Re: [xmca] Passages from Chapter 5 of LSV

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun Dec 21 2008 - 13:44:12 PST

I'll postpone a discussion of what constitutes an experiment, David. My own
belief is that LSV was conducting experiments, whatever Bakhurst thinks that
NSF would think of his work. But glad to see Goldin-Meadow's work appear
here. I attach a more recent article that may be of interest. She has a lot
of recent work on gesture and language acquisition in hearing kids which is
quite interesting, as well.

Note: These kids are all raised in culturally organized, language rich
environments where the language being used around them, but not the
gestures, not the behavioral routines and rituals, are all available to
sight and in which they participate. It is even the case that, in general,
parents care a lot about their welfare, however misguided their behavior
respect to language acquisition.

Hence, they experience a culturally organized environment, so to speak,
"through a glass, darkly" which is a lot better situation that imagined
isolation imagined by Herodotus and others of whom similar stories are told.

The case of the blind-deaf, which so interested David and his Russian
mentors (and us all) presents a much tougher case, and look at what it takes
to get language going in that situation?

The very disturbing case of Genie is another bit of evidence relevant to
line of discussion.

Send more rain!

On Sun, Dec 21, 2008 at 8:32 AM, David Kellogg <>wrote:

> Herodotus says that the Pharoah Psimmitachus caused children to be raised
> by deaf mutes and thus "demonstrated" that the original human language must
> have been Phrygian. James V, father of Mary Queen of Scots, was supposed to
> have used the same experiment to show that it was Hebrew. There are accounts
> of similar experiments by the Mughal Emperor Akhbar, but he must have been
> more careful about experimental control, because the poor subjects ended up
> without any language at all.
> I'm reading a wonderful, horrible book called "The Resilience of Language"
> by Susan Goldin-Meadows in which she describes similar "experiments" by
> Chicago parents who raise deaf children without any access to language at
> all. Goldin-Meadows discovers that the gestures produced by the children,
> unlike responding gestures from the parents, have language like properties,
> including distal and even grammatical reference (e.g. past tense and
> hypotheticals). I'm not entirely convinced by this, since I know from data
> analysis that initiates have more "language like" properties than responses
> in general.
> But one thing does strike me: this kind of "empirical philosophy" is in
> some ways similar to the kind of thing we are looking at in Chapter Five of
> Thinking and Speech. LSV is quite conscious of this: he admits, on p. 143,
> that in real life the child does NOT form concepts free of the language of
> others. So it is possible to read Chapter Six as an attempt to make up for
> the speculative nature of Chapter Five, the fact that it is founded on
> conditions (e.g. the functional equivalence of a task for children and
> adults) which cannot obtain in real life. On p. 229, LSV makes this quite
> explicit, and criticizes the preceding chapter for ignoring the linkedness
> of the different stages of concept formation and dwelling overmuch on their
> distinctness. He basically says that Chapter Five is a
> "synthetic-genetic" taxonomy and not a "causal-genetic" account, a criticism
> that he has already made of Ach and Rimat (pp. 122-127).
> Why does LSV bother with a empirical philosophy of a kind that is really
> just one step removed from the experiments of Pharoah Psimmatachus, Akhbar
> the Great and James V? Why doesn't he just start with Chapter Six and
> concentrate on real concepts developed in real situations by real children?
> I think the answer lies in the clear link between Hegel's "Science of Logic"
> and the categories which are "revealed" by Sakharov's experiment. Of course,
> LSV knew that the outcome of the experiment was in some sense predetermined
> by the categories used to analyze the child's solutions. But he also knew
> that exactly the same thing can be said about Ach's original work.
> Bakhurst remarks in a long footnote in his book "Consciousness and
> Revolution in Soviet Philosophy" that LSV's experiments would probably not
> be regarded as experiments today, either because of their lack of controls
> (and therefore lack of internal validity) or because of their speculative
> nature (and therefore lack of external, generalizeable, validity). If they
> are not experiments, what are we to make of these forays into experimental
> philosophy? I think they are best understood as theoretical arguments
> lavishly and beautifully illustrated with data. That is, actually, how
> Chapter Five is presented by Paula.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Dec 21 13:44:43 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Jan 06 2009 - 13:39:39 PST