Of Theseus, Vygotsky and the lack of dry docks for planks to be replaced

So the old puzzle goes – of Theseus’s ship – if you replace the mast twice, the sails thrice and every plank of the hull over time, is it STILL, after all that the “original” Theseus’ ship? (and, if it isn’t anymore, when did it stop being so?)

Then there’s Lev Vygotsky, the Russian educational psychologist who came up with the notion of the “zone of proximal development” – the stuff you cannot do independently unless you have a mentor (literally) holding your hand and helping you to make corrections as you go. Vygotsky also talked about the “scaffolding” that is around someone as they build their own foundations/walls etc. Once the scaffolding is built, you can take it away and the house won’t (or shouldn’t) fall down. If you’ve done it right.

And you can combine the two plank-y images in this, from Otto Neurath.

We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction.

Where am I going with this? I guess that Vygotsky and the scaffolding is quite prescriptive; the shape of the scaffolding determining the shape of the house (albeit possibly agreed beforehand by scaffolder and scaffoldee). Would a lattice, like for ivy to climb up, be better, as metaphors go?

And then it’s about being attracted to various bits of sunlight, or lighting out for the territory (see what I did there?)

What DOES it mean, to encourage, to help individuals learn new skills (to what level etc). And is it all futile in the face of imminent collapse? (Answers – “dunno” and “kinda sorta yes”, imo).

2 thoughts on “Of Theseus, Vygotsky and the lack of dry docks for planks to be replaced

Add yours

  1. This touches on something that’s been preoccupying my attention recently. How can complex, older ways of doing things, making things, be transmitted to a younger generation when the whole Ethos behind them both cannot be understood without a certain experience/appreciation of those “arts” and, at the same time, the current Ethos completely ignores what these arts could show us?

    This applies to pretty much everything I’ve found to be of value in my own experience….

  2. Marc asks “Where am I going with this”? Seems to me he is talking about out political system. We can and often do, replace the “planks” every so often, but sadly it’s the same old ship.

    The design was flawed in the first place and time has revealed all it’s weaknesses. Same old, same old, just does not work. Time for a completely new design and better educated workers, who think more about the outcome and less about their wage packets.

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