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Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural

I thought that Ahab's closing line "Truth hath no confines" was a lame one, because it does not actually suggest any concrete higher emotion other than jealousy or any concrete social emotion other than fair play.
But there is another reason. It is not actually Ahab's closing line at all. The passage (p. 167 of the Oxford Classics edition) continues like this:
"Truth hath no confines. Take off thine eye! more intolerable than fiends' glarings is a doltish stare! So, so; thou reddenest and palest; my heat has melted thee to anger glow. But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat that thing unsays itself; there are men from whom warm words are small indignity. I meant not to incense thee..."
Lame stuff! Ahab is saying that:
a) You are a dolt.
b) I was angry when I said that, so it unsays itself.
c) There are men so noble that any insult they give you actually enobles you, and I am one.
Starbuck concludes, and so do we, that Ahab is either a lunatic or a jerk or both. He may be an entertaining jerk (the way we may find the professional hysterics who now dominate the radio waves and the political discourse in the USA entertaining) but he is a dangerous man to follow, and Starbuck feels, correctly, that they are doomed.
This is not a reasonable argument for the role of emotion in moral thinking; it is in fact a strong argument AGAINST it. Sure enough, it is also one that emerges very clearly in the passages in Martin's article where he discusses the response to the "burning".
I think that the youthful Martin Packer greatly exaggerates the strengths of egocentrism, and I think this is a reflection of his appropriation of Heidegger's romantic belief that thinking with your spinal column is somehow nobler than thinking with your brain, and both are better than thinking socially. 
But I also think that the young Martin Packer sees very clearly that you cannot get the sociocultural notion of justice out of the interpersonal act of revenge: an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth doth leave the whole world blind and toothless, to put it in Gandhi's rather doltish words.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
PS: I think Derrida's argument in "On forgiveness" is precisely that forgiving the unforgiveable is not divine at all, but very human. But, there are very many acts which are genuinely unforgiveable, and which should not be forgiven either; we demean the unforgiveness of the victim and we do violence to human justice when we even try. 
It seems to me that without a clear distinction between the sociocultural and the interpersonal, we can hardly distinguish forgiveness from mere forgetfulness. We need to recognize and to remember where exactly the desire to think with your spine and to think less of those who think socioculturally must inexorably lead, and where it led Heidegger and his neo-romantic cothinkers. 

--- On Sat, 4/3/10, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:

From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010, 12:15 PM


What more can I say than that I appreciate your appreciation!

Once I've written something I rarely go back and reread it, unless someone else draws my attention to it. I suppose I have a 'project,' but it would be more accurate to say that a project has me, so for both these reasons it's a little jarring to read descriptions of my own work.

I have the bad habit of trying to figure out for myself what I should do next. The result is that I often seem to be heading in the opposite direction to everyone else. The moral action monograph was a dissertation in a department of psychology that at the time had never seen a thesis that was not based on quantitative analysis, and mine had not a single number. My masters thesis had also been an interpretive analysis: the department's judgment was that it was accepted, but I should consider it officially a failure and never do that sort of thing again! The consequence is that I have become somewhat accustomed to operating, at least at times, under the radar. (The masters thesis was published, however, in Human Development. In retrospect it has some Vygotskian elements.)

And at I times I seem to be unable to communicate clearly what I am up to. Changing Classes was based on three years of fieldwork that was underfunded because the reaction to my research proposals was that they "lacked focus." Since the aim was to try to study the whole system, schools plus community plus economy..., that seemed to be missing the point.

So it is a pleasure to be participating in a forum like this where what I seem to be doing, and seem to have done, seems to make sense to some of the other participants!


p.s. your point about Willis is well made. The group of kids he calls the 'earoles' must also have been actively forming their identity

p. p.s. I'm not sure that David K couldn't put down my article. My sense was it threw him to the floor and he was unable to get up!  :)

On Apr 3, 2010, at 12:35 PM, Larry Purss wrote:

> Martin
> I have not yet had a chance to read the article on emotions that David K. couldn't put down.
> However, I appreciate all your writings and the themes in which you are engaged.  Your "project" has direct and immediate  relevance for my day to day interactions in schools in the role of a counsellor.  I am struggling to understand the role of emotions in sociocultural settings and the "attunement" BETWEEN persons [students] and the relational patterns that both constrain and afford the formation of identity in institutional school settings.  
> Martin, I also enjoy reading a single authors historical journey in their elaborating of their theme. Your theme "what KINDS of persons are CONSTITUTED in schools may look very different today from 1985 but it is the coherence of the theme that I find fascinating.  Also your writings in 1985 were also being elaborated in that specific historical time period in a particular culture and I'm sure also reflected the current debates being engaged at that time. Therefore, reading your 1985 article is reading an historical document that was in conversation with the ideas of that time.  However, the big question, "what kinds of persons" has been a constant theme which is being elaborated as part of a much wider engagement with what kinds of worlds do we want to share. [Bruner's "actual minds, possible worlds"  or Berman's writings on  "enchanted world's"]
> Like Andy, I know little about Derrida, but the little I know seems to emphasize "de-construction" which shares some similarities to Buddhist notions "no-self" and "process". I personally recognize a deep "validity" to these notions. It helps my personal journey but gives little guidance in how to proceed in schools. This may be a disservice to Derrida and I'll have to learn more.
> Peter S. Thanks for the article just posted. on texts and contexts.
> Martin,
> I appreciated your engagement with "Willis" in your book "Changing Classes".  I also believe his notion of "the lads" though accurate, is one-sided and doesn't recognize that ALL students are forming their identity, some being recognized and acquiring agency and others going unrecognized and forming identities in opposition to normative school culture. 
> A final point that I personally find relevant in your writings is your reading of Habermas and the concept of the LIFEWORLD  elaborated in "Changing Classes."  Your mentioning observing students "in transition" from their home lifeworlds and entering rational  distally controlled networked nodes of institutional activity create profound ruptures in identity. The lucky students who are able to be successfully transformed into "independent persons with self-mastery" move into positions of privilege while others who NEED the "attunement" of a lifeworld" to develop agency go unrecognized.  My overriding interest is how to support schools being lifeworld contexts of connection and not rationalized locations where we create achievement focused  kinds of persons.  The other thread on the developmental emergence of "scientific" and "academic" cognitive knowledge structures in the normative sociocultural schools of rationalized bureaucratic  cultures of
 modernity is also in tension with the lifeworld and its focus on "attunement".  
> Larry
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
> Date: Friday, April 2, 2010 6:39 pm
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> David,
>> Lots of good points! I hope the rice, though delayed, restored 
>> your equanimity.
>> I haven't read this juvenile piece in a long time, and I would 
>> have to reread to respond to your remarks. My point in sharing 
>> it was simply as an example of an attempt to study emotions 
>> without reducing them to individual subjective experiences. Did 
>> I really say emotion is nonrational? That was badly wrong, for sure.
>> Martin
>> On Apr 2, 2010, at 8:20 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>> Martin:
>>> 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.
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>> --- On Fri, 4/2/10, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>>> Date: Friday, April 2, 2010, 4:47 PM
>>> Larry,
>>> Here is the link. Clicking this should download the file as a 
>> PDF. At least, it works for me.
>>> best wishes
>>> Martin
>> <http://www.mathcs.duq.edu/~packer/Pubs/Packer%20Moral%20Action.pdf>> 
>>> 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
>>>> Larry
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
>>>> Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010 4:36 pm
>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] The Interpersonal Is Not the Sociocultural
>>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
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