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Re: [xmca] Lev Vygotsky and Charlie Chaplin

Well David. . . he is and he isn't.  He isn't as Kohler does and comparing 
an ape to a human.  He isn't as Skinner does and comparing a pigeon to a 
human.  He is utilizing a nomothetic approach to the study of human 
development.  There is an expectation that a seven-year old can identify 
letters, numbers and can utilize these in a goal oriented way.  This 
expectation has nothing to do with what is being directly taught but 
rather is assumed based on the child's memory and volition of memory. 
Three hundred years ago a three-year old Mozart was sure to wow audiences 
because of a shattering of expectations.  This comparison of older process 
structures to a three-year old's process structures is essential to the 
study of human development.  Perhaps not because of distance between inner 
and outer for the only thing that separates the air from inside a balloon 
is the balloon itself and the only thing separating Vygotsky from the 
proof of his theories was his own short mortality.    But it is the 
volition of the process structure that the seven year incorporates (or the 
three year old mozart) into their goal directed activity that is the rub. 
And yes I believe that Vygotsy was certainly in on the joke and at such a 
point of juxtaposition that the falling in the man hole is neither funny 
nor tragic but just 'is what it is'.   Isn't that what we laugh at, the 
mortality and the finality of being?

Yesterday I remembered the five things my wife asked me to get at the 
grocery (something I never do without a list but yesterday accomplished 
quite well) but came back with the wrong size belt for the mower which is 
why I had left the house in the first place.  I laughed at the futility 
and I am sure my wife did too (on the inside).


David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
07/06/2009 03:27 AM
Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"

        To:     xmca <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
        Subject:        [xmca] Lev Vygotsky and Charlie Chaplin

Thanks, eric. I still don't quite see why he doesn't compare like with 
like: compare the DISTANCE between self-directed speech and other directed 
speech at THREE (almost zero) with the DISTANCE between self-directed 
speech and other directed speech at SEVEN (almost 100%). Instead he talks 
about the distance between the seven and the three year old. Of course, 
they are different. But nobody expects them to be the same. Whereas with 
the DISTANCES, if we take Piaget's theory seriously, we will expect the 
difference at three to be greater than the difference at seven.
Part of the problem is that Vygotsky writes with both great redundancy and 
great abbreviation. Sometimes he simply says "speech" when he means 
"egocentric speech", as in this particular pargraph. Other times he will 
go over a particular story over and over again (getting the details 
slightly wrong each time he tells it). For example on p. 262 (of Minick) 
he tells the story about the white liquid and the red liquid that he told 
on p. 175, except this time it's the white liquid forcing out the red 
instead of the other way around.
But I have learned to love both kinds of absent mindedness. For one thing, 
Vygotsky uses BOTH abbreviation and redundancy to create a delightful 
intellectual suspense. The way he lays out the "experimentum crucis" in 
Chapter Seven is a case in point. But again and again and again, we find 
Vygotsky telling the same joke as Charlie Chaplin.
It's a good one. Chaplin once tried to explain to his actors the key 
difference between a good joke and a bad one. A man walks down the street. 
He steps on a banana peel. He breaks his can. That's a bad joke.
Now, here's a good one. On Monday, a man get up, springs out of bed with a 
lilt in his step, struts down the left hand sidewalk of the street, slips 
on a banana peel and sprains his left ankle. 
On Tuesday, the man gets up, leaps out of bed with a wince, crosses the 
street, walks down the RIGHT hand sidewalk of the street. He slips on a 
banana peel and sprains his RIGHT ankle.
On Wednesday, the man gets up late. He sticks his head out the door. He 
looks right. He looks left. Nobody is there. The street is empty. He 
struggles to the centre of the street. He limps RIGHT down the centre 
line. It's a hot day. The line is yellow. The street is black. Down the 
street there is...right on the yellow line...a fresh, yellow banana peel.
Will he see it?  The banana peel is bright yellow, and so is the line. He 
examines each line carefully before he takes a step.The camera pans back 
and forth. The man's face, dripping with sweat. The banana peel, barely 
perceptible in the hot sun. Suddenly...
The man sees it. He steps CAUTIOUSLY over it. Safe on the other side, he 
turns around and looks at it with a look of supreme triumph. 
Then he whips majestically around and falls into a manhole.
Vygotsky writes this chapter around the joke. Ribot and Meumann say that 
inner speech is verbal memory. But this puts inner speech entirely in the 
past. Miller, Watson and Bekhterev say inner speech is speech without 
sound. But once again there are plenty of things that are speech without 
sound that are not inner speech (e.g. when I am talking to someone who 
cannot hear me). Goldstein then decides that inner speech is all the bits 
of speech that are neither sensory nor motor in any way--and he falls in 
the manhole of overinclusiveness and overgeneralization.
In a way, the whole book is written around Chaplin's joke. The 
reflexologists think that thinking and speech are one and the same 
thing. He can't study either. Piaget says they are totally different: he 
cannot say how they develop each other in any way. The Gestalists 
carefully step over the banana peel by saying they are both totally 
different and one and the same thing, and because they cannot explain what 
is specific to each, they fall into a manhole, still grinning in triumph. 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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