Re: [xmca] Historical Development

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sat Feb 23 2008 - 21:40:30 PST

  I've been thinking about your question on whether Marx would have approved LSV's experimental method. Luria remarks in "Making of the Mind" that LSV's experiments would only be considered interesting student projects today. I think that's probably true; and LSV probably knew it too. He just didn't have the conditions to carry out the kind of ethnographic work that you did in "Changing Classes". Still, when you read LSV's contemporaries, say, Meumann or Ribot, you are struck by LSV's vastly superior understanding of scientific methodology.
  I'm not really sure that LSV saw a big distinction between nomothetic and idiographic research; he did a LOT of clinical work, and he also did experiments, and it seems to me that his experiments were quite clinical and his clinical work experimental too. It was "research then hypothesis" and then "hypothesis then research", in a pretty cyclical fashion. I certainly don't see anything wrong with that, and I can't see that Marx would either.
  I think LSV probably WOULD have recognized Peirce's distinction between coenscopic science and idioscopic science, though. The work that LSV does in aesthetics and linguistics and even pedology (as opposed to psychology) is coenscopic in the sense that it "contents itself with observations such as come within the range of every man's normal experience and for the most part in every waking hour of his life", while his work in psychology and medicine and his and Luria's cultural-historical research is idioscopic in the sense that it "depends upon special observation, which travel or other exploration, or some assistance to the senses, either instrumental or given by training, together with unusual diligence, has put within the power of its students" (quoted in that Colpietro book Andy recommended). LSV would recognize this as a real division.
  But Peirce considers psychology coenscopic. In fact, he sees social psychology as a branch of general psychology, and semiotics a branch of social psychology, and linguistics a branch of semiotics, all coenscopic. This is a rather 19th century way to look at things
  but it does have the advantage of .being democratic. Folk theories about language are really a perfectly valid way of doing linguistics and for many practical purposes superior to more idioscopic methods (because people's consciousness of language is an inseparable part of the way they use language).
  Volosinov has a better idea. He starts with the study of ideology, by which he means nothing more or less than the generation and propagation of ideas. This takes place through signs, which means that semiotics is a branch of ideology (the study of ideas).
  Volosinov points out that language is the only really "neutral" sign, by which he does not mean that it is in some sense politically neutral; only that, unlike musical notation or numbers for example, it is multi-functional; in theory there is no expressible human experience that cannot be put into language.
  That explains why language keeps colonizing other areas of semiotics (viz. Volosinov's own specialism of musicology, which was invaded by opera, lyrical ballads, etc.) Psychology, interestingly enough, comes last in the tree; it's just the study of how ideological processes that were once social and inter-mental become psychological and intra-mental (and vice versa).
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Sat Feb 23 21:42 PST 2008

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