Re: [xmca] The Strange Situation

From: <ERIC.RAMBERG who-is-at>
Date: Wed Oct 22 2008 - 10:01:01 PDT


I feel as if we are both on the same dance floor but hearing different
music. Your music appears to be an orderly Bach Fugue while a sway to
Miles Davis' 'kind of blue'. I say this because when you discuss human
development you return to the orderliness of linquistics and the process of
understanding development based upon that. I view human development as
beginning with all possibilities, the chromatic as well as the diatonic
scale. Development goes about in haphazard manners (the piece of Piaget
that Vygotsky rejects is that developement is orderly and can be assigned
stages) and slips from one complex to the next, until. . . . . . conceptual
thinking is attained (as Davydov calls it 'rising to the concrete') once
conceptual thinking is attained this new found tool can be utilized to
navigate the world in a systematic fashion; especially the scientific world
of the classrom! As Paula states adults may fumble with the blocks but at
least they understand that there fumbling isn't efficient and will comment
pertaining to their inefficient methods. A five year old could plink and
plunk upon the piano in a chromatic scale sort of way but this is not Miles
Davis. A student of music who has studied the theories of music can
utilize their conceptual thinking to assign meaning to the plinks and
plunks that in a way no five year old can. David you forgot the important
quote prior to what you wrote: "complexes corresponding to word meaning
are not spontaneously developed by the child: The lines along which a
complex develops are predetermined by the meaning a given word already has
in the language of adults.(pg. 120 Kozulin edition)" But, a complex is
not a concept and cannot be manipulated in the manner that a concept can be
manipulated. Or am i merely plinking and plunking with no meaning


                      David Kellogg
                      <vaughndogblack@ To: xmca <>
            > cc:
                      Sent by: Subject: [xmca] The Strange Situation
                      10/21/2008 06:00
                      Please respond
                      Please respond
                      to "eXtended
                      Mind, Culture,

Dear Paula:

I think the answer is this. We have to read Chapter Five and Chapter Six as
complementary parts of a single whole which is only fully realized in
Chapter Seven. Here's what I mean.

At the very beginning, T&S lauds the CLINICAL method. Of course, we know
that LSV was a clinician. At heart he had, not psychological experiments,
but the seven million homeless, disabled, and criminally inclined children
who were, nominally, wards of the Narkompros under Krupskaya.

Then he goes to town against the foremost clinical thinker of his day,
namely Piaget. Specifically, he takes Piaget to task for separating out the
child's thought processes ("autistic" and then "egocentric") from the
adult's ('communicative" and then "logical"), and only combining them
EXTERNALLY (through "pressure" and "constraint").

In contrast, he argues that the relationship is complex, twisting, tangled,
and at several points the lines of development (autistic and
social, egocentric and communicative) cross and even cross-fertilize. The
combinations are not only (and not even mainly) external, but INTERNAL.

He's never satisfied with a purely theoretical argument. He's a clinician,
and in the end life comes down to real children. So right away he uses
Piaget's own data against him. He supplements this taken from replication
by Leontiev, Luria and Levina. But by Chapter Five he feels that what's
really required is whole new method.

Here's what Bakhurst says about the methods of Chapter Five in a footnote
on p. 83 of his book "Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy",
Cambridge 1991:

"Vygotsky's inventive use of experiment is an important aspect of his work
neglected in my presentation. Vygotsky rarely employs the kinds of tools
associated with orthodox experimental psychology: control groups,
standardized testing procedures, explicit 'coding schemes' for the
interpretation of data and so on. His empirical research might therefore
strike the modern reader as wanting in rigour and objectivity. It would be
a mistake, however, to assume that Vygotsky's efforts represent a failed
attempt to do experimental psychology as it is now understood. On the
contrary, his research strategies were quite deliberately created for the
analysis of psychological phenomena as he conceived them. As we saw above,
Vygotsky holds that psychological capaciteis can be undertood only through
an analysis of their _development_. This development is argued to proceed
through the internalization of activities that are first realized in public
interaction with
 others. This led Vygotsky to the idea that psychological development can
sometiems best be studied if the analist (sic) actively intervenes in that
development by, for example, offering subjects new psychological tools with
which to undertake operations under investigation (see the memory
experiments described in Vygotsky 1929; Bakhurst 1999) or engagine subjects
in activities thought to precipitate internalization, so as to observe the
relationship among a) what subjects can achieve unaided, b) what they can
achieve when assisted by others, and c) the trajectory of their subsequent
development (see Vygotsky 1978: Chapter 8, and the literature on the zone
of proximal development. Furthermore, Vygotsky believed that the insights
gained by employing such interventive techniques are often best presented
by describing particular cases in detail rather than giving statistical
data for a large sample of subjects."

My first response to your DVD was to wonder why you only show a single
subject, out of the many that you obviously worked with. But on re-reading
this, I think it is the right approach, and it's exactly the approach that
Hanfmann and Kasanin missed when they assigned points to the various
solutions of the Vygotsky blocks and turned it from a clinical interviewing
technique (which is what it is in your DVD and also, I think, in Chapter
Five) into a rather sloppy intelligence test (which it isn't, wasn't, and
can never be).

Carol & eric, have a look at this (if your exasperation has taken you this
far! It's a long quote but it's a very interesting one):

"Only under experimental conditions was the child, freed from the directing
influences of well established verbal connections, able to develop word
meanings and to form complex generalizations according to his own
preferences. This fact shows us the importance of experimental study, which
alone can reveal the spontaneous activity of the child in mastering the
language of adults. Experimental study shows us what the child's language
and concept formation would look like if they were freed from the directing
influence of the linguistic milieu.
     "One may argue that the subjunctive mood of our statement rather
speaks against the experiment, because the child's speech after all is not
free in its development. Experiment however reveals not only a hypothetical
'free' development of the child's thinking, but also uncovers activities in
forming generalizations usually hidden from view and driven into
complicated channles by the influence of adult speech." (p. 120, Thought
and Language, Kozulin trans.)

Here LSV rejects the idea of hypothetical 'free' development for a SECOND
time. The first time was when he rejected it in Piaget's CLINICAL method.
Here he does it again in the EXPERIMENTAL context. His argument is that we
need the experiment not to show us some "what if" world in which children
make their own decisions. We need it to show CLASSROOM processes that pass
us by in the hurly-burly of teaching.

That's what Chapter Six is about. And sure enough they show us a very
different world, one where symbolic and conceptual relations (triadic,
secondary intersubjectivity) come first and indexical, iconic ones (the
world of primary intersubjectivity) are decisively subordinated to them.

I think if Sakharov had lived, and if LSV had lived, the transition to
Chapter Six would have been smoother, and we would be better able to see
how the different categories (heaping, measuring, comparing) are realized
in classroom condiitions. But Sakharov killed himself, and LSV was
apparently too heartbroken to tamper with the manuscript he'd written many
years before.

Shif's work is obviously from a much later period, and Sakharov's
categories are poorly integrated into it (I think that's why Paula focuses
on the potential concept as a bridge between these two chapters). But I
think the real synthesis should come in Chapter Seven, dictated on LSV's

Unfortunately, the ground shifts a little here; instead of looking at how
the relationships between thinking and speech comes into being, we are
suddenly looking at how they operate, which is in some ways quite the
reverse from the way they develop. And then nothing.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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