Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

A Quick Look at Wittgenstein and Derrida (Notes & Quotes)

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , , , ,

I’m in a bit of a hurry today to catch a flight, so this is simply a compilation of quotes to think about with regard to language and the nature of reality.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889- 1951)

Realist: “A statement can only have meaning if that statement refers in an obvious way to things actually in the world” (p. 156).  (Related to Frege’s reference.)

“Wittgenstein saw the world as a totality of facts, not of things. Facts are logical entities; they can only be asserted or denied. They are not hard, red, round, etc. Things exist in space and time: they have shape, colour, consistency, etc.” (p. 158).

“We cannot demonstrate the limits of language or of the world” (p. 159).

“He decided that what a sentence meant (what language means) is not what the words refer to in the world outside, but the way in which words relate to each other. The way language works is not because it acts like an ideal logic, but because it follows its own working, which is the way people agree language works. This is not something that happens formally, but something the people in a language community grasp automatically” (p. 159).

“We can never get outside language to the reality ‘outside’ language. We can only use language in order to talk about language. All language is shared by at least two people. There is no such thing as a ‘private’ language” (p. 160).

“We cannot think unless we possess language” (p. 161).


Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)

“His greatest insights include the notion that whenever language expresses an idea it changes it” (p. 184).

Structuralism: “Its main teaching is that reality is composed of relationships rather than things” (p. 187).

“Structuralism tends to divide our perceptions of the world into binary categories, minimal pairs: good/bad . . . etc. It analyses the structures that lie behind or beneath things. It tends to distrust history and concentrates instead on the web of patterns holding at any given time. Derrida reacted against this outlook” (p. 188).

“Speaking is a sign of presence. When we speak to somebody they are with us. Writing is a sign of absence. We write to somebody because they are at a remove. The more words are shut away in writing, logocentrism maintains maintains, the more they are copies than the real thing” (p. 189). –>

“. . . we only have access to what is beyond language through this new notion of text. This is the meaning of his dictum: ‘There is nothing outside the text’ (p. 193).

Derrida’s “différance” (not “différence”): “. . . meaning is never immediate; it is always deferred” (p. 189). –> “This new word does not stand for a new concept; rather, it plays around the notion of undecidability. Language, thought and meaning are now all in an uncomfortable position; they are unstable. They force us to ask ourselves if language can be relied upon” (p. 192).

“Comfort is restored with the reinstatement of binary order. But what if this binary order cannot be recalled; what if undecidability is the norm?” (p. 190).

“Once language enters the public domain, the speaker or writer loses control over it” (p. 191).


Johnston, D. (2006). A brief history of philosophy: From Socrates to Derrida (p. 211). London, UK: Continuum Books.

Mead: Some Final Noteworthy Quotes

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , ,

(Note: Converted from Livescribe Pen via MyScript. Possible typos.)


“The process of conversation is one in which the individual has not only the right but the duty of talking to the community of which he is a part, and bringing about those changes which take place through the interaction of individuals. That is the way, of course, in which society gets ahead, by just such interactions as those in which some person thinks a thing out” (p. 168).


“. . . is that peculiar character and aspect of the environment of individual human experience which is due to human society, a society of other individual selves who take the attitude of the other toward themselves” (p. 171).

“The essence of the self, as we have said, is cognitive: it lies in the internalized conversation of gestures which constitutes thinking, or in terms of which thought or reflection proceeds. And, hence, the origin and foundations of the self, like those of thinking, are social” (p. 273).

  • [Note: The view that the self as a cognitive process is somewhat incommensurable with social constructionism.]

Arrow in spiral


”The reaction of the individual in this conversation of gestures is one that in some degree is continually modifying the social process itself” (p. 179)

“A symbol is nothing but a stimulus whose response is given in advance,’ (p. 18))


“The self is not something that exists first and then enters into relationship with others, but it is, so to speak, an eddy in the social current and so still a part of the current. It is a process in which the individual is continually adjusting himself in advance to the situation to which he belongs, and reacting back on it” (p. 182).

“The mind is simply the interplay of such gestures in the form of significant symbols” (p. 189).



Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self & society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist. (C. W. Morris, Ed.) (Vol. 13). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

G. H. Mead: Quotes on Temporality & Symbolism

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , , ,

(Note: Converted from Livescribe Pen via MyScript. Possible typos.)

INTELLIGENCE ”is the process of delaying, organizing, and selecting a response or reaction to the stimuli of the given environmental situation” (p. 100).

“The traces of past experience are continually playing in upon our perceived world’ (p. 113).

“ . . . The relation of the temporal character of the nervous system to foresight and choice. . . That which takes place in present organic behaviour is always in some sense an emergent from the past, and could never have been precisely predicted in advance… (p. 98-99).

TEMPORAL Dimension: ”the things we are going to do can be arranged in a temporal order so that the latter processes can in their inception be present in determining the earlier processes; what we are going to do can determine our immediate approach to the object.” (p. 117).

Symbolism:  “To be able to identify ‘this as leading to that., and to get some sort of a gesture, vocal or otherwise, which can be used to implicate indicate the implication to others and himself so as to make possible control of conduct with reference to it, is The distinctive thing in human intelligence which is not found in animal intelligence.’ (p. 120)..

Symbols allow us to “hold on to these given characters and to isolate them in their relationship to the object, and consequently in their relation to the response.’ (p. 121).

Example provided:

  • One is not afraid of the footprint, but of the bear.

Meads notes the difference between:

Thinking with symbols VS. Conditioned response (p. 122)


“We have to recognize that language is part of conduct. Mind involves, however, a relationship to the characters of things . . . Mentality is that relationship of the organisms to the situation which is mediated by sets of symbols ‘ (pp. 124–125)

“Our symbols are all universal. You cannot say anything that is absolutely particular; anything you say that has any meaning at all is universal.” (p. 147)

“A person who is saying something is saying to himself what he says 10 others; otherwise he does not know what he is talking about.’ (p. 147)

Example: Helen Keller

  • “As she has recognized, it was not until she could get into communication with other persons through symbols which could arouse in herself the responses they arouse in other people that she could get what we term a mental content, or a self” (p. 149).



Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self & society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist. (C. W. Morris, Ed.) (Vol. 13). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


Social Constructionism, Social Psychology, Social Behaviourism . . .

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , , , , ,

Berger & Luckmann (1966)A few days ago, I finished reading (rather, finally finished!!) Berger and Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality. They indicated in the introduction that they would not cite their precursors and references as per academic style. This is a pity as I find myself wishing to dig further into the background of social constructionism.

Berger and Luckmann do provide some clues regarding the underlying philosophies of their work. In the conclusion, they mention G. H. Mead: “. . . we would contend that the linkage we have been led to make here between the Sociology of Knowledge and the theoretical core of the thought of Mead and his school suggests an interesting possibility for what might be called a social psychology– that is, a psychology that derives its fundamental perspectives from a sociological understanding of the human condition.” (p. 186).

What I have found noteworthy as I dig more deeply into Burger and Luckmann’s work is that their version of social construction does not propose that the world is completely socially constructed, rather: “there are always elements of subjective reality that have not originated in socialization, such as the awareness of one’s own body prior to and apart from any socially learned apprehension of it.’ (p. 184). Oh, and they add, ”Subjective biography is not fully social. The individual apprehends himself as being both inside and outside society” (p. 134). The individual constantly strives to achieve a balance between his/her objective and subjective self (identity).

Mead (1934)Naturally, language is the primary source of socialization. And, this emphasis upon language, conversation in particular, was also salient in the work of Mead. So, I am now reading in order to understand more fully the background of social construction (as per the European/Scandinavian flavor–rather than the current North American focus on the work of Papert vs. Piaget). Mead’s (1934) Mind, Self, and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviourist is very important.

In his introduction to the book, Charles w. Morris provides some evidence of a possible foundation for social construction: ”Mead’s endeavour is to show that the mind and the self are without residue social emergents; and that language, in the form of vocal gesture, provides the mechanism for their emergence”(p. xiv).

Coming from a behaviourist perspective–albeit a Social Behaviourist perspective–the linkage with the body and the physical world ekes through his (Mead’s) writing. At my current stage in the book it appears that he is already working towards a position that recognizes that symbols do not mean/signify the same thing to both hearer and listener—that an utterance may evoke a different emotional or physical reaction in the listener. By page 65, Mead is building an argument about the significance of the “vocal gesture.” (I am a little hazy about whether or not Mead was more a critical realist or could be classified as a pre-social constructionist.)

This is what has captivated my attention: “The vocal gesture, then, has an importance which no other gesture has. We cannot see ourselves when our face assumes a certain expression. If we hear ourselves speak we are more apt to pay attention. One hears himself when he is irritated using a tone that is of an irritable quality, and so catches himself. But in the facial expression of irritation the stimulus is not one that calls out an expression in the individual which it calls out in the other” (p. 65).

What is interesting is how hearing our own voices affects us. Take, for example, the scene in “The King’s Speech” (the movie) when the linguist places headphones (blaring loud music) upon Edward’s head, and asks Edward to read a passage. Instead of stuttering, Edward was able to recite the passage perfectly whilst unable to hear his own voice.

Can we use this information when considering human interaction in online environments? How do our online gestures affect us when we are aware of them? Can we hear ourselves online? Or, lacking the vocal gesture, does the text-based interaction impact us less? Or, just differently? And what of ambient presence and the longevity of the online footprint? Lots of questions . . .

(Note to self: I wrote this text by hand using a LiveScribe pen and notebook. Then, I converted my cursive to text using their MyScript tool. I think I needed to set the options to the text (only) format. It did include some arrows and boxes that I tend to draw in my notes—due to the use of the shape and freeform drawing settings mistakenly being toggled on. More testing needed.)



Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge (p. 219). Garden City, NY: Anchor Books (Random House, Inc.).

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self & society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist. (C. W. Morris, Ed.) (Vol. 13). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Recording for my presentation today: The Web of Identity

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , ,

Gale (my PhD supervisor) and I did our presentation today for CIDER. Gale got to do the tough stuff. 🙂 I think it all went very well, except when my home telephone began to ring. I found it terribly distracting. I will have to make sure I shut off the ringer next time.

The Web of Identity: Identity Formation in Online Learning

Screenshot for The Web of Identity presentation

Facilitator: Marguerite Koole
Institution: Athabasca University
Date and time: Mar 02, 2011 11:00 AM


As learners interact in online networks of learning, how do they come to know one another? Building on the work of Goffman (1959) and Foucault (1988), the Web of Identity (WoI) model shows how online learners may use dramaturgical strategies to create and negotiate their personal identities in a continuous flux of presentation and interpretation. Philosophically, the model is highly social constructionist and places a great emphasis on relational dialogue. For practitioners, the implications include finding ways to aid learners to improve their use and translation of WoI strategies. Such skill, theoretically, should help them to enact their unique personalities, lessen their sense of fragmentation, increase their sense of belonging, and gauge authenticity of others. The researchers, Marguerite Koole and Dr. Gale Parchoma, will then discuss some preliminary research projects on identity in networked learning and future research in the field.