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Re: [xmca] Play and the Owl of Minerva

I loved the article too, but I don't really see the problem, just as I don't really see the problem of the irrational in play.
a) Vygotsky makes it very clear in Chapter Six that "science concepts" (or, as Prout translates it, "academic concepts") are simply the type of concepts that are found in classrooms (and laboratories). That's all. He actually DOES say that it would be as ridiculous to use a science concept in the place of an everyday concept as it is to use an everyday concept in the place of a science concept; he explicitly rejects the idea that adults go around thinking in science concepts all day; he says that "science concepts" are really one type of "artificial concept". The "relations of generality" that he talks about and even depicts as a terrestrial globe are very clearly put there by human thinking, but that human thinking is not thinking for thought's sake, but rather reflection (cogitation, not copying) of real data.
b) The irrational is, of course, what gives meaning to the rational, just as vice versa. But the fact that MEANING is what the irrational gives to the rational, at least in the human mind, tells us something. We are meaning-making creatures, unlike the rest of the universe, and our creations always reflect that. To the extent that our lives and our selves are invented, they must therefore be meaningful, even as our language is meaningful and our games are meaningful (and our language games are meaning itself).
Of course, it can't be that simple. I must be missing something. Can you tell me what?
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Wed, 3/17/10, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:

From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Play and the Owl of Minerva
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 6:49 PM

Andy, a quick reply and then I have to go. I keep trying to argue, in various ways and places, that LSV did not buy into the representational theory of mind that dogs much of cognitive science and is characteristic of Piaget, a result of his Kantianism. One challenge that LSV's emphasis on concepts introduces is that it becomes difficult to block the interpretation that LSV was proposing just a social kind of Piaget - co-onstruction of conceptual knowledge, internalization of mental representations. 

There are to my mind numerous indications that LV was in fact doing something quite different. But to make the case convincingly one has to find in his writing a different approach to concepts than the dominant one. What I like about Rosch's article is that (1) she makes a pretty strong case for the inability of cognitive science, or at least the representational theory of mind form of cognitive science, to provide either a cogent theory of concepts or explanations of the empirical data, and (2) she offers a different way of thinking about concepts that begins with a non-dualistic approach to mind-world. To quote just one paragraph:

"Corollary A: Concepts Are Not Representational. Since the subjective and objective aspects of concepts and categories arise together as different poles of the same act of cognition and are part of the same informational field, they are already joined at their inception. They do not need to be further joined by a representational theory of mind, such as that of working cognitivism, and they cannot be separated by the solipsistic representational theory of mind of strict cognitivism. Concepts and categories do not represent the world in the mind; they are a participating part of the mind-world whole of which the sense of mind (of having a mind that is seeing or thinking) is one pole, and the objects of mind (such as visible objects, sounds, thoughts, emotions, and so on) are the other pole. Concepts -- red, chair, afraid, yummy, armadillo, and all the rest -- inextricably bind, in many different functioning ways, that sense of being or having a mind to
 the sense of the objects of mind."

This is just what one needs to develop a position in which people think using concepts, but concepts are not mental representations. But what does this have to do with LSV? I've just been re-reading chapter 5, and there are any many things that LSV writes that are compatible with this way of viewing concepts. No time for details at the moment, but he writes of the adolescent who thinks using concepts as actively picking out attributes and synthesizing them, always dealing with a practical problem. (Cf also Barsalou's articles, which Rosch cites, proposing that concepts are always formed "on the fly," in real time.)


On Mar 17, 2010, at 8:34 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> Ineresting paper, Martin.
> I liked the suggestion of "concept" being an approach to the study of "situation," rather than the other way around. I agree.
> Also appreciate the "prototype" approach. Am I right, I think this idea comes to us from the Schleiermeier/Bahktin route rather than the Hegel/Vygotsky route? A powerful approach, which I think needs to be integrated with approaches with an Hegelian heritage.
> Pity about Vygotsky being lumped with Piaget and thrown in the Cognitivist basket. And pity that the guy who wrote the Science of the Concept in 1813 is skipped over as if he never existed.
> :)
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
> .. this wonderful paper by Eleanor Rosch. She is famous for her work in the 1970s on prototypes; in this paper she takes head on the problems that cognitive science has in actually specifying what a concept is, and she recommends that we need to rethink our views of both mind and world:
>> <http://psychology.berkeley.edu/faculty/profiles/erosch1999.pdf>
>> Martin
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