RE: [xmca] Re: the Strange Situation - process and the 'non-staticness' of concepts

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Tue Oct 28 2008 - 21:55:05 PDT

Dear Paula:
 
I really think that this is one of those lexico-fetishistic debates that is encouraged by a) translation, and b) e-mail. These two processes, for all the real advantages that Mike talks about, also dissipate energy in the endless discussion of the mediational means, and in particular on the meanings of decontextualized words. What's really important is not what the word means in Russian, but rather what it means in Vygotskyan.
 
Of course, the word "reflect" has a number of different meanings, including "think over", which is actually the meaning that Kant uses most frequently. Kant uses the word "mirror" much less frequently: only once in the Critique of Pure Reason, as far as I can see, when he talks about why images look like they are behind the mirror when they "things in themselves" are actually in front.
 
But what of it? The real issue, at least for our study group, is whether or not Piaget believes that concepts such as causality arise on the basis of schemata, and whether these schemata arise on the basis of the modification of the senses. On this Piaget is very clear:
 
"We have been able to show that sensorimotor causality does not derive from perceptive causality, and that, to the contrary, visual perceptive causality is based upon a tactico-kinesthetsic causality that is itself dependent upon the activity proper as a whole and not exclusively upon perceptual factors. (...) This example is representative of many others: whenever it is believed that an idea has been derived from a perception, without any other process intervening, in every case the actviity itself has been forgotten and it becomes apparent later that the sensorimotor activity constitutes the common origin of the corresponding ideas and perceptions."
 
Piaget, J. (1971) The science of education and the psychology of the child. New York: Viking. pp. 34-35. 
 
I think that on ADVANTAGE that Piaget has over the Vygotsky of Chapter Five (but not the Vygotsky of Chapter Six) is that for Piaget the typical concept is not a thing but rather a relationship, in particular "because..." or "equals".
 
One problem with the Sakharov blocks is that they assume that what we learn on the basis of a test of NOUNS is the underlying (actually, UNDERNEATH the underlying) basic process for all concepts, including things that are clearly not nouny in any way (causality, adverstative relations, etc.). So they assume that the underlying model of the concept is a noun.
 
Of course, the way in which the nouns are sorted is through adjectives. But these adjectives are generalizations of traits, which are once again nouns. The strong association of adjectives and nouns is actually a linguistic rather than a logical artefact, like the notoriously unstable association between English verbs and adverbs. In Chinese and in Korean, which lack a copular verb, the association is between adjectives and stative verbs; a red block is not a red block but rather a block which is sitting there being red all the time.
 
I'm not saying that the results will differ tendentiously with the child's mother tongue. The interaction between the child's language and the child's task is going to be complex. On the one hand, the facility with which the child is able to isolate adjectives from nouns and then combine two kinds of adjectives into a single super-adjective is perhaps facilitated by the nouniness of adjectives and on the other the ease with the child is distracted into irrelvant sorting categories like color and shape adjective.
 
What I'm actually saying is much worse. I'm saying that the ability of the child to unpack the meanings of civ, mur, lag, and bik is really comparable to the ability of the child to see adjectives as aspects of nouns rather than as aspects of verbs; it's not necessarily a part of the formation of concepts such as causality or contrast or change.
 
At the very end of the DVD you came up with the WONDERFUL idea of seeing whether the child could generalize the concepts of civ, mur, lag, and bik to parfait glasses and then to wax candles. The child does this to perfection. Song Seonmi (one of the senior teachers in our study group) pointed out that when the child does this, he does it not directly but by relying on the native language, English; that is, the child translates "civ" into small and tall (or whatever it is) to understand it and then translates it back into "civ" in order to name the parfait glass. Ms. Song recognized this immediately, because of course she sees a lot of it when the kids translate in and out of Korean to name things in English.
 
I really think THIS is the sense in which the experiment is applicable to real concept formation. It's not that we can see what the child would come up with if the child were free of adult intervention. As LSV points out to us, when the child is home alone doing homework, the child is not free of adult intervention at all; we would be more truthful if we said the child was solving the problem by imitation (which is in fact what LSV says about it).
 
The normal mode of concept learning is neither sensorimotor activity nor perception nor imitation in either a sensorimotor or perceptually based sense. The normal mode of concept learning is for the child to unpack adult concepts into complexes, or complexes into heaps, depending on the child's state of development, and then repackage them, however imperfectly, as something that looks like the adult version. But the normal form of a concept is not a noun.
 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
 
 
--- On Tue, 10/28/08, Paula Towsey <paulat@johnwtowsey.co.za> wrote:

From: Paula Towsey <paulat@johnwtowsey.co.za>
Subject: RE: [xmca] Re: the Strange Situation - process and the 'non-staticness' of concepts
To: the_yasya@yahoo.com, "'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2008, 9:34 AM

Dear Martin - and Anton

Anton, could you help with a Russian word in the quotation below? It is from
a piece that I wrote, and the word we are looking for clarity on appears
here as "reflection".

"Further, he writes that, at the time, psychology began to understand a
concept “not as a thing, but as a process, not as an empty abstraction, but
as a thorough and penetrating reflection of an object of reality in all its
complexity and diversity, in connections and relations to all the rest of
reality” (1998, p. 55)."

The English source is Vygotsky, L., (1998). In Rieber, R., (Ed.), (1998),
The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky: Volume 5 – Child Psychology, New York:
Plenum Press.

Anton, if you glance through the papertrail below you can see a bit more
about the context of this question. I hope you don't mind being approached
like this, but I am sure you can help us. Thank you so much!

Paula

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: 28 October 2008 05:47 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: the Strange Situation - process and
the'non-staticness'of concepts

Dear Paula,

That would be great. Is Anton on this list? Can you give us the source of
this citation?

Martin

On 10/27/08 4:26 AM, "Paula Towsey" <paulat@johnwtowsey.co.za>
wrote:

> Dear Martin
>
> Thanks for your question. Maybe we can ask Anton Yasnitsky if he could
help
> because he translates very well and pays lots of attention to detail.
>
> Paula
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Martin Packer
> Sent: 26 October 2008 07:19 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: the Strange Situation - process and
> the'non-staticness' of concepts
>
> Paula & David,
>
> At the risk of seeming to perseverate (which my students, young clinical
> psychologists, tell me is a clear indicator of brain damage!) can I jump
in
> to your discussion here? You provide us with a very nice example of the
> translation of Vygotsky using the term "reflection" at a central
point in
> the definition of a concept. In my view such a translation is highly
> misleading. It makes Vygotsky seem to say that the concept is an image, a
> copy, of the object that is being conceptualized. Yet this *cannot* be
what
> he was saying, for reasons that Michael sketched out in a recent message.
> Can we work together here to find out what the Russian word was, and how
we
> might better translate it?
>
> Martin
>
>
> On 10/26/08 5:20 AM, "Paula Towsey"
<paulat@johnwtowsey.co.za> wrote:
>
>> Further, he writes that, at the time, psychology began to understand a
>> concept łnot as a thing, but as a process, not as an empty
abstraction,
> but
>> as a thorough and penetrating reflection of an object of reality in
all
> its
>> complexity and diversity, in connections and relations to all the rest
of
>> reality˛ (1998, p. 55).
>
>
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>
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Received on Tue Oct 28 21:56:31 2008

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