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Re: [xmca] The strange situation

So you have shown that LSV does use pre-concept in a specific sense. He seems from your quotes to take a number as an archetype of pre-concept, something entirely abstracted from the sensory field, but still abstract. Is that right?


David Kellogg wrote:
Andy, Steve:
Take a look at these. The translations are my own but the page numbers suggest the corresponding bits in your Minick translation. “We have first of all succeeded in discovering that /generality /(differences in generality) /does not coincide with the structure of generalization and its different stages /such as we found them in our experimental study on the formation of concepts: syncretic images, complexes, preconcepts, and concepts. (roughly, p. 225 in your Minick)”

You can see from this that "preconcepts" is NOT a general term including syncretisms, complexes any more than "rose" is a general term including daisies and daffodils.

“In the first place, concepts of different generality are possible in a same generalization structure. For example, in the structure of concepts by complexes it is possible for concepts of different levels of generality to exist: flower, and rose. In truth, we must state a reservation from the very outset, that is to say that the relationship of generalization ”flower-rose” will be different in each structure of generalization, for example, different in the structure of complexes from in the structure of preconcepts.” (225)

We can see from this that LSV does NOT consider a preconcept to be a complex.

“Thanks to the analysis of the real concepts of the child, we have been able to study some less well-known properties of syncretic formations, complexes, and preconcepts and to establish what in each of these spheres of thinking is shown to be different in the relationship with the object as well as the apprehension of the object by thought, that is to say, how the two fundamental elements which characterize concepts are revealed to be different from one stage to another.” (228)

Once again, "preconcepts" are not the preconceptual functional equivalents of concepts (that is, they are not a hypernym for syncretic heaps and complexes). But here Vygotsky suggests that there are two processes and not one at work in concept formation.

One is indeed a form of activity: it's a relationship with the object, e.g. ostension, indication, and naming. But the other is "the apprehension of the object by thought", the way in which the object is represented (reflected/refracted/semiotically reproduced) by the mind.

“What we have managed to establish here with respect to the passage from the preconcepts of the schoolchild to the concepts of the adolescent is the same thing that we managed to establish in the preceding study with respect to the passage of generalized perceptions to general representations, that is to say syncretic formations and complexes.” (230)

This appears to be a direct reference to Chapter Five. In 1931, LSV considered this to be a study of concept formation in ADOLESCENTS. But now he appears to have changed his mind: the previous chapter is concerned with the passage from generalized perceptions to general representations, and is thus a matter of preschoolers. This is quite consistent with what Paula did with three year olds to eight year olds.

“Just as in that case it turned out that a new stage in the development of generalizations can only be attained by the transformation, not the annulment, of the preceding stage, by the generalization of the objects already generalized, not by proceeding anew from the generalization of single objects, in the same way here the study has shown that the transition from preconcepts (of which the typical example is the arithmetical concept of the school child) to the true concepts of the adolescent (of which the typical example is the algebraic concept) happens through the generalization of objects which have already been generalized.”

And here we see why! The generalized perception is the PRECONDITION of the general representation. And the general representation is the precondition of the concept. The example he gives us is numbers.

Of course, at the very lowest level, numbers really are the result of the activity of the perceptible and perceptual activity of counting. But take away the objects, and the number remains as a generalized representation. And when we take away the number, and deal only with the realtion of number, the concept remains.

"The preconcept is the abstraction of the number, detached from the object and, founded on this abstraction, the generalization of the numerical properties of the object. The concept is the abstraction detached from the number and, founded on it, the generalization of any relation between numbers. But the abstraction and generalization of ideas differs fundamentally from the abstraction and the generalization of things. It is not a pursuit of movement in the same direction or its culmination, it is the beginning of a movement in a new direction, a transition to a new and higher plane of thinking. (230)"

This of course returns us to a point that Vygotsky made in the very first chapter and returns again to in the very last: the "dialectical leap" is not simply from inanimate to animate, but from perception to thinking.

There is a qualitative difference between the abstraction and generalization of perceptions and the abstraction and generalization of thoughts; they are distinct processes, and the word "activity" applies much more accurately to the former than the latter.

David Kellogg

Seoul National University of Education

--- On *Wed, 3/24/10, Andy Blunden /<ablunden@mira.net>/* wrote:

    From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
    Subject: Re: [xmca] The strange situation
    To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
    Date: Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 9:30 PM

    Steve, briefly and without references, my take was:

    * *preconcepts* are a family name for all the thought-forms prior to
    true concepts and so includes potential concepts, pseduoconcepts,
    complexes. etc.

    * *potential concepts* are, as far as I can, see the highest type of
    pseudoconcept, marked by its "transferability" to different sensory
    fields. Here the attributes have been completely isolated from their

    * *complex* is a family name for a whole group of forms including
    both pseudo- and potential concepts.


    Steve Gabosch wrote:
     > David, thanks again for these extremely useful files of your
    translations of T&S from Meccaci, Seve, Prout, and your Korean
    team.  I am in awe of the work you did, and are still doing.
     > I thought where we got stuck last year was on that pesky creature
    from Ch 5, the 'potential concept,' not the clearer concept,
    'pseudoconcept'.  I think Vygotsky leaves no doubt that the
    pseudoconcept is a complex.  I am still struggling with precisely
    what a potential concept is.
     > Both complicated concepts, potential concept and pseudoconcept,
    seem to be subsumed into the Ch 6 term 'preconcept'.  That move
    gives us a simpler term, but leaves many questions unanswered.  It
    leaves us little choice but to investigate concept formation ourselves.
     > Martin, I would be most interested, when you have the time, if
    you took your recent very excellent questions and reframed them, or
    more precisely, sharpened them, in light of Ch 6.  I think some
    important work can be done analyzing Ch 5 in terms of Ch 6 - and
    looking at Ch 6, especially section 6, in terms of Ch 5.
     > Apparently about 3, 4 or 5 years did separate the main writing of
    these two chapters, as you and Paula suggest.  On one hand, there is
    an explosion of ideas in Ch 6 sect 6 that are barely touched on or
    anticipated in Ch 5.  On the other hand, the rich, specific ideas in
    Ch 5 are insufficiently dealt in light of the new, general ideas in
    Ch 6 sect 6.  Vygotsky left that challenge to us as well.
     > - Steve
     > On Mar 24, 2010, at 5:35 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
     >> Martin, Steve:
     >> Last night I showed a picture of an iguana to my graduate
    seminar and asked what it was. Everybody said it was an ALLIGATOR.
    This is strange, because the word "iguana" exists as a loan word
    from English in Korean, and in fact everybody confirmed that they
    knew the word, but the word "alligator" does not exist in Korean and
    instead we use a Chinese loan word (literally, "evil fish").
     >> What this means is that my grads have the WORD but not the
    CONCEPT of Iguana--it is an example of a concept for others but not
    for myself. This is not the only situation where that is true, of
    course. For example, the words "Miss" and "Mister" also exist in
    Korean as loan words, but they are quite impolite and used to refer
    to social inferiors (bar girls, prostitutes, secretaries or waiters
    or male underlings of one kind or another). Here too the concept of
    the English polite form of address exists as a word but not as a
     >> Last year I suggested to Steve that in Chapter Six Vygotsky uses
    the word "preconcept" to refer to this situation, and that therefore
    the word "preconcept" is used in preference to "pseudoconcept" in
    Chapter Six. Steve objected that Chapter Five clearly says that a
    pseudoconcept is not a concept at all, but a complex, while Chapter
    Six says that it is indeed a concept, although not a concept for myself.
     >> I'm still unconvinced. As Steve says there really IS a shift of
    opinion on a number of issues in Chapter Six (the carry over from
    one structure of generalization to another, for example, and also
    the issue of whether concepts can be taught to pre-adolescents). The
    word "pseudoconcept", which is so misleading that it even confuses
    LSV himself sometimes, is not LSV's coinage; he took it from the
    Sterns,who took it from somebody else.
     >> So it seems to me that "pseudoconcept" in Chapter Five is a
    concept for others (for the Sterns), and it only becomes a concept
    for LSV himself in Chapter Six!
     >>  David Kellogg
     >> Seoul National University of Education
     >> Attached is OUR re-reading of Chapter Six, here in Seoul.Sorry
    about the Korean!
     >> --- On Wed, 3/24/10, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu
    <http://us.mc1103.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=packer@duq.edu>> wrote:
     >> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu
     >> Subject: Re: [xmca] The strange situation
     >> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
     >> Date: Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 12:57 PM
     >> Thanks, Steve,
     >> I've been putting off re-reading chapter 6, but I have to bite
    the bullet soon. I was thinking that trying to figure out what LSV
    had come up with and written about in chap 5 (and Paula has pointed
    out that he seems to have had this figured out by 1930) would itself
    be valuable. But you make a cogent argument.
     >> Martin
     >> On Mar 24, 2010, at 1:39 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
     >>> These are really, really good questions, Martin.  All worth
    very serious exploration.
     >>> My take on Chapter 5, after doing some study of it, and Chapter
    6, last year with David Ke. and Paula T., and some discussion here
    on xmca, is that Ch 5 might be best understood in terms of Chapter
    6, especially section 6 starting on pg 224 of Vol 1.  Here Vygotsky
    gets to his major theoretical discussion of systems of concepts, and
    critiques the limitations of the block experiments on page 228 and 229.
     >>> He explains that the block experiment "ignored the fact that
    **each new stage in the development of generalization depends on the
    generalizations found in the preceding stages.**"  pg 229.  He was
    critical of the block experiment not revealing connections or
    transitions between the stages of concept development.  He felt he
    was able to reveal these connections with the experiments described
    in Chapter 6.
     >>> It is important to emphasize that he does not at all **reject**
    the work described in Chapter 5 - the syncretic heap, complexes, and
    what he now calls preconcepts (was pseudoconcepts), and true
    concepts, are still intact - but he **adds** a whole new level of
    theorizing that he saw as crucial - suggestions for solutions to
    "the central problem" of his research in Chapter 6, involving
    systems and relationships of generality, the law of concept
    equivalence (any concept can be represented through other concepts
    in an infinite number of ways), measures of generality, systems of
    concepts, etc.  Vygotsky's most advanced thinking about concept
    formation is here in this section.  And some of your very good
    questions are addressed.
     >>> This is why I think that Chapter 5 needs to be seen as
    something of a building block toward section 6 in Chapter 6, and
    that it might be easier to read Chapter 6 sect 6 first and work
    backwards, or work them together as one study.  And don't forget
    that Vygotsky's publisher or maybe even Vygotsky himself got
    longitude and latitude backwards in the globe metaphor when he
    explains the law of concept equivalence! (pg 226)  LOL
     >>> Chapter 6 as a whole, of course, has much material on everyday
    vs scientific concepts, as well as the oft-quoted passages on the
    zone of proximal development, so that difficult section 6 in Ch 6
    kind of gets overshadowed, and maybe a little disconnected from
    Chapter 5.  The two need to be dialectically joined, I believe, to
    really grasp what Vygotsky was trying to do in both chapters.  And
    there is also some discussion on pg 189 in section 2 in Chapter 6,
    and maybe a few other places in that chapter, about complexes and so
    forth, that may also shed some helpful light on some specifics in
    Chapter 5.
     >>> - Steve
     >>> On Mar 23, 2010, at 1:25 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
     >>>> I am taking the liberty of recycling this subject heading,
    after having spent some time re-reading the posts over the weekend.
    I seem to have played a large part in hijacking this thread some
    time last year, with my obsession over the meaning of the term
     >>>> So this message is partly penance, but it also me trying to
    make sense of LSV's block task and what it tells us about his views
    of concepts, and their development. I find myself with the following
     >>>> 1. It seems to be the case that in chapter 5 LSV doesn't
    mention the distinction between everyday concepts and scientific
    concepts. Is it at all possible that what in chapter 6 he calls
    "everyday concepts" are what he refers to in chapter 5 as complexes?
    I suspect not, but the question seems worth asking.
     >>>> 2. LSV seems to offer not one but two explanations of how the
    child (or rather the adolescent) forms concepts. The first
    explanation is that concepts arise from the advanced application of
    the processes of generalization and abstraction, specifically that
    the word is now used functionally for voluntary control of
    attention, permitting a mastery of these processes. The second
    explanation is based on the phenotypical identity and functional
    similarity of concepts and pseudoconcepts. The latter are actually
    complexes, but they look like concepts and so when child and adult
    interact the adult takes them to be concepts. The child is in a
    sense then using concepts without knowing it, and LSV appeals to the
    familiar Hegelian process of in-itself, for-others, for-self, to
    explain how this "internal contradiction"is the "basic genetic
    prerequisite" for the rise of true concepts.
     >>>> I'm not suggesting that these two explanations are
    incompatible or mutually exclusive. But LSV does not seem to try to
    bring them together.
     >>>> 3. In other words, this second explanation is another case of
    "internalization," and the application of the general genetic law of
    cultural development. But LSV adds that this "peculiar genetic
    situation" in the move from pseudoconcepts to concepts should be
    considered the general rule rather than the exception in children's
    intellectual development. Does this not suggest that this same kind
    of process occurs as the child moves from heaps to complexes?
     >>>> 4. Generalization and abstraction are the two "channels" in
    the development of concepts - LSV refers to them also as
    "complexing" and "segregating." The first is very familiar by the
    time we get to chapter 5: he has been writing about the way a word
    is a generalization since the start (this is where as David has
    pointed out we find the quotation from Sapir.) But abstraction seems
    to appear out of nowhere. Is there a treatment of
    abstraction/segregating elsewhere in the book that I have missed?
     >>>> 5. LSV seems to get to the end of chapter 5 without ever
    telling us exactly what a concept it.  He suggests that it involves
    hierarchy, and connections that are abstract, essential, and
    homogeneous. He proposes that particular and general are linked. He
    adds that "most important" is "the unity of form and content," for
    this is what makes thinking in concepts a "real revolution." Can
    anyone pull these somewhat diverse (complexive?) characteristics
    together for me? Do they harmonize with the treatment of concepts
    (of both kinds) in chapter 6?
     >>>> 6. Finally, less a question than an observation. LSV writes at
    the close of chapter 5 of the way that “Concept thinking is a new
    form of intellectual activity, a new mode of conduct, a new
    intellectual mechanism. The intellect is able to find a new and
    unprecedented modus operandi in this particular activity and a new
    function becomes available within the system of intellectual
    functions which is distinctive both in its composition and structure
    as well as in the way it functions.” I take this as a clear
    indication that for LSV a concept is not simply a new kind of mental
    representation. It is, as Rosch proposes, a new way of relating to
    the world.
     >>>> Any guidance through this thicket will be gratefully accepted!
     >>>> Martin
     >>>> _______________________________________________
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    Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
    Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov,
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