Re: [xmca] Translation Problem?

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Fri Feb 02 2007 - 09:22:15 PST

Very nice summary and explanation, Elina. Thanks.

On 2/2/07, Lampert-Shepel, Elina <> wrote:
> Hello, David,
> I am not an expert in geographical terminology, but I checked the
> collected works in Russian (published in 1982, I was given when I
> immigrated; a 'treasure copy with the comments of researchers from Kharkov
> lab and Daniil El'konin on the margins...:-)) and found the quote in the
> original. The quote you referred to was translated quite literally. It seems
> that Vygotsky is using the analogy with South and North poles to explain his
> view on the locus of the concept on the intersection of abstract and
> concrete thought about an object, unity of abstract and concrete in each
> concept. This is, as you say, an important distinction of scientific
> concepts from any others, this thought was built on by Davydov in his idea
> of theoretical generalization vs empirical one. My interpretation is that
> "longitude of a concept" is a vertical line, that sympolizes the
> generalization spectrum from immediate sensual experience of the object to
> the abstract generalization. ( It was interesting for me that in this place
> Vygotsky was not neccessarily following Hegelian understanding of abstract
> and concrete...) Vygotsky explains in the next paragraph that if we imagine
> globe to represent all the variety of the views on reality, "latitude", as
> far as I understood it ,symbolized the space the concept occupied among the
> concepts of the same "longitude."
> Elina
> Longitude
> Longitude
> ________________________________
> From: on behalf of David Kellogg
> Sent: Thu 2/1/2007 4:22 PM
> To: xcma
> Subject: [xmca] Translation Problem?
> In Chapter Six of "Thinking and Speech" (in Volume One of the Collected
> Works), Vygotsky is discussing how scientific concepts, unlike spontaneous
> ones, emerge swaddled in a dense network of related concepts. He uses a kind
> of Cartesian grid, only he imagines it in three dimensions, as global
> coordinates instead.
> One set of coordinates gives the location of the concept in terms of
> what we might call "object/meaning" or "meaning/object": that is, is the
> concept identical with a concrete object or action (say, "my goldfish", or
> "I kicked the ball") or is it almost pure generalization (e.g. numbers,
> where the concept is only very remotely linked to the concrete action of
> counting)
> The other set of coordinates gives the location of the concept in terms
> of other concepts at the same level of generality (that is, the same
> proportion of "object/meaning").
> The problem is, which set of coordinates is which? Here's how the
> passage appears in the Collected Works:
> "Imagine that all concepts are distributed at certain longitudes (does
> he mean latitudes?) like the points of the earth's surface between the North
> and South poles. Concepts are distributed between poles ranging from an
> immediate, sensual, graphic grasping of the object to the ultimate
> generalization (i.e., the most abstract concept). The longitude (he must
> mean the latitudinal location) of a concept designates the place it occupies
> between the poles of extremely graphic and extremely abstract thought about
> an object. Concepts would then be differentiated in longitudinal (that is,
> latitudinal) terms depending on the degree to which the unity of concrete
> and abstract is represented in each concept. Imagine further that the globe
> symbolizes for us all reality which is represented in concepts. We can then
> use the concept's latitude (that is, longitude) to designate the place it
> occupies among other concepts of the same longitude (that is, latitude),
> concepts that correspond
> to other points of reality just as the geographical latitude designates a
> point on the earth's surface in the degrees of the earth's parallels."
> (226-227)
> I THINK I understand what he's trying to do. Unlike the Cartesian grid,
> he wants to have two distinct poles at which variation is not really
> possible: one of them (which we'll call the North Pole) is really the
> spontaneous concept, which is pretty much sui generis; the child does not
> have other concepts at the same level of generality as "wood" or "water"
> that occupy exactly that conceptual space. At the other pole (we'll call it
> the South Pole) we have the purely scientific or mathematical concept; the
> number of names of any particular number is infinite, but they all have
> exactly the same abstract meaning. In between we find concepts that are very
> much in between, that is, the conceptual space they occupy is slightly
> different from neighboring concepts which are hyponyms or hypernyms and thus
> vary on the North-South axis, but also different from analogous concepts
> which are at the same level of abstraction but which cover different
> conceptual spaces. That is why there
> are only two poles in this system.
> The problem is that the passage only makes sense to me when I substitute
> latitude for longitude and vice versa. At first I thought that it was my
> usual inability to keep "left" and "right" from getting mixed up. Then I
> thought maybe LSV was using "longitude" to mean "position on a line of
> longitude" (that is, latitude). I checked the Vakar and Hanfmann translation
> (1962) and they simply use "coordinate grid", which unfortunately doesn't
> allow poles. I also looked in a German translation from 1964, but it has the
> same text as the Minick translation. Can anybody clear this up? What does
> the Kozulin translation say?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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