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

> "It is ³inside² man *thus understood* that the ideal exists, because
> ³inside² *man thus understood are all the things* that ³mediate² 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 ³things² that the ideal exists as the ³subjective², purposeful
> form-creating life activity of social man, embodied in the material of
> nature."
Hi Steve,

Okay, let's start with the last of the excerpts (copied above), because I
think this is the one that seems at first glance hardest to interpret the
way I am proposing. It occurs towards the end of The Concept of the Ideal,
where Ilyenkov is wrapping things up. To set it in a bit more context, he
has just written:

"For this reason the ³ideal² exists only in man. Outside man and beyond him
there can be nothing ³ideal². 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 ³aggregate of all
social relations² arising between people around one common task,
around the process of the social production of their life."

My interpretation is that here Ilyenkov is emphasizing *where* the ideal is
to be found. It is "in" man, but not in the usual sense of being inside the
individual mind. It is "inside" man if we reconceptualize man as being
collective, not simply a collection of people but a form of life, in which
individuals' interactions are mediated by all the artifacts that we handle
in our daily lives. Tools - the "instruments of labor " - are especially
important in this collective activity.

But what Ilyenkov emphasizes is that the ideal is to be found "in" this form
of life, not that it is found "as" the form of life, or "as" "all the
things" that mediate human activity. Indeed, it would hardly make sense to
talk of ideality as "inside" a form of life if ideality *were* this form of
life. I suggest that this passage is entirely congruent with my proposal
that Ilyenkov is proposing that only *some* of these things are ideal.

As to the notion that ideality is one thing representing another, he writes
that a "coin represents not itself but ³another² in the very sense in which
a diplomat represents not his own person but his country," and continues:

"This relationship of representation is a relationship in which one
sensuously perceived thing performs the role or function of representative
of quite another thing, and, to be even more precise, the universal nature
of that other thing, that is, something ³other² which in sensuous, bodily
terms is quite unlike it."

It is certainly true that, as you point out, it is human activity, the "form
of life activity," that brings things into this relationship of
representation. A diplomat couldn't represent her country without a set of
practices of dimplomacy. A coin couldn't represent value outside of economic
practices. But not just anyone can decide to represent their country. And
not just any object can be used as legal tender. The kind of representation
that Ilyenkov suggests as at the heart of ideality is very particular.

You note that Ilyenkov states that, "The main problem of philosophy is to
distinguish the ideal and material." But if everything social were ideal -
and Ilyenkov notes that even the stars become social artifacts when we gaze
on them - how could we distinguish the ideal and the material? Clearly he
understands that it is a complete mistake to draw the line between the ideal
and the material so that the mind is on one side and the world on the other.
But he evidently still wants to draw the line. My interpretation is that he
wants to draw it between those social artifacts that become ideal and those
that do not.

I think, in fact, that the interpretation you are offering is attributed by
Ilyenkov to Hegel. For Hegel, he says (along with other idealists such as
Popper and Plato):

"what begins to figure under the designation of the ³real world² is an
already ³idealised² 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."

This is your position too, isn't it - that the social world is made up of
ideal objects?

Ilyenkov argues that Marx used the term 'ideal' in the same way as Hegel,
but applied it to a completely different "range of phenomena":
"In Capital Marx quite consciously uses the term ³ideal² in this formal
meaning that it was given by Hegel... although the philosophical-theoretical
interpretation of the range of phenomena which in both cases is similarly
designated ³ideal² is diametrically opposed to its Hegelian interpretation."


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