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Re: Comments on Arievitch issues

In Mike?s example of thinking about his grandchildren, their father, July
4th fireworks, Chicago, London, etc., his thinking is clearly
object-related.  Distances between places, locations in time, certain
activities and specific people are key features of the thinking process he

Igor Arievitch argues that all thinking is object-related, and therefore,
part of the objective world and in compliance with objective laws.  He
explains that in Galperin?s theory there are two kinds of ideal actions,
both object-related.  The second kind of ideal action, unique to humans, is
like any activity but is abstracted from the physical situation.  Quotes are
from page 285, 286:

?Galperin distinguished between ideal actions that can only be performed in
the physical presence of the problem situation and ideal actions that can be
performed separately, in abstraction from the physical situation. The former
type of action is common to animals and humans. The latter type of action,
which Galperin termed mental actions per se, is specific only to humans. It
is exactly this type of action that underlies a wide variety of seemingly
different phenomena, like the mental models studied in cognitive psychology,
or the inner speech studied by Vygotsky (for details, see Arievitch & Van
der Veer, 1995).?

Igor then explains Galperin?s reasoning that mental actions have objective
content and are therefore subject to the laws of the external world:

?These types of action, performed in abstraction from the physical
situation, although termed ?mental actions,? are, in Galperin?s
interpretation, not internal, mental faculties, nor are they a reflection of
brain processes. They are object-related actions, as all other human actions
are, the only difference being that mental actions are carried out in a
special form ­ that is, without physical execution. Conceptualizing mental
activity itself as an object-related activity implies that it occurs in the
objective, outer world. It is carried out not according to any internal
?mental? laws but according to the laws of the external world. It is
performed in compliance with particular characteristics of external objects
and processes. Mental actions have the same objective content as the
relevant material actions in a particular field.?

Mike brings up some important considerations and questions:

a) Mike suggests that perhaps the concept of appropriation, which refers to
both internal and external behavior, is a more rounded and accurate way of
comprehending the highly co-mediated interaction of humans and cultural
processes and objects - than is this concept of mental actions ?following
objective laws.?

b)  Mike also asks about his July 4 ruminations: ?If there are objective
rules of reality, which rules in which realities am I thinking about?  Is
thinking even a word I can use??

c) Mike also points out that a ?copy theory? that excludes the impact
internal mental activities have on thinking is not desirable.

Finding myself in agreement with all of the above, I see the challenge as
refining and expanding sociocultural theory so that Mike?s, Igor?s and
Galperin?s insights into mental activity can be accounted for.

Part of the solution may be seeing mental actions not as identical to
physical, but as emergent ?internal? realities ? following the operative
objective laws of nature and activity that spawned them ? that indeed
?appropriate? and ?think,? and then act back upon these ?external? realities
as the person(s) involved interprets and reacts to them.  In Mike?s case, it
appears that part of his own appropriation of the situation he was in, and
thinking about, was to make hot chocolate for everyone.

As I see it, for this or any sequence of activities and ruminations to make
sense, ?objective laws? need to be seen as essential to the process ? not
necessarily in the form of being understood directly by all involved - but
as fundamental features of the activity process itself, both physical and
mental activity.  I see a unity of complex processes here that Mike and
others are ably describing essential parts of.

- Steve