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RE: [xmca] The Jerkiness Of Development: Underproduction or Underconsumption?

Dear Martín and David and Larry


A Word Upfront (If You Will Allow Me)

I would like to suggest to my fellow lurkers out there that taking the
plunge and posting a post is simply the very best way of extending one?s
perspective, understanding, and appreciation of (our beloved) Vygotsky?s
contribution to the world and the way we think in and about it.  When I
posted my posting on the breathing metaphor, I was quite satisfied with my
understanding of this small element of Vygotsky?s psychology: yet since the
responses from David and Martin on Saturday, and Larry?s today, my world has
been immeasurably enlarged.  My thanks and appreciation are to them, and to
Michael Cole for making this forum possible: I am absolutely certain that I
am not the first to express my gratitude about learning in this way.


Some Questions and More Points

In the meanwhile, and until David sends me/circulates my essay-let (which
one it is of the many conversations we?ve had, on and off-line, I?m unable
to say ? eish!), what I?ve done is put some of my responses into their posts
below, and, because text formatting doesn?t work (how does Michael Glassman
manage to do it?), my responses are in between double asterisks.  


**To start with, Martín says:**  I do think that for LSV abstraction and
generalization are not the same thing. The proposal that they amount to
analysis and synthesis is an interesting one.


**Is it possible to analyse without generalizing, or synthesise without
abstracting, or do any synthesizing and analyzing without both abstracting
and generalizing at the same time?  Is it possible to breathe out without
breathing in?**


**And then Martín says:** It can't be by accident that LSV calls the whole
sphere a "system of generality," and refers to longitude and latitude as
representing two distinct (but related, of course!) "relations of
generality." This implies, to me at least, that 'generalization' is
something that the whole system does (and recall that each stage of
development - syncretic, complex, concept - is a distinct system). 


**I cannot agree with preconceptual representations being regarded as
systems, distinct or otherwise.  It seems to me, rather, that they are
approaches to representations; approaches to dealing with making generalized
and/or abstracted connections between things.  Indeed, their very lack of
systematicity, of a guiding principle based on a consistent, hierarchical
method of abstraction and generalization, is what characterizes the
non-systematic approach of preconceptual, complexitive representations.
David pointed out to me that the family relations type of thinking which LSV
writes of as preconceptual has both hierarchy and distance, and I concede
his point ? it is a ?system? of sorts.  Even so, for me, to avoid confusing
?system? / ?systemic point of view? with simply ?any old way of doing
things?, the emphasis of complexitive (and syncretic) representations needs
to be seen as one of a non-systematic approach in the connections the person
concerned is making between things.  In other words, there is ?an approach?,
even ?rules?, but it is not ?systematic?, ie, the connections are not
hierarchical, nor are they consistently abstracted and generalized.  What
complexes and syncretic representations have in common, which differentiates
them from true conceptual representations are a tendency to link concrete,
factual, and functional attributes rather than logical, abstract(ed),
essential characteristics or principles; an insensitivity to inconsistencies
and contradictions; and the lack of a system to compare or juxtapose one?s
actions against.**


**And then Martin talks about mold?**


**(Coffee is essential to any of these processes ? a most acute
observation!)  Would you say, though, that you are able to move between
these various perspectives and to analyse them because you are aware that
there is a system involved in one, and that functional connections made in
the other?  Also, the difference between your functional connections, I
would say, and the ones a young child makes, is that you are able to move
from one to the other, and the child doesn?t have the same repertoire ? yet
even if the child does try on for size his older brother?s approach, or his
unseen teacher?s, sooner or later his concrete, factual, rather than
abstract, logical, approach to the connections between things is likely to
come to the fore.**


**And then Martín says:**  What characterizes each stage in the development
of thinking - syncretic, complexive and conceptual - is not just the kind of
representation employed - a heap, a complex, a concept - but the kinds of
*movements* possible among representations (or rather the acts of thought
that employ these representations), by virtue of the character of the
"relations" among them. The "measure of generality" is the balance between
concrete and abstract in these relations, and concepts (being on a 'larger'
globe) make possible movements that include a greater measure of


**The measures of generality, as you say here, are the relations between
things in terms of object-relatedness at the north pole, and abstractedness
at the south: the structures of generality are the complexitive or syncretic
or true conceptual approaches/modes/forms of thinking that are brought into
operation by the individual navigating their way around the conceptual
world.  But ? these movements are, in development, jerky ? inconsistently
applied; preconceptual movements are jerky and inconsistent.**


**And he goes on later to say:**  Several points to emphasize here. First,
the power of scientific concepts is not simply that they are abstract, but
that they *combine* abstraction and synthesis in powerful ways. 


**This new way of thinking is not possible, says LSV, without the signifying
function of language ? because of the systematicity that the signifying
function of language brings to the adolescent/child engaged in an activity
with a more capable peer: adolescents engaging with Vygotsky?s Blocks talk
about colour and shape and classical and Euclidean shapes (they use
words/concepts to refer to other words/concepts/objects), and
eight-year-olds talk about yellow blocks and blue blocks and squares and
circles (they use words to refer to concrete characteristics), and for many
a five-year-old, ?big? means broad and also means tall, whereas ?small?
means small in planar dimension only, and the words ?flat? or ?short? are a
lot harder to produce?**


**And further down, Martin says:**  Some time ago, Larry asked this


On Apr 15, 2010, at 8:02 AM, Larry Purss wrote:


"My question, and I have no answer,  is when concepts are forming [latitude
and longitude coordinates] and  with higher mental functions include an
"expanding metaphorical globe" [horizon of understanding] how is the
person-in-the-world doing the co-ordinating?"


**In the main, by using the modes/forms/structures of generality such as
syncretic representations, complexes ? and truly conceptual representations


**And then, from the Piaget quotation all the way to the end, your argument
is very, very quotable, Martín!**


**David?s heavy breathing is compelling (and not because he starts off by
agreeing with me(!)):**

The great STRENGTH of Paula's heavy breathing metaphor is that it really
suggests that the "jerkiness of development" (by which Paula means the
nonlinearity, the crisis-ridden nature of development) is caused by a lack
of fit between the social situation of development and the child's
neoformations, encountered in the course of the child's central line of
development (viz., thinking in concepts, for the kids I'm working with).


**David?s identification of the role this lack of fit is crucial, and, as
per usual, David has an astonishing ability to provide tangible examples of
theory-in-action.  Also, he suggests that the child?s internal response in
development involves a three-phase crisis due to a surplus of production,
ultimately leading to an exaptation (an evolutionary shift in role of the
trait concerned) of the central line of development to a new central line of
development instead of that neoformation somehow expanding in an innatist,
adaptationist way.**


**And then, the conclusion to Larry?s posting of today encompasses a vital
element of the dangers of the over-production of abstraction:**


?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.?


**David?s argument is worth referring to in full in his original post:
suffice it to say here that it ends poetically with:**


>From the day we arrive on the planet

And blinking step into the sun

There's more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done

There's far too much to take in here

More to find than can ever be found


(At this point Tim Rice's imagination fails him, and South Africa is
converted into a sun worshipping hamster wheel....)


But the sun rolling high in the sapphire sky

Keeps us all on the endless round


**And so too, in SA, we blow our vuvuzelas and pray for the advent of an
electronic umpire to make sure of more appropriately applied red cards and
subsequent penalties?**


Best regards




Paula M Towsey

PhD Candidate: Universiteit Leiden

Faculty of Social Sciences



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