Re: [xmca] Concepts In Heads

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Thu Mar 08 2007 - 15:12:05 PST

David, I think that you have done (as ever) a marvellous job of defending
use of the word "internalisation." But I am still unhappy about your
declaration at the start that "concepts do not exist externally." If you
mean that concepts do not exist other than in connection with human minds,
then I agree. But that is not quite what you've argued.
At 02:45 PM 8/03/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>Dear Andy and Martin:
> Janet writes about a man in a mysterious room who suddenly notices in
> the wall a face staring at him. He is horrified, then intrigued, and at
> last relieved to discover it is only a mirror. But it is the relief which
> is an illusion, for the face reflected is not his own.
> Actually, Janet hated the word "reflection". For him it is the
> ultimate weasel word. When people say that consciousness is a
> "reflection" of the outside world, they have merely blamed consciousness
> on something outside the mind, not explained it.
> Yet we find that "reflection" is precisely the word that Engels uses to
> describe how concepts of (not "in" but "of") the outside world are formed
> in the human mind (the concept he uses is dialectics). The quotation from
> Engels that ends "Mind in Society" (which I think is a mistranslation) is
> an example of this.
> One of the good things that came out of the dispute with Wertsch over
> "internalization" and "appropriation" (and why not "acquisition", if we
> want a property metaphor) of concepts is a very clear realization that
> there is no way to use words to overcome dualism, because any word can be
> used in a dualistic way. Whether we use the word "reflection" or
> "internalization" or "interiorization" or "in" or "of") is not in the end
> very important, because ALL of these words can be used in a dualistic way
> (as products opposed to other products).
> But these words can also be used in a monist way (as processes which
> connect a state that is more one thing with a state that is more the
> other). I think that's what Engels was doing with "reflection" and I
> think that is what Vygotsky's doing with "internalization".
> "Wood" is neither a material reality nor a concept. It's an English
> word. When I said that what is in the block is not a concept but wood, I
> was using this word to refer to the matter of which Martin is going to
> construct his Ach blocks as opposed to an abstract concept. Yes, it is
> possible for one to become interiorized as the other, but no it is not a
> matter of internalizing matter, or even DIRECTLY internalizing a word. It
> is, nevertheless, a process that Vygotsky described as internalization.
> In contrast, if I were to say something like "I prefer wood coffee
> tables to glass ones", then I am referring to an abstract concept, and if
> somebody heard me say this and offered me a choice between a beer-stained
> piece of rec-room furniture and an expensive Danish coffee table made of
> Venetian glass I might well take the latter.
> Andy suggests that if I use the word "internalization" I MUST be using
> it in a dualistic way, and that is more or less how I understand
> Wertsch's criticism of LSV in "Vygotsky and the Social Construction of
> Mind". I don't see why that's so.
> In fact, when LSV argues that BEFORE the process of internalization
> there essentially IS no mind, that internalization is what actually
> CREATES the mental plane, it seems to me this is a clearly NON-dualistic
> use of "internalization". Of course, he uses words to express it, and
> words can and inevitably ARE interpreted dualistically by those who are
> so inclined. But I'm actually grateful that he uses words I can
> (mis)understand; it's bad enough that they're in Russian.
> There is an undoubtedly apocryphal story about a very loud discussion
> in a New York cafe between Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning and a few other of
> the greats of abstract expressionism back in the fifties. The discussion
> was about whether one should sign one's paintings or not. Some argued
> that it was vain and egocentric to sign paintings, and others argued that
> it was merely unnecessary, since every brush stroke screamed your name
> anyway. Still others argued, doubtless correctly, that this last thought
> was vain.
> The dealer (who doubtless had a vested interest here) cut in at the end
> and said something like "Cut it out, guys. If you are a vain person, then
> it is vain to sign your paintings and it is vain to not sign your
> painting, but if you are not a vain person then it is not vain to not
> sign your paintings and it is not vain to sign them either."
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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