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Re: [xmca] Two "Neoformations" or One?
I think the main thing about Chapter Six is that Vygotsky decides that man made the concept in his own image, and not in the image of an apple.
In Chapter Six a concept is a doing, feeling, thinking, speaking and above all developing entity and not a senseless, timeless, thoughtless and wordless block of wood whose only relations with others are those that we impose on it.
So at the end of Chapter Six we have a pretty clear idea of how higher forms of verbal thought develop in their creator's image. They develop from the outside in, but of course we are talking about the outs and ins of social man and not biomechanical man; the class, the community, the family, and the classroom, and not the hair, skin and toenails.
(The problem with teaching this today is, as Eagleton says, everybody wants to talk about the bodies we eat and copulate with and nobody really wants to consider the ones we work and produce and enter into relations of exploitation with. Our model of communication is, alas, much more like consumption and copulation than exploitation and production, and more is the pity.)
So I think that the main thing about Chapter Seven is that Vygotsky is now in a position to show how the process actually works, by reverse engineering the outside-in way it developed. Unlike you, I don't care much for the cloud and the rain metaphor (in Chinese, the "game of rain and clouds" is a literary euphemism for copulation). But it makes complete sense to me to see real-time communication as being the reversal of the process by which the various planes it must pass through once developed. As with foreign language learning and native language learning, microgenesis not only does not recapitulate ontogenesis, it often actually reverses it.
Now, it appears that while Vygotsky was working on Chapter Six and Chapter Seven, he was lecturing at the Herzen Pedagogical Institute in Leningrad. Apparently, at exactly the same time, Valentin Volosinov was working there.
It is absolutely inconceivable to me that these two men, who had so much in common (including large amounts of quoted material) did not meet and talk quite regularly, though I can imagine that neither one would want to make very much of the fact (Volosinov cites Vygotsky only once and Vygotsky never even mentions Volosinov's name, though he shamelessly lifts his quotations).
I mention this detail because the whole section on "sense" and "signification" is almost meaningless if you go back and you read the original Paulhan source. As A. A. Leontiev remarks, Paulhan is talking about nothing more than the tired old distinction between denotation and connotation. Being a protestant minister and not a psychologist, he even manages to hopelessly muddle that up.
On the one hand, he insists that purely idiosyncratic meanings are "beneath sense" (e.g. his association of a certain man he knows with a plate of scrambled eggs), and on the other he decides that when we say that something was "too... for words" we are actually expressing a signification, because we just expressed the fact that it was impossible to express a sense, and yet there appears to be something communicated after all. Or not, as the case may be. No wonder Paulhan gave the whole idea up in his book length treatment of the topic (La signification des mots, 1929).
So I assume that Lev Semyonovich talked this all over with his occasional colleague Valentin Nikolaeivich in what must have been some extremely absorbing chats around the faculty samovar. "Sense" is simply what Volosinov calls theme, that is, the concrete, pragmatic specificity of language, taken on the psychological as well as the socio-interacitonal plane. And "signification" is what Volosinov calls meaning, that is, the abstract, self-similar, semantic generality of language, taken on a plane that is always present in psychology as well as social interaction, but in its pure form is only found in classrooms, dictionaries, and definitions.
One of them never repeats. The other never changes. And yet, microgenetically, the unchanging meaning is what helps us create the ever-changing theme. And ontogenetically immutable meaning is nothing more than the accumulated logical residue of billions upon billions of flickering, fluttering and fast disappearing themes. (See? Lenin wasn't such a philosophical neophyte after all!)
Seoul National University of Education
PS: Ah! The process of representing the thought! Well, here are three ways to unpack it.
a) There is a school of speech reception called "analysis by synthesis". It proceeds from the assumption that we analyze the speech stream by assuming that WE are producing it, and trying to figure out what we would be feeling and thinking if we were the producers of the sounds that we are perceiving. It's a good deal more technical than this, and some models of "analysis by synthesis" involve an "associative store" that we would not want to subscribe to, but the basic idea is absolutely consistent with Tomasello and Trevarthenan (and Bakhtin); the basic psychological impulse behind all human understanding is an act of imaginative empathy.
b) Jay Lemke points out that if we divide language into the three "Hallidayan" levels of soundings, wordings, and meanings, we CANNOT have a one to one correspondence at any level (because a one to one correspondence renders the whole semantic stratification useless--why not just go straight from sounding to meaning, or from meaning to sounding, which you please?). His solution is what he calls META-redundancy: sounding does not repeat wording or repeat meaning, but instead redounds their redundancy. A sound stands not for a wording or a meaning but for the whole act of the representation of meaning by a wording. A meaning stands not for a word nor for a sound but for the whole process of reconstrual of word by a sound.
c) You know the Russian formalists (and their cousins, the Acmeists) were much enamored the threefold distinction between form, content, and material (the FORM of a statue is Michelangelo's style of "non finito", the CONTENT is his idea of the Pieta or his David or his Titans emergent, and the MATERIAL, about which he himself wrote obsessively but two which we pay almost no attention today, was the marble blocks he so coveted, which he would call "my beautiful meat").
You can see that the relationship between form, content, and material is rather like the relation between meaning, wording, and sound. In fact, Vygotsky's friend Mandelstam has this to say about it:
"But the word is not a thing. Its significance is not the equivalent of a translation of itself (...) It is most convenient and in the scientific sense most accurate to regard the word as an image; that is, a verbal representation. In this way, the question of form and content is removed; assuming the phonetics are the form, everything else is the content. The problem of what is of primary significance, the word or its sonic properties, is also removed. Verbal representation is an intricate complex of phenomena, a connection, a “system”. The signifying aspect of the word can be regarded as a candle burning from inside a paper lantern; the sonic representation, the so-called phonemes, can be placed inside the signifying aspect, like the very same candle in the same lantern.”
Mandelshtam, O.E. (1977) Austin: University of Texas Press. Selected Essays. (Translated by Sidney Monas.) pp. 75-76.
--- On Sun, 4/25/10, Martin Packer <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Two "Neoformations" or One?
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Sunday, April 25, 2010, 4:01 PM
I have had in front of me all week a half-finished reply to your message about mastery and conscious awareness. We have had an out of town visitor this week, and it has been my responsibility to make sure she isn't kidnapped or subjected to food poisoning or just plain lost, and so my reply still isn't finished. But today I found some time to read over your translations of chapter 7, since that is the topic for class on Tuesday and I am woefully unprepared.
There are lots of interesting ideas in your comments to this chapter, but one really leapt out at me: that "When we speak, the sound does not represent the thought. The sound represents to others only the PROCESS OF REPRESENTING THE THOUGHT. By understanding this process (which is specific in every case) they can reconstruct the thought for themselves."
I have (redundantly) said several times on xmca that I find the work of Wolfgang Iser and Hayden White very helpful, since it shows us something about the way a listener/reader actively works with a text, oral or written. Their work is based on the insight that the meaning of a text is not contained 'in' it, but is an event, an occurrence, of interpretation and understanding.
Consequently, I find very appealing your gloss of LSV's description of the complex process of the relation between thinking and speaking. But I think you've made a leap here that leaves me a little breathless, and hesitant to follow. The sound does not represent the thought, yes. The other person has to reconstruct the speaker's thought on the basis of their words, yes. But perhaps you can unpack for me a little what you mean by saying that the sound "represents... the process of representing the thought"?
What I find in these passages is the proposal that a thought can be expressed in many different ways, that there is always a subtext, a "latent sense," an aspect of thought that goes unexpressed or hidden, and that consequently an utterance can be interpreted in several different ways. Thinking is holistic; a thought is a whole which must be decomposed and reconstituted to produce a sequence of words. What was simultaneous must be developed sequentially, as a storm cloud unleashes a torrent of raindrops. The passage from thought to word, consequently, is always indirect, blazing a trail of signification. Thought doesn't coincide with words; it doesn't even coincide with the meaning of words, so it must pass through signification. LSV seems to be drawing here again the distinction between sense and signification. Earlier he wrote that signification is "the stone of the edifice of sense," and David, in your comments you suggest that his view differs from
Paulhan's in seeing sense and signification as a complex unity. What he calls the "fundamental law of the dynamic of significations" (how LSV loved fundamental laws!) is that a word is "enriched" by "sense which it pulls from the whole context." As the word absorbs emotional and cognitive content from its context, it comes to signify both more and less than it could in isolation. This signification provides an internal mediation between thinking and speaking. When thinking arrives at words, the thought has been mediated internally by significations and externally by words. As a result of these mediations a thought is not simply expressed, it is "realized," "incarnated" in the "flesh" of language. The passage across the planes of verbal thinking - from thought to inner speech to the internal form of the word and finally to its outer form - can take an infinite variety of routes. Furthermore, the explanation of thinking is to be found not in other
thoughts but in the motives and wishes of the speaker that underlying and move thoughts, as the wind moves the storm cloud. To understand someones speech is in the final analysis to grasp their motives.
On Apr 20, 2010, at 4:17 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
> What if "conscious awareness and mastery" were not TWO neoformations but only one? What I mean is that "mastery" in its fully mature, adolescent form is not unconscious mastery, the sort of thing we see in fluent language performance of grammatical rules, but instead the DELIBERATE, INTENTIONAL, CONSCIOUS mastery of the child's behavior, the sort of thing we see when errors become deliberate, intentional, and conscious acts of linguistic creativity?
> Some Korean fifth graders are playing a game. It involves looking at cards and issuing invitations, e.g. "Let's go skating'" and then accepting the invitation and the card if you have a matching card but refusing the invitation and declining the card with a suitable excuse. Eunji is offered the skating card, and most of the children say "Let's play skating" (because the previous card was "Let's play basketball." Eunji declines the card using "Sorry I can't" but does not give a suitable excuse. The teacher asks "Why not?" to prompt her, and she cannot think of one, so she says "Because I don't have that card". According to the rules of the game, this is wrong because it is not a reason to not go skating and she loses the round, but it certainly shows conscious awareness and mastery of the rules.
> When we look at the other "neoformations" described in Volume Five of the Collected Works, we frequently notice that there are several incarnations of the same neoformation. For example, the neoformation for the Crisis at One is "autonomous speech" but it is also autonomous walking and other forms of autonomous activity as well. The crisis of "negativity" involves nay-saying but it also involves nay-doing and even nay-thinking.
> Vygotsky has a difficult problem. He has to somehow reconcile his pre-Decree (on pedology) work (viz, Chapter Five of Thinking and Speech) which is entirely about the complex and which very clearly states that the concept qua concept does not exist until adolescence with his post-Decree work (viz. Chapter Six) whcih just as clearly says that the previous work was wrong and that complexes must be left at the schoolhouse door in primary school.
> He takes one step back--he criticizes his previous work in a thoroughly principled manner, without pissing on any of his former colleagues (not an easy feat, given the circumstances). And then he takes three giant leaps forward:
> a) he redefines the highest stage of complexive thinking as the "preconcept", viz. the concept for others, the concept which is behaviorally mastered but not necessarily conscious. In this way, "conscous awareness and mastery" can be only one neoformation and not two, but it is the neoformation in its preconceptual stage, a stage which corresponds to what was referred to, rather confusingly, as a pseudoconcept in Chapter Five.
> b) he brings future development into the present by including the next moment of development as a visible behavioral potential in the present moment of development (what we see in collaboration). In this way, "conscious awareness and mastery" might be a behavior which has been independently mastered but whose consciousness is for the present moment of development still inter-mental.
> c) he begins to work out, quite explicitly, the behavioral, mental, and verbal descriptions of each moment of development as part of a unified (but unfinished) scheme of Child Development. That is why not just the age period of adolescence but all of the age periods described in Volume Five have different manfestations in action, thinking and speech (and after the Crisis at One the central line of development is always a verbal line)
> William Hazlitt, a failed painter, romantic, dissenter, and essayist who hung around with Coleridge and Wordsworth but unlike them never gave up his belief in the French Revolution and his fierce hatred for monarchy, wrote, while still very young, an essay in which he criticized all of the previous psychological writing by Locke and Hume which tried to explain behavior from the inside, by ascribing the child's actions to his "passions" or his "interests". Hazlitt argued that the child's future man (what his friend Wordsworth referred to when the he said "the child is the father of the man") is unreal but extremely real to the child, and in that way the child's relationship to that future person is very similar to the child's relationship to OTHER PEOPLE in his environment. That means that development, motivated by actions taken with the future child and the virtual self that the child sees around him in mind, can be both interested and disinterested,
> both reducible to the child's interests and passions and not so.
> Unlike Vygotsky, Hazlitt lived on a few more decades after this mighty leap, but he was never able to publish the ramifications of this "theory of human action" in a single volume. The weird thing is that it peeks out at you from most of the essays that Hazlitt did write, on things like boxing, painting, and...the way his friend Thomas Keane played Hamlet in the Shakespeare play.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Mon, 4/19/10, Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> From: Martin Packer <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The strange situation
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Date: Monday, April 19, 2010, 6:47 AM
> Thanks, Sue. That makes perfect sense, doesn't it - there is indeed then a focus in the Golden Key Schools on the two neoformations that LSV emphasized: conscious awareness and mastery. One thing that puzzles me, though, is that LSV proposed that these neoformations are involved in the use of concepts, not of complexes, and Gennady Kratsova writes that the program assumes that concepts will not be used until adolescence. Yet they apparently make efforts to encourage conscious awareness and mastery in younger children.
> Can you tell us more about the way moral development is viewed in the Golden Key Schools, and how the "nurturer" takes care of this?
> On Apr 18, 2010, at 1:40 AM, Sue March wrote:
>> Hi Martin
>> I was at the summer school last year. According to my notes the term
>> Gennady used was овладение (ovladenie) which I would translate as mastery or
>> mastering rather than acquiring. I do not know if this is how it is usually
>> translated though - others may be able to elaborate on this.
>> Have just caught up with this interesting conversation over the weekend
>> (perils of part-time PhD study). The "pair pedagogy" is indeed a crucial
>> part of creating the ZPD in Golden Key Schools. There are different terms
>> in Russian for the two teachers - one is a "teacher" or учитель (uchitel')
>> and the other a "nurturer" or воспитатель (vospitatel') who takes care of
>> the moral upbringing of the child, two aspects of development that were not
>> separate in Vygotsky's time and which are reunited in the GK schools.
>> The Golden Key School methodology (including pair pedagogy) was developed by
>> Elena and Gennady together with their colleague Elena Berezhkovskaya.
>> Elena and Gennady have also published the following chapter which may be of
>> Kravtsov, G. G., & Kravtsova, E. E. (2009). Cultural-historical psychology
>> in the practice of education (S. March, Trans.). In M. Fleer, M. Hedegaard &
>> J. Tudge (Eds.), World yearbook of education 2009: childhood studies and
>> the impact of globalization: policies and practices at global and local
>> levels. New York: Routledge.
>> Sue March
>> PhD Candidate
>> Monash University, Australia
>> On 18/04/10 11:26 AM, "Martin Packer" <email@example.com> wrote:
>>> P.S. Gennadi Kravtsov writes that "Acquiring is a very important concept in
>>> Vygotsky’s theory." Can any one tell me what Russian word is being used here,
>>> and how it is usually translated, because I don't think 'acquire' appears as a
>>> central concept in the English translations I am familiar with.
>>> xmca mailing list
>> xmca mailing list
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