Ideality and Cognitive Development: Further Comments on Azeri’s “The Match of Ideals”

Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 9 (11):15-27 (2020)
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Abstract

Siyaves Azeri (2020) quite well shows that arithmetical thinking emerges on the basis of specific social practices and material engagement (clay tokens for economic exchange practices beget number concepts, e.g.). But his discussion here is relegated mostly to Neolithic and Bronze Age practices. While surely such practices produced revolutions in the cognitive abilities of many humans, much of the cognitive architecture that allows normative conceptual thought was already in place long before this time. This response, then, is an attempt to sketch the deep prehistory of human cognition in order to show the inter-social bases of normative thought in general. To do this, I will look first to the work of Vygotsky and Leontiev, two often neglected psychologists whose combined efforts culminate in a developmental account of human cognitive origins. Then, I will review some key insights from the contemporary comparative psychologist Michael Tomasello—whose project is admittedly a Vygotskian one—in order to further shed light on the social-practical basis of abstract thought, of which mathematical cognition is surely a part

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Chris Drain
Dartmouth College