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

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Feb 21, 2009
Hi Martin,

Below are some quotes from Ilyenkov's essay The Concept of the Ideal (1977) that might help shed light on some of the questions we are batting around.

On your first point, I am curious what criteria you suggest that Ilyenkov proposes for what constitutes the ideal, if it is not, generally speaking, all artifacts, all produced objects (that are in use in some way). See if you interpret the quotes I have put together in A and B. as I do, that Ilyenkov views ideal forms as "the forms of human activity embodied in things," and that Ilyenkov places no restrictions on that embodiment applying to anything humans have acted upon. You suggest that if all artifacts were ideal, it would not be possible to distinguish them from the material. I am interested in your thoughts in this regard on some of the quotes in B., and also D.

On your second point, objects representing objects, see the quotes in B and C. In Ilyenkov's concept of the ideal, in my interpretation, objects don't represent 'objects', per se, they represent human activity and labor. So when you ask "If all artifacts were ideal, what would they represent?" the answer I would give is they are representing human activity, human social relations. See if you think Ilyenkov is saying this.

On your discussion of Leontiev, if you are swayed by the above, I wonder if you will come to see a fairly high level of similarity between the quotes you provide, as I do. As for Leontiev's spoons, I am pretty sure Ilyenkov would consider them ideal.

He says, in A. ph 137, for example,
"It is “inside” man *thus understood* that the ideal exists, because “inside” *man thus understood are all the things* that “mediate” the individuals that are socially producing their life: *words, books, statues, churches, community centres, television towers*, and (above all!) *the instruments of labour*, from the stone axe and the bone needle to the modern automated factory and the computer. It is in these “things” that the ideal exists as the “subjective”, purposeful form-creating life activity of social man, embodied in the material of nature."

The last section, E, offers some quotes pertaining to an interesting concept EVI calls "reciprocating movement" between artifacts and goals/ needs.

This post wasn't as hard to put together as it may look. I had parts of it already done. And I found it helpful to review this material. A few years ago, I did a paragraph by paragraph analysis and summary (i.e. an annotation) of Ilyenkov's essay The Concept of the Ideal as part of studying it closely, as part of the xmca course in 2003, when I first came around CHAT. I numbered the paragraphs as I went, and kept that in a Word file. Speaking of Word, I am sending this email also as a Word attachment in case that is easier for you or anyone else interested to manage.

As you can see, I have inserted various intros and summaries prior to some of the quotes, preceded by SG. If you see something you think I am reading wrong, please bring that up. Also, B. 1 (ph 47) has an unusually difficult sentence structure (even for Ilyenkov) so I took the liberty to added some [....] to aid the eye.

- Steve

***********Selected quotes from The Concept of the Ideal by Ilyenkov*********************


1. [SG - EVI sums up many of his points about ideality. Note that in ph 138, he succinctly defines ideal forms as "the forms of human activity embodied in things."]

"Man acquires the “ideal” plane of life activity only through mastering the historically developed forms of social activity, only together with the *social* plane of existence, only together with *culture*. “Ideality” is nothing but an aspect of culture, one of its dimensions, determining factors, properties. In relation to mental activity it is just as much an *objective* component as mountains and trees, the moon and the firmament, as the processes of metabolism in the individual’s organic body. This is why people often confuse the “ideal” with the “material”, taking the one for the other. This is why idealism is not the fruit of some misapprehension, but the legitimate and natural fruit of a world where things acquire human properties while people are reduced to the level of a material force, where things are endowed with “spirit”, while human beings are utterly deprived of it. The objective reality of “ideal forms” is no mere invention of the idealists, as it seems to the pseudo-materialists who recognise, on one side, the “external world” and on the other, only the “conscious brain” (or “consciousness as a property and function of the brain”). This pseudo-materialism, despite all its good intentions, has both feet firmly planted in the same mystical swamp of fetishism as its opponent — principled idealism. This is also fetishism, only not that of the bronze idol or the “Logos”, but a fetishism of a nervous tissue, a fetishism of neurons, axons and DNAS, which in fact possess as little of the “ideal” as any pebble lying on the road. Just as little as the “value” of the diamond that has not yet been discovered, no matter how huge and heavy it might be." ph 132

“Ideality” is, indeed, necessarily connected with consciousness and will, but not at all in the way that the old, pre-Marxist materialism describes this connection. It is not ideality that is an “aspect”, or “form of manifestation” of the conscious-will sphere but, on the contrary, the conscious-will character of the human mentality is a form of manifestation, an “aspect” or mental manifestation of the *ideal* (i.e., socio-historically generated) *plane of relationships between* man *and nature*." ph 133 "Ideality is a characteristic of *things*, not as they are determined by nature but as they are determined by *labour*, the transforming and form-creating activity of social man, his *purposeful*, sensuously objective activity." ph 134

"The ideal form is the form of a thing created by social human labour. Or, conversely, the form of labour realised in the substance of nature, “embodied” in it, “alienated” in it, “realised” in it and, therefore, presenting itself to man the creator as *the form of a thing* or a relationship between things in which man, his labour, has placed them." ph 135

" ... But it is for this very reason that he [humankind] takes the results of his transforming activity (the forms and relations of things given by himself) as the forms and relations of things as they are. This gives rise to fetishism of every kind and shade, one of the varieties of which was and still is *philosophical idealism*, the doctrine which regards the ideal forms of things (i.e., the forms of human activity embodied in things) as the eternal, primordial and “absolute” forms of the universe, and takes into account all the rest only insofar as this “all the rest”, that is to say, all the actual diversity of the world has already been drawn into the process of labour, already been made the means, instrument and material of realisation of purposeful activity, already been refracted through the grandiose prism of “ideal forms” (forms of human activity), is already presented (*represented*) in these forms, already shaped by them." ph 138

"For this reason the “ideal” exists *only in man*. Outside man and beyond him there can be nothing “ideal”. Man, however, is to be understood not as one individual with a brain, but as a real aggregate of real people collectively realising their specifically human life activity, as the “aggregate of all social relations” arising between people around one common task, around the process of the social production of their life. It is “inside” man *thus understood* that the ideal exists, because “inside” *man thus understood are all the things* that “mediate” the individuals that are socially producing their life: *words, books, statues, churches, community centres, television towers*, and (above all!) *the instruments of labour*, from the stone axe and the bone needle to the modern automated factory and the computer. It is in these “things” that the ideal exists as the “subjective”, purposeful form-creating life activity of social man, embodied in the material of nature." ph 139


1. [SG - EVI says that Hegel's concept of the ideal is superior to Kant's, which posits a false boundary between the ideal and material. To avoid confusion, it is best to not think of the material and ideal as opposites, but just as different. Andy underscored this point the other day.]

"It will readily be appreciated how much broader and more profound such a positing of the question is [....] in comparison with any conception that designates as “ideal” everything that is “in the consciousness of the individual”, and “material” or “real”, [....] everything that is outside the consciousness of the individual, [....] everything that the given individual is *not conscious of*, [....] although this “everything” does exist in reality, [....] and thus draws between the “ideal” and the “real” a fundamentally dividing line which turns them into “different worlds” that have “nothing in common” with each other. [....] It is clear that, given such a metaphysical division and delimitation, the “ideal” and the “material” cannot and must not be regarded as *opposites*. Here they are “different”, and that is all." ph 47

2. [SG - The main problem of philosophy is to distinguish the ideal and material. The ongoing discussion on xmca about the ideal and the material is not inconsequential.]

"It will be appreciated that the main difficulty and, therefore, the main problem of philosophy is not to distinguish and counterpose everything that is “in the consciousness of the individual” to everything that is outside this individual consciousness (this is hardly ever difficult to do), but to delimit the world of collectively acknowledged notions, that is, the whole socially organised world of intellectual culture with all its stable and materially established universal patterns, and the real world as it exists outside and apart from its expression in these socially legitimised forms of “experience”. ph 54

"It is here and only here that the distinction between the “ideal” and the “real” (“material”) acquires a serious scientific meaning because in practice the two are usually confused. Pointing out the fact that the thing and the form of the thing exist outside the individual consciousness and do not depend on individual will still does not solve the problem of their objectivity in its fully materialistic sense. And conversely, by no means all that people do not know, are unaware of, do not perceive as the forms of external things, is invention, the play of the imagination, a notion that exists merely in man’s head. It is because of this that the “sensible person”, to whose way of thinking Kant appeals with his example of the talers, is more often than other people deluded into taking the collectively acknowledged notions for objective reality, and the objective reality revealed by scientific research for subjective invention existing only in the heads of the “theoreticians”. It is the “sensible person”, daily observing the sun rising in the East and setting in the West, who protests that the system of Copernicus is an invention that contradicts the “obvious facts”. And in exactly the same way the ordinary person, drawn into the orbit of commodity-money relationships, regards money as a perfectly material thing, and value, which in fact finds its external expression in money, as a mere abstraction existing only in the heads of the theoreticians, only “ideally”." ph 55

3. [SG - Dialectical materialism broke with the notion that the boundary between the material and ideal is that between inside and outside the consciousness of an individual. This false boundary is one that EVI stresses should be avoided in this paper.] For this reason consistent materialism, faced with this kind of situation, could not define the “ideal” as that which exists in the consciousness of the individual, and the “material” as that which exists outside this consciousness, as the sensuously perceived form of the external thing, as a real corporeal form. The boundary between the two, between the “material” and the “ideal”, between the “thing in itself” and its representation in social consciousness could not pass along this line because, if it did, materialism would be completely helpless when confronted with the dialectics that Hegel had discovered in the relations between the “material” and the “ideal” (particularly, in the phenomena of fetishism of all kinds, from that of religion to that of commodity, and further, the fetishism of words, of language, symbols and signs)." ph 56

4. [SG - Plain materialism and idealism merge on the question of the boundary between the material and the ideal being located as inside vs outside the head. Dialectical materialism rejects this boundary, and instead looks for this boundary within all things and processes themselves, both in humans themselves and the world in which they live and act.]

"This is the point where such opposites as crudely naive materialism and no less crudely naive idealism directly merge. That is to say, where the material is directly identified with the ideal and vice versa, where all that exists outside the head, outside mental activity, is regarded as “material” and everything that is “in the head”, “in the consciousness”; is described as “ideal”. ph 128

"Real, scientific materialism lies not in declaring everything that is outside the brain of the individual to be “primary”, in describing this “primary” as “material”, and declaring all that is “in the head” to be “secondary” and “ideal”. Scientific materialism lies in the ability to distinguish the fundamental borderline in the composition of palpable, sensuously perceptible “things” and “phenomena”, to see the difference and opposition between the “material” and the “ideal” there and not somewhere else." ph 129

"The “ideal” plane of reality comprises only that which is *created by labour* both in man himself and in the part of nature in which he lives and acts, that which daily and hourly, ever since man has existed, is produced and reproduced by his own social human — and, therefore, purposeful — transforming activity." ph 130


1. [SG - The ideality of a value-form consists not in whatever mental phenomena it generates, but in the representation of the value of one thing in something else. EVI will develop this point and it will become clear that it is not the linen that is being represented in the coat, but the **value** of the linen. The value, of course, is its average socially necessary labor time, an abstraction based on human labor. "According to Marx, the ideality of the form of value consists not, of course, in the fact that this form represents a mental phenomenon existing only in the brain of the commodity-owner or theoretician, but in the fact that the corporeal palpable form of the thing (for example, a coat) is only a form of expression of quite a different “thing” (linen, as a value) with which it has nothing in common. The value of the linen is *represented*, expressed, “embodied” in the form of a coat, and the form of the coat is the “*ideal or represented* form” of the value of the linen." ph 66

2. [SG - EVI quotes Marx and explains that the value form is *ideal* because one commodity is embodying the value of another.]

"“As a use-value, the linen is something palpably different from the coat; as value, it is the same as the coat, and now has the appearance of a coat. Thus the linen acquires a value-form different from its physical form. The fact that it is value, is made manifest by its equality with the coat, just as the sheep’s nature of a Christian is shown in his resemblance to the Lamb of God.” [Capital, Vol. I, p. 58.]" ph 67 "This is a completely objective relationship, within which the “bodily form of commodity B becomes the value-form of commodity A, or the body of commodity B acts as a mirror to the value of commodity A”, [Capital, Vol. I, p. 59.] the authorised representative of its “value”- nature, of the “substance” which is “embodied” both here and there." ph 68

"This is why the form of value or value-form is *ideal*, that is to say, it is something quite different from the palpable form of the thing in which it is *represented*, expressed, “embodied”, “alienated”." ph 69

3. [SG - It is not will or consciousness that is being expressed in the ideal, but activity. Important passages in the essay are devoted to the relationship of ideality and will and consciousness, btw.] "What is this “other”, this difference, which is expressed or represented here? People’s consciousness? Their will? By no means. On the contrary, both will and consciousness are determined by this objective ideal form, and the thing that it expresses, “represents,” is a definite social relationship between people which in their eyes assumes the fantastic form of a relationship between things." ph 70

"In other words, what is “represented” here *as a thing* is the form of people’s activity, the form of life activity which they perform together, which has taken shape “behind the back of consciousness” and is materially established in the form of the relationship between things described above." ph 71

"This and only this creates the ideality of such a “thing”, its sensuous-supersensuous character." ph 72

4. [SG - The ideality being represented is palpable, corporeal, real - but it is not the natural properties of a particular thing, it is the labor, activity, transformation of nature that is represented in the thing.]

"Here ideal form actually does stand in opposition to individual consciousness and individual will as the *form of the external thing* (remember Kant’s talers) and is necessarily perceived precisely as the form of the external thing, not its palpable form, but as the form of another equally palpable thing that it represents, expresses, embodies, differing, however, from the palpable corporeality of both things and having nothing in common with their sensuously perceptible physical nature. What is embodied and “represented” here is a definite form of labour, a definite form of human objective activity, that is to say, the transformation of nature by social man." ph 73

"It is here that we find the answer to the riddle of “ideality”. Ideality, according to Marx, is nothing else but the form of social human activity represented in the thing. Or, conversely, the form of human activity represented *as a thing*, as an object." ph 74

"Ideality is a kind of stamp impressed on the substance of nature by social human life activity. All things involved in the social process acquire this stamp – this ideality." ph 75.

"The ideal form of a thing is not the form of the thing “in itself”, but a form of social human life activity regarded as *the form of a thing*." ph 103


1. [SG - Hegel and Bogdanov shared a key idea of idealism, that socially organised experience is the sole object with which the individual has any dealings. I find this a very helpful insight into idealism.]

"In other words, Hegel includes in the concept of the “ideal” everything that another representative of idealism in philosophy (admittedly he never acknowledged himself to be an “idealist”) A. A. Bogdanov — [who] a century later designated as “socially organised experience” with its stable, historically crystallised patterns, standards, stereotypes, and “algorithms”. The feature which both Hegel and Bogdanov have in common (as “idealists”) is the notion that this world of “socially organised experience” is for the individual the sole “object” which he “assimilates” and “cognises”, the sole object with which he has any dealings." ph 49

"But the world existing before, outside and independently of the consciousness and will in general (i.e., not only of the consciousness and will of the *individual but* also of the social consciousness and the socially organised “will”), the world as such, is taken into account by this conception only insofar as it finds expression in universal forms of consciousness and will, insofar as it is already “idealized”, already assimilated in “experience”, already presented in the patterns and forms of this “experience”, already included therein." ph 50

2. [SG - Ilyenkov explains what he calls the secret twist of idealism. By regarding only the socially experienced world, the secret twist removes from the field of vision the world as independent of experience.]

"By this twist of thought, which characterises idealism in general (whether it is Platonic, Berkeleian, Hegelian or that of Popper), the real material world, existing before, outside and quite independently of “experience” and before being expressed in the forms of this “experience” (including language), is totally removed from the field of vision, and what begins to figure under the designation of the “real world” is an already “idealised” world, a world already assimilated by people, a world already shaped by their activity, the world *as people know it*, as it is presented in the existing forms of their culture. A world already expressed (presented) in the forms of the existing human experience. And this world is declared to be the only world about which anything at all can be said." ph 51

"This secret of idealism shows up transparently in Hegel’s discussion of the “ideality” of natural phenomena, in his presentation of nature as an “ideal” being in itself. Underlying what he has to say about certain natural phenomena is their description in the concepts and terms of the physics of his day: “...because masses push and crush each other and there is no vacuum between them, it is only in this *contact* that the ideality of matter in general begins, and it is interesting to see how this intrinsic character of matter emerges, for in general it is always interesting to see the realisation of a concept.” [GWF Hegel, Samtliche Werke, Bd. 9, Stuttgart, 1929, S. 101] Here Hegel is really speaking not at all about nature as it is, but about nature as it is presented (described) in the system of a definite physical theory, in the system of its definitions established by its historically formed “language”. ph 52

"It is this fact, incidentally, that explains the persistent survival of such “semantic substitutions”; indeed, when we *are talking* about nature, we are obliged to make use of the available language of natural science, the “language of science” with its established and generally understood “meanings”. It is this, specifically, which forms the basis of the arguments of logical positivism, which quite consciously identifies “nature” with the “language” in which people talk and write about nature." ph 53

3. [SG - The problem of idealism consists in the inability to distinguish between two kinds of phenomena - the natural properties of things and the properties of things due to social human labor. More insights into idealism.]

"The riddle and solution to the problem of “idealism” is to be found in the peculiar features of mental activity of the subject, who cannot distinguish between *two fundamentally different and even opposed categories of phenomena* of which he is sensuously aware as existing outside his brain: the natural properties of things, on the one hand, and those of their properties which they owe not to nature but to the social human labour embodied in these things, on the other." ph 127

1. [SG - EVI introduces a final idea at the end of the essay. He introduces the idea of reciprocating movement between the two forms of external embodiment that ideality takes - the things humans create, and the goals and needs humans follow to create them. But these two forms that ideality takes cannot be observed in isolation, as just one or the other. If they are, the "ideal form" immediately ceases to exist. It can only be observed and experienced in the dialectically contradictory mutual transformation of the two forms it takes.

"The ideal form is a form of a thing, but a form that is outside the thing, and is to be found in man as a form of his dynamic life activity, *as goals and needs*. Or conversely, it is a form of man’s life activity, but outside man, in the form of the thing he creates. “Ideality” as such exists only in the constant succession and replacement of these two forms of its “external embodiment” and does not coincide with either of them taken separately. It exists only through the unceasing process of the transformation of the form *of activity — into the form of a thing and back — the form of a thing into the form of activity* (of social man, of course)." ph 140

"Try to identify the “ideal” with any one of these two forms of its immediate existence — and it no longer exists. All you have left is the “substantial”, entirely material body and its bodily functioning. The “form of activity” as such turns out to be bodily encoded in the nervous system, in intricate neuro-dynamic stereotypes and “cerebral mechanisms” by the pattern of the external action of the material human organism, of the individual’s body. And you will discover nothing “ideal” in that body. The form of the thing created by man, taken out of the process of social life activity, out of the process of man-nature metabolism, also turns out to be simply the material form of the thing, the physical shape of an external body and nothing more. A *word*, taken out of the organism of human intercourse, turns out to be nothing more than an acoustic or optical phenomenon. “In itself” it is no more “ideal” than the human brain." ph 141

"And only in the reciprocating movement of the two opposing “metamorphoses” — forms of activity and forms of things in their dialectically contradictory mutual transformations — DOES THE IDEAL EXIST." ph 142


On Feb 20, 2009, at 4:40 PM, Martin Packer wrote:


I have been looking carefully through the text of "The Concept of the
Ideal." I think there is evidence to support both our interpretations, but
(of course!) I see more that supports mine.

At times Ilyenkov does write as though all artifacts are not only social but also ideal. But more often I think he drawing a distinction. Life is too
short for me to learn Russian to check the original.

My reluctance to accept your reading, that *any* artifact "contains"
ideality stems from this. First, if all artifacts are ideal then there would be no distinction between the material and the ideal. Ilyenkov describes how even the stars are observed in terms of human interests and concerns, and seen as time-keepers and calendars. Our only contact with the material is mediated by social forms of life. But if every artifact is also ideal, there
seems no way to distinguish the two.

Second, ideality is a relation between two specific objects. As you rightly point out, Ilyenkov takes the analysis by Marx of the commodity-form as a paradigm case of ideality. An object is ideal when its existence embodies or represents the form of another object. If all artifacts were ideal, what would they represent? Each would represent another, which would represent
another, which....?

It's as though all objects were commodities, all the time. How could we ever

If I'm correct in this reading there is an interesting difference between
Ilyenkov and Leontiev. The latter writes that:

"For man a tool is not only an object with a certain external shape and certain mechanical properties; he sees it as an object embodying socially
developed ways of acting with it, i.e. labour operations. An adequate
relation between man and tool is therefore primarily expressed
in his appropriating (practically or theoretically-only in
their significance) the operations fixed in it, by developing
his own human abilities" (p. 296)

...and one of his favorite examples is the young child using a spoon.

But the operations that *made* a spoon are completely different from the practices in which one *uses* a spoon to eat. Throughout "Problems in the Development of Mind" Leontiev shifts too and fro between claiming that the child becomes conscious by simply *using* a spoon, and recognizing that *adult guidance* is needed. An example of the latter kind of explanation: "[The adult] helps the baby and intervenes in its action; in the *joint* action thus arising the baby gets the knack of using a spoon. It has now mastered the spoon as a human object" (p. 424). (I still haven't had time to
reconstruct the jumbled chronology in this book.)

My point is that Leontiev's claim that "the advances of humanity" are
"embodied" in *all* social objects gets him into trouble, because with an object like a spoon, a tool (which for Ilyenkov would *not* be an ideal object), he always has to add social interaction to get the ontogenesis done. It may be that by identifying a *specific* kind of 'ideal' object
Ilyenkov is able to avoid this problem.


On 2/19/09 7:55 AM, "Steve Gabosch" <stevegabosch@me.com> wrote:

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

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