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RE: [xmca] Cultural memory dewey

Hi Andy,
This is a really illustrative quote from Dewey for sure.  I see the quote actually having two emphases (which would fit into his whole transactional worldview).  The first, which I think you latch on it, seems to be that is order for any idea to have meaning it must be attached to some symbol that in some way can be recognized by the observer.  You can't go inside of the head of any individual, you can only see what is there in plain view.  This I think was Dewey's attempt to overcome dualism by suggesting mind meets object in the situation itself, and that is the only thing we can comprehend, and it is dangerous to go further.
The second issue brough up by this quote, which I really struggle with, is if the meaning of the symbol is so tied to the situation doesn't that mean that the meaning is going to change as the situation changes.  If there any such thing then as an artifact which maintains meaning across situaitons.  If not, then isn't the concept of mediation secondary to the concept of experience.  A lot of people argued with Dewey on this (Santayana comes to mind, and I wonder if Vygotsky might have as well) - but it is a difficult conundrum.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Andy Blunden
Sent: Thu 10/27/2011 10:12 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Cultural memory dewey

At long last I am reading John Dewey seriously, and I am really
entralled and bowled over.

His conception of "experience" is wonderful. I need time to digest it
before attempting to describe it, but this concept is the heart of the
matter. It is truly a type of Activity Theory. Just now I am reading
"The Pattern of Enquiry." For Dewey, knowledge is a part of the
situation (not something outside the world, in the head. knowledge
changes the world). He is talking about how ideas (concepts) originateHi 
from situations which become problems (and when known clearly become at
first suggestions and then solutions). Get this:

    "Because suggestions and ideas are of that which is not present in
    given existence, the meanings which they involve must be embodied in
    some symbol. Without some kind of symbol no idea; a meaning that is
    completely disembodied can not be entertained or used. Since an
    existence (which /is/ an existence) is the support and vehicle of a
    meaning and is a symbol instead of a merely physical existence only
    in this respect, embodied meanings or ideas are capable of objective
    survey and development. To "look at an idea" is not a mere literary
    figure of speech."

In the context of his conception of Experience this really rounds it off.
And this guy is writing in the 1890s!

Tony Whitson wrote:
> Andy,
> Song, as you describe, is indisputably material -- but it is not a
> physical thing in the same sense as a flute or a song sheet. It seems
> to me you make your position unnecessarily vulnerable by treating
> materiality as more a matter of physicality than it needs to be (cf.
> the baseball examples).
> The Talmud example brings to mind Plato's objections to recording &
> transmission via writing (a bit ironic, no?, from the transcriber of
> Socrates' dialogues), which I would never have attended to but for
> Derrida, in D's treatment of the traditional prioritization of speech
> over writing. D's argument for "grammatology" is that speech itself is
> fundamentally a kind of "writing" first; but in a sense that I would
> say is material, but not necessarily physical.

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