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[xmca] Microcosm and Unit

Checking for other instances in which Vygotsky mentions the word "microcosm":

"When our Marxists explain the Hegelian principle in Marxist methodology they rightly claim that each thing can be examined as a microcosm, as a universal measure in which the whole big world is reflected. On this basis they say that to study one single thing, one subject, one phenomenon *8until the end*, *exhaustively*, means to know the world in all its connections. In this sense it can be said that each person is to some degree a measure of the society, or rather class, to which he belongs, for the whole totality of social relationships is reflected in him." (Ch 13, Crisis)

I take this to mean a deep study of just one thing, if carried right through, brings out everything, because of the infinite interconnection of all phenomena. The specialist must perforce become a generalist if they are to carry through to the end. "Destroy one grain of dust and you destroy the universe."


"We showed that a generalised reflection of reality is the basic characteristic of words. This aspect of the word brings us to the threshold of a wider and deeper subject – the general problem of consciousness. Thought and language, which reflect reality in a way different from that of perception, are the key to the nature of human consciousness. Words play a central part not only in the development of thought but in the historical growth of consciousness as a whole. A word is a microcosm of human consciousness." (end ch 7 Thinking and Speaking)

I take this in the same way: if you can thoroughly understand how words operate in human life then you will have solved all the essential problems.

On this basis, I agree with Nikolai, that "microcosm" and "unit of analysis" have quite different meanings. I would be inclined to anyway, as I do not believe that "word meaning" can be a unit of analysis for consciousness.

But if "tool mediated action" *were* to be taken as a unit of analysis for consciousness (which I have reservations about, but this claim has a long pedigree in CHAT), then it is very fair to say, well let's look at one kind of tool - words - which play such an important role in human life, and one action - meaning - and if we can solve this one, we've solved all the key problems, and the rest is easy.

I am inclined to think that Marx and Ilyenkov's join obsession with value as a material ideal is similar. Understand how value works as an ideal, and you will have unlocked the lot. And what about Pavlov's dog?


Nikolai Veresov wrote:
Mike wrote:
Nikolai-- I did not understand the message below. Might you expand, even if it requires explaining some deep philosophical issues to us? We are seeking
mutual understanding here, not winning arguments or splitting hairs.

Just change the subject line so that we do not get pages of repetition which
we can get from the xmca archive. For example  -- Microcosm vs unit of

Dear Mike. Thank you for the reply.

1/ I did not want to bring any kind of mess of disorder to the high respected MCA community. I just wanted to get an answer to my question "Where Vygotsky speaks on the word meaning as the unit of analysis of human consciousness?" Who else if not Vygotskians can do it? I am working on the paper about this at the moment and I just wanted to know the opinions in the community. The answer I have got is not about unit but about the word meaning as microcosm.

2/ It was not my intention to discuss my paper on Marxism or the professors dresses in South Korea. I do not know how to react on criticisms of David and Ulvi even though the reaction is needed in such kind of discourse.

3/ I did not have in mind any "winning arguments" or "splitting hairs". If my questions bring such an impression I prefer to return to my status of the reader of this mailing list discussions, not the active participant.

I apologise for inconveniences.


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Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype andy.blunden
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:

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