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I have found the postings on the sense in which we should take "imitation"
and "copy" to be most informative. Certainly these terms cannot be taken in
their literal sense; something more constructive is meant. But rejecting a
literal sense brings its own problems. The major one, alluded to by Carol
when she mentioned the learning paradox, is how to account for novelty in
learning and development (and generally in human activity, I would guess).
As far as I am aware the only formalisms that can produce novel structures
are recursive phrase structure grammars (also known as Bachus-Naur
Formalisms) and their elaborated cousins, transformational grammars and
production systems. Does anyone know of any other candidates?
Three reactions to Mike's comment on invoking predecessors with respect to
evaluating what Galperin and others meant by "how human mental activity is
formed out of the transformations of 'external' activity." (Arievitch, p.
First, just to underline what Mike was referring to concerning the
political context that Leont'ev was negotiating: a 'copy' version of
internalization/learning is the complement of a transmission theory of
instruction/propagandizing, and as such would be clearly favored/required
by the Stalinist regime. It would seem that when Leont'ev speaks directly
about internalization, we need to keep this context in mind.
Second, evaluating predecessors' texts seems a lot like detective work
where one finds a lead or clue and tries to track down its sources and
significance in terms of the context of theorizing, what data were referred
to, etc. Peter Moxhay's reference to dialectical identity or unity seems
highly relevant, and further references or citations in Leontev's or
others' work would be worthwhile. Also, Leont'ev's writings on the
relationship between his object/goal and condition/operation constructs
seem relevant to characterizing what he understood and we understand by
Third, predecessors on the matter of internalization can be found in
cognate areas of research, such as work on the development of expertise in
the area of applied cognitive science. This work is much more concerned
than most cognitive science research with examining long-term development
of knowledge and skill, and thus has a definite genetic characteristic. It
also has concerned itself with studying applied areas, particularly in the
professions such as medicine, and thus often studies practice and
performance in realistic or close to realistic settings.
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