Re: [xmca] artefacts and apples

From: <ERIC.RAMBERG who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jan 10 2008 - 12:40:41 PST


I hear what you are saying about there being secondness and thirdness. My
attempt is to strip this away so that what is left is the essence. Marx
uses dumb in the sense of "unable to speak". The essence is imbedded in
our genus. My understanding is that phylogenetically humans are
predispositioned to act communally upon culturally directed goals. Yes
there are gradiations upon this but at the very essence, the
"sensuousness", human activities (development being defined is this sense
as a human activity) require cultural artifacts, whether this be a
screwdriver, a head nod, an expletive, a bulldozer, a pen, or an apple.
Which by the way a honeycrisp sits not one foot from my computer. My mouth
is salivating as I think of biting into it after I finish my note. I also
can't help but think that in speaking of apples and fiddle shaped table we
are closer to each other in thinking then apart.


                      David Kellogg
                      <vaughndogblack@ To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
            > cc:
                      Sent by: Subject: Re: [xmca] artefacts and apples
                      01/10/2008 01:06
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,


  I'm working hard on this too. Here's what I've come up with.

  T: Do you like apples?
  S1: Yes. I do. Yummy yummy apples.
  S2. No, I don't. Yucky yucky apples.

  This is a song from our third grade book. Notice two things:

  a) "Yummy" and "yucky" are indicative rather than signifying. This is
really what Peirce means by "secondness" (which is quite different from
what Wartofsky means by "secondness"). In fact, I think the are verbal
gestures--the consonant /m/ suggesting swallowing or smacking the lips and
the consonant /k/ suggesting spitting or clearing the throat.

  b) "Apples" is plural, not singular. In English and in other Standard
Average European languages (but not in non-Standard Average European
languages) the plural of a countable noun is used to express the CONCEPT.
In Korean and Chinese when we use the plural it just means more than one
(and in Chinese you really have to specify a number when you say a plural).
It doesn't have the idea of generalization beyond number and if you want to
express the idea of genus you need to do something else with the word.

  But here "apples" means something like "the idea of apples" and it
implicitly excludes rotten apples, sour apples, unripe apples etc. The
"essence" being expressed is not really "dumb", but it is expressed
differently in different languages and it's not an artefact of the language
you use. It's also expressed differently in English, by the way; we CAN
express generality by the plural of a countable noun but we can also use
the definite article, e.g. "the Market", and sometimes an abstract noun


  Hostess: How about some fruit? Would you like an apple?
  Guest: Oh, have you got one?
  Hostess: I've got Braeburns and Granny Smiths. Oh, and here's a Red
  Guest: I'd like the green and yellow one please.

  You can see that in the course of this conversation the generalization is
gradually diminished by linguistic means. We go from "some fruit" which is
very general, to "an apple" which is less general. "Have you got one" is at
the same level of generality, and it exposes the relationship between
number and the indefinite article. But "a Red Delicious" is more specific.

  Now, why is "the green and yellow one" the MOST specific of all? Because,
like "yucky" and "yummy" it is combined with a gesture, and completed by
reference to a physical object (rather than a name like "Red Delicious").

  The reference to specific physical objects seems terribly important to
me. First of all, it limits the speaker in time and space. The subject's
activity on the object is a visible part of the meaning of "this one" and
"that one" and even "the green and yellow one". Secondly, it has a

  This is why I'm with Volosinov. For developmental purposes, tools are NOT
signs. On the desk in front of me is a board marker, and it says "board
marker" on the side. The board marker is a tool, and the words "board
marker" are signs.

  If I want to write on the white board, I need to use the board marker and
not the "board marker". If I want to know what the object is called in
English, I need to use the "board marker" and not the board marker.

  One of the points I try to make in our Seoul contribution to the ongoing
dialogue on Vygotsky's unfinished concept of "development" (Vygotsky's
developing concept of development, now viewable on the XMCA website and
soon to be accompanied by quotable Powerpoints for discussion) is that
child language develops.

  In the beginning, it is full of words that have an indicative function
but not a signifying function ("yucky" and "that" but not "apples"). In the
end, and in the classroom, it is full of words that have a signifying
function but not an indicative one ("apples" and not "the apple").

  I guess one way to put this is to say that child language develops from
something whose central function is a tool and whose peripheral function is
a sign to something whose central function is a sign and whose peripheral
function is a tool.

  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Thu Jan 10 12:45 PST 2008

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