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

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 21:43:58 PST


This morning I had a chance to read your essay "Verbal
Commuunication: from pedagogy to make-believe."

A central feature of your essay I find attractive, that is,
the effort to make what you call the "acting in concert" of
just two individuals the starting point of your analysis.
But I have a lot of problems with how you go about it. Let
me note a few:

* the archetypal mode of interaction for you is *doing the
same thing*, which I find to be really odd. I don't think I
have ever had such an interaction. It seems quite at odds,
to me, as an archetype of human interaction;

* you base this idea on firstly the "mirror neurons"
hypothesis, which is pretty recent, entirely speculative,
and actually, I just don't believe it. I think it's a
neuroscientist's attempt to avoid cultural psychology and
deduce social action from neurons. In any case, by ditching
socially derived interaction in favour of mirror neurons,
you abandon cultural psychology in favour of neural
reductionism, in my opinion.

* You support this hypothesis with "Presumable"
reconstructions of human evolution based only on the
evdience that "presuambly" it happened this way, because you
claim that it ended this way. Tautological speculation.

* You further support this hypothesis on observations of
infant behavour which I find questionable: newborns
imitating adults before they even know about an objective
world, though it is outside my area of expertise.

* You erect on ths basis of this implausible speculation, a
theory of pedagogy which I would never dream of implementing
  in the classroom. I wonder do you have any empirical
evidence that this method of demonstrate-and-imitate works
in the classroom? I would be surprised. I think kids would

* Although you develop the initial ideas in terms of a
speculative pedagogy, you claim your aim to be for a
technique of managing other people's behaviour, which I take
to be the definition of behaviourism, which is anathema to
me. My aim is emancipation not control. But that's just me.

* Your second mode of interaction is what you call
cooperation, i.e., division of labour. But you completely
overlook what I take to be the archetypal mode of
interaction, i.e., joint action or collaboration,
independent subjects working towards the same end, and
taking joint moral responsibility for the outcome. In my
view this *includes* conflict, and I completely disagree
with your characterisation of conflict as treating the other
person as an object. I am criticising you now precisely
because I treat you as a person. Conflict and cooperation
are inseparable in genuine, human collaboration, i.e., two
subjects working towards the same objective and really
caring about the outcome.

* I say it is untrue that it is "Standardly assumed" that
cooperation is the outcome of rational decision by
independent agents. This is a strawman. Maybe among Chicago
School economists.

* Altogether I think your approach is founded on mistaken
ideas about imitation and getting other people to do things.

BUT ... your aim of founding a psychology and pedagogy on a
theory of joint activity is well worth supporting, and I
hope you continue to discuss it here. There are scores of
people on this list with experience in pedagogy who would
doubtless like to contribute ... though they might not want
you to imitate them. :)


Derek Melser wrote:
> Thanks Andy,
> I knew of the book, and have actually skimmed it, but didn't notice the
> quality of his account of folk theory. I've had a good look at it now.
> It's a lot more interesting, as a defence of folk psychology, than the
> other stuff I read on the subject for my PhD. But I think, if this of
> Bruner grabs you, that you would find my own account of folk psychology
> (alias 'theory theory') interesting too. It makes up the first part of
> the first of two chapters ('Where our notion of the mind comes from 1' &
> '2') in that stunning feat of anti-cognitivism, /The Act of Thinking...
> /(browseable on Google books aussi).
> I remember having to bone up on the Grice stuff about reciprocal
> communicative intentions some decades ago. In my view (see:
> ) the cooperative
> aspects of verbal communication are relatively superficial and,
> fundamentally, verbal communication is a /concerted/ activity (of
> speaker and hearer).
> I still think the Santa analogy holds good. 'It's just a children's
> story.' As long as the child knows what really goes on at Christmas, who
> it is who is really giving the prezzies, the realisation that Santa is a
> myth shouldn't be too difficult. But, you're right, it's very different,
> in practice, with 'mind' (etc.). Even if you can point precisely to what
> the metaphor is about, what the reality underlying the metaphor consists
> of, what 'mind' is a metaphor /for/, people are still going to be
> incredulous, even indignant.
> I remember as a young philosophy tutor steeped in Ryle, commenting to a
> psychiatrist (a friend's father, head of a large institution) that I had
> a lot of trouble getting my tutorial class to even understand the idea
> that, really, there is no such thing as 'the mind'. His expression
> suddenly became grim. He said, "Do they really let you teach that?"
> One last thing. I'm not an atheist any more than I am a behaviourist.
> (Nor, of course, am I a naive theist, or a naive realist about folk
> psychology). Hopefully, my views in both areas are a bit more
> sophisticated. Not going along with the folk myths doesn't necessarily
> imply a defection from whatever solidarity is around, though. For example,
> Merry Christmas.
> Derek
> 2008/12/16 Andy Blunden < <>>
> At last! I've been driving myself crazy over this one. The
> discussion of "Folk Psychology" I liked was in:
> *Jerome Bruner. Acts of Meaning: Four Lectures on Mind and Culture*
> It's on Google books, so you can check it out there. Sorry for all
> that! :(
> Andy
> Andy Blunden wrote:
> Derek, I should sleep some more, and then maybe I'd remember not
> only how to spell an author's name, but also which author I was
> reading! My apologies. I will continue trying to discover in
> which book I found this interesing argument.
> But in the meantime, I was not absolutely completely deceiving
> you in that Tomasello has an extended argument about what he
> calls "Gricean Communicative intention," the drift of which is
> that you can only make sense of people's speech and actions on
> the basis that the speaker assumes that the listener knows what
> the speaker's intention is, and that the speaker knows that the
> listener knows that the speaker knows that the listener knows
> the speaker's intention, and so on ad infinitum. In my words a
> rational knowledge of "folk psychology" is presupposed in
> communicative action.
> Andy
> Derek Melser wrote:
> Andy,
> I was looking up Tomasello's 'Origins of Human
> Communication' on google books -- as you were writing this
> last email of yours, as it happens -- hoping to browse the
> bit on folk psychology, but it assures me there is no
> reference to 'folk psychology' in the entire book. How can
> this be???
> DM
> 2008/12/16 Andy Blunden <
> <> <
> <>>>
> Oops, I meant Michael Tomasello. (I realised this while
> asleep last
> night! Isn't that weird?)
> Andy
> Andy Blunden wrote:
> Michael Thomasino has a nice bit about "folk
> psychology" in his
> "Origins of Human Communication" where he points out
> that folk
> psychology exists as a real force in human life and
> goes from
> there into a very interesting argument. You should
> have a look
> at it.
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Received on Tue Dec 16 21:45:02 2008

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