Re: [xmca] neoformation

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sat Feb 02 2008 - 15:49:40 PST

Sorry to be so late in continuing this thread, or a small bit of it, David.
I have yet to check out the caravaggio, wanted to comment on the following:

 In LSV's theory of development ("Problem of Age", Vol. 5) he begins by
pointing out that ALL the different "phenotypical" theories seem to agree on
the basic "periodization" of childhood. Yet NONE of them agree on underlying
mechanism which moves the child from stage to stage.

The part in red is what concerns me.

I believe that this is an uncharacteristically a-historical notion of the
periodization of the lifespan and in so far as it is, it implies a
phylogenetic, genotypic, underlying mechanism at least to
causation of the periods. So starting from there, if one is going to accord
culture a role in development, it is minor and of some different kind that
the explanation for the sequence and content
of the periods.

I believe the cultural historical story is more complicated than that so
that the phenotypical identification of the periods in ontogeny depend upon
a mixture of phylogenetic, cultural historical factors operating
simultaneously, but at different rates and by somewhat different principles.

The easiest case to make is for a period called "adolescence" but in so far
as people believe in a period of early childhood generally referred to as
"the pre-school period" the historical contingency of the supposed period is
right there in the term pre-school.

Is this something worth pursuing in discussion further or tangential to the
On Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 10:55 AM, David Kellogg <>

> Paul:
> A couple of threads ago I was pointing out that Caravaggio's "Sacrifice
> of Isaac" in the Uffizi had "subjct verb object" grammar, and could be read
> from upper left to lower right like a text.
> (If you look a the painting carefully you'll see that it's not that
> simple, because the SVO sentence is embedded in a countervailing command by
> an angel with a ram. The real grammar of the painting is more like S V [SVO]
> + Prep + Indirect Object, "The brightly lit angel prevented Abraham
> sacrificing Isaac with the help of the smiling ram".)
> YOU it was who pointed out that the structuralist mantra "Subject Verb
> Object" is an AMALGAM, because "verb" is a word class (a so-called "part of
> speech", and thus paradigmatically defined) while "subject" and "object" are
> semantic relations (and thus syntagmatically defined).
> Yet this category error on wheels is supposed to be the key that unlocks
> the door between listening and speaking. Hyosun's kids watch the cartoon,
> they see Caillou hit Rosie, and they hear "CailloudidyouhitRosie" "No!" They
> haven't really a clue how the sounds map on to the actions they've seen, but
> they understand the scene as a whole, the way the five year old's in
> Vygotsky's Meumann's Stern's photograph experiment understand.
> The problem is when we ask the kids to ROLE PLAY the cartoon. Of course,
> Vygotsky's kids can do this by subsituting action for words. But in our
> classrooms the kids have to subsitute words for actions. And in order to say
> "Caillou hit Rosie" or even in order to answer questions like "Who hit
> Rosie?" "Who did Caillou hit?" "What did Caillou do?" or even "Did Caillou
> hit Rosie?" the kids are going to need that bizarre amalgam, SVO.
> So I was asking how kids get from a rough and ready scene by scene and
> turn by turn analysis to analyzing abstract units within turns. And I was
> suggesting that they do it, not by projecting the structure of sentences
> upward onto exchanges (because they don't actually have the structure of
> sentences yet, and contrary to the innatist hypothesis the fact that
> something like SVO is highly unnatural is NOT evidence that it is inborn). I
> was suggesting that they do it the other way around, by projecting the
> Turn-turn-turn structure of conversation onto single turns.
> When they do this, they get something quite close to sentence structure
> because PAUSES (silences, in your parlance) indicate a POTENTIAL change of
> speaking subject, even if the speaking subject doesn't actually change.
> That's why we get three units in "Fine, thanks, and you?" even though there
> AREN'T three grammatical units.
> Halliday points out that "subject" is not one thing but THREE: an
> ideational "actor", a topical "theme", and an interpersonal "subject" (in
> the sense of speaking or feeling or acting subject).
> The duke presented this teapot to my aunt. (The duke is actor, theme, and
> subject)
> My aunt was presented this teapot by the duke. (The duke is no longer the
> theme or the subject, but only the actor)
> These three things often, but not always, coincide, and that is what
> accounts for the theoretical confusion (that is, the AMALGAM you pointed
> out).
> It seems to me we've got a similar problem in parsing LSV's theory of
> development. We've got a number of categories that PHENOTYPICALLY coincide
> (though not always) and we have to figure out what the underlying mechanism
> of transition is.
> In LSV's theory of development ("Problem of Age", Vol. 5) he begins by
> pointing out that ALL the different "phenotypical" theories seem to agree on
> the basic "periodization" of childhood. Yet NONE of them agree on underlying
> mechanism which moves the child from stage to stage.
> We get this SAME disagreement when Pentti Hakarainnen advocates a
> "transitional activity system" in the interstices of the Leontiev/Elkonin
> scheme. We all agree (roughly) on the stages. We even agree (roughly) on the
> transition points. But as Professor Hakarainnen pointed out, we need some
> way of effecting the transition, and that way is not provided by pure
> description. His "transitional activity system" is (I think) VERY necessary,
> but only because ANL has VITIATED LSV's original proposal of its crises.
> I think ANL did this ONLY under the political pressure that followed the
> criticism of pedology and the condemnation of the Narkompros work on crises,
> but like many of the moves taken by activity theory in the wake of the
> master's death, it has become a permanent malformation instead of a
> transitional, disappearing critical neoformation.
> The Yeats poem goes like this:
> That civilisation may not sink,
> Its great battle lost,
> Quiet the dog, tether the pony
> To a distant post;
> Our master Caesar is in the tent
> Where the maps are spread,
> His eyes fixed upon nothing,
> A hand under his head.
> (Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
> His mind moves upon silence.)
> That the topless towers be burnt
> And men recall that face,
> Move most gently if move you must
> In this lonely place.
> She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
> That nobody looks; her feet
> Practise a tinker shuffle
> Picked up on a street.
> (Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
> Her mind moves upon silence.)
> That girls at puberty may find
> The first Adam in their thought,
> Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,
> Keep those children out.
> There on that scaffolding reclines
> Michael Angelo.
> With no more sound than the mice make
> His hand moves to and fro.
> (Like a long-leggedfly upon the stream
> His mind moves upon silence.)
> In each case we are voices outside the tent/lonely place/Sistine Chapel
> urging each other to silence. Why is silence so necessary? Why would sound
> disturb the Master so profoundly? "She thinks that nobody looks." And so she
> is at once actor and audience, just as Caesar is author and reader, and
> Michelangelo is painter and viewer. Nothing comes from nothing!
> (By the way, Yeats makes it very clear that there IS a speaker and hearer
> to the question "How can we tell the dancer from the dance?" As usual, he's
> talking to a bloody tree.)
> You are right; I shouldn't use the word "denotation" and "connotation"
> because it's too easy to switch them around (as you just did!). I meant that
> before the eighteenth century English did not have "znachenie". Words only
> had "smysl", and language involved a lot of face to face negotiation, just
> as it does with young children. We can see this preponderance of "smysl" in
> nonstandardized spelling. It's in response to SEMANTIC ambiguity as well as
> to ORTHOGRAPHIC ambiguity that dictionaries (esp. Dr. Johnson's) get
> written.
> Jaynes' thesis (hotly disputed and in places quite dodgy, but
> nevertheless consistent with sociocultural theory) is this. Lateralization
> of language in the brain (and therefore consciousness) is a CULTURAL
> phenomenon.
> Before roughly the second millenium, humans used BOTH sides of the brain
> to speak, with the voice of "gods" or the voices of the dead originating in
> the right side and the obeying voice of living humans located in the left
> (some people STILL do this, and it is a recognized source of schizophrenia).
> That is how early man avoided the dilemma of Buridan's ass described by
> Vygotsky.
> Under environmental pressures (exposure to foreigners and foreign
> languages and especially the development of written language which is
> lateralized much the same way as the obeying voice of humans), people
> abandoned the hypothesis of hearing the voice of gods.
> One way they did this was to observe foreigners and see that they
> appeared to obey their own inner voices which spoke quite a different
> language from our own, and then reason that if other people had something
> like an inner voice then we must have it too. In other words, we learn about
> consciousness from other people and then apply it to ourselves.
> Another way they did this was with the use of auxiliary stimuli, e.g.
> divination sticks, casting lots, etc. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Like a
> voice from some dead person, mysteriously lodged in my brain.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> ---------------------------------
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Received on Sat Feb 2 15:52 PST 2008

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