Re: [xmca] Vygotsky s historicism: Learning Paradox

From: Steve Gabosch <sgabosch who-is-at>
Date: Tue Apr 08 2008 - 13:14:30 PDT

I was going to do the lazy thing and ask Michael to explain the
learning paradox, but instead I googled the lchc site, and this
exchange between Michael and David Kirshner came up from a few years

from "Michael Glassman"

To: <>

Subject: Learning Paradox

07/27/2004 10:32 AM

I have a question about the learning paradox to people who may

understand it better than I do. What I have read suggests that
individuals cannot develop novel structures of thought because you
cannot think of things that you have not already thought of. In other
words, it the idea that you cannot make a new dish without the addition
of new ingredients - so there must be a way for humans to create these
new ingredients in their head.

But doesn't this work from a number of already in place suppositions.

1. Doesn't this suggest that human thinking is based in
self-action? That it is humans themselves that generate new thinking,
and then use that new thinking upon the world, rather than for instance
saying humans come across novel situations and either deal with those
novel situations in their experience or move (at least a step closer) to

2. Doesn't the learning paradox also assume a certain level of
dualism - that there is somehow a separation between those things you
can on in the world and the thought that you have in acting on them?

If you take out both self-action and dualism (which some argue most
other "scientific" fields did long ago), is there even any possible
argument that can be made for a learning paradox?


Re: Learning ParadoxFrom: David H Kirshner (
Date: Tue Jul 27 2004 - 08:57:53 PDT

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Hi Michael.
I think I agree with you. As I understand the learning paradox, it's a
theory about learning systems. Fodor's claim is that systems at a
level of complexity cannot internally generate systems at a higher
An example he uses is 1st order (propositional) logic can't generate 2nd
order logic (propositional logic with quantifiers). (So the cooking
doesn't quite work, in that Fodor would allow that you could generate
dishes by choosing different combinations of the existing ingredients.)
However, the Learning Paradox does assume that systems are closed. Given
that constraint, he may very well be correct. But your points 1 and 2
challenge this ontological assumption for the case of human learning.

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Received on Tue Apr 8 13:15 PDT 2008

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