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[xmca] MEDIATIOISM: When various forms of mediation become abstracted from concrete circumstances

The earlier thread by Paula, David, and Martin on abstraction,
generalization, and concreteness and how they are linked n our theories is a
fascinating topic which leaves me curious for more enstallments. I sense
that my responses to many confusions of David's writings is really the
confusion about the systems of generality and how they are theorized.  I
want to re-emphasize Martin's point that it is PERSONS doing the
representing and coordinating, and representation is only one aspect of our
humanness.  It seems that cognitive accounts reduce the person to
representations, constructivist accounts can reduce the person to language
and discourse, traditional psychoanalytic accounts can reduce the person to
psyche, and various sociological accounts reduce the person to various
notions of social determinism.

In the Cambridge Handbook of Sociocultural Psychology [chapter 5]  Alan
Costall's article "The Windowless Room 'Mediationism' and how to get over
it" expands on these reductionsist procedures which loose the centrality of
the PERSON-in-the-world who is moving around and doing the coordinating
[Agency]  Following is a brief summary of a few thoughts from Costall's
article. It seems to add to the conversation on abstraction and
generalization which is central to constructs in developmental psychology as
this tradition conceptualizes mediation and representationism. On page111
Costall discusses representationalism in SOCIAL psychology and states the
"Theory of Mind" approach [ToMism] extends individualistic cognitive
representational theory to the interpersonal realm. ToM assumes an explicit
dualism between what we observe and people's feelings, beliefs, and
intensions as unobservable mental states.  ToM then posits the existence of
special representational modules which are supposed to fill the gap between
the observable and the unobservable.
Mead 1938  [quoted in Costell] critqued this loss of connection between the
experiencing person and the things experienced when he wrote about
representationalism.  "Mind, had, therefore a representational world that
was supposed to answer to the physical world, and the connection between
this world and the physical world remained a mystery" (1938, p.359)

Costall also critiques the SPECTATOR THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE which treats the
knower as essentially an observer rather than an AGENT. The spectator theory
of knowledge leads to a conception of knowing as representationism or
correspondence. As Dewey pointed out "knowing is viewed from the outside"
Cognitive theory often assumes this spectator stance and IDENTIFIES knowing
with PRACTICES OF ABSTRACTION, such as classification, logical inference or
assimilates experience to their terms [knowing as inference]  Theory of Mind
is an example of a theory which priorizes abstraction.  However, as Costall
points out, this very process of abstracting as theorizing has the strange
effect of "seeming to remove us from the world and from other people"
(p.116) as we become spectators who represent lived experience.

So far, Costall's critique of representationalism fits the taken-for-granted
account developed within sociocultural versions of development.  However,
Costall also turns his critique on SOCIAL representationalism when it posits
representationalism as PRIMARY [as discourse and mediation within situated
social practices]  However, in social constructions of representation, the
"socially constructed" interposes itself bwtween us and nature (p.117)
NATURE, in this version of social representationalism is a traditional
FIXED, universal entity unaffected by US.  This approach may become  BIASED
to imply that the only things we do are with words and speech.[a

Costall recommends theoretically turning the clocks back in psychological
theory BEFORE modern cognitivism AND postmodernism and return "to the
remarkable writings of figures such as John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and
even William James, and their emphasis on the MUTUALITY rather than duality
of mind and world".(p.119)  For Costall  the focus on mediationism [not
mediation] is reductive and replaces the person-in-the-world with a dualism
of mind and world. This dualism can be theorized as individual psychological
theory or in terms of social representations which attempt to bridge the
dualism BETWEEN TWO SEPARATE REALMS [and then reduces our accounts to one
side or the othe of the equation.
Costall, in his summary states,
"We need to remember that our social practices of mediationare, for better
or worse, taking place IN the world, and actually CHANGING it by
constitut[ing] objects not constituted before" [Mead, 1934, p.78 as cited in
Costall goes on to say "We will need to find a place in our theories for the
existence of both meaning and mediation BEFORE AND BEYOND the realm of
representations and symbols, and take their materiality much more seriously"

I want to bring back this extended summary of Alan Costall's ideas by
referring back to Martin's comment on Vygotsky in his discussion of
abstraction and generality.  The person's concrete interactivity in the
world can never be abstracted or reduced to cognitive or social
representations. It is AGENTIC PERSONS using the tools of representation as
one aspect of their becoming to navigate their being at home in the world
that should be the focus of psychology

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