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Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev: functionalism and Anglo Finnish Insufficiences

Good point, Arturo.

One of the most difficult things to work out is what Hegel is talking about, the subject matter of his writing. The concept of Recognition arises not in the Philosophy of Right (which is surely just about modern communities) but in the Subjective Spirit, and here the topic is quite ambiguous. It is about human beings emerging from what Hegel took to be a state of nature towards the modern state. But what sense do we give to "emerging"? Hegel did not believe in the evolution of species. He believed that only history changed; nothing new ever happened in nature. So he saw human beings as intelligent animals who only came into themselves as they built languages, customs, forms of production, "raised" children, and so on. But the immediate section before the Subjective Spirit is the Philosophy of Nature, about animals, the immediate section following Subjective Spirit is about private property. So Subjective Spirit is about how human animals (organically exactly what they are now) became modern citizens. But it reads less as a theory of history than as a theory of human anatomy and physiology. The section on recognition comes in the section on self-consciousness, prior to the section on language. It is about history as much as it is about biology. Hegel is making a logical exposition of how human beings must be. Anyway, recognition not only "predates" the modern state, it "predates" even language, for Hegel. The struggle to the death for recognition makes abundant sense so long as one situates it in the struggle of a social movement or emergent nation, not as the struggle of an individual. But how far do we take such a reading of the subjective spirit. Given that the Zusatze for the Subjective Spirit were not translated into English till 1971 and since 1830 only two books in English have been written on the Subjective Spirit, there is a lot of puzzles to untangle yet.


Arturo Escandon wrote:
I think Greg is referring to the quest for recognition and its link to identity. When the commonwealth is born, there are more clear loci of recognition. At least one can argue that the state helps selecting and reproducing identities that are treated as official. See segments of Hegel's Philosophy of Right on person and subject.

How does chat deal with ascertaining the positioning of the subject for that is the locus of power and control.

Arturo Sent from my iPod

On 26 Dec 2011, at 07:33, mike Cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

Greg -- mediation through culture begins only after emergence of the state?

On Dec 25, 2011, at 7:40 AM, Victor Friedlander <victor@kfar-hanassi.org.il> wrote:

On 25 December 2011 10:10, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

I don't know Markell, but I read Williams as what I call billiard table
recognition. As you correctly say, individuals in the modern state get
recognition first of all through Right, and then on top of all that
through participation in a whole variety of mediating projects.
Mediation is the alpha and omega of Hegel and I don't see a single
glimmer of understanding of this in the writers I mentioned. Why? They
express the spirit of their age, in which individuals bang around like
billiard balls on a level playing field. They want to do away with
religion, but all they have to replace it with is individualism.

There is a lot of be said for Mead and his rendering of the master-slave
narrative, but I think he remained unclear, and his subjects seem to be
able to generate the means of mediation from within themselves. OK up to
a point, but as Hegel says ...

Also, what is overlooked is that the subjects of Hegel's narratives are
not first of all individuals, but are social subjects, and only
derivatively from that, persons.


Greg Thompson wrote:

Yes, Andy, your quote from Hegel makes clear that Hegel is tracing out
subjective spirit as it emerges through recognition in phylogenetic
history. But this is not to say that the process of recognition is all
said and done once human social life has developed past this state.
What does follow from this historical transformation, imho, is that
recognition will take on a new quality with the emergence of civil
society and the State - recognition becomes mediated in a whole new
way; recognition becomes mediated through culture. This is not your
father's recognition. It is not about struggle and battle, but it is
about gaining rich individuality through the complex macrosocial array
of identities that are on offer in society (and which are realized
with respect to the complex metapragmatics of exhibiting and,
critically, being recognized as having had exhibited, the signs and
symbols of having had been such and such type of person in a given
moment). To put it in a slightly different idiom, identity is like a
right - it exists consequentially only through the recognition of
others (writ large, i.e. recognition via thirdness (Peirce) or, if you
prefer, a generalized other (Mead), in short, through recognition
through culture). And just as property creates possibilities for
agentive action, e.g. raising cattle or raising capital, so too do
various identities create possibilities for agentive action (something
that the con-man is well aware of, but which most of the rest of us
seem too stuck in our "own" skin to realize).

I also happen to think that this importance of culture to mediation
comes through in both Markell's and Williams' readings of Hegel,
although I think it is more clearly articulated in the former than in
the latter (though I do have some issues with both). And I will need
to go back through my notes and through your writings on Williams,
Andy, to see where I think that you've got Williams wrong (but I'm not
about to make a similar claim about your reading of Hegel - you're way
out of my league in that regard!).

But that will have to wait as there are more pressing matters right
now (presents to wrap and cookies to eat and notes to leave!).

And a very merry Christmas to you Andy.
And to all a good night.

p.s., to mike I'm not sure at all how to connect this to Leontiev.
Have much work to do in that connection... Motivation maybe?

On Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 6:24 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

To let Hegel speak for himself. In The Subjective Spirit, after the
"master-servant" narrative, he says:

"To prevent any possible misunderstandings with regard to the
standpoint just outlined, we must here remark that the fight for
recognition pushed to the extreme here indicated can only occur in
the natural state, where men exist only as single, separate
individuals; but it is absent in civil society and the State because
here the recognition for which the combatants fight already exists.
For although the State may originate in violence, it does not rest
on it" (1830/1971 ��432n).


Andy Blunden wrote:

I have written/spoken eslewhere and at length on R R Williams (as well
Robert Brandom, Axel Honneth and others) and I regard their postmodern
interpretation of recognition-without-culture. I regard it as the main
barrier to an understanding of CHAT or Hegel of our times.

Functionalism is interesting in the way you mentioned, in that it
prefigured more contemporary currents which also do away  with any
centre of
power but cast power as flowing through "capillaries" - a more radical
conception of power-wthout-a-centre actually.


mike cole wrote:

Thanks for providing a link back to the Leontiev/functionalism
discussion, Andy.

The links appear to go right through your home hegelian territory and
link us up
to current discussions of "recognition." They also link up with ideas
linked to
Zygmund Bauman's "Liquid Modernity." And to the many other people whose
I know too little of.

With respect to functionalism, casting national aspersions aside  :-))
, it never occurred to me during my years getting trained to be a
theorist in the
Skinnerian tradition, to consider the question of "where does the
function come from" or "who is exerting power here?"  We starved the
and they ran or died. Or coerced sophomores using grades as "part of

Then I went to Moscow. Where the caste of characters under discussion
were my hosts. Like I said. I am a slow learner on all these
matters. At the rate I am going I am never going to figure it all out!


On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 9:05 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
<mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

In my view, Mike, there were some basic questions asked and
answered by A N Leontyev in launching the enquiry we know as
"Activity Theory" are uneliminable, that is, he took a step which
has to be valued and continued. But it was a step at an extremely
fundamental level. It absolutely left open Stalinist-functionalist
directions and well as emancipatory directions. Personally, I
think the impact of the "planned economy" and the "leadership"
which understood "the laws of history" and the state which
represented a "higher stage of society" and so on, left a mark on
the whole current. But its basics, its fundamentals remain intact.
It only remains to agree on what those were.

By-the-by, the home of "functionalism" is the USA.

By-the-by again, in the early 80s I was a member of a Trotskyist
party which put Ilyenkov on a pedastal, and published new
translations of his work in English, which also came very close to
endorsing Lamarkism. It debated it, but the Party perished before
the debate was resolved.


mike cole wrote:

    I am being very slow  here. How does this discussion resolve
    or help me to
    think more clearly about the issues in the subject line? the
    issues over
    different interpretations of Leontiev, their relation to
    stalinism, fascism, etc?

    On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 3:34 PM, Greg Thompson
    <mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.**com <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
        IMHO, you're hitting the heart of the matter with
        recognition and
        agency - self-assertion vs. self-emptying seems a nice way
        to think
        about the central problematic (and I agree with your
        preference for
        the latter). If you are interested in developing a more more
        self-emptying Kyoto-like notion of recognition, I've got a
        couple of
        suggestions (and I'm sure I've made these suggestions in a
        context before, so apologies for redundancy).

        First, I'd strongly encourage a read of Robert Williams'
        Ethics of
        Recognition. In Williams' read of Hegel, you find an
        articulation of
        recognition that is much more like the Kyoto understanding of
        recognition and which is against the crass version you get
        from the
        existentialists where recognition always about a fight or
        struggle for
        recognition. As evidence of the cultural tendency toward
        self-assertion, it is very telling that one small
        paragraph in Hegel's
        oeuvre would get picked up as the thing that most people
        for most of
        the 20th century would equate with Hegel's notion of
        But that approach is shortsighted and Williams really
        nails this
        point. (although I am persuaded by Willaims'
        interpretation, I don't
        have any skin in the game of whether or not this is a more
        or less
        "authentic" interpretation of Hegel - I just happen to
        believe that
        the position Williams articulates is far more productive
        than the
        struggle-for-recognition model that has been on offer from

        Second, to provide some further support for this claim,
        I'd also
        suggest checking out Johann Georg Hamann, who is said to
        have been a
        significant influence on Hegel (but don't read Isaiah
        Berlin's stuff
        on Hamann, he misses the point). Hamann didn't really
        publish much. He
        was most noted for his letters to his friend, Immanuel
        Kant and in
        which he repeatedly tells Kant that he's got it all wrong
        (and does it
        in a style that makes the point through medium as well as,
        if not more
        than, message - a point which itself speaks to one of his
        points about the importance of poetics). In these letters,
        Hamann has
        a wonderful sense of the intractability of human life, and
        fundamental wrong-headedness of the desire for sovereign
        agency. I'd
        be happy to share more if there is any interest.

        Oh, and I forgot there is a third author of interest in
        this regard,
        Patchen Markell's Bound by Recognition gives a compelling
        portrait of
        what he calls "the impropriety of action" - the sense in
        which our
        actions are not our property alone. Markell's book argues
        that tragedy
        (and its twin, comedy) derives from this very human
        problem. Also
        great stuff.

        All three of these readings I suggest as a way of pointing
        out that
        within Western traditions there is a trope that is closer to
        self-emptying than self-asserting. Unfortunately it
        doesn't articulate
        as well with Enlightenment perspectives because it is
        often, as with
        Hamann, articulated through Christianity. This presents
        something of a
        marketing problem since the Enlightenment put Christianity
        as a thing
        of the past and as the kind of believing that small minded
        people do
        (the kind that tote guns and don't believe in evolution),
        and thus a
        not very appealing thing for most Westerner's "natural" (i.e.
        "cultural") inclination to self-assertion. So I think that
        as a matter
        of packaging, Buddhism, with its stripped down religious
        probably has more appeal to most post-Enlightenment
        Western thinkers.

        And I wanted to add that I feel like your posts are
        speaking directly
        to me and maybe we can carry on this conversation in more
        somewhere down the road (in a different thread, I
        suspect). So many
        thanks for your words (even if they weren't "intended" for
        me - a
        fortuitous impropriety to be sure!).

        Anyway, hope all is well,

        On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 1:02 PM, Larry Purss
        <lpscholar2@gmail.com <mailto:lpscholar2@gmail.com>> wrote:
                          I'm enjoying this line [circle? spiral?] of

            David,  you wrote

            The mind is a highly parsimonious thing; it is very
            tiring to believe one
            thing and say another. Vygotsky's genetic law predicts
            that eventually it
            is the former that shall cede to the latter.

            I want to go out on a speculative limb that tries to
            weave together some
                          Wittgenstein's notions that are also
expressed in John
            exploration of conversation.

            The question of the relation and distinction between
            "taking a position"
            and "developing dispositions"  In David's quote above
            "believing" one
                          [a position] and "saying" [practicing
another]  will
            over time eventually
            lead to the practice winning out over the belief.

            Their are a group of scholars in Japan referred to as
            "the kyoto school"
            who are engaged in the project of having an indepth
            conversation between
            Buddhism and German Continental philosophy.

            A central difference the authors of the Kyoto school
            are articulating is
            different notions [and values] of "intersubjectivity"
            as epressed in the
            contrasting concepts
            "self-assertion" and "self-emptying".

            They suggest many Western notions of intersubjectivity
            and recognition
                          in pursuit of recognizing our assertoric
stance or
            position towards
                          self, other, & world. This assertive
position can be
            expressed in
            emancipatory notions of "finding one's VOICE" and
            overcoming being
            "silenced".  Anger and conflict leading to overcoming
            resistance from
            within classes, races, genders. Through recognition
            [being seen and
            listened to develops the capacity to move from a
            silenced "voice" to an
            assertive "voice"] one stands up and speaks back to
            the dominating
            constraints and the shame and humiliation that
            silences voices.

            As Shotter [in Christine's quotes above shows] the
            assertoric position of
            challenging dominant structures and power can be seen
            as expressing a
            particular "attitude" or "style" or "posture".

            This style or attitude valorizes "the assertoric
            stance" in the world"
            which develops into an enduring "disposition" if we
            keep "saying" this
                          of recognition and emancipation.

            However, the Kyoto School, in deep conversation with
            this assertoric
            "position" and "disposition" suggests or gestures
            toward an "alternative"
            [not truer, more real, but an alternative]
            They suggest Buddhist practice and "saying" can guide
            or mediate another
            in*formation of "self" that they express in the
            concept of "self-emptying
            This is NOT a passive or resigned form of agency but
            rather an active
            intentional positioning of self that attempts to
            foreground the
            "fallibility" and "uncertainty" of ALL positioning and
                          This is a deeply intersubjective practice
            "emergence" and
            "openning spaces" in which to INVITE the other to
            exist by the practice
                          mving our self from center stage.  Finding
            "voice" from this
                          of ACTIVE INTENTIONAL self-emptying [and
creating the
            openning space for
            the other's "voice" to emerge] is a very different
            "attitude" or "stance"
            or "posture" to take leading to a very different
            "disposition" from
                          a very different form of "saying" and

            I "read" scholars such as Wittgenstein, Shotter,
            Gadamer, Buber, Levinas,
            as exploring this alternative in*formation of "self"
            that is less
            assertoric in finding one's "voice" and moving towards
            a posture of
            self-emptying that embraces FALLIBILITY, UNCERTAINTY,
            AMBIVALENCE, NOT
            KNOWING, at the heart of this particular way of
            becoming human.
            I do believe this is an historically guided
            perspective that embraces
            multiple perspectives and multiple practices.
            Intersubjectivity and dialogical hermeneutical
            perspectives and the
            multiple formations this conversation can take
             [expressing alternative
            moral committments] is the concept at the center of
            this possible
                          I'm not sure how "possible" it is for
persons in North
            America to
                          such alternative moral compasses as
by the
            Kyoto School. [it may
            be beyond our horizon of understanding to envision as
            a possibility].
            It is also difficult to grasp Wittgenstein's attempt
            to "see through"
            theoretical positions as a practice and disposition.

            Self-asserion is often viewed as the only path to
            intentional stances and
            postures in finding one's voice to participate in
            conversations.  Is there merit in engaging with
            another tradition
                          agentic ACTORS actively practising
            motivated by the deep
            disposition and committment to generative dialogical
            ways of practice.??
            As I said in my opening remarks, this is going "out on
            a limb". Is
                          and anger the ONLY motivators that can be
harnessed to
            transform the
            I'm also aware that my position as a "white male" with
            a secure job may
                          calling me to take a naive "utopian"
            At the minimum I want to suggest that it is these types
                          across "traditions" such as the Kyoto
            are engaged in
                          invite us into a world conversation which
puts into
            play the monolithic
            bias towards the assertoric stance in the world.

            I'm preparing for "challenges" to this alternative
            "attitude" but am
            putting it out there in a spirit of the holiday season
            to think outside
                          Western notions of "self-assertion" and
finding one's


            On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 12:04 AM, David Kellogg <

                At the beginning of  the Philosophical
                Investigations, Wittgenstein
                              Augustine, who describes the
                experience of learning a
                              language in Latin, and remarks that his
model of
                language (a big bag of
                names) is OK, but only for a very restricted
                application; there are many
                things we call language for which it is not
                appropriate. And thence to
                              famous discussion of complexes, in the
form of
                games and language games.

                I think what I said was that Wittgenstein's
                account of language is
                pragmatic in a linguistic sense. Pragmatics is
                about the use of
                              as opposed to its usage (which is more
or less
                what Augustine is
                describing, language as a dictionary written in
                some form of mentalese,
                where every language is necessarily a foreign

                And I think what Wittgenstein says about language
                applies to every
                              of language, even his own; it is
appropriate, but
                ony for a very
                              application. In that way it is like a
metaphor (as
                we see in the
                              games section, and the tool box
it really
                IS a metaphor). So I
                think we need to ask the question where it stops
                being appropriate.

                As Andy points out, it doesn't describe conceptual
                thinking very well.
                              that is not because the pragmatic
account of
                language is a subset of
                              larger conceptual account; I think that
                relationship is quite the
                              way around: scientific concepts are a
                specialized subset of
                semantic meaning, and of course semantic meaning
                took many centuries of
                billions of daily interactions to be precipitated
                from everyday
                              Now it seems to me that on this scale
                the cultural individual
                really is quite unchanging and hidebound, rather
                like a bottle. We
                              that Western women do not bind their
                instead mutilate their
                chests with silicon implants. We rejoice in not
                stoning women for
                              and congratulate ourselves on no longer
                on the male ownership
                              sexuality that this entails, but we so
                child sexual abuse
                              children's lives, and not simply their
                purity, are now at risk
                from pedophiles, and nobody reflects that what is
                really threatened
                                  here is
                              the parental ownership of sexual access
to their

                This morning's New York Times, just for example,
                has a thoroughly silly
                article on North Korea by one Nicolas Kristof. We
                are told that
                apartments in Pyeongyang are all equipped with
                telescreens that
                make propaganda announcements of, e.g., the
                leaders' golf scores. We
                                  have a
                              similar telescreen in our apartment in
                which announces municipal
                elections and tells where to find the local leader
                of the anti-communist
                militia. The difference is that when we do it is
                feels normal.

                Kristof certainly does not feel hidebound; he is
                quite comfortable in
                              own skin. Nevertheless, he tells a
                brainwashed account of the
                                  way in
                              which North Korea developed nuclear
weapons. He
                correctly remembers
                                  that in
                              1994 an agreement was negotiated to
build nuclear
                power plants in North
                Korea (he carefully omits to say that these would
                be non-weaponizable
                and built by South Korean companies). Now,
                according to Kristof, the
                Clinton administration only did this because they
                fooishly assumed that
                              regime would collapse before the
reactors were
                actually built! Wisely,
                              Bush administration caught the North
                "cheating", and tore up the

                What really happened, as anybody with a memory
                longer than the Bush
                adminstration will tell you, was that the North
                Koreans asked for, and
                              a codicil that would supply them with
fuel oil for
                energy as a stopgap
                measure (if you look at the widely circulated
                satellite picture of North
                Korea at night you will see why they insisted on
                this). The Clinton
                Administration always boasted that the fuel oil
                they supplied was
                              poor, but that was not enough for the
                adminstration. They simply
                reneged on the agreement. But the North did not
                renege: they had
                              they would develop nuclear weapons if
the deal
                fell through, and that is
                what they did.

                Why does Kristof tell this transparent lie?
                Doesn't it go against the
                usual NYT ethos of telling the truth about
                checkable and trivial
                                  matters so
                              as to be able to deceive with the
                authority when it comes to
                              essentials? I think, alas, Mr. Kristof
                cannot control himself any
                more (see his WILDLY improbable tale about a
                husband executing his own
                              for writing a highly implausible letter
to Kim
                Jeong-il himself). The
                leather mask has become a face.

                And I think that is probably what happened to poor
                Leontiev as well. The
                mind is a highly parsimonious thing; it is very
                tiring to believe one
                              and say another. Vygotsky's genetic law
                that eventually it is
                              former that shall cede to the latter.

                It is that sense in which what Mike says is true:
                Vygotsky's psychology,
                as a scientific system, describes the development
                of institutionalized
                lying just as accurately as it describes the
                development of higher
                concepts. What I wanted to say was that his
                earlier sense that ideas are
                always embodied, and some bodies are gifted with
                an extraordinary
                foresight, is also true. I think Vygotsky knew
                that he would die, but he
                also knew that his ideas, so long as they were
                true ones, would live.

                David Kellogg
                Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

                --- On Wed, 12/21/11, Ivan Rosero
                <irosero@ucsd.edu <mailto:irosero@ucsd.edu>> wrote:

                From: Ivan Rosero <irosero@ucsd.edu
                Subject: Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev:
                functionalism and Anglo
                To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
                <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>
                Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 6:50 PM

                David, if you agree with the summary Larry has
                presented, I remain
                              by your analogy.  I read Larry's
presentation of
                Kitching/Pleasant as
                saying that action cobbles together further sense
                within already-given
                sense that is simultaneously ideal-material, and
                therefore subject to
                culturally and historically specific constraints
                and possibilities.  But
                surely, this includes the bottle and the person
                too, both as moving
                entities (the bottle, unless highly heated, a much
                more slowly moving
                entity).  I am not invested in any particular
                reading of Leontiev, but
                              analogy as presented suggests a kind of
                fixity to the person
                which I want to believe you don't really mean.

                To be fair, your emphasis is on the wine in the
                bottle.  But, in this
                              a slowly moving bottle is rather less
                than a human being,
                              a rather less historically complex
relationship to
                the liquid it gives
                shape to.

                Does what Andy refer to help here?  What kind of
                concept-complex (is it
                enough to call it Stalinism?) helps to explain the
                Leontiev at issue
                              Or, if the critique was there from
on, what
                kind of
                              would help to explain his writings'

                Or, do we forgo all this and just grab Leontiev,
                as you say, "on a good


                On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 3:55 PM, David Kellogg <
<mailto:vaughndogblack@yahoo.**com <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>>
                             Mike wrote that as he grows older, he
                    becomes less attached to his
                    position (expressed in his editorial
                    commentary to Luria's
                                  "The Making of Mind") that ideas
really are
                    highly embodied things.
                                  says that as he grows older, he
becomes more
                    and more attached to
                                  position that only ideas matter.

                    But as I grow older, I become more and more
                    attached to Mike's
                                  position that individuals really
matter. Wine
                    has no shape of its
                                        own; it
                                  really depends on what bottle we
it in,
                    and the form of ideas
                                  very much on the character of the
                    wo carry them.

                    On paper, the theoretical positions of
                    Vygotsky and Leontiev are not
                                  far apart. So when Mike asks what
                    Vygotsky's ideas from being
                    pressed into service by the Stalinist state, I
                    think the answer has
                                        to be
                                  referred to the individual who
carried this
                    idea after all.

                    I think it is not accidental that one was
                    amenable and the other was
                                  that one's ideas were deformed and
                    degenerated, and the others still
                                              by their freshness and
color. Nor is it
                    accidental that one lived and

                    But of course death is simply the moment when
                    our thinking and spoken
                    speech must come to an end, and our written
                    speech, like a hermit
                                  must find a new home in the minds
and mouths
                    of others. And by that
                    measure, it was Vygotsky who lived on, yea,
                    even in the mind and the
                                              of Leontiev. Well,
Leontiev on a good day!

                    David Kellogg
                    Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

                    PS; I think I am (once again) with Larry. I
                    think that if we read
                                  Wittgenstein as a linguistic (not a
                    philosophical) pragmatist, that
                                              someone who believes
that meaning in language
                    comes from sense in
                                              Wittgenstein is
perfectly consistent with what
                    Marx writes in the
                                  Ideology (that language is
                    consciousness, real for myself
                                              real for others).
Wittgenstein is
                    Vygotsky-compatible in other ways,
                                  e.g. his argument about
                    "families" and his argument
                                              tool like nature of


                    --- On Wed, 12/21/11, mike cole
                    <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>> wrote:

                    From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com
                    Subject: Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev:
                    functionalism and Anglo
                    To: "Larry Purss" <lpscholar2@gmail.com
                    Cc: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
                    <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>, "Morten
                    Nissen" <Morten.Nissen@psy.ku.dk
Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 2:12 PM

                    Very helpful, Larry. Thanks.

                    As I read the Leontiev materials what was at
                    issue in 1949 is whether
                                              is any "third space" of
the self in the "unity
                    of consciousness and
                    activity." I take Stalinism
                    in these materials to refer to the way that
                    idealism is joined with
                                              in some sort of
"autonomous" realm of thought.
                    Zinchenko's work on
                    micromovements of the eye and perceptual
                    action seem to me now
                                              in exactly this
they point to a rapid
                    simulation process
                                              not mechanically
connected to externalized
                    action (as one example). If
                                              know the future of
history and what is good
                    for everyone, all such
                    processes risk deviation from "the true path."
                    The motives of the
                                              individual are supposed
to coincide with those
                    of the "collective" (as
                    represented by the general secretary of the
                    central committee of the
                    communist party). Functionalism as command and
                    control statism.

                    If we accept THIS version of CHAT, seems to me
                    that Phillip is
                                        corrrect -
                                  Use the ideas for something called
                    fascism, ANY form of
                    collective social project.

                    David says this is Leontiev's (AT) problem,
                    not Vygotsky's (CH)
                                  Larry points
                    to Wittgensteinian marxism that appears to
                    provide a way to select
                                  from chaff (or discover a different
level of

                    My guess is that German, Russian, and other
                    thinkers have already
                                  this conversation pretty far....
                    citation of German work
                                              this conclusion.

                    But how are we poor non_Russian, non_German
                    reading unfortunates
                                              in the woods to find


                    On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 12:08 PM, Larry Purss

                                                        Hi Andy,
Christine, Mike
                        I have been hibernating on Mayne Island, a
                        small Island between
                                                  and Vancouver and
Vancouver Island.
                        [school break for the holidays]
                                      internet except at the small

                        I was interested in this comment from
                        Morten Nissen on Andy's book

                        Blunden, as it were, attacks it from the
                        �gopposite�h side: the

                                                        of Leontiev�fs
way of relating subject with
                        society. This has to do
                                                        objects and
motives appear to coincide in
                        Leontiev�fs idealized
                                              image of
                                                        true society,
that is, the society of
                        original communism and that of
                                                  Soviet Union.
                        Andy, it is this notion of "coinciding"
                        that I have difficulty with
                                                  reading about
Activity Theory.

                        Leontiev's statements such as "Education
                        is the decisive force which
intellectually. This intellectual
                        development MUST CORRESPOND TO
                                                  AIMS AND THE NEEDS
                         It must fully agree with
                                                  human needs"

                        I'm been browsing through an edited  book
                        by Gavin Kitching and
                                      Pleasant titled "Marx and
                        Knowledge, Morality,
                                      These authors take an
                        perspective on materialism &
                                      that gives idealism its place
our human
                        being [in contrast to
                                              how I
                        These authors are exploring a
                        Wittgensteinian Marxism that examines
                                                        notion that
"The tradition of all the dead
                        generations weighs like a
                        nightmare on the brain of the living" A
                        Wittgensteinian Marxist
                                      [from the authors perspective]
would make
                        3 points.

                        1] Tradition and circumstances cannot be
                        understood in ABSTRACTION
                                      the traditions and
understandings that
                        people have of these

                                                        2] WHATEVER
such varied understandings
                        may consist (class, culture,
                        gender etc) nonetheless some KINDS of
                        actions by historical subjects
                        [agents, actors] will prove impossible IF
                        these actions are entered
                                                        disregard to
the traditions and
                        circumstances directly GIVEN,
                                                  and transmitted
the past
                        3] A principle WAY in which the TRADITIONS
                        OF THE DEAD GENERATIONS
                                                  like a nightmare on
the brain of the
                        living is that ANTECEDENT
                                                  circumstances often
                        THINK AND FEEL (and
                                      act)in certain ways.
Historically created
                        material culture restricts
                                                  enables the making
                        history. People do not
                                              try to
                                                        things and
then for "material reasons"
                        find they cannot do things. (
                                                        make history
                        traditions and circumstances
                                                        what it is
that present generations can
                        DESIRE TO DO. and CONCEIVE
                                                        well as what
actions they can conceive of
                        as being

                        It is human action in and on the world
                        that inextricably LINKS
                                      (and language) TO MATERIAL
                        Historical traditions and

                                                        are the
outcomes of previous generations
                        actions [intended &
                                                  which place
constraints on present
                        generations. Constraints on what
                                                  can think, feel,
desire (and how they act)
                        By keeping these 3 points in mind the
                        authors suggest we can avoid
                                                        into the DEEP
CONFUSIONS which have always
                        attended the
                        The most DIRECT and comprehensible way to
                        SEE THROUGH this
                                                  distinction is to
see that all action is
                        simultaneously mental &
                                                        material &
ideal.  Neither material or
                        ideal is an "epiphenomena" of

                        In my reading of Leontiev in the chapter
                        from the book posted I
                                                  the nuances
recognizing the depths of the
                        "ideal" within Marx's
                                      This edited book, by putting
Marx into
                        explicit conversation is
                        elaborating a Wittgensteinian Marxism or a
                        Marxist Wittgenstein.


                        On Mon, Dec 19, 2011 at 7:39 PM, mike cole
                                          Below are two quotations
from Morten
                            Nissen's review of Andy
                            on activity theory. Full review in
                            current issue of MCA.

                            After presenting the quotation, a

                            Morten Nissen on Leontiev,
                            functionalism, and Stalinism

                            �c.behind this terminological trouble
                            lies a deep theoretical
social theory. This problem
                            was identified in the German
reception (Axel & Nissen,
                            1993; Holzkamp, 1979;

                                                      1976) but
completely ignored in
                            the Anglo-Finnish (with

                                                            2005, and
Kaptelinin, 2005, as the
                            noble exceptions to the
                                          Blunden, as it were,
it from
                            the �gopposite�h side: the
                            of Leontiev�fs way of relating subject
                            with society. This has to do
                            objects and motives appear to coincide
                            in Leontiev�fs idealized
                            true society, that is, the society of
                            original communism and that
                                                      Soviet Union.

From the perspective of this
                            functionalist utopia, a psychology
                                          become relevant only in the
face of
                            the undeveloped and the
according to Leontiev (1978),
                            children and disturbed provide
                                          tasks of psychology in the
                            institutions of the Soviet Union. To
                            The child who puts down her book still
                            has not grasped the harmony
                                          society�fs needs with the
desire to
                            learn that she *must*

                            develop�\she has not yet developed
                            those �ghigher cultural needs.�h

another matter, where sense
                            and meaning are divided in
                            principle, but this matter�\that of
                            ideology and social

                                                      sets aside and
forgets. An elaborate
                            critique of Leontiev�fs

                                                            was given
already in 1980 (Haug,
                            Nemitz,& Waldhubel, 1980), and the
                            background was explained by Osterkamp
                            (1976) in her groundbreaking
of motivation.



                            When I first read these passages as
                            part of the attempted "swap of

Morten and  I tried to organize

                            our reviews of Andy's book in Outlines
                            and MCA, I commented how
                                                    sad it
                                                            that the
elaborate critique that goes
                            back to

                            1980 is not in English and fully
                            engaged by both European and
                            (although how poor  Viktor got into
                            that category

                            I do not know!).

                            Seems like real interchange around
                            these issues is long overdue.
progress of the last couple of
                            years, I'll not be

                            holding my breath!


                            But thinking about the issues as well
                            as my limited language (and

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*Andy Blunden*
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Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.**aspx?partid=227&pid=34857<http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>

*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/**toc/hmca20/18/1<http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1>
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.**aspx?partid=227&pid=34857<http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>

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Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
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Despite my general approach that Historical Dialectics (Marxian
Social-Cultural theory) and Pragmatism mutually repair the lacuna in their
respective representations of human social and cultural practice, and a
very critical response to Leninism, Lenin's critique of American
Pragmatism, rough as it is, is right on target.

[15] <http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1908/mec/#bkV14E118> *
Pragmatism�\*a subjective-idealist trend of bourgeois (mainly American)
philosophy in the imperialist era. It arose in the seven ties. of the last
century in the U.S.A. as a reflection of specific features of the
development of American capitalism, replacing the hitherto prevailing
religious philosophy. The main propositions of pragmatism were formulated
by Charles Peirce. As an independent philosophical tendency it took shape
at the turn of the century in the works of William James and Ferdinand
Schiller and was further developed in the instrumentalism of John Dewey.

The pragmatists consider that the central problem of philosophy is the
attainment of true knowledge. However, they completely distort the very
concept of truth; already Peirce looked on cognition as a purely
psychological, subjective process of achieving religious belief. James
substituted the concept of �gusefulness�h, of success or advantage, for the
concept of truth, i.e., for the objectively true reflection of reality.
From his point of view, all concepts, including religious ones, are true
insofar as they are useful. Dewey went, even farther by declaring all
scientific theories, all moral principles and social institutions, to be
merely �ginstruments�h for the attainment of the personal aims of the
individual. As the criterion of the �gtruth�h (usefulness) of knowledge,
the pragmatists take experience, understood not as human social practice
but as the constant stream of individual experiences, of the subjective
phenomena of consciousness; they regard this experience as the solo
reality, declaring the concepts of matter and mind �gobsolete�h. Like the
Machists, the pragmatists claim to have created a �gthird line�h in
philosophy; they try to place themselves above materialism and idealism,
while in fact advocating one of the varieties of idealism. In contrast to
materialist monism, the pragmatists put forward the standpoint of
�gpluralism�h, according to which there is no internal connection, no
conformity to law, in the universe; it is like a mosaic which each person
builds in his own way, out of his own individual experiences. Hence,
starting out from the needs of the given moment, pragmatism considers it
possible to give different, even contradictory, explanations of one and the
same phenomenon. Consistency is declared to be unnecessary; if it is to a
man�fs advantage, he can be a determinist or an indeterminist, he can assert
or deny the existence of God, and so on.

By basing themselves on the subjective-idealist tradition of English
philosophy from Berkeley and Hume to John Stuart Mill, by exploiting
particular aspects of the theories of Kant, Mach   and Avenarius, Nietzsche
and Henri Bergson, the American pragmatists created one of the most
reactionary philosophical trends of modern times, a convenient form for
theoretically defending the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie. It is
for this reason that pragmatism spread so widely in the U.S.A., becoming
almost the official American philosophy. There have been advocates of
pragmatism at various times in Italy, Germany, France, Czechoslovakia and
other countries. Lenin, V.I. (1908) MATERIALISM and EMPIRIO-CRITICISM: Critical
Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Chapter 4. Parties in Philosophy
and Philosophical Blockheads

Victor Friedlander
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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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