Re: [xmca] Re: the Strange Situation

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Thu Oct 30 2008 - 13:09:56 PDT


Good question, and kudos for bringing us back on topic! The reason I had
such a strong (festishistic, surely!) reaction to the word 'reflection' is
precisely because it suggests a non-dialectical relation between concept and
reality. The epistemic constructivists seem to assume that reality
'reflects' our representations, so that if I conceive (or model or represent
or describe or depict) the world (or some aspect of it) in a particular way,
the world *becomes* that way ('for me' at least, as they often put it).

The opposite, and far more common, error is to assume that our concepts
merely 'reflect' reality. They are (or they can be, or they ought to be)
copies, images, reflections of how things really are.

Both these positions put representations on one side of a divide and reality
on the other, and then appeal to a mystical process of "reflection" (in the
mirror sense, not the deliberation sense) to bridge the gap.

I am so much not an expert on the blocks task! But here's 2 cents, for what
it'll buy me. At the start of chapter 5 of T&L Vygotsky introduces the
methodology of the blocks task by contrasting it with approaches which are
guilty of either "isolating the word from the objective material" or
"isolating the objective material from the word" (122). He argues that if we
are study the formation of concepts it is crucial to attend to the word's
"living relationship to the objective reality it designates" (121). The
block task has merit because it enables us to study concepts as they develop
within a functional task. He notes that "a concept always fulfills some
function in communication, reasoning, understanding, or problem-solving"
(123). So already we see that for Vygotsky concepts are involved *in* the
child's practical activity with the blocks and with the researcher. As he
put it in The Pedology of the Adolescent, "the concept is an aggregate of
acts of judgment, apperception, interpretation, and recognition." The
concept is not some kind of 'unit' of reasoning, it is a structuring of the
psychological functions, a particular way they work together

There he also wrote this:

"Psychological research is disclosing that in a concept, we always have an
enrichment and deepening of the content that the concept contains. In this
respect, the Marxist equating of the role of abstraction with the power of
the microscope is completely correct. In genuine scientific research, with
the help of the concept, we are able to penetrate through the external
appearance of phenomena, across the external form of their manifestations,
and see the hidden connections and relations lying at the base of the
phenomena to penetrate into their essence, just as with the aid of a
microscope, we disclose in a drop of water a complex and rich life, or the
complex internal structure of a cell hidden from our eyes."

Vygotsky is recommending that to think with a scientific concept is to have
a transformed way of acting in the world. Here he emphasizes the way ones
perception is transformed. When we think of things with the help of a
concept "we... see the [previously] hidden connections" among them, just as
when we use a microscope we can see the complex life in a drop of water. (I
think Vygotsky may have had a fetish about water!)


On 10/30/08 12:28 PM, "" <> wrote:

> Martin:
> you wrote, " Human reality, too, is constructed, but
> in practice, not by making representations (either mental, as for Kant,
> Husserl, Piaget, and others, or linguistic, as for Gergen and others)."
> I agree that representations are not reality. So lets return to the
> original conversation, vygotsky's blocks and the functional method of
> double stimulation. within the context of the experiment the mediator
> knows reality and is assisting the subject in constructing said reality.
> Here i am stepping into an abyss that may leave the dialectic, but it won't
> be the first time. Would Vygotsky be referring to a pseudo-concept as a
> 'reflection' of reality? putting reflection in quotes because it is the
> word that has sparked such debate. Perhaps it is an unanswerable question.
> eric
> _______________________________________________
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Received on Thu Oct 30 13:21:09 2008

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