RE: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwin and Bohr

From: Peter Smagorinsky <smago who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jun 25 2007 - 11:25:26 PDT

Rieber and Wollock's Prologue to Vol. 3 of Vygotsky's Collected Works
provides some interesting insights on Darwin and a Cultural-historical
perspective. They say:
"Marxism . . . is a radically humanist philosophy; radical in that it not
only emphasizes the human, but by removing God from the traditional God/man
and social struggle, is a radically humanist philosphy; radical in that it
not only emphasizes the human, but by removing God from the traditional
God/man nexus inevitably throws all emphasis on the human" (p. ix, 1997).
As I understand it, then, the atheism of Marxism allowed for a clearer look
at psychological development, unencumbered by the hand of the Almighty. I
probably can't quite appreciate how radical a move this was 80 or so years
ago, but I suspect that an atheistic perspective was necessary in order to
attempt the sort of comprehensive psychology that Vygotsky aimed for. This
helps explain for me the appeal of Darwin for the project founded by
As a footnote, I have gotten bogged down in writing obligations, so can't
offer much on the promise of my initial intention to read extensively in
Vygotsky this summer--or to read much else, I'm afraid to say.
Peter Smagorinsky
The University of Georgia
Department of Language and Literacy Education
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602-7123 /fax:706-542-4509/phone:706-542-4507/


From: [] On
Behalf Of Michael Glassman
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2007 11:25 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwin and Bohr

David and Erik,
This won't be a long message because basically none of my messages ever seem
to get through. But while it is true the communitarian aspects of the
evolving Russian society (I think very much influenced by Tolstoy's
philosophy - at least among intellectuals), along with the types of large,
barren landscapes many Russian naturalists worked within, affected the
Russian view of Darwin, I would argue with the idea that there was not that
much understanding of Darwin's mechanisms. If you read Petr Kropotkin's
book on Mutual Aid I think he had a really good understanding of Darwin -
Kropotkin was just looking to emphasize different issues, adaptation over
natural selection, and natural selection when it existed at the cross
species level rather than within species level.
While Darwin was certainly influenced by Malthus, his ideas on adaptation
took his theory off in another direction. so it seems to me you have two
major Darwinian points, natural selection and adaptation. Which should be
emphasized was a tremendous argument over the late 19th century played out
in the pages of the journal 20th century. In England Darwin's theory took
a distinct Malthusian turn, it is true. But I think much of that has to do
with the belief system of Huxley, "Darwin's bulldog" who was the actual
person pushing evolutionary ideas in to mainstream society. There was also
the need of Darwinism to provide a parallel idea to religion's "Divine Right
of Kings" if it was going to have any success against religion. The role
Darwin played in this emphasis is I think up for some debate. (I remember
in an article I wrote about Kropotkin I said that Darwin my not have been
responsible for the strong Malthusian emphasis of his theory, and a reviewer
became upset saying everybody wants to protect "Saint Darwin).
As far as survival of the fittest, I think accordning to Gould at least
Darwin really didn't like it. He did use it a few times near the end of his
career, but that may have been because everybody was using it, or the
influence of Huxley, or both.
Anyway, Kropotkin was an extraordinary thinker - also a leading anarchist
philosopher (I never really knew what anarchism was, or how it played in to
evolution before I read him), and a great magician.


From: on behalf of Eirik Knutsson
Sent: Mon 6/25/2007 9:43 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwin and Bohr

Thanks David K,

Maybe there simply was no good reason (in 19th century Russia) to be
by the (Darwinistic) dethronement of Western anthropocentrism? Just a
History, according to Berdyaev, is the story of man's dehumanization, the
of how man came to lose that spirit that makes him uniquely man.


On 2007-06-24, at 03:03, David Kellogg wrote:
> Dear Erik and Mike:
> Erik makes the main point I wanted to make far better than my own
maunderings did. It was precisely that the grandiose epistemological and
philosophical and even political meanings that we often attach to particular
scientific breakthroughs tend to reflect our own ontological predispositions
and philosophical predilections rather than any thorough assimilation of the
technological breakthrough at hand.
> The Russian affinity for Darwinism reflects, as Erik says, the
of anticipation in late 19th Century Russia rather than any deep
of the precise mechanism that Darwin was proposing. But of course the same
could be said of the Western distaste for Darwin.
> In fact, we can even say the same for Darwin's own phrase "natural
selection". Janet pointed out that this particular expression was
anthropomorphic, and it was for that reason that Darwin, via Wallace, began
use the phrase "survival of the fittest" (and of course this has been found
be tautological by people who do not differentiate between species,
phenotypes and genotypes). Darwin's own understanding of his theory is
colored by Malthus and political economy, and this was one of the reasons
it could be so easily picked up by Spencer (who actually coined the
phrase "survival of the fittest").
> I don't mean to change the subject, but I think that another weakness of
the "toolforthoughts" approach is that it at least potentially constricts
concept of mediation to intellectual concepts. Mediation was also part of
vision of emotional development, as Gunilla Lindqvist's article (2000) makes
very clear.
> "Tools" are not artworks. LSV (2004, based on a previous discussion in
Ribot) divides creativity into four basic types:
> a) combinatorial (the creation of unicorns, manticores, dragons,
friends, huts on chicken legs). Here the child is simply juxtaposing actual
aspects of experience in new ways.
> b) reconstructive (the way children conceptualize experiences they have
NEVER had, such as the children in Thinking and Speech Chapter Five who
imagined that serf-owners lived in ten story houses with electricity). Here
there is a "reality check" function that makes the child's creativity
shareable with adults.
> c) emotional (the way children use creativity to control their emotions
even create new ones, such as the child who uses Harry Potter or Tom Sawyer
imagine a world without parents and make it bearable).
> d) innovative (the way children use creativity to bring into being the
of objects that Popper associates with "World Three", music, drawing, drama,
> I see perfectly well how "tools" can mediate the kind of creativity we
in a), b), and even d). But it's much less clear to me how tools (as opposed
symbols) mediate the kind of creativity we see in c). In fact, I would argue
that in many ways the kinds of instant gratification we see developing in
computer based role-play games (and Hollywood movies such as "Pirates of the
Carribean") are INIMICAL to the development of higher emotions such as
out of rage, caution out of fear, empathy out of pain.
> There is always an interaction between a particular tool and its
and I do not think it is accidental that books evolved into novels, while
based games are evolving into long but only very narrowly interactive
lists of monsters to kill, cars to hijack, prisoners to torture, women to
> So I'm inclined to impute the starry-eyed anticipation of people who
believe that web-based games will replace literacy altogether to the kind of
wildly innaccurate (because asocial) foresight which, twenty or thirty years
ago, imagined a world twenty or thirty years hence where people commute
individual rocket belts.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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