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[xmca] Wolves in Sheep's Clothing - Grave Concern about the Structure
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- Subject: [xmca] Wolves in Sheep's Clothing - Grave Concern about the Structure
- From: "Paula M Towsey" <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2009 18:48:23 +0200
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I'm extremely concerned that I've created the impression - or at least have
at any stage said - that "the pseudoconcept is STRUCTURALLY equivalent to
the concept" or "that concepts and pseudoconcepts are STRUCTURALLY
And it wouldn't be "not quite correct" - it would be downright wrong for me
or anyone else to say so!
So, I've looked at the paper, and what seems to be a very important word
that's been overlooked is this one: "functional".
What I do say in the paper (and here I've taken to using your method of
emphasis, David - all caps - which works for plain text emails and not
because I'm being cocky, okay?) is:
?The FUNCTIONAL equivalence of pseudoconcepts in role and structure led
Vygotsky to call them wolves in sheep?s clothing, and it would appear that
many a shepherd of today is unsuspecting of such lupine behaviour.?
?The FUNCTIONAL equivalence in the structure and the FUNCTIONAL equivalence
in the role of the pseudoconcept enable communication between children and
adults, AND IT IS THIS [functional] EQUIVALENCE THAT DISGUISES THE
PSEUDOCONCEPT?S TRUE NATURE.?
This means that a FUNCTION is taking place: the FUNCTION is to attempt to
look like a sheep; it is using sheep?s clothing (structure) to make you
think (role) it is one (a sheep). It?s grabbed the accoutrements of what
it thinks is a concept ? the sheep?s clothing, the superficial structure of
the sheep ? because it wants to look like one; it wants the clothes to serve
the role of making the structure look the same ? and it does but only from
the outside and from a distance. Closer inspection reveals its wolfish
nature underneath; its fey fickleness.
So, what is apparently equivalent is only apparently equivalent precisely
because a scam is afoot. We're being fooled by a functional equivalence,
one that acts in a way that wants you to think it's the same.
So, this is not, as you say I say, that it is ?STRUCTURALLY equivalent to a
concept?. It has a job, a function, which makes it superficially resemble a
concept ? that?s why it?s a wolf in sheep?s clothing.
So then, what we have is externally similar in the way it wants to be looked
at, but internally we know it is very different ? that it is still a
complex. The equivalence is in FUNCTIONAL TERMS - because of the way the
For my own peace of mind, I?ve cut&pasted some things here:
?...in the pseudoconcept, we have a complex that is the FUNCTIONAL
equivalent of the concept. This complex and the concept are the equivalent
in FUNCTIONAL terms in that we notice no difference in them in the speech
interaction and mutual understanding between the adult and child.
Thus, we have a complex which corresponds for all PRACTICAL purposes with
the concept, which includes the same group of concrete objects as the
concept. We have a shadow of the concept, one that reproduces its contours.
Yet, this complex is a form of generalisation that is constructed in
accordance with entirely different laws than the true concept.?
(Minick, p. 144)
?Pseudoconcepts have a phenotypical resemblance to true concepts because
the content of both
can be identical: However, the crucial difference is to be found in the
method of selecting these
(Wolves, p. 235)
?Phenotypically, on the basis of its external appearance and external
characteristics, the pseudoconcept corresponds completely to the concept.
However, genotypically, in accordance with its emergence, its development,
and the causal-dynamic connections which underlie it, the pseudoconcept is
clearly not a concept. Externally, we see a concept ? internally a
(Minick, p. 142)
>From Monday?s post (3 August)
I suspect that "lupine behaviour" can't easily be separated from the
"sheep's clothing" because pseudoconcepts SUPERFICIALLY RESEMBLE "real"
concepts in both role (what the word meaning does) and structure (how it's
David, you and I do agree on this: Pseudoconcepts and concepts have a
FUNCTIONAL equivalence in role - enabling communication - and a FUNCTIONAL
equivalence in structure - which most certainly DOES NOT EQUATE TO A SIMILAR
STRUCTURE, but to a structure which apparently functions in a way which
makes it look like a conceptual structure. The dreams are very different
indeed - even from heads on the same pillow. Concepts and pseudoconcepts
deal with similar contents, but in different ways, because pseudoconcepts
put things together according to different rules. THE STRUCTURES ARE VERY
DIFFERENT - and yet, because meanings in the words around children have been
established by the adults around them, the germinating seed of the
concept-for-myself is contained within the concept-for-others and in-itself,
just waiting for it to be grasped and mastered.
>From my thesis
?The pseudoconcept is a bridge between thinking in complexes and the final
stage before true conceptual thinking. The type of generalisation that
forms a pseudoconcept is still essentially a complex even though a
pseudoconcept looks very much like a true concept ? there is a phenotypical
resemblance. The kind of causal-dynamic relationships that form a
pseudoconcept are in essence different to the types of relationships that
give rise to true concepts.? (p. 27)
Do this help? I do hope so, David - but please let me know if there's still
a doubt in your mind because I haven't been clear enough.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On
Behalf Of David Kellogg
Sent: 06 August 2009 03:58 PM
To: Culture ActivityeXtended Mind
Subject: Re: [xmca] FW: Wolves in Sheep's Clothing - First Cut in Colour
I think it was actually Basil Bernstein who remarked that the question of
how outside gets inside is the essential question of sociology, and of
course it's an equally essential question of psychology, so long as we
understand that "outside" and "inside" are really rather like eric's
complexive uses of "up" and "down".
In eric's list, we notice that "up" is often used simply as something that
in other languages is called a resultative particle. For example, in
Chinese, when an action is finished, we add the particle "le" to indicate
completion. In Korean, the verb ending "borida" means something like
I think that is the sense in which we have to use "internalization" or
"interiorization". It is the endpoint of a process which has its roots not
only in the perceptual environment but even far beyond in the cultural
historical endowment of the child (and in fact it is THIS, and not
perception, which gives it the psychological nature which makes it
Paula says that the pseudoconcept is STRUCTURALLY equivalent to the concept.
I think that if we look at the pseudoconcept in action we might think that
is true. An obvious example is the English article system, or rather the
progression from the indicative-demonstrative system through the article
system to the plural we use to denote an abstract concept:
These are mostly indicative-nominative in function.
"A pair of apples",
These are mostly complexive in function. They are examples of concepts but
they can also be interpreted in concrete terms as groups of actual objects.
"the apple as a fruit"
These are mostly signifying in function because they refer to idealized
The problem from me is the word "apples". This is can be interpreted as a
set of actual apples, but it can also, because of the way the English plural
system works, refer to an abstract concept, taken outside of the hierarchy
of fruits and vegetables which would give it scientific reference.
This seems to me pseudoconceptual. But precisely because it is
pseudoconceptual it does not have the structure of the concept. The
structure of the concept is not simply the set of what Jay calls "thematic
relations" (e.g. classification, definition, exemplification) which situate
it in a hierarchy. The structure of a concept also involves the internal
differentiation of the concept according to those thematic relations.
Wenger (1998) notes that "reification" of terms like "play" or even
"education" is a powerful tool (because it allows us to classify, define,
exemplify processes as if they were things) but it is also a "double edge
sword" (sic) because it strips these things of their subjects and objects,
and deprives of crucial information (who is doing what to whom and why?)
But of course in the real world we cannot have play without someone playing,
or education without someone being educated, and no process ever takes place
without any reason. So what really happens in concept formation is that
these things become absorbed into the word meaning in hidden, abstract form.
And that is why I think it is not quite correct for Paula to say that
concepts and pseudoconcepts are STRUCTURALLY equivalent.
Seoul National University of Education
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