Re: [xmca] Concepts WITHOUT Internalization?

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Thu Mar 08 2007 - 07:01:52 PST


A lot depends on what you mean by internally and externally. At first glance
your position resembles Cartesian dualism. Objects exist in the world;
ideas, representations and concepts - knowledge - exist in the head. One of
the major problems with this position is that we really can't say anything
about the objects in the world. We can't say that wood exists because 'wood'
is a concept. We can't say sound exists because 'sound' is a concept. Why
say that what exists is 'wood,' rather than 'carbon,' or 'molecules' or
'quarks' or...?

So what's the alternative? Well how about this? The concept of LAG exists in
the world, in the social practices of those who use this word and concept.
To learn the concept is to take over individually what is there socially.
But does this mean that the concept is now 'internal'? Or (somewhat
different claim) that it is 'internalized'? I can certainly see that
something has changed physiologically in my brain (and body), but has
something changed 'in' my mind? Where I used to see the block as a yellow
circle, I now see it as a LAG. The (seemingly) 'external' world has changed,
as I now look at from a different point of view. I think your reference to
Saussure is appropriate. But notice that the metaphor of 'point of view'
assumes that one is *in* the world, with a particular position. Nothing has
gone from outside me to inside me; what has happened is that my relation to
the world has changed. My consciousness has changed.

I think Bakhurst is quite good, in his 'Consciousness and revolution in
soviet philosophy' on the 'direct realism' that he finds in Vygotsky, Lenin,
and Leontiev. It is a position in which mind is in the world, with direct
access to objects that are defined by cultural practices. Consciousness is
not 'inner,' not least because it is *in* consciousness that we have the
perception (at least at times) of inner and outer phenomena.

Vygotsky uses the terms 'inner' and 'outer' in (at least) two different
ways: to distinguish individual from social; and to distinguish processes
that occur entirely within the brain from those that occur in action.
Egocentric speech is inner in the first sense, outer in the second. Silent
speech is inner in both senses. The change from social speech to egocentric
speech is 'internalization' in the first sense; the change from egocentric
speech to silent speech is 'internalization' in the second sense. But in
neither case has something 'outside' the mind become 'inside' the mind. And
in neither case has something *moved* from outer to inner: in the case of
the transition from egocentric speech to silent speech, for example,
functions that were once sustained by outer processes (e.g. social
interactions) are now sustained by inner processes (e.g. entirely
neurological interactions).

hope this is at least a bit clear


On 3/8/07 6:15 AM, "David Kellogg" <> wrote:

> 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
> ---------------------------------
> Food fight? Enjoy some healthy debate
> in the Yahoo! Answers Food & Drink Q&A.
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