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Re: [xmca] The strange situation

As always I will venture into the possibility of being irrelevant; but 
consider the following:

Vygotsky (1934/1999) writes,
Adolescence, therefore, is less a period of completion than one of crisis 
and transition. The transitional character of adolescent thinking becomes 
especially evident when we observe the actual functioning of the newly 
acquired concepts. Experiments specially devised to study the adolescent's 
operations with concepts bring out, in the first place, a striking 
discrepancy between his ability to form concepts and his ability to define 
them. The adolescent will form and use a concept quite correctly in a 
concrete situation, but will find it strangely difficult to express that 
concept in words, and the verbal definition will, in most cases, be much 
narrower than might have been expected from the way he used the concept. 
The same discrepancy occurs also in adult thinking, even at very advanced 
levels. This confirms the assumption that concepts evolve in ways 
differing from deliberate conscious elaborations of experience in logical 
terms. Analysis of reality with the help of concepts precedes analysis of 
the concepts themselves. (p. 141)
Vygotsky clearly distinguishes between what an adolescent knows, what an 
adolescent can verbalize and how that same adolescent may perform 
activities that validate that knowledge. 
Describing an experiment conducted by Vygotsky and his colleagues will 
illustrate the correlation of psychological tool use to a person's 
cognitive development. The study can be referred to as the "forbidden 
color" experiment. It consists of two trials. The experimenter provides 
the subject with the direction that they are forbidden from using certain 
hues to describe colored geometric figures being displayed. In one trial 
the subject is given cards to remind them of the forbidden hue, in the 
other they must describe the displayed figure without cards. The results 
of the study showed that preschool age students made as many mistakes with 
the cards as without, that adolescents made many more mistakes during the 
trial without the cards and that adults were similar in the amount of 
mistakes made with the memory aids as without the cards (Vygotsky, 1997b). 
Vygotsky concluded that the use of the cards by the adolescents showed 
their dependence on the provided psychological tools. The impact of this 
conclusion on the assessment of an adolescent's abilities is staggering, 
especially for a transition teacher who must assess a student's community 
based abilities. If the adolescent is depending upon provided external 
psychological tools as opposed to internalized psychological tools, then 
it is discriminatory to assess the adolescent's community-based abilities 
via school-bound instruments. Having a student fill out a questionnaire 
and interviewing the mother over the phone about her son's abilities is a 
far cry from observing the same student plan a meal, shop for a meal and 
cook a meal.
I have always considered Seth Chaiklin's idea of the zpd being the 
measurement of a child's potential growth.  So perhaps the following idea 
is not zpd but similar and very relevant:  Zoped: a culturally based 
activity that provides an opportunity for individuals to apply scientific 
concepts to everyday experiences via the assistance of somebody more 
experienced with the scientific concepts related to the goals of the 
culturally based activity.

what do other's think?


mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
03/25/2010 10:49 AM
Please respond to lchcmike; Please respond to "eXtended Mind, Culture, 

        To:     "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
        Subject:        Re: [xmca] The strange situation

I will not err by entering into this discussion until I am sure I am not
being irrelevant. Two brief comments that I think are probably not

1. A lot of work has been done along lines initiated by eleanor r in the
1970's. I will check for an update of the current thinking along lines she
started and see what I can find.

2. It may be worth people's while to remember that Davydov had his own
criticism of Vygotsky's notion of scientific concept which clearly does go
back to Hegel. For a summary of the discussion, see Engestrom, Ch. 4  at



On Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 8:08 AM, Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com> 

> Thank you VERY much for this, David.  You have just completely 
> me to Ch6sect6 - I feel like I woke up and turned a light on and 
> I had only been getting 1/3 of it, and now I am getting 2/3 of that
> difficult and fascinating section.  This was extremely helpful.  I am
> finding that the more I set aside what I thought I knew about concept
> formation from Ch5, the more I understand Ch6.
> What is your take on the relationship between the pseudoconcept of Ch5 
> the preconcept of Ch6?
> - Steve
> On Mar 24, 2010, at 10:02 PM, 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 
>> 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 
>> exist: flower, and rose. In truth, we must state a reservation from the 
>> outset, that is to say that the relationship of generalization 
>> 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 
>> well as the apprehension of the object by thought, that is to say, how 
>> 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 
>> of concepts (that is, they are not a hypernym for syncretic heaps and
>> complexes). But here Vygotsky suggests that there are two processes and 
>> 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 
>> 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 
>> the preconcepts of the schoolchild to the concepts of the adolescent is 
>> same thing that we managed to establish in the preceding study with 
>> to the passage of generalized perceptions to general representations, 
>> 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 
>> he appears to have changed his mind: the previous chapter is concerned 
>> the passage from generalized perceptions to general representations, 
and is
>> thus a matter of preschoolers. This is quite consistent with what Paula 
>> with three year olds to eight year olds.
>> "Just as in that case it turned out that a new stage in the development 
>> 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 
>> from preconcepts (of which the typical example is the arithmetical 
>> of the school child) to the true concepts of the adolescent (of which 
>> typical example is the algebraic concept) happens through the 
>> of objects which have already been generalized."
>> And here we see why! The generalized perception is the PRECONDITION of 
>> general representation. And the general representation is the 
>> of the concept. The example he gives us is numbers.
>> Of course, at the very lowest level, numbers really are the result of 
>> activity of the perceptible and perceptual activity of counting. But 
>> away the objects, and the number remains as a generalized 
>> And when we take away the number, and deal only with the realtion of 
>> the concept remains.
>> "The preconcept is the abstraction of the number, detached from the 
>> and, founded on this abstraction, the generalization of the numerical
>> properties of the object. The concept is the abstraction detached from 
>> 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 
>> not a pursuit of movement in the same direction or its culmination, it 
>> the beginning of a movement in a new direction, a transition to a new 
>> higher plane of thinking. (230)"
>> This of course returns us to a point that Vygotsky made in the very 
>> 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 
>> 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 
>> concepts and so includes potential concepts, pseduoconcepts, complexes. 
>> * *potential concepts* are, as far as I can, see the highest type of
>> pseudoconcept, marked by its "transferability" to different sensory 
>> 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.
>> Andy
>> Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>> David, thanks again for these extremely useful files of your 
>>> 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 
>>> 5, the 'potential concept,' not the clearer concept, 'pseudoconcept'. 
>>> think Vygotsky leaves no doubt that the pseudoconcept is a complex.  I 
>>> still struggling with precisely what a potential concept is.
>>> Both complicated concepts, potential concept and pseudoconcept, seem 
>>> be subsumed into the Ch 6 term 'preconcept'.  That move gives us a 
>>> 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 
>>> your recent very excellent questions and reframed them, or more 
>>> sharpened them, in light of Ch 6.  I think some important work can be 
>>> 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 
>>> two chapters, as you and Paula suggest.  On one hand, there is an 
>>> 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 
>>> 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 
>>>> 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 
>>>> impolite and used to refer to social inferiors (bar girls, 
>>>> 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 concept.
>>>> Last year I suggested to Steve that in Chapter Six Vygotsky uses the
>>>> word "preconcept" to refer to this situation, and that therefore the 
>>>> "preconcept" is used in preference to "pseudoconcept" in Chapter Six. 
>>>> 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 
>>>> 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", 
>>>> is so misleading that it even confuses LSV himself sometimes, is not 
>>>> 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 
>>>> 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 
>>>> Korean!
>>>> --- On Wed, 3/24/10, Martin Packer <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, 
>>>>> 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 
>>>>> discussion of systems of concepts, and critiques the limitations of 
>>>>> block experiments on page 228 and 229.
>>>>> He explains that the block experiment "ignored the fact that **each 
>>>>> stage in the development of generalization depends on the 
>>>>> found in the preceding stages.**"  pg 229.  He was critical of the 
>>>>> 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 
>>>>> - but he **adds** a whole new level of theorizing that he saw as 
crucial -
>>>>> suggestions for solutions to "the central problem" of his research 
>>>>> Chapter 6, involving systems and relationships of generality, the 
law of
>>>>> concept equivalence (any concept can be represented through other 
>>>>> in an infinite number of ways), measures of generality, systems of 
>>>>> 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 
>>>>> 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 
>>>>> 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 
>>>>> proximal development, so that difficult section 6 in Ch 6 kind of 
>>>>> overshadowed, and maybe a little disconnected from Chapter 5.  The 
two need
>>>>> to be dialectically joined, I believe, to really grasp what Vygotsky 
>>>>> 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 
>>>>> 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 'reflection.'
>>>>>> So this message is partly penance, but it also me trying to make 
>>>>>> of LSV's block task and what it tells us about his views of 
concepts, and
>>>>>> their development. I find myself with the following questions:
>>>>>> 1. It seems to be the case that in chapter 5 LSV doesn't mention 
>>>>>> 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 
>>>>>> concepts arise from the advanced application of the processes of
>>>>>> generalization and abstraction, specifically that the word is now 
>>>>>> functionally for voluntary control of attention, permitting a 
mastery of
>>>>>> these processes. The second explanation is based on the 
>>>>>> identity and functional similarity of concepts and pseudoconcepts. 
>>>>>> 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 
>>>>>> 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 
>>>>>> 3. In other words, this second explanation is another case of
>>>>>> "internalization," and the application of the general genetic law 
>>>>>> cultural development. But LSV adds that this "peculiar genetic 
situation" in
>>>>>> the move from pseudoconcepts to concepts should be considered the 
>>>>>> rule rather than the exception in children's intellectual 
development. Does
>>>>>> this not suggest that this same kind of process occurs as the child 
>>>>>> from heaps to complexes?
>>>>>> 4. Generalization and abstraction are the two "channels" in the
>>>>>> development of concepts - LSV refers to them also as "complexing" 
>>>>>> "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 
>>>>>> 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, 
>>>>>> connections that are abstract, essential, and homogeneous. He 
proposes that
>>>>>> particular and general are linked. He adds that "most important" is 
>>>>>> unity of form and content," for this is what makes thinking in 
concepts a
>>>>>> "real revolution." Can anyone pull these somewhat diverse 
>>>>>> 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 
>>>>>> intellectual activity, a new mode of conduct, a new intellectual 
>>>>>> The intellect is able to find a new and unprecedented modus 
operandi in this
>>>>>> particular activity and a new function becomes available within the 
>>>>>> 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 
>>>>>> indication that for LSV a concept is not simply a new kind of 
>>>>>> representation. It is, as Rosch proposes, a new way of relating to 
>>>>>> world.
>>>>>> Any guidance through this thicket will be gratefully accepted!
>>>>>> Martin
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>> --
>> Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
>> Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, Ilyenkov 
>> ea
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