Re: [xmca] Response to David Kellogg about Volition

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Fri Sep 07 2007 - 17:37:15 PDT

Steve, could you give a simple, 2 or 3 lines maybe, explanation of what you
*mean* by "nature is dialectical"?
At 09:23 AM 7/09/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>This is a dense but not too long post on this discussion of volition and
>complexity theory. I think we bump into the question of whether "nature
>is dialectical" in thinking about the question of how complexity theory
>can figure into the study of consciousness. Yesterday I sent David
>Kellog some links to Ethel Tobach (integrative levels) and Ken Richardson
>(levels of self-regulation), two authors I find to be on the right
>track. Both Tobach and Richardson use important ideas from CHAT in their
>theorizing, and have a strong leaning toward integrating natural and
>social science, in ways I find both dialectical and materialist.
>Vygotsky was a strong advocate of Engels' position that nature is
>dialectical, as was of course Marx, who I believe contributed two chapters
>to the book Anti-Duhring, where Engels develops this concept. The
>Dialectics of Nature by Engels, a manuscript never published in Engels'
>lifetime, was first published in Russia in the 1920's and is clearly
>influential on Vygotsky, who quotes it favorably numerous times in his
>manuscript "The Meaning of the Historical Crisis of Psychology"
>(1927). But this is a minority viewpoint today, it seems.
>I found myself spending some time browsing the book Mike mentioned earlier
>this week, Human activity - contributions to the anthropological sciences
>from a perspective of activity theory by Benny Karpatschof, available
>online at . This
>book is a rich and highly worthy exploration of the philosophical
>underpinnings of CHAT, one of the best I have seen on that level, but
>Benny adopts the position that nature is not dialectical, disagreeing
>sharply with Engels - and therefore, Marx, Vygotsky, Leontiev, and all the
>classical Marxists on this question. This idea that Engels was wrong,
>that nature is not dialectical, that dialectics does not apply to nature
>(Karpatschof allies with Sartre on this), is quite popular among many
>dialectical thinkers today, all around the world. The position I lean
>toward, that nature is dialectical, is a minority view today.
>I think we bump into this question of the dialectics of nature every time
>we try to integrate explanations across different domains of complexity -
>from the behavior of atoms, to genes, to embryos, to children learning to
>speak, for example - so the question "is nature dialectical?" is both an
>ontological question (what is the nature of reality) and epistemological
>(how do we know anything). I think Andy's remarks offer an excellent
>basis for a critique of the incorrect view that conscious human behavior
>(volition) can be reduced to the laws of complexity science. But if we go
>the route Benny Karpatschof suggests and reject the thesis that nature is
>dialectical altogether, I think we can lose a vital link between the
>natural and the social, both ontologically and epistemologically, and how
>we can use, as Engels began to, the discoveries of natural science (laws
>of mechanics, chemistry in his time, quantum electrodynamics, complexity
>theory, etc. in our time) to understand how the even more complex
>activities of human society and the still even more complex and chaotic
>actions and operations of the human individual, emerge. In that way, I
>think complexity theory is very much a powerful tool in trying to link the
>explanatory laws of nature and society, although by no means is it
>sufficient. That will require a new level of integrated science and
>general psychology along the lines that Vygotsky envisioned.
>- Steve
>At 04:18 PM 9/7/2007 +1000, you wrote:
>>Welcome aboard Steve.
>>I have always thought that the proposition that thinking is like
>>computation is so barren, so stupid and so obviously an reflected
>>projection, that to argue against it is to enter into the stupidity, and
>>I would rather not. It's similar to people finding proof of neo-liberal
>>economics in Darwinian biology, overlooking the fact that Darwin imported
>>liberal economic ideas into his view of Nature in the first place.
>>Computers are the latest thing, and information scientists develop tools
>>for humans to use by emulating human activity, and then other people
>>discover that people think like computers. Upside-down. Generates lots of
>>academic salaries and popular book sales anyway.
>>Although I think complexity theory and the concept of chaos are very rich
>>and interesting ideas, I think they are out of place in describing the
>>working of such a "well-oiled machine" (he, he) as the human mind. One
>>thing about the application of this theory to the mind, and this is
>>David's issue I believe, is that it is a radically unfree concept of the
>>human condition. Allied with the concept of emergence, it is a fig leaf
>>to cover a lacuna in positivist knowledge of the mind. We cannot explain
>>how a few bits of flesh can be so creative and so clever, so its must be
>>emergence, complexity, chaos, etc., etc.,
>>I am intrigued also by David's question as to why learners should be so
>>in favour of learning theories which give them no power. Perhaps it is
>>because those learning theories also give them no responsibility?
>>At 09:41 PM 6/09/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>>>First time poster here and this may be from out of
>>>left field, I'm not sure. I am not active in the
>>>field so forgive me if but:
>>>Roger Penrose, a prominent asttrophysicist, (among
>>>others) has advanced the case that human
>>>thinking/consciousness/cognition is not
>>>"computational". Here he follows Kurt Goedel in the
>>>use of the term computational. He wrote a book that
>>>started with this premise and then further wrote a
>>>response to a chorus of influential academics, all of
>>>whom issued polemics against his book and especially
>>>the "non-computational" thesis.
>>>The contents of his reply somewhat step into the
>>>middle of the debate but should be perfectly
>>>understandable even to someone who hasn't read the
>>>book or the scathing reviews. The Contents are
>>>numbered and I recommend especiallyr reading #s 3 and
>>>4 and then some of the later items at your own
>>>discretion, evocatively titled "Free Will", "What Is
>>>Consciousness?" and so on.
>>>Penrose is not really trying to answer those
>>>questions, by the way, only remove them from a
>>>reductive, emergent from matter, reducible to physical
>>>properties and laws, perspective.
>>>Might at least help center your search for how and
>>>where volition fits into the puzzle.
>>>This is a wonderful list by the way, thanks guys
>>> > It's a good read too, but it wasn't what I was
>>>looking for. I need
>>> some
>>> > > way of integrating complexity theory and VOLITION
>>> > > language teaching (which is what I do)
>>>volition-free approaches are
>>> very
>>> > > popular (nativism, subconscious acquisition, and
>>> chaos-complexity
>>>Need a vacation? Get great deals
>>>to amazing places on Yahoo! Travel.
>>>xmca mailing list
>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
>> identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
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Received on Fri Sep 7 17:40 PDT 2007

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