Re: [xmca] uncertainites

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Wed Apr 26 2006 - 19:13:56 PDT

David, thanks for your post. I have a
question. I found the passage from Carl Bereiter
quoting Anna Harres quite thought-provoking,
thank you for that. I now have two more
interesting thinkers to add to the ever-growing
list I get from CHAT, xmca, etc. The idea that
personal "rationality" is not fundamentally "rule
based" - but is rather an internalization of
complex, often contradictory social processes -
seems to me to be the right place to start. I
like the way these authors take this idea to the
next level, as suggested in the quote, seeing a
person's "logic" not as a set of abstract rules,
but as ongoing concrete social justifications and
public legitimizations of behavior, complete with
arguments about conformance (or non-conformance
when arguing against someone) to accepted
standards and socially valid procedures and
rules. My take on this in everyday terms is to
see human individuals as not being logical
computers, but clever, political creatures.

Reductionism, to be sure, is a vastly powerful
tool of observation and generalization, no doubt
whatsoever. It is exceedingly useful in the
natural sciences, and the social sciences as
well, although it must be used more carefully in
the latter because of the high levels of
complexity and countless instances of "downward
causation" found in human affairs. But in this
case, in the "rational/rationale" question, as
Mike puts it, how is Harres' description of what
I characterize as the essentially political
rather than rule-based character of personal rationality "reductionist?"

- Steve

At 09:45 AM 4/25/2006 -0500, David Kirshner wrote:

>Steve, but reductionist science still can make a contribution at the level
>of material constraints on cognition. In his account of connectionism,
>Bereiter (1991) nicely reconciles the linear experience of rule following
>and rationality with the massively parallel correlation of input and output
>features as conceived in connectionist theory:
>Harré's theory about the social nature of rationality (1979, 1984) provides
>an illuminating way to think about ... how the classical rule-based view
>relates to cognition. When people try to give a retrospective report of
>their mental processes, what they tend to do instead is provide a
>justification of their actions (Nisbett & Ross, 1980). Rationality,
>according to Harré, originates in this essentially social process of
>justification. What we call logical reasoning, and attribute to the
>workings of the individual mind, is actually a public reconstruction meant
>to legitimate a conclusion by showing that it can be derived by procedures
>recognized as valid....
> Personal rationality, according to Harré (1984), results from turning
>the social process of justification inward upon one’s own thoughts. Coming
>to think in such a way that private thought conforms to public standards of
>rationality is conventionally conceived of as internalizing a set of rules.
> From a connectionist viewpoint, this conception errs on both sidesin
>assuuming that public rationality is based on rules and that individual
>cognition is as well. The development of personal rationality is better
>conceived of as the tuning of a massive network so that its outputs achieve
>an increasingly fine fit to what is publicly justifiable.
> Explicit rules may play a part in learning to think, but (as
>suggested by the long history of failure of instruction in logic to improve
>thinking) a very limited one. Turning the social process of justification
>inward amounts to a kind of self-checking. In this process, one might
>consult logical rules in the same way that one might consult rules of
>algebra while solving a mathematical problem or consult an etiquette book
>when planning a formal dinner. Rules, thus, may play an important role as
>knowledge that enters into computations, but this is a fundamentally
>different role from the one traditionally conceived by philosophers and
>cognitive scientists, where rules constitute the computational algorithms
>themselves. (Bereiter, 1991, p. 14)
>Bereiter then goes on to worry about "how a connectionist network can
>'consult' items of knowledge" (p. 14). But it seems to me that rules and
>conscious thought can facilitate connectionist processes by making salient
>(perceptually) elements of the input and output domains that are
>productively correlated in an effective connectionist system.
> Bereiter, C. (1991). Implications of connectionism for thinking about
>rules. Educational Researcher, 20, 10-16.
> Steve
> Gabosch
> <sgabosch who-is-at comcast
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
> .net>
> <>
> Sent
> by: cc: (bcc: David H
> Kirshner/dkirsh/LSU)
> xmca-bounces who-is-at webe
> Subject: Re: [xmca] uncertainites
> 04/25/2006
> 12:33
> AM
> Please respond
> to
> "eXtended
> Mind,
> Culture,
> Activity"
>The question of where does "constraint" end and
>"free will" begin is one of the questions that
>romantic science seems better suited to
>investigate than the usual reductionist
>traditions in classical science. This makes
>Luria's thought all the more interesting.
>BTW, where does Luria make this intriguing
>statement Mike quoted? I have seen it elsewhere and have been wanting to
> >"Many observations support our view that the consideration of the
> >act as accomplished by "will-power" is a myth and that the human cannot by
> >direct force control his behavior any more than "a shadow can carry
>To my ears, the line of thinking in this
>particular passage is suggestive of the
>Hegelian-originated classical Marxist view on
>freedom and necessity, which argues that human
>freedom is achievable in proportion to social
>(cultural) understandings of natural and social
>realities, and the human ability to act on those
>understandings. I think Martin put it very well
>in his post, that "free will" alone cannot be a
>"direct" force. The power and possibility of
>free will consists not in its independence from
>reality, but in its ability to work with reality
>and find ways to transform it. Speaking to
>Luria's shadow-carrying-stones metaphor, it is
>not our free will alone, but our physical
>experiences with and thoughts about real objects
>and processes that make it possible for us to
>invent ways to haul stones and
>boulders. Similarly, our voluntary control of
>our bodies and thinking processes is not a direct
>product of sheer will, either. The voluntary act
>too must be rooted - constrained, if you will -
>in real experience and the real processes of
>nature, society, our bodies, our nervous systems,
>etc. Attempts to explain humans "directly"
>controlling their behavior by sheer "will-power"
>are as plausible as stories of shadows carrying stones.
>As I understand the classical Marxist view, free
>will can exist, but it is not itself "free." The
>development of free will resides in the historic
>struggle of humans to gain control over their own
>activity by doing it in conjunction with the
>realities of nature and society. Freedom, in
>this reasoning process, is the understanding and
>harnessing of necessity. As we increasingly
>become masters of the necessity and reality of
>our lives, we become more free as a species. For
>better and worse, as history has unfolded in
>steps, alternating advances with setbacks, our
>species has been emancipating itself from an
>unknown, uncontrolled nature, and obsolete,
>oppressive societies by comprehending their
>realities, their contradictions, their facts of
>existence. In so doing, we have been learning
>about becoming free women, men and
>children. What Marx and Engels added to Hegel's
>insights into this question of freedom and
>necessity, in addition to firmly grounding human
>consciousness in history and social being, is
>that we must make real revolutions in society,
>and in science, to move forward toward mass
>emancipation, and that these tasks belong first
>and foremost to the working people of our planet.
>My sense of Luria's statement is it is extending
>this philosophical way of looking at freedom and
>necessity to the conscious psychological act. In
>contrast to mainstream scientific methods of
>reducing the use of voluntary behavior, free
>will, self-control, etc. to "lower" levels of
>reality (especially, biological processes), this
>approach begins to show a way toward more deeply
>understanding, through historical, sociological,
>cultural and psychological processes, how and why
>humans make the choices they do.
>Here is a classic Marxist discussion of freedom and necessity.
>from Anti-Duhring (1878) by Frederick Engels in a
>section entitled "Morality and Law. Freedom and Necessity."
>"To him [Hegel-sg], freedom is the insight into
>necessity (die Einsicht in die Notwendigheit).
>"Necessity is blind only in so far as it is not
>understood [begriffen]." [From Hegel's
>Encyclopedia of the Philosophical
>Sciences-sg]. Freedom does not consist in any
>dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in
>the knowledge of these laws, and in the
>possibility this gives of systematically making
>them work towards definite ends. This holds good
>in relation both to the laws of external nature
>and to those which govern the bodily and mental
>existence of men themselves ­ two classes of laws
>which we can separate from each other at most
>only in thought but not in reality. Freedom of
>the will therefore means nothing but the capacity
>to make decisions with knowledge of the subject.
>Therefore the freer a man's judgment is in
>relation to a definite question, the greater is
>the necessity with which the content of this
>judgment will be determined; while the
>uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to
>make an arbitrary choice among many different and
>conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely
>by this that it is not free, that it is
>controlled by the very object it should itself
>control. Freedom therefore consists in the
>control over ourselves and over external nature,
>a control founded on knowledge of natural
>necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product
>of historical development. The first men who
>separated themselves from the animal kingdom were
>in all essentials as unfree as the animals
>themselves, but each step forward in the field of
>culture was a step towards freedom."
>Engels continues with an interesting discussion
>of humankind first discovering how to make fire
>from friction, and then thousands of years later,
>learning how to make friction from fire, as in the steam engine.
>Also, here is a useful url to some relevant Hegel
>on this question of freedom and necessity, likely
>provided by our own Andy Blunden. The above
>Hegel quote from Engels can be found in this section.
>- Steve
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
>At 02:19 PM 4/23/2006 -0400, Martin Packer wrote:
> >Judy, Ana,
> >
> >I read Luria, as cited by Mike, perhaps a little differently:
> >
> >"Many observations support our view that the consideration of the
> >act as accomplished by "will-power" is a myth and that the human cannot by
> >direct force control his behavior any more than "a shadow can carry
> >
> >I'd place emphasis on Luria's word 'direct.' I think he was saying that we
> >cannot control our behavior simply by willing ourselves to do something
> >(following from a decision reached by means of thought or otherwise).
> >Rather, we have to transform our environment, so that it then enables (or
> >constrains!) the behavior we wish to perform. (I'm not sure I think this
> >always the case, but I'm sure it often is.) In a sense, then, the
> >environment 'causes' our behavior. But since it is we who arranged the
> >environment, this causality is under our control. And once again
> >action is mediated by public artifacts.
> >
> >If a teacher wants children to behave differently in the classroom,
> >requesting or demanding that they do so has little effect. But change the
> >way the classroom is organized...
> >
> >Martin
> >
> >On 4/23/06 12:45 PM, "Ana Marjanovic-Shane" <> wrote:
> >
> > > Dear Judy,
> > > so glad to hear from you! Maybe we are using the word "free" in a
> > > different sense.
> > > Let's turn your example upside down. What about the torturer?? One: can
> > > a torturer stop the torture "at free will"? Also: is a torturer
> > > responsible?? All of these are relevant to understand what we mean by
> > > FREE will/ or freedom?? What can we "choose" to do, up to what degree
> > > "freedom" or, is EVERYTHING we do determined by forces outside of our
> > > ability to control or maybe even to understand?
> > > Ana
> > >
> > > Judith Vera Diamondstone wrote:
> > >> Thinking has some force to it, Ana, but it is not free will.
> > >>
> > >> Think, if you will, of individuals under torture. That's the thought
> > >> experiment I apply to such questions. Some
> > "break"; some don't. No one thinks
> > >> their way out of the torture that's inflicted. Do you think the ones
> > >> don't break exercise free will?
> > >>
> > >> I would say they exercise constraints they
> > have practiced in other situations
> > >> in the past, & they have learned to read the conditions in such a way
> > >> 'not-breaking' is desirable.
> > >>
> > >> Judy
> > >>
> > >> -----Original Message-----
> > >> From:
> > >> Behalf Of Ana Marjanovic-Shane
> > >> Sent: Saturday, April 22, 2006 12:55 AM
> > >> To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > >> Subject: Re: [xmca] uncertainites
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> I think that Luria was not right in that and that people-kind proved
> > >> many times that "a shadow can carry stones" indeed.
> > >> In fact I think that our whole science (social sciences) exists
> > >> we believe that thinking (shadow) has some force in it.
> > >> Don't you think?
> > >> Ana
> > >>
> > >> Mike Cole wrote:
> > >>
> > >>> I believe the issue was constraints and
> > free will, donna and don. Sorry for
> > >>> the distraction of too many words.
> > >>>
> > >>> These were the one's I was focused on. If
> > you are interested in persuing the
> > >>> issue beyond snuffing it, lets.
> > >>>
> > >>> Are constraints a way of avoiding the issue of free will? And will?
> > >>> wrote:
> > >>>
> > >>> "Many observations support our view that
> > the consideration of the voluntary
> > >>> act as accomplished by "will-power" is a
> > myth and that the human cannot by
> > >>> direct force control his behavior any more
> > than "a shadow can carry stones".
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>> Sniff.
> > >>> mike
> > >>>
> > >>> On 4/21/06, Russell, Donna L <> wrote:
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>> Hi Don
> > >>>>
> > >>>> --for more word fun--
> > >>>>
> > >>>> " When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said,
> > >>>> "It means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
> > >>>> "The question is, said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so
> > >>>> different
> > >>>> things."
> > >>>> "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty,
> > >>>> "which is to be the master--that's all."
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Lewis Carroll
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Donna
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
> > >>>> Assistant Professor
> > >>>> Instructional Technology
> > >>>> Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
> > >>>> School of Education
> > >>>> University of Missouri-Kansas City
> > >>>> (email) <>
> > >>>> (website) <
> > >>>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>> "Quasi-Bedurfnisse" is the sound I make when I sneeze. But I love
> > >>>> learning new words!
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Don Cunningham
> > >>>> Indiana University
> > >>>>
> > >>>> _______________________________________________
> > >>>> xmca mailing list
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>> _______________________________________________
> > >>> xmca mailing list
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>
> > >>
> >
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
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