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Re: [xmca] The Missing Part
No, as usual, you have my point pretty much exactly, only without the silly flourishes I sometimes add. Remember, though, that Mike's magnum opus was entitled "A Once and Future Discipline" .
Mike says this was an accident; Bradd Shore dibsed the title he really wanted, ("Culture in Mind") so he went and stole this one from Mallory ("The Once and Future King", i.e. Arthur).
It's not as catchy, but "The Once and Future Discipline" is a better title than "Culture in Mind" for three reasons:
a) it suggests, correctly, that the key cross cultural insights are not actually Mike's, but date from a much earlier period, when ethnography was actually a pretty dirty business. (This is not just true of ethnography, by the way, Yerkes, who provides a fair amount of the monkey business in Chapter Four of Thinking and Speech, was involved in army "intelligence" research dedicated to finding which soldiers were dumb enough to be used to clear minefields, and his interest in teaching apes to talk is partly motivated by his theories that some of us are more closely related to apes than others.)
b) it suggests, correctly, that in order to use this stuff we need to think a little more about where it came from in the light of where we want to go with it, to purge it of its geographical, social and cultural specificity and to harness it for a future where insights made in one corner of the globe become the common property of all its corners and all the bits in between as well.
c) it suggests that cultural psych is transdisciplinary rather than interdisiciplinary, that it's a discipline in the process of transcending its historical self rather than one which is merely exchanging ambassadors with bordering disciplines. That is actually what accounts for its temporary eclipse, and it is equally what will account for its future resurgence.
Shweder, for example, from whom I stole the idea of universalism vs. relativism vs. developmentalism, is still embroiled in a controversy about whether anthropologists in Afghanistan can and should collaborate with the US Army in the occupation of remote provinces. Shweder's position is that they can and should, because their presence will help troops understand local customs (e.g. the custom of "Loving Thursdays" whereby village elders undertake the sexual initiation of young boys).
Whatever you may think of Shweder's view, it certainly corroborates the idea that cultural psychology (of which Shweder is probably the leading advocate after Mike himself) has feet of clay, that it has not yet entirely freed itself from its roots as an adjunct of imperialist occupation, and that we have a ways to go before we can really say it has something to offer every human being it purports to study.
Take English as a global language (PLEASE! Take it away before it hurts somebody!). English even in its benign forms is a lousy language for world communication precisely because it is a perfect language for world domination, a perfect exclusive language for the global community of airport hopping rich folks.
English is a nightmare choice for a world language. It is phonologically bizarre, grammatically opaque, and pragmatically obscurantist. It has a dark past, rooted in a dominance born of genocide and slavery. But it also has a certain promise, a certain future, a certain freedom which we see whenever we teach it in a country like Korea, and we see that the more we teach it, the less English it becomes.
I think these problems with English are roughly the same problems that cultural psychology had in Vygotsky's time. Bleuler, who was Piaget's teacher and certainly knew Levy-Bruhl's work extremely well, broke with both Piaget and Levy-Bruhl precisely over the theorized from of these problems, the developmental issue of whether "autistic" thinking was developmentally primary, ontogenetically or sociogenetically.
Bleuler, and Vygotsky too, turned the Europocentric view right upside-down; they believed tha autism, far from being developmentally atavistic, required a certain stage of development to achieve: you had to be able to remember first and only then could you really think about your wishes, dreams, desires. They also believed that thinking "irrealisically" about wishes and desires led in a fairly direct way to more realistic hopes and plans.
For that very reason it was wrong to consider "autism" as an underdeveloped stage; autism, or as he liked to call it, "irrealism" was simply that part of human thinking that was genuinely relativistic, where neither an adult nor a man "at the pinnacle of civilization" (Bleuler is certainly being ironic here since he is writing at the outset of World War One) may claim superiority. There may be other areas where one form of thinking includes, subsumes, and sublates earlier forms (e.g. mathematics and science generally) but in the humanities we find variation without development, at least without development in the sense of the emergence of superior forms which asymmetrically include earlier ones.
That Vygotsky took this on board is very clear from his writings on creativity and imagination. That Vygotsky went even further than Bleuler is clear from his argument that irrealist thinking and realist thinking do not turn in parallel, like the wheels of a desk, only in response to the external environment, but have an internal connection, an axle, or rather a differential, which allow them to influence each other, so that in science too we shall find variation without development and in art and the humanities some genuine, common, universally valuable (because universally shareable) developments alongside the dazzling and dizzying variations which for the most part are hard to share.
Nevertheless I think Vygotsky shares Bleuler's basic insight,which we see here in the chapter which begins with the Missing Part. By putting the "autistic" function at the beginning of development, and by lumping selfishness, stupidity, schizophrenia, and perfectly normal cultural variation into a single syncretic heap, Freud, Levy-Bruhl and Blondel are behaving more like idealist savages than intellectual scientists.
So it goes. From Bleuler to Vygotsky, and from Vygotsky to Mike, and from Mike to me, and then from me to you, with each of us forgetting something and each of us adding on at every step of the way. This is why Vygotsky comes up with the confusing image of a chain that has a "central" link. But it's also why there can be, at one and the same moment, universalism ("We're all the same"), relativism ("We're all different, but equal") and developmentalism ("We're all different, and the differences matter") at one and the same time.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Mon, 7/12/10, ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org <ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org> wrote:
From: ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org <ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] The Missing Part
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, July 12, 2010, 6:24 AM
This indeed is an important passage in understanding LSV's developmental
theories. But I believe cross-cultural research speerheaded by Cole and
others has discounted 'primitive' cultures as being less developed in
thought and practice when compared to 'western' culture. Or am I
misunderstanding your point?
From: David Kellogg <email@example.com>
To: xmca <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 07/12/2010 02:38 AM
Subject: [xmca] The Missing Part
Sent by: email@example.com
This is the beginning of Chapter Two of Thinking and Speech that was not
translated into English. I posted it once several years ago, and Anton
thought it didn't add very much.
I think it does: it structures the whole chapter, because it makes it
clear that Freud, Levy-Bruhl, and Blondel share a common idealist basis as
well as a common canonical stature.
≪Мы полагаем, . говорит он, . что настанет день, когда мысль ребенка по
отношению к мысли нормального цивилизованного взрослого будет помещена в
ту же плоскость, в какой находится ≪примитивное мышление≫,
охарактеризованное Леви-Брюлем, или аутистическая и символическая мысль,
описанная Фрейдом и его учениками, или ≪болезненное сознание≫, если
только это понятие, введенное Блонделем, не сольется в один прекрасный
день с предыдущим понятием≫ (1, с.408).1 Действительно, появление его
первых работ по историческому значению
этого факта для дальнейшего развития психологической мысли должно быть по
справедливости сопоставлено и сравнено с датами выхода в свет ≪Les
fonctions mentales dans les societes inferieures≫ Леви-Брюля, ≪Т
олкования сновидений≫ Фрейда или ≪La conscience morbide≫ Блонделя.
Больше того, между этими явлениями в различнейших областях научной
психологии есть не только внешнее сходство, определяемое уровнем их
исторического значения, но глубокое, кровное, внутреннее родство . связь
по самой сути заключенных и воплощенных в них философских и
психологических тенденций. Недаром сам Пиаже в огромной мере опирался в
своих исследованиях и построениях на эти три
работы и на их авторов.
“It is therefore our belief", says (Piaget), "that the day will come when
child thought will be placed on the same level in relation to adult,
normal, and civilized thought as ‘primitive mentality’, as defined by
Lévy-Bruhl, as autistic and symbolical thought as described by Freud and
his disciples and as ‘morbid consciousness,’ assuming that this last
concept, which we owe to M. Ch. Blondel, is not simply fused with the
former.” (p. 201-202). In reality, the appearance of this first works, in
regard to the historic importance as a fact for future reference in the
development of psychological thought must be on the compared with the
appearance of “Les fonctions mentales dans les societes inferieures” of
Levi- Bruhl, Freud’s “The interpretation of dreams’, or Blondel’s “La
conscience morbide”. It is not simply that between these phenomena in the
development of the field of scientific psychology there is a formal
resemblance, determined by their level of historic importance, but that
there is a deep, internal kinship, a connection in essence which is
visible in their philosophical and psychological tendencies. Not without
reason does Piaget himself base in enormous measure his own studies and
constructions on these three works and on their authors.
Last night I was re-reading Bleuler's criticisms of Freud in "Autistic
Thinking" and I also came upon these words, which Vygotsky quotes
"Examining the more grown-up child, I also do not much observe that he
would prefer the imaginary apple to the real. The imbecile and the savage
are alike practitioners of Realpolitik and the latter, (exactly like us,
who stand at the apex of cognitive ability) makes his autistic stupidities
only in such cases when reason and experience prove insufficient: in his
ideas about the universe, about the phenomena of nature, in his
understanding of diseases and other blows of destiny, in adopting measures
to shield himself from them, and in other relationships which are too
complex for him.”
It seems to me that here and elsewhere in this chapter Bleuler is arguing
for, and Vygotsky is agreeing with, a position that is simultaneously
universalist, relativist, and developmentalist. It is universalist in the
sense that it argues for a universal human autistic response to areas of
experience of which we are ignorant. It is relativist in the sense that it
argues for the independence of an "autistic" response from rationality and
an autonomous art and autonomous humanities based on that independence
that is in no way subordinate to rationality. It is developmentalist in
the sense that it argues for an autistic response which develops out of a
narrow, immediately realistic (perception based?) reality function rather
than vice versa (as in Freud, Janet, and Levy-Bruhl).
Seoul National University of Education
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