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RE: [xmca] concepts

Interesting, Steve. I Hoped someone would pursue this. So, words are
generalizations are concepts? The history of models explaining the mental
lexicon illuminates the shifts in thinking towards this idea: that words are
not the representation of the object itself, but cultural conventions, also
not a code that is transferred directly into the brain (knowing the word
does not mean understand a meaning or THE meaning. Once it was thought that
words could be located in the brain like items in a dictionary. In studies
of the location of meaning in the brain? Many areas are activated, not just

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:27 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: 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  

" ... 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
> concept?
> A con-cept. With-cept? I have no conception!
> mike

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