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Re: [xmca] concepts
Dear Ana, Vera:
Einstein, interviewed, said that language appears to play no part in his thinking; that he always began with a particularly strong VISUAL image: a man straddling a train going faster than light, or a falling elevator, or chucking a heavy weight out of the window of a train.
Of course, you and I can see how much these visual images depend on verbal perception, on thinking sights rather than seeing thoughts. But it is certainly true that they are not directly dependent on word meanings; I remember my father laughing at my brother, who complained that all the TAs at MIT had strong Chinese accents, and saying that it was their written equations on the blackboard that he should be attending to anyway.
I find myself in perfect agreement with what Ana suggests about the use of language in classrooms in general and foreign language classrooms in particular. But I notice that the various functions she suggests "to know something, to experience something meaningful, or to act in some significant way in a meaningful conversation" are different in important ways. I would say that the kids in our classrooms, perhaps unlike those in american classrooms, know a lot and experience learning as meaningful, but they lack the ability to act in a significant way in a meaningful conversation.
When we look at the "stable" periods of development in Volume Five, we notice that they are often marked by a child's transition from knowing and experiencing to acting. For example, in infancy the child goes from observing smiles to smiling, and in early childhood from understanding speech to speaking. Even the critical periods of development are caused by a somewhat too precocious activity on the part of the child; the substitution of a neoformation for a whole social situation of development (e.g. the crisis of "No!" at three).
I guess that it's the transition from knowing and experiencing to acting that I am most interested in. The kids are looking at a picture which show a boy, Jinho, and a girl, Ann. They are looking at a calendar which says it is May first and there are only four days until the Korean holiday of Children's Day. They are sixth graders, and it is the last Children's Day of their young lives; they are discussing, somewhat enviously and peevishly, what they will get as presents, and how many they will get.
There isn't much to look at in the picture but there is a great deal to feel and to think about, and consequently to say.In much of my data, the teacher simply throws this away by concentrating on the visuals:
T: How many people are there in this picture?
T: What are they looking at?
T: Who are they?
In order to fully "novelize" the story, we need to do more than to make the children see. We need to talk about how Jiinho and Ann feel, what they are thinking, and what they are saying. The teacher ALSO throws this away by asking:
T: What are they thinking/feeling/saying?
Jinho and Ann feel, think, and say very differently; Ann's parents are rich and she got a bike last year; she is looking forward to an even more expensive present this year, and another one on her birthday which is only two weeks after Children's Day. But Jinho's parents are poor, and he has the misfortune of being born on Children's Day so he gets only one present.
So I am trying to get my teachers to do this:
T: Let's play ask and answer. I ask, you answer. You ask, I answer. One answer is one point. Now, here's my question: How is Ann feeling?
You can see that by simply NOT using "they" and NOT focusing on the picture, the teacher can give the children the wherewithal to actively USE language: they can now ask "How is Jinho feeling?" and then "What is Jinho thinking?" and even "What is Ann/Jinho saying?" But if we do not do this, and if we focus narrowly on the noun-filled world of the picture, then we are likely to get one word answers. This does not mean I don't think that words should be used to make pictures. It's just that in this case things need to go the other way around.
"Gesture" is a verb for me too. It's also an adjective: "gestic". For Brecht, language is "gestic" when it does not merely represent but re-enacts what it presents. For example:
"Wir haben hun-ger!" ("We are hun-gry!" with a hollow ring on the end!)
"If thine eye offendeth thee...pluck it out!" (the crime before the horrifying punishment)
Brecht's two example are both horrific, but I think that Brecht better than anyone (except possibly Einstein) that seeing is not enough.
The Conrad function of speech, through the transformation of concepts into percepts "to make you see" is an important one, But it is not the only function, and it's not even the most important function of literary language.
For Graves, language had the key function of helping him NOT see--helping him to recover from shell shock. That is why he wrote:
Children are dumb to say how hot the day is
How hot the scent is of the summer rose
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by
But we have speech to chill the angry day
And speech to dull the rose’s cruel scent
We spell away the overhanging night
We spell away the soldiers and the fright
There’s a cool web of language winds us in
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.
But if we let our tongues lose self-possession
Throwing off language and its watery clasp
Before our death instead of when death comes
Facing the wide glare of the children’s day
Facing the rose, the dark sky, and the drums
We shall go mad no doubt and die that way
(The Cool Web, 1927)
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Fri, 4/15/11, Vera John-Steiner <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Vera John-Steiner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Friday, April 15, 2011, 10:57 AM
Hi everyone writing about concepts.
As I was reading the many messages I was also teaching a class about Einstein's theory of relativity in my creativity class. I was struck by how he lived vividly with abstraction, enriching them with tactile and graphic examples. To develop the theory, he had to struggle with the physical implication of concepts but he was also looking at significant relationships between them. One of the things that I have missed, probably because there was so much to read, is a description of the activity of constructing systems of concepts which sometimes require hollowing them, testing them against empirical data, working with them to simplify them, but interconnecting them.
That is part of theoretical practice which we engage in here at xmca often and with passion. There is a new development in mathematics, the study of the philosophy of mathematical practice. I think that is an important unification of the activity of the mathematician with his/her tools: mathematical concepts.
----- Original Message ----- From: "Ana Marjanovic-Shane" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2011 12:58 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
Dear David and all,
Your vision of teaching concepts helped me realize why so many schools kill interest in learning and make it into often tedious chore to be done on demand of a teacher, rather than because one is interested or really needs to. It seems to me that "leaving Conrad out of classroom" teaches children not so much about concepts and generalizations but more that school knowledge is a lifeless structure without anybody in it, through which they have to wonder alone, like through a glass labyrinth, hearing echos of their own voices, but never entering a dialogue.
I am absolutely certain that no baby would ever learn to speak, if they would learn and learn and learn to generalize without dialogues and narratives, and a life full of real, material, syntagmatic surprises. I agree with Voloshinov's claim that for a speaker (and a learner of a language), language is never an "abstract system of properties and static concepts", but a live, moving and ideologically charged way of doing (in the sense of POSTUPOK -- an act towards another person which caries an ethical charge) by creating and shaping relationships and positions (vistas). Through this live process of making relationships and connections through dialogues, learners of a language also build paradigmatic structures of concepts, structures that they can organize and reorganize at the moment's notice (through metaphors and other so called "figures" of speech -- which, incidentally, is a great way to describe what they are literally doing). Concepts are neither
a GOAL, nor an underlying, independently existing STRUCTURE of language: they are, on one hand, just potential ways to gather and shape certain mental tools, AND at the same time they are like instant holograms, that speakers can conjure (using new combinations of previous relations) and instantaneously gesture to one other (not a typo, not a foreigner's error -- I am using "gesture" as a verb). Concepts' "life spans" range from fleeting moments to centuries old -- but they are always a product of relations and relationships in an instant (episode) of a cultural practice (real or imagined).
I am digressing...
Teaching concepts without live content and, even more, without an immediate purpose -- kills the concepts themselves: they actually do not breathe without air (another Voloshinov's metaphor) and their air is a live language that is addressed to someone with a purpose! This SYNTAGMATIC air is what gives them life! It is true that studying concepts and writing about their origins, development , structure and relations between them -- is a purposeful activity in which they have a special position and are, so to speak, re-puposed in another habitat (as we do here). But students of a foreign language usually are there to learn a language -- for the purpose of using it -- not of studying the conceptual aspect of language in itself. This may become their interest -- but not necessarily. Language learners are usually neither linguists, semioticians nor logicians. Language is opaque for the linguists/semioticians/logicans. This opaqueness, its visibility, is
great when language itself it in the focus, but when language is opaque, it is an obstacle and a barrier to actually using it for painting pictures with words. (The so called "use/mention" distinction by D. Hoffstadter, "Goddel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, 1979).
Too many children and adults in today's schools spend hours and hours in decontextualized activities trying to make long lists of ingredients and catalogues of possible combinations of fossilized fragments of someone else's concepts. They have many ingredients and seldom learn how to think with them -- unless they are immersed in a practice in which the concepts will live for them for the first time. Conrad could maybe help them experience that life in school from the very beginning.
What do you think?
Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane
Assistant Professor of Education
Chestnut Hill College
St. Joseph Hall, 4th Floor, Room #172
On Apr 13, 2011, at 7:59 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
> Ana, Jay:
> Yes, I agree. “Jinho has stripey hair” is more novelistic than “Jinho is a Korean boy”, if we take seriously Joseph Conrad’s injunction that the task of a novelist is “to make you see” with words (in his introduction to the very novelistic but not particularly enlightened tale "The Nigger of the Narcissus").
> But a teacher’s task is a little different from Conrad's: it is to make you think and talk with words. And my argument was that the "Jiniho is a Korean boy" was a better mdel for "Ann is a non-Korean girl" than "Jinho has stripey hair". I encourage my teachers (by bad example, among other things) to keep their novelizing in their novels and out of the classroom, which is a place for children to learn, and to learn, and to learn to generalize, so that they may some day, if they can, learn to novelize.
> I think that when you are writing a novel, you have an enormous amount of SYNTAGMATIC variation: new situations bring entirely new vocabulary. This can be empowering...but only if you have the power to do it, and when you are learning a foreign language which is as different as English from Korean, that is simply not the case.
> Of course, being a good raconteur is highly respected, and lucrative, work; it is certainly far more glamorous, and more commercial, than teaching paradigms of vocabulary. But that doesn't make it good teaching. It's only good teaching if it enables children to be good raconteurs.
> It only does that if the children can learn the vocabulary they need, and they will only learn it if they can use and reuse it. They can't do that with the pictures always changing. They CAN do it with concepts that are repeated and varied.
> The idea that nonvisual conceptualizations are disempowering for children is, I think, a demagogic, and ultimately disempowering one, and behind it lies an idea that is liberal and lazy at best. Looking across the Pacific at what we are told will be our future, I can’t help but feel that the American left shares some responsibility for the simultaneous rise in American education of, on the one hand, a politically (although not intellectually) vigorous “back to basics" movement (now called "race to the top”) whose appeal is by no means limited to white people and, on the other hand, the sort of short-sighted “realism” that will probably mean the death of all that recapitalization was promised to education when Obama ran in 2008 (flirting with Darling-Hammond and eventually marrying Arne Duncan).
> Both the “back to the basics” reactionaries and the “pragmatic progressives” are able to say, with some truth, that they are talking about things that will make a real difference in people’s lives (what they do not admit is that that difference will be overwhelmingly negative for all but the already chosen few). Can we always say the same?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Tue, 4/12/11, Jay Lemke <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> From: Jay Lemke <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 8:20 PM
> I liked Ana's questioning of the cultural value attached to particular views about concepts in her response to David's commentary on two little passages about Jinho.
> David is extolling the formal aspect of meaning as a tool: classification, set theory, syllogistic reasoning. Ana is emphasizing the value of meaning as a tool for story-telling, for engaging someone in an imagined world, for projecting possibilities. David's first example is, from the second point of view, pedantic and artificial, a mere pretext for the exegesis of a a system of classification (i.e. all boys are either Korean or foreign. This boy is Korean.). There is no projected story, no engagement, at least relatively to the second one, which could be the opening of the saga of a Korean Naruto.
> Of course this overstates things, but it does call attention to the multiple functions of verbal meaning-making, and its seems to me unwise to extol abstract classification and generalization at the level of the word-based category as being the higher "conceptual" function of language. I always try to understand Vygotsky's use of "the word" as meaning not individual isolated words (except sometimes) but more to speech, to utterance, to verbal meanings, which usually require a lot more than one word, or at least that word in a richly prepared context (verbal and/or nonverbal). A word, or a verbal meaning is not automatically a generalization. Isolated words have a "meaning potential" a probability distribution of possible meanings, and as they are combined with co-text and context, the net meanings they help to make get more specified, and can be either meanings about general propositions or meanings about specific instances. Words are sign-tools that
> when used in particular meaning-making practices can indicate categories, and relations among categories that count as generalizations, or equally well can be used to designate particular concrete things or tell very specific stories.
> Isolated words are always the wrong unit of analysis when considering questions of meaning.
> This applies even to the acquisition of single-word utterances in early childhood, as I think is now pretty well accepted.
> So verbal meaning making does not automatically imply generalization or categories, though languages have devices for distinguishing through different wordings between meanings made about instances and meanings made as generalizations or through categories.
> And the ability to support meanings about abstract categories is just one function of the linguistic system and our ways of using it, and not necessarily (indeed I would say rather obviously not) the highest or most valuable of its functions in use.
> So what of "concepts," then? I think we have to distinguish between reasoning in terms of abstract categories to make general propositions, and doing so through language (which is the original sign system for doing so) and saying that this process entails "concepts". The process surely happens. It surely happens most of the time, and originally in intellectual-social development, through mobilizing the linguistic sign system (along with other sign modalities). None of that implies a model or analysis of the process in terms of "concepts". Depending obviously on what one means by a concept. I am pretty sure that this process does not take place by the deployment of some fixed (even expandable) repertoire of semantic primitives. Nor in terms of any unit of meaning that precedes and then gets "expressed in" language. The meanings come into being in and through the deployment of the linguistic signs and do not have any independent or prior existence
> Platonism and its romantic revivals, contra the thesis of a "lingua mentis" and contra Fodor and maybe Pinker).
> So whatever LSV may have meant by "concept", in linking it as he does to language and speech in development, he likely did not mean either idealist concepts or internal mental realities that then get expressed outwardly in speech.
> The etymology, as was noted, for "concept" meant a taking or pulling together. A concept brings together instances, giving one name to many similar but different things. At least that's the received notion. But is it, itself, anything more than the name we use to do this? and as a name, merely part of more complex locutions we use to do this? or as makes more sense, developmentally and in semiotic analysis, merely the front-man for a complex systems of speech and gesture and integration with context, and generally a very multi-modal procedure for con-cepting a lot of stuff under a category-term? The object of study needs to be this whole complex of doings and meanings (as verbs) that produces the category result, and surely this is not anything one would call "a concept".
> All that of course is just taking categories one at a time, and we know things are never that simple. Categories are made through distinctions, and so systems of categories get created and the meanings we make with any one category-term are interpretable in relation to to all the others (e.g. foreign vs. Korean). But there is lots of research on how categories get made and used linguistically and they all pretty much show that what you have to pay attention to are the complex processes by which the connections among things in the categories are foregrounded or backgrounded, making category use more flexible and indeed potentially ambiguous, polysemic, etc. Categories get merged and divided, new ones are formed out of the shards of older ones. ALL "concepts", not just scientific ones, come in such fluid and squabbling families. Scientific and especially mathematical category terms, defined by their family connections to one another (and in the case of
> scientific ones by links to nonverbal objects and activities), TRY to impose an artificial stability and fixedness (and in mathematics special conditions allow greater success in doing so) -- but these are hardly a model for how these matters usually go.
> I think we have fallen culturally into the habit of saying that we think in terms of concepts, but I see no persuasive evidence that we do. We make meanings with sign resources in contexts, and some of those meanings sometimes have some of the features said to define a concept. Meanwhile the mentalist, idealist, universalist baggage that the notion drags in with it continues to do immeasurable harm in both education and psychology.
> Jay Lemke
> Senior Research Scientist
> Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
> University of California - San Diego
> 9500 Gilman Drive
> La Jolla, California 92093-0506
> Professor (Adjunct status 2009-11)
> School of Education
> University of Michigan
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Professor Emeritus
> City University of New York
> On Apr 12, 2011, at 7:09 PM, Ana Marjanovic-Shane wrote:
>> Dear David and all,
>> Just a small remark or a question:
>> If the two lines you compare were a beginning of two novels, and someone
>> asked you which one of these novels would you prefer to read, what would be
>> your answer?
>> For some reason, I would be more intrigued to read the novel beginning with
>> the second line:
>> "Look! He has a blue sweater. He has no glasses. He has stripey hair. His
>> name is Jinho."
>> It seems not imprisoning me in the visual, but on the contrary, openiing my
>> eyes to see something interesting. The first one is telling me nothing that
>> I don't already know -- except that there is a Korean boy Jinho. OK - so
>> So even though you claim that the first line is conceptual, and that the
>> second one is a mere description of visuals, I am attracted to the second
>> line as a beginning of a possibly exciting story.
>> I wonder if the second line does not carry some other important properties,
>> other than conceptual but equally improtant?
>> Ana Marjanovic-Shane
>> e-mails: email@example.com
>> On Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 11:45 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
>>> Tonight I have to discuss the difference between the following.
>>> T: Look! This is a boy. He's not a foreign boy. He's a Korean boy. This is
>>> T: Look! He has a blue sweater. He has no glasses. He has stripey hair. His
>>> name is Jinho.
>>> It seems to me there are three important differences, from the teacher's
>>> point of view.
>>> a) The first one repeats the concept "boy" and the indefinite article used
>>> to mark it as an example of the concept (actually, a number, as opposed to
>>> an indicative or a demonstrative like "the" or "this" or "that"). The second
>>> does not.
>>> b) Imagine the teacher following up this information with the open question
>>> "Tell me about Jinho". The first offers conceptual material ("foreign",
>>> "boy", "Korean") that can be used by the children with ALL the other
>>> characters in our textbook: Joon, Ann, Nami, Peter, Bill, and so on. The
>>> second one does not.
>>> c) Imagine the teacher following up the answers with a CRITICAL metaprocess
>>> question "How do you know?" The first leads to a conversation about what
>>> names are boy's names and what names are girl's names, which names sound
>>> Korean and which sound foreign. The second merely leads back to the picture,
>>> or back to the teacher's hearsay.
>>> Ideologically, the first one suggests a model of a concept that is a
>>> generalized and abstracted essence: "boy", "foreign", and "Korean" are all
>>> essential QUALITIES (and not, actually, things). The second ALSO has an
>>> implicit model of a concept; it is based on the possession of material
>>> objects (and not essential properties).
>>> It seems to me that for all three reasons, the first way of framing the
>>> question provides a way OUT of the enslavement of the visual field and the
>>> second does not. I remember that Larry speculated about concepts and
>>> conceptualizations that emprison us. It seems to me that prisons are made of
>>> much sturdier and sterner stuff.
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>> --- On Mon, 4/11/11, Martin Packer <email@example.com> wrote:
>>> From: Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
>>> Date: Monday, April 11, 2011, 8:16 PM
>>> I didn't mean any petard-hoisting, honestly! I just get excited at times
>>> about ideas. Big ones, and little ones too.
>>> Let me respond a bit more appreciatively to what you're saying. I'm most
>>> interested at the moment, in my own work, in trying to understand Vygotsky.
>>> I think I share that interest with some others here, but I'm equally sure
>>> not everyone has the interest. But to me it's quite fascinating to struggle
>>> to try to interpret and apply texts that I am separated from by time,
>>> language, geography and economic system.
>>> Is there power in knowledge? Do knowledge claims bolster positions of
>>> professional expertise? Do academics not traffic in prestige and advantage
>>> even as we make apparently neutral and detached pronouncements about trivial
>>> details? Does success in every endeavor not "depend on a very complex
>>> knowledge of and ability to manipulate determinative politics, discourses,
>>> and institutions -- on professional competencies and social privileges that
>>> constitute even the 'organic intellectuals'"? (That's Paul Bové beating up
>>> on Charles Taylor in his foreword to Deleuze's book on Foucault.)
>>> Yes, of course. I take Foucault very seriously. Does Vygotsky write about
>>> any of this? No, not really. Does that mean he was not aware of it?
>>> Impossible! This was a man who read Marx, who was living at the time of a
>>> revolution whose stated aim it was to correct the distortions that an unjust
>>> society had wrought on human beings, and who was in a position of power
>>> himself when Stalin took control. How could he possibly not have been aware
>>> of the connections between knowledge and power, the micro-politics of
>>> He did write occasionally, as in "The Socialist Formation of Man," of
>>> topics such as the formation of the "psychological superstructure of man"
>>> and of "the basic assumption that intellectual production is determined by
>>> the form of material production." He wrote that "A fundamental change of the
>>> whole system of these [societal] relationships which man is a part of, will
>>> also inevitably lead to a change in consciousness, a change in man’s whole
>>> behaviour." He even wrote of Nietzsche and questioned his assumption that
>>> the will to power would continue to dominate human relations. By and large,
>>> though, his writings let these things pass.
>>> Just as at the beginning of T&S Vygotsky writes that of course emotion and
>>> communication are intimately linked to thinking and speaking, but that they
>>> must fade into the background in his analysis in that book, I read all
>>> Vygotsky's texts assuming that politics and power are also in the
>>> background, unspoken but not forgotten. Then, to me, it seems that what
>>> Vygotsky was doing is similar to what Foucault was doing in his writings on
>>> the ethics of self-formation. He is focused on the *formation* of subjects,
>>> and of forms of subjectivity, as children grow into adults in whatever kind
>>> of distorted social order they happen to be born into. Could he explicitly
>>> put it that way? Did he have the space or time to spell out the whole story?
>>> Or do we have to do it for him?
>>> Bottom line, I don't see that a politics of concepts is in any clear way
>>> incompatible with Vygotsky's project, as I grasp it. His 'concrete
>>> psychology' of the Moscow tram driver would also be a study of the American
>>> On Apr 11, 2011, at 8:52 PM, White, Phillip wrote:
>>>> ah, the bliss of being hoisted upon one's own petard! thanks, Martin.
>>>> yeah, Foucault's use of concept is constant.
>>>> what i was obliquely attempting to get at was that the term 'concept'
>>> could be seen as highfalutin, rather than, say, the term "big idea". (hah!
>>> of course, my father would rebuke me with, "What's the big idea?!")
>>>> but what i mean is that concept is another word for idea. and an idea
>>> that appears to be difficult to grasp, abstract in short, could be seen as a
>>> 'big idea'.
>>>> it's about lingo, using latinate/greek words, rather than those little
>>> ordinary daily words.
>>>> it even seems to me that when, say, i'm teaching about "community of
>>> practice" - i guess we could say that's a pretty big concept, or even
>>> "legitimate peripheral participation", that initially it seems abstract, but
>>> once everyone in the class talks about it, that over time, with concrete
>>> examples from experience, that "community of practice" no longer seems
>>> abstract. in fact, it seems quite real and people can identify it when they
>>> observe it, just like they can identify the difference between an ornamental
>>> pear tree and a comice pear tree.
>>>> takes me back to Bateson - that making sense of the world, recognizing
>>> the patterns, is recognizing the difference that makes a difference. and
>>> it's that curious difference wherein a child over time can distinguish
>>> bertween a cat and a dog and a horse and a donkey, and it's through
>>> recognizing the difference that makes a difference.
>>>> so, while Foucault didn't suggest it, i'm suggesting that one of the ways
>>> experts claimed expertise was to employ a vocabulary that would set the
>>> profession apart from the everyday world of being.
>>>> am i being anti-intellectual?
>>>> because when with my students we been reading Lave, say, and there is
>>> always someone who complains about her vocabulary, i always argue in support
>>> of her vocabulary.
>>>> internal contractions.
>>>> Phillip White, PhD
>>>> University of Colorado Denver
>>>> School of Education
>>>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com] On
>>> Behalf Of Martin Packer [firstname.lastname@example.org]
>>>> Sent: Monday, April 11, 2011 5:38 PM
>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
>>>> wasn't Foucault's central concern in, say, The Order of Things, to
>>> explore the *basis* on which human knowledge, or knowledges, are
>>> constituted? In his terms, within a discursive formation there is a
>>> dispersion of concepts. An ordering of words is used to order what can be
>>> seen in the world. The point was not that there is no such thing as
>>> 'concept,' but that concepts are not neutral, natural maps of a preexisting
>>> and independent reality. For example, he wrote of the "form of positivity"
>>> of the sciences - "the concepts around which they are organized, the type of
>>> rationality to which they refer and by means of which they seek to
>>> constitute themselves as knowledge." To a great extent, his attention to the
>>> material practices in which both objects and abstractions are produced was
>>> drawn from Marx, so I don't think it is wildly incompatible with Vygotsky's
>>>> On Apr 11, 2011, at 5:36 PM, White, Phillip wrote:
>>>>> though really, i'm more with Jay on this point that there is no such
>>> thing as a 'concept' - i'm thinking that the practice of the word became,
>>> what?, let's say 'insitutionalized', or 'valorized' during the enlightenment
>>> project... that period which Foucault points to of ways of categorization
>>> and classifications that emerged as professional experts exercised for
>>> themselves the power to label, prescribe, diagnose, etc. etc., as in, for
>>> example, the separation of madness and reason.
>>>>> yeah ......
>>>>> another one of my half-baked ideas!
>>>>> Phillip White, PhD
>>>>> University of Colorado Denver
>>>>> School of Education
>>>>> From: email@example.com [firstname.lastname@example.org] On
>>> Behalf Of mike cole [email@example.com]
>>>>> Sent: Monday, April 11, 2011 4:07 PM
>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
>>>>> I agree, Monica. Its odd that we make such distinctions and then worry
>>>>> we do not
>>>>> know what a key term in the discussion (in this case, concept) is
>>>>> to mean (we all find a way to make sense of it for ourselves however!)..
>>>>> Martin and other conceptual knowers. LSV and Luria insisted that words
>>>>> generalizations. How is that idea of generalization related to the idea
>>> of a
>>>>> A con-cept. With-cept? I have no conception!
>>>>> On Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM, Monica Hansen <
>>>>> firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>>>> I have enjoyed reading your back and forth on this topic of concepts.
>>>>>> Examining the concept of concepts is indeed problematic, but it is the
>>>>>> of the whole issue. Social/individual, internal/external,
>>>>>> physiological/mental, concrete/abstract, etc.
>>>>>> You ended with this:
>>>>>> "But to sever completely the links between everyday discourse and
>>>>>> discourse would be to prevent the informing of the former by the latter
>>>>>> LSV found so important."
>>>>>> I would just like to go one further: severing the links between
>>>>>> discourse and scientific discourse would prevent the former(everyday)
>>>>>> informing the latter(scientific). There can be no higher psychological
>>>>>> processes, no scientific concepts without everyday concepts because it
>>>>>> the specific and local nature of experience that informs all the others
>>>>>> is informed by the others as well). It is the dialogic nature of
>>>>>> that makes them so fascinating and so powerful.
>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>> From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
>>>>>> Behalf Of Martin Packer
>>>>>> Sent: Sunday, April 10, 2011 11:33 AM
>>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts
>>>>>> On Apr 10, 2011, at 12:33 PM, Martin Packer wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Maybe the notion of a "concept" might be a bit like that of a "gene"
>>>>>> the sense that a gene is a sort of functional unit, but it has no
>>>>>> material reality in itself.
>>>>>> Jay's opening sentence neatly illustrates the difficulty of eliminating
>>>>>> 'concept.' He writes of 'the notion' of a concept - which is to say, to
>>>>>> write about concepts he has to employ a concept, namely that of
>>>>>> (If that seems odd, try reading some Frege!)
>>>>>> As the Stanford Encyclopedia article points out, no one has
>>>>>> defined a concept. But the seeming unavoidability of invoking something
>>>>>> 'concept' follows from the fact that we humans (and perhaps animals
>>>>>> another seemingly intractable debate) deal not so much with
>>>>>> as with generalities. We talk and write not about this think and that
>>>>>> but this 'kind' of thing and that 'type' of thing. We write not about
>>>>>> specific concept of 'rabbit,' but about 'the notion' of concept.
>>>>>> As Henry James once wrote, "The intellectual life of man consists
>>>>>> wholly in his substitution of a conceptual order for the perceptual
>>>>>> which his experience originally comes." One may disagree with the
>>>>>> of the two order that James' words seems to suggest, but it seems
>>>>>> implausible to deny that there are *two* orders.
>>>>>> Do this order of generalities involve complex interrelations or
>>> systems, as
>>>>>> Jay suggests? Are they specified in practice, in ways that depend on
>>>>>> context? Yes, of course. I am deep in the middle of chapter 6 of T&S,
>>>>>> LSV wrote of all this, 70 years ago. We have already discussed here his
>>>>>> notion [!] of a system of generality, represented metaphorically by
>>>>>> longitude and latitude on a globe. He conceived of this system as
>>>>>> in acts of thought that actively grasp their objects. He saw both the
>>>>>> dependence of generalities on language, and their distinction.
>>>>>> Should we avoid, as Jay recommends, claiming that "there are concepts
>>>>>> such"? I'm not sure what this claim would amount to. There are, and
>>>>>> only be, "concepts for us." Should we avoid reifying concepts?
>>>>>> Should we remove the term from all scientific discourse, leaving it
>>> only as
>>>>>> an "everyday locution"? That's a matter of taste, I suppose. But to
>>>>>> completely the links between everyday discourse and scientific
>>>>>> would be to prevent the informing of the former by the latter that LSV
>>>>>> so important.
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Dr. Ana Marjanovic-Shane
Assistant Professor of Education
Chestnut Hill College
St. Joseph Hall, 4th Floor, Room #172
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