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Re: [xmca] Re: xmca Digest, Vol 45, Issue 47


In an earlier post you wrote:

" Also, the Ilyenkov article is interesting in that he winds
up with the idea of mind hingeing around the capacity to
form an image of the external world through the practical
use of artifacts."

Perhaps you've changed your position, but I think this is almost the
opposite of what Ilyenkov proposes. His suggestion is that in the course of
human practical activity, some material things are produced which are
"images" of the "form" of another material thing (or, he says, one
"embodies," or "expresses" the form of the other).

So being ideal has nothing to do with being the meaning of an individual's
actions or desires. The plane of ideality is the product of *collective*
activity, and it confronts the individual as something objective which they
must adapt to.

An important part of this adaptation is the formation of consciousness and
will. These are products, effects, of living in a system of collective
practices which includes an ideal plane, not the other way around.

Rather than, as you say, "activity is impossible without an ideal," Ilyenkov
argues that ideal objects are impossible without activity. Taken out of
activity they lose their ideality. Human activity gives form to the ideal -
not out of the individual mind or brain, but out of collective activity. Not
all artifacts are "symbolic objects." Most artifacts are just material
objects. But words are ideal. It is their movement in human practice that
gives them ideal form, not any kind of mental origin. A word, taken out of
“the organism of human intercourse” is no more than a mere acoustic
phenomenon. But within human interaction it is an image, a symbol.

So in this regard, at least, it seems to me that Vygotsky was on the right
track to say that word meaning (the "inner aspect" of the word) is a clue to
consciousness - well, first to *thinking* and then, since consciousness
always operates as a coordinated system, to consciousness as a whole.


On 2/18/09 6:29 PM, "Andy Blunden" <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> Let's take a coconut for example. In itself, there's nothing
> ideal about a coconut ... unless you are hungry and it
> becomes the object of your action, the meaning of your
> efforts to climb the coconut tree. But perhaps more
> obviously if coconuts are the unit of currency on your island?
> The point being: there is nothing inherent in the properties
> of the coconut which makes it ideal, only the activity in
> relation to it. I'm sure that's stating the obvious. But
> also conversely ...
> If I am a marooned sailor, starving and untrained in the art
> of living from Nature on a South Sea Island, then it is
> nothing to me but a lump of brown wood. There is no activity
> in which I can use the coconut. ... unless and until I am
> shown a human way of using the coconut, or piercing it and
> drinking from it and later using the shell as a spoon to
> drink water from the spring ... Activity is impossible
> without an ideal.
> Meshcheryakov is best on this. Eating is not activity.
> Eating is only activity when a spoon is used, and in the way
> a spoon was intended to be used too, when eating becomes
> social and cultured.
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> Andy,
>> My reading (thus far) of Ilyenkov is that only certain kinds of artifact can
>> be said to be ideal, as well as material. This would include dollars, hand
>> gestures, words - but not, I think, a wine bottle or an automobile. Or not
>> necessarily so: under certain circumstances these could function as
>> representations, of status, for example. I confess I'm not yet completely
>> clear on how Ilyenkov is drawing the distinction, but draw it I am sure he
>> does. And activity does not have this kind of ideal form. If it is the
>> child's contact with ideal artifacts, as he suggests, that produces
>> consciousness then contact with (participation in) activity would not be
>> enough. Dealing with words, on the other hand, since these are both material
>> and ideal, would foster consciousness.
>> Martin
>> On 2/18/09 5:56 PM, "Andy Blunden" <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>> In "Learning by Expanding", Engstrom quotes V P Zinchenko as
>>> claiming that "word meaning" is very close to being a
>>> special case of "tool mediated action". I think this is
>>> correct and one could add "joint" as it is invariably other
>>> people that one shares meaning with, not things, and meaning
>>> which is not shared is nothing.
>>> A word is no more nor less ideal than a key or a dollar or a
>>> wine bottle or a white shirt or an automobile or an open
>>> hand, but how can we counterpose words or any artefact to
>>> activity? Activity uses artefacts and is impossible without
>>> them; things are only artefacts insofar as they are
>>> incorporated in Activity.
>>> Andy
>>> Martin Packer wrote:
>>>> But Andy, if we're following Ilyenkov's lead, don't words have an ideal
>>>> character that activity lacks?
>>>> Martin
>>>> On 2/17/09 9:11 PM, "Andy Blunden" <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>>>> (2) Apart from artefacts, is also activity. Doubtbless
>>>>> activity is implicit in meaning in some way, but it is
>>>>> unclear to me. I think it is a mistake to make the
>>>>> foundation of consciousness just words, rather than practice.
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> Mike Cole wrote:
>>>>>> Without the time (or skill to switch to cyrrilic!) I have been thinking
>>>>>> about Kolya's questions, ,David.
>>>>>> For those who forget in the stream of xcma chatting, Nikolai asks:
>>>>>> where Vygotsky posits word meaning as
>>>>>> unit of analysis of human consciousness?
>>>>>> In which text and on what page? From what Vygotsky's work it is taken?
>>>>>> Could
>>>>>> I ask you to make a quotation from Vygotsky?
>>>>>> Thank you in advance
>>>>>> Nikolai
>>>>>> I was thinking how nice it would be to know how to search the vygotsky
>>>>>> corpus online in Russian, which I do not know how to do.
>>>>>> And remembering fragments of why I thought David's comments resonated
>>>>>> strongly
>>>>>> with my own intuitions, formed in part, by LSV.
>>>>>> such as (no quotations or page numbers, just failing memory here):
>>>>>> meaning is the most stable form of sense-- every totally stable? really?
>>>>>> word meaning changes in development
>>>>>> the closing of *Speech and Thought *that David points to, the drop of
>>>>>> water,
>>>>>> perhaps,
>>>>>> being in my eye.
>>>>>> The citation of the fragment from Doestoevsky where a bunch of guys are
>>>>>> standing
>>>>>> around saying, it seems, the word "product of defecation" (oh poo!) and
>>>>>> every one
>>>>>> is using the same word and every one is both saying the same thing and
>>>>>> saying something different.
>>>>>> Don't all of these and many other examples (Paula, are the Sakharov -LSV
>>>>>> blocks of any help here?) point to the general conclusion that David was
>>>>>> asserting?
>>>>>> Might our Russian friends join Nikolai and help us to understand the core
>>>>>> of
>>>>>> the issue
>>>>>> David raised? Is he incorrect? Can you search the corpus and help us to
>>>>>> understand
>>>>>> if we are misleading each other?
>>>>>> mike
>>>>>> On Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 5:26 PM, David Kellogg
>>>>>> <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:
>>>>>>> Dear Professor Veresov:
>>>>>>> Let me begin by saying how much we enjoy your work here in Korea. Our
>>>>>>> group
>>>>>>> has been discussing your 2005 "Outlines" article "Marxist and
>>>>>>> non-Marxist
>>>>>>> aspects of the cultural historical psychology of L.S. Vygotsky" since we
>>>>>>> read it last year, and I found your 2006 article "Leading activity in
>>>>>>> developmental psychology" very useful in figuring out why I don't accept
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>> whole construct of "leading activity".
>>>>>>> I think that BOTH works are really quite central to the periodization
>>>>>>> problem under discussion, but I also think that BOTH works refer mainly
>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>> centrally (and thus for me somewhat misleadingly) to a period of
>>>>>>> Vygotsky's
>>>>>>> oeuvre that is quite different from the one I have in mind.
>>>>>>> The 2005 article places a good deal of stress on early Vygotsky, a
>>>>>>> Vygotsky
>>>>>>> who is almost non-Vygotskyan, or at least non-psychological, Vygotsky in
>>>>>>> his
>>>>>>> early twenties, a student of the humanities with a very strong sense
>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>> nothing human is alien to them.
>>>>>>> The 2006 article in contrast seems to me to place a great deal of stress
>>>>>>> on
>>>>>>> the post-Vygotsky period, and I was very surprised and pleased to read
>>>>>>> that
>>>>>>> the work on "leading activity" is really not as far as I had thought
>>>>>>> from
>>>>>>> the fragments LSV left behind in his unfinished "Child Development".
>>>>>>> Elkonin, at any rate, seems to have been fully aware that the "leading
>>>>>>> activity" is in no way typical or characteristic of a particular period
>>>>>>> (though Leontiev and lately Karpov have said exactly the opposite). The
>>>>>>> problem remains that I do not see any place for the crisis in this work,
>>>>>>> and
>>>>>>> there is no question but that MY Vygotsky, LATE Vygotsky, the Vygotsky
>>>>>>> of
>>>>>>> Thinking and Speech gives the crisis an absolutely central (one might
>>>>>>> even
>>>>>>> say a critical) role.
>>>>>>> Of course, when I said that word meaning is a unit of analysis for human
>>>>>>> consciousness I am not simply repeating what others have said (e.g.
>>>>>>> Werstch
>>>>>>> 1985). On the contrary, I mean what for me is the most mature and
>>>>>>> therefore
>>>>>>> in some ways least characteristic moment of Vygotsky's own work; I might
>>>>>>> even call it the "leading activity" of his thinking.
>>>>>>> I meant, especially, the very last three paragraphs of Thinking and
>>>>>>> Speech.
>>>>>>> I have always found this to be a little like the last page of "Origin of
>>>>>>> Species", rather more than a conclusion, but a whole revolutionary
>>>>>>> program,
>>>>>>> complete with a clarion call in the very last six words:
>>>>>>> Осмысленное слово есть микрокосм человеческого сознания.
>>>>>>> David Kellogg
>>>>>>> Seoul National University of Education.
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>>>> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
>>>>>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
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