RE: [xmca] interweaving

From: Cunningham, Donald James (
Date: Sun Oct 15 2006 - 09:32:55 PDT


We are not the mere sum of our parts. If that was true, we would never have rope enough to hang ourselves.

But we pile so much ritual (theory, methodology, opinion, etc.) on top of a thing that we lose its essence, the original experience. If we are to understand we have no choice but to engage in such rituals, but we should not lose sight of the original nor overlook that many explanations of it are possible.

Too metaphysical? On a good day I can be a pramatist.......djc

Don Cunningham
Indiana University

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 9:55 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] interweaving

Hey Don!! Great to see you in addition to seeing you noted. Ray is quoting
(ready for this? ) Ray Birdwhistel. (sp?).
microsociologist-keneasthiologist. (sp?) ( I learned
to read by the whole word method. blame it on FDR).

mre to come after I feed my guests dinner. But what do you think?

Mark Twain: "the 13th stroke of the clock makes me doubt the previous 12."
(or some such """""")

On 10/14/06, Cunningham, Donald James <> wrote:
> Mike, who is McDermott quoting? It sounds like Ray Birdwhistell.
> Bateson surely is another who may be cited.
> But should we sometimes try to disentangle? Here is a quote from James
> that is one of my favorites:
> "I speak not now of your ordinary religious believer (whose)... religion
> has been made for him by others, communicated to him by tradition,
> determined to fixed forms by imitation, and retained by habit. It would
> profit us little to study this second-hand religious life. We must make
> search rather for the original experiences which were the pattern-setters to
> all this mass of suggested feeling and imitated conduct." (The Varieties of
> Religious Experience, 1902)
> While James is talking about religion, perhaps we could push beyond that.
> Substitute the words scientist, practitioner, methodologist, educator,
> scholar or what have you and the point remains. Perhaps we should search
> for the original experiences. Or is that possible?
> Don Cunningham
> Indiana University
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Mike Cole
> Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 12:02 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Cc: Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition Internal List
> Subject: [xmca] interweaving
> What follows are raw materials that are the beginning of a response to
> bill
> barowy's inquiry involving the use of the metaphor of interweaving in
> discussions of persons, actions, agency, situatedness, etc.
> I do not come to this discussion as a philosopher, let alone a Marxist
> scholar and dialectician. To some this would automatically exclude me from
> any serious
> discussion of cultural historical activity theory. I am an auto-didact in
> these matters, coming to them through an odd pathway derived from American
> pragmatism,
> via behaviorism and skinner (of easy to trash fame) and experimental
> psychology of learning. It was issues of cultural variation and processes
> of
> development that led me to chat long after I worked with Luria.
> But perhaps consideration of the following statements by three scholars
> who
> I take to be, on the surface at least, as markedly different from each
> other
> as one could hope to find, both in their disciplinary allegencies, the
> empirical phenomena they studied, and their philosophies of science. What
> strikes me is the similarities in their intuitive efforts to deal with the
> heterogeneity of the constituents of human
> experience/nature/consciousness,
> the issue of relations of individual elements to their
> putative wholes, continuity/discontinuity, and the necessity for the study
> of such phenomena over time.
> I will try to return to the specific text under discussion later this
> weekend if I can make it through the 101 spotted promotion files that I am
> privileged to read and comment on about this time of year.
> So, here are the meditations, for your consideration
> mike
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The world is full of partial stories that run parallel to one another,
> beginning and ending at odd times. They mutually interlace and interfere
> at
> points, but we cannot unify them completely in our minds. In following
> your
> life-history, I must temporarily turn my attention from my own. Even a
> biographer of twins would have to press them alternately upon his reader's
> attention. It follows that whoever says that the whole world tells one
> story
> utters another of those monistic dogmas that a man believes at his risk.
> It
> is easy to see the world's history pluralistically, as a rope of which
> each
> fibre tells a separate tale; but to conceive of each cross-section of the
> rope as an absolutely single fact, and to sum the whole longitudinal
> series
> into one being living an undivided life, is harder. We have indeed the
> analogy of embryology to help us. The microscopist makes a hundred flat
> cross-sections of a given embryo, and mentally unites them into one solid
> whole. But the great world's ingredients, so far as they are beings, seem,
> like the rope's fibres, to be discontinuous cross-wise, and to cohere only
> in the longitudinal direction. Followed in that direction they are
> many.(William James, *Lecture 4 Pragmatism - the one and the Many)*
> I'll tell you what I like to think about: sometimes I like to think of a
> rope. The fibers that make up the rope are discontinuous; when you twist
> them together, you don't make them continuous, you make the thread
> continuous. . . . even though it may look in a thread as though each of
> those particles are going all through it, that isn't the case. That's
> essentially the descriptive model. . . . Obviously, I am not talking
> about
> the environment. I am not talking about inside and outside. I am talking
> about the conditions of the system (quoted in McDermott, 1980, p. 14‑15).
> Each of these children was seen to engage in a great many behavior
> episodes
> a day]; the number of things a child did in a day, according to our
> criteria
> of episodes, varied approximately from 500 to 1,300. . . . Most of the
> episodes did not occur in isolation. Behavior was more often like the
> interwoven strands of a cord than like a row of blocks in that the molar
> units often overlapped. . . . Most of the overlapping was a matter of the
> intersection of the whole of a short episode and a relatively small part
> of
> a longer one. . . . The behavior continuum was cord‑like, too, in the
> sense
> that overlapping episodes often did not terminate at the same time but
> formed an interwoven merging continuum (Barker and Wright, 1966, p. 464).
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