RE: Rommeveit available

From: Michael Glassman (
Date: Mon Aug 09 2004 - 10:14:46 PDT

I was going to wait to see what other people might have to say about Rommetveit, but something I read on another list (actually two things) spurred me to comment.
The first is more of an observation. When I first read Rommetveit's description of American science/philosophy of mind I was kind of annoyed. I thought that while it wasn't necessarily wrong, the things he says about Hull and Spence/Hull learning theory are largely correct I think, by expanding it to encompass the entire American program (American research is focused on the organism) sort of paints a cartoonish and in many ways misleading portrait. Hull was already (by my count) fourth generation (first generation being James and Ladd, second generation Dewey, Angel and Hall, third generation Watson, Cattell and Thorndike). A lot debate about the direction of psychology and education went on during those earlier generations and there was a lot of political blood on the floor. And many of the points that Rommetveit wants to make about meaning were part of that debate. To just suggest none of that occurred and that American psychology started with Hull may meet some narrative needs, but I think it sets in stone a "script" (I got that from the Daily Howler and Paul Krugman) that people just keep following. I think I understand the reasons why Rommetveit does this, but I would argue he gives up far more than he gains by setting up this false dichotomy between American thinking and European thinking (which he backtracks on somewhat by bringing Mead and to a lesser extent Royce into the discussion).
The second issue is far more important I think. Recently I have been less comfortable with the concepts of co-authorship and co-construction, and I have been trying to figure out why. It it from reading this thread on the Dewey list that I have gained a better understanding of it. When we concentrate on "meaning" as a form of co-authorship, the way Rommetveit does with Mr. Smith and his lawn mowing activities, it feels to me like this approaches the problem by looking inward. We are concentrating on what the issues are in the lives of the people involved that gives the word meaning. While I agree in the interactive nature of the analysis (wish is were more transactive - but maybe that requires reading more Rommetveit), it seems a less active form of analysis where we sit back and try and understand why certain mediating symbols have certain meaning, almost like playing a complex game with the words (allusions to Wittgenstein are intended). It is interesting, and it may be true, but it does not foster change, nor does it provide any avenue for change. In other words, the issue of co-authorship does not look outward, it has few, if any political implications. What if we took a more progressive view of those whole lawn mowing issue and approached it not from the perspective of mediation, but from the perspective of motivation (I am probably talking more here in the Stanislavsky sense than in the Leontiev sense, though I think Leontiev's view must have come from Stanislavsky - through Vygotsky maybe - and therefore there are many similarities).
Why don't we look at the situation not from trying to analyze the symbols, but from trying to recognize Mrs. Smith's motivations for what she says. By understanding the motivations, and the transactive nature of these motivations, we can have a better understanding of what is coming next. We don't concentrate so much on the word itself, but on where the motivations that caused Mrs. Smith to use these words as instruments will take her in relation to Mr. Smith, in relation to others, but especially in relation to the next problem she faces.
Well, that's enough for now. I hope I made at least some sense.


From: Steve Gabosch []
Sent: Sat 8/7/2004 3:32 AM
Subject: Re: Rommeveit available

Mike's directions to the Rommeveit article are correct, but there are a
couple of tricks, at least the way I got in.

 From the lchc site:
Mind Culture Activity Journal
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
MCA Links (that is the tricky part)
then Vol 10, No. 3

Or, to go directly:

- Steve

At 05:20 PM 8/6/2004, Mike wrote:
>If you visit the xmca page at lchc and go from there to Erlbaum,
>you will find that the current article for discussion by Ragnar Rommetveit
>(Vol 10, no. 3) is now available for free.

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