RE: [xmca] Copernicus, Darwin and Bohr

From: Eirik Knutsson <eikn6681 who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jun 25 2007 - 15:58:19 PDT

There are, of course, several humanisms:

“... the civic humanism of the quattrocento Italian city-states, the Protestant
humanism of sixteenth-century northern Europe, the rationalistic humanism that
attended at the revolutions of enlightened modernity, and the romantic and
positivistic humanisms through which the European bourgeoisies established
their hegemony over it, the revolutionary humanism that shook the world and the
liberal humanism that sought to tame it, the humanism of the Nazis and the
humanism of their victims and opponents, the antihumanist humanism of Heidegger
and the humanist antihumanism of Foucault and Althusser – are not reducible to
one, or even to a single line or pattern. Each has its distinctive historical
curve, its particular discursive poetics, its own problematic scansion of the
human. Each seeks, as all discourses must, to impose its own answer to the
question of ‘which is to be master’.”
(Davies, Tony. Humanism. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 1996:130-131).


On 2007-06-25, at 20:25, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
> 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
> Vygotsky.
> 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.
> Michael
> _____
> 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
> offended
> by the (Darwinistic) dethronement of Western anthropocentrism? Just a
> thought.
> History, according to Berdyaev, is the story of man's dehumanization, the
> story
> of how man came to lose that spirit that makes him uniquely man.
> E.
> 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
> atmosphere
> of anticipation in late 19th Century Russia rather than any deep
> understanding
> 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
> to
> use the phrase "survival of the fittest" (and of course this has been found
> to
> be tautological by people who do not differentiate between species,
> organisms,
> phenotypes and genotypes). Darwin's own understanding of his theory is
> deeply
> colored by Malthus and political economy, and this was one of the reasons
> why
> 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
> LSV's
> concept of mediation to intellectual concepts. Mediation was also part of
> LSV's
> 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,
> imaginary
> 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
> socially
> shareable with adults.
>> c) emotional (the way children use creativity to control their emotions
> and
> even create new ones, such as the child who uses Harry Potter or Tom Sawyer
> to
> imagine a world without parents and make it bearable).
>> d) innovative (the way children use creativity to bring into being the
> kind
> of objects that Popper associates with "World Three", music, drawing, drama,
> etc.
>> I see perfectly well how "tools" can mediate the kind of creativity we
> see
> in a), b), and even d). But it's much less clear to me how tools (as opposed
> to
> 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
> justice
> out of rage, caution out of fear, empathy out of pain.
>> There is always an interaction between a particular tool and its
> content,
> and I do not think it is accidental that books evolved into novels, while
> web-
> based games are evolving into long but only very narrowly interactive
> shopping
> lists of monsters to kill, cars to hijack, prisoners to torture, women to
> abuse.
>> 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
> using
> individual rocket belts.
>> David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
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Received on Mon Jun 25 15:59 PDT 2007

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