Posts Tagged ‘wittgenstein’
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.