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RE: [xmca] Circle of Activity?

Hi Andy and David,
I think the hermeneutic circle is more along the lines of a constant reinterpretation (originally of texts but later of actions) based on I guess an expanding horizon of understanding (not necessarily more correct, but more expansive).  Let me take an experience that I recently had in reading Wittgenstein.  Very early on in his Philosophical Investigations - I think it is actually #2, he introduces language games but in a very basic way, with two individuals building a structure and words being used to make the building easier through ostensive definition.  Ah, I have an understanding of what Wittgenstein means by language games, but it is limited to what I have read up until that point.  I think I have made a discovery that others get something wrong when they talk about language games.  But then I continue reading and I get to the paragraph where he talks about explaining what the king means in chess, but that doesn't explain what chess is.  This new discovery forces me to not only go back and think about what language games means, but why Wittgenstein started with that example of building something when that doesn't seem to be where he is going.  Then I take this new understanding of ostensive definition and apply it to the example of the king, which in turn changes my view of that particular piece of writing.  Then I read a little bit further and I read how we are inducted into knowledge of language through children's games.  Hmmmm, children's games?  Are children's games more advanced than adults building a structure.  I go back and think about how adults building a structure might have some relationship with children's games, but as I do that, I think I realize that what Wittgenstein is attempting to do is show how culture can trump ostensive definition even without us realizing it.  Our horizons and determined from a very early age with communications as simple as children's games.  This in turn leads me to go back to reinterpret the chess game episode.  This constant back and forth is I think a good way to think about the hermeneutic circle.
And somebody on this list who has a different experience of Wittgenstein than me may make a comment that causes me to go back and rethink everything again, which will put that comment in a different light (or somebody may say something about the hermeneutic circle for that matter).
The Western academic paradigm which is a great passion for absolutes, and surety, and expertise is not really that friendly to the whole hermeneutic circle conception.  Some may offer a casual wave, but it is not a good model for establishing the all important expertise.
Anyway, that's where I am in the circle right now.
By the way Andy, wouldn't you consider Heiddeger to represent a circle of activity way of thinking?


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of David Kellogg
Sent: Tue 7/14/2009 12:57 PM
To: ablunden@mira.net; Culture ActivityeXtended Mind
Subject: Re: [xmca] Circle of Activity?

It seems to me that the obvious name for what you describe is not "circle of activity" or "hermeneutic circle" but "tautology". If each word is interpreted ONLY in the light of the text, then "il n'y a pas de hors texte", and interpretation is only possible as deconstruction.
The same thing is true here:
"An institution or social formation is constituted by the individuals in a community who act and perceive a range of actions as belonging a certain social entity, but each action is always only interpreted in the light of it being part of a certain social entity."
If it is ONLY interpreted in the light of it being part of a certain social entity, then how can we perceive variation? For example, if I can ONLY make sense of your speech in the light of the fact that you sound Australian, how is it possible that I can also tell you are male, human, and uniquely individual?
It's tempting to get around this difficulty by simply deleting the word "only" or by pluralizing "entity". But I'm not so sure that's doable. Take a look at this from Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech:
"For psychological research it is an undoubted fact that monologue is the highest, most complex form of speech, historically later in developing, than dialogue. But what now interests us is the comparison of these two forms only in this sense: with respect to the tendency towards the abbreviation of speech and its reduction in the purely predicative judgments." (My translation, but it roughly corresponds to p. 172 para 2 of Vol. 1) 
Gabriel Tarde (who Vygotsky cites somewhat earlier) was already developing the idea much loved by the pomods that sameness really develops out of and is entirely subordinated to difference. But I think Vygotsky is getting at something which is (if you will pardon the expression) different.
If monologue is later developing than dialogue, why is it higher, more complex, more advanced? Since dialogue has been around longer, one would expect that dialogue and not monologue would be higher, more complex, and more advanced.
I think Vygotsky's answer is that monologue really IS the higher, more complex, and more advanced form of dialogue which developed out of dialogue. If we look at Mescharyakov's second, third, and fourth laws (from Mescharyakov 2007 in the Cambridge Companion) we notice that each one involves something more monologic emerging from something more dialogic:
We can see that in each case we have the emergence of a more advanced, more developed, more context-free and as a result more monologic form of speech: individual speech is more monologic than social speech because there is more of a shared subject, intramental speech is more monologic than extramental because there is more predicativity, and science concepts are more monologic than everyday concepts, because there is more of a hierarchy, less of a concrete, shared context, and more control by a single consciously aware volition (this is why Vygotsky uses the word "judgement" rather than "utterance", which is what Minick translates it as).
What I don't really understand is Vygotsky's criteria for selecting the aspects upon which he chooses to concentrate. Why should we pay attention to the shared topic and the predicativity of judgments rather than, say, the presence or absence of facial expressions, or the use of the second vs. the use of the third person? It seems to me that Vygotsky's criteria are largely artifacts of the examples he chooses in Chapter Seven (Tolstoy and then Dostoevsky), and I find this a little disturbing. I love dead Russian writers as much as anybody else on the list (except perhaps our live Russian writers), but we need criteria for selection which are more directly related to concrete problems of education.
By the way, if you haven't voted yet, it seems to me that Paula and Carol's article is DIRECTLY related to this issue, because they are really talking about how concepts arise partly in the light of their belonging to a whole, but partly in the dark of it as well.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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