Mind as Action

Mind as Action

Mind as Action

Mind as Action

Synopsis

Wertsch argues against reductionist accounts of human cognition and proposes a sociocultural perspective, which moves beyond the isolated individual. He suggests that "mediated action" and cultural tools shape cognitive processes and can explain how they are organized.

Excerpt

The task of sociocultural analysis is to understand how mental functioning is related to cultural, institutional, and historical context. The relationship between mind and sociocultural setting has concerned scholars for decades, if not centuries, but in recent years it has received renewed attention as dissatisfaction has grown with analyses that limit their focus to one or another part of the picture. In addition, investigators are being asked to contribute to the understanding of pressing contemporary problems more than ever before, and one of the ground rules for participating in this effort is that we not begin with the assumption that such problems come in pre-sliced disciplinary pieces.

When it comes to dealing with such issues in a way that recognizes their complexity, the human sciences have all too often come up short. In many respects, the problems we have in dealing with complex, multifaceted reality are similar to those in the story of the three blind men trying to understand what an elephant is. Like these men with their different and incommensurable perspectives on an elephant, various traditions in the human sciences have had different and incommensurable ideas about the essence of human nature. Some traditions have viewed humans as political animals, others have argued that our essence lies in tool-using activities, still others define us as symbol-using animals, and so forth.

In the contemporary social sciences, these views have been updated, but often at the cost of further fragmentation. For example, in . . .

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