[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Re: xmca Digest, Vol 45, Issue 47: Ilyenkov on ideality and social relations

Martin, Andy, at the risk of getting sidetracked from the main and very valuable discussion about units of analysis and microcosms of consciousness (which is not my intent), here is my take on what Ilyenkov what saying about the ideal: any artifact or even any action (or even any word-meaning form or word-sense form) with social and cultural meaning "has" or "contains" ideality because it manifests human social relations. Hence, even the wine bottles on our table at the end of the evening, according to this interpretation, would have ideality. In this view, there would still be social relations embodied in those bottles, even after the wine was long gone. The metaphor I am using regarding ideality being "possessed" or "embodied" might be problematic, but I don't think it will interfere with this particular explanation. See what you think.

Ilyenkov's core argument, as I see it, was this: just as a material artifact (a use-value, made with concrete labor) in a commodity exchange has exchange value (socially necessary abstract labor), so too would any cultural artifact in an action, (including the action itself), have ideality. In other words, if an object, physical or imagined, has some kind of sociocultural meaning and status, it has ideality. In this view, the Marxist labor theory of value is a special case of the general theory of ideality, which in turn is an application of the cultural-historical theory of activity.

Note the caveat about an object having "sociocultural" meaning and status. An individual that invents meanings unknown to others is not, strictly speaking, creating ideality, any more than anything a worker produces will automatically have exchange value in the market. Ideality, according to this definition, is sociocultural, not idiocultural. Not all signs and other artifacts, therefore, are ideal. Just socially understood ones are. This distinction between the socio- and idio-, of course, can get tricky. Especially, perhaps, after a few bottles of wine :-))

Also, note that this definition of ideality is not about an "ideal object" necessarily being a symbol, or a representation, or about being any kind of a sign at all. Any socioculturally meaningful object will qualify as having "ideality" if it is indeed being engaged with by people in an activity of some kind. One example of ideality might be the unicorn that we together imagine joining us at our table. Another example might be the cork from one of our wine bottles that was kicked under the table. It would have ideality for the person who picks it up and is able to infer something about what we were drinking, even after we have gone. As for ideality in literature and drama, there is perhaps no place it is more recognized and carefully investigated than in the detective story! LOL

And also note that from this point of view the distinction between "artifact" and "action" can be set aside at this level of discussion, where we are viewing reality as a whole as being comprised of material objects, but are suggesting that certain objects have both materiality and something else - ideality. What gives certain objects this extra quality? According to this interpretation of Ilyenkov's concept of ideality, material objects have ideality, that is, are imbued with the ideal, when they are socioculturally engaged with by humans. Just as manual tools become extensions of our limbs, cultural artifacts and actions become extensions of our relationships. Ideality is the cultural and linguistic result of extending human social relations to known, and imagined, objects and universes.

To sum up, no matter what package a socioculturally-regarded object comes in, if it exists, it therefore has materiality, because it is in the nature of the known universe of matter and energy for all objects to be material; and if this object has sociocultural meaning to humans, it therefore has ideality, because it is reflecting human social relations.

A closing remark. In this perspective, both Nature and God lose their places at the center of the universe, where philosophically-minded humans sometimes try to gauge reality from. Both Nature and God, in this perspective, have been replaced by a new kind of ultimate, and very earthly object - human social relations. Which is not to say that humans are now free to ignore the laws of physics, biological evolution, socio-historical development, or individual psychological development. Heavens no! It is precisely in the discovery and harnessing of these necessary regularities and variations of reality wherein human freedom lies. One of my favorite versions of this idea is codified in the saying "freedom is the realization of necessity." This is one of the great insights that Hegel, Marx, Vygotsky and others help us understand and put into practice. As for advocating the replacement of God - and especially, his or her tenacious advocate, Dualism - well, that is another story to discuss, one which may take uncorking a few more bottles of wine ... :-))

- Steve

On Feb 18, 2009, at 3:08 PM, 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 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
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 that
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 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,
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.
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.

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list