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[Xmca-l] Re: Mediating Activity and Mediated Activity


No, Cavalli-Sforza studies human migration by tracing shared genes. I was referring to the work of Quentin Atkinson:

Atkinson, Q. D. (2011). Phonemic diversity supports a serial founder effect model of language expansion from Africa. Science, 332, 346-349. 

I tried to include an image in my last message, but it seems to have been stripped out.


> On May 4, 2016, at 6:40 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> Henry:
> Martin's referring to the work of Cavalli-Sforza, which assumes that you
> can trace the spread of language by studying mitochondrial DNA. This
> overlooks the fact the people do not simply inherit languages. They learn
> them.
> I think that this may be Vygotsky's most overlooked contribution.
> Vygotsky's description of the proto-language of the child's first two years
> of life, combined with Halliday's great "Nigel" studies, provides us
> with...the key to the origins of language.
> The question of the origins of language in linguistics is a little
> like string theory in physics; it's something linguists go into
> because they find working with data messy and unpleasant, and dead speakers
> tell no tales. For most of Western intellectual history, the only field
> workers were amateur archaeologists seeking Biblical confirmation: a quest
> for the Garden of Eden and the Tower of Babel. In the 19th Century, the
> field became so speculative that the Royal Society and the French Academie
> des sciences banned the acceptance of scientific papers on the subject.
> It was almost forgotten in the twentieth, and recent attempts to revive it
> by searching the Human Genome Project for a "language gene" have led
> absolutely nowhere.
> Vygotsky shows us what language looks like when the infant tries to invent
> it. When he says that thinking and speech have separate roots, and then
> come together, what he means is that the first languages, which are still
> being invented right in front of our noses, have separate two layers: a
> semantics and a phonetics, and these are then linked. But that link is not
> yet wording; it's not lexicogrammar: it's simply pointing out and naming
> things: matching sounds to objects.
> Halliday shows us how the child is able to exapt the lexicogrammar he sees
> and hears being enacted around him to his own functional purposes, his own
> semantics and his own phonetics. It's a big step, but it's a step that even
> a two year old human can make given the collaborative help of conspecifics.
> So it is not reasonable to assume that it was made only once. Throughout
> human history, the number of human languages has tended to diminish and not
> increase, either through genocide or through literacy or both. Babel was
> indeed our past, but the single language that supposedly preceded it is
> really a long-ago that is yet-to-come.
> David Kellogg
> Macquarie University
> On Thu, May 5, 2016 at 9:04 AM, HENRY SHONERD <hshonerd@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Gente,
>> As far as the invention of language, whether spoken, signed or written, do
>> we know whether it was invented once, or many times, independently? Are we
>> humans alone in the universe, the only inventors of language? Are these
>> questions relevant to the thread? If not, I only have questions, so they’re
>> my best shot.
>> Henry
>>> On May 4, 2016, at 3:57 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Well, but then in hindsight everything coevolves with everything, Andy.
>> And
>>> only in hindsight. Three problems with that.
>>> First of all, this view of "co-evolution" renders the idea of evolution
>>> vacuous. There is no obvious reason why the larynx should be considered
>> the
>>> "rudiment" of language rather than the mouth or the ears or for that
>> matter
>>> the hand (Stokoe makes a very convincing argument that sign languages
>>> predate vocal ones). So then we have to say that speech co-evolved with
>>> mouths and ears and hands?
>>> Secondly, to pre-empt a little the upcoming issue of MCA, that this view
>> of
>>> co-evolution also makes it impossible to explain crises as internal
>>> phenomena. The pace of change of language is qualitatively different from
>>> the pace of change of the "rudiment" of language, wherever you choose to
>>> locate it, and this changing of gears needs to be explained. It wasn't a
>>> simple adaptation to the environment, whatever it was; it doesn't appear
>> to
>>> be environment specific at all.
>>> Thirdly, this notion of co-evolution, discovering "rudiments" in
>> accidents,
>>> does not give us a unit of analysis that has all of the properties that
>> we
>>> are interested in studying. The quipu and the notched stick
>>> are deliberately endowed with meaning, but the larynx is not.
>>> Perhaps what you mean is not the larynx but the vocal tract: the lungs,
>>> the bronchial tubes, the wind pipe, the voicebox, the oral cavity, the
>>> tongue, the lips and the nose and nasal passages. But this did not evolve
>>> at all; in  fact, as a physiological organ the vocal tract does not even
>>> exist. It's not an adaptation but an exaptation--a bringing
>>> together of organs which evolved with very different functions for
>>> a purpose which is not an adaptation to the environment but an attempt to
>>> create a qualitatively new type of environment, namely a semiotic one.
>>> The notion of the co-evolution of tools and signs not only renders the
>> idea
>>> of evolution almost meaningless, it also makes it next to impossible to
>>> consciously and deliberately and rationally introduce design into
>>> development. If signs are, like tools, just ways of slavishly adapting to
>>> an environment or (worse) slavishly adapting the environment to human
>>> whims, we can only stagger and struggle against each other, from one
>>> adaptation to the next. But if speech is an audaciously wise attempt to
>>> create an environment of an entirely new type, an environment made of
>>> meaning rather than merely of matter, then we humans might have some hope
>>> of transforming the bitter blind combat of each against all into a common
>>> collaborative project. That would be co-evolution indeed.
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Macquarie University
>>> On Wed, May 4, 2016 at 2:09 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>>> David, I am responding to "Tool use--and even tool manufacture--is quite
>>>> common in higher primates. But while the higher primates regularly use
>>>> gesture, there is no evidence of any other species developing anything
>> like
>>>> a lexicogrammar."
>>>> In his somewhat discredited book "Ape, Primitive Man and Child,"
>> Vygotsky
>>>> makes the point that the form of activity which is found in non-human
>>>> animals in *rudimentary* form but is fully developed in humans, is the
>> key
>>>> to the "transition from ape to man" and is thus the "essence of man" (to
>>>> use a lot of 19th century language). That is why he was so determined,
>> at
>>>> the time, to find "rudimentary" forms of writing among not-literate
>> peoples
>>>> (those memory sticks and knots).
>>>> For all the faults of this work, I think this was a profound insight.
>> What
>>>> he seemed to have been blind to is that the larynx evolved together with
>>>> the hand, and human beings learnt to speak at the same time as they
>> learnt
>>>> to make tools. It was only in 1931 that he recognised that a spoken word
>>>> was as much a sign as a piece of technology manufactured for
>> communicative
>>>> purposes - which nonetheless, did turn out to mark a qualitative leap in
>>>> human cultural development.
>>>> The great insight from this work is that despite himself, he looked
>> *not*
>>>> at the attribute of human beings which was exclusively found among
>> humans
>>>> (lexicogrammar) as the "essence of man," but on the contrary to the
>>>> mediating activity which produced the change from one species to
>> another.
>>>> This is the Hegelian idea of concept, a.k.a. species, as opposed to the
>>>> positivist concept of species/concept which looks for "essential"
>>>> attributes as definitive. But he didn;t know that until 1931.
>>>> Andy
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>>> On 4/05/2016 1:48 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>>>> Greg:
>>>>> Tool use--and even tool manufacture--is quite common in higher
>> primates.
>>>>> But while the higher primates regularly use gesture, there is no
>> evidence
>>>>> of any other species developing anything like a lexicogrammar. It's in
>>>>> that
>>>>> sense that I was arguing that tool use has temporal priority over
>> signs. I
>>>>> don't think tools and signs co-evolved phylogenetically any more than
>> they
>>>>> co-evolve ontogenetically. I think that practical intelligence and
>>>>> speech have separate genetic roots and separate functional paths, the
>> one
>>>>> oriented towards the environment and the other towards conspecifics.
>>>>> While he was in prison, Oscar Wilde was allowed one sheet of paper a
>> day,
>>>>> which was issued to him in the morning and then locked in a safe in the
>>>>> evening. He used this to write a very long letter to his lover Lord
>> Alfred
>>>>> Douglas (about a third of this letter, with the long and highly
>>>>> contradictory complaints removed, was published as "De Profundis").
>> But it
>>>>> was only after his release that he was able to transform the sorry mess
>>>>> into great art, a ballad about a trooper who was hanged while he was in
>>>>> prison.
>>>>> He did not wear his scarlet coat
>>>>> For blood and wine are red
>>>>> And blood and wine were on his hands
>>>>> When they found him with the dead
>>>>> The poor dead woman that he loved
>>>>> And murdered in their bed
>>>>> It's all there: the blue coat of the trooper is now red, Christ
>> transforms
>>>>> blue water into red wine at Canaa, wine is transformed into blood
>> before
>>>>> Gethsemane and Golgotha, and even the main complaint Wilde has against
>>>>> Douglas in "De Profundis", which is that "each man kills the thing he
>>>>> loves
>>>>> but each man does not die" is changed into "murdered in their bed". But
>>>>> the
>>>>> very first step in this transsubstantiation of mere suffering into
>> great
>>>>> art happens in the very first word, where Wilde begins with "he"
>> instead
>>>>> of
>>>>> "I".
>>>>> Of course it's possible to use your personal misery to create great
>> art.
>>>>> But it's hard, for (at least) three reasons. First of all, it's hard to
>>>>> stand back and let the material alone rather than try to whip it into
>>>>> shape. Second, it's hard to reconcile the sense that your pain is the
>> one
>>>>> and only and incomparable and ineffable and the sense that you are at
>> the
>>>>> same time everywoman. Thirdly, pain is debilitating: it withers your
>>>>> embrace right at the very moment when you need to reach out, makes you
>>>>> unfit for companionship right when you need it most, fills your mouth
>> with
>>>>> incoherent screams precisely when you most need the precision of words
>> to
>>>>> convey what you are feeling to others. On top of that, as Vygotsky
>> says,
>>>>> really good art is not the contagion of feeling: it's the
>> individuation of
>>>>> social emotion and not the socialization of individual emotion.
>>>>> The unmotivated reconciliation that ends "Lemonade" is deus ex machina,
>>>>> i.e. both unartistic and unrealistic. Either it was manufactured for
>> mass
>>>>> market consumption, or the raw emotion that preceded it was. Or both.
>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>> Macquarie University
>>>>> On Tue, May 3, 2016 at 11:05 AM, Greg Mcverry <jgregmcverry@gmail.com>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> I would have to agree with Andy on the co-evolution of the tools. To
>>>>>> separate one as developing phylogenetically as ontogenetically seems
>>>>>> false.
>>>>>> Could one argue that agriculture was a pre-cursor to formal writing
>>>>>> systems
>>>>>> but sign systems evolved as a form of communication long before? I am
>>>>>> not a
>>>>>> cultural anthropologist. I really do not know if there has been a
>> writing
>>>>>> system developed in a hunting and gathering culture.
>>>>>> Yet that does not mean those same cultures were not ripe with sign
>>>>>> systems
>>>>>> and meaning makings.
>>>>>> I think the mediation and differentiation of tools coevolving is even
>>>>>> more
>>>>>> stark when we consider the age of the web. For the first 25 years of
>> the
>>>>>> web the people building the web were also doing their own identity
>> work.
>>>>>> People that hung out on the the Well, Usenets, chat rooms. xmca
>>>>>> listservs,
>>>>>> etc were defining the tools in a way to help define themselves. Here
>> is
>>>>>> agreat piece by Ben Werdmuller reflecting on how his tool development
>>>>>> could
>>>>>> not be separated from his own ontological development:
>> https://words.werd.io/we-are-the-monkeys-of-rum-70f81d4a02df#.n0x23ugom
>>>>>> In terms of Beyonce. Whether you call it a mediating activity or a
>>>>>> mediated
>>>>>> activity. I am not sure it matters. The point is to be a force. For
>> those
>>>>>> not in the states her latest release has been seen as a call to women
>> of
>>>>>> color. Her Super Bowl performance was both celebrated and vilified.
>>>>>> I haven't heard Lemonade yet ( I suffer from severe pop culture
>> deficit)
>>>>>> but I hear it getting talked about all over the web. I wonder how
>> Hegel
>>>>>> would think of something like the web where the culture is both
>> affected
>>>>>> by
>>>>>> market pressures but not limited to any one national identity. Is the
>> web
>>>>>> the world spirit?
>>>>>> On Mon, May 2, 2016 at 8:44 PM Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
>> wrote:
>>>>>> I think the evidence is in that speech and labour (i.e.,
>>>>>>> tool-use) co-evolved, but writing came a whole epoch later.
>>>>>>> I do not think it is a sustainable "developmentalist" point
>>>>>>> of view that a form of activity can first be differentiated
>>>>>>> and then be mediated: the mediation and the differentiation
>>>>>>> co-evolve (so to speak). That's the whole point.
>>>>>>> On my update to:
>> https://www.academia.edu/4781886/From_where_did_Vygotsky_get_his_Hegelianism
>>>>>>> I never claimed that Vygotsky only got his Hegel through
>>>>>>> Marx: his knowledge of Hegel was mediated through a number
>>>>>>> of sources (including Lenin and Engels and probably
>>>>>>> Plekhanov, followers of Deborin and Lewin). The correction
>>>>>>> you referred to was my admission that the passage you drew
>>>>>>> my attention to in HDHMF I had overlooked in my catalogue,
>>>>>>> and that it had to be included with the one or two other
>>>>>>> allusions which seem to have come from a reading of the
>>>>>>> section of Hegel's Subjective Spirit named "Psychology".
>>>>>>> Someone, c. 1931, drew his attention to these passages.
>>>>>>> There are other passages of The Subjective Spirit which
>>>>>>> would have been of great interest to Vygotsky and would
>>>>>>> certainly have been appropriated if he had ever read them,
>>>>>>> but he hadn't, far less the Logic (though he had studied
>>>>>>> Lenin's Annotations on the Logic) or the Phenomenology,
>>>>>>> which no Marxist or Psychologist read in the period of his
>>>>>>> lifetime.
>>>>>>> Is it time yet, David, for you to make a correction to your
>>>>>>> claim that the Vygotsky archive would eventually turn up
>>>>>>> Vygotsky's annotations on the Phenomenology?
>>>>>>> Andy
>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>>>>>> On 3/05/2016 9:00 AM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>>>>>>> Andy:
>>>>>>>> You and I both come out of the pugilistic left, and
>>>>>>>> we live in a country where socks are considered formal
>>>>>>>> apparel. So I imagine that no question mark is required to
>>>>>>>> start a discussion; nor pulling of punches to finish one.
>>>>>>>> I think I made the case that the distinction was pretty
>>>>>>>> useful, at least to Beyoncé fans--if not, see Vygotsky's
>>>>>>>> conclusion to Chapter Two of HDHMF, where he points out
>>>>>>>> that the precise nature of the relationship of signs and
>>>>>>>> tools needs to be worked out yet, but in any case that
>>>>>>>> relation is indirect; it MUST pass through a
>>>>>>>> super-category he calls MEDIATING activities. For YOU and
>>>>>>>> for HEGEL, all activity can be said to be both mediating
>>>>>>>> and mediated, but this is a non-developmental point of
>>>>>>>> view: for a developmentalist, one must perforce be
>>>>>>>> differentiated first. Phylogenetically, it seems likely
>>>>>>>> that tools were differentiated before signs, but
>>>>>>>> ontogenetically it is usually the other way around.
>>>>>>>> What really IS academic in the extreme is your
>>>>>>>> own distinction between "really quoting" Hegel and
>>>>>>>> quoting Hegel in a footnote to Marx academic. It's also
>>>>>>>> quite unprovable. By the way, this might be a good place
>>>>>>>> to acknowledge the corrections you have recently made to
>>>>>>>> your assertion that every single Hegel reference you have
>>>>>>>> found in Vygotsky's work can be found verbatim in Marx.
>>>>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>>>>> Macquarie University
>>>>>>>> On Mon, May 2, 2016 at 12:00 PM, Andy Blunden
>>>>>>>> <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>    I didn't see a question mark anywhere David, but (for
>>>>>>>>    reasons of my own) could I just note that Vygotsky is
>>>>>>>>    not really quoting Hegel, but rather quoting Marx
>>>>>>>>    quoting Hegel's Shorter Logic in an author's footnote
>>>>>>>>    to /Capital/. Marx puts an interesting twist on the
>>>>>>>>    point Hegel is making in the original. I think it is a
>>>>>>>>    twist which preserves Hegel's meaning, but it is
>>>>>>>>    really the opposite of what Hegel is saying.
>>>>>>>>    By "the cunning of Reason" Hegel means how History and
>>>>>>>>    social processes in general unfold according to their
>>>>>>>>    own logic, irrespective of the intentions of their
>>>>>>>>    human actors. Marx twists this to make the point that
>>>>>>>>    natural objects act according to human purposes, not
>>>>>>>>    their material properties as such.
>>>>>>>>    I agree that when Hegel is talking about human
>>>>>>>>    affairs, "Spirit" means "Activity", but of course
>>>>>>>>    unlike Marx, Hegel deifies Spirit. For Marx, men make
>>>>>>>>    history, only not under conditions of their own
>>>>>>>>    choosing. For Hegel, men are mere tools of the
>>>>>>>>    Weltgeist (world spirit).
>>>>>>>>    I was able to grasp the distinction between mediating
>>>>>>>>    and mediated activity, though given that all activity
>>>>>>>>    is mediated and all activity is mediating, the
>>>>>>>>    distinction strikes me as academic in the extreme. I
>>>>>>>>    remain to be convinced that Hegel knoew of any such
>>>>>>>>    distinction.
>>>>>>>>    The paragraph following the note on "cunning of
>>>>>>>>    Reason" in the Shorter Logic is an interesting one:
>>>>>>>>    TheRealised Endis thus the overt unity of subjective
>>>>>>>>    and objective. It is however essentially
>>>>>>>>    characteristic of this unity, that the subjective and
>>>>>>>>    objective are neutralised and cancelled only in the
>>>>>>>>    point of their one-sidedness, while the objective is
>>>>>>>>    subdued and made conformable to the End, as the free
>>>>>>>>    notion, and thereby to the power above it. The End
>>>>>>>>    maintains itself against and in the objective: for it
>>>>>>>>    is no mere one-sided subjective or particular, it is
>>>>>>>>    also the concrete universal, the implicit identity of
>>>>>>>>    both. This universal, as simply reflected in itself,
>>>>>>>>    is the content which remains unchanged through all the
>>>>>>>>    three/termini/of the syllogism and their movement.
>>>>>>>>    Andy
>>>>>>>>    ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>    Andy Blunden
>>>>>>>>    http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>
>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>>>>>>>    On 2/05/2016 9:03 AM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>>>>>>>        I'm reading a chapter by Janette Freidrich in the
>>>>>>>>        collection "Vygotski
>>>>>>>>        maintenant" published in 2011. It's an imaginary
>>>>>>>>        dialogue between Buhler
>>>>>>>>        and Vygotsky on the former's theory of language
>>>>>>>>        and the latter's criticisms
>>>>>>>>        thereof, very cleverly written in INDIRECT SPEECH
>>>>>>>>        so that Friedrich doesn't
>>>>>>>>        have to waste time trying to imitate the voice of
>>>>>>>>        each or pretend that she
>>>>>>>>        knows the exact wording of each argument.
>>>>>>>>        Friedrich begins with Hegel's
>>>>>>>>        distinction (from the LONGER Logic, the one that
>>>>>>>>        I've never read) between
>>>>>>>>        mediating activity and mediated activity.
>>>>>>>>        Mediating activity is what Vygotsky talks about
>>>>>>>>        using the quote from Hegel
>>>>>>>>        in HDHMF Chapter Two: it's when your role is
>>>>>>>>        essentially bystanding, when
>>>>>>>>        you use one force of nature, more or less in the
>>>>>>>>        natural state, against
>>>>>>>>        another.For example, you arrange the downspout of
>>>>>>>>        your house roof gutters
>>>>>>>>        so that it bores a hole in a piece of limestone.
>>>>>>>>        Or you hang your wet
>>>>>>>>        laundry on a tree branch and let the sun dry it
>>>>>>>>        out instead of trying to
>>>>>>>>        wring it dry yourself..
>>>>>>>>        Mediated activity is in some ways the same, but in
>>>>>>>>        others completely
>>>>>>>>        opposite. It's the same in that you are using one
>>>>>>>>        natural force against
>>>>>>>>        another, but it's opposite in the sense that your
>>>>>>>>        role is not bystanding;
>>>>>>>>        you are yourself one of the forces of nature. For
>>>>>>>>        example, instead of
>>>>>>>>        arranging the downspout, you make a chisel or a
>>>>>>>>        drill of some kind to bore
>>>>>>>>        a hole in a piece of limestone and sculpt it into
>>>>>>>>        a flagstone or a
>>>>>>>>        tombstone. Or you beat the laundry dry with a tree
>>>>>>>>        branch instead of just
>>>>>>>>        hanging it there.
>>>>>>>>        Friedrich points out that in Vygotsky's early work
>>>>>>>>        (e.g. "The History of
>>>>>>>>        the Crisis") Vygotsky speaks of psychic tools--he
>>>>>>>>        is treating ALL activity
>>>>>>>>        as "mediated" rather than mediating. But in HDHMF,
>>>>>>>>        we know that he
>>>>>>>>        CRITIQUES this point of view, precisely because it
>>>>>>>>        equates the sign and the
>>>>>>>>        tool. Now, you might think that the sign even more
>>>>>>>>        like mediated activity
>>>>>>>>        and even less like mediating activity than the
>>>>>>>>        tool. After all, sign users
>>>>>>>>        are not bystanders; they are even more intimately
>>>>>>>>        and intensively and
>>>>>>>>        deliberately involved as subjects than tools. But
>>>>>>>>        that confuses the sign
>>>>>>>>        user with the sign itself. It also ignores a key
>>>>>>>>        difference between
>>>>>>>>        mediating activity and mediated activity--which is
>>>>>>>>        that in mediating
>>>>>>>>        activity the force of nature is allowed to act
>>>>>>>>        according to its own
>>>>>>>>        properties. When I use a word, I do not try to
>>>>>>>>        transform it from a sound
>>>>>>>>        into something else; or rather, if I do, then I
>>>>>>>>        get something that is less
>>>>>>>>        obviously language and more like onomatopoeia.
>>>>>>>>        While I read, I am listening to Beyoncé's new
>>>>>>>>        album "Lemonade", which is an
>>>>>>>>        attempt to take a force of nature (the sour lemons
>>>>>>>>        of a husband's
>>>>>>>>        infidelity) and to transform it into something
>>>>>>>>        larger than life or twice as
>>>>>>>>        natural (the eponymous lemonade). It's an uneasy
>>>>>>>>        cross between a mediating
>>>>>>>>        activity ("for colored girls who have considered
>>>>>>>>        suicide | when the rainbow
>>>>>>>>        is enuf", where 20 imaginary characters are used
>>>>>>>>        and Ntozake Shange simply
>>>>>>>>        stands back) and a mediated one ("Black Macho and
>>>>>>>>        the Myth of Superwoman",
>>>>>>>>        where Michelle Wallace tries to use her own
>>>>>>>>        experiences alongside a
>>>>>>>>        traditional academic approach). Beyoncé can't
>>>>>>>>        quite figure out whether she
>>>>>>>>        wants to do this as a mediating choreographer for
>>>>>>>>        an ineffable everywoman
>>>>>>>>        or as a mediated activity by the one and only
>>>>>>>>        Pasha Bey.
>>>>>>>>        David Kellogg
>>>>>>>>        Macquarie University

Status: O