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RE: [xmca] Re: An article by Kimiharu Sato exploring Fernando Rey'stheme.

Hi Mike, Larry, Andy, whoever,
It is interesting that the conversation on Fernando's article made me think of something and spurred me to read it.  That something is he suggests (and its a good suggestion) that Vygotsky went through the same, I don't want to call it evolution because it is not really directional, well adaptations in thinking then that a number of other thinkers I have read during the 20th century have gone through.
The way I have read Fernando's article he is suggesting that Vygotsky is, well in my own thinking, adapting to three "traps" in attempting to develop a framework for understanding human thinking.  Vygotsky starts out with his work on art, and maybe in part in his work on pedagogy, dealing as the article suggests with really complex issues such as emotion and aesthetics.  Vygotsky, who I believe himself was really interested in this stuff, is saying that you don't just take in art or emotional based information but you mediate it as part of your understanding.  When we watch Hamlet we don't just experience the words of the melancholy Dane, but tap into deep emotions, in ways I am guessing most don't when watching "Billy Madison."  We know and understand Hamlet, when we give it time and effort, has a much deeper impact on who we are - in part because it is generative, perhaps in making us think about ourselves and the world around us, using our imaginations to go far beyond what we are seeing on stage.  Ah, but there's the rub, and the first of the "traps."  Where does this mediating force come from?  Meaning we know the Hamlet is better than Billy Madison but how do we know it and why do we know it.  We know that Tolstoy is a better writer than John Grisham, even though we might enjoy both, but how do we know it.  Where does this picky mediating force come from.  Why will we sit through three hours of one movie and turn off another after ten minutes.  The only explanation is that there is some ideal sense of beauty and what we are reading or seeing in some way approaches that ideal.  And come on, don't we all think that way to one degree or another when experiencing a great piece of art.  But then that makes us idealists.  I kind of think that Vygotsky got pushed off his idealist perch earlier than some because of what was going on in Russia at the time, but maybe he was hanging on to this idea that there are some things that we just communally understand.
The next stop after idealism is empiricism, or instrumentalism, which easily gets caught up in realism.  All that you can really trust is that which you see in front of you, that which you experience as working in some objective sense.  The difficulty with empiricism is it does not last, there is nothing communal about a response.  And perhaps this is part of what Vygotsky was looking for, where does this communal response come from,  Why do people think one play is good and another terrible and this is a response that almost all agree with.  A communal understanding cannot really be based on objective data, because objective data can be so easily corrupted after it has occurred.  Individuals and even groups remember things that happen in their lives very differently.  There is that famous experiment where an individual rushes into a room and attacks an instructor and then they ask afterwards for people to write down what they saw.  There are often very different responses from the same people a short time later.  We tend to rearrange history based on our own expectations of what is going to happen (Neisser 1976 has some interesting ideas on this).  But the big question then becomes what good really is empiricism and objectivity if it becomes lost in the haze of history.  And how is it possible to have any real communal reactions.  And remember one of the early driving issues is why does such a large majority think Hamlet is better than Billy Madison (yeah, yeah, I know Vygotsky didn't know about Adam Sandler.  But I bet you Adam Sandler doesn't know about Vygtosky!)  There are three ways to deal with this -  the first is the second "realist trap" in which we claim that objects contain information and we draw the information out from the objects, we just have to do it the right way - but we know from everyday experience there is little actual value in this idea and is usually promoted by a dominant group which can lay claim to objects.  The second one is to stay in the immediate experience, and the third is to suggest that there is some lasting impact from history that you can divine, but it is not solely in the object nor solely in human thinking - the combining of subjective and objective Andy likes to talk about.  Vygotsky had to figure out a way back to this place I think because of his initial interests in aesthetics and emotions as Fernando suggests.
Vygotsky's answer in this scenario is the concentrate not on the objects, or on the human mind, but on the mediators themselves, especially the semiotic mediators that are passed down from generation to generation, which carry history with them, but are also flexible.  In a sense Vygotsky perhaps was going back by going forward.
The way I wrote this makes it all sound too linear, and I agree with Fernando it is not linear at all, but the development of an increasingly complex web of thinking, something in academia we seem to have a very hard time with, and many times simply don't want to accept. 
Anyway, that's my take for what it's worth - three and a half cents worth perhaps.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of mike cole
Sent: Wed 8/3/2011 12:38 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: An article by Kimiharu Sato exploring Fernando Rey'stheme.

This line of thinking underpins the approach that Vygotsky and Luria took to
neuropsychology, Larry. It underpins a good deal of research on
as summarized in his autobiography.

What, I wonder, is the link between the instrumentalism phase and the
systems ideas on the one hand and the more semiotic phase at the end (which,
i believe, Fernando is saying was in the beginning as well).


On Sun, Jul 31, 2011 at 7:58 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

> I'm going to continue circling around this topic of "sense" as a direction
> Vygotsky was pointing.  Mike mentioned the tricky "predicament" {Andy :-)}
> of moving between merely instrumental vs merely semiotic[ideal]
> explanations
> within our circular descriptions.  I believe Kimiharu Sato and Fernando Rey
> and John Shotter are also struggling with this predicament. So her goes my
> reflections on my "conversation" [commognition] with Kimiharu. In other
> words what do I link to when reading his article.
> (p.39)  For Vygotsky, consciousness is a very complex, STRUCTURE of
> behaviour. In particular it is, and in the historical development of  a
> doubling of behaviour. Consciousness can be understood as a SYSTEM of the
> various functions of mental action.  In 1930 [Fernando's 3rd period]
> Vygotsky wrote "On Psychological Systems" in which he stated,
> "In the process of development and in the historical development of
> behaviour in particular, it is NOT so much the functions which change. What
> IS changed and modified are rather the RELATIONSHIPS the LINKS BETWEEN the
> functions. New constellations emerge which were unknown in the preceding
> stage. That is why INTRA-functional change is often NOT ESSENTIAL in the
> transition from one stage to the other. It is INTER-functional changes, the
> changes of inter-functional CONNECTIONS and the inter-functional
> STRUCTURE WHICH MATTER. The development of such NEW FLEXIBLE relationships
> Kimiharu in providing THIS quote adds "This passage REVEALS that Vygotsky
> considered the human mind to emerge FROM the INTER-relations of the various
> mental functions and therefore human consciousness IS an active process
> WITHIN a mental "network"[metaphor to picture INTER-relations BETWEEN
> functions and not the intra-functional relations within an isolated
> function].  From this linking to Vygotsky Kimiharu makes the "leap of
> intuition" to state,
> "It can be concluded that Vygotsky's theory of consciousness is
> anti-substantialism, and he assumed consciousness is an attribution OF FORM
> and a process of actualization"
> I'm not sure if everyone would draw the same conclusion, but what I want to
> focus on is Kimiharu focussing our attention on the inter-relations BETWEEN
> functions that form a particular STRUCTURING and that these
> inter-relational structurings change with development
> Larry
> On Sat, Jul 30, 2011 at 11:14 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > This month's article by Fernando Rey must have had some impact on others,
> > either positive, negative, or ambivalent.  For anyone who is quietly
> > reflecting on this topic, I'm attaching another article by Kimiharu Sato
> > from Hokkaido University.  Kimiharu also recommends reading E. Kamiya's
> > unpublished doctoral desertation titled "Unfinished Vygotsky's Theory"
> > (2008)  Does anyone have access to this thesis. It seems it may hold
> > potential for exploring sense in Vygotsky's project.
> >
> > Larry
> >
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