Davydov’s concept of the concept and its dialectical materialist background
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
3:50 PM, Tuesday 29 Aug 2017 (30 minutes)
Convention Center - 205 B
Davydov’s work has had an important impact on western mathematics education. His work has, indeed, inspired several researchers who deal in particular with the teaching and learning of mathematics at the elementary level. Davydov’s ideas, however, are not always easy to understand —and they are very easy to misinterpret. The main reason is that Davydov’s educational and psychological ideas have to be placed within the theoretical realm of dialectical materialism. Without taking into account the theoretical background where Davydov’s ideas move, Davydov’s ideas end up meaningless and distorted. Now, dialectical materialism is not a unitary theory. Its variants range from “vulgar,” “propagandistic” uncritical dialectical materialism to sophisticated accounts—such as those of Ilyenkov (1977) and Rosenthal (1959). It is a sophisticated account of dialectical materialism that Davydov embraces in his own work (Davydov, 1990, 2008). Davydov’s account draws, indeed, on a precise ontological stance about nature and humans as found in the philosophical connection between Spinoza, Hegel, and Marx. The goal of this presentation is to make a critical appraisal of Davydov’s concept of the concept. The critical appraisal is based, in particular, on an analysis of some concomitant theoretical constructs such as content-related abstractions and generalizations. It seeks to locate Davydov’s concept of the concept within the Hegelian distinctions between the general, the particular, and the singular (Blunden, 2009; Hegel, 1991), and among the various understandings of the relationship between the logical and the historical (e.g., Zelený, 1982). This relationship seems, indeed, at the crossroad of the various dialectical understandings of movement and development. Special attention will be given to the ontological and epistemological assumptions that underlie Davydov’s concept of the concept, and the educational implications in accounts of conceptual development, instruction, and the structuring of the school curriculum.