[xmca] Concepts WITHOUT Internalization?

From: David Kellogg (vaughndogblack@yahoo.com)
Date: Thu Mar 08 2007 - 04:15:17 PST

Dear Martin:
  I'm lost. I'm afraid don't understand what concept formation means UNLESS internalization is involved.
  As far as I know, concepts do not exist externally. What exists externally is a set of blocks with ink marks on the bottom. The concept does not exist in the block; wood is what exists in the block. The concept does not exist in the ink marks either; ink exists there.
  One of the very few things that Saussure says that I agree with is that linguistics is a "science" whose object is created by one's point of view rather than discovered in one's environment. Most people, alas, have interpreted this as a banal statement to the effect that if we are interested in phonetics, then linguistics is primarly about phonetics and if we are interested in syntax, why then it is mostly about grammar.
  I don't think that's what Saussure meant. He meant that before we can be interested in language at all we have to recognize a pattern of sounds as being meaningful. That meaning is what is created by one's point of view. It doesn't exist externally; what exists externally is only sound. (I'm not sure I agree that linguistics is a "science" though! It often seems to me that the humanities in general and literature in particular has a better grip on the key linguistic relationship between context and text.)
  Vygotsky thinks that concepts can only be created, accessed and shared through language (and in fact only through a particular type of language). But Vygotsky goes even further. He says that all direct instruction in concepts is fruitless. We may intervene in the construction of concepts, but the nature of our interventions is necessariliy indirect.
  When we use language to share concepts (e.g. when we discuss what Saussure meant by the concept of linguistics), we are doing something quite different from when we use language to share attention ("Look! A lion!"). If concepts existed externally, it is very hard to see why Vygotsky would reject the idea of direct instruction.
  When Baudrillard died, most of the obituaries spoke of him as the man who believed that if you don't read about it in the paper, it didn't really happen. But if I read Baudrillard's obit and he doesn't, it means he is dead. In this way, death is more like the lion than la langue.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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