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

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Mon Dec 25 2006 - 23:16:50 PST

Matt, I have a lot of respect for Dewey, and I should probably have spoken
more cautiously. I see Cultural-Historical Activity Theory as to a great
extent a Russian-American creation, not just Russian. The excerpt kind of
typified one of the great weaknesses of American Pragmatism - not
particularly Dewey himself. And of course as you say, it is very much a
part of that American tradition that ideas are valid only within the
context of some real problem, not in themselves, and this is an important

I don't understand what you mean though by "a problem is not solved by
intellectual or authoritative decision". Who says it is? Do you mean
problems are solved *practically*?

Michael: is "radical empiricism" the same as "pragmatism"?

At 07:48 PM 25/12/2006 -0500, you wrote:
>I think Michael has exactly the right thing to say, here. Andy would
>have Dewey dead to rights if we treat him as speaking apart from
>situations and problems. But we have to remember that, for Dewey (and
>I think, to a lesser degree of clarity, in the other American
>pragmatists), all thinking happens in a context that is to some degree
>non-intellectual. So, a problem is not just "thought up," it is felt,
>it is existential, it is a real quality or feature of the situation of
>organism-environment(-culture) interaction. And a problem is not
>solved by intellectual or authoritative decision (though many have
>tried to do so, most unfortunately in the case of some key
>socio-political problems), it requires a change in the situation that
>removes the problematicity (contradictions?).
>On 12/24/06, Michael Glassman <> wrote:
>>This sort of talks to Pragmatism's reliance on experimentalism. I found
>>it interesting that David Backhurst used the term radical empiricism to
>>describe the more liberal aspects of Lenin, because of course James
>>termed his theoretical approach radical empiricism. The idea being you
>>can only know what you do know from experimentation - and understanding
>>the consequences comes from experimentation in particular
>>situations. You determine what the problem is, you determine what the
>>problem would look like if it was solved (in a very concrete manner), and
>>you see if you achieved that end-in-view. Very concrete and very much
>>attached to the situation. I believe that is what Dewey is talking about
>>when he mentions consequences - the only issue is whether you have
>>achieved a solution to the problem - if not, you go back and do another
>>From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
>>Sent: Sun 12/24/2006 6:01 PM
>>To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>Subject: RE: [xmca] Zo-peds, roads, and Senseis
>>At 11:55 AM 24/12/2006 -0500, you wrote:
>> >... >From Chapter 5 [Dewey]
>> > "The test of ideas, of thinking generally, is found in the consequences
>> > of the acts to which the ideas lead, that is in the new arrangements of
>> > things which are brought into existence. Such is the unequivocal
>> > evidence as to the worth of ideas which is derived from observing their
>> > position and rule in experimental knowing. But tradition makes the tests
>> > of ideas to be their agreement with some antecedent [i.e. already
>> > existing] state of things. This change of outlook and standard from what
>> > precedes to what comes after, from the retrospective to the prospective,
>> > from antecedents to consequences, is extremely hard to accomplish. Hence
>> > when the physical sciences describe objects and the world as being such
>> > and such, it is thought that the description is of reality as it exists
>> > in itself."
>>It seems to me that the Achilles' heel of American Pragmatism is how it
>>(and Dewey in the above passage) reduce the relation between consciousness
>>and activity to: "The test of ideas, of thinking generally, is found in the
>>consequences of the acts to which the ideas lead." This overlooks the fact
>>that it is by no means given exactly what these consequences are, at what
>>time consequences are deemed to have been realised, for whom they are
>>effective, and from the standpoint of what system of activity they are
>>assessed; all of which refers back to the very idea which is supposed to be
>>tested in its consequences. One can equally say: "The test of the
>>consequences of an act is the ideas, and thinking generally, by which they
>>were brought about."
>>Fascinating and important as Dewey is, I prefer Marx.
>>xmca mailing list
>>xmca mailing list
>Matt Brown (
>Philosophy Graduate Student, UCSD
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
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