Re: [xmca] Response to David Kellogg about Volition

From: Steve Gabosch <sgabosch who-is-at>
Date: Sat Sep 08 2007 - 12:22:13 PDT

At 10:37 AM 9/8/2007 +1000, you wrote:
>Steve, could you give a simple, 2 or 3 lines maybe, explanation of
>what you *mean* by "nature is dialectical"?

Sure,I can give that a shot. Three aspects initially come to mind
regarding the claim "nature is dialectical." First, it is a claim
that nature is always in flux, always changing, constantly developing
and ever-transforming itself. Second, it is a claim that nature's
motions and their history are comprehensible through human practice,
science, and the special science of dialectical reasoning (which
Engels defined as "the science of the laws of motion"). Third, it is
a claim that dialectical reasoning - more precisely, materialist
dialectics - incorporates and has advanced beyond mechanical and
metaphysical methods of thinking, which offer more limited and less
robust views of understanding nature.
- Steve

>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 identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
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Received on Sat Sep 8 12:24 PDT 2007

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