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Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality

I think we are at cross purposes here, Huw. Symbolic logic can only deal with various kinds of propositional calculus, but always comes down to "atoms" whose truth value is "outside the theory". I am not really interested (these days) in formal languages. I am talking about real languages.


Huw Lloyd wrote:

On 29 June 2012 14:16, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Huw, I think the scope for using formal logic is very limited in
    the case of true concepts.

    Basically, you are limited to chains of inferences from true
    But as I see it, pseudoconcepts, like the concepts of Set Theory,
    are native to Formal Logic. The type of logic and the type of
    concept are, as you point out, two different things, but I think
    there is a definite and strong connection between defining a
    concept as a set and the applicability of syllogistic logic.

That connection is one of activity. Discriminating on 'types' of logic by application is pseudoconceptual. In fact if you look at the various kinds of logics, it becomes apparent that their key difference is in terms of application, each introduces a particular 'library' of notations particular to certain kinds of problems, yet these are actually built out simple logical operations. One can describe one formal language in terms of another, which is what Godel did.


    Huw Lloyd wrote:

        On 29 June 2012 11:50, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
        <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:


            I wasn't talking about examples so much as archetypes of
            concepts", and for archetypes he uses exploitation, class
            exploitation, or the Paris Commune (T&S Ch 5 and 6).

            The system of nature does of course provide ample material
            for talking
            about the difference between taxonomy and true concepts.
            So for example:

            "In its external characteristics, the pseudoconcept is as
            similar to true
            concept as the whale is to the fish. However, if we turn
            to the 'origin of
            the species' of intellectual and animate forms, it becomes
            apparent that
            the pseudoconcept is related to complexive thinking and
            the whale to the
            mammals [ie true concepts]." [T&S ch 5]

            which allows LSV to show how sorting by contingent
            attributes (rather than
            according to essential relations within a system)
            corresponds to
            pseudoconcepts and formal logic.

        I think you'll find its the types used that are
        pseudoconceptual, rather
        than the logic.


            True, he does not confine himself to the concepts of
            Marxist social
            science. He uses different sets of concepts for different
            purposes. The
            reasons for falling off your bicycle (somethign within a
            experience) at one point; kulaks from prerevolutionary
            days at another
            point (outside a child's experience), at another. I was
            just saying that he
            takes scientific conepts as the purest form of true
            concept and the
            concepts of marxist social science as the purest type of
            scientific concept.


            Peter Smagorinsky wrote:

            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
            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
            (1953) I thought definitively proved that the method of
            reasoning of
            science is not formal logic, or what Toulmin called
            inference. For example, on p.33: "Certainly none of the
            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
            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.


            Jennifer Vadeboncoeur wrote:

             Yes, exactly Martin, this work is consistent. I do think
            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
            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
            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

            If we look equally across these three positions, which is
            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
            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
            thinking from scientific ... but I also think of Vera
            cognitive pluralism, and want to reaffirm all the other
            ways of
            thinking and experiencing the world through image, sound,
            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
            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,
            "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

            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,
            logic, and holism in indigenous knowledge. Futures, 41(1),

            ...suggest that indigenous peoples have learned to deal with
            complexity, and to manage natural environments rather than
            them; that what has been dismissed as animism is actually a
            sophisticated non-dualistic ontology; and that a holistic
            thinking is being used. I like several aspects of their
            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
            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.


            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
            will vary from one culture another. But I don't think he
            his own pointers, and, as I've said above, it is a pretty
            conclusion to come to."

             I was first thinking about different standards of
            rationality as
            noted in the quote below, between formal and dialectical
            Both are tied to "Western" countries, through dialectical
            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
            who has mastered concepts, does not part with the more
            forms of thinking. In quantitative terms, these more
            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
            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
            the complexity and unity of some Indigenous cosmological
            their symbolic representation through the medicine wheel, for
            example, and the narratives, signs, gestures, practices,
            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
            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
            outside of culture?

             Just thoughts here ... jen

             Hi Peter,

             I am glad to see you join in the discussion, since I know
            done interesting research on inner speech.

             I am certainly willing to grant that patterns of social
            interaction will become patterns of self-regulation and
            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
            *varies* across cultures. We *all* live in culture, and
            one can
            say that reasoning is cultural and still maintain that
            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
            to pick what is usually taken to be one component of
            are usually considered to hold regardless of local

             One way to take this step, of course, is to say that
            people in
            cultures reason in different ways but then to add an
            dimension. Those people in that culture reason differently
            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

             On the contrary, it seems to me that much of LSV's
            writing can be
            read as pointing to the conclusion that *standards* of
            will vary from one culture another. But I don't think he
            his own pointers, and, as I've said above, it is a pretty
            conclusion to come to.


             On Jun 27, 2012, at 9:33 AM, Peter Feigenbaum wrote:


             If you grant that interpersonal speech communication is
            essentially a cultural invention, and that private and inner
            speech--as derivatives of interpersonal speech
            also cultural inventions, then Vygotsky's assertions about
            speech as a tool that adults use voluntarily to conduct and
            direct such crucial psychological activities as analyzing,
            reflecting, conceptualizing, regulating, monitoring,
            rehearsing (actually, some of these activities were not
            specifically asserted by Vygotsky, but instead have been
            discovered in experiments with private speech) would imply
            these "higher mental processes" are themselves cultural
            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
            of things to say, in what message forms, to what kinds of
            in what kinds of situations", according to the cross-cultural
            work of E. O. Frake), then reasoning based on the use of
            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
            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 <tel:%28718%29%20817-2243>
             Fax: (718) 817-3203 <tel:%28718%29%20817-3203>
             e-mail: pfeigenbaum@fordham.edu

             From:        Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu
            <mailto:packer@duq.edu>> <packer@duq.edu
             To:        "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
            <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>
            <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto: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
            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
            It seems to me to boil down, or add up, to the claim that
            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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             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

             phone: 1.604.822.9099 <tel:1.604.822.9099>
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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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    *Andy Blunden*
    Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
    Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>
    Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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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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