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Re: [xmca] Rom Harre quote on acts and activity(tolman article)

I really liked the Charles Tolman article, too. I appreciated his very interesting presentation of activity theory. And I liked the way it contrasted the way contextualism relies on the statistical analysis of selected variables with the method of activity theory, which views phenomena as instances of social and historical processes. I also really liked the article's clear, accessible writing style. I always find Charles a pleasure to read, and I always learn a lot.

Thanks for putting this up, Mike. I thought about the selection you quote, which talks about the interchangeability (in principle) of humans in activity, and concludes that not only is the individual human found **only** in society, but individuality is only achievable in society. What this reasoning seems to reinforce among other things is the cultural-historical claim that context for human activity and cultural behavior is always social and historical. How do these ideas fit in with some of your recent thinking on context?

Commenting on the topic Larry brought up, if biological determinism and radical individualism are two alternative ways to understand or define context when compared to the cultural-historical approach, another might be to try to separate the cultural and historical. This approach might tend, as an example, to view context in terms of lived social relations while minimizing the role of historical processes. Or vice versa - one could counterpose the historical and downplay the lived social. It is always a very concrete puzzle to adequately account for both in a given instance, is it not?

- Steve

On Jul 29, 2010, at 8:31 AM, David H Kirshner wrote:

That clarifies, thanks Eric.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca- bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org
Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2010 10:10 AM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: Fw: [xmca] Rom Harre quote on acts and activity(tolman article)

----- Forwarded by ERIC RAMBERG/spps on 07/29/2010 10:09 AM -----

From:   ERIC RAMBERG/spps
To:     "David H Kirshner" <dkirsh@lsu.edu>
Date:   07/29/2010 09:51 AM
Subject:        RE: [xmca] Rom Harre quote on acts and activity(tolman

Hey David:

In the Tolman piece he uses the example of measuring students success when the variable of teacher 'leniency/strictness' is controlled and points out that controlling one action variable does nothing to impact the outcome of the entire activity and therefore to conclude lenient teachers result in unsuccessful students is an assumption resulting from a false premise.
Does that clarify or not?

I apologize for my passive writing, it is something that has plagued me my entire life.


From:   "David H Kirshner" <dkirsh@lsu.edu>
To:     <ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org>
Date:   07/29/2010 08:37 AM
Subject:        RE: [xmca] Rom Harre quote on acts and activity(tolman

Is the false premise that "measuring change based on variables doesn't really measure much at all," or that "measuring change based on variables does measure much?"

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca- bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org
Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2010 8:06 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Rom Harre quote on acts and activity(tolman article)

From a methodological standpoint I really appreciated the Tolman piece. It provided great insight into the false premise that measuring change based on variables doesn't really measure much at all. Rather it only parcels out actions when what really needs to be analyzed is the activity as a whole. I also appreciate the emphasis on appropriation of societal traditions as being the crux of individual development. Thank you for sharing mike, I am hoping that Charles (chuck, chaz, charlie?) could provide some words of wisdom that perhaps he has gleaned in the couple decades since publishing this article.


From:   Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
To:     lchcmike@gmail.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
Date:   07/28/2010 09:58 PM
Subject:        Re: [xmca] Rom Harre quote on acts and activity
Sent by:        xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu

I agree about the ideal of "both/and" approaches. However, when I see an account such as Rom Harre wrote that explores the historical roots of a particular movement such as "biolgical determinism" or "radical individualism" it helps me to situate particular discourse traditions and locate the historical evolution of the concepts within particular sociocultural traditions. This is also why I wanted to read "The Sociocultural Turn in Psychology"
I could differentiate historically the "discursive", dialogical", hermeneutical"', and "activity" approches as particular historical traditions. By comparing and contrasting the various accounts [and seeing similarities and contrasts] I'm able to attempt to coordinate multiple perspectives, and ideally be able to imaginally construct linkages between the various historical traditions and thereby develop a deeper appreciation of the common themes within the various traditions. Mike, your response, and your bringing Tolman into the conversation is exactly the spirit in which I post these either/or reflections. I see them as steps in a process of differentiation of ideas as a first step towards a new synthesis. I also want to emphasize that on CHAT I recognize discursive, dialogical, and hermeneutical themes being engaged in lively debate with activity theory. However, I am often confused as I try to differentiate between the approaches and therefore I appreciate articles which explicitly compare and contrast alternative perspectives on a common theme.

I plan on reading the Tolman article in the next few days in the same spirit of inquiry as conversation.


On Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 4:40 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

Interesting, Larry-
   It would be interesting to gather up all the various attempts to
explicate the relationship between cultural-historical, activity
theories and socio-cultural studies theories. There have been a lot!
   My personal preference is to work out the intricacies of an
which the attempt is to understand the AND/BOTH of the two positions
you/Harre outline, not the either or of them.
   To pick up on just one point, which is discussed in the Tolman
I sent around: It is a tenet of AT that action and activity are of
different orders/levels of scale, and that actions could be parts of
other activities.
Here is how Tolman summarized the issues (this is only a fragments, as
Larry's note); perhaps more fragments will emerge here.

So, Tolman writes:

[A human being’s] sense of action lies not in the action itself but in
elation to other members of the group. As Leont'ev argues (in his
experiment example of primal human hunting):

The separation of an action necessarily presupposes the possibility of
active subject's

psychic reflection of the relation between the objective motive
[getting food] and the object

of the action [driving it away]. ... [T]he beater's action is possible
*y *on condition

of his reflecting the link between the expected result of the action
performed by him and

the end result of the hunt as a whole.... (1959/1981, p. 212)

The emergence of action as a coordinated part of social activity

by an individual must be accompanied by a shared meaning of the

action that is reflected consciously by the actor. This is reflected

fact (among others) that the roles of beater and bagger in the hunt

principle interchangeable. The role of each participant must be

beforehand. One participant may prove to be better in one role than

and the assigner of roles may come to appear fixed, but this does

not affect the underlying interchangeability. Although the situation

immensely more complicated in our own society by the dependence of

essential actions on training and education, the underlying principle

the same.

Thus the necessary, conscious division of labor in human society is

most obvious indicator of the individual human's *s**o**ciet**a**l

is truly human *only *in society. Indeed, a still stronger conclusion

can be argued: that human individuality itself is achievable only in
society .

The *a**bstra**ct *individual of bourgeois individualism is a figment
of the ideological Imagination.

There are also lots of ways of approaching the notion of context, as
you note, Larry. What are some others that we ought to put in dialog
The one Tolman is contrasting to the position above is America's
view of contextualism in development, Richard Lerner, and his

In particular, i wonder what sort of a contrasting notion of context
arise within the framework that Harre put in discussion with CHAT?

On Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 8:53 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>

Andy, this is a continuation of your thread on reading Kirschner and
Martin's edited book.  Mike and Natalia Gajdamaschko elaborated a
particular account of the term "context".
My copy of the book "The Sociocultural Turn in Psychology" recently
in the mail and I've just read Rom Harre's article "Public Sources
Personal Mind" and his perspective on persons in context within
developmental psychology.
He suggests that historically there have been  two distinct
movements within sociocultural accounts of developmental psychology.

1) A movement that could be called "psychologists against biological
determinism".  The central question within this movement is "Whence
cognitive skills, emotional propensities, and repertoires of
displays?"  There are two kinds of constraints on the kinds of minds
Vygotskian processes can induce in a human being. The first
that the embodied human brain has an inherited architecture.  The
limiting constraint is set by the history of sociocultural contexts.
constraints limit but do NOT determine the person.

2)There is another movement that Harre calls "Psychologists against
individualism"  The central question in this movement is "Are
emotional phenomena ALL and ONLY attributes of individual persons?"
points out that the roots of this movement are different from that
Vygotskian developmentalist school.  This 2nd movement is attempting
"identify a domain of psychological phenomena that are neither
large-scale collectivities, such as revolutionary movements, nor
of individuals such as disloyal thoughts kept to oneself". [Harre
references John Shotter as representative of this movement]

Harre points out developmental accounts should embrace values and
explanations of persons in contexts. "This means that psychological
processes are to be interpreted largely as the result of the
[and coordination] "of meanings in accordance with the rules and
conventions of the relevant practice". Intentionality (meaning) and
normativity (conformity to rules and conventions) not cause and
affect, need to be
FRAMEWORK concepts of psychological studies. This recognizes the
of the root metaphor of cognition AS CONVERSATION. [discursive]

Harre suggegsts persons form identities by following  particular
storylines.  However Harre emphasizes that

"the SAME sequence of actions, for which certain criteria of
be drawn on, may be the bearer of more than one psychological REALITY.
...Actions and ACTS are not in one to one correspondence. If
is, ACTS - are constitutive of social and psychological REALITY,
same action sequence may be the bearer of more than one ACT
of more than one social and psychological REALITY".(p.36)

I think the above quote is central to Harre's account that
processes, though constrained and constituted within  particular
ACTIVITY,  can generate MULTIPLE ACTS of intentionality [meaning]
The recognition of the interplay between TACIT first order
coordination of activity within traditions [which is not reflective
but still communicative] and EXPLICIT 2nd order  meaningful ACTS as
REFLECTIVE and volitional suggests the "psychological reality" of
persons that emerge within normative sociocultural practices.  The
emergence of this agentic
to reflectively  ACT within activity  [and not simply react to
a central developmental dynamic process forming the personal mind.
It is the formation of the psychological realm of 2nd order "acts"
as volitional, reflective and coordinated [and the perceived
relationship between 2nd order ACTS and 1st order tacit activity]
that seems to be a central topic  of debate within sociocultural
accounts of psychology.

Do others agree with the way Rom Harre contrasts  the two
historically separate traditions or movements within the emerging
discipline of sociocultural psychology? Reducing the person to
either biology or
individualism is problematic and sociocultural accounts are
these reductive explanations.

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