Firstly Larry, let me apologise for my last merssage. It was 2am and I
was heading for bed, and this morning I can hardly parse what I wrote.
I see that you are using "mind" in the very general sense of the entirety of relations between a living creature and their environment. That's OK but that's a very broad topic. As you point out, I have found that historically, "activity" entered philosophy as an attribute of living nature. A N Leontyev retains that meaning. On the other hand, since Fichte (i.e. 200 years ago), the term "activity" has been used as a concept for understanding specifically human phenomena. That was pre-Darwin, so "human" was a very distinct category at the time. Doubtless there is value in this idea of continuity between human beings and animals. But it also leads to confusion. For example, an "operation" in Leontyev's terms, is something we do without thinking, but which we can make conscious in the event of something drawing our attention to it. It is only this capacity to become conscious which distinguishes an operation from the autonomous functions of the body, like our heart beating. So if we use the concept of activity to cover everything a baby mouse does, this somewhat upsets the idea we have of "activity" when we're talking about something humans do.
All words tend to have this elasticity. I see it as part of the dynamism of concepts, rather than a pragmatic thing about how people freely choose to use them. As a concept "activity" refers on the one hand to deliberate or purpose actions of an organism - which can only be a person, so let's just say a person - in relation to a person using an artefact. Now, all actions of a person use artefacts and are relative to other people, so why restrict it in this way? Because "joint artefact-mediated" are not so much qualifiers attached to the thing we are talking about, but qualifiers attached to a concept, that is, how we grasp activity.
Another thing about activity, it first entered the ideas of Marx and Vygotsky as a substance, that is, a fundamental concept in their theories, in terms of which everything else had to be understood, within their theories, insofar as their were worked out consistently. Once Leontyev started looking for a unit of activity, an entirely different meaning and usage of "activity" arose, namely "an activity" as a unit of "activity" and a new ambiguity entered Activity Theory. I find that this elasticity is too much and causes confusion. This is because I am not happy with any of the definitions of "an activity" that have come along, and the lack of awareness that this is a different concept from "activity" makes it heavy going to clarify this problem.
So that's activity. "Concepts" is a new issue. "Concept" has all the same problems of meaning. I personally don't see "concept" as something a non-human mammal can have, because it is not a stage towards the participation in a form of human life. But I can elaborate if you like.
I haven't answered any of your questions, Larry, but have I cleared up anything?
Larry Purss wrote:
Joint Editor MCA: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Journal/
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
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