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Re: [xmca] Re: Play and the Owl of Minerva

A while ago I was obliged to deal with the work of Roy Bhaskar. What Bhaskar does is insist on the ontology of natural science in every aspect of life, including for example, literary criticism and cultural anthropology. The editor makes a nice point with an anecdote: he is at a seminar on J-P Sartre. A student in the audience calls out "Do you really think that someone called J-P Sartre existed?" Obivously an inappropriate application of relativism, which then opens the way for his own dogmatism.

I was drawn to the conclusion that it is dogmatism to insist on one true ontology (here I mean ontology the general, classical, not the Sartrean sense) for all activities at all times. Natural science is an activity which by its very nature must assume that there is a natural world out there whose properties and forms can be known. This is not true of any activity where reality is in a significant degree formed by and interconnected with, human activity and in the case of the natural sciences breaks down in certain circumstances at certain times.

So I don't accept that naturalistic ontology is a *myth* of the natural sciences. It is an essential part of natural science. But it is not universal. It is just as dogmatic to insist on hermeneutic relativism in natural science as it is to insist on naturalistic realism in hermeneutics, etc.


Martin Packer wrote:

Yes, it has for a long time been part of the myth of modern science that it discloses things as they 'really are,' not as they 'appear' to be. LSV falls into this way of speaking (or at least his translators do). The most powerful analyses of science, philosophical, historical and sociological, in my opinion, show that it is thoroughly enchanted. Science involves seeing (and thinking of) things 'as if.' So Kuhn explained paradigms in terms of 'seeing as' - a duck or a rabbit. So every introduction I have seen of gravity in relativity theory uses the image of space sagging like a rubber sheet around masses, even though this image is inadequate once one gets deeper into the math. Seeing space 'as if' it were rubber is a necessary step into this branch of science. Each science has/is its own imaginary.


On Mar 20, 2010, at 10:20 AM, Larry Purss wrote:

That was an interesting thread you sent on play and games and the tension between the concepts.
It is a fascinating topic.
I want to bring into the conversation a fascinating perspective on the place of the fictional and imaginary in play (and other activity).
First for some context.
I've always been curious about the antinomy often reflected in the tension between imagination/reality and the literature on modernity as the disenchantment of the world and the reaction to this privleging the as-IS reality over the as-IF reality.  There is a counter literature on finding ways to re-enchant the world.
Often science is seen as the villan who is responsible for the loss of the as-IF reality, as children move beyond playful imagination into the real world.
Piaget's notions of animism as indicating immature thinking.
INGRID E. JOSEPHS takes a radically different perspective on the tension between the imaginary as-IF constructions and the figure-ground type relation to as-IS reality.
She wrote an article in HUMAN DEVELOPMENT 1198, Volume 41, pages 180-195  which explains very clearly this alternative interpretation of the as-IS and as-IF dialectic and how it infuses meaning with e-motion and explains the process of Vygotsky's internalization and Mead's I-ME dialectic.
Following is a quick summary of Ingrid's perspective on the imaginary in our devlopment.

Symbol formation implies a TRANSCENDENCE of the here-and-now as-IS world by construction of the imaginary as-IF world. Ingrid's standpoint is an extension of Hans Vaihinger's [1911-1986] "philosophy of the "AS-IF" as his notion of FICTIONALISM as an independent version of PRAGMATISM. (as an aside Alfred Adler said this book transformed his life).
Vaihinger believed as-If thinking was foundational for scientific reasoning.
Ingrid makes a further distinction between static nondevelopmental and dynamic/developmental accounts of as-IF.  "BEING as-if" is static, whereas "BEING-AS-IF-COULD-BE" is dynamic. She points out this is similar to Bretherton's distinction of AS-IF and WHAT-IF. In dynamic notions, the as-IF is a step in the process of forward oriented preadaptation to the next MOMENTARY context. Development is based on as-IF types of apperception as each person participates in their own development. Rather than being MORE adaptive or BETTER Ingrid's position is that developmental transformations cannot be prejudged before the act. Whether it is better or worse is an evaluative question.
In summary imagination always begins in the known world of present and past and then one's horizon of understanding is stretched into the realm of the as-IF.. Ingrid points out this notion of as-IF is close to Cole's [1992, 1995] notions of personal duration. Ingrid states, "In imagination, not only do present, past, and future become MUTUALLY RELATED (and constructed), but both the person and world are transformed." p.184
Now to the more specific topic of SYMBOLIC PLAY that is being explored on this thread. Piaget understood play as pure assimilation that is necessary until developmentally the child can transcend this immature level of reality and with development SUBORDINATE the as-IF reality by the rational logical, and DECENTERED modes of entering reality.  The as-If is not ascribed any PRODUCTIVE future oriented function in development. In contrast the position Ingrid (and Cole, Vygotsky, Mead,) are elaborating is that the AS-IF-COULD-BE operates throughout the lifespan.
[Note] I'm emailing this section because my software sometimes crashes
----- Original Message -----
From: Wagner Luiz Schmit <mcfion@gmail.com>
Date: Thursday, March 18, 2010 8:11 pm
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: Play and the Owl of Minerva
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

I even didn't had time to read all e-mails (lots and lots of work to do), but games and development is exactly what i want to study in my

Do you heard about narratology David? this was used to study and analisegames for a while, and them other thing called ludology emerged...
Take a look at this article:

Similitude and differences between (video)games and narrative.


this is my two cents contribution to the discussion... and i'm very very interested too in this rational/irrational discussion too... but i don't
have much to contribute now... Only that William James already was
debating this =P (being a teacher of history of Psychology is very

Wagner Luiz Schmit
INESUL - Brazil

Em Ter, 2010-03-16 às 18:13 -0700, David Kellogg escreveu:
Sorry, everybody!

I wrote:

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.
I meant to write "it's a little like trying to find the point
where talk passes over into TEXT". Halliday remarks somewhere that scientific linguistics didn't really start until the invention of the tape recorder.
I was always puzzled by that remark until I realized that
until the invention of the tape recorder, TEXT was synonymous with writing and TALK was synonymous with speech, and only people like Bakhtin and Vygotsky knew that there was a much deeper, underlying difference having to do with pastness and presentness, finalizeability and unfinalizedness.
(When we look at Piaget's work on conservation it is quite a
while before we realize how dependent on VISUALS it is. For the child, sound is not conserved at all, and of course neither is time. It is only with the discovery of language that the child can imagine the conservation of sound at all.)
I think that the distinction between text and discourse is
really the fast moving line between stories and games that we want: the story is past and the game is present, the story is finalizedness and the game is unfinalized and inherently unpredictable. So the story is a text, and the game is an ongoing discourse.
I think, Andy, that in a game the problem is not autnomy per
se. It's autonomy for a purpose, and purposes are almost by definition not only beyond the self but even beyond the present moment (and this is why Mike is so right to point out that EVERY act of culture or even private imagination has an implicit notion of "the good life" in it).
Similarly, I don't think Vygotsky ever prizes volition for its
own sake; it's always the freedom to produce and to create and to imagine "the good life" and to master the irrational forces which deprive life of that meaning, including those found within the self. It is in that sense that, yes, life is a game: it is meaningful through and through and to the very end. Not, I think, what the existentialists had in mind!
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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.

   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

I have been pondering David
Ke's question about the
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.

On Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 2:55
PM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu
<http://us.mc1103.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=packer@duq.edu>> wrote:

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
anthropogenesis through its
selective evolutionary pressures.
Eric, yes, I should have
added phylogenesis, not just biological
What then is the "XX-
genesis" term for history?

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
notions of development on
the other hand (ie the
object/representation triangle) suggest a dialectical
which the article says may
be INHERENT to development.  To me
   this is asking
a question about how the
mind constructs significant social
What is specific
about this particular double helix is the
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
nature/nurture antinomy is
inherent to the notion of
   development? Other
double or triple helix's
could be conceptualized within the
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
When I read the article,
it seemed to capture the tension we are
exploring about the place
of neuroscience in our theories of
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
(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
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
salient social
representation within our Western tradition. Does
recognition of its
historical roots change how we view this

----- Original Message ----
From: Martin Packer
<packer@duq.edu> > <http://us.mc1103.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=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
<http://us.mc1103.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=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.> >      >>>>

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?

...and I am pretty sure
I stole, I mean appropriated, this
from someone; I've
forgotten who...

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