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FW: [xmca] Generality Is Not Abstraction And The Jerkiness Of Development

Dear Martin and David

It seems that World Cup Fever has heated up the airways since Wednesday,
preventing my posting from arriving(!), but hopefully your
abstraction+generalization conversation hasn't moved on too far since
then...  So, from Fever City/Nation, here's a third attempt at la duma:

In Chapter 5 there's an image that Vygotsky uses about this relationship
(between abstraction and generalization), perhaps as a precursor to the
longitude and latitude one in Chapter 6 (your image of the
longitude/latitude is compelling, Martin - David has developed one too,
which I hope he'll post for us as well).  I think this image is important
because the contribution it makes to the picture of concept formation is
that is allows for the jerkiness, inconsistency, and novice-like character
of development to be included.

Perhaps it's the way it is presented in the Kozulin translation, because of
the abbreviated form of the discussion that it appears in, that makes this
image more noticeable somehow (at least to me) than it is in the Minick one:

"...In genuine concept formation, it is equally important to unite and to
separate: Synthesis and analysis presuppose each other as inhalation
presupposes exhalation (Goethe)." (1986, pp. 135-136). (In the Minick
translation, it's on p. 156.)  

The perspective from this image casts a different light, then, on questions
about where abstraction is in the overall process, or where generalization,
or which comes first, or which does what, because they operate as part of
the same process, both equally important to sustaining life. This metaphor
also plays out quite effectively, I think, in the longitude/latitude
picture, because it provides a very apt metaphor for depicting the nature of
the engagement between these two coordinates:  breathing in and breathing
out in our navigation through the conceptual world - it's as close as

Extending the breathing image further produces an interesting take on the
picture in developmental terms, in how this fulcrum-like process operates as
we grow and develop.  It could be likened to starting out with short, quick,
baby-breathing;  then a hiccupping sort of post-crying, teary-eyed kind of
breathing; then the panting sort of up-the-hill on my bike kind of breathing
to the down-the-hill on my bike kind of exhilarated breathing; to the
controlled (instructed?) breathing of the master yogi and the deliberate
control of the free diver.

I'm not as good at translating things into graphic images as you and David
are, Martin.  So, instead, this is what the breathing image looks like in my
word painting of it, where extending the breathing metaphor depicts the
jerky, inconsistent, learning-how-to nature of abstracting and generalizing
in the process of forming concepts.


Paula M Towsey
PhD Candidate: Universiteit Leiden
Faculty of Social Sciences

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: 08 June 2010 19:35
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Generality Is Not Abstraction

Hi David,

I don't think one can say that generalization is "somewhere in the middle."
LSV proposes that as we ascend from the concrete to the abstract, from the
"concrete idea" to the "abstract idea," at each point we have a unity of
abstract and concrete which amounts to a kind (and degree) of
generalization. But this has the character not of a monotonic increase, but
a curve that LSV tries to convey through the shape of the sphere. That is to
say, at first the unity is richer, but after reaching a maximum it begins to
decrease in richness.  The most concrete of ideas can be expressed in only
one way, so there are no relations of generality. The most abstract of ideas
(LSV's example is number) can be expressed in an infinite variety of ways,
but here too there are no relations of generality, because all these
expressions grasp the world in the same way. But at all points there is
generalization, not just in the middle. As he says, the (North) pole is the
"very maximum of generalization,... the limit of abstraction." 


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