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Re: [xmca] Classical German Philosophy

On Mar 11, 2010, at 6:27 PM, Larry Purss wrote:
> Martin, thank you for the chapters of your book to read. When I get back home I will download and read the articles.  The little I know about continental philosophy is that this tension between self and other and what is ontological has been an ongoing debate in those circles.  
> Martin, what are your thoughts on the current "dialogical" perspectives being generated that are taking a stand on  one side of the self/other debates?
> Andy and Martin, from your comments, the self/other debate and its historical construction does have a place as one current in our reflections on this listserv.
> Thanks for the CHAT

Vygotsky cites some fascinating research by Fajans, a student of Kurt Lewin. She studied infants' responses to a desirable object when an adult was, or was not, nearby. What she found was that the infant loses interest in an object they cannot reach, unless an adult moves close to that object. Then the infant becomes interested again, and with the object rather than with the adult. The perceived object, LSV proposes, changes its properties in the optical field depending on what kind of structure it is part of, a structure that includes other people. He writes that "the relation of the child to reality is from the very beginning a social relation. In this sense, the infant might be called a maximally social being." This seems to me a grand anticipation of the current research on infant sociality and collaboration, and in line with the suggestion that the self differentiates out of what Vygotsky called a 'great-we.'

Yesterday I showed in class the famous videos from Köhler's work with chimpanzees. The one I find most interesting has one chimp stacking crates to reach the hanging banana while two others watch his progress. Each time he reaches for the fruit, the chimps who are watching raise their arms too! It looks very much to me like a sympathetic participation in the actions of another. The Theory of Mind research seems to me to place way too much emphasis on the notion that intentions are invisible and mental, and so need to be inferred. It posits the child beginning as an asocial individual who only gradually is able to understand that others also have intentions and beliefs. But as John Searle has been pointing out for years, there is an "intention-in-action," not only "prior intention." The conditions of satisfaction of an action are apparent to others who share the "background," and even a chimp shares enough with other chimps to understand their intentional actions. It seems that a human child's intentions are from a very early age mingled with the presence and the actions of others.


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