Re: [xmca] New Valsiner SEmiots paper on MCA website at lchc

From: Kellogg (
Date: Sat Nov 18 2006 - 18:51:53 PST

Help! I'm having a lot of trouble with Jaan Valsiner's new paper, "The Overwhelming World". I think there are three problems, in particular:

a) I can't decide if Valsiner is a realist or not. If so, why isn't "pleromatization" a form of schematization, since any artistic representation of the world must necessarily represent a simplification?

b) I can't decide if pleromatization is ONLY a form of externalization. If so, why can't we simply consider it an iterative from of schematic representation? Why does it have to have a different conceptual structure?

c) I can't decide if Valsiner is really serious when he denies the distinction between inter-personal and intra-personal knowledge. If so, how does ANY knowledge come into being?

I must confess an interest; I am a realist painter, heavily influenced the Dutch masters, as you can see if you examine:

One of my good friends, Wolfgang in der Wiesche, however, is not:

When he was in the kunstschule in Brauschweig, though, they had to produce one pencil sketch that was as realistic as possible. While everybody else was covering themselves in sweat and eraser dust to draw lemons or landscapes or even human faces, he took a very small price tag off a pencil in a stationary store and reproduced that almost perfectly.

I see a fair amount of this cheating in my data, which is mostly children improvising in a second language. The kids have a strong tendency to OVERspecify their nouns:

S: I like an apple.

Lest we attribute this some Piagetian stage of concrete before formal operations (or sensorimotor famliarity with the object "apple" but not the conceptual category "apples"), I should add that they have a comparable tendency to UNDERspecify their verbs, providing neither tense, number, or aspect, and overusing "to be".

S: I'm play.

It's as if the kids live in a schematized world where every noun is a concrete apple and every verb is an abstract process of "being", "doing", or "having". We can explain this by saying that the kids interpret the world as Wolfgang did, in a way that ensures ease of expression rather than accuracy of reproduction.

In the same way, why can't we explain Valsiner's "pleromatization" as the selection and iteration of schematizations rather than as a direct response to the overwhelming world?

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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