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Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Action: What' Plausible branch?

On Jun 16, 2011, at 11:34 PM, mike cole wrote:

> Question 3: Where did "the meaning"  come from in the first place? From  a
> past history of those artifacts/words, phrases, pragmatic gestures,
> discourse acts, etc mediating our joint activity with our world.
> Next I try to demystify this way of talking. At this point, if its a
> sizeable audience, someone has understood the Russian that I spoke. So i ask
> whoever understood what I said  how it came to me that she could make sense
> of the words I had chosen. The them of doing something with others with
> Russian as the medium of joint activity is the invariable reply.
> Does this capture what you are saying about words as they enter into human
> activity?

Right; we each make sense of the speech we hear, but what we're interpreting is not just vibrating airwaves, because each of us is a member of a community that has created a world of meaningful entities. In the same way, we make sense of the value of the peso bill, but not just by interpreting a piece of paper. We make sense of speech that has meaning. 

I realize this is a way of thinking that is somewhat counter-intuitive to many of us trained as psychologists. The standard model, so to speak, is that we receive a flow of sensory information about mere matter in motion, and all secondary qualities are attributions made by the individual's psychological apparatus.  That way of thinking, however, runs into insuperable conceptual difficulties. It has been largely debunked by smart people such as, for example, Jurgen Habermas. Furthermore, it is not how Marx viewed the relationship between humans and world, and if we're going to acknowledge that Vygotsky built on Marx...

I think that LSV would have said that the phenomena Andy has been talking about are examples of sense. I want to point out again that LSV, like Saussure, is drawing a distinction between speech and language (I always forget the French: is it parole and langue?) But whereas Saussure drew a structuralist bifurcation between the two, system and utterance, LSV insists both that they are distinct and that they are related. Not only does the system establish the conditions for utterances (which Saussure recognized), so too, ultimately (that's to say, towards the end of chapter 7), sense feeds back into meaning - utterances transform the system. To my (limited) knowledge, Saussure was not interested in this, or didn't allow that it could happen. In this regard LSV anticipates Derrida and others.


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