Re: [xmca] The Moral Policeman and Water Under the Mill

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Tue Sep 25 2007 - 09:59:39 PDT

Very interesting thoughts, David.
Well worth applying to the current circumstances of the proletariat.
Dima Leontiev has a critique of the water metaphor somewhere in soviet psych
its successor you might want to look at (Dmitry). It has to do with oceans.

On 9/25/07, David Kellogg <> wrote:
> And thank YOU Bella, for straightening THAT out. Now it really does make
> perfect sense, particularly when you think of LSV's previous comparison of
> "pangs of conscience" with a moral policeman. LSV is contrasting PROLEPTIC
> moral precepts with "postleptic" moral policing.
> First of all, the "pangs of conscience" are backward looking rather than
> forward looking. Secondly, they are in the context of a 'moral policeman',
> whose precepts are identical with the power of fear, although they are
> internal. Thirdly, LSV recognizes that the 'pangs of conscience' are often a
> SUBSTITUTE for doing what is right: people do what is WRONG and then feel
> guilty about it afterwards, and they find this course of action actually
> EASIER than doing the right thing. LSV understands this, and this is why he
> equates the "pangs of conscience" with the power of fear: they are both
> INEFFECTUAL at controlling behavior!
> But how can we distinguish between self-regulation that is truly
> emancipatory, proleptic, and can shape future behavior on the one hand and
> self-regulation that is merely the guilty "pangs of conscience", backward
> looking, and a convenient substitute for doing the right thing?
> One of them is CREATIVE! The other is simply derived by imitation. The
> "moral policeman" merely imitates a real one! So LSV says "if the poet's
> summons is to be applied to our actions, it has to so resonate that its
> meaning express (sic) the demand not simply to listen to, but to himself
> create the music of revolution. (223)"
> Note that LSV's REFUSAL to prescribe what moral education will be under
> socialism is in some ways analogous to that of a book published exactly one
> year before "Educational Psychology" that LSV must have read, a book by the
> then Commissar of War Leon Trotsky "Literature and Revolution" (1924).
> Trotsky makes the argument that it is quite impossible to create so
> called "proletarian art", because in so far as the proletariat is
> proletarian, it is not yet in control of the means of artistic production
> (art is still in the hands of the middle class). In so far as the
> proletariat is no longer proletarian, it will create not a "proletarian"
> art, but a socialist one, and it is impossible for us to predict what that
> will be like.
> LSV has simply transposed Trotsky's argument to the field of moral
> education. This is why his book ends with quotations from Trotsky. It is
> also why this book and "Psychology of Art" are so critical of the
> Bukharinist idea of art as a form of "socialized emotion" where an esthetic
> response simply "contaminates" the masses, like the flock of geese in
> Thinking and Speech which simply "contaminates" others with its fear. That
> is, of course, the function of the "moral policeman" as well.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> PS: Mike: According to Valsiner and van der Veer, the Mill chestnut
> about the water molecule was a pretty standard example in the early
> twentieth century, something not only in the Gestalt but in the Zeitgeist. I
> still find LSV's use of it unhappy for various reasons, not least of which
> is that water molecules do not develop. I rather wish he had used the
> "commodity" straight from Marx instead. But I guess if he had it would have
> been censored by the thought police in the West.
> dk
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Received on Tue Sep 25 10:00 PDT 2007

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