Re: [xmca] Harried instructor seeks words of wisdom

From: Vera Steiner (
Date: Fri Feb 09 2007 - 09:24:19 PST


I sent my message on consciousness before reading Martin's "harried
instructor seeks words of wisdom." It is a fine discussion, and my
apologies for not referring to it in my somewhat differently focused
comments.In my class last night, I tried to differentiate between
responsiveness, awareness and consciousness, a hard task, but if anyone
is interested, I would be willing to struggle with it some more in our
discussions. Right now, I have to leave the house and the computer,

Martin Packer wrote:

>Trying to get the worms out of one can I seem to have opened another, but I
>think David may have rescued me before I started to ask. Trying to explain
>why studying consciousness was important to Vygotsky, I started with the
>assertion that for him (and me too) consciousness is in our interaction with
>the world. I suppose that all animals have consciousness, perhaps even
>plants in some sense, since they respond to changes in the environment (day
>& night; the movement of the sun) and so must sense these in some way. But
>human consciousness is, one supposes, much more complex, and it develops.
>If consciousness is in our interactions, not in our heads, that is helpful
>when we are trying to avoid dualistic thinking. And, yes, Vygotsky was
>trying to give a materialistic account of consciousness, which at first
>seems pretty contradictory.
>Psychology today generally doesnıt consider consciousness: in one class one
>might study memory, in another perception, in a third language, and so on.
>>From Vygotskyıs point of view this has divided up something unitary ­ after
>all, in my conscious existence I am thinking at one moment, remembering
>something the next, then imagining something, talking, ... and even this
>account divides consciousness up too much. So the proper study of
>consciousness is the study of all these functions in their
>interrelationship. It is, I said, only to keep things simple that Vygotsky
>focuses mainly on thinking and talking in the book we are reading.
>I said some more. I said it in (bad) Spanish and now I canıt remember it in
>And they said, okay, very good, but what was Vygotskyıs definition of
>Œconsciousnessı? Give us a definition of consciousness, and keep it concise
>and formal. They said this with a (collective) smile, so I know they werenıt
>expecting a dictionary definition, even before reading Davidıs message. But
>I wasnıt able to give a (good) answer.
>David, for me, too, consciousness is not cognition. I completely agree with
>you that volition is crucial for Vygotsky. (For example, I think Vygotskyıs
>position on scientific concepts is misunderstood when people say that such
>concepts enable self-control; V is clear that itıs the other way round:
>self-control, mastery of oneıs own psychological functions, makes such
>concepts possible.) But Iım not entirely comfortable *equating*
>consciousness with volition. I guess for a first shot Iıd say that volition
>is a relation between consciousness and functions that lack consciousness.
>One thing I like about this formulation is that it includes the possibility
>that consciousness is social, intersubjective, and that self-control has its
>roots in control-by-others. And I do believe that this was Vygotskyıs
>position (in-itself; for-others; for-itself). But ­ having put it this way ­
>one has to distinguish carefully between consciousness and
>self-consciousness, no?
>Enough for one day. Iım off for enchiladas. More words of wisdom from XMCAıs
>collective consciousness will be much appreciated!
>p.s I think Osimbologia may be a Nahuatl word. ;) I saw a wonderful
>Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary the other day. Any takers?
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