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Re: [xmca] Types of Generalization: concepts and pseudoconcepts

A small follow-up, having now read at least Andy's comments on Davydov, if not the Davydov itself.

I would agree very broadly with what Andy says, and highlight one point and note one that is perhaps underemphasized.

Maybe it's because of Davydov's view, but it seems clear to me that LSV emphasizes very strongly and consistently the key role of verbal language, and so we ought really want to know more about exactly how the ways in which children and early adolescents use verbal languages changes as they come to mediate their activity more along the lines we might call acting-with-true-concepts.

What struck me as very important, that Andy emphasizes (and Davydov also?) is that the development of true concepts depends on their use in social institutions. This limits the relevance of artificial- concept experimental studies in ways that would not be apparent in a more purely cognitive science paradigm (or old fashioned empirical- concept ideology), because the similarity to natural true concepts is only logical-formal, and not also social-institutional. A lot of my own students tend to get this wrong, because they identify the social with the interpersonal, such that there is still a similarity (in the micro-social milieu of the experiment itself as a social activity). But not at the macro-social institutional level.

And here perhaps is also a clue to my query about how the modes of mediation differ across the historical cases (Foucault), the cross- cultural cases (Levi-Straus), the post-modern cases (Wittgenstein, Latour), and even the everyday true concept vs. formal scientific- mathematical true concept cases. The difference arises in and from the institutional differences. Could we perhaps combine LSV's insights into how this works in the developmental case (changes in the social positioning of the child/adolescent), L-S on the functioning of mytho- symbolic mediated activiity in rituals and social structuration processes, F on changes in the historical institutions (medieval-early modern), and L on heterogeneity of mediation in relation to heterogeneity of actant networks? to understand better how this institutional context and its processes play out?

I left out Wittgenstein, but he may help with an intermediate scale, not the large social institutions, but the game-like activities of which they are composed.

I'll be looking at Davydov to see what he offers in these terms.


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Sep 11, 2009, at 5:51 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:

I have prepared a response to Davydov's book, but it is 4,000 words, so I have attached it in a Word document. But here is a synopsis.

Davydov claims that in his analysis of the Sakharov experiments, Vygotsky fails to demonstrate any real distinction between a true concept and an abstract general notion (what is usually and mistakenly taken for a concept in non-Marxist thought).

I claim that he has a point, but Vygotsky is guilty only of some unclarity and inconsistency in his language, and makes the distinction very clear. And Davydov should pay more attention to what Vygotsky says about the relationship.

Davydov works with a mistaken contrast between scientific concepts and the general notions derived from everyday life. Scientific concepts are by no means the only type of true concepts and everyday life is full of concepts.

Nonetheless, Davydov has a point. It is evident that Sakharov, the author of the orignal, oft-cited report evidently is guilty exactly as charged by Davydov. And no-one seems to have noticed!

Although Paula and Carol are consistent and correct in everything they say in their paper, they err on one occasion only when they cite Kozulin citing Hanfmann. It is as if people equate logical use of generalized empirical notions with conceptual thought, never in their own words, but only by means of citing someone else's words.

I think this is the legacy of a lack of clarity in Vygotsky's brilliance.

4,000 words attached. And apologies for not entering the discussion of Paula and Carol's paper earlier, but I was not clear in my own mind on these problems, and Davydov helped me get clear. Better late than never!

Andy Blunden (Erythrós Press and Media) Orders: http://www.erythrospress.com/store/main.html#books

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