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RE: [xmca] activity and a discourse

Thank you, Monica and Andy. 

To you, Monica, for clarifying the case I was trying to make better than I
was able to.

To you, Andy, for confirming my membership :-), and at the price of the good
night sleep, at that. No need to blame yourself. It is the crazy supply of
intellectual goodies and our gluttony - our insatiable appetites and our
attempt to have it all - that make us less careful with words than we
probably should. And we really should, simply because words are all we have.

Hope you did manage to have some more sleep!

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2011 11:07 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: Re: [xmca] activity and a disourse

This is written at 5:50am. I couldn't sleep, because on reflection, I 
realised that though there is plenty of room for misunderstanding 
between me and Anna, *Anna's position is quite legitimate as an 
"analysis in units" in the very context in which she said*. There is 
also an unfortunate ambiguity in the English language: you can have 
"discourse" and "a discourse", with slightly different meanings. Anna 
actually bolded the words "discourses" and "discourse" to draw my 
attention to this problem. Culpa mea, Anna.

"A discourse" in the sense that we have here a discourse on netiquette, 
a discourse on CHAT, a disourse on units, a discourse on science, etc., 
etc, then in this usage, "discourse" is already a concrete concept, and 
close in meaning to Hegel's meaning of a "concrete concept" and a 
perfectly reasonable unit for the study of a social formation. I think 
that due to the shortcomings of both AN Leontyev and Engestrom in 
developing an Activity Theory, many people have adopted other 
already-existing concepts as units of Activity, and Discourse is one of 

But I do think still think this is not what LSV meant by word. If I 
could quote the same section of Chapter 2 of Engsstrom's "Learning by 
Expanding," to explain why:

    "According to Vygotsky, the instrumentally mediated act "is the
    simplest segment of behavior that is dealt with by research based on
    elementary units" (Vygotsky 1981, 140). On the other hand, as V. P.
    Zinchenko (1985, 100) demonstrates, in concrete research, especially
    in /Thinking and Speech,/ Vygotsky used another basic unit of
    analysis, namely that of meaning or word meaning.

    "V. P. Zinchenko (1985, 100) argues that meaning "cannot be accepted
    as a self-sufficient analytic unit since in meaning there is no
    'motive force' for its own transformation into consciousness". Only
    the cognitive aspect of thinking is fixed in meaning; the affective
    and volitional aspect is left unexplained."

I think that here Zinchenko explains why "word" means, not necessarily a 
single word as such, but whatever can be the sign for a concept, often a 

(back to bed before reading Martin's posts and losing the entire night's 

Monica Hansen wrote:
> Andy,
> I can't speak for Anna, but I am thinking "discourse" as in linguistic
> analysis, the larger "unit of analysis", larger than a sentence, in which
> words, spoken or written, are used in a meaningful and social way. I am
> thinking of discourse as a context for understanding word meaning. 
> Monica
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Andy Blunden
> Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2011 7:52 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] activity and reification
> Maybe I am in error because I don't know what people mean by 
> "discourse"? I take "discourse" (in its current philosophical usage) to 
> mean something like "institution." That is to say, a stable and 
> /relatively/ closed pattern of meanings in a language community. Is that 
> right? You think that is what Vygotsky meant by "word"?
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> .... When LSV uses the term "word" I take him to mean spoken language -
> that's to say, discourse. 
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: 
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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