Re: [xmca] Zo-peds, roads, and Senseis

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Sun Dec 24 2006 - 14:35:42 PST

The question of whether and how one can sensibly ascribe intentions to
collectivities has been occupying me recently. I think the answer is
inescapably "yes", for otherwise one have to abandon the idea of
individuals having aims and intentions, don't we?

Discussing with a friend (who is outside the Vygotsky tradition) the
question of whether it can be said that the Liberal Party *intends* to
reduce wages (not a public position of the Liberal Party), he said that
minutes of meetings and policy documents stating that intention would
*constitute* the intention of the Liberal Party as a collective to do so.
It seems to me though that such documents are only *evidence* of such an
intention, and only in and through the intentions of individual leaders of
the party could such an *intention* exist. Minutes and documents can be
false, for example, or can be ignored even if they are true, as well as the
fact that the effects of written policies can be misunderstood by those who
read and write them.

Mike's suggestion (from the Vygotsky tradition) goes deeper doesn't it, for
the spoon is not only evidence of someone's intention to eat and in a
particular way, but by its material form, the spoon constrains others who
were not part of the invention or creation of the spoon, to use it in the
appropriate way and *reproduce* the intentions reified in the spoon,
therefore manifesting a collective intention. The unintended side effects
and affordances of an artefact serving some original purpose are something
else. Do the oil companies intend to destroy the biosphere? probably not. I
think that is what Mike means by "affordances" (yes?) So making artefacts
which constrain or afford certain activities for future generations, or
other people in general, may or may not reflect the intention of the maker
(which may be different), but give to the action of the collectivity the
appearance of teleology: cultural evolution is therefore like biological
evolution in that teleological thinking "works."

It seems to me that for a collective to have an intention it is necessary
that the intention exists in the consciousness of at least key individuals
as an explicit intention, AND that the artefacts constraining and affording
the activities of the collective function so as to produce the intended
activity, AND the mass of individuals involved use the artefacts in the way
intended by those individuals who are conscious of the relevant intention.
Otherwise teleological reasoning is a metaphor.

Is that right?

At 07:46 AM 24/12/2006 -0800, you wrote:
>I for one have never rejected the notion of teleology and believe that one
>of the great disasters that empricism has wrought upon modern thought is
>the removal from sight of the multiple causes: formal, effective,
>teleological, etc. , leaving only effective cause.
> And of course that notion is central to the concept of development
> whether it be in psychology or sociological theories of modernization. I
> agree with Andy that it is unavoidable, except for behaviorists and
> structuralists, to specify teleologies for individual subjects. The
> question remains for collectivities. It would seem that the idea of
> conversations with a future also implies teleology insofar as
> the conversations are exploratory and the topic has an internal
> organization yet to be discovered. This is perhaps the idea of history
> operating behind the backs of humans. Sartre's analysis of the storming
> of the Bastille in his Critique of Dialectical Reason provides a
> wonderful example of how one can see that apparently unstructured actions
> of mobs, motivated by an absence, can crystallize into a direction. The
> first steps determining the ones that follow.
> Paul
>Mike Cole <> wrote:
> It is so interesting, confusing, thought provoking to follow people's ideas
>about the process
>of development.
>It was peg griffin, not sylvia scribner, Paul, with whom we wrote about
>zo-peds as conversations
>with the future.
>I have been pouring through LSV writings as best I can for all the places
>where the term, development,
>is used. I was reminded of the year that the LCHC seminar was devoted to
>reading and trying to help
>Norris Minnick as he labored through the translation of LSV Volume 1
>Collected works. The term, development,
>is used in some many ways/contexts by LSV that it is a real task to try to
>arrive at some family group of
>Different metaphors highlight different sides of the multifacted (imagined?)
>jewel. One question that is on my
>mind is the issue of QUALITATIVE CHANGE being central to LSV's though and
>the extent to which different
>metaphors include this idea.
>Other ideas floating in the discussion that I am chewing on are
>interfunctional reorganization (both within the brain and
>between person and environment, and issue of directionality in development.
>I cannot agree that teleological thinkins is always wrong, as I interpret
>the local concensus to be. It is hard to avoid the conclusion
>that all culturally mediated action is teleological, which does not mean it
>is not misguided!!
>God may be a blind watchmaker, but neither and Adam or Eve, skilled as they
>were in watch making or making watchers, i am not sure which,
>was blind.
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  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
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