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[xmca] Lev Vygotsky and Charlie Chaplin
Thanks, eric. I still don't quite see why he doesn't compare like with like: compare the DISTANCE between self-directed speech and other directed speech at THREE (almost zero) with the DISTANCE between self-directed speech and other directed speech at SEVEN (almost 100%). Instead he talks about the distance between the seven and the three year old. Of course, they are different. But nobody expects them to be the same. Whereas with the DISTANCES, if we take Piaget's theory seriously, we will expect the difference at three to be greater than the difference at seven.
Part of the problem is that Vygotsky writes with both great redundancy and great abbreviation. Sometimes he simply says "speech" when he means "egocentric speech", as in this particular pargraph. Other times he will go over a particular story over and over again (getting the details slightly wrong each time he tells it). For example on p. 262 (of Minick) he tells the story about the white liquid and the red liquid that he told on p. 175, except this time it's the white liquid forcing out the red instead of the other way around.
But I have learned to love both kinds of absent mindedness. For one thing, Vygotsky uses BOTH abbreviation and redundancy to create a delightful intellectual suspense. The way he lays out the "experimentum crucis" in Chapter Seven is a case in point. But again and again and again, we find Vygotsky telling the same joke as Charlie Chaplin.
It's a good one. Chaplin once tried to explain to his actors the key difference between a good joke and a bad one. A man walks down the street. He steps on a banana peel. He breaks his can. That's a bad joke.
Now, here's a good one. On Monday, a man get up, springs out of bed with a lilt in his step, struts down the left hand sidewalk of the street, slips on a banana peel and sprains his left ankle.
On Tuesday, the man gets up, leaps out of bed with a wince, crosses the street, walks down the RIGHT hand sidewalk of the street. He slips on a banana peel and sprains his RIGHT ankle.
On Wednesday, the man gets up late. He sticks his head out the door. He looks right. He looks left. Nobody is there. The street is empty. He struggles to the centre of the street. He limps RIGHT down the centre line. It's a hot day. The line is yellow. The street is black. Down the street there is...right on the yellow line...a fresh, yellow banana peel.
Will he see it? The banana peel is bright yellow, and so is the line. He examines each line carefully before he takes a step.The camera pans back and forth. The man's face, dripping with sweat. The banana peel, barely perceptible in the hot sun. Suddenly...
The man sees it. He steps CAUTIOUSLY over it. Safe on the other side, he turns around and looks at it with a look of supreme triumph.
Then he whips majestically around and falls into a manhole.
Vygotsky writes this chapter around the joke. Ribot and Meumann say that inner speech is verbal memory. But this puts inner speech entirely in the past. Miller, Watson and Bekhterev say inner speech is speech without sound. But once again there are plenty of things that are speech without sound that are not inner speech (e.g. when I am talking to someone who cannot hear me). Goldstein then decides that inner speech is all the bits of speech that are neither sensory nor motor in any way--and he falls in the manhole of overinclusiveness and overgeneralization.
In a way, the whole book is written around Chaplin's joke. The reflexologists think that thinking and speech are one and the same thing. He can't study either. Piaget says they are totally different: he cannot say how they develop each other in any way. The Gestalists carefully step over the banana peel by saying they are both totally different and one and the same thing, and because they cannot explain what is specific to each, they fall into a manhole, still grinning in triumph.
Seoul National University of Education
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