Re: [xmca] Vygotsky's historicism

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Mon Apr 07 2008 - 15:20:05 PDT

All well said Steve.
I too have difficulty with how to consistently use scientific, dialectical
concepts while living with the fact of socially dominant Cartesian
concepts. The idea of millions of private mental worlds located inside
people's heads, made up of thought-objects called abstract ideals
counterposed to an objective reality of things is not just "wrong" and
something we should oppose, but also a social fact (i.e., most believe
believe in this and act accordingly) which we have to describe, analyse and

At 05:37 PM 7/04/2008 -0400, you wrote:
>Andy, your comments on three very central theoretical but very
>difficult concept pairs, ideal/material, subjective/objective, and
>abstract/concrete are interesting, and thought-provoking as always.
>Your point about what people generally take to be "ideal," and also,
>may I add, "subjective" and "abstract," is a good one, and triggers a
>little comment here from me.
>Ilyenkov emphasizes this point in his essay The Concept of the Ideal:
>plain, everyday (he says vulgar) versions of materialism AND idealism
>both agree that there is a universal boundary between what is "inside"
>and "outside" the individual human head. I find that to be a very
>helpful insight. It helps me to see how many contentious, winner-take-
>all-style debates between these plain versions of materialism and
>idealism over questions like what causes what (e.g. when does being
>determine consciousness and vice versa), how do the natural and the
>supernatural (if such exists) are at the same time NOT about the
>existence of this universal boundary, which is taken for granted. One
>thing that makes the Hegel/Marx/Vygotsky etc. intellectual lineage so
>different from the plain materialist/idealist mainstream is it
>recognizes the biological, but flatly denies the psychological
>existence of this boundary, relating and locating the ideal and
>material, subjective and objective, and abstract and concrete very
>differently, stretching the meanings of these concepts well past what
>they normally refer to. I find it takes concentration and
>deliberation to think this way, constantly having to reapply it anew
>and figure it out all over again as I go. In everyday usage
>especially I find it hard to not use these words in the "vulgar" way
>to refer to one side or the other of this plainspeak Ultimate Divide.
>I find myself contrasting, for example, an ideal job with a real one,
>talking about one opinion being more "subjective" while another more
>"objective," speaking of "abstract" thoughts versus "concrete"
>actions, etc. I think that a close look at these kinds of everyday
>uses reveals a straightforward, mechanical reference to that Ultimate
>Divide, the one DesCartes codified so well. It is almost as though
>our grammar, number system, logic and vocabulary - nearly every
>everyday tool we have to think with - are collectively based on a
>coordinate system that zeroes out at that Ultimate Divide, referencing
>to that place where our "head" ends and the "world" begins, to that
>great dividing line that figures in so ubiquitously in so many modern
>cultures and ideologies. To flip that reference system entirely over
>and make our starting point something radically different - our
>interpenetrating social relationships - and the zig-zaggy historical
>development of those relationships - in short, activity - is an
>enormous paradigm shift, and one that seems to take constant, rigorous
>theoretical focus in order to to speak clearly in terms of. In trying
>to be rigorous, in making the point you make below that it is the
>existence of the ideal that distinguishes an artifact from raw nature,
>I might say that the "ideal" is *necessarily always* material, as in
>inseparable from it, not just something that can "also be" material.
>But I am always walking on eggshells a little when I try to speak at
>that level. I enjoy trying, and do so here on xmca from time to time,
>but by no means do I always get it right.
>- Steve
>On Apr 6, 2008, at 6:30 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>I think part of the difficulty with getting people to accept that
>>unity of material and ideal is that people generally take ideal to
>>be almost synonymous with "subjective" or "in consciousness" whereas
>>"material" simply means "outside of and independent of
>>consciousness". For us, however, "ideal" can also be material,
>>distinguishing what is artifact from what is nature.
>>On Apr 6, 2008, at 10:07 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>1. The contrast of ideal to material is simply a mistaken one. It
>>does not help at all.
>>3. The abstract/concrete relation is a different contrast again, a
>>very important one but a different issue altogether from the problem
>>of the ideal.
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Mon Apr 7 15:21 PDT 2008

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