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Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality


If you grant that interpersonal speech communication is essentially a cultural invention, and that private and inner speech--as derivatives of interpersonal speech communication--are also cultural inventions, then Vygotsky's assertions about inner speech as a tool that adults use voluntarily to conduct and direct such crucial psychological activities as analyzing, reflecting, conceptualizing, regulating, monitoring, simulating, rehearsing (actually, some of these activities were not specifically asserted by Vygotsky, but instead have been discovered in experiments with private speech) would imply that these "higher mental processes" are themselves cultural products. Even if the *contents* of inner speech thinking happen to bear no discernible cultural imprint, the process of production nonetheless does.

Of course, you may not agree that interpersonal speech communication is a cultural invention. But if you do go along with the idea that every speech community follows (albeit implicitly) their own particular conventions or customs for: assigning specific speech sounds to specific meanings (i.e., inventing words); organizing words into sequences (i.e., inventing grammar--Chomsky's claims not withstanding); and sequencing utterances in conversation according to rules of appropriateness (i.e., inventing rules that regulate "what kinds of things to say, in what message forms, to what kinds of people, in what kinds of situations", according to the cross-cultural work of E. O. Frake), then reasoning based on the use of speech must be cultural as well.

My guess is that you are looking for evidence that cultures reason differently. While there may be evidence for such a claim, I only want to point out that the tools for reasoning are themselves manufactured by human culture.


Peter Feigenbaum, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Institutional Research
Fordham University
Thebaud Hall-202
Bronx, NY 10458

Phone: (718) 817-2243
Fax: (718) 817-3203
e-mail: pfeigenbaum@fordham.edu

From:        Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
To:        "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date:        06/26/2012 05:06 PM
Subject:        [xmca] Culture & Rationality
Sent by:        xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu

Thank you for the suggestions that people have made about evidence that supports the claim that culture is constitutive of psychological functions. Keep sending them in, please! Now I want to introduce a new, but related, thread. A few days ago I gave Peter a hard time because he wrote that "higher mental processes are those specific to a culture, and thus those that embody cultural concepts so that they guide activity."

I responded that I don't think that LSV ever wrote this - his view seems to me to have been that it is scientific concepts that make possible the higher psychological functions (through at time he seems to suggest the opposite).

My questions now are these:

1. Am I wrong? Did LSV suggest that higher mental processes are specific to a culture and based on cultural concepts?

2. If LSV didn't suggest this, who has? Not counting Peter!  :)

3. Do we have empirical evidence to support such a suggestion? It seems to me to boil down, or add up, to the claim that human rationality, human reasoning, varies culturally. (Except who knows what rationality is? - it turns out that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does not have an entry for Rationality; apparently they are still making up their minds.)

that's all, folks


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