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Re: [xmca] Units as Objective Divisions

Thanks for the link, Mike. I printed that out last year when we were doing Tool and Sign and I needed to do a biographical footnote on Basov, Shapiro and Guerke. But I seem to have lost it, alonge with crates of other loose papers, when we moved to my new job in August.
I have been wondering where and when Vygotsky developed the idea, so clearly expressed in the first Chapter of "History of the Development of the Higher Psychic Functions", that behavior can be said to evolve and develop (phylogeneticaly and ontogenetically) in much the same way that organs do, and in fact the phylogenetic development of an organ can be seen as the RESULT of millions of years of the phylogenetic development of behavior (e.g. developed lungs are the result of millions of years of breathing-like activities).
In the field of animal behavior, Tinbergen and Lorenz were developing exactly the same idea in the mid-1930s, and even had a rather similar quadrapartite division between microgenetic learning and ontogenetic development (his "proximate mechanisms") on the one hand and functional adaptation and phylogenetic evolution (his "ultimate mechanisms") on the other. You can easily see that the former of each pair refers to behavior and the latter to organs.
Tinbergen and Lorenz seem to me to be developing the notion that the ideal might actually exist in the evolution of animal behaviors. Both believed in supra-natural stimuli (you know, the red spot on the herring gull's beak that could be easily simulated and which would distract gullls from real gulls). I think Vygotsky would have rejected this, though. 
Vygotsky reserves supra-natural stimuli for man: the ARTIFICIAL organ (that is, the tool) as the key to the ultimate mechanisms (behavioral adaptation and organ evolution) and a form of ARTIFICIAL consciousness (that is, the sign) as key to the proximal ones (behavior larning and ontogenetic development). 
And of course it's the young and the weak who are the vanguard of developing these, for the simple reason that they need them most. But that means that only humans can flout natural selection long enough to permit their development, in the bubble that human culture provides us in the torrent of evolution.
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

--- On Sat, 3/31/12, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Units as Objective Divisions
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Saturday, March 31, 2012, 5:23 PM

As usual, forgot the attachment:


2012/3/31 mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>

> Very thought provoking to me at this moment, David. There is a treatment
> of Basov by Valsiner in his book on Soviet Developmental psychology, and I
> found this link on Renee's great site, to Basov's work.
> My particular interest here is connected to the idea of functional organs,
> where, it seems, the same kinds of issues arise.
> mike
> On Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 5:26 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:
>> I just read this, the ninth paragraph of the third chapter of Vygotsky's
>> 1931 manuscript, "The History of the Development of the Higher
>> Psychological Functions".
>> Нам представляется необходимым рассмотреть несколько ближе новую форму
>> психологического анализа, дальнейшим развитием которой и является
>> применяемый нами способ исследования. Басов выделяет реальные, объективные
>> элементы, из которых состоит данный процесс, и уже затем дифференцирует их.
>> Он представляет себе эти явления самобытными, имеющими самостоятельное
>> существование, но он ищет их составляющие части, с тем, однако, чтобы
>> каждая из частей сохранила свойства целого. Так, при анализе воды молекула
>> Н2О будет объективно
>>  реальным элементом воды, хотя и бесконечно малым по величине, но
>> гомогенным по составу. Поэтому частицы воды должны, согласно этому
>> расчленению, считаться существенными элементами рассматриваемого
>> образования.
>> (It seems necessary for us to look a little more closely at this new form
>> of psychological analysis, a further development of which is the method we
>> have used in our own study. Basov identifies real, objective elements that
>> make up this process and only then differentiates them. He sees these
>> phenomena as distinct, having an independent existence, but he is looking
>> for their components, however, only in so far as each part retains the
>> properties of the whole. Thus in the analysis of water, the molecule H2O is
>> an objectively real element of water, infinitely small in magnitude but
>> homogeneous in composition. Therefore the particles of water must,
>> according to this disarticulation, be considered essential elements of the
>> formation in question.)
>> Here Vygotsky introduces the "analysis into units" idea that he would
>> later develop in Chapter One of Thinking and Speech. So Minick (and also
>> David Kellogg 2010) are wrong when they insist that this idea belongs to
>> late Vygotsky (after 1932).
>> However, there are some important differences.
>> 1.     In his later work, Vygotsky distinguishes between 'units' and
>> 'elements'. He makes no such distinction here: the Russian word he uses is
>> элементы 'elements'.
>> 2.     In his later work, Vygotsky distinguishes between 'analysis' and
>> 'generalization'. He explicitly denies that the molecule as such is a unit
>> of analysis; it is merely a unit of generalization, belonging to all forms
>> of water equally regardless of the specific properties of the water (solid,
>> liquid) or the specific tasks of the analyst (explaining the extinction of
>> fire). He makes no such distinction here
>> 3.     He stipulates that this unit is homogeneous in composition. This
>> seems to preclude development, at least it precludes development in the
>> unit of analysis. But word meaning is a unit of analysis for the phenomenon
>> of verbal thinking, and word meaning certainly is not diachronically or
>> even synchronically homogeneous in composition.
>> Now, what does Vygotsky intend by "objectively real element"? He means
>> that it has to exist by itself in some form; it is not simply created by
>> the process of analysis itself. For example, a quantity of water in a
>> laboratory is really created by the process of gathering water itself. But
>> the molecule is an objective unit, that exists independently of how we
>> measure water.
>> Similarly, the sentence unit cannot actually be discerned unless you know
>> the grammar of a language, but the turn, the stretch of language produced
>> between two changes of speaker in a conversation, is an objectively real
>> unit, which you can discern even without knowing the language in question.
>> The turn is an objectively real unit in a way that a sentence is not.
>> It seems to me that this is really the crucial distinction that underlies
>> all the other distinctions: late Vygotsky accepts that there really are no
>> such 'objectively real' units that are independent of the task of the
>> analyst. The molecule, for example, is an element and not a unit for most
>> of the practical work that man has to do with water. Similarly, the turn is
>> objectively real but so general that it lacks a lot of explanatory power in
>> my own work.
>> But apparently Basov did believe in the unit as an absolutely objective,
>> self-similar and self-identical, universal unit and he even based the whole
>> idea of 'activity' thereupon.
>> David Kellogg
>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
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