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Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
I downloaded this last night and read the whole thing almost without getting out off the floor (we Koreans are floor dwelling creatures). Of course, it was my wife's turn to cook dinner.
I have to admit that in addition to not having to cook, part of my huge appreciation for this article was the emotionally positive valence of your later work (and in particular "Changing Classes", which I read ages ago and which really changed classes for ME).
The Structure of Moral Action, in comparison, reads like a very gripping piece of Packer 'juvenilia" (that is, pre-Vygotsky Packer), you know, sort of like pre-Jane Eyre works by Charlotte Bronte. One recognizes that something more, something much bigger and better than a critique of Kohlberg and an appreciation of Heidegger is in the air....
My ink starts to flow on p. 5 where you say that emotion is a "nonrational" element of action. This seems a very nonwholistic, nonSpinozan, and at bottom idealist way of considering emotion, and it leads in a pretty direct way to other problems.
On p. 9 you quote Heidegger approvingly to the effect that human action has a semantic rather than a causal or a logical organization. But semantics includes causal and logical organization and in fact could never develop its hermeneutic (including its noncausal and nonlogical) component without them.
When we do quantitative studies of classroom discourse here in Seoul, we end up with correlations (e.g. between the demandingness of teacher questions and the length of learner responses in words). These correlations are not causal. But when we do THIS:
a) T: What's this?
S: Monster (sic).
b) T: Tell me about this.
S: It's a monster.
We are in a much stronger position to talk about causality and logic for two reasons.
First of all, the question CAUSES the answer in a very direct way: without the question there would be no answer. Secondly, by comparing the way the question in a) causes the answer in a) and the question in b) causes the answer in b) we can say something pretty definite about the way in which teacher demandingeness causes a longer answer measure in words, and using our statistical approach we can generalize pretty convincingly to large bodies of data. (True, it doesn't always convince reviewers at MCA!)
Opposing the causal/logical and the semantic is a symptom of the kind of infantile disorder that my grads suffer from when they tie themselves up in knots at night wondering if they should use quantitative methods or qualitative methods (as if we can count anything without judging its quality, or judge quality objectively without measuring!)
Vygotsky calls his method a causal genetic, and even a causal-deterministic method for very good reason. Obviously, he considers that opposing the hermeneutic to the logical and even the causal, or the semantic to the causal or logical is not at all helpful in considering the growth of semantics.
More, I think it's a symptom of exactly what drove Adorno crazy about Heidegger: his "jargon of authenticity" whereby the value of emotion was NOT in its social nature at all but precisely in its supposedly immediate and unmediated "ready at hand" quality.
On p. 13 you discuss Hume's distinction between the object of a passion and its cause, and you compare being attacked by a lion to the fear of nuclear war. When I tried this on my wife, who was fiddling with the unready-at-hand new rice cooker we bought, she remarked, with visible annoyance, that lions are even more abstract than nuclear weapons for most people in Korea, so we had to substitute a large dog instead.
To call the two things by the same word, "fear" (much less emotion) is a linguistic amalgam, like saying that running a business and running a quarter mile and having a runny nose are all the same concept. When I am afraid of North Korea setting off a plutonium bomb near Seoul I can still sleep at night, but when I am attacked by a large labrador retriever while I am running in the park I do not lie down on the pavement and go to sleep. The SEMANTIC relation of these two things is a problem of the etymology of language; it's a causal genetic problem for semantics, and that is all.
Understanding this relationship cannot for a single moment help us assign a function to emotion in moral decisions (I am not even sure that this is the right question to be asking; wouldn't it make more sense to talk of the role of moral decisions in the creation of social emotion?)
Heidegger, in your quotes on p. 17, appears a simpering romantic. He genuinely believes that pure beholding does not cause my wife's terror of the attacking dog, and it is more usefully ascribed to her mood. Worse, he imagines that this mood has the positive function of getting us to notice the variability of the green shades of life which would other wise be dimmed to the grey of theory. There--we have found a job for emotion in moral functioning; it is what restores the ready-at-hand to the present-at-hand.
At this point, I describe to my wife the prisoner's dilemma on which your empirical work is based. She has no experience at all of the hypothetical prisoner's dilemma, although we have both, at various points in our lives, experienced real ones,
When I get to the part about the answer matrix, she utters a curse in an obscure Chinese dialect at the unready-at-hand rice cooker, and blinks. "But all you have to do is communicate," she remarks. "Then the prisoners are always more powerful than the jailors."
I explain that this is not possible, because of the structure of the game. But why, she asks, should the structure of the game trump the structure of culture itself? Why not begin with the idea of trust and derive competition and cooperation from that? Isn't that how things worked out causally and genetically?
The other reason I managed to read the whole thing without stirring from my seat is that she somehow pushed the "slow cook" function on the rice cooker.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Fri, 4/2/10, Martin Packer <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Friday, April 2, 2010, 4:47 PM
Here is the link. Clicking this should download the file as a PDF. At least, it works for me.
On Apr 2, 2010, at 5:08 PM, Larry Purss wrote:
> Martin you mention you recently scanned a large file that deals with emotions [from 1989] and links it to sociocultural theory.
> It did not come through on my computer.
> Could you please send again. I appeciate how you bring in Heidegger, Garfinkel, and others to engage a constructivist and sociocultural dialogue.
> Being [as-was] and becoming [as-if] within HISTORICAL frameworks is an approach I want to explore.
> Learning as acquiring knowledge is central to the mission of schooling but your emphasizing the ontological realm of sociocultural theory and the historical roots BEFORE Vygotsky is "knowledge" I want to aquire in order to locate Vygotsky in this larger theme of social recognition, tension, and forming identity.
> I sense that your approach will help link my other interests in relational psychoanalysis and "attachment theory" with these broader historical themes.
> Thanks Martin
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010 4:36 pm
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
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