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

Firstly, "mediation" is an extremely fundamental category for Hegel. My favourite quote comes from "With What Must Science Begin" in the Logic, in a preamble before the section on Being: "there is nothing, nothing in heaven, or in nature or in mind or anywhere else which does not equally contain both immediacy and mediation," http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hl/hlbegin.htm#HL1_67

So when we come to look at Recognition, and we see that if a writer does not see mediation at play, then we know that they are missing the point. Mediation penetrates all Hegel's work, including of course, his theory of the modern state, which is built entirely around forms of mediation, which equally, are means of recognition.

But remember also that in Hegel "recognition" is an extremely basic concept, predating not only the state but even language, since Hegel believes that self-consciousness prefigures a common language. Of course, in modern discourse, Recognition is given particular prominence. Actually, it was Fichte who imported this term from International Relations to Philosophy, as part of his theory of the development of the Ego. It functions somewhat like "interpellation" in Althusser.

What is special about Right is that it exists for a person as something objective, that is to say, from outside the sphere of their immediate system of social support and activity. Within this sphere, human beings develop in a way in which physiology is indistinguishable from culture, so far as I can see. But in the modern state, Right has taken on objective existence in courts, written laws, armies and policemen. In the hunter and gatherer community, a peson has to defend their property arms in hand, with their family and friends, against outside attack.

I guess we all have permission to use these words however we wish, provided we take note of which writer we are referencing in using terms like mediation and recognition.


Greg Thompson wrote:
(sorry, catching up here).
No, mediation through culture does not only begin after the state. But
certain forms of recognition require something state-like in order to
exist. Here, as Andy has pointed to already, I'm thinking of the
"right," particularly private property.
As for what is needed for recognition to happen, as David points to,
communities have long been around in some form or another (certainly
before states) and a community is all that is needed for the most
basic forms of mediated recognition are more than two people acting
with regard to some third (when two or more are gathered in my
name...). (defining "community" and "culture" would require a whole
lot more than what I just offered, but that's a beginning).

As for the religious overtones of the penultimate paranthetical of the
prior paragraph, more on that in a separate email.

On Sun, Dec 25, 2011 at 2:33 PM, 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
                         “opposite” side: the

                                                         of Leontiev’s
way of relating subject with
                         society. This has to do
                                                         objects and
motives appear to coincide in
                         Leontiev’s 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

                             ….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 “opposite” side: the
                             of Leontiev’s way of relating subject
                             with society. This has to do
                             objects and motives appear to coincide
                             in Leontiev’s 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’s needs with the
desire to
                             learn that she *must*

                             develop—she has not yet developed
                             those “higher cultural needs.”

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’s

                                                             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/ <
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*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/
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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 “usefulness”, 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 “instruments” for the attainment of the personal aims of the
individual. As the criterion of the “truth” (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 “obsolete”. Like the
Machists, the pragmatists claim to have created a “third line” 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
“pluralism”, 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’s 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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