Re: [xmca] Monism Is Not Reductionist

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Mon Mar 12 2007 - 02:44:35 PST

You are right about interaction being crucial and about the adult trying
to "figure out" the child at the same time.
There are million of possibilities.
As I said in my first e-mail, we used this "test" at the University of
Belgrade when we made the blocks. Also I used it in one of my research
on the development of meaning.
The point is that every one of adult's next moves depends on the child's
move and vice versa. One may start the same. Our start was to show the
child the big, tall red cube -- uncover the label (LAG) and say: "This
is a LAG. Can you give me another LAG?" But we would formulate even this
question a bit different depending on many circumstances. Age of the
child can change it: slightly older children might be asked "What, do
you think, are other LAGs?" Sometimes it was not the age but the level
of personal knowledge of the child. As everyone else, we did pilots with
children we knew personally. The better you knew the child the more you
had to "motivate" this activity -- to find a real explanation to what do
you want to achieve by either withholding information (not uncovering
all the tags immediately) and the manner in which you were disclosing it
(Do you include praise after every guess? How do you "measure" your
words when you have to say "Wrong!"? Do you act like you know the names
-- i.e. truthfully; or you act like you are also seeing them for the
first time??)... All of this will influence the child's next moves and
therefore the adult's next moves.

Even from the combinatorial point of view only -- there are 21 possible
choices the child can offer after shown one of the blocks. The first
move is both offering the most of the choices and the least certainty as
to what could be the underlying principle (reason) for the sub
categorization. Also, at that point, the adult usually does not say:
"There are four kinds of blocks here: lags, murs, fiks, and sevs..." So
there is no knowledge of the overall structure. But some children ask
you about it, maybe even after the first move, or maybe after the first
"wrong" choice. I will never forget one of the boys who was about 5 and
1/2 and a child of my good friends who said something like: "Tell me how
many different names are there in the first place?" right after it was
disclosed that he made a "mistake" in his first guess.
Another child asked me: "How do you play this game after you guess all
the blocks' names?" -- in other words -- what is the "point" of the
game??, she wanted to know what would be the purpose of doing this
exercise of guessing names.

In other words, the situation is fully social as it is in Piagetian
tasks or any other testing. The child is trying to "figure out" what is
the adult's purpose, or what is the motivation. The task of figuring out
the names of the blocks is a joint activity which is emergent for both
partners. We tried to standardize the protocols and to standardize
coding the moves. We did not quite succeed. There were just general
instructions to be friendly and not to sound punitive in case of
repeated "failures" to guess. Some children are more "patient" and play
along even when they are constantly guessing "wrong". Other children are
less tolerant and get very frustrated when the situation (labels) prove
them "wrong". That may change the interviewer's responses and overall

There are more intricacies -- but I also have to run for now.

Mike Cole wrote:
> Gotta be brief, Martin. Check the text. Also, Sakharov has a long
> article in
> the van der veer and valsiner book of readings on vygotsky which goes
> deep
> into the rationale. I only had time to skim.
> I think the interactivity is crucial to the method, but that may well
> be a
> superficial reading.
> mike
> On 3/11/07, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
>> Yes, sorry, I meant "Martin". :-)
>> I am not claiming that there is a "correlation" between a concept and a
>> thing. e.g. as you say, being a commodity does not depend on a
>> participant
>> in exchange knowing the concept "commodity". Such a judgment is possible
>> from an observer perspective without reference to the participant's
>> theory
>> of what they are doing.
>> But I am saying that the basis for a concept is the ideality involved in
>> the activity. You can't recognise a commodity by its physical
>> properties.
>> Some reference to mind is necessary."Commodity" does not arise as a
>> concept
>> until the practice of exchanging products reaches a certain level of
>> development, which includes products being produced for exchanged, i.e.,
>> as
>> ideals. It is impossible to identify a thing as a commodity outside of
>> consideration of the consciousness of the participants.
>> For example, a thing produced *for the purpose of meeting the producer's
>> needs by exchanging it for another person's product* is a commodity only
>> because of the separation of the producer's needs from the producer's
>> labour, and the existence of a relation with other producers such that
>> someone else satisfies the person's needs, and each sees the other as a
>> means to their own ends. This situation is sustainable only through
>> forms
>> of consciousness. It can't happen without appropriate orientation of
>> people's psyches.
>> And in fact if this situation were contrived independently of the
>> consciousness of the participants (e.g., organisation of prison labour),
>> then I would say that the products are not commodities, even though the
>> movement of matter is the same.
>> So "a commodity is a commodity, whether or not I recognize this in my
>> thinking" but not for example if you intended to consume it yourself,
>> but
>> someone exchanged it for something else when you were out of the
>> room, or
>> you intended to exchange it, but no-one else wanted it.
>> Andy
>> At 07:42 PM 11/03/2007 -0600, you wrote:
>> >And Andy, when you say 'David,' I presume you mean Martin? :)
>> >
>> >But you're not saying, are you, that our thinking necessarily
>> 'correlates'
>> >with the concepts formed in our activity? I mean, a commodity is a
>> >commodity, whether or not I recognize this in my thinking.
>> >
>> >Martin
>> >
>> >On 3/11/07 6:24 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:
>> >
>> > > And David, when you say 'practice', I presume you mean purposive
>> activity,
>> > > as opposed to simply material action, such as digestion. Material
>> actions
>> > > which are not 'practical' in this sense are not a relevantly
>> necessary
>> > > substrate of concepts. It is only practice which is part of 'mind'
>> which is
>> > > the relevant necessary substrate of concepts.Things that we do that
>> have no
>> > > correlate in our thinking, such as the use of meaningful artefacts,
>> are not
>> > > the basis for concepts.
>> > > Andy
>> > > At 06:03 PM 11/03/2007 -0600, you wrote:
>> > >> David,
>> > >> So when Andy writes 'If you mean that concepts do not exist other
>> than in
>> > >> connection with human minds, then I agree,' I think what he *ought*
>> to
>> > >> have said, perhaps what he meant to say, was that concepts do not
>> exist
>> > >> other than in connection with human *practices*. I think wed agree
>> that a
>> > >> 'commodity' exists in the social world, not merely in a person's
>> head. The
>> > >> 'commodity form' is defined, created, by social practices, not
>> in and
>> by
>> > >> individual minds.
>> > >
>> > > _______________________________________________
>> > > xmca mailing list
>> > >
>> > >
>> >
>> >
>> >_______________________________________________
>> >xmca mailing list
>> >
>> >
>> Andy Blunden. The Subject -
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------------------------------------------------------------------------ /Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Ph.D./ /151 W. Tulpehocken St./

/Philadelphia//, PA 19144///

/(h) 215-843-2909/

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