Sunday, May 10, 2009

82 Lev Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky was actually not a philosopher, but a psychologist. Yet he is interesting in relation the philosophical questions we are dealing with at the moment.

In the philosophical developments since 1900 we see that language has become more and more the subject of philosophical investigation, abstract languages like mathematics and mathematical logic, and also ordinary language.

Not only in philosophy was language most of the time taken for granted as a common means to express our thoughts, but also psychology hadn't paid much systematic attention to language.

Vygotsky was especially interested in the relation between thought and language. The traditional view, formulated by St. Augustine, was, that speaking was the exterior expression of an inner process, thinking.

In this view are language and thought logically distinct and accidently related to eachother. In other words, we use vocalisation as a means to express ideas, which occur in our mind independent from language.

As such this sounds plausible and obvious, but like Wittgenstein Vygotsky had a different opinion about this matter. Vygotsky said:

" The structure of language is not simply a reflection of our thinking. Therefor we can not consider words as a kind of clothes in which we dress our thoughts. Language is not only a means of expression of our thoughts. Thoughts are reorganized when they are converted into language. A thought isnt just expressed , but also completed by language."

In other words, thought and language are for Vygotsky not two accidental companions like Augustine suggested, but a unity. We must not look for a causal relation between our particular thought and the words that we use. Meaningfull expressions are the result of conscious processes that work in a linguistic medium.

In the development of a child we see that language comes from the outside, the social environment and in the process slowly but steadily the language, or should we say the social interaction, the dealing with reality, is internalized, a development from interpsychological to intrapsychological.

This relates to Wittgenstein's view. The conception that a significant sentence is a picture was replaced in Wittgenstein's thought by the conception that the sense of a sentence is determined by the circumstances in which it is uttered. Language gets its meaning, thought gets its meaning only within a particular social setting.

This is in great contrast with what Locke said: "Words, in their primary or immediate signification, stand for nothing but the ideas in the mind of him that uses them."

The ideas of Vygotsky come close to what is called the 'Sapir-Whorf hypothesis".
In linguistics this hypothesis postulates a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it..

The hypothesis postulates that a particular language's nature influences the habitual thought of its speakers: that different language patterns yield different patterns of thought.

This idea challenges the possibility of perfectly representing the world with language, because it implies that the mechanisms of any language condition the thoughts of its speaker community.

And here we are again in the middle of dozens of questions, especially as we consider the position of language within the philosophical discourse. But you also can relate epistemological questions to this linguistic relativism. And then there is Chomsky, who denies this linguistic relativism, also on our list and still to come.

I would say: plenty and enough to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon on. the way, don't come with that eskimo story about the fact that eskimos have more words for snow than we have, for that is utter nonsense. The first source of that story is from the antropologist and linguistic Franz Boas(1911). He said that the eskimos had four words for snow and English language just one.

For some unknow reason Whorf used Boaz' observation to illistrate his own hypothesis and spoke all of a sudden of 'at least seven different words for snow'.
And nowadays this example is used refering to eskimos that even have dozens of different words for snow.

Sometimes things begin their own life, while in fact Franz Boaz only created a pseudo contradistiction between English and Eskimo snow, just to make his point.

The Discussion

[13:21] arabella Ella: but herman the geographic and social conditions of any linguistic community definitely influence the way in which the language spoken influences that community
[13:21] Mickorod Renard: I prefer Locke
[13:21] hope63 Shepherd: snow isn't snow- it has all kinds of different forms...may be important for eskimos..
[13:22] itsme Frederix: not only language spoken but also thoughts thinked
[13:22] arabella Ella: in my language we have lots of words for wind and windy conditions
[13:22] Laila Schuman: i agree arabella... i have been studying chinese poetry
[13:22] arabella Ella: cool Laila
[13:22] Alarice Beaumont: wow
[13:22] Laila Schuman: and the language creates enormous ... mmm... differences
[13:22] Laila Schuman: in the kind of poetry they write
[13:22] Herman Bergson: Well...let's get back to the basic problem here
[13:23] Herman Bergson: one the one hand we have Locke and Augustine...
[13:23] Herman Bergson: on the other hand Vygotsky and others saying that language is related to our environment
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: i think we overlook an important point: language is a means of communication-
[13:23] Herman Bergson: that is not the issue here Hope
[13:23] Herman Bergson: the issue is meaning
[13:23] itsme Frederix: hope just a vehicle
[13:24] arabella Ella: not just communication Hope, also socializing, power and control
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: smile- don't agree-- but continue...
[13:24] Herman Bergson: how does a language gets it s meaning and what does that mean for how we see the world, reality
[13:24] Mickorod Renard: yes, but arnt we talking about thought
[13:24] Herman Bergson: meaning is an ingredient of thinking Mickorod...concepts
[13:25] arabella Ella: well i agree with the ideas concerning environment but i would also include education and upbringing as a meterologist would look at the clouds and give different meanings and interpretation to my own
[13:25] Herman Bergson: are concepts words...or other kind of entities in our mind?
[13:25] arabella Ella: or to the interpretations a poet may give to clouds ... or the concepts if you prefer
[13:25] itsme Frederix: Herman but what is the issue the same question Augustinus/Comte had to answer - how language gets its meaning
[13:26] Herman Bergson: is that the real philosophical question here Arabella
[13:26] Mickorod Renard: but this is again to use language as communication, not nessesary in ones own mind
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: the internalization explanation of what happens to the child i found interesting
[13:27] Herman Bergson: When you believe Chomsky there is some kind of universal structure in languege, which of course then correlates with a universal structure in reality
[13:27] arabella Ella: one question that arises is - could someone who has never seen snow possess the concept of snow? imagine a person brought up in the sahara desert and trying to explain what a deer in a meadow is ... or the concept thereof?
[13:27] hope63 Shepherd: that's how we get fundementalists,gemma:)
[13:27] Wisdom Streeter: chill out i'm trying to read what herman is saying
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: how internalizing from what is real to understanding
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:28] Herman Bergson: yes arabella, that kind of problems...
[13:28] itsme Frederix: One BIG problem is that all these thesisses are formulated within ... language. They exist in your "linguistic medium".
[13:28] Alarice Beaumont: well.. that is difficult.. one need to know something about the subject to talk about it
[13:28] arabella Ella: and according to Kant we can only perceive the world via the concepts or categories of our mind and the way in which the human mind is structured ... or should i say brain?
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Yes Itsme...we are biting in our own tail all the time here
[13:29] Alarice Beaumont: the person who does not know snow will ask someone who does.. so knowledge is transferred
[13:29] Wisdom Streeter: lol
[13:29] Mickorod Renard: language is important to gain information from graphical language descriptions, but not needed for someone with first hand experience
[13:29] arabella Ella: but Alarice I never saw snow until i was grown up and pictures do not give one the proper concept of snow as it is in RL
[13:29] Wisdom Streeter: ok i'm totally lost now
[13:29] itsme Frederix: Another thin you said Meaningfull expressions are the result of conscious processes that work in a linguistic medium. Ergo if it is not "meaningfull" just forget it in this discussion.
[13:30] Herman Bergson: According to Vygotsky this snow problem would be easily solved....take the person to a place where there is snow..point at it and say:that is snow
[13:30] arabella Ella: but Herman pointing or ostention was what Augustine said too?
[13:30] Herman Bergson: but that would lead to the conclusion that concepts are the result of our dealing with the environment we are in only
[13:30] Mickorod Renard: but he who had seen snow wouldnt have needed to know its snow to know its wet and cold
[13:30] arabella Ella: so how does Augustine differ from Vgotsky?
[13:31] Herman Bergson: for Augustine language is an accidental vehicle to express inner thought
[13:31] itsme Frederix: Best thing would be if Vigotsky idea would embed Ausust etc. Like physic in build up
[13:32] Herman Bergson: for Vygotsky there cant be thought without language I would say
[13:32] arabella Ella: yes could not the two ideas be combined Herman?
[13:32] itsme Frederix: are you sure Herman about that?
[13:32] arabella Ella: both structure of the brain and environmental considerations?
[13:32] arabella Ella: giving rise to concepts
[13:32] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. Herman that wouldbe a good thng
[13:32] Herman Bergson: sure about what thought without language?
[13:32] itsme Frederix: yep
[13:33] Alarice Beaumont: would agree
[13:33] hope63 Shepherd: i communicate,therefore i exist.....
[13:33] Herman Bergson: no...^_^
[13:33] Alarice Beaumont: not?
[13:33] Mickorod Renard: I repeat an article that i read about aboriginees not having a language for numbers but they can still do math
[13:33] Laila Schuman: watch a baby... they have LOTS of thought before they say their first word
[13:33] itsme Frederix: saying is just an expression
[13:33] Mickorod Renard: thats true
[13:33] arabella Ella: but Laila do they have the ability to form concepts?
[13:33] Herman Bergson: stop....
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: but as he explained they do not really understand it
[13:33] Laila Schuman: yes
[13:33] arabella Ella: or is it just instinctual?
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: in concept til about 3
[13:34] arabella Ella: like animals?
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: until then
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: not really'
[13:34] Herman Bergson: here we are becoming inaccurate...
[13:34] Laila Schuman: watch them drop something over the side of the high chair repeatedly
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:34] Herman Bergson: we use the word THOUGHT for what goes on in a baby and about what goes on in our present mind...that is not correct
[13:34] Alarice Beaumont: well.. they do it because the parents react on it Laila!
[13:35] Laila Schuman: gravity?
[13:35] arabella Ella: more like stimulus response
[13:35] Alarice Beaumont: that's a way of learning
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: his example of wanting to ride a pony and crying because the child could not have it and then reaching the point of using a stick to ride for the pony as thye get the idea
[13:36] Herman Bergson: Well...problems and questions are a little overwhelming here..
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: could someone explain to me what all this talk has to do with philosophy?
[13:36] Herman Bergson: as usual we see that we can not come to an easy answer
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:36] arabella Ella: philosophy is concerned with thought and meaning Hope
[13:37] arabella Ella: and with whether language is a reflection of thought
[13:37] Herman Bergson: Well Hope....we have the problem of language and reference
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: have you followed the last two philosopers hope??
[13:37] Mickorod Renard: I am sure if a child grew up on an island by itself without language it would still have a very thoughtful existance
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: as regards language?
[13:37] itsme Frederix: hope we are discussing about the legitimate thinking is that an argument, how can we be universal (if at all) if we all think different
[13:38] Herman Bergson: Indeed Itsme...that is what it comes to in the end
[13:38] itsme Frederix: well we do not differ that much, we all got about the same genes
[13:38] arabella Ella: but dont forget wittgenstein said there could never be a private language which belonged to only one person and davidson followed him in this idea
[13:38] Herman Bergson: in fact we face a situation between relativism and universalism
[13:38] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. thx for the summery :-)
[13:39] itsme Frederix: universalism will fail at the end always
[13:39] Herman Bergson: What I think is most interesting in all our discussions is, that we constantly balance between kinds of relativism and kind of universal answers
[13:40] Herman Bergson: We still have the paradox that all is relative (except this statement necesarily)
[13:40] arabella Ella: what is interesting is that the phoenicians had different colours than the ones we use today and they did not have a name for the colour black
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: cause black isn't a color:)
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: really? that is interesting..
[13:41] arabella Ella: would you not say herman that there are universal concepts like love and happiness and others which are more geographically oriented?
[13:41] Mickorod Renard: thought white wasnt a colour
[13:41] Laila Schuman: in malawi, the people still do not have names for color
[13:41] Herman Bergson: I read that the Dutch see light blue and dark blue, while for russians these are two different colors like red and pink for us
[13:41] arabella Ella: the phoenicians used a colour they also used for their purple sails to refer to dark and murky like sea on a cloudy dull day
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: really!
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: never heard that
[13:42] Alarice Beaumont: mmmhhh
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: arabella- who told you phenicians had purple sails....
[13:42] Herman Bergson: Well...I threw at you another nut that is hard to crack(^_^)
[13:42] Laila Schuman: chinese do not have different words for male and female... just one universal word to refer to both
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: lololol
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: a lot of nuts!!
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: one after another
[13:43] arabella Ella: i studied some history Hope and have read a lot about the phoenicians who died their sails purple
[13:43] Herman Bergson: And believe me..I really need to do a lot of thinking on this issue still
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: well... someone told you a story that is just a story lol
[13:43] arabella Ella: yes herman ... a relativist says everything is relative ... a very hard nut to crack ... impossible i think
[13:44] arabella Ella: i doubt it hope ... i live on an island where the phoenicians used to trade
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:44] Herman Bergson: Philosophically spoken: are concepts in our mind (represented by ) words, are they words, is the word and the concept two sides of one coin?
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: ok.. is the color purple made?
[13:44] arabella Ella: they used a dye hope
[13:44] Mickorod Renard: I think that diferent language and diferent thinking is all part of what make humans so great at discovering meanings,,,,when we become standardised it will be a great shame
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: whzat from ara..
[13:44] itsme Frederix: Plato
[13:45] Herman Bergson: I only can suggest that I have to do at least another series of 100 philosophers to get a little closer to satisfactory answers
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: i am afraid so herman
[13:46] itsme Frederix: I think you only drift away further Herman
[13:46] arabella Ella: will we ever get satisfactory answers herman ;)
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. i will be there, Herman ;-) LOL
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: instead of 100 questions then we will have 200+
[13:46] Herman Bergson: No Itsme, I am on a steady
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: to build up my language in philosophie!
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: or better .. my philosophical language
[13:47] Herman Bergson: Yes Gemma and never a dull moment anymore
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[13:47] itsme Frederix: just the course of history - is there a goal in history or just abunch of events
[13:47] Herman Bergson: we'll keep that question for another time Itsme, if you dont mind :-)
[13:47] itsme Frederix: sure all time I would say
[13:48] arabella Ella: look at hegel for a reply to that itsme
[13:48] herman Bergson smiles
[13:48] Herman Bergson: Well..I think the point of today is clear
[13:48] itsme Frederix: yes and a lot of s**** happenned than arabella
[13:48] Herman Bergson: how relates language to thought, how gets a word a meaning
[13:49] itsme Frederix: tuff question Herman
[13:49] Herman Bergson: next philosopher is a diehard on this issue, Carnap
[13:49] arabella Ella: I know what you mean itsme but hegel has an interesting philosophy of history too ...
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: would someone be ready to examiate the concept"language"?
[13:49] itsme Frederix: vise versa also how to give a thought a good ide words
[13:49] Herman Bergson: Yes Itsme, that one we not yet discussed..:-)
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: the word follows the meaning
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: and from then on the relationship "language-thought"?
[13:51] Laila Schuman: baby: word follows meaning
[13:51] itsme Frederix: I know arrabella but ... idealism is not always a good thing to use if you look at history
[13:51] Herman Bergson: Well...plenty for you to work on
[13:51] Laila Schuman: can we stick to language today???
[13:52] Herman Bergson: papers on my desk before next Tuesday plz ^_^
[13:52] Laila Schuman: smiles
[13:52] Qwark Allen: eheheheh
[13:52] Qwark Allen: nice
[13:52] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[13:52] Osrum Sands: ok
[13:52] arabella Ella smiles
[13:52] Osrum Sands: ???
[13:52] Mickorod Renard: whats happening? did I miss something?
[13:52] Herman Bergson: Thank you for this good discussion today
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: lololol
[13:52] itsme Frederix: a blank one, will that do Herman
[13:53] Herman Bergson: sure Itmse every one to his ability...^_*
[13:53] arabella Ella: mick ... 100 lines on ... what do we learn from philosophy lessons here?
[13:53] arabella Ella: only joking of course
[13:53] Alarice Beaumont: hahaha
[13:53] itsme Frederix: at least it show some open mind (if there is mind)
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: lol'
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: i have already answered that in my article in the paper
[13:53] Mickorod Renard: can I do detention instead
[13:53] Herman Bergson: I guess that was the idea Itsme
[13:53] arabella Ella: LOL
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: or better still the cane
[13:54] Herman Bergson: lol..ok tomorrow morning here
[13:54] arabella Ella: ouch
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: for the cane herman?
[13:54] Alarice Beaumont grins
[13:54] Qwark Allen: work calling
[13:54] Herman Bergson: whatever you like Mickorod
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ty herman
[13:54] Qwark Allen: cya all soon
[13:54] arabella Ella: bye Qwark
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: :-))
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: now there an offer
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Bye Qwark..thnx for your attention
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: bye quarkP

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-09-15 11:58:20

No comments:

Post a Comment