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Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept

Mike, Vygotsky says in several places that the word is the sign for or carrier of the concept. As I said earlier, in my reading word meaning is an artefact mediated action, the word being the artefact and the meaning being the action (both subjective and objective), invested with potential for meaning-with by activity-with. A concept is in my humble opinion a cultural unit or form of activity. So word meaning, once developed to the point of concepts, is related to concept as an action is to an activity.


mike cole wrote:
That is to compacted and complicated for me to be able to gloss to myself,
I am struggling with the polysemy of both "meaning" and "concept" in this
discussion to make sense of their relationship very well. Ditto sign and
symbol, although Huw's
note about signs and shadows nudged me along. I noted that Anton referred in
a recent note to "tool and sign/symbol" and wondered what he meant, but was
too preoccupied to ruminate.

Here is a thought I had while ruminating. Might it be appropriate to say
that meaning is a tool of human processes of concept formation ?


PS- There was a fascinating segment on the American Evening TV Program, 60
minutes, this evening.. A controversy about "The N word" , the banning of
Huck Finn, and the success of a book which substitutes the word "slave" for
the word "nigger." One proponent of the argument for using slave was teacher
who is shown in class discussing "the n word", asking her class, "why do we
say the N word instead of 'n-i-g-g-e-r' spelling it out?"

Now THERE is an example of the power of the book!! At least I am not alone
in my
confusions about such matters.  :-))

On Sat, Jun 11, 2011 at 8:17 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

 This is Evald Ilyenkov, "The Concept of the Ideal', in "The Ideal in Human
Activity", Pacifica, CA: MIA, p. 268:

"The meaning of the term 'ideal' in Marx and Hegel is the same, but the
concepts, i.e. the ways of understanding the 'same' meaning are profoundly
different. After all the word 'concept' in dialectically interpreted logic
is a synonym for understanding the essence of the' matter, the essence of
phenomena which are only outlined by a given term; it is by no means a
synonym for 'the meaning of the term' which may be formally interpreted as
the sum total of 'attributes' of the phenomena to which the term is

Ilyenkov then goes on to discuss Marx's cuckoo-like propensity "not to
change the historically formed 'meanings of terms'" but to propose very
different understandings thereof, and thus to change the very concept.

Three questions:

a)  In addition to the ONTOGENETIC argument against the equation of meaning
and concept (viz. that if meaning were already equivalent to concept then
meaning could not develop into a concept), can't we make a SOCIOGENETIC one?
Doesn’t this sociogenetic argument explain both the cultural adaptation of
concepts over time (e.g. “quantity” into “operator” in math, “grammar” into
“discourse” in linguistics) and the cuckoo like exaptation of other people’s
terms to express quite different concepts by Marx and by Vygotsky (e.g.
"egocentric", "pseudoconcept", etc.)?

b) Viewed sociogenetically, isn't this distinction between conceptual
essence and word meaning the same as the distinction between signification
value and sense value? That is, from the point of view of Johnson's
dictionary (or the Kangxi dictionary, or the Port Royal grammar, or any
other state codification of meaning) the state-ratified meaning of words is
their essence and the other, vernacular uses are simply senses, folk values,
the range of phenomena to which hoi polloi apply the words?

b) Isn't the OPPOSITE true when we look at the matter microgenetically?
That is, from the point of view of interpersonal meaning making, the essence
of the phenomenon to which I apply the term in the given instance is the
self-legitimated, auto-ratified, individually-approved sense value and the
signification value is simply the range of conventional meanings, the range
of conventional phenomena to which the word is applied and misapplied by

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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*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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