Archive for the ‘Wittgenstein’ Category
Dialogical Self Theory provides a comprehensive social-scientific theory that incorporates the deep implications of the process of globalization, and its impact on individual development. Hubert Hermans and Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka present a new and compelling view of the historical changes in perceptions of social realities, and how these changes affected motivation, emotion, leadership, and conflict resolution. They detail the improvement of dialogical relationships both within the self and between individuals, groups, and cultures, providing evidence from everyday life. The book addresses a variety of problem areas that are analyzed in new and unexpected ways: the pros and cons of traditional, modern, and post-modern models of self, the role of emotions, power and dominance, motivation, leadership, and conflict resolution. This book will be of interest to scholars in a wide range of fields including psychology and sociology.
Read also: Dialogical self
In my brief contribution to this discussion, I want to suggest that an understanding of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, and the recognition of its striking differences from any previous philosophical works, can make some important contributions to all the issues mentioned above. I hope its brevity will not detract from its usefulness.
Let me begin by noting, that while Wittgenstein is not critical of scientific investigations as such (in their own proper context), the whole scientific approach is in fact inimical to the character of his investigations. His investigations are of a grammatical kind. His remarks are thus not at all aimed at arguing for what is in fact the case. They are to do with “giving prominence to distinctions which our ordinary forms of language easily make us overlook”, with drawing our attention to “what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions” – they are expressions of a concern with what already lies “seen but unnoticed” in the background to all our everyday (and professional) communicative activities.
Organizing multi-voiced organizations – action guiding anticipations and the continuous creation of novelty
Bakhtin’s ideas of polyphony and dialogism are explored as ways of organising our own human affairs. Traditionally, language has been thought of as an already established, self-contained system of linguistic communication that sets out a set of rules or social conventions that people make use of in expressing themselves. In this account, what I will call the intellectualist, Cartesian account of language, people understand the linguistic representations contained or encoded in each other’s sentences. However, another account – an emotional-volitional account articulated by Bakhtin, along with a number of others, such as Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty – is of a much more dynamic, participatory, relational kind. In it, language and the world are intertwined in a chiasmic relation with each other, in which we are shaped just as much, if not more, by the world, as the world by us. Thus, to switch to this very different view of language is also to switch to a very different view of the world in which we live: it is to see it as a living, dynamic, indivisible world of events that is also still coming into being. In this view, we understand another person’s utterances in terms of the bodily responses, the felt tendencies, they spontaneously arouse in us, responses that relate or orient us both toward them and toward events occurring in our shared surroundings.
This article articulates the relationship between postmodernism and activity theory. Speciﬁcally, it is argued that a synthesis of postmodern psychology and activity theory can be effected such that (a) activity theory is transformed from a progressive, albeit modernist, theory into a postmodern praxis for empowering people; and (b) postmodern psychology is made more radical and more rigorous and, thereby, less vulnerable to critiques from both left and right. Marx, Vygotsky and Wittgenstein are discussed for ways in which they have informed the synthesized methodology that is put forth. Key concepts found in activity-theoretic writings are discussed throughout the article: dialectics as method, being/becoming, development/revolutionary activity and performance. The article concludes with an invitation to postmodern psychology to strengthen its critique of psychology’s philosophical biases through transforming itself activistically.
I have been centrally influenced in the dialogical approach I take to interpersonal communication, not by the theories of Wittgenstein, Vygotsky, Bakhtin, and Voloshinov, but by certain specific utterances or expressions in their writings. As I see it, all communication begins in, and continues with, our living, spontaneous, expressive-responsive (gestural), bodily activities that occur in the meetings between ourselves and the others and othernesses around us. Indeed, as living, embodied beings, we cannot not be responsive in some fashion to the expressions of others (spoken, written, or otherwise), and to other kinds of events, occurring in our immediate surroundings. Thus, as I see it, abstract and general theories are of little help to each of us in the unique living of our unique lives together, either as ordinary people or as professional practitioners. While the specific words of another person, uttered as a ‘reminder’ at a timely moment as to the character of our next step within an ongoing practical activity, can be a crucial influence in its development and refinement. Thus in this paper, I outline a distinction between ‘withness‘ and ‘aboutness-thinking’: Withness (dialogic)-thinking is a form of reflective interaction that involves coming into living contact with an other’s living being, with their utterances, their bodily expressions, their words, their ‘works’. It gives rise, not to a ‘seeing’, for what is ‘sensed’ is invisible; nor to an interpretation, for our responses occur spontaneously and directly in our living encounters with an other’s expressions; but to a ‘shaped’ and ‘vectored’ sense of our moment-by-moment changing placement in our current surroundings – engendering in us both unique anticipations as to what-next might happen along with, so to speak, ‘action-guiding advisories’ as to what-next we might do. Aboutness (monologic)-thinking, however, is unresponsive to another’s expressions; it works simply in terms of a thinker’s ‘theoretical pictures’ – but, even when we ‘get the picture’, we still have to interpret it, and to decide, intellectually, on a right course of action.
Constructing Resourceful or Mutually Enabling Communities – Putting a New (Dialogical) Practice into Our Practices
The whole idea of being a “participant,” of being an involved actor as distinct from being an “external observer” standing over against or apart from what one is learning about or researching into, is crucial in everything that follows below. It leads us to a focus on actual practices and activities in an everyday context, rather than on theories and talk in classrooms, seminar rooms, and conference halls. As academics, the world of practice, however, is not very familiar to us. We must re-teach ourselves to think in relational rather than atomistic-corpuscular (Newtonian) terms. A whole new way of being in the world is involved. Instead of taking the thoughts or theories of individuals as an original source of new activities in our lives, it involves a focus on the primacy of our living, spontaneously responsive reactions to the others and othernesses around us. Such a change in stance – from an uninvolved, outsider’s view of a scene to an insider’s sense of their position, their relational-involvement, within a situation – changes how we think and talk about many notions of importance to us in our discussions of the meaning of learning. For instance: thinking becomes inner dialogue (rather than calculation); understanding becomes a relationally- responsive bodily activity (rather than a representational-referential one in our minds); knowledge becomes a matter of ‘knowing one’s way about’, as in knowing what to do next (rather than the accurate picturing of a state of affairs); while communication becomes more a matter of pointing out aspects of one’s surroundings (rather than the giving of decontextualized information).