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Re: [xmca] Narratology and Concepts

I certainly have more thoughts about this post then the next question but 
while I am thinking of it I am typing it:

Does "scientific concept" have metaprocessing involved and "everyday 
concept" lack the meta aspect?

Don't know the answer but it definitely goes back to the question of, "Is 
a fiddle always a fiddle or can a fiddle be a table in some contexts?"


David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
03/19/2010 02:46 AM
Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"

        To:     xmca <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
        Subject:        [xmca] Narratology and Concepts

(Pardon the previous premature posting--I hit the wrong button!)
I have an eighteenth floor flat facing an amazing sunrise through Seoul 
smog, near Kwanak Mountain on weekends. But on weekdays I have to be out 
of my apartment well before the golden moment, and this morning as I 
bundled into the subway car with all the other commuter cattle, this piece 
of poetry popped up from my memory:
Leave, my love, before the morning
Drains the darkness from the pane
Others who ignored this warning
Did not live to love again
Romeo and Juliet, of course. But a sinister whiff of Bluebeard's Castle 
too, and, more bathetically, a reference to the self-consciousness and 
fear of shopper's remorse we sometimes all feel the morning after the 
night before.
No, no, no. I am happily married, which means that even bathos is rather 
too melodramatic to describe my waking life. This bit of poetry is 
something that was written for a radio contest on the BBC about twenty 
years ago, and I heard it on my shortwave in China and forgot about for 
twenty years. 
The real reason this thing popped up was that yesterday one of my grads 
was having trouble distinguishing between "until" and "by" (and also "for" 
and "in" with reference to "two hours" or "two o'clock"). 
Now, we can explain this problem with a simple two by two matrix:
                              OBJECT OF PREPOSITION (+/- duration)
                              e.g. "two hours"      "two o'clock"
VERB (+/- duration)          
"I love"                    for 2 hrs.          until 2:00
"I leave"                   in 2 hrs.           at/by 2:00
You can see the CONCEPT (that of durativity, or instantaneity" is the 
same, whether we are applying it to the object of the preposition ("two 
hours" or "two o'clock") or to the verb. In fact we can even apply it to 
space, because the distinction between (e.g.) "at the corner", "on the 
river", and "in the room" has to do with spatial dimensionality, and time 
durativity is a metaphorical (as well as a literal) extension of this.
But you can also see that everyday life, for the most part, has NO NEED of 
this kind of matrix or even this kind of concept. Martin is absolutely 
right to say that it arises sociogenetically (for that is my preferred 
term for the phylogenesis of culture) in the minds of scientists and only 
ontogenetically in the classroom. Martin is even more right (were that 
possible) to say that it is of the same psychological substance whether it 
is generated in the laboratory or in the classroom. 
But perhaps we differ on the conditions of USE. I think my little matrix 
is really only useful in the classroom, to generalize and abstract certain 
aspects of everyday use outside the classroom. 
Now, of course, the classroom IS part of the real world, and the concepts 
we have in the classroom are "real" concepts. But a laboratory, in which a 
Russian psychologist is setting up a blocks experiment in order to 
describe concept formation, is ALSO part of the real world, too. It's just 
that the conditions of use are quite different when we are talking about 
laboratories, classrooms, subway cars and bedrooms.
Concepts, as Rosch says, arise in use; they are not structureless nodes of 
a Cartesian matrix (like LSV's "measure of generality") or my two by two 
crosstab matrix. If that were true, the only true concepts would be 
As a consequnce of use, concepts have structure which is describable in 
terms of prototypes, where one type of concept "rubs off on" another. 
Classrooms make it possible to put make their structure VISIBLE, to place 
the structure of concepts BETWEEN concepts rather than hidden with them.
I didn't mean to equate scientific concepts with artificial concepts, 
Andy. That would be banal; of course ALL concepts are artificial 
concepts. But Vygotsky DOES write, in Chapter Six, that his work with 
science concepts follows on from his work with EXPERIMENTAL concepts. 
I think this is because a science concept (actually, an 'academic 
concept') is a concept for a special type of environment, an artificially 
engineered rather than a naturally occurring next moment of development 
(oh, all right, call it an artificially engineered zoped). 
The fact that what Jay calls the "thematic relations" of science concepts 
are EXTERNALIZED, stored outside the concept rather than as protypical 
variations within exponents of the concept, is both the cause 
(ontogenetically speaking) of their teachability and the result 
(sociogenetically speaking) of their teachedness.
One of my grads is teaching her sixth graders a lesson called "Where is 
York Street?" where the kids have to give each other very simple 
instructions (basically, it's just a Skinner maze, with one street, called 
"Apple Street" meeting another called "York Street") such as "go straight 
and turn right/left". The stuff, written ten years ago, is now far too 
easy for the kids so she wants to teach a map of downtown Manhattan 
instead, as a way of introducing the concept of the Cartesian matrix 
(avenues and streets) and eventually longitude and latitude. That way, the 
language they learn may be used iteratively, starting absolutely anywhere 
and ending absolutely anywhere else.
Last night, as it happens, it snowed (as the weather announcer says, "the 
snowflakes envy the cherry blossoms"). This morning you could see, in the 
fresh snow, trails taking shape in an entirely haphazard manner, as this 
neighbor steps out to buy the milk and that neighbor to take her five year 
old to a before school piano lesson, driven by everyday use.
If you look at a map of Seoul, you can see that large parts of it grew 
roads in precisely this way: it is a city draped over seven mountains, 
rather like Amman in Jordan, where I lived in my early twenties. But you 
can also see that parts of it are laid out in a Cartesian grid, rather 
like Manhattan, Washington DC, Brasilia, or Beijing, so that anyone can go 
anywhere just by visualizing the relationships on a measure of generality. 
It goes without saying that both concepts are part of the real world. They 
are both part of the same city!
David Kellogg
SEOUL National University of Education 

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