3rdness and mediation

From: Mike Cole (lchcmike@gmail.com)
Date: Thu Dec 23 2004 - 14:42:01 PST

Having freed myself of one large overdue obligation, I hope to be able
to give back some of the riches I have received from the the
discussion arising around the reading of Uslucan's article about
Pierce. I particularly want to get back to Don's question about Pierce
and artifacts. But I can't do so in one note because it would be too
long and I am unsure about using attachments. So, here I seek mainly
to highlight a point made by several on the close resemblance between
3rdness and tool/sign mediation in LSV. Like others, I believe the
two concepts, and in fact, at many points, the two ways of thinking of
the two men are either versions of the same thing or very close, the
differences arising from a common pool of implications developed
differently by the two. Here are three xmca-ite statements and two
from Luria and LSV in the initial set of articles from 1928-29 in
English. To be continued.

From Tony (Dec 16): But the common element tying together Peirce's
various views is the fundamental idea that anything that either comes
between two things in order to link them together, transfers a
characteristic feature from one thing over to another, or synthesizes
elements from disparate realms of reality must exist at a higher
logical and ontological level than the initial two things. And it is
this insight that led him to claim that there is more to reality than
brute existence (Secondness) and qualitative possibility (Firstness).
In fact, the genuine reality of Thirds or triads, including
prototypically fully symbolic representations with their three
references, implies that they are not reducible to either Seconds or
Firsts, although they require these lower ranking categories as much
as they determine them.

From Don (Dec. 16). Thirdness is "the mode of being of that which is
such as it is, in
bringing a second and a third into relation with one another." A thing
is a third if its nature is to mediate a particular, otherwise
non-existent relationship between two further things. Thus a triad is
involved, but one of the three is serving a mediating role

From Jay (Dec. 17). I think we would say today in the language of complex
systems theory that 3rds are _emergent_, and so tool mediation means here
the sense in which subject-tool-object forms a dynamic whole, a new
emergent unity, the sense in which a tool allows subject and object to
become two parts or aspects or "moments" in a higher-order material system.
Indeed this is a possible reading of LSV's original triangle. But this
emergent new whole is not just a physical fusion (already implied by
mediation-as-secondness), but a system with emergent properties and new
meanings, new affordances, new possibilities for action

AR Luria, 1928 (From the "Cultural development of the child, I, in
the "Journal of Genetic psychology). The "cultural form of behavior"
when "instead of applying directly its natural function to the
solution of a particular task, the child puts between that function
and the task a certain auxiliary means... by the medium of which the
child manages to perform the task"

LSV (1929): (From the "Cultural development of the child, II in the
"Journal of Genetic psychology)

"The new features" (in mediated action) consist not in the elements
but in the structure of the cultural methods… Although each method of
cultural behavior consists of natural psychological processes, yet
that method unites them not in a mechanical but in a structural way.
In other words, all processes forming part of that method form a
complicated functional and structural unity… A sign or an auxiliary
means of a cultural method thus forms a structure and functional
center, which determines the whole composition of the operation and
the relative importance of each separate process.

I take the last two statements of these Russian intiators of
cultural-historical psychology to imply that
1.the cultural habit of behavior (sign/tool mediated action) is not
reducible to its parts
2.is emergent
3.is a qualitatively new psychological process with new meanings,
affordances, etc.

I am still unclear on kinds of mediators and much else, as you will
see in the next note.


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