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[xmca] further thoughs on concept of activity

I meant this postto go to the list but went directly to Andy so I'm
 re-posting these thoughts for a general audience.
Hi Monica and Andy
I appreciate your thoughts and reflections.  I want to re-emphasize that I
am thinking out loud and do not have clarity on these very elastic and
shape-shifting concepts of activity.  Notions of intentionality seem central
to these concepts of activity and have different meanings within different
theoretical systems or discourse traditions.  Andy, your distinction between
activity and a unit of activity [AN activity] is a helpful distinction.  I
also appreciate David's reflections on conceptual language games as a
relation between imagination and rules.  [I do wonder if there is a linear
progression in development from mostly imagination to mostly rule-based
but the relation between these concepts seem central in order to play
language games]
 Andy for clarification I agree the concept "concept" is always part of a
language game and only humans participate in these acts which are
activities.   "Mind" is a very elastic concept which is constantly shape
shifting but I would like to extend it beyond the brain to include the
living body of perceptual sensory-motor "intentional" actions. [This
replaces mind as computer or mind as brain with the metaphor mind as body].
 I am not clear if "mind" can extend beyond activity.  I am clear that mind
is thrown into activity as world and that this activity as "ideal" is
present at the moment of birth.  However, does "mind" as an "embodied"
concept include intentional directedness [towards contents] that are not
conceptual on the first day of existence?  This is where different
traditions of giving reasons for acts [actions and activity] posit different
substances as contents.  Varela's notion of embodied mind has ancestral
roots in Merleau-Ponty.  My understanding of intentionality in this
tradition is that it is an act of "feeling towards".  Now feeling is another
elastic shape-shifting concept. Embodied mind perspectives would suggest
there is a "feeling toward" response that is not conceptual but becomes
conceptual when terms such as anger or sadness are constructed as language
games to give reasons for acts. [which are now clearly activity]. Another
way of saying this is describing intentionality [feeling towards] is
e-motion ["e" for enactive, embodied, empathy]  This is getting into the
realm of intersubjectivity as existing prior to concpts.  I will end with
some thoughts  by Tim Crane. Intentionality is the notion of directedness
TOWARDS an object with object interpreted in a very broad way. Intentional
objects are not entities of a certain kind.  Some intentional objects do not
exist. Yet all entities exist. In other words to talk about an intentional
object [in concepts] is to talk about that towards which one's mind is
directed, whether it exists or not. Our minds can be directed on the
non-existent.  Crane suggests there are many different object directed
e-motions towards contents [that are not concepts] and embodied mind points
to perceptual sensory-motor e-motions as one category of these contents that
are not conceptual.
 I again want to say I'm in over my head as I'm thinking out loud and
wandering around in a maze [with each path a different tradition] but I
appreciate walking along side others as I wonder and wander.


- Show quoted text -
 On Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 3:44 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <
mailto:ablunden@mira.net <ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

   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. Anyway.

   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?
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