[xmca] XM, C's and H's

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at gmail.com>
Date: Sat Dec 13 2008 - 16:44:19 PST

Hi Derek--

What a lot of food for thought not only in your message but in your web page
and its links.
I gather you are somewhere in the vicinity of Andy Lock? If so, say "hi" and
see if you can
entice him to join in. I have still to read properly several of your essays,
the topics of which
are of great interest to me, but will try to pick a key issue I came across
early that seems relevant to the
topic of this note.

First, about XMs, C, and H(istory). I want to focus on the c/h issue because
I think it is key to issues
where we might be able to find where we disagree or misunderstand

1. What do you interpret the x to mean that xm should be anethema to you?
Is it just the use of "mind" or more than that?
2. In the first line of the chapter for your thesis your write: " The
Russian Psychologist Vygotsky's theory of thinking is, like Piaget's, an
'ontogenetic' or developmental one."

I believe, and believe there is ample textual evidence to support the idea
that Vygotsky's theory of thinking was UNLIKE Piaget's in that he believed
human ontogeny
to be the emergent outcome of four "historical/developmental" domains:
phylogeny, cultural history, ontogenetic experience itself, and microgenesis
(which is
constituitive, along with Phyl and CH, or Ontogeny. I would relate this idea
to the ideas of Ilyenkov, whom you cite in another note with regard to the
of artifacts and thought. I thus do not (deliberately!) conflate culture and
concerted because while I take "joint mediated activity" to be a basic unit
of analysis for
understanding development, those "concerting" and the artifacts that mediate
he concert, are distinguishable in material terms and in the principles of
that predominate for their domains.

I am happy you have entered the discussion. I am sure we can all learn from
the ensuing conversations, as many of us already have!

mike cole

I think this is a factual error and that the nature of the error may lead to
a misunderstanding.

It often takes me a long time to distinguish between disagreements and
misunderstandings. From what
you have seen on xmca in the discussion around XMCA you can probably
understand one manifestation
of the problem. People use the same words in really different ways. To focus
just on you comments about
xmca as a summative acronym.

On Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 8:21 PM, Derek Melser <derek.melser@gmail.com> wrote:

> I come to XMCA as a philosopher of mind convinced that 'mind' (and related
> metaphor-based notions such as 'internalisation') can be explained in terms
> of (a) people's natural tendency to act in concert (do the same thing,
> together) and (b) various derivative, subtler, but still
> in-principle-observable, skills that children acquire. My account,
> developed
> from those of Ryle, Vygotsky and Hebb, has acting in concert as the basis
> of
> culture. Solo action, cooperation, and objective practices (in which the
> empathic, side-by-side stance characteristic of concerted activity has
> given
> way to objective attitudes) are learned adaptations of acting in concert.
> Unfamiliar concerted (and solo, cooperative and objective) activity must
> usually be preceded by preparatory educative activity, the prototype of
> which is the demonstration-and-imitation procedure. The immediate goal of
> demonstration-and-imitation is for teacher and pupil to perform the action
> in concert. After the pupil's participation has improved, perhaps after
> repeated demonstration-and-imitation sessions, to the point where he can
> perform the action on his own, rehearsals may still be necessary prior to
> performance.
> To rehearse an action or activity is to go through a
> demonstration-and-imitation session in a streamlined and abbreviated way.
> There are many different ways of abbreviating the
> demonstration-and-imitation procedure, some involving two or more
> participants, others for the solo agent. Verbal communication,
> consciousness
> and thinking are all forms of rehearsal all ways of rehearsing actions
> and
> activities before (or indeed whilst or instead of) performing them and
> they are all 'derivatives by abbreviation' of the
> demonstration-and-imitation procedure.
> A child acquires these various rehearsal skills in much the same way he
> acquires other skills by watching and listening to other people
> demonstrating them, by attempting to join in, and by practising them on his
> own. In *The Act of Thinking* (MIT Press 2004) I retrace some of the main
> steps in the child's (and perhaps early man's) mastery of verbal
> communication, consciousness and thinking.
> My feeling about the Sawchuk/Stetsenko paper is that it is insufficiently
> purist. It embraces concepts which are actually antithetical to, and
> compromise, a pure activity approach. For example, there is 'subjectivity',
> which we are said to be in danger of 'undertheorizing' (p.340). What can
> subjectivity be if not 'private experiencing'? Activity theory casts all
> experiencing as public, or incipiently public. Subjectivity is a mentalist
> concept. Listed among 'the specific principles of human development' on
> p.341 are 'the social origin of mind' (which implies there is such a thing
> as mind) and 'internalisation' (implying the existence of an inner,
> presumably mental, dimension). Vygotsky fell in here too, which is why we
> need Ryle. Activity does not internalise, it does not disappear into the
> mental, as it becomes familiar. Nor is mind 'extended'; it does not extend
> from the 'inner' to embrace 'outer' phenomena: mind is a fiction.
> Sawchuk and Stetsenko characterise activity as 'reciprocal interaction with
> the world' (339), as a process of 'engagement with the world' and as
> 'transforming the world' (343). However, the world need not stay in the
> picture. It is required neither as a venue nor as a patient or product of
> people's activity. The notion of the world, and things in the world, is a
> teaching aid invented to assist our acquisition of the perceptual skills we
> need to employ in the course of our activities.
> If we want to concentrate on the activity, then the 'selves' that Sawchuk
> and Stetsenko say people's activity creates ('as they create their world'
> (343)) are also dispensable. Selves disappear, they get absorbed, in
> concerted activity. Even 'the social order', with its reification of
> activity as the 'social structure' or 'society' that sociology is
> predicated
> on, may be a distraction. And what about 'historical'? Personally, I am
> most
> interested in the foundational human activities concerting, cooperation,
> verbal communication, consciousness, thinking, etc.). These practices were
> almost certainly established more than a million years ago, so history
> played no part in their development, though evolution did. History becomes
> relevant only in connection with the great increase in objective practices
> that accompanied the relatively very recent transition from small-group
> nomadic life to our settled agricultural existence if that counts as
> history.
> Should I have presumed to list with XMCA and to comment on a review of
> when the XM is anathema to me, the H of no interest? My C would be
> 'concerted' rather than 'cultural' too, though, since I conflate these,
> that's a quibble. Is this where I belong? An activity purist like myself
> has
> at least the AT in common with others in this forum, surely. Well, no. I'm
> not at all sure about the T. It has always seemed to me that our knowledge
> of activities is irreducibly empathic. When we witness or imagine an
> activity, in order to comprehend what we are seeing we must imagine
> engaging
> (if not actually engage) in that activity. There is no possibility of any
> truly objective or 'scientific' observation of activity (behaviour,
> conduct,
> action, things we do). Cultural activity is not a natural phenomenon. It is
> not even a phenomenon. It is something* we* do. We are participants,
> players
> or incipient, would-be players. We cannot get outside it, hold it at
> arm's
> length, make a scrutinizable object of it. If we do, it vanishes. We must
> empathise even to perceive activity. Certainly, we can be self-aware in the
> act of doing something, alone or with others, and this self-awareness need
> not impede (or not too much) our participation. But what can 'theory'
> amount
> to in this context?
> Derek Melser
> *http://www.derekmelser.org*
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Received on Sat Dec 13 16:44:55 2008

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