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Re: [xmca] Consciousness
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Kellogg" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: <email@example.com>; "xmca" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 2:39 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Consciousness
Some of us in Seoul are quite sympathetic to the idea that the higher
psychological functions can be derived root and branch from mediated
activity, and others are more skeptical. It seems to the skeptics (including
me) that to say that the higher psychological functions have emergent
properties is to say they are not reducible to the elements of subject,
object, and mediational means.
In an analogous way, it seems to me that one of the things that Vygotsky is
saying is that consciousness itself isn't just a root or a branch; it's not
just one of many higher psychological functions (e.g. logical memory,
conceptual thinking, and so on). The seizure of power by consciousness
restructures all the other functions in its own image, and this
restructuring is not symmetrical or reciprocal.
That's what I get out of LSV's criticism of Piaget's remark on the
nonsystematicity of child thinking at the end of Chapter Six.
Nonsystematicity of thinking isn't one amongst many traits of child
thinking, because systematicity has the potential to transfer all of the
other traits and remake them in its image. When a branch becomes a trunk, we
don't call it a branch anymore. When the stone that is discarded by the
builders becomes the cornerstone, we're going to get an entirely new
Seoul National University of Education
I've been puzzling over the supposed "Shakespeare" reference on p. 220 for
some time: "To paraphrase Shakespeare, much opens up here of which 'even
wise men have not dreamed'." Where did Shakespeare say THAT?
In Hamlet, of course!
Seve's translation: "Before coming to a schematic description of this
process and in anticipation of the results of the exposition which must
follow, let us speak of the fundamental, directing idea that this study must
develop and explicate. This central idea can be expressed in a general
formula: the relationship of thought to word is not a thing but a process;
it’s a movement from thought to word or inversely from word to thought. This
relationship appears in the light of psychological analysis as a process of
development. Of course it is not a matter of development determined by age
but instead of a functional development, and the movement of thinking which
goes from the idea to the word is a development. The thought does not
express itself in the word but realizes itself in the word. That is why we
can speak of a becoming (a unity of being and non-being) of thought in the
word. All thinking tends to unite one thing with another, to establish
relations between things. All thinking has a movement, an unrolling, a
development, and in brief all thinking fulfills a certain function, carries
out a certain work, and resolves a certain problem. This unrolling of
thinking operates in the form of internal movement across a whole series of
planes, a passage from the thought in the word to the word in the thought.
In this way the whole first task of an analysis which gives itself as an
object the relationship between thinking and the word as a movement of
thinking to word consists of studying the phases through which this movement
is effectuated, to distinguish the diverse planes through which thinking
passes when it is incarnated in the word. The researcher discovers here
“more things than are dreamt of in your philosophy”, as Shakespeare said."
There are doubtless more things in this paragraph than the wise men and
women of SNUE will dream of next week (when we discuss it), but it seems to
me we can distinguish at least four linked "planes" through which Vygotsky's
thinking is passing.
a) Vygotsky says that the transition from word to thought is really a two
way street. Of course, he means reception and production, speaking and
listening, reading and writing. These ARE mutually determining, internally
linked, elements of a relationship—but this does NOT mean that they are
exactly the same, that speaking is simply listening backwards, or that
reading is the reverse engineering of writing. If that were true, it would
be otiose for Vygotsky to speak of the relationship twice, as word to
thought AND as thought to word. As we will see, speaking and listening
develop quite differently: one from part to wholes and one from whole to
parts. So it is not at all a matter of simply reversing one process (a la
Piaget) to obtain the other.
b) Vygotsky says that the development of thought into word is a process, but
it is not an age related process. Of course, he recognizes that this process
is different at different ages. What he is saying is that the process of
ontogenetic development is different from the process of microgenetic
development. We saw that ontogenetic development occurs through the
“generalization of generalizations”, through the emergence of concepts from
complexes. But this process is not repeated when we speak; the product of
ontogenesis is included in the process of microgenesis in the form of word
c) BECAUSE the product of ontogenesis is include in the process of
microgenesis in the form of word meaning, it often seems to us that our
words come out of nowhere at all, that they are somehow already formed when
we think (or even BEFORE we think, in the case of what Wray calls “formulaic
language”!) But in fact what really happens is that in microgenesis the
process of thinking is only fully realized, fully completed, fully embodied
in the word. This means that the process of putting thoughts into words is
really a process of BECOMING, exactly like the process of concept emergence
described in Hegel’s Logic, i.e. a unity of being and non-being.
d) As in Hegel’s Logic (and as in the example of ontogenetic emergence of
concepts) it travels through several planes. These planes are not identical
to the planes that the concept travelled through in ontogenesis; they cannot
be the same process because they are themselves the products of ontogenesis.
Yet we can expect them to show some traces of their origins, and therefore
the process as a whole may show an affinity with ontogenesis.
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