Thanks for the second dose of Barsalou; I'm digesting it. It's not
concise like the other one!
But it seems to me that in both cases the crucial text for
comparison here is Chapter FOUR of Thinking and Speech. Let me
present THREE paragraphs for close scrutiny, corresponding to pp.
106-107 of the Minick translation (but the Minick translation really
leaves a lot to be desired here, just in terms of English grammar!).
I'm pretty clear on the first two paragraphs, but the third one is
hard for me to understand. Help from Russianophones much
appreciated, as usual!
Но все, что мы знаем о поведении
шимпанзе, в том числе и из опытов
Иеркса, не дает ни малейшего
основания ожидать, что шимпанзе
действительно овладеет речью в
функциональном смысле. Мы полагаем
так просто потому, что мы не знаем ни
одного намека на употребление знака у
шимпанзе. Единственное, что мы знаем
об интеллекте шимпанзе с объективной
достоверностью, это не наличие
≪идеации≫, а тот факт, что при
известных условиях шимпанзе способен
к употреблению и изготовлению
простейших орудий и применению
путей≫. "Everything that we know about the behavior of the
chimpanzee, including what we know from the experiments of Yerkes
gives us not the least foundation for expecting that the chimpanzee
can actually assimilate speech in the functional sense. We assume
this simply because we know of not one single case of sign use in
chimpanzees. All that we know about the intellect of chimpanzee with
objective certainty is not the presence of “ideation”, but simply
the fact that under given conditions the chimpanzee is capable of
the use and the production of the simplest instruments and the
application of “detours”."
Why does Vygotsky insist that there is not one single case of sign
use in chimpanzees? He has just said that not only the experiments
of Yerkes but also the more thorough and reliable work of Kohler
showed that chimps could (for example) use social-expressive
gestures, beckon to and invite each other, and even use “simple
explanations” such as reaching for a stick to explain the use of a
stick or moving a box. Why doesn't that count?
Vygotsky sees two things as partial steps in the direction of sign
use, and neither one is sufficient. The first is the use and
production of the simplest instruments. Now, the fact that Vygotsky
does NOT consider this to be enough to qualify the chimpanzee as a
sign user tells us that Vygotsky DOES make a distinction between
tools and signs. This distinction is later obscured by Leontiev and
even explicitly denied by activity theorists (and even in MCA we
find articles that speak of "tools for signs").
Vygotsky does not obscure this distinction. The material of a sign
is not essential to its function. But the material of a tool is.
Functionally, tool use does not necessarily include ideation, for
either the producer of the tool or for the consumer. I can produce
tools without knowing very specifically what they are going to be
used for, and I can and do consume, for example, food, clothing and
shelter without know very specifically about the tools which
produced them. The same thing is not true of a sign; in order to
understand a sign as a sign, we have to revisit the conditions of
its production: we must always know who is using it and why.
The second partial step towards ideation that Vygotsky sees in
chimpanzee behavior looks, at least at first glance, more promising.
It is the use of “detours”. I at first thought what was meant was
a «short cut», but in fact almost the opposite is the case.
Imagine, for example, a U-shaped cage. A banana is placed near one
of the arms of the “U” but it is out of reach even using a stick.
The chimpanzee can, however, use a stick to PUSH the banana near the
other arm of the “U” and then walk around the “U” to get the
banana. So the chimpanzee uses a detour and not a shortcut to get
Now it will be seen that this really does involve a very early form
of ideation, because the chimpanzee has to have an imaginary picture
of the situation in order to achieve the solution. So why can’t we
consider this to be a precursor of sign use?
I think Vygotsky would probably answer that although there are the
rudiments of ideation, this ideation is qualitatively different from
social ideation. It is not a culturally shared ideation; it is an
ideation which is really a kind of mental copy of the visual field.
Мы не хотим вовсе сказать этим, что
наличие ≪идеации≫ является
необходимым условием для
возникновения речи. Это вопрос
дальнейший. Но для Иеркса несомненно
существует связь между допущением
≪идеации≫ как основной формы
антропоидов и утверждением о
доступности человеческой речи для
них. Связь эта столь очевидна и столь
важна, что стоит рухнуть теории
≪идеации≫, т.е. стоит принять другую
теорию интеллектуального поведения
шимпанзе, как вместе с ней рушится и
тезис о доступности шимпанзе
человекоподобной речи. "We do not want to
completely affirm that the presence of “ideation” is the
necessary condition for the appearance of speech. That is another
question. But for Yerkes there is undoubtedly a connection between
the assumption of “ideation” as the basic form of the
intellectual activity of anthropoids and the assertion of the
accessibility of human speech for them. This connection is so
obvious and important that it is sufficient for the theory of
“ideation” to crumble , i.e., it is enough to accept another
theory of the intellectual behavior of chimpanzee, for the whole
thesis concerning the chimpanzees access to human like speech to
I think that Vygotsky does not want to set up ANY single criterion
for the appearance of speech.
First of all, that would go against his triangulatory method of
examining phenomena from a functional, a structural and a genetic
point of view simultaneously.
Secondly, if a phenomenon really does have a single necessary and
sufficient cause, then at least from a causal-dynamic point of view,
that cause is not a cause at all; it’s part of the phenomenon
itself, and consequently the explanation is not an explanation (this
is what Vygotsky says about, for example, the use of “libido” or
“Gestalt” or “personality” in his essay the Historical
Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology).
Thirdly, this is a book about thinking and speech, and for the
purpose of his argument, it is absolutely essential that ideation,
which is a phenomenon of thinking, should be both linked to and
distinct from speech. Vygotsky is going to argue that thinking and
speech do not diverge from a single common root as physiological
functions do (adaptation), but rather converge from separate roots
as cultural and historical phenomena do (exaptation).
В самом деле, если именно ≪идеация≫
лежит в основе интеллектуальной
деятельности шимпанзе, то почему
нельзя допустить, что он так же
человекоподобно ≪решит задачу≫,
представляемую речью, знаком вообще,
как он решает задачу с применением
орудия (правда, и тогда это остается
не больше чем предположением, а
отнюдь не установленным фактом). "In fact,
if “ideation” alone is the basis of the intellectual activity of
chimpanzee, then why can we not assume that the anthropoids would
“resolve a task” expressed in speech, or in the use of general
signs, as they solve problems with the application of instruments
(this would, of course, be no more than an assumption, far from an
This is the bit where I get lost. As usual, Vygotsky takes several
logical leaps that are not really spelled out in the text.
If, as Yerkes assumes, the mental capacity for ideation is at the
basis of the chimpanzees practical intelligence (and not, as Kohler
argues, the chimp’s ability to notice and make use of affordances
actually present in the visual field) then we should be able to ask
yes/no questions and get coherent answers.
We do this all the time with children in foreign language classes.
The teacher assumes that the child has the idea, but not the
language in which it is expressed, and so we ask yes/no questions
and we find, very often, that children can guess what we mean and
answer appropriately, using “yes” or “no” or using their
hands to show “X” or “O”.
It seems to me that Vygotsky is asking why it doesn’t occur to us
to ASSUME that we can do this with chimpanzees. After all, chimps do
solve tasks with tools, and in some cases (e.g. the “detour”
described above) there is clear evidence of rudimentary ideation.
But we don’t assume that the chimp will answer a simple yes/no
question by, for example, using a pencil or another tool to mark
“X” or “O” on a test.
It seems to me that Vygotsky is not asking why we cannot do this
with chimpanzees. Whether we can or cannot do it with chimpanzees is
a matter of hypothesis and future empirical research (and in fact
Savage-Rumbaugh’s work suggests strongly that it is possible).
What Vygotsky is asking is why we don’t look at the chimpanzee with
this ASSUMPTION, with this HYPOTHESIS. Perhaps it is because we
suspect that “ideation” is far from being the only basis, or even
the main basis, of chimpanzee thinking. Perhaps we suspect that what
chimpanzees think with is a lot more like a percept than a concept.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Thu, 7/15/10, Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Martin Packer <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] perception/conception etc
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, July 15, 2010, 3:37 PM
A few days ago Andy commented on a paper by Barsalou that Mike had
sent around. I am attaching another paper by the same author, with
the question, how similar is this analysis of cognition to what LSV
was writing about in T&L?
-----Inline Attachment Follows-----
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