Re: [xmca] Isn't Perception a Shared Paradigm Too?

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Thu Mar 15 2007 - 08:25:32 PST


It's true we have to learn to see quarks. And fibres. But we also have to
learn to see wood.

I can't agree that perception is somehow fundamental, biological, and
veridical. Are you saying that the neonate is born able to see wood? They
too have to learn to do so. As you have pointed out, what *counts* as wood
changes from culture to culture. Participation in cultural practices is a
prerequisite for seeing in a particular way. What I (in my culture) see as a
Coke bottle you (in your culture) might see as a gift from the gods. (I
know, it was a terrible movie.)

As I read Vygotsky, perception and conception are related dialectically.
Concepts are not solely abstract, they are also concrete. To have a concept
is to perceive (be conscious of) the world differently. To see objects
differently, and to see different objects. (After all, we're not born able
to see words.) So perception changes with development, and is as much social
as it is biological. In the Pedology of the Adolescent Vygotsky writes about
the disclosing power of a concept:

³Psychological research is disclosing that in a concept, we always have an
enrichment and deepening of the content that the concept contains. In this
respect, the Marxist equating of the role of abstraction with the power of
the microscope is completely correct. In genuine scientific research, with
the help of the concept, we are able to penetrate through the external
appearance of phenomena, across the external form of their manifestations,
and see the hidden connections and relations lying at the base of the
phenomena to penetrate into their essence, just as with the aid of a
microscope, we disclose in a drop of water a complex and rich life, or the
complex internal structure of a cell hidden from our eyes.²

And in Tool and Sign he discusses more closely the changes in perception as
speech begins to mediate the way we see:

" When speech comes into play, his [the child's] perception is no longer
connected with the direct impression of the whole; new centers fixed by
words and connections of various points with these centers arise in the
visual field; perception stops being Œthe slave of the visual field¹ and,
independently of the degree of correctness and completeness of resolution,
the child perceives and transfers an impression deformed by the word² (12)

So we get a view of the concept not as object but as process, as both
abstract and concrete, as a unity of perception and judgment, and last but
not least as the basis for a penetrating consciousness of the complexities
of the world we live in:

"The concept begins to be understood not as a thing, but as a process, not
as an empty abstraction, but as a thorough and penetrating reflection of an
object of reality in all its complexity and diversity, in connections and
relations to all the rest of realityŠ. Thus, we see that for the
psychologist, the concept is an aggregate of acts of judgment, apperception,
interpretation, and recognition."


On 3/14/07 5:13 PM, "David Kellogg" <> wrote:

> Yes, but you can't SEE quarks. Or cellulose fibres without a microscope. You
> can SEE wood. Or rather WE can see wood. That's the starting point.

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