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[Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!


the questions you bring up are broad, but I'll try to address them briefly.

Few posts ago, Andy asked if I was saying that the sign was something "immaterial". My answer was this:

(Alfredo says:) "... if your question is whether I think that words (as signs) are immaterial, or that a cube (as per the empirical case in our article) is immaterial as sign, then of course not. If your question is whether I think that sign relations are immaterial because they are not things but relations, then again no, that's not what I think or try to say. I assume we agree, however, that a pointing finger *does* things in a very different way than things can be done with a stick."

Andy then took up on my latter point very nicely:

(Andy says:) "One can of course point with a stick, and poke with a finger, yes?"

And I of course agree with Andy, that's precisely the point I was trying to make. 

So, I disagree that our differences have to do with the fact that I take signs as not existent, and that therefore I reduce what you call signs to (material) social interaction. 

What is the difference between pointing sticks and sticks lying on the ground on Mars, or Arizona, then? Is it that one exists and the other one does not? Of course not. Is it not the difference between them the fact that they exist as part of different cosmic determinations?

To me, the difference between the sticks is not whether their sign-ness exists or it does not exist. The difference lies in the way theirs are different modes of existence. The thing-ness of the sticks exists and is sustained by a cosmic determination that is very different from that which sustains their sign-ness existence. The forces that hold the stick to be a lying-on-the-ground stick are very different from those that make it a sign or gesture, even if the stick as sign also requires of those forces. And to me, to study the forces that make a stick a sign (to EXPLAIN the stick as sign), you need to understand the social relation in which the stick *becomes* sign or gesture. And I don't think this is some behaviourist position, or that it is susceptible to be critiqued as falling into one of the functionalism/structuralism poles. I do believe the relation is indeed semiotic. I simply don't think that the verb "to mediate" adds anything new to our understanding of the difference between the two ways in which a pointing stick exists (as thing, as gesture) unless the verb "to mediate" is elaborated concretely in the transition from not-yet-sign to sign. This, you suggest in your e-mail, is a methodological problem. But to me, the fact that it is methodological does not make it a lesser problem.

K. Marx speaks of a table as table, and of a table as commodity. In the latter case, the table is not just a sensous thing, but a sensous supersensible thing. 


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of lpscholar2@gmail.com <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
Sent: 15 January 2017 20:09
To: Marc Clarà; Andy Blunden; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Thank you for this thoughtful synthesis of the way to navigate through this emerging theme. As i read (and listened) i also was wondering whether you were going to reference Beth’s and Monica’s contribution to this month’s special journal?
I just now went back and re-read their opening paragraph that captured my imagination with their answer (and my listening) to this emerging theme.

Their paper opens with Jay Lemke’s question :
How do ‘moments’ add up to ‘lives’?

Their next move is to bring in Lilly Briscoe to speak from within Virginia Woolf’s book (To the Lighthouse).

Lilly asks the question :
What is the meaning of life?

So ... Within my listening to these questions from various speakers to WHOM am I listening.
Are the speakers real or fictional?
Does the answer matter to my listening if they are real or fictional?

Lilly Briscoe does give an answer to the question :
What is the meaning of Life?
Listen :
The GREAT revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck UNEXPECTEDLY in the dark; ... THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER.

What is the meaning of life? Lilly gives her answer. Meaning is trying to make of the ‘moment’ something PERmanent.

Beth and Monica then say (and i hear) that perezhivanie is a concept that addresses Lemke’s question and Woolf’s response. I would ADD and my listening.

Not sure if this fits function or structure or is a fusion? It however opens a place to explore WHO is real, fantasy, and imaginal and if the demarcations matter to my ‘listening’ to the characters  expressing  perezhivanie/experience.

Sent from my Windows 10 phone

From: Marc Clarà
Sent: January 15, 2017 8:30 AM
To: Andy Blunden; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Hi, all,

I have the impression that part of this thread of the discussion echoes the
old (and eternal) discussion between functionalism and structuralism. In
our case, perhaps these two broad positions would seem to take the form of
what could be called an “activity approach” and a “semiotic approach”
respectively. Or in other terms, “perezhivanie is activity-function” vs.
“perezhivanie is structure-counciousness-mind”.

In my understanding, within the “activity approach”, Alfredo's position
seems to be more radical than Antti's. I see Alfredo's position somewhat
closer, in some aspects, to “participation” approaches (e.g. Rogoff's). If
I understand him well, he seems to assume that in reality there is not
anything but social interaction; that is, that not only there is a UNITY
but also an IDENTITY between activity, social interaction, and meaning, and
that therefore all is reducible to social interaction. Thus, in his article
with Roth, they write: “In the case of Sylvia’s categorizing her mystery
object, we already see her as part of the social relation that is
mathematical practice, a (social) practice that exists in the linking of an
act of classification to its account. That practice is social in and as of
the link; in the life of Sylvia, it first was a social relation. Thus,
there is not something happening in the relation that then is transferred
to the inside of the girl.” (p.321). Accordingly, Alfredo, in this
conversation, says that “a changing activity IS changing “meaning” (where
“to be” is to be heard as an “unity/identity” in the dialectical sense)”,
and also that a “SIGN is not a thing, but a relation between two persons.
But the sign then is not something between things, or even between persons;
it really and concretely is a relation between people that has to be
accounted for empirically”. He adds that mediation is a “particular class
of activities in which sign relations are produced”. Reading Antti's
questions and comments, I have the impression that his position assumes the
UNITY, but not the IDENTITY, between activity, meaning and social
interaction. But before going ahead, I have to stress that, as I have
already mentioned in a previous e-mail, Alfredo's use of the concepts of
SIGN and CULTURAL MEDIATION seems to me very different from the way I use
these concepts, which I tried to make explicit in a previous e-mail. It
would seem that this could be because, from Alfredo's view, the things and
phenomena I call signs and cultural mediation don't really exist, so he
uses these concepts to refer to phenomena that, in his view, do really
exist (this also echoes Vytosky's “historical meaning of the crisis in

I have the impression that others in this discussion (e.g., David, Andy,
me), which take a more semiotic approach, departs from the assumption that
these phenomena and things that, in my understanding, Vygotsky calls
cultural mediation and signs, do exist, and that are the key to study
mind-consciousness. It seems to me that Antti also would assume the
existence of signs and cultural mediation (in Vygotsky's terms) but that he
is concerned on whether we have to study a structure (that is,
consciousness-mind, and therefore use as a unit the sign-meaning -a
microcosm of consciousness) or we have to study a function (that is,

One of the many contributions I find interesting in Vygotsky is precisely
that, in my understanding, he tries to conciliate these two positions
-functionalism and structuralism. In my view, he departs from the idea that
how the things are is strongly related to how the things function
(Vygotsky's law of the unity of the structure and function in thinking).
Vygotsky writes: “It is becoming clear that functions depend on the
structure of that which is thought. Any act of thought must somehow
establish a connection between the various aspects of reality which are
represented in consciousness. The way that this reality is represented in
consciousness cannot be without some significance in determining the
operations of thinking that will be possible. In other words, the various
functions of thinking are inevitably dependent on that which functions, is
moved, and is the foundation of this process. Stated yet more simply, the
functions of thinking depend on the structure of thought itself.”
(Vygotsky, collected works, v.1, p.237).

I think that this can enable an approach which overcome what is often
presented as a dichotomy between structure and function, without
eliminating neither structure nor function. That is, the object of study
can be mind-consciousness, and therefore the unit can be the sign-meaning;
but the mind-consciousness must always be studied at work, that is, how the
mind-consciousness works in psychological functions, i.e. within activity.

In my view, this means studying how sign-meaning mediates in specific
psychological functions. More specifically, in the study mentioned in my
paper of MCA, it means studying how certain semiotic structures mediate in
activities of experiencing-as-struggle. For example, from this study, it
seems that certain semiotic structures, which I call modal contradictions
(e.g., duty vs. incapability), in m-perezhivanie may be important in
experiencing-as-struggle activities: their semiotic transformation seems to
imply an emotional transformation, and seems to realize the psychological
function of experiencing-as-struggle.

Of course, I introduce my empirical study here just to exemplify my point
and the general epistemological approach I am assuming; I don't claim that
my methodological approach is unproblematic; in fact, I am struggling to
deal with the many methodological problems that arise. Just to cite two of
these many problems: first, the study is incomplete, in the sense that, as
Antti mentions, the social relations which are also a crucial aspect of the
activity of experiencing-as-struggle are beyond the scope of this study (I
hope finding ways to being able to analyze this aspect in the future);
second, although the study intents to be microgenetic, this is done
retrospectively from one narrative, what is certainly problematic (the
opposite problem is how to identify processes of experiencing-as-struggle
in advance, in order to undertake a longitudinal study -this would also
permit studying better all aspects of activity). But all this is at a
methodological plane, which perhaps would deserve a new thread; I think
that the discussion in this thread is more on the epistemological (and at
times ontological) plane.

Best regards,


2017-01-15 5:21 GMT+01:00 Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>:

> /Perezhivanie/ is a type of activity, according Vasilyuk, as Alex Kozulin
> remarked some years ago, a "life-project."
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> On 15/01/2017 10:22 AM, Antti Rajala wrote:
>> ...
>> Andy also uses Vasilyuk in informing his definition of perezhivanie. I
>> wondered that for Andy, in what way perezhivenie would be different as a
>> unit of analysis as compared to activity  (Andy - I have read your
>> critique
>> of Leontiev, so please feel free to substitute e.g., collaborative project
>> for activity). I like in Andy's paper the idea that through perezhivanie
>> not only the actor is changed but sometimes also the social circumstances
>> (also the reference to Bildungsroman). Why only focus on ontogenesis and
>> not also sociogenesis? In my own work, I am interested to study the
>> relation between perezhivanie and agency.