From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Sun Apr 27 2008 - 20:43:07 PDT

I just wanted to probe you little on this question of
concept (Begriff) vs "abstract general" (or complex or
"representation", etc).

It seems to me that all of us, unless we have a psychiatric
problem or brain damage or something serious, by the time we
become adults operate with concepts. I notice that most
theorists do not understand well what a concept is and even
the average Nobel Prize Winner cannot distinguish clearly
between an abstract general notion and a genuine concept.
But nonetheless we all use genuine concepts. Difficulty in
theoretically making this distinction explicit is a matter
really of whether you have been exposed to Hegelian ideas or
Marx, Vygotsky, or other philosophy which incorporates these
insights. Tribal people for example, just as much as Logical
Positivist philosophers, use concepts. Is that your
understanding as well?


Martin Packer wrote:
> ------ Forwarded Message
> From: Alexander Surmava <>
> Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2008 13:01:03 +0400
> To: 'Martin Packer' <>
> Cc: Mike Cole <>
> Subject: RE: Life, psyche, consciousness.doc
> Dear Martin,
> You write:
> To my reading, Ilyenkov's concept of ideality, based on the notion of the
> thinking-body, is not the same as suggesting that artifacts have a cultural
> meaning. To me, this risks reintroducing a dualism between matter and
> meaning. It is a short step, to my view mistaken, to the belief that the
> natural sciences study matter, while the social sciences study meaning. It
> also leads one to think that each artifact has a single meaning. Sasha, when
> you said that the child really understands "the meaning" of the knife, I'm
> sure you would agree that a child cannot grasp the complexity of the
> relations that a single artifact like a knife has with society as a whole.
> Nor can a peasant understand the full complexity of the social world in
> which they are living, even though they have great practical wisdom.
> I entirely share your idea that ³Ilyenkov's concept of ideality, based on
> the notion of the thinking-body, is not the same as suggesting that
> artifacts have a cultural meaning². The latter is something banal and
> doesnıt need the first. No one of semiotics will disagree with the statement
> that each artifact has some ³cultural meaning², while all of them have
> hardly ever heard the very concept of ³thinking body² and evidently donıt
> need in this notion.
> As well we never declare something like the statement ³that the natural
> sciences study matter, while the social sciences study meaning².
> As for a child with a knife we do insist that to have a real understanding,
> real idea of knife a child needs only to be taught by adult how to use it in
> historically developed cultural manner. The knife is a tool which helps
> humans to cut something and a child who practically grasps this mode of
> operation and adequately utilizes the knife has a valid idea of knife. All
> complexities ³of the relations that a single artifact like a knife has with
> society as a whole² can add nothing to this plain fact. The role of society
> consists in elaborating the artifact and in teaching new generations the way
> to utilize it.
> The knife is something basically simple. The absolute majority of mankind,
> those who use knifes in their everyday life needs and have only practical
> notion of knives. On the contrary something that pretends to be a
> ³scientific notion² of knife is something ridiculous and scholastic.
> In exactly the same way illiterate, but experienced peasant has real,
> practical notion say of melon, while a schoolboy with all his ³scientific
> definitions³ is far from real comprehension of it. He can successfully eat
> melon but he hardly can plant it. And here just as in previous case ³the
> full complexity of the social world in which they are living² has nothing to
> do with the idea of melon.
> Surely there are objects which canıt be grasped practically by a single
> person. Thus for example an idea of agriculture as a socially and
> historically developed system of relations which combines individual forces
> of people over the cooperative process of production and distribution canıt
> be realized in abstract practical manner. Such attempts can be resulted in a
> way similar to famous fable about three blind and an elephant.
> The same we can say about such an object as atom or nuclear particle. A
> single person never deals practically with such objects. Only a theoretical
> culture ­ which is essentially a special type of cooperative practice ­ can
> grasp the notion of such objects.
> Explaining all this I meet a great difficultness with the lack of proper
> English terminology (or, probably, my poor knowledge of English). In German
> and in Russian there is a clear distinction between two notions, and two
> terms: Begriff = ponıatie, and Vorstellung = predstavlenije.
> The highest form in development of thinking is obviously ponıatie (Begriff).
> And in the same time it is the universal form of thinking. While
> predstavlenije (Vorstellung) is subordinated notion. The obscheje (general)
> predstavlenije is understood in dialectical culture as a meaning of word,
> like something that enables us to distinguish among the known and fixed in
> the matter of language culture objects. But one can have predsatavlenije
> without having understanding of the essence of the object.
> Thus the brilliant illustration of such divergence of two forms of thinking
> (Predstavlenija and Ponıatia) are so called ³artificial notions² from
> Vygotsky-Sakharovıs experiments, as well as many similar constructions from
> psychological theory. The artificial notion is an empty notion, which is
> something that cannot be understood not because their utmost complexity but
> because their utmost vacancy. Logically as ³artifcial notion² we have an
> evident example of general definition (obshchego predstavlenija), not
> understanding (ne ponıatie). So it corresponds not with dialectic logic both
> in its Hegel and Marxist form, but with formal logic, with logic of John
> Locke.
> And this distinction is not something academically formal but the core
> distinction for dialectically thinking researcher. Thus Davydov based all
> his theory of developmental instruction just on this distinction. (Iım going
> to ask Peter Moxhay ­ the translator of Davidovıs latest book - how he cope
> the problem with insufficiency of English terminology in this case.)
> As for the idea of ³thinking body² it is equal to basically new and in the
> same time genuine Marxist and Spinozian idea of thinking as not banal
> manipulation with words and other conventional signs, but as a special way
> of acting of one (active or ³thinking² body) according to the shape of the
> other body, taken in the moment of its live realization.
> All this was fundamentally explored in Ilyenkovıs works and I agree with you
> that the joint rereading of this works would be extremely useful for all of
> us as a step to rethinking the traditional understanding of CHAT.
> Sincerely,
> Sasha
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 
Skype andy.blunden
xmca mailing list
Received on Mon Apr 28 02:39 PDT 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu May 01 2008 - 17:14:14 PDT