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Re: [xmca] Consciousness, Piaget

Tony, Mike:
We translated Piaget's "prise de conscience" as "seizure of consciousness", except that in Korean the verbal noun has the more psychological sense of "grasping" as when you grasp a meaning that you didn't really understand in a phrase that you have heard many times. So, to nominalize, the "prise de conscience" is the "graspture of awareness" or the "rapture of awareness". Every child is an awareness raptor.
I think that one important thing to grasp here is that "conscience" in French is not really the homuncular "consciousness" we have in English, any more than it is the obvious false friend, the meaning of a moral "conscience" that we find in English writings on ethics. It has a number of OTHER meanings that attracted Vygotsky to Piaget, to wit:
a) awareness
b) noticing
c) selection
d) potential anticipation
It seems to me that all of these can be conceptualized as moments in the passing of the child from a relatively passive, reactive state to a much more voluntary, volitional one.
Last night, I was re-reading Engestrom's old book "Learning by Expanding", which some of our teachers are busy translating into Korean. In Chapter Five he does try to tackle the question that I think gives the "prise de conscience" its real importance, which is the question of whether and at what point learning is REVERSIBLE--at what point the laying down of socioculturally accumulated experience becomes the creation of new content for the next phase of sociocultural progress. 

I think Engestrom sees Vygotsky's preliminary considerations of history (which he describes, it seems to me incorrectly, as phenomenological), his laboratory experiments (what Paula and Carol replicated), his empirical classroom observations (Chapter Six of T&S) and his theorizing as moments of a single process which can be REVERSED in order to yield the next, higher phase of expansion. The first process works from outside in, and the second from inside out. 
The problem, it seems to me, is the crisis. the "prise de conscience" is really a crisis par excellence, and a crisis is by definition NOT reversible. For example, awareness is not simply the end point of noticing done backwards, nor is noticing the endpoint of attentional selection in reverse. Obviously, active anticipation requires awareness, noticing, and attentional selection, but not vice versa.
So the crisis obeys different laws, and we can also expect post-critical development to be different from precritical development in important ways. In physics, a shock wave cannot, by definition, be understood with the same mathematics we use to describe continuous phenomenon. And the shock reverberates: if a crisis is generally restructuring, we have to expect that the laws of the next phase of social progress are going to be in some way fundamentally different.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education


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