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Re: [xmca] A Flock of Already Roasted Pigeons


Thanks to you and your freind Reindeer for the unicorn. It's a welcome addition to something that my former grad students and I were discussing over roasted pigeons, Shanghai pasta and a mean Australian Merlot.

I told our group about your etymological analysis and suggested that "scientific concepts" (that is, "научных понятий") really means "instructed concepts" or "taught concepts" in the same way that oбучeния really means something like "instructed learned". That's why Prout translates the term as "academic concepts"

Yongho pointed out that in Korean, and in Japanese, and in Chinese, the term we use for "spontaneous" as opposed to "nonspontaneous" concepts is really "naturally occurring" as opposed to "artificial". Obviously, we have to be careful not to confuse artificial concepts in the sense of instructed concepts with artificial concepts in the sense of the experimental ones of Chapter Five. But Vygotsky does say, at the beginning of Chapter Six, that there is a sense in which instructed concepts are artificial.

Now, Shushu says that science concepts are really just one kind of "instructed concept". Other kinds include ethical concepts (which are taught in Korea as opposed to natural morality children bring from home), aesthetic concepts (as opposed to naive realism), and of course the kind of sociological concepts which Vygotsky is REALLY talking about in Chapter Six (e.g. "proletarian" as opposed to "My daddy is a worker"), which most Western academics would probably NOT accept as scientific.

In Korea there is also a special, polite register of Korean that is used informal education and which needs formal instruction. And of course ALL foreign language word meanings, for reasons that Vygotsky makes very clear, are instructed concepts. The "analogy" between science concepts and foreign language concepts is not just an analogy; it's a pointer to a deepgoing psychic affinity.

This affinity is what Yongho is pointing to when he argues that spontaneous means "natural" rather than simply "random" or "aleatory" and that nonspontaneous means in some sense "artificial" or "designed" instead of purely "scientific". This is why Jay says that science concepts are really just distinguished by their position in a set of thematic relations (they "fit in" to a hierarchy as opposed to just "following on" from a given common graphic-visual purview). 

Of course, as "fit in" and "follow on" suggest, it is partly a matter of a paradigmatic relationship between concepts instead of the concrete syntagmatic one of everyday life, the sort of thing LSV notes when he argues that the reason why similarity relations emerge conceptually before difference ones do is because they require a hierarchy, a structure of generalization, while differences can be noted perceptually.

So, I think this is how our group would mull over your questions, although of course if you were actually here we would be too busy being Korean and deferential and plying you with wine and kimch to give such direct answers. 

MIKE: 1) LSV appears to believe that scientific concepts only arise in school, where school entails special forms of discourse and written language. Does that imply that people who have not attended school or acquired writing think only in everyday concepts?

SNUE: I think we would say NO, because science concepts are only ONE form of volitional, hierarchized, and paradigmatized concept. There are other kinds. People in courtrooms use volitional concepts, and so do practitioners of religious rites. Every painting is a volitional concept. Even people who have followed a programme of apprenticeship instead of formal instruction will be able to describe their knowledge in a fairly volitional way. 
MIKE: 2) What is the relation between indicative/nominative/----->naming things that cannot exist and everyday/scientific distinction.

SNUE: I think we'd say that the connection is this. Concepts do not "exist" as objects, and yet scientific language in English tends to treat them as such. So because of the way our language works we need some way of naming things that do not exist.

Halliday points out that making the word "growth" out of the verb "grow" or "depth" out of the word "deep" is an instance of METAPHOR, a creation of a thing that never was and never can be, purely for the convenience of creating hierarchies and writings sentences that look a little like mathematical equations. (Eunsook and I did  something on this, actually:


(as always pdfs available from the author on request!)

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education (SNUE)

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