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Re: [xmca] Types of Generalization: concepts and pseudoconcepts
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] Types of Generalization: concepts and pseudoconcepts
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- Date: Mon, 14 Sep 2009 10:34:20 +1000
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Steve, I think Vygotsky is neither clear nor consistent, but
making all due allowances, he was right; Davydov is clear
and consistent, but he is wrong on occasions. Pity
Vyvogotsky did not live longer. But it means we have to put
a consistent and tenable understanding together ourselves.
Firstly I believe Vygtosky took the "scientific concept"
only as a microcosm of the concept, and recognised that the
everyday life of an adult is full of concepts (i.e. proper
concepts). He gives "dog" as an example. In general concepts
originate out of "expert systems" of some kind, i.e.,
institutions, but not necessarily science: e.g. sport, the
Church, literature, ... This will not be the first occasion
that LSV's use of a micrcosm has caused people to think that
he thinks the micrcosm is the whole.
So Vygotsky reognizes many types of concept, and I don't
think Vygotsky limited "rationality" to science. He began
life as a literary critic after all.
On how individuals acquire knowledge, you are right of
course, that whatever form a child's knowledge takes, it is
acquired through artefact-mediated collaboration with
adults, at least until the age of ~7 when interaction with
peers starts to rival interaction with adults.
One of LSV's strentghs v-a-v Davydov is that LSV really
concerns himself with the transition - this is where wolves
in sheeps clothing comes from. But Davydov simply regards
everyday non-conceptual thinking as a barrier to learning
scientific conceptual thought. He doesn't really see a
transition at all.
Steve Gabosch wrote:
It seems as though Vygotsky's theory recognized only one kind of adult,
rational concept, which he called at various times the "true concept,"
the "scientific concept," etc. In Ch 6 of T&S Vygotsky contrasted his
theory of the true concept with the "spontaneous" or "everyday" concept,
which he seems to have associated with various forms of complexive
thinking, including the pseudoconcept, the potential concept, the
On the other hand, Davydov's theory, appreciative of the accomplishments
and critical of the shortcomings of Vygotsky's work on concept
formation, recognizes not just one but **two** kinds of rational
concepts, which he calls the empirical concept (more precisely, the
"general conceptualization") and the theoretical concept (the
"content-based generalization"). I find his general arguments for this
persuasive, and consistent with a philosophical book I have found
influential on my thinking about concepts - as did Davydov - Ilyenkov's
The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx's Capital (1960).
However, so far as I can tell, while Davydov discusses Vygotsky's work
on complexes, he did not fully incorporate this work into his theory.
Why not? Or has he? More on this below.
Andy, in speaking of an "absolutely non-empirical social factor" in
human activity I take it you are affirming the CHAT principle that
cultural knowledge is, for a large part, derived by the individual
**indirectly** through the words, artifacts and actions of other people,
through **cultural** interaction, and not just **directly** through
individual **sensory** experience. Is this what you mean?
Also, Andy, you suggest that for you or me, a 'rook' is a concept, but
for a child, it is probably a potential concept (or might be, may I add,
a pre-concept, or a pseudo-concept). How is that different from
suggesting that for concept-trained adults, cev, bik, mur and lag are
concepts, even though for a child they might be a pseudo-concepts? Not
quite understanding your argument ...
The problem may lie in whether we are using the term "concept" in the
one-rational-concept-system theory of Vygotsky or the
two-rational-concept-system theory of Davydov. I was using Vygotsky's
system. One reason I am having trouble easily jumping from LSV's system
to VVD's is some confusion I am having over terminology, along with
Davydov's (for me, so far) unsatisfying account of complexive thinking.
Interestingly, Davydov seems to only employ the term "true concept"
twice in Types of Generalizations. Once as part of a quote from Bruner
et al, and once in the section in Chapter 6 on Vygotsky's work on
concept formation, nearby some of the quotes you cite. Here is what
Davydov says about true concepts:
"From the standpoint of dialectical logic, concepts, as they are
encountered in our everyday speech, are not concepts in the proper sense
of the word. They are, rather, general conceptions of things. But it is
indisputable that they are a transitional stage from complexes and
pseudo-concepts to true concepts in the dialectical sense of the word
[65, pp. 196-197]."
In a sense, this may be the same problem that you point to in your
essay, Andy, where Vygotsky was using the generic term "concept" to
refer to both all concept formations at all developmental levels as well
as to their most highly developed forms. Davydov, and perhaps you, may
sometimes be doing something similar - "concepts," "true concepts,"
"concepts in the proper sense of the word," etc. Maybe a clearer
taxonomic nomenclature is needed. Or maybe there is something I am not
yet quite getting.
Davydov's suggestion that general conceptualizations are
**transitional** between "everyday" speech, that is, "complexes and
pseudo-concepts," seems very important to me. Is there a place where he
specifically develops this idea, or perhaps, where someone else does?
Understanding how to fully incorporate what we know about complexive
thinking into a general theory of concept formation might help me to
make the leap from Vygotsky to Davydov.
On Sep 12, 2009, at 8:33 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
Steve Gabosch wrote:
One, what do you mean by "an absolutely non-empirical social factor"
One. When I say "absolutely non-empirical" I do not try to deny that
all knowledge begins from the senses. For example, if I drive on the
left because the law requires me to, I still have to be able to read
signs, understand speech etc. to know and obey that law. But you
wouldn't call that "empirical" would you? Concepts come to us through
using artefacts in joint actions with other people, i.e., activity,
not passive contemplation. See "Theses on Feuerbach." Conceptual
knowledge presupposes all the senses, but is not thereby "empirical."
any game. In chess, for example, rooks and pawns are "concepts" - yes?
Two. I thought about exactly this one as well. So if playing a good
game of chess, knowing the moves for Kings and Knights etc., and how
to play a good strategy, implies *conceptual* thought, then all the
primary school children who participate in chess championships are
alredy masters of true concepts. And it doesn't stop there, does it?
The implication is that *logical thinking* is ipso facto, conceptual
thought. But primary school kids in general use logical argument,
apply strategies in games, learn arithmetic and grammatical rules,
So why is LSV so insistent that conceptual thought is possible only
for adolescents? I couldn't find the reference, maybe someone can, but
I am sure LSV believes that logical thinking and argument by giving
reasons "belongs" to the 7-11 age group, not 15+ - like with LSV's
example of a "dog", "rook" may be a concept for you, but for a child
"rook" is a potential concept.
The point is that "machine-like" logical thought is not conceptual
thought. It relies on pre-concepts, or what Davydov calls (charitably
in my view) "empirical concepts" or on one occasion "general notions."
Does that help?
http://www.erythrospress.com/ Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel,
Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, Ilyenkov $20 ea
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Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov,
Ilyenkov $20 ea
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