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Re: [xmca] Hedegaard's Article, Vygotsky's Hegel and Andy's Vygotsky

Dear Carol:

Thanks for your linguistic squib; I do get lonely being the only word-grubbing pedant in the discussion! You are quite right; I should have said that 'baby' in 'baby whale' is a 'modifier' rather than an 'adjective'. I don’t really believe that English has adjectives, or adverbs for that matter. 

What we have are noun modifiers (which include things like 'the' and even relative clauses like 'She tore up the letter which upset me') and phrase modifiers (including things that modify noun phrases, like 'very' and relative clauses like 'She tore up the letter, which upset me'). 

To call these things 'adjectives' and 'adverbs' because equivalent constructions were once called that in Latin is to behave a little like my dear colleagues who write mighty tomes on 'wh-questions' in Korean and Chinese, two languages that have neither 'w' nor 'h'. 

But you are also right to surmise that the gist of my argument lies elsewhere. Like Peter, I wish to put in a plug for Andy’s new version of 'Hegel’s Logic', particularly since I think this really shows the true source of Vygotsky's talk of transformation of quantity into quality (not the Dialectics of Nature, but the Logic itself).

I think that the Logic is the key to Chapter Five, and even the key to the questions that Steve raised about the sequencing of heaps, complexes, potential concepts, and concepts. Is it 3 heaps, 5 complexes, and 3 potential/real concepts, or is it 3 heaps, 5 complexes, 2 potential concepts and 2 real ones, or what?

Hegel gives us three stages in the emergence of the concept ('Begriff', which Wallace calls 'Notion' but which Andy, I suspect, will translate as 'Concept'). Within each stage, there are three phases, thus




Chapter Five is really concerned with the last stage, but you can see that the same tendency, to go from 'in itself' to 'for others' to 'for itself' is visible at every stage, and so some of the earlier stages often seem relevant (e.g. the formation of the random heap is a simple quantity without quality, and a ground for the emergence of other heaps, while the complex involves objective qualities which emerge from objects in relation to other objects, and the concept implies measurement, actualization, abstraction).

But the heap is created by the action of the subject and for this reason the objects remain objects 'in themselves'. The complex involves the discovery of properties within the objects, and when Jens notes that a baby whale does not look like a baby, but rather like a whale, this is what he’s doing. 

This is why the Russian word 'наглядно-образным' (graphic visual, which Seve bizarrely translates as 'intutive') is so important at this stage. The concept involves the discovery that abstract properties of thinking are not simply subjective, but exist within objects themselves. For example, a baby whale really does drink milk, just like a human baby.

So why is Chapter Five 3-5-3, or 3-5-2, or 3-5-3-2 stages and not simply 3-3-3 as in Hegel? The answer is…I don’t know. I think that Chapter Five is BADLY in need of the application of Occam’s razor at a number of places. In fact, I think that is exactly what LSV does in Chapter Six. 

But in LSV, the new is always built straight on top of the ruins of the old. Alas, this doesn’t always happen in the tidy, sequential way that geological strata are added to other geological strata,. It’s more like the way that our city of Seoul rises anew, every generation, from the wreckage of our previous dreams; we’re often too busy building the new dream to clear the old rubble away.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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