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RE: [xmca] Intransitivity and Intransigence

Terry Hoy has an interesting book called "Toward a Naturalistic Political Theory."   His argument is for a humanistic naturalism that argues if you give humans positive ecological circumstances they will make more humanistic decisions (without defining the decisions themselves) in the development of their community.  He has a line from Aristotle to Hume to Dewey, and then moves to the phylogenetic argument using Ernst Mayr (who is admittedly controversial - which is actually a little odd I think.) and the political philosopher/naturalist Roger Masters.  Hoy seems to center his argument on Mayr's idea that when it comes to ethical evaluation humans are "open systems" learning through cultural and social feedback.  We are neither selfish nor altruistic in our ethical makeup but learn to be one or the other through experience (I think the key here is that we are always capable of being humanistic in our orientation).  Hoy then ties this back to Dewey and his idea that moral understanding comes through a social, logical inquiry that is enabled through the way society teaches us to learn.  If we have a society that allows us to determine our own problems and develop inquiry to deal with these problems, the society is creating the capabilities for the type of ethical evaluation that Arendt suggests.  If on the other hand we have a society in which the social order determines the problems you must solve, then perhaps there are more difficulties.
When a social interlocutor says to the plumber, your job is to be the plumber and to solve the plumbing problems that are given to you, then the plumber is limited as an open system and will only have certain types of feedback.  
I guess this is a long way of saying that the humanistic naturalism the leads to ethical evaluation is both phylogenetic and cultural, but they each play their different parts.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of mike cole
Sent: Mon 10/26/2009 6:04 PM
To: Martin Packer
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Intransitivity and Intransigence

But when he inquires about "a validity that extends beyond the perspective
of a particular culture [will be] based on a transcendental-pragmatic
demonstration of universal and necessary presuppositions of argumentation"
on what could it be based? EITHER, i am guessing, universal cultural
features arising from common socio-cultural environmental circumstances or
(and this may be the same thing) phylogenetic features co-evolving with
cultural mediating factors over mega time such that they are built into the
universal workings of the mind.

Not insisting on anything here, simply curious about what cutural sources of
cultural universals could arise from.

On Sat, Oct 24, 2009 at 5:20 PM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:

> Mike,
> I think it is more an effort to separate ontogenesis from specific cultural
> conditions. Habermas is keen to find a standpoint that enables people to
> make ethical judgements, a standpoint independent of specific cultural
> values and practices. As he puts it "a validity that extends beyond the
> perspective of a particular culture [will be] based on a
> transcendental-pragmatic demonstration of universal and necessary
> presuppositions of argumentation" (p. 116). When he drew on Freud it was to
> identify the communicative distortions that early traumatic experiences
> produce. An ontogenetic theory of language problems, in other words. He
> draws on Piaget, Selman and Kohlberg to build an ontogenetic theory of
> language capacities, turning from negative to positive. Habermas claims that
> his formulation of a discourse ethics receives some indirect validation from
> these theories of development. He interprets Kohlberg, for example, as
> countering claims of moral relativity by showing that moral judgments may
> vary in their 'contents,' but their 'forms' are universal. Selman, in his
> view, similarly identifies a universal sequence of stages towards a
> decentered understanding of social interaction.
> Martin
> On Oct 24, 2009, at 4:30 PM, mike cole wrote:
>  Martin writes: For Habermas they (Piaget, Kohlberg, Selman) offer a kind
>> of
>> rational reconstruction of ontogenesis that he believes is able to
>> separate
>> what is contingent from what is necessary and universal.
>> Mike writes: Am I correct in believing that the separation of *contingent
>> from what is necessary and universal *is a way of claiming a separation of
>> ontogeny and phylogeny?
>> On Sat, Oct 24, 2009 at 8:30 AM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>  David,
>>> I'm in general agreement with your perspective on Habermas. On the
>>> positive
>>> side his work shows just how important an understanding of ontogenesis is
>>> for any kind of critical analysis: a critical theory, emancipatory
>>> inquiry,
>>> etc. To put it simply, how people act now depends not only on their
>>> current
>>> circumstances but also on their past experiences, so any sort of
>>> emancipatory effort, whether it is psychotherapy or political
>>> organization,
>>> needs to be able to comprehend the impact of those experiences.
>>> At first Habermas, like Horkheimer and Adorno, turned to Freud for an
>>> account of ontogenesis, specifically an account of the ways traumatic
>>> experiences in childhood lead to distortions in adult communication. But
>>> this got him into trouble and the kind of approach to ontogenesis that
>>> Habermas has been drawing on since then has been structuralist: Piaget
>>> for
>>> an account of the ontogenesis of instrumental knowledge, Kohlberg for
>>> moral
>>> knowledge, and Selman for social knowledge. I have  respect for each of
>>> those three, but their work rests on assumptions that I have trouble
>>> with.
>>> For Habermas they offer a kind of rational reconstruction of ontogenesis
>>> that he believes is able to separate what is contingent from what is
>>> necessary and universal. I am skeptical. They also, as you point out,
>>> downplay what goes on 'below' the level of concepts, and consider the
>>> abstract to be a transcendence of the concrete and actual rather than a
>>> transformation of it.
>>> It is ironic, and disappointing, that Habermas has never turned his
>>> attention to LSV.
>>> Martin
>>> On Oct 22, 2009, at 9:02 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
>>> Martin and Wolff-Michael:
>>>> Thanks for taking the time to patiently explain some Heidegger to a
>>>> philosophical neophyte. Wolff-Michael is right when he suspects I have
>>>> not
>>>> studied it. First of all, my German is nowhere near good enough.
>>>> Secondly, I
>>>> am Jewish (despite a goyische surname which my maternal grandmother
>>>> always
>>>> suspected meant "kill hog") and, despite our well known inclination to
>>>> take
>>>> suffering and even existence rather unsentimentally, I share with other
>>>> Jews
>>>> a strong disinclination to make our continued existence a topic of
>>>> discussion.
>>>> But thirdly, my real interest is not Heidegger at all, but Adorno; I
>>>> started reading Heidegger only in order to understand Adorno's consuming
>>>> distaste for him. It's Adorno, not I, who says that Heidegger's view of
>>>> language is unmediated. But now I really AM quite interested in
>>>> understanding what that means.
>>>> I think Adorno does NOT mean that Heidegger's view of language is
>>>> unmediated in some ontological sense; that "language is" in the sense
>>>> that
>>>> "being is" or "death is". It seems to me that what he's arguing is a lot
>>>> more subtle: it's that the statement that "being is" or "death is"
>>>> although it does not explicitly state, that "language is", because
>>>> "being"
>>>> and "death" are "given to us" (to use a somewhat unfortunate Andyism)
>>>> not by
>>>> experience but only by language. That is an argument with which I think
>>>> I am
>>>> in full agreement.
>>>> (The more I read of Adorno the more I find I disagree with him at my
>>>> peril, and so like Tony I am quite uneasy about his views on jazz, which
>>>> he
>>>> considers "slave music". I suppose in a sense he is right, but it seems
>>>> to
>>>> me that the choice we are then given is a choice between the music of
>>>> slaves
>>>> and that of slave masters, and I am more than a little surprised that he
>>>> prefers the latter.)
>>>> Adorno provides an antidote to Habermas, whose views on psychology are
>>>> almost pure Piagetianism (though Adorno himself is a little two inclined
>>>> to
>>>> Freudianism for my taste, he uses Freud to great effect in his critique
>>>> of
>>>> fascist aesthetics.) Habermas' affinity for Piaget means "communicative
>>>> rationality" is basically something laid on top of the other forms of
>>>> rationality, rather the way that formal thinking rises out of concrete
>>>> operations. That leads to a really miserable kind of ethnocentrism,
>>>> where
>>>> the bit that I am interested in, the part Habermas calls "evaluative"
>>>> rationality involved in aesthetic judgment, gets utterly short shrift.
>>>> On the one hand, Habermas has the problem of explaining how cultures
>>>> which
>>>> are supposedly lacking in cognitive-instrumental discourses
>>>> (teleological
>>>> rationality) nevertheless appear to have fully develped forms of
>>>> evaluative
>>>> discourse (dramaturgical rationality). On the other, Habermas is left in
>>>> a
>>>> world where Western myths about the "invisible hand" of the market and
>>>> the
>>>> sovereign individual are considered forms of rationality while Azande
>>>> myths
>>>> about magic spells and the sovereignty witches are not.
>>>> All of this could EASILY have been avoided, if Habermas had just
>>>> bothered
>>>> to read and take seriously Vygotsky's critique of Levy-Bruhl and other
>>>> early
>>>> ethnographers and his observation that a lot of what we consider "adult"
>>>> thinking takes place BELOW the level of concepts, and probably OUGHT to
>>>> keep
>>>> doing so. For example, as a jazz lover, I am quite unwilling to give up
>>>> my
>>>> musical affinity for concrete and factual links between ideas, and as a
>>>> painter I am positively wedded to them.
>>>> All of which renews my appreciation for Chapter Five of Thinking and
>>>> Speech, and also Paula and Carol's work on "Wolves and Other Vygotskyan
>>>> Constructs". I started reading their work convinced that Chapter Six,
>>>> where
>>>> Vygotsky champions "leaving complexes at the school door" and teaching a
>>>> school curriculum entirely aimed at concept development, represented the
>>>> "real" Vygotsky. Now, I am not at all sure; it seems to me that in the
>>>> field
>>>> of aesthetic education at least Chapter Six represents a concession to
>>>> educational Stakhanovism, a concession far too far.
>>>> David Kellogg
>>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>>> PS: Andy, it seems to me that a question we really need to ask is
>>>> whether
>>>> or not childhood has been made artificially long in so-called modern
>>>> societies, all of which suffer from capitalist overproduction and
>>>> consequently chronic under-employment. The Michael Jackson phenomenon,
>>>> the
>>>> peculiarly Western phenomenon of great children's lit written by
>>>> pedophiles
>>>> (Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, etc) and (most recently) the obsession with
>>>> the
>>>> "balloon boy" hoax all suggest that in so-called modern societies, it is
>>>> not
>>>> children who are hurried so much as adults who are retarded,
>>>> There's a good article by Suzanne Gaskins on Mayan children who (she
>>>> argues) do not actually play, but only engage in various forms of
>>>> legitimate
>>>> peripheral participation on the fringes of adult activity. She makes a
>>>> good
>>>> case that this is a perfectly valid way of life, far better suited to
>>>> this
>>>> environment than what you and I call "childhood".
>>>> Gaskins, S. (1999) Children's Daily Lives in a Mayan Village: A Case
>>>> Study
>>>> of Culturally Constructed Roles and Activities. In Goncu, A. Children's
>>>> Engagement in the World, pp. 25-61. CUP.
>>>> d
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