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Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Saussure, and Wolves with different dreams
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Saussure, and Wolves with different dreams
- From: David Kellogg <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 19:43:56 -0700 (PDT)
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Of course, Vygotsky completely repudiates the idea that thinking is simply speech minus sound, or that thought is a speech reflex which is inhibited before it is manifest.
First of all, he distinguishes quite clearly (in Chapter Seven) between thinking on the one hand and inner speech on the other.
But he also denies that inner speech is speech minus sound or some kind of inhibited reflex. Here's what he says in section THREE of Chapter Seven:
"According to Watson, (inner speech) is the same as external speech, but not brought to an end. Bekhterev defined it as a verbal reflex whose motor portion is not detected, Sechenov as a reflex interrupted after two-thirds of its journey. In this understanding inner speech may consist of a subordinate moment in the scientific concept of internal speech, but it, like the first, not only does not exhaust the whole of this concept, but does not coincide with it at all. Silently saying words does not yet in any way mean the internal processes of inner speech. Recently, Schilling suggested some terminology to distinguish between inner speech and internal speaking, the latter term denoting the contents of that which has been investigated under the name of inner speech by the authors just referred to. From this notion of inner speech differs quantitatively in that it is referring only to the active rather than passive processes of speech activity, and
qualitatively in that it is referring to the initial motor activity of speech function. Interior talk from this point of view is a partial function of internal speech, the initial verbal motor act, impulses which are not at all expressed in articulatory movements or which occur in unclear and expressed silent movements, but that accompany, support or hinder thinking functions."
One of the big differences between thinking on the one hand and inner speech on the other is precisely the arrow of time; Vygotsky points out that a thought does not begin at one end and go on linearly until we reach the other (although we may express it that way). Thoughts are much closer to the kind of volitional affective impulses or the referential meanings that Greg is talking about: they appear to happen all over at once.
Paula, in a characteristically funny and warm offline message, makes the point that concepts really have TWO prerequisites: on the one hand, abstraction and generalization (which really seem to me to be two aspects of the same mental process, the isolation of a single feature and then spreading it to other objects), and on the other system and hierarchy. This seems an absolutely key insight.
One of the things that makes this remarkable paper so difficult to understand (but actually not NEARLY as difficult to understand as the chapter of Thinking and Speech it is based on) is the use of expressions like "functional equivalence in STRUCTURE" and "pseudoconceptual reasoning in a SYNCRETIC solution", where we have two apparently incompatible forms of thinking mixed in a kind of intellectual salad dressing.
It's not at all, as the fashionable parlance has it, a "hybrid", which would imply a complete fusion which allows fertile progeny. It's more of an emulsion, where two fundamentally different processes are temporarily and functionally fused.
I think the point is that this is how development takes place. For example, within the indicative gesture, there is the POSSIBILITY of naming things: "This is an apple". And within the nominative act, there is the POSSIBILITY of signifying "This is an abstract, idealized, concept of an apple, not a real apple that ever has or could exist". Just as the child's quasi-rote play contains the potential of role play, and the role play contains the potential of rule based games, Paula and Carol's emulsions point out that there is the POSSIBILITY of pseudoconceptual reasoning in the syncretic solution.
To return to Mike's example. When you set off for the farmer's market, you have in your mind a concept--an idealized, abstract model of the apples you want to buy. It may even be written down as graphemes on a shopping list. When you arrive at the farmer's market, you are confronted by actual objects: you have ascended to the concrete, to use Davydov's phrase.
We often think of Davydov as advocating the direct instruction of concepts from the getgo. Of course, that's not at all what he has in mind: as Schmittau pointed out, he only wants us to begin in a somewhat different place (e.g. measuring instead of counting) because it will make it somewhat easier to arrive at where we want to go.
Some examples: If we want to teach differentiation, it's better to start with the idea of limits than with the idea of measuring the slope of a curve, because only the former will really help you divide by zero. If you want to teach integration, you are better off defining a circle as a polygon with an infinite number of infinitely small sides than as a line where every point is equidistant from some point not on a line.
To give some nonmathematical examples, in moral education it's better to start with identity than with the self, with social roles rather than with self-evaluation. It's not just that this starting point is closer to where the child is. It's that it gets us closer to where we want to go.
Now, on one level, Mike's right: the conversations we have on xmca are perfectly ocmplexive, and what I've just written is the kind of horrible segue that DJs do on the radio ("and now for something completely different--Davydov!")
But to call this a preconceptual or pseudoconceptual post is to ignore what it is made of and to only look at its structure. That is just as big a mistake as to read the Arabian Nights as the story of one woman trying to keep from having her head cut off.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Sun, 8/9/09, Andy Blunden <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky, Saussure, and Wolves with different dreams
Cc: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Sunday, August 9, 2009, 5:16 PM
The idea of the uncompleted action as the foundation of thinking is what underlies this developmental theory isn't it, Mike?
I am reminded of LSV's argument in his first recorded 1924 speech: "According to reflexology, thought is a speech reflex which is inhibited before it is manifest, and asks 'why it is allowed to study complete speech reflexes ... and why it is forbidden to take account of these same reflexes when they are inhibited?'"
And the idea is found in Dewey and Mead, isn't it, again setting out from the inhibited gesture, and we have today things like sports people practicing in their head before doing a complex action, and neuroscientists verifying that 90% of the brain action associated with the action is present in thinking it.
So the idea that reaching for some thing and not completing it, is a developmental "justification" of the same pragmatic interpretation of thinking. (most metaphysical theories have a "just so" story to explain them) I am inclined to think the general idea came before the observation of children?
The challenging Google book link you gave, Mike, asks us to presume an in-built knowledge that adults will understand pointing, an ability to connect all the dots and an inclination to do this wonderful indirect or mediated action in relation to the moving-black-thing (dog) and the big-face-thing (father) and the hand. I am open to the "truncated gesture" being an invention or mistake of some kind, but I would still like some explanation of where this complex series of actions comes from, some genesis for it. Even if this idea is that it is in the genes, how did it get into the genes?
Can someone with an infant handy tell us if pre-pointing infants reach for and try to grasp things? I don't know. :(
Mike Cole wrote:
> I have raised this issue before and somone (Anna Stetsenko) said that current evidence contradicted me, but i could not find the contradiction in the sources provided, so since it is so central an argument, it may well be worth repeating.
> The claim is this:
> the development of a gesture [into a word (mc)] 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.
> One relevant article is at the following accessible url. http://mindblog.dericbownds.net/2007/06/human-infant-pointing-precursor-to.html
> The work of Butterworth on infant pointing, which implicates an important
> maturational ("natural line of development") component also needs to be considered. Easy access to this can be found via google
> The child in the world: embodiment, time, and language in early
> ... - Google Books Result
> These results do not negate the role of adult interpretation in the development of early words, or gestures, but they do complicate the picture I think. Easy and repeated repitetation of LSV on this point is not going to be taken serious without us taking seriously contemporary evidence and theoretical claims.
> On Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 5:23 PM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>> 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:
> 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.
> 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,
> 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
> "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."
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