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Re: [xmca] moral life of babies

Hi Etienne
Your differentiating the constructs "choice" and "giving-receiving" speaks directly to the notions I'm trying to articulate on this topic.  "Giving/receiving as a SINGLE ACTIVITY that is a dialogical unit of analysis rather than giving and then receiving recognizes the primavy of the "other" in our notions of THEORY of MIND constructs.  Choice as a concept is one particular way to index this pattern of activity.  Giving/receiving [similar to teaching/learning as a single unit of analysis] is another way to label and index this particular pattern of activity.
Giving/receiving I think is a better DESCRIPTION [I'm not sure if I can use the term explanation] of the RELATIONAL quality of this intersubjective activity.


----- Original Message -----
From: Etienne Pelaprat <pelaprat@gmail.com>
Date: Friday, May 7, 2010 7:56 am
Subject: Re: [xmca] moral life of babies
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

> dear XMCA,
> i'm really fascinated by this discussion and am by no means an expert
> here, but I thought I'd weigh in anyway.  I'm certainly not 
> as well
> armed, conceptually, as the rest of you are, but here are the
> questions this news article, and the corresponding video, raised for
> me.
> I couldn't escape the significance of the structure of the experiment
> itself.  A baby is placed in front of a theatre, watches an
> "interaction" of sorts between two puppets where (in case one, a
> puppet helps another puppet reach its goal; in case two, a 
> puppet is
> an obstacle to the goals of another puppet), and then, in the 
> words of
> the researcher, "is asked to make a choice" between the help-puppet
> and the obstacle-puppet.
> My own view is that morality-as-choice, in the sense that 
> morality is
> reducible to choice, is a fairly important framing of 
> morality.  What
> I saw when I watched the video of the experiment was different: the
> researcher was *offering* both puppets to the baby and the baby was
> choosing which to *accept* from the researcher.  In other 
> words, I was
> tempted to view this important moment of the experiment as one of
> giving-receiving (as in a gift) vs. choosing.
> What did the baby do with the puppet after they had selected 
> it?  This
> is what I would like to know.  Did the baby offer the 
> puppet they
> selected to someone else?  Did they play with it? Does the kid
> interact with the puppet as if it were another person?
> What I'm getting as is made clearer in the experiment described 
> at the
> very beginning of the article: three puppets on stage, the middle
> puppet has a ball, passes to the puppet on its left, who promptly
> returns the ball.  Then the center puppet passes the ball 
> to the
> puppet on its right, who promptly disappears with the 
> ball.  In the
> first case, there is reciprocity, in the second there is none.
> Last year, Tomasello came to UCSD and presented the results of a
> series of comparative studies between chimps and children on their
> moral life and the origins of coordination.  Many of the 
> experimentsused physical structures where chimps or young 
> children (i forget the
> age, but they were old enough to speak and know names) had to
> cooperate to reach a price -- typically food or treats.  What
> Tomasello invariably found was that children *divided* the winnings
> whereas chimps did not.  In fact, if one child did not 
> share the prize
> the other would say, "hey, share with me!"
> Tomasello's argument, if I remember correctly, was basically that
> while chimps only have some kind of self-interest and cannot recognize
> a "shared goal" between themselves and conspecifics, children 
> are able
> to fold their self-interest into the interests of others and recognize
> that they have a "shared goal." This was an extremely economical
> reading of the moral life of young children and chimps.  It 
> largelyturned, again, on isolating actions as moral 
> choices.  But for me, the
> question here was not of self-interest, but of 
> reciprocity.  The
> children are coordinating not only (simply) because they fold their
> self-interest into the interests of others when they share the same
> goal, but because they are *acting for others at the same time they
> are acting for themselves.*  It was precisely a norm of 
> reciprocitywhich was violated when one kid chose to hoard the 
> treats that cause
> the other kid to intervene and say, "hey, some of that is mine, let's
> share it evenly."
> To return to the NYT article.  My extremely unlearned view 
> is that
> reciprocity precedes and conditions moral life.  Perhaps we 
> need to
> think here of "pre-linguistic" concepts, or proto-
> concepts.  But in my
> view this is again to isolate the child from a social situation of
> interaction and reciprocity.  My unit of analysis would be 
> larger: not
> the choice itself "as moral," but the fact that the kid is being
> offered a *gift* (if I may so say) and that this gift is from another
> human being (the researcher).  What is at stake in 
> accepting this gift
> from the other is another very huge conversation ... but in my view
> that is where i would begin thinking about the moral life of babies...
> etienne
> On Fri, May 7, 2010 at 10:26 AM, mike cole 
> <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Jay raiises your question in another, Andy. Plenty of 
> uncertainty to go
> > around.
> > Is sublate a particular kind of transformative relationship?
> >
> > If we are going to get keep into this, the work of Jean 
> Mandler seems to
> > require some kind of consideration. She quite explicitly 
> critiques the
> > "sensori-motor first"
> > idea in Piaget's version of it which seems a least similar to Jay's
> > formuation.
> > mike
> >
> > On Thu, May 6, 2010 at 6:23 PM, Andy Blunden 
> <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> >
> >> Sorry for my unclarity, Mike. The 3 options I had in mind are 
> (1) that the
> >> so-called "infant morality" remains in its independent form 
> albeit overlaid
> >> by social acquisitions, (2) by sublate I mean it is taken up 
> into a more
> >> complex form of  behaviour such that it no longer exists as 
> an independent
> >> mode of behaviour, and this I called "sublated" and (3) it 
> just disappears.
> >> So yes, I guess (2) sublated is "transformed".
> >>
> >> I don't know what here would be a "proto-concept" though. 
> Personally I
> >> think LSV can call syncretism a concept only on the basis 
> that it is an
> >> early stage in the development of what later becomes concept-
> use; the same
> >> sense in which crawling is a form of walking. In that case, 
> what we see is
> >> by definition a proto-concept, I suppose.
> >>
> >> Andy
> >>
> >>
> >> mike cole wrote:
> >>
> >>> Larry and Andy (and Martin and David I guess).
> >>>
> >>> I would rather withhold judgment on some to the 
> categorization going on in
> >>> this discussion. Andy wrote:
> >>>
> >>> "To me, it does raise the question, as Jay commented in his 
> belated>>> commentary on the infant communication discussion, 
> how much is retained or
> >>> built on, how much is sublated into more complex 
> neoformations and how much
> >>> actually just fades away to be replaced by other neoformations?"
> >>>
> >>> Is sublation not a transformation?
> >>> Are you sure that what the baby arrives with are not proto-
> concepts?>>> Everyone understand (e.g., can specify new examples 
> in an unambiguous way)
> >>> what counts as a neoformation?
> >>>
> >>> I feel quite uncertain about these issues.
> >>> mike
> >>>
> >> --
> >> --------------------------------------------------------------
> ----------
> >>
> >> Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype
> >> andy.blunden
> >> An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity: http://www.brill.nl/scss
> >>
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
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