Re: [xmca] Subject: Verb, Object

From: Tony Whitson <twhitson who-is-at UDel.Edu>
Date: Tue Jan 01 2008 - 20:31:43 PST

How about this: Words (or, more generally, signs) don't HAVE meaning --
meaning is not something that they HAVE or CONTAIN or CONVEY, but what
they DO -- words and signs MEAN, in the interpretants that they generate.

On Wed, 2 Jan 2008, Geoff wrote:

> I'd like to add to Andy's explanation by referring to Wittgenstein's
> take on meaning - it's about use. I'd argue that words and artifacts
> derive their meaning by their usage as defined by the users. (Those in
> the language game in Wittgensteinian terms.) One of the nice things
> about Wittgenstein's definition is that it sets up a fluid boundary,
> leaving scope for changing habitus.
> Cheers, Geoff
> On 02/01/2008, Andy Blunden <> wrote:
>> I plead guilty to all charges of misuse of the names of parts/types of
>> psychology.
>> Re culture as both material and ideal. Let's take an example, the American
>> gun culture. Now, it's true as the NRA always say "It is people that commit
>> murder, not guns". But, nonetheless, the presence of 500 million guns
>> scattered around suburban America is a danger, isn't it? because people
>> *can* use them to murder .... and do. So culture, being made up of material
>> things, has properties which are relatively independent of the activities
>> in which they are used. But if the country was populated solely by
>> pacifists they would not be a danger. Clearing land makes for consequences
>> which were not intended by the people who cleared the land. (land=artefact,
>> erosion and farming=meaning).
>> Conversely, a library full of book written in the Gothic script is no use
>> when Germans can no longer read the old fashioned script. "Affordances" is
>> a word which is relevant here I guess.
>> Jim Wertsch's article on narrative tools which was circulated earlier this
>> week, was full of observations about the fact that cultural tools are
>> involved in shaping action, but never determine it. (Great article BTW. I
>> am now an admirer of Jim W.)
>> Because activity, thought and artefacts (culture) have different material
>> bases, they are never perfectly identified. A word may have different
>> meanings in different contexts and among different people, but acquaintance
>> with the word both conditions and affords certain kinds of activity and
>> consciousness.
>> So an artefact and its use (meaning) necessarily coincide at a certain
>> point, but the artefact may have existed before people found that it could
>> have a certain use and later on, the artefact may find different uses. Like
>> words and meanings and "intelligent speech".
>> Meaning is, I would say, the place of an artefact in some specific
>> activity. Meaning is particular, artefact is universal. So one and the same
>> artefact may have different meanings because it will play a part in
>> different systems of activity. And actually, it can mean different things
>> in one and the same system of activity because I have skated over the role
>> of consciousness in this explanation. "Christmas" means something different
>> to a housewife, a child, a parent, a moslem, etc., etc. even though the
>> festival is the self-same one. Different people see it and participate in
>> it differently.
>> Does that help?
>> Andy
>> At 06:24 PM 1/01/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>>> Andy,
>>> This definition of culture as mediating artefcts given in your message:
>>> "an artefact is what it is only in connection with its use in a certain
>>> range of activities with a certain meaning."
>>> simply moves the problem onto "a certain meaning".
>>> Coud you explain how to distinguish meaning from meaninglessness and
>>> how it is possible to separate the meanings from the activities in which
>>> ?it? is inscribed.
>>> .
>>> Paul
>>> Andy Blunden <> wrote:
>>> Paul,
>>> my understanding is that in the CHAT tradition, "culture" has a specific
>>> meaning, being the sum of artefacts produced and consumed by a group of
>>> people, inclusive of the understanding that an artefact is what it is only
>>> in connection with its use in a certain range of activities with a certain
>>> meaning.
>>> Nevertheless, the use of the word to indicate the *society* (as a
>>> continuing self-reproducing collectivity of communities) which produces and
>>> consumes the given collection of artefacts is so deeply embedded, I think
>>> that we have to accept that as a legitimate usage of the word. Mike is the
>>> person who has defined "cultural psychology" so maybe Mike will tell us
>>> what he means?
>>> Andy
>>> At 04:35 PM 1/01/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>>>> great, but would someone please tell me exactly what "culture" means.
>>>> Paul
>>>> Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>> Sure.
>>>> Andy
>>>> At 10:43 PM 1/01/2008 +0000, you wrote:
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> ... why not "cultural psychology"?
>>>>> Luísa Aires
>>>>>> Good question Mike. I never thought about that, and it is certainly in
>>>>>> ignorance of how these terms are used in academia generally.
>>>>>> I suppose by 'social psychology' I mean a current of psychology which
>>>>>> utilises a concept of 'extended mind' as its foundational principle.
>>>> It is
>>>>>> always the case that other currents contribute insights which are
>>> not so
>>>>>> easily accessible from one's own (so to speak) - even if you don't
>>> accept
>>>>>> the principles of Psychoanalysis, there are still things to learn
>>>> from it;
>>>>>> and the same goes for all currents and schools of psychology. But by
>>>>>> 'social psychology' I mean a real psychology, that is practical and
>>>> useful
>>>>>> in dealing with psychological problems and copes with the reality of
>>>>>> individual difference and so on. A 'social psychology' which sees
>>>>>> individuals as purely and simply instances of their social position
>>> does
>>>>>> not warrant the name in my opinion. And 'social psychology' in the
>>> sense
>>>>>> that Max Horkheimer (I think) used it, which deal only with the
>>> phenomena
>>>>>> of crowds and so on, is also 'not worthy' of the name.
>>>>>> So I am looking for a tool which can give me a way of understanding how
>>>>>> the
>>>>>> Zeitgeist is formed, how it is changed, practically how to intervene in
>>>>>> it.
>>>>>> I do not expect a 'social psychology' to go further and provide me
>>> with a
>>>>>> social or political theory as such, but it need to be able to
>>> bridge the
>>>>>> gap, so to speak. Let's face it! If we can change the Zeitgeist which
>>>> gets
>>>>>> people like George W Bush and John Howard elected in democratic
>>>> countries,
>>>>>> into one in which genuinely good people get elected, then the rest will
>>>>>> look after itself and I can enjoy my retirement.
>>>>>> Why not a meta-psychology? Apart form my idiosyncratic dislike of
>>>> "meta" I
>>>>>> don't want a metapsychology, I want a psychology which has a
>>>>>> metapsychology
>>>>>> which is sound and able to cope with the sociality of consciousness.
>>>>>> Why not a "science of human nature"? "Human nature" is such a
>>> problematic
>>>>>> term, it carries such a lot of unwanted 19th century baggage. And I am
>>>>>> interested in consciousness, not "nature" in general.
>>>>>> Sure, social psychology is a sub-discipline within psychology.
>>> There are
>>>>>> things which belong to psychology which are not centre-stage for me.
>>>> Sure,
>>>>>> brain injury or other defects are a serious topic, as is child
>>>>>> development,
>>>>>> etc., etc.. I guess I am talking about a psychology whose central
>>> thread
>>>>>> is
>>>>>> a social psychology rather than a neurobiology, for example.
>>>>>> I need a social psychology which recognises that social movements
>>> are not
>>>>>> just large numbers of people with the same feeling, but subjects, and
>>>>>> individuals are neither passive victims of social processes nor
>>>> absolutely
>>>>>> free agents. But a *real*, practical, living school of psychology, with
>>>>>> people using it in designing curricula, healing depressed people,
>>> running
>>>>>> half-way houses, training teachers, organising self-help groups, etc.,
>>>>>> etc.
>>>>>> and doing real, experimental science with it, critiquing and
>>>> improving its
>>>>>> concepts down the years.
>>>>>> Does that make sense?
>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>> At 05:14 PM 30/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>>>>>>> Andy-- This is the second time you have declared your goal to be
>>>>>>> answering
>>>>>>> questions within the framework of social psychology. Why do you use
>>> this
>>>>>>> term? Why not a
>>>>>>> meta-psychology? Why not a "science of human nature"?
>>>>>>> I ask because I am used to social psychology being viewed as a
>>>>>>> sub-discipline within psychology.
>>>>>>> The only dept of social psych I know of that takes on your questions
>>>>>>> seriously is at the LSE. One branch of cultural psychology in the US
>>>>>>> comes
>>>>>>> out of experimental social
>>>>>>> psychology here, but I do not think you have that in mind.
>>>>>>> This query is not to distract from the main line of discussion, but
>>>>>>> rather
>>>>>>> to locate what you are striving for better.
>>>>>>> mike
>>>>>>> On Dec 30, 2007 4:34 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>>>>> I think David and Peg's messages were out of sync., yes?
>>>>>>>> This all raises that most difficult of questions for a social
>>>>>>> psychology
>>>>>>>> that wants to deal with the tasks I am asking it to deal with,
>>> how do
>>>>>>> you
>>>>>>>> deal with the knock-on effect of an action, which is predictable
>>> from
>>>>>>>> on-high, but unknown to the actors themselves? We rely on the basic
>>>>>>>> insight
>>>>>>>> that what goes on in the head first went on between people - whether
>>>>>>> in
>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>> form given to it by Fichte, Hegel, Marx, CS Peirce or Vygotsky. What
>>>>>>> is
>>>>>>>> Hegel's Logic about? About the underlying "logic of events", how
>>> this
>>>>>>> or
>>>>>>>> that policy or statement or whatever ultimately leads to this or
>>> that
>>>>>>>> problem which was at first invisible. Life experience will tell you
>>>>>>> this,
>>>>>>>> but if you don't have life experience, it will happen according
>>> to the
>>>>>>>> logic of events anyways and you should learn. Basically, I think we
>>>>>>> can
>>>>>>>> only make sense of this if we get right away from the idea of the
>>>>>>>> "individual-as-subject" but remember that no subject exists
>>> other than
>>>>>>> in
>>>>>>>> and through individual human beings.
>>>>>>>> With the ANL example of the child and the father, I have always had
>>>>>>>> trouble
>>>>>>>> with "examples" and methods which presuppose a leader or a
>>> father or a
>>>>>>>> facilitator, a person who knows what the experimental subject or
>>>>>>> student
>>>>>>>> or
>>>>>>>> self-help group really needs to do, and organises things
>>> accordingly.
>>>>>>> Of
>>>>>>>> course, I understand that all you teachers and teacher-trainers,
>>> child
>>>>>>>> psychologists, etc., work and have a responsibility to work in
>>>>>>> precisely
>>>>>>>> that circumstance. But I do not think this is the paradigmatic
>>>>>>>> relationship. The father can only do his bit in "leading" the child
>>>>>>> into
>>>>>>>> an
>>>>>>>> activity where its "best interests" will be served if the father can
>>>>>>> act
>>>>>>>> as
>>>>>>>> a kind of transmitter of life experience, and kind of short-cut the
>>>>>>>> process
>>>>>>>> for the child. So it is not the father's technique which is the
>>>>>>> paradigm,
>>>>>>>> but the bitter life experience which the child may or may not
>>> have as
>>>>>>> a
>>>>>>>> result of choosing to do this or that.
>>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>>> At 07:54 AM 30/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Dear Andy and Peg:
>>>>>>>>> Here's some stuff from my notes; I happen to know that Andy can't
>>>>>>> get
>>>>>>>>> ahold of a copy of ANL's Problems of the Development of the
>>> Mind. I
>>>>>>> hope
>>>>>>>>> I don't get those funny marks that always show up when I paste
>>> in...
>>>>>>>>> p. 402 ANL points out how 'only understandable' motives for
>>>>>>> homework
>>>>>>>>> such as wanting to get a good mark can be replaced by 'really
>>>>>>> effective'
>>>>>>>>> motives such as doing it so you can go out to play. However, after
>>>>>>> some
>>>>>>>>> weeks of really effective motives, it is also possible that the
>>>>>>> child
>>>>>>>>> will find that the only understandable motives become really
>>>>>>> effective,
>>>>>>>>> e.g. the child will leave off doing homework because it¡¯s untidy
>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>> child is now afraid of getting a bad mark.
>>>>>>>>> p. 403: ANL writes: 'It is a matter of an action¡¯s result being
>>>>>>> more
>>>>>>>>> significant in certain conditions than the motive that actually
>>>>>>> induces
>>>>>>>>> it. The child begins doing its homework conscientiously because it
>>>>>>> wants
>>>>>>>>> to go out quickly and play. In the end this leads to much more not
>>>>>>>> simply
>>>>>>>>> that it will get the chance to go and play but also that it
>>> will get
>>>>>>> a
>>>>>>>>> good mark. A new "objectivation" of its needs come about which
>>> means
>>>>>>>> they
>>>>>>>>> are understood at a higher level.'
>>>>>>>>> 'The transition to a new leading activity differs from the process
>>>>>>>>> described simply in the really effective motives becoming in the
>>>>>>> case of
>>>>>>>>> a change of leading activity, those understandable motives that
>>>>>>> exist in
>>>>>>>>> the sphere of relations characterizing the place the child can
>>>>>>> occupy
>>>>>>>>> only in the next higher stage of development rather than in the
>>>>>>> sphere
>>>>>>>> of
>>>>>>>>> relations in which it still actually is. The preparation of these
>>>>>>>>> transitions therefore takes a long time because it is
>>> necessary for
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>> child to become quite fully aware of a sphere of relations
>>> that are
>>>>>>> new
>>>>>>>>> for it.¡±
>>>>>>>>> ANL compares a child¡¯s performance in a school play with the
>>>>>>> child¡¯s
>>>>>>>>> learning of study as an independent activity. The child begins the
>>>>>>>> school
>>>>>>>>> play as an assignment, and later continues for the approbation the
>>>>>>> child
>>>>>>>>> receives during a successful performance. As with learning to
>>> study
>>>>>>> for
>>>>>>>> a
>>>>>>>>> good mark instead of just studying for the opportunity to go
>>> out and
>>>>>>>>> play, a ¡°merely understandable¡± motive has now become ¡°really
>>>>>>>>> effective¡± and a new activity is established.
>>>>>>>>> But only in the case of independent study (according to ANL) is
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>> new
>>>>>>>>> activity developmentally significant (¡°objectively¡±) because the
>>>>>>> child
>>>>>>>>> is not going to become a professional dramatist (if the child
>>> were,
>>>>>>> then
>>>>>>>>> the performance in the play would be study). Thus only in the
>>> latter
>>>>>>>> case
>>>>>>>>> can we say there is a new leading activity.
>>>>>>>>> Here's what I make of this:
>>>>>>>>> a) ANL really does NOT interrogate the subject as to the object
>>>>>>>>> orientation of the activity: the object (study, the completed
>>> play)
>>>>>>> is
>>>>>>>>> indeed given in advance. As far as ANL is concerned, ONLY
>>> Chaiklin's
>>>>>>>>> "objective" ZPD exists, and there is NO subjective ZPD. But Andy's
>>>>>>> idea
>>>>>>>>> of "immanent critique" is NOT an objective critique; it has to do
>>>>>>> with
>>>>>>>>> following up (just like Sarah's) the subject's way of seeing
>>> things
>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>>> seeing where it leads.
>>>>>>>>> b) In the development discussion (San Diego-Helsinki) Dr. Olga
>>>>>>> Vasquez
>>>>>>>>> raised the question of whether "leading activity" is the same as
>>>>>>>>> "neoformation", and Dr. Pentti Harakarainnen really did not answer
>>>>>>> it
>>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>>>> instead talked about Dr. Engestrom's even more general concept of
>>>>>>>>> activity. But here we can see that "leading activity" and
>>>>>>> "neoformation"
>>>>>>>>> are quite different: LSV used "neoformation" to talk about
>>>>>>> transitional
>>>>>>>>> structures during crisis periods that COMPLETELY disappear (for
>>>>>>> example,
>>>>>>>>> the child's autonomous speech at one and the child's
>>> "negativism" at
>>>>>>>>> three) as well as neoformations which become the leading activity
>>>>>>> during
>>>>>>>>> normal growth. Only the latter is a "leading activity" for ANL.
>>>>>>>>> c) There is still a STRONG behaviorist streak in ANL's reasoning:
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>>>> difference between the "really effective" and "merely understood"
>>>>>>>>> reasoning can very easily be described, in ALL of ANL's
>>> examples, as
>>>>>>> a
>>>>>>>>> simple lengthening of the time distance between the behavior
>>> and the
>>>>>>>>> positive reinforcement. Bruner, in a quote that I have long since
>>>>>>> lost,
>>>>>>>>> suggests that development can be described this way, but I don't
>>>>>>> think
>>>>>>>>> LSV ever would have done so: for LSV the key thing about humans is
>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>>>> they are dogs that can ring their own bells.
>>>>>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>>>>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>>>>>>>> ---------------------------------
>>>>>>>>> Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with Yahoo!
>>>>>>>> Search.
>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>>> Andy Blunden :
>>>>>>> (H) +61 3
>>>>>>> 9380 9435,
>>>>>>>> mobile 0409 358 651
>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>>>>>> mobile 0409 358 651
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>>>> mobile 0409 358 651
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> ---------------------------------
>>>> Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>>> mobile 0409 358 651
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>>> ---------------------------------
>>> Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>> mobile 0409 358 651
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> --
> Geoffrey Binder
> BA (SS) La Trobe, BArch (Hons) RMIT
> PhD Candidate
> Global Studies, Social Sciences and Planning RMIT
> Ph B. 9925 9951
> M. 0422 968 567
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

Tony Whitson
UD School of Education

"those who fail to reread
  are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                   -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)

xmca mailing list
Received on Tue Jan 1 20:40 PST 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Feb 13 2008 - 12:33:27 PST