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RE: [xmca] Culture & Rationality

And yet, most of LSV's own examples are biological, no?

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2012 10:54 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality

Oh, and also, when Vygotsky uses "scientific concepts" as the archetype for a true concept, remember that he *does not* use the concepts of
*natural* science, as Piaget did, but the concepts of Marxist social theory. So, when we are considering Vygotsky's ideas about "scientific concepts" it is probably useful to *not* have in mind concepts like those of physics which Piaget, not Vygotsky, took as ideal types.


Andy Blunden wrote:
> Stephen Toulmin, in "The Philosophy of Science. An Introduction" 
> (1953) I thought definitively proved that the method of reasoning of 
> science is not formal logic, or what Toulmin called "syllogistic" 
> inference. For example, on p.33: "Certainly none of the substantial 
> inferences that one comes across in the phsyical sciences is of a 
> syllogistic type. This is because, in the physical sciences, we are 
> not seriously interested in enumerating the common properties of sets 
> of objects." In other words, the concepts of the physical sciences are 
> not pseudoconcepts, therefore we can't use formal logic to makes 
> inferences about them. Brandom uses the idea of "formal" and 
> "material" inference to make the distinction.
> So scientific, and in fact all true, concepts imply going past formal 
> logic, which only works with pseudoconcepts.
> Andy
> Jennifer Vadeboncoeur wrote:
>> Yes, exactly Martin, this work is consistent. I do think Vygotsky 
>> privileges dialectical logic over formal logic; by definition, it 
>> subsumes formal logic and moves beyond it. From my cultural position, 
>> growing up comfortably with formal logic and having to practice 
>> thinking dialectically, the above statement doesn't bother me. But I 
>> would take a different position relative to an Indigenous 
>> perspective, and be much more circumspect about saying that 
>> dialectical logic can or should be privileged there. The difference 
>> in the two positions is one of power. In the first, it seems that a 
>> marginalized position (Marx's in North America) works to challenge a 
>> privileged position (formal logic in North America). In the second, 
>> privileging a dialectical perspective seems like another act of 
>> colonization.
>> If we look equally across these three positions, which is problematic 
>> because the is no single homogenous Indigenous perspective, but let's 
>> say for this one exercise, then it seems like we are comparing three 
>> different cultural, historical perspectives on reasoning, right and 
>> logical, or rational,behavior.
>> The question remains to the effects of these different ways of 
>> thinking, but for the people thinking within these systems, what is 
>> the evidence to show that they cannot think at the adult level of 
>> their cultural form of rationality? Yikes, now that I've written 
>> this, I'm not even sure it's the question. Is the issue when we try 
>> to compare the standards of one cultural group to another?
>> I'll jump to Peter's post, because I totally appreciate what he has 
>> written there as well. I appreciate the idea of separating dialogical 
>> thinking from scientific ... but I also think of Vera John-Steiner's 
>> cognitive pluralism, and want to reaffirm all the other ways of 
>> thinking and experiencing the world through image, sound, diagram. 
>> These are sometimes more obvious to draw on in some Indigenous 
>> cultures, but the move also shifts the discussion from speech to 
>> writing, whether we are writing lines, or diagrams, or words.
>> I was looking back over my sad copy of Luria & Vygotsky (1992), the 
>> bottom of page 41 through pages 61 are interesting to this topic 
>> because they show how much Vygotsky struggled with the necessity of 
>> using the work of others and at the same time trying not to be bound 
>> by it. He relies on the work of Levy-Bruhl and takes up his language 
>> "so-called 'primitive peoples'" and then tries to problematize this a 
>> bit. "Primitive man, in the true sense of the term, does not exist 
>> anywhere at the present time," but then of course he continues to use 
>> this language. He argues against any biological type, discusses 
>> "objectively logical thinking" in relation to nature, and goes on to 
>> say .... hm, hm, okay, page 59, the focus is on the development of 
>> writing, and the transition from natural to cultural memory, and 
>> later the historical development of human memory. The ability of sign 
>> systems to enable an external form of memory, an external storage of 
>> memory.
>> What is different about people with access to the accumulation of 
>> cultural knowledge of any particular culture and people of that same 
>> culture who do not have access to this accumulated knowledge? In some 
>> cultures this may be scientific concepts, as defined by Vygotsky, in 
>> other cultures it may be ....?
>> But I keep returning to my post a bit ago, the quote there makes it 
>> clear that Vygotsky realizes that even after formal schooling, many 
>> people do not think with scientific concepts, and adults do not think 
>> with scientific concepts across all domains ... this has been 
>> supported by contemporary work, from Panofsky, John-Steiner, & 
>> Blackwell (1990) to Howard Gardner's work with Project Zero.
>> Vygotsky's goal of thinking in scientific concepts is actually not 
>> accessible to many people within our own cultures ....
>> Okay, have I completely gone overboard? :)
>>> Hi Jennifer,
>>> Yes, there has been interesting work recently proposing that 
>>> indigenous cultures are using a distinct kind of reasoning. These guys:
>>> Berkes, F., & Berkes, M. K. (2009). Ecological complexity, fuzzy 
>>> logic, and holism in indigenous knowledge. Futures, 41(1), 6-12. 
>>> doi:10.1016/j.futures.2008.07.003
>>> ...suggest that indigenous peoples have learned to deal with 
>>> complexity, and to manage natural environments rather than master 
>>> them; that what has been dismissed as animism is actually a 
>>> sophisticated non-dualistic ontology; and that a holistic systems 
>>> thinking is being used. I like several aspects of their analysis, 
>>> not least that it explains the "simple number system" - one, two, 
>>> many - that has been found in many indigenous cultures, as due to an 
>>> approach in which people read and interpret signals from the 
>>> environment rather than counting and measuring it.
>>> And I agree with you that judgments of rationality are often violent 
>>> impositions; all the judgments of people as 'primitive' are 
>>> presumably of this kind. Presumably what we need are non-violent 
>>> ways to look at difference.
>>> As for dialectical logic, it take it that LSV believed that this was 
>>> the form of rationality he was employing, and the ontogenesis of 
>>> which he was describing. And that he considered it superior to 
>>> formal logic, not an alternative.
>>> Martin
>>> On Jun 27, 2012, at 2:04 PM, Jennifer Vadeboncoeur wrote:
>>>>  Hi Martin,
>>>>  I am thinking about what you wrote,
>>>>  "On the contrary, it seems to me that much of LSV's writing can be 
>>>> read as pointing to the conclusion that *standards* of rationality 
>>>> will vary from one culture another. But I don't think he followed 
>>>> his own pointers, and, as I've said above, it is a pretty radical 
>>>> conclusion to come to."
>>>>  I was first thinking about different standards of rationality as 
>>>> noted in the quote below, between formal and dialectical logic. 
>>>> Both are tied to "Western" countries, through dialectical thinking 
>>>> can also be tied to "Eastern" countries, so maybe the issue is one 
>>>> of "industrialized" countries?
>>>>  "A child who has mastered the higher forms of thinking, a child 
>>>> who has mastered concepts, does not part with the more elementary 
>>>> forms of thinking. In quantitative terms, these more elementary 
>>>> forms continue to predominate in many domains of experience for a 
>>>> long time. As we noted earlier, even adults often fail to think in 
>>>> concepts. S When applied to the domain of life experience, even the 
>>>> concepts of the adult and adolescent frequently fail to rise higher 
>>>> than the level of the pseudoconcept. They may possess all the 
>>>> features of the concepts from the perspective of formal logic, but 
>>>> from the perspective of dialectical logic they are nothing more 
>>>> than general representations, nothing more than complexes." 
>>>> (emphasis added, Vygotsky, 1987, p. 160)
>>>  >
>>>>  But the issue in your quote has surfaced several times as well in 
>>>> my work with Indigenous students and scholars, and we have ended in 
>>>> the place noted in your quote above. Particular examples include 
>>>> the complexity and unity of some Indigenous cosmological systems, 
>>>> their symbolic representation through the medicine wheel, for 
>>>> example, and the narratives, signs, gestures, practices, writings 
>>>> that accompany these cosmological systems.
>>>>  Can this be considered another cultural form of rationality (seems 
>>>> dialectical in a sense as well ...)?
>>>>  I know this is different from the question you posed in the follow 
>>>> up email, but isn't "demonstrably weaker" a matter of cultural, 
>>>> historical, political, economic positioning ... assessed by a 
>>>> particular dominant group at a particular time on the basis of 
>>>> their own potentially culturally irrelevant assessments?
>>>>  Is part of your question also asking for a standard that exists 
>>>> outside of culture?
>>>>  Just thoughts here ... jen
>>>>>  Hi Peter,
>>>>>  I am glad to see you join in the discussion, since I know you've 
>>>>> done interesting research on inner speech.
>>>>>  I am certainly willing to grant that patterns of social 
>>>>> interaction will become patterns of self-regulation and thereby 
>>>>> parts of patterns of individual thinking. It also makes sense to 
>>>>> me, and in my opinion LSV clearly states the view, that the higher 
>>>>> psychological processes are cultural processes. I think he goes so 
>>>>> far as to say that reasoning is cultural.
>>>  >>
>>>>>  But, importantly, that is not the same as saying that reasoning 
>>>>> *varies* across cultures. We *all* live in culture, and one can 
>>>>> say that reasoning is cultural and still maintain that reasoning 
>>>>> is universal. Are we willing to take another step, and suggest 
>>>>> that in specific cultures the ways that people reason will be 
>>>>> different, because the specific conventions of each culture are 
>>>>> involved? That is a big step to take, because the rules of logic, 
>>>>> to pick what is usually taken to be one component of reasoning, 
>>>>> are usually considered to hold regardless of local conventions.
>>>>>  One way to take this step, of course, is to say that people in 
>>>>> cultures reason in different ways but then to add an evaluative 
>>>>> dimension. Those people in that culture reason differently from 
>>>>> the way we do, but that is because their reasoning is less 
>>>>> adequate than ours. They are more childlike, more primitive. 
>>>>> *This* move has often been made, and I can find many passages in 
>>>>> LSV's texts where he seems to be saying basically this. That's not 
>>>>> a move I find interesting or appealing, and it's not what I am 
>>>>> proposing.
>>>>>  On the contrary, it seems to me that much of LSV's writing can be 
>>>>> read as pointing to the conclusion that *standards* of rationality 
>>>>> will vary from one culture another. But I don't think he followed 
>>>>> his own pointers, and, as I've said above, it is a pretty radical 
>>>>> conclusion to come to.
>>>>>  Martin
>>>>>  On Jun 27, 2012, at 9:33 AM, Peter Feigenbaum wrote:
>>>>>>  Martin--
>>>>>>  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
>>>>>>  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
>>>>>>  Martin
>>>>>>  __________________________________________
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>>>>>  > _____
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>>>>  --
>>>>  ______________________________
>>>>  Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur, Ph.D.
>>>>  Associate Professor
>>>>  The University of British Columbia
>>>>  Faculty of Education
>>>>  2125 Main Mall
>>>>  Library Block 272B
>>>>  Vancouver BC V6T-1Z4
>>>>  http://leap-educ.sites.olt.ubc.ca/
>>>>  phone: 1.604.822.9099
>>>>  fax: 1.604.822.3302
>>>>  __________________________________________
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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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