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Re: [xmca] established fact: x per cent of people are happy
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] established fact: x per cent of people are happy
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- Date: Wed, 11 Nov 2009 14:53:23 +1100
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Reminds me a little, David K., of the problem of cultural
relativism that Mike has put a lot of work into. I think
Sylvia Scribner's article "Vygotsky's uses of history" in
"Culture Communication and Cognition. Vygotskian
Perspectives" (1985) deals with it very well. She defends
LSV's practice of comparing specific functional systems, but
never whole persons or whole societies. I think this
restriction on what can be compared could be extended to
this issue. You can compare performance in a well-defined
task which carries with it an immanent basis for
measurement, but any combination of even more than one such
task (or state), is mathematically incomparable.
David Kellogg wrote:
This is an issue that is rather close to my heart, because of course
motivation and attitude is considered to be the key to understanding the
almost universal success rate in FIRST language learning and the
quasi-universal failure rate in FOREIGN language learning. For many
researchers taking this approach, the correct--nay, the ONLY--way to
measure attitude is, you guessed it, the questionnaire survey.
As you point out, asking about global attitudes towards a very general
phenomenon makes little sense even for adults; asking CHILDREN what they
think/feel about English, or English-speaking culture, or even English
class might seem a colossal waste of time. Either the kids are too young
to have any clear self-consciousness at all, or they are old enough to
realize that they are being quizzed on a topic close to the researcher's
heart, and they'd better sound positive.
But the method persists. You ask why. Well, here is a cynical answer: it
helps a lot of our grads, and their supervisors, to report, yet again,
that although the particular method that they are investigating has no
clear effect on language learning (whose causality is, as we know,
rarely clear and never direct) it DOES produce very satisfying gains in
motivation, attitude, and general predisposition towards
learning English. That's why.
There is a less cynical answer, though. Obviously, asking children how
they feel about English as a culture, language, class etc. makes no
sense. But asking them if they can see the blackboard makes a lot of
sense, and in between we have a number of questions which may or may not
make sense. So my question is WHERE and WHEN introspective judgements
become relevant. It's really not so easy to figure that out, and so it's
not so surprising that it's been a while.
Wundt drew a distinction between reflective self-observation on higher
processes (of the sort that Kant and then James employed) and
experimental inner perception on lower level processes (e.g. studies on
reaction times and apperceptive responses which he himself carried out).
I think of this distinction as being a little bit like asking
children about how they feel about English on the one hand and asking
them if they can see the blackboard on the other.
He rejected the former, saying that higher processes where cultural and
could only be studied through ethno-psychology. He claimed that the
lower processes could all be described in terms of sensations
(perceptions), feelings (emotions) and images (thoughts).
But then one of his former students, Külpe, established a laboratory in
Würzburg to study higher psychological processes through introspection.
This school included Narziss Ach and Karl Bühler, much discussed in
Thinking and Speech. Within a few years they claimed to have discovered
a number of psychological processes which were not describable as
sensations, feelings, and images. These were “conscious sets”,
“conscious awarenesses” and Gedanken, or “thoughts” which were
collectively termed “imageless thoughts”.
Vygotsky considers and rejects their findings in Chapter Five, where he
discusses the Ach’s “volitional set”, and Piaget’s “conscious
awareness”, as well as heaps, complexes, and concepts as examples of
verbal thinking. For Vygotsky, the reason why introspection does not
give us direct information about psychological processes and the reason
why higher functions are not linked in an immediate fashion to lower
ones is one and the same: both take place through language.
Introspection is the product of language, and the kinds of experiences
we are thinking about in the higher processes are really not separable
from language. That certainly goes for Wurzburg's conscious sets,
conscious awarenesses and Gedanken, none of which can really be said to
exist separately from language. This point is also made in Volosinov's
critique of Freudianism, where he points to the curious contradiction
that the "unconscious" is nevertheless discoverable and describable
through words. As Volsinov puts it, it isn't the case that experience
gives shape to expression; it's a lot truer to say that expression is
what "realizes" (in both senses of the word) experience.
Seoul National University of Education
Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov,
Ilyenkov $20 ea
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