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RE: [xmca] Word Meaning and Action

Hi Andy,
This strikes me more an argument about epistemology than word meaning per se.  Does knowledge or emerge from action (word meaning being part of our knowledge) or is it a property of the object.  It reminds me very much of the debate between Dewey and Russell.  But if you really don't have a defined epistemology and/or it just really isn't that important to your general scheme, you might tend to go back and forth between the two, without even realizing it (I know a lot of people do).  My sense has always been that Vygotsky didn't have a dog in this fight, and the combination of different perspectives he seemed to embrace, including materialist, psychological, revolutionary, may have even made it more likely he goes back and forth.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Andy Blunden
Sent: Thu 6/16/2011 12:44 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] Word Meaning and Action

Apologies! On further reflection, I can now see that what you want me to
clarify, Martin, is the claim that by "word meaning," Vygotsky means an
"artefact-mediated action," rather than a property (be it psychological
or linguistic) of an artefact.

I will get busy on that,

Andy Blunden wrote:
> Martin, before I devote another day to "cherry picking" for this one,
> can I try to clarify what I am gathering textual evidence for, please?
> You say "It is very clear to me that LSV viewed word-meaning as
> objective." This is of course true, but it is equally true that
> Vygotsky regarded word meaning as something subjective; word meaning
> develops, it has an inner and an outer aspect. So, am I right that I
> need to gather quotes which evidence that Vygotsky distinguished
> between what Tony called the "potentiality" of a word, and its inner,
> or pshycological form?
> Is that right?
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> Tony,
>> I don't disagree with any of what you have proposed in this message
>> or the preceding ones. I think it's a very plausible account of sign
>> use. And I think it is very helpful to introduce such an account. But
>> there seem to me to be two threads here that are mingling, and it
>> would be helpful to keep them distinct. I have been trying to figure
>> out what 'word meaning' meant to Vygotsky. It seems to me we have to
>> understand what he wrote (that it, achieve a coherent and consistent
>> interpretation of his texts) before we can critique it. You and
>> others, on the other hand, are proposing an account of meaning that
>> you find convincing. Both of these are valuable enterprises, for
>> sure. The confusion comes when a Peircean account of meaning, for
>> instance, is attributed to Vygotsky. It is very clear to me that LSV
>> viewed word-meaning as objective. I could turn out to be mistaken, of
>> course. But if anyone here wants to offer a different interpretation
>> of LSV's notion of word meaning, it needs to be based on textual
>> evidence, not on plausibility. I have never said that I find LSV's
>> treatment of word meaning to be plausible, because I've not yet fully
>> figured it out! Perhaps we will eventually decide that his account of
>> words and concepts doesn't make sense. But we shouldn't turn this
>> process around and try to decide first what is a plausible account of
>> concepts and words, and then attribute this to Vygotsky. I'm not
>> saying that this is what you are doing, Tony. But somewhere in the
>> gaps between messages this seems to me to be what has been happening.
>> Martin
>> On Jun 15, 2011, at 10:52 AM, Tony Whitson wrote:
>>> Put most briefly, for anybody who is interested:
>>> Signs potentiate interpretation. That is what signs do. That's what
>>> semiosis (the activity of signs) is. This is the _semiosic_ activity
>>> of triadic sign relations. The meaning of a word consists of the
>>> interpretation that the word (qua sign) potentiates.
>>> Weights resist the muscular activity of lifting. This is dynamic
>>> physical action (not tradic semiosic activity). In this capacity,
>>> the weight is just a thing, and not a sign.
>>> Of course weights, beyond just in their dynamic resistance, can also
>>> participate in sign activity (as apparently they did in Congressman
>>> Weiner's weight-lifting in the Gongressional gym).
>>> On Wed, 15 Jun 2011, Huw Lloyd wrote:
>>>> On 15 June 2011 14:53, Tony Whitson <twhitson@udel.edu> wrote:
>>>>> The OED reflects the existing usage of words.
>>>>> Semiotics explores and attempts to account for the nature of signs
>>>>> and sign
>>>>> activity, including the nature of the meaning that signs do, and
>>>>> how signs
>>>>> do their meaning.
>>>>> Semiotics is not about deference to common usage, any more than is
>>>>> CHAT.
>>>> Which is why distinct terms are used.
>>>> If by "The meaning of a word is something the word does", you mean the
>>>> active system of mental representations in which the word meaning
>>>> (a set of
>>>> relations) inheres and participates with other word meaning in
>>>> particular
>>>> contexts, then we need to dig into this system to identify which
>>>> aspects
>>>> relate to the defined word, and which relate to the system in which it
>>>> participates.  Care must be taken not to confuse the defined thing
>>>> with the
>>>> system it participates in.  Words (like the weights of weight
>>>> lifter) don't
>>>> (on their own) do anything, the system they participate in does the
>>>> doing.
>>>> This is simply my opinion.  It's fairly self-evident to me, and
>>>> it's not
>>>> something I'm deeply interested in pursing, relative to other
>>>> interests.
>>>> So, hopefully, I've answered the question put to me, and can let
>>>> you get on
>>>> with your ruminations.
>>>> Huw
>>>> __________________________________________
>>>> _____
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>>> Tony Whitson
>>> UD School of Education
>>> NEWARK  DE  19716
>>> twhitson@udel.edu
>>> _______________________________
>>> "those who fail to reread
>>> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
>>>                  -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
>>> __________________________________________
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>> __________________________________________
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*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 <http://www.marxists.org/> 

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