# Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Saussure, and Wolves with different dreams: the concept-in-itself

```Paula recently pointed out that the actual SOLUTION to the puzzle is not present in the article. But there are a couple of other things which are even more remarkable about their presentation.

I guess when I do qualitative-quantitative research (that is, almost always) I try to present quantitative results first and then explain them by using qualitative results. I had always thought this was the normal thing to do, because you don't really know WHAT is typical until you see the main tendencies in the data an dyou don't know WHY until you go back to the transcripts and look at them qualitatively.

Paula and Carol do the opposite. We get many pages of photographs and discussion of individual solutions before they give us, near the very end, two charts in which the cross sectional results are scored using the Hanfmann Kasanin method and shown to obey a fairly linear curve.

At first this is almost as confusing as trying to reconstruct the puzzle without the solution.But when you think about it, you realize what they are up to. The scoring method is really not the point of the exercise, and in fact the apparently "linear"  progression is deceptive. As Paula and Carol point out, there is a big "leap" between eleven and fifteen. This doesn't actually show up in the linear data, because for example according to the scoring method the five year olds are really doing twice as well as the three year olds (which is a much bigger leap).

But by the time you get to this you realize what's up. The "doubling" that you see between the three year olds and the five year olds is not important, because the three year olds do not really understand the concept of the test to begin with and they simply play with the blocks without bothering to sort them. The five year olds have the opposite problem; they find it hard to keep from turning the blocks over and cheating.

So Paula and Carol are really right to interpret the quantitative results the way they do, but you only really know that after you've read the qualitative results.

Andy, I don't want to start around the mulberry bush of whether Vygotsky ever read Hegel or not. I find your evidence on this completely unconvincing (why would the tales of Dobkin have any influence on you one way or the other? Why not just READ Vygotsky and decide for yourself?).

But one thing that is very clear in Paula and Carol's article: "syncretic" solutions are SUBJECTIVE, "complexive" solutions are OBJECTIVE, and conceptual solutions are the emergence of a real begriff which is an idea for itself. Isn't that close enough?

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

And now for something completely different. What do Paula and Carol really mean when they talk about pseudoconceptual reasoning WITHIN a syncretic solution? If it is pseudoconceptual, isn't it complexive and not syncretic?

dk

--- On Fri, 8/7/09, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Saussure, and Wolves with different dreams: the concept-in-itself
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Friday, August 7, 2009, 10:55 PM

You raise so much Steve it is impossible to respond to more than a little. In general the difficulties of the Vygotsky-Hegel relation are that (1) Vygotsky never actually read Hegel but (2) his whole approach is very Hegelian, or Marxist-Hegelian to be exact, with many parallels, but (3) in this crucial area of concept formation, there is no parallel at all really.

For example, Hegel gives us dozens of stages leading up to the formation of a concept, but I don't think any of them correspond to the approximately 10 stages that Paula and Carol are dealing with! even though both see the formation of concepts in the individual as a process of practical appropriation from the parent culture, and both have a similar idea of the beginning and end stages of this process!

Now also, on further thought, I think "animalistic" was the *wrong* term for Hegel's "(a) consciousness in general, which has an object as such," because he is definitely talking about the use of culture which is by definition not animalistic. (a) is more like using an artefact or person as if they are simply given things (not artefacts), without a concept at all ... except that using artefacts means that you have acquired the concept "in itself" like when one of Meshcheryakov's deaf-blind children develop a need and a habit for using a spoon.

You asked where thing-in-itself, b) thing-for-us, c) thing-for-itself is from. Hegel never used the expression "thing-for-us" but it is frequently used by Marxists for the  stage of reflection. The Logic has 3 divisions, the science of Being (thing-in-itself), the science of Reflection (ie., thing-for-us) and the science of the Notion, (i.e., thing-for-itself). "Thing-for-us" is not a precise description of the science of Reflection (a.k.a. Essence) but it captures certain aspects of Essence quite well. Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin all used it for example. I don't think Marx ever used the term.

enough for now,
Andy

Steve Gabosch wrote:
> Your comments, quotes and links are very helpful, Andy, thank you.  I am still struggling to comprehend all this, but now have so much more to work with.  We now have several sequences from both Vygotsky and Hegel to consider:
>
> 1. (Vygotsky)  a) concept-in-itself, b) concept-for-others, c) concept-for-myself (Vygotsky, Thinking and Speech, 1986, pg 124).
>
> 2. (Hegel) thing-in-itself, b) thing-for-us, c) thing-for-itself.  (Where is this from?)
>
> 3. (Vygotsky) a) reaching for an object, b) reaching for an object while another person reacts, c) pointing at an object expecting another person to react (Vygotsky, CW, Vol 4, pg 104).
>
> 4. (Hegel)  (a) animalistic action/reaction, (b) the collective consciousness of a cultural group, (c) individual consciousness (which is what Hegel meant by "psychology")  (Where is this from?)
>
> 5. (Hegel)  "§ 334:  The levels of this elevation of certainty to truth are: (a) consciousness in general, which has an object as such; (b) self-consciousness, for which the self is the object; (c) the unity of consciousness and self-consciousness, where the spirit sees itself as the content of the object and as in and for itself determinate; — as reason, the concept of the spirit."  (Hegel, Philosophy of Spirit, http://marx.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/ssconsci.htm#SS334)
>
> I see your point about what I have listed above as item 5.  5a and 5b seem to fit in with the others, but not 5c.  I also have a question about 4a - whether that quite fits, either.
>
> I like your general descriptions of what LSV seems to have meant.  I have the urge to push these concepts even further, to their full capacity.  In doing, I may be going too far, or perhaps I am combining them a little differently and incorrectly.  See what you think.  Allow me to think out loud here, and take this as far as I can for the moment.
>
> You say:
>> "Concept-in-itself" I take to be the unconscious use of words by a small child as an indivisible part of an action, a "handle" for a thing. This is close to the Hegelian idea, because the child is not yet conscious of having a concept or thing-name at all; it is indissolubly connected to the object itself.
>
> Excellent point.  Wanting to expand on this, perhaps we can relate this stage to Vygotsky's emphasis on the importance of the naming stage beginning around age two.  Vygotsky explains in Thinking and Speech (ch 4) that "Stern provided the first and best description of this extraordinarily important event in the child's mental life.  He demonstrated that a vague consciousness of the significance of language and the will to master it is awakened in the child. The child makes what is the most significant discovery of his life the discovery that "each thing has its name" (Stern, 1922, p. 92)" (Vygotsky, CW, Vol 1, p. 111).  Vygotsky referred to this as the "signifying function" in Ch 3.
>
> In other words, does "concept-in-itself" refers to **naming objects**?
>
> You say:
>> "Concept-for-others" I take to mean the use of a word for communicative action, e.g. asking an adult for assistance, and it is directed at the adult.
>
> Another excellent observation.  Perhaps we can relate this stage to the **functional** use of language, to bring that key term in Vygotsky's work on concept formation into this discussion.  In "concept-for-others" (and actually, the use of the term concept any of these three phrases) I wonder if Vygotsky might be using the term "concept" not as in "true concept" but in its generic sense, referring to any kind of conceptual formation - syncretic, complexive, pseudoconceptual, true concepts, etc.  If so, perhaps we can expand this stage (the use of words for communicative action) beyond just children talking to adults to include talking to anyone - adults, other children, self, and even imaginary entities.
>
> In other words, does "concept-for-others" refer to **using words to function socially**?
>
> You say:
>> "Concept-for-myself" is the use of language by the child to control its own actions, speech growing in, as they say, towards silent speech. I don't know if I entirely concur with Kozulin in saying this, but the idea you quote from Kozulin is certainly closely connnected, because the use of words to achieve intelligent *control* of one's own actions is surely closely connected with awareness of one's own consciousness (and behaviour). And I think you can link LSV and Hegel with (a) and (b) but I can't see it with (c).
>
> Here, I am puzzling out the two excellent ideas pointed to here, the use of words for 1) self-regulation and 2) self-awareness.  My first question is, how is self-regulation, consciously controlling ones own actions and behaviors, not just another aspect of functionally using language?  For example, as Vygotsky discovered, when a child (or adult) talks to themselves, they are regulating their behaviors and actions.  This also relates to Vygotsky's discussion and experiments regarding auxiliary stimuli.  So I wonder if 1) self-regulation belongs more in the first category.
>
> My second question, following your suggestions, Andy, is since self-consciousness clearly is a common theme in many of the examples we are considering for this third stage, what would be **different** about this self-awareness or self-consciousness at this third "stage" of concept formation?  Furthermore, if, as Vygotsky says, the first two stages as a rule **precede** the third stage (am using the term stage loosely here), then what is new and different about a person's self-awareness in the third stage?
>
> Well, since we know where Vygotsky is going with his thinking about concept formation, let's fill in the blank and see how it fits.  Perhaps at the stage of "concepts-for-myself" a person begins to **name objects** and **functionally use words** on a new level, in a new, **self-conscious** way.
>
> And what would be the nature of this new, "self-conscious" way of using words?   Well, here is where we might be able to answer this, relying on Vygotsky's theory about the scientific or academic concept, that is, the conscious use of words to create **culturally-understood, logical generalizations** - that is, of course, **true concepts**.
>
> In other words, does "concept-for-myself" refer to **self-consciously-produced true concepts**?
>
> Well, that's as far as I'm getting, picking up from your very helpful points and references, Andy.  Thoughts?
>
> Cheers,
> ~ Steve
>
> PS.  Some Hegel quotes follow.
>
> ****************************
>
> The following is passage § 334 in Hegel's Philosophy of Spirit that you refer to, Andy, plus the two preceding passages, § 332 and § 333, which seem to be in the same vein.  Opaque, for sure!   But still an interesting discussion of object-subject relations as well as the idea of consciousness developing - all of which I would like to understand better!
>
>  From http://marx.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/ssconsci.htm#SS334
>
> § 332
>
> Since the self does not exist as the concept, but only as a formal identity, the dialectical movement of consciousness does not seem to it to be its own activity, but seems to occur in itself that is, as a change in the object. Consciousness appears differently, therefore, according to the differences in the given object, and the ongoing development of consciousness appears as a development of the object. The observation of its necessary changes, however, the concept, falls, because it is still as such interior, within us.
>
> [Note: the following paragraph is in a smaller font than the other paragraphs, not clear why. - sg]
>
> Kantian philosophy may be most accurately described as having conceived of the spirit as consciousness, and as containing only determinations of the phenomenology, not the philosophy, of spirit. Kant views the self as the relation to a "thing in itself" lying somewhere beyond, and it is only from this perspective that he treats the intellect and the will. Though with the concept of reflecting judgment he does speak of the idea of the spirit, subject-objectivity, an intuitive understanding, and so on, and even the idea of nature, this idea is itself demoted to an appearance again, namely, to a subjective principle. Reinhold, it may therefore be said, correctly understood Kantianism, when he treated it as a theory of consciousness, under the name of the faculty of imagination. Fichtean philosophy adheres to the same point of view, for his "not-I" is only an object of the "I," only determined as in consciousness; it remains an infinite impulse, that is, a
thing in itself. Both philosophies show, therefore, that they have not clearly reached the concept or the spirit as it is in and for itself but only as it is in relation to something else.
>
> § 333
> The aim of the spirit as consciousness is to make its appearance identical with its essence, to raise the certainty of itself to truth. The existence of the spirit in consciousness is formal or general as such; because that is determined only abstractly, or it is only self-reflected as an abstract self its existence retains a content which is not yet its own.
>
> § 334
> The levels of this elevation of certainty to truth are: (a) consciousness in general, which has an object as such; (b) self-consciousness, for which the self is the object; (c) the unity of consciousness and self-consciousness, where the spirit sees itself as the content of the object and as in and for itself determinate; — as reason, the concept of the spirit.
>
> *******************************
> <end of Hegel quotes>
>
>
> On Aug 6, 2009, at 5:23 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>
>> Mmm, well I had a read of the relevant passage in Hegel again last night, Steve, and again modified my opinion of its meaning. Here is a link to the point which is the nearest Hegel comes to this relation:
>>
>> http://marx.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/ssconsci.htm#SS334
>>
>> I find this prettty opaque quite honestly, but I think if you read it on the assumption that Hegel is talking about the differentiating out of (c) individual consciousness (which is what Hegel meant by "psychology") from (a) animalistic action/reaction and (b) the collective consciousness of a cultural group, you might just get some sense out of it.
>>
>> LSV put it this way:
>>
>> "All cultural development of the child passes through three basic stages that can be described in the following way using Hegel’s analysis." (LSV CW v. 4 p. 104) My paraphrase of the rest of the paragraph: the development of a gesture as (1) reaching for an object, (2) a reaction arises, but not on the part of the object, but another person, who completes the grasping for the child, and in being directed towards another person, the gesture becomes contracted, and (3) becomes a gesture for oneself. And I think this is as good as any a representation of the Hegel passage I have given the link to.
>>
>> -----------
>>
>> Vygotsky may have learnt about this passage secondhand from Lewin. But everyone knew about the Hegelian phrases "thing-in-itself", "thing-for-us" and "thing-for-itself", since these were part of the popular discourse around Hegel in Marxist circles. So I presume "concept-in-itself," the "concept-for-others" and the "concept-for-myself" is a kind of play on these concepts. But "concept-for-myself" is just not something you'd find in Hegel. The concept is always objective for Hegel.
>>
>> -----------
>>
>> Now what Vygotsky meant by it:
>>
>> "Concept-in-itself" I take to be the unconscious use of words by a small child as an indivisible part of an action, a "handle" for a thing. This is close to the Hegelian idea, because the child is not yet conscious of having a concept or thing-name at all; it is indissolubly connected to the object itself.
>>
>> "Concept-for-others" I take to mean the use of a word for communicative action, e.g. asking an adult for assistance, and it is directed at the adult.
>>
>> "Concept-for-myself" is the use of language by the child to control its own actions, speech growing in, as they say, towards silent speech. I don't know if I entirely concur with Kozulin in saying this, but the idea you quote from Kozulin is certainly closely connnected, because the use of words to achieve intelligent *control* of one's own actions is surely closely connected with awareness of one's own consciousness (and behaviour). And I think you can link LSV and Hegel with (a) and (b) but I can't see it with (c).
>>
>> That's where I'm at with all this Steve.
>>
>> Andy
>>
>>
>> Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>> Thanks, Andy.  I think I am being a little dense here, because now I am uncertain of both what Vygotsky meant, and what Hegel meant as well!  LOL
>>> I get the **sense** of these distinctions, of course, but I don't think they are yet registering for me as clear **concepts**.  I might even be able to more or less correctly answer a question or two about what Vygotsky said on a school quiz, but I can tell I would only be doing so on the basis of pseudoconceptual reasoning, because I can memorize the genetic order that Vygotsky says that the concept-in-itself, the concept-for-others and the concept-for-myself appear in the child - but not because I really understand **why** they appear in that order, or because I understand just **what** these kinds of concepts actually are.  I couldn't, offhand, give you clear examples of these three kinds of concepts.  Your quote from Hegel is helpful, but I have not fully conceptualized Hegel's treatment of these ideas, either.  I'm not so sure how I'd get very far on a school quiz on that!  LOL
>>> So let me refine my questions regarding Vygotsky's points.  First, what did Vygotsky mean by the terms "concept-in-itself," "concept-for-others" and "concept-for-myself"?  Second, what are some examples of these kinds of concepts?  Third, why does he claim that the first two, as a rule, precede the latter in a child's intellectual development?
>
> For further thought, here are some relevant quotes from the paper, from Vygotsky, and from Kozulin.
>
>>> Here is what Paula and Carol said (pg 236 in Wolves):
>
>>> "It is in this respect that Vygotsky notes that the genetic preconditions of the “concept-for-myself” are already present in the pseudoconcept in the form of the “concept-in-itself” and the “concept-for-others”, because these occur earlier in the child than the “concept-for-myself”: he further asserts that this sequence is not restricted to conceptual development because it occurs as a “rule rather than the exception in the intellectual development of the child” (p. 124)."
>
>>> Here is the passage by Vygotsky from Alex Kozulin's translation of Thought and Language they refer to (pg 124):
>
>>> "The concept-in-itself and the concept-for-others are developed in the child earlier than the concept-for-myself.  The concept-in-itself and the concept-for-others, which are already present in the pseudoconcept, are the basic genetic precondition for the development of real concepts.  This peculiar genetic situation is not limited to the attainment of concepts; it is the rule rather the exception in the intellectual development of the child." (7)
>
>>> In Footnote (7) to the above passage in Thought and Language (on page 268),  Kozulin comments:
>
>>> "7. Vygotsky's discussion of the phenomenon of pseudoconcepts has far-reaching philosophical implications.  First of all, if the conscious awareness of one's own intellectual operations ("concept-for-me") is only a secondary achievement, which follows the practical use of these operations, then the individual cannot be considered a self-conscious center of activity.  [Note from Steve:  I don't grasp what Alex just said.]  The individual appears rather as a "construction" built at the crossroads of the inner and outer realities.  Second, the phenomenon of functional equivalence between real and pseudoconcepts warns us against taking the functional appearance of communication for its ultimate content.  The usage of "one and the same" words and subsequent "understanding" may be illusory.  Such illusion of understanding, based on the confusion between functional and essential characteristics, constantly emerges in child-adult communication, in the
dialogue between different social groups, and in contacts between different cultures.  For further discussion of this point, see Alex Kozulin, "Psychology and Philosophical Anthropology: The Problem of Their Interaction," *The Philosophical Forum*, 1984, 15(4):443-458."
>>> <end>
>>> On Aug 4, 2009, at 7:58 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>> Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>>>> What did LSV mean by a "concept-for-myself," (a phrase, I understand, is derived from Hegel)?
>>>>
>>>> Hegel would never have used quite the phrase, "concept-for-myself", but the way Vygotsky is using the idea: first concept in-itself, then for-others, and only last for-myself - i.e., self-consciousness, is quite consistent with Hegel's idea. It's really a play on Hegel.
>>>>
>>>> For example from Hegel's Introduction to the History of Philosophy:
>>>>
>>>> "But consciousness really implies that for myself, I am object to myself. In forming this absolute division between what is mine and myself, Mind constitutes its existence and establishes itself as external to itself. It postulates itself in the externality."
>>>>
>>>> Andy
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