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[Xmca-l] Re: Laws of evolution and laws of history


As a fascinated 'baby watcher' I am grateful to you for bringing Jessica Benjamin's work to my attention. While I find her article, I wonder if you could comment on how her identification of primal thirdness relates to the concept of the 'Ur Wir' or 'Primal We' which Vygotsky refers to as the initial condition of the infant and mother/caregiver. I am more and more convinced that a baby's first experiences are of the quality of the interaction between its body and the body of its caregiver - an embodied attunement which is much more readily perceived than either the separate subjectivities of the baby or the mother.

I think this 'palpable' sense of being 'liked' by someone who adjusts their movements to your own is an example of the rhythmicity you have referred to but we are brought up in a culture which foregrounds objects rather than actions so the interaction, instead of being primal - the first form of experience, is described as 'third', a consequence of the actions of the first and second rather than the water which allows them to swim.

Another consequence of our culture (experienced with particular intensity in early education) is our fixation on spoken language as THE form of communication. In the UK our 'Early Years Foundation Stage' guidance for early years professionals working with children from birth to five has a 'Prime Area of Learning' called 'Communication and Language' which has nothing to say about any form of communication other than language! The tacit processes involved in 'getting to know' someone are almost entirely overlooked but I think these aspects of communication play a very important role in the ethical function of communication (awareness of how our actions can be expected to affect others and willingness to repair miscommunications).

One benefit of 'baby watching' and of thinking about what learning is like for babies is that it forces us to consider forms of learning (and especially forms of social learning) which are NOT grounded in the concept-y ways of thinking which we tend to take for granted. Judy Dunn's lovely study of two-year olds at home (back in the 80s) showed very clearly how the social capability of these young children was heavily dependent on familiar (family) contexts. They were able to join in with family social activities WELL before they were able to 'understand' or 'explain' what was going on because the familiar practice of domestic routines provided a ZPD which allowed them to anticipate what 'their' people could be expected to do and how they could be expected to react. By joining in (without understanding but with loving support) they had opportunities to arrive at their own understanding. The CONTEXT of familiar patterns of activity could be seen as a kind of thirdness but a primary kind!

All the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Larry Purss
Sent: 17 January 2015 17:42
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Laws of evolution and laws of history

Thank you for this question and re-turning us to "ethical" concerns.  You have reflected on the larger spatial scales.  My reflections explore the other micro scale and notions of thirdness within pedagogy. This listserve has recently discussed notions of "rhythmicity" in our enactments with others.  I want to bring in the psychodynamic notion of rhythmicity within thirdness by sharing Jessica Benjamin's way of moving beyond the complimentary notion of "secondness" as the dynamic of "doer and done to"

Jessica is reflecting on a level of thirdness that is prior to using language which she says is missing the aspect explored by "baby watchers".
She says the focus on language misses the first or founding moment, when she writes:

  "This [the first aspect of recognition] is the part that baby watchers have made an indelible part of our thinking. In my view of thirdness, recognition is not first constituted by verbal speech; rather it begins with the early nonverbal experience of sharing a pattern, a dance, with another person" [Beyond Doer and Done to: An Intersubjective View of Thirdness]

This aspect of primal thirdness for Jessica is a nascent energetic third - as distinct from the symbolic third in the mother's mind - present in the earliest exchange of "gestures" between mother and child.  Gestures are the early primary exchange which inform "baby watchers" notion of moral or ethical thirdness which implies the principle of "affective experience" or "felt experience" that IS PALPABLE.  This term "palpable" expresses a particular level of felt gestures which are  nonverbal but are mediated and are beyond complimentary doer and done to and preconceived propagating.
Jessica argues that for the imaginal symbolic verbal third to actually "work" [the ZPD] as a true third -rather than complimentary doer and done to demands - requires the capacity for accomadation to a mutually created set of expectations [projects]. For Jessica the primal or founding form this accomodation takes or assumes is the creation of alignment with [and repair of ruptures to] the palpable patterns, the participation in connections based on affect resonance.

This palpable felt experience Sanders called "rhythmicity" which Sanders considers one of two fundamental principles of all human interaction.  The other principle being "specificity".

Jessica argues that palpable rhythmic experience helps constitute the capacity for symbolic imaginal thirdness.  Rhythmicity may be seen [and heard and felt] as a model principle UNDERLYING the creation of shared patterns that move beyond complimentary dyads of doer and done to type struggles for recognition.

Miguel, to explore our ethical understandings of pedagogy that are moving beyond epistemology, do the "baby watchers" and their notions of primal nonverbal thirdness have something to offer in our explorations of Kris' notion of third space as a hybrid intersubjective space that is not doer and done to complimentarity.
Growth and development seem to oscillate between already known pre-conceptions of what should be taught [the doer and the done to] and the more ethical or moral thirdness that emerges symbolically and imaginally from within a palpable felt experience of nonverbal thirdness that transcends doer and done to.
This is an intersubjective understanding and is only an "aspect" of the cultural historical understanding, but it does focus our attention on the ethical or moral dimension of enactments [performative activities]  This model is an extension of Winnicott's notion of "potential or transitional space" and Daniel Stern's baby watching.


On Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 8:30 AM, Zavala, Miguel < mizavala@exchange.fullerton.edu> wrote:

> The distinction between propaganda and education is an analytic one
> that is useful for me as a teacher. But I also think that it's a
> distinction resolved not so much at the level of philosophy (theories,
> such as those being proposed here) but ethically.
> Anyone who has taught and been reflexive of her/his pedagogy will
> sense this distinction between the two, 'propaganda' and 'education'.
> There is perhaps a particular instrumentalism (as an 'ethic', such as
> that promulgated in 'revolutionary' struggles and in neoliberalism)
> that sees people as objects not as Freire would term 'historical
> subjects' in propaganda.
> I fully recognize the solipsism in all distinctions, such that some
> may argue that even in Freirean, participatory pedagogy the issue
> remains unresolved.  That there is a dimension of propaganda in
> education (and education in propaganda).  But what some have pointed
> out (as I read their
> posts) is that we also should look at these processes in larger
> spatial-scales.  What are the collectives that give birth or make
> possible education and propaganda projects?  Do these strive for rehumanization?
> How does the struggle for rehumanization remain a struggle at
> theoretical and practical and historical and spatial levels?
> How do folks draw this distinction in their own pedagogical praxis?
> How is the ethical conceptualized, lived, and embodied in your
> pedagogy?  I suggest looking at it less from a theory of communication
> and more from an ethical one (ethics as primary, epistemology as
> secondary) that we might begin to re-conceptualize the very
> distinction between 'propaganda' and 'education'.
> Miguel Zavala
> On 1/17/15 5:37 AM, "Andy Blunden" <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> >And I found the Engels he was quoting, in the Russian translation:
> >
> >    /Вечные законы природы /также превращаются все более и более в
> >    исторические законы.
> >
> >The English translation says:
> >
> >    The eternal laws of nature also become transformed more and more
> >    into historical ones.
> >
> >but then it goes on to say:
> >
> >    That water is fluid from 0°-100° C. is an eternal law of nature, but
> >    for it to be valid, there must be (1) water, (2) the given
> >    temperature, (3) normal pressure.
> >
> >So this does NOT mean what it appeared to mean. Engels simply means
> >"nothing remains constant" It is not saying anything about "laws of
> >history"!!
> >
> >Andy
> >---------------------------------------------------------------------
> >---
> >*Andy Blunden*
> >http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> >
> >
> >mike cole wrote:
> >> Thanks David -- That is certainly where I must have encountered the
> >>phrase  often enough for it to stick in my mind. And thanks to
> >>Jessica and Andy we  see versions of the idea in many places.
> >>
> >> Double the pleasure.
> >> mike
> >>
> >> On Tue, Jan 13, 2015 at 11:36 PM, David Kellogg
> >> <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >>
> >>> Mike--
> >>>
> >>> See Vol. Four of the Collected Works in English: the quote you
> >>>refer to is  the epigraph to HDHMF. It's from Dialectics of Nature,
> >>>and Vygotsky keeps  coming back to it again and again, throughout
> >>>the whole text of HDHMF,  which is one reason why I am assuming
> >>>(against what Anton Yasnitsky has
> >>> written) that HDHMF is a whole book, one of the very few that
> >>>Vygotsky  completedly completed (and also his longest work).
> >>>
> >>
> >

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