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

Two things Martin. 1. words are as material as anything else, and 2. the formation of an (internal) image of something is not mutually exclusive with the formation of (external) objects with an ideal character.

In trying to crack how Hegel made his breakthrough I came to the conclusion that he simply dropped the whole business of trying to draw a line between internal and external. The things of interest existing objectively, in the world, and they had some kind of mental existence, too, and they existed in a continuum of transformations at every point in between. Hegel just called artefacts "thought objects". With all due qualifications, I think this was a good move. You can have an idea only in and through the prior production of material things, such as words, accompanied by the modification of your own physiology through the use of the thing (such as a word) in the socially prescribed type of activity.

Does that make sense? I confess to the universal propensity to get confused from time to time, but i haven't changed my position. :)


Martin Packer wrote:

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.


Martin Packer wrote:

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.


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.


Martin Packer wrote:
But Andy, if we're following Ilyenkov's lead, don't words have an ideal
character that activity lacks?


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.


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?

I ask you to make a quotation from Vygotsky?
Thank you in advance

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
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
being in my eye.
The citation of the fragment from Doestoevsky where a bunch of guys are
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

Might our Russian friends join Nikolai and help us to understand the core
the issue
David raised? Is he incorrect? Can you search the corpus and help us to
if we are misleading each other?

On Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 5:26 PM, David Kellogg

Dear Professor Veresov:

Let me begin by saying how much we enjoy your work here in Korea. Our
has been discussing your 2005 "Outlines" article "Marxist and
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
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
centrally (and thus for me somewhat misleadingly) to a period of
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
who is almost non-Vygotskyan, or at least non-psychological, Vygotsky in
early twenties, a student of the humanities with a very strong sense
nothing human is alien to them.

The 2006 article in contrast seems to me to place a great deal of stress
the post-Vygotsky period, and I was very surprised and pleased to read
the work on "leading activity" is really not as far as I had thought
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,
there is no question but that MY Vygotsky, LATE Vygotsky, the Vygotsky
Thinking and Speech gives the crisis an absolutely central (one might
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.
1985). On the contrary, I mean what for me is the most mature and
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
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
complete with a clarion call in the very last six words:

Осмысленное слово есть микрокосм человеческого сознания.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education.

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