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Re: [xmca] concepts

Mike asks the following question:

"LSV and Luria insisted that words were generalizations. How is that idea of generalization related to the idea of a concept?"

Here are some selections from T&S that provide some starting places toward grappling with how Vygotsky approached this question.

Vol 1 p 47-49 (in Ch 1) Vygotsky describes what he means by "generalization". Some selections:

"The word does not relate to a single object, but to an **entire group or class of objects.** Therefore, every word is a concealed **generalization**."

" ... just as social interaction is impossible without signs, it is also impossible without meaning. To communicate an experience or some other content of consciousness to another person, it must be related to a class or group of phenomena. As we have pointed out, this requires **generalization**. "

" ... true understanding and communication occur only when I am able to generalize and name what I am experiencing, only when I am able to relate my experience to a specific class of experiences that are known to my partner."

Vol 1 p 224-229 (in Ch 6.6) Vygotsky analyzes the relationships between concepts and how different kinds of concepts employ different kinds of generalization. Some selections:

"There is no question that any concept is a generalization."

"With subsequent stages of concept development, relationships of generality begin to be formed. With each level of development, we find a unique system of relationships."

"We have long searched for a reliable way to identify the structures of generalization that characterize the meanings of the child's actual words, for a bridge that would allow us to move from the study of experimental concepts to the analysis of actual concepts. By establishing this connection **between the structure of generalization and relationships of generality** we have found the key to this critical problem. By studying a concept's relationships of generality, by studying its measure of generality, we obtain the most reliable index of the structure of generalization of actual concepts."

Vygotsky classified structures of generalization into four types: syncretic concepts, complexes, preconcepts, and true concepts. He examines essential ways that they differ. In each kind of structure there are different:

" ... characteristics that are a function of the nature of the concept: (1) there is a different relationship to the object and to the meaning of the word; (2) there are different relationships of generality; and (3) there is a different set of possible operations."

Vol 1 p 244-245 (in Ch 7.1) Vygotsky is analyzing thinking and offers one of the main conclusions of the book, which applies to both the idea of generalization and the idea of the concept. Two selections:

"In psychological terms ... word meaning is nothing other than a generalization, that is, a concept. In essence, generalization and word meaning are synonyms. Any generalization -- any formation of a concept -- is unquestionably a specific and true act of thought."

"The discovery that word meaning changes and develops is our new and fundamental contribution to the theory of thinking and speech. It is our major discovery, a discovery that has allowed us to overcome the postulate of constancy and unchangeableness of word meaning which has provided the foundation for previous theories of thinking and speech."

Some places to start.

- Steve

On Apr 11, 2011, at 3:07 PM, mike cole wrote:

Martin and other conceptual knowers. LSV and Luria insisted that words were generalizations. How is that idea of generalization related to the idea of a

A con-cept. With-cept? I have no conception!

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