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Re: [xmca] concepts

Well Anna, all interesting ideas, but still, I cannot take "one particular activity" as a fundamental concept. I may choose to make one particular activity (communication for example) as the subject matter of my research, and be confident that by so doing, I am solving the key problems facing us, but "one particular" of anything by definition cannot be a fundamental concept. I suppose I need to be more specific about what I mean by "fundamental concept". I don't mean "most important" concept or even "unit of analysis" but in philosophical terms the *substance*.


And I actually take issue with the equation of thinking with "communicating with oneself." In Chapter 7 of T&S Vygotsky talks of thinking and speaking again parting ways. Volume 1 LSVCW, p. 280:

   "The units of thought and speech do not coincide. The two processes
   manifest a unity but not an identity. They are connected  with one
   another by complex transitions and transformations. They cannot,
   however, be superimposed on one another."

This does not deny that the study of communication is perhaps the central issue of the human condition,

What do you think?

anna sfard wrote:
Hi Andy (and all the other xmca-ers trying to conceptualize concept),

You say:

"Activity" as a fundamental concept is the only way I know to *avoid* the
mental/physical dichotomy.

I tend to agree, but would like to be a bit more specific: I'd choose one
particular activity, that of communicating, as what you need to consider to
see why, indeed, the "mental" and the "physical" , or "internal" and
"external" are two sides of the same coin. When it is interpersonal (without
necessarily being verbal or synchronic), it is "physical" or "external".
When it is with oneself, in which case it is known as "thinking", it is what
some people call "mental" or "internal". But ontologically, there is no
difference between the two. They are both forms of discourse and they are
both kind of physical. In my research, I'm using the special word
"commognition", a combination of communication and cognition, to stress this
ontological unity and be able to speak about both thinking and
communicating-with-others in one breath (and I beg English purists/lovers
not to condemn me for creating my own English neologisms - when I wrote a
book and had to choose between the writer's convenience and readers' rage, I
opted for the latter.)
And, for whatever it is worth, this is how the idea of concept can be seen
from this perspective (I'm quoting from my book, "Thinking as

"Vygotsky . defined concept as a word with its meaning. I would like to make
two amendments. First, let me be less restrictive than Vygotsky and relate
the term concept to commognition at large, not just verbal commognition.
Second, following Wittgenstein, I would substitute Vygotsky's reference to
meaning with the reference to use. Thus, in the discussion that follows, the
word concept should be understood as follows: . Concept is a symbol together
with its uses." (p. 111)

And, a few pages latter, comes the following consequence of this definition:

"If a concept is a word together with its discursive uses, one cannot get a
sense of a person's concept of number without considering the totality of
this person's discursive activities in which the term number may appear. In
research on development of numerical thinking, therefore, nothing less than
the entire discourse on numbers must be considered." (p. 268)

And you can, of course, substitute numerical thinking with any other type of
thinking (discourse).

My apology for jumping into this debate without having read the former
postings properly, and thus possibly recapitulating something that has
already been said. anna

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 11:01 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] concepts

You miss my point, Huw in the 1st paragraph. Having "Activity" as a fundamental concept is the only way I know to *avoid* the mental/physical dichotomy. But I wouldn't go so far as to try to avoid the "distinction." Would you?

You mention: "subject/organism/host of the epistemology". Are you suggesting that something other than a human being can have an epistemology?


*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g932564744
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
MIA: http://www.marxists.org

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