers badger grubs and bother birds, while beavers
> > are always beavering around with dams and nests. Eagle somehow
> alliterates
> > with "eye" and "spy", and "porcupine" suggests a piney, spiney,
> > pineapple-pig.
> >
> > Of course, none of these are concepts. All are forms of complex. But all
> of
> > them are the ideological footprint, the long shadow, cast by an artefact
> > down through history.
> >
> > If you want to hear the lark, you will have to wait to the end of the
> > opera, where it takes on another meaning. As everybody knows, Romeo dies
> > before Juliet awakes. But in Gounod's version, he drinks the poison, she
> > awakes, and they are once again joyful in each other's arms, until he
> > remembers the poison (a minor detail!) and dies singing...you guessed
> > it...2:31:00.
> >
> > "No, it is not the day
> > That is not the lark...
> > It's the sweet nightengale
> > The confidant of love!"
> >
> > Of course it's absurd (although not quite as absurd as the moment that
> poor
> > Rolando Villazon has to wipe the sweat off the end of his nose before he
> > kisses Nina Machaidze). But it's also somewhat terrifying, as a raw
> > demonstrating of the ideological footprint of artworks. A single sound
> has
> > the power to be a bird in one century, a piccolo in another, and a
> digital
> > alarm clock in our own. Artifacts cast a long shadow, even at night.
> >
> > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmNULK87lK0
> >
> > David Kellogg
> >
>

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