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Re: [xmca] Lev Vygotsky and Charlie Chaplin
Well David. . . he is and he isn't. He isn't as Kohler does and comparing
an ape to a human. He isn't as Skinner does and comparing a pigeon to a
human. He is utilizing a nomothetic approach to the study of human
development. There is an expectation that a seven-year old can identify
letters, numbers and can utilize these in a goal oriented way. This
expectation has nothing to do with what is being directly taught but
rather is assumed based on the child's memory and volition of memory.
Three hundred years ago a three-year old Mozart was sure to wow audiences
because of a shattering of expectations. This comparison of older process
structures to a three-year old's process structures is essential to the
study of human development. Perhaps not because of distance between inner
and outer for the only thing that separates the air from inside a balloon
is the balloon itself and the only thing separating Vygotsky from the
proof of his theories was his own short mortality. But it is the
volition of the process structure that the seven year incorporates (or the
three year old mozart) into their goal directed activity that is the rub.
And yes I believe that Vygotsy was certainly in on the joke and at such a
point of juxtaposition that the falling in the man hole is neither funny
nor tragic but just 'is what it is'. Isn't that what we laugh at, the
mortality and the finality of being?
Yesterday I remembered the five things my wife asked me to get at the
grocery (something I never do without a list but yesterday accomplished
quite well) but came back with the wrong size belt for the mower which is
why I had left the house in the first place. I laughed at the futility
and I am sure my wife did too (on the inside).
David Kellogg <email@example.com>
Sent by: firstname.lastname@example.org
07/06/2009 03:27 AM
Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
To: xmca <email@example.com>
Subject: [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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