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Re: [xmca] Play and the Owl of Minerva

Some years ago Brian Vandenberg was writing about play not as something that only children do, but as an essential part of the lives of all of us. I'm reconstructing a memory from long ago (but Google Scholar shows lots of his writing), but what I recall was his observation that adult society is a system of abstract rules and imaginary situations that we have all forgotten are imaginary and abstract. It often takes children, in fact , to enable us to recognize that 'the coin of the realm" is not "really money," it is in fact merely a piece of metal. Adult play, of course, is less gratuitous difficulty and guile-less deceit than it is mandatory toil and sly chicanery, and that's why we have forgotten how not to take it seriously, but as any card-carrying existentialist will tell you, it's all just a game.


On Mar 16, 2010, at 6:22 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

> Andy:
> Carol modestly writes to me off line to point out the mysterious fact that when children are offered a way out of "childishness" (e.g. the opportunity to stop playing and instead go and clean up their rooms or help Dad with the dishes or do homework) they not infrequently and sometimes even unceremoniously decline.
> She also, even more usefully, points out that in ANY game, the starting motivation is quite different, and even antithetical, to the motivation which has us continue. So for example if an expert backgammon player offers to teach you the game, you do not accept with the expectation that you will win, but winning is a possiblity which emerges as you continue to play.
> So too with abstract rules and imaginary situations; that is, with gratuitous difficulty and with guile-less deceit. Last night in my seminar we explored a large number of games (chess, rock-paper-scissors, snakes and ladders, etc.) which not only BEGIN with some kind of war or struggle or epic journey scenario but are STILL actually presented that way (by casting roles and alternating turns and so on). 
> One of my grads tried to find the point at which a story definitively passes over into a game, and I said it was a little like trying to find the point where talk definitively passes over into talk. It is there, but we always find texts in talk, and talk in texts, no matter which side of the divide we may find ourselves on. 
> Wittgenstein claimed that there is no overt over-arching and external trait between games (e.g. a common functional "motive" or a "goal"). When we read Vygotsky's play lectures, we find TWO common points: viz. gratuitous difficulty and guile-less deceit, the abstract rule and the imaginary situation.
> But one is always hidden when the other is abroad. After all, Wittgenstein's argument was only that there is no CLEARLY VISIBLE over-arching trait. And Vygotsky's reply is that if the essence of things were visible on the surface, as overt motive, or aim, or goal, why then no scientific explanation would ever be required for anything. His explanation of play is not an empiricist-functionalist but a historical, genetically, deterministic one, and the owl of Minerva flies only at nightfall.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education  
> --- On Mon, 3/15/10, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Dialects of Development- Sameroff
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Monday, March 15, 2010, 5:33 PM
> Way out of my depth in discussing play, but here is my take 
> on "what is the motivation for play?"
> I don't think we can or want to ascribe a motivation for 
> participating in play *in general*. I.e., the question of 
> "why does a child play?" cannot sensibly be answered by the 
> child. But this still leaves the question of the motivation 
> for any particular play activity: what is it that is 
> motivating a child when they play?
> It seems to me that every action a child takes can be 
> explicable in terms of its being part of a project, and the 
> "Why are you doing that?" question gets the same kind of 
> answer as it would for an adult at work.
> A different kind of explanation is required for why a child 
> is drawn to participate in what is after all an "imaginary" 
> project, then gun does not fire bullets, the money is not 
> coin of the realm, etc. I think in answering the question at 
> that level we look at problems the child faces in being 
> exlcuded from the real world and their attempts to overcome 
> that. I don't know. But from the beginning a child it trying 
> to extricate themselves from the trap of childishness.
> Andy
> mike cole wrote:
>> Your helixes/helices seemed appropriate to the discussion, Martin.
>> XXX-history is cultural-historical genesis. And, as Steve suggested,
>> the twisted rope of many strands may be at the end of the rainbow of
>> promises.
>> I have been pondering David Ke's question about the
>> object/objective/motivation for play. It came together in my thinking with
>> Yrjo's metaphor of being always "just over the horizon" and its dual
>> material and ideal nature, most recently mentioned by Wolf-Michael. Might it
>> be the dream of being coordinated with a world entirely consistent with
>> one's own dreams? A world, extending, as Leslie White put it, that extends
>> from infinity to infinity, in both directions?
>> probably not, just wondering.
>> mike
>> On Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 2:55 PM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>> Larry,
>>> I didn't mean to detract from the discussion with my playful helices. I
>>> haven't found time yet to read Sameroff's article, so I don't know if he is
>>> proposing that there is an antimony between nature and nurture in human
>>> development, or in our *conceptions* of development. I took Mike to be
>>> suggesting, in his recent message, that when we pay attention to culture we
>>> can transcend that antimony, since culture is a 'second nature' that
>>> provides nurture, and since culture is the medium in which human brains and
>>> bodies grow, and since all nurture offered to the growing child is mediated
>>> by culture, and since culture has been transforming human nature throughout
>>> anthropogenesis through its selective evolutionary pressures.
>>> Eric, yes, I should have added phylogenesis, not just biological evolution.
>>> What then is the "XX-genesis" term for history?
>>> Martin
>>> On Mar 14, 2010, at 9:55 PM, Larry Purss wrote:
>>>> It seems the double or triple helix is a significant way of trying to
>>> configure dynamic processes.  However, what the particular specific double
>>> helix referred to in the article is pointing to is a very specific tension
>>> BETWEEN two specific constructs "Nature" and "nurture".  The current debates
>>> raging about neuroscience on the one side and the tension with relational
>>> notions of development on the other hand (ie the
>>> self-other-object/representation triangle) suggest a dialectical tension
>>> which the article says may be INHERENT to development.  To me this is asking
>>> a question about how the mind constructs significant social representations.
>>>   What is specific about this particular double helix is the HISTORICAL
>>> salience of this SPECIFIC ANTIMONY through centuries of dialogue and theory.
>>> My question is "Is there significance to the extended duration of this
>>> specific antimony through centuries. Does this historical engagement with
>>> the specific notions of nature and nurture have relevance for CHAT
>>> discussions.  This is not to say other double or triple helix models may not
>>> have more explanatory power but that is not the specific question asked in
>>> the article. The question being asked specifically is if this specific
>>> nature/nurture antinomy is inherent to the notion of development? Other
>>> double or triple helix's could be conceptualized within the nature/nurture
>>> antinomy but the question I believe is being asked is how relevant a
>>> dialectical (or alternatively dialogically) nature/nurture antinomy is to
>>> our primary (ontological??) notions of Development as a social
>>> representation.
>>>> When I read the article, it seemed to capture the tension we are
>>> exploring about the place of neuroscience in our theories of development.
>>> For some scholars one side or the other side is in ascendence and
>>> historically one side or the other is in ascendence. What the article is
>>> asking is if we must "INTEGRATE" what is often seen as in opposition and
>>> realize nature/nurture is in a figure/ground type of relational pattern
>>> (like the ying/yang visual representation) and the movement BETWEEN the two
>>> positions is basic to development.
>>>> Do others have thoughts on the specific question Arnie has asked in his
>>> article about the historical dynamic of the nature/nurture antinomy in
>>> developmental theories as well as in ontological and cultural historical
>>> development. This question speaks to me about the possible relevance of
>>> Moscovici's theory of social representations.
>>>> One alternative answer is to generate other double or triple helix models
>>> which may become social representations over time as they are debated in a
>>> community of inquiry but the article as written is pointing to a very
>>> salient social representation within our Western tradition. Does that
>>> recognition of its historical roots change how we view this particular
>>> antinomy?
>>>> Larry
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
>>>> Date: Sunday, March 14, 2010 4:59 pm
>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Dialects of Development- Sameroff
>>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>>>>> That's right, Steve, though I'm pretty sure I didn't see this
>>>>> title until after I made the diagram. And of course Lewontin is
>>>>> referring to different factors. And, also, of course, collagen
>>>>> actually does have a triple-helix structure, which Francis Crick
>>>>> thought was more interesting than the double helix of DNA, but
>>>>> which got very little attention.
>>>>> Martin
>>>>> On Mar 14, 2010, at 7:53 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>>>>> On the triple helix metaphor:  Richard Lewontin used it
>>>>> in the title of his 1998/2000 collection of essays _The Triple
>>>>> Helix: Gene, Organism and Environment_.  His core theme
>>>>> regarding biological development is that solely considering the
>>>>> interaction between gene and organism makes for bad
>>>>> biology.   The environment has decisive influence as well.
>>>>>> - Steve
>>>>>> On Mar 14, 2010, at 10:20 AM, Martin Packer wrote:
>>>>>>> On Mar 14, 2010, at 1:04 PM, Larry Purss wrote:
>>>>>>>> What do others think of the double helix (and/or the other
>>>>> visual images in the article). How central is the double helix
>>>>> (either as an "is Like" or "IS" objectification) to your notions
>>>>> of the human sciences?
>>>>>>>> Larry
>>>>>>> ...and I am pretty sure I stole, I mean appropriated, this
>>>>> from someone; I've forgotten who...
>>>>>>> <PastedGraphic-2.pdf>
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> -- 
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
> Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, 
> Ilyenkov $20 ea
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