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Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev: functionalism and Anglo Finnish Insufficiences
Not sure you are interpreting Leontiev correctly. For Leontiev, "life"
is the sum-total of activities or a system, a hierarchy of successive
activities. But he is dealing with this in relation to consciousness
in a Marxian sense. For Marx, consciouness is "the actual life of
people". In order to ascertain activity you have to look at the
object, and therefore, you have to look at the object of actions that
realize activity, for they are non-coincidental with the object of
activity. But that is the method proposed by Leontiev in agreement
with Marx's proposed method, not a unit of analysis.
"...activity is not an additive process. Hence actions are not
separate things that are included in activity" (Leontiev, 1977, p.
The kind of "structure" of activity introduced by Leontiev is of
abstractness or abstraction, not of levels or parts.
I do not see any major departure from LSV. Eventually, if you take the
unit of analysis "word meaning", you will have to empirically unwrap
the contradiction between (personal) sense and (social meaning)
meaning, which takes you back at the intersection between meaning and
sense (or activity and action), otherwise you will get into some kind
of reified form of interactionism.
Of course my own interpretation may be wrong.
On 28 December 2011 22:49, David Kellogg <email@example.com> wrote:
> I have a problem. I accept that Vygotsky's search for a unit of analysis is teleological: it works backwards from a problem rather than forwards from particular elements. I accept that for this reason it has a clear relationship to what Andy calls "defining a whole field".
> What I do not accept is that the field is really reducible to the units of analysis, microcosmically, that we can really, as Blake says, perceive the universe in a grain of sand. That is not just romantic science (that is, science which dares to question Cartesian rationalism and dualism); it is romantic mysticism.
> So for example capitalism is not the sum total of commodities. A mind is not a skull stuffed with word meanings. And nature is not just a bunch of spaces. Yes, in each case the unit contains the essence of the whole. But in no case is whole equal to the sum of its parts. A body is not simply cells, but also plasma, and electrical impulses, and structures that go well beyond the cellular level. Yes, the unit of analysis contains the problem. But the unit of analysis is not itself the solution to the problem.
> Not only is the whole not equal to the sum of its parts, I think that the unit of analysis is not equal to itself; that is, it must develop. That means that the unit of analysis has to be an open system, and not a closed one; there must be some means by which things which are not part of the unit can become part of the unit. I think that the commodity and the meaning-laden word pass this test: the commodity absorbs labor, and the meaningful word absorbs sense. But I also think that "activity" does not.
> That's part of my objection to Leontiev, I'm afraid. Leontiev DOES say that an activity is reducible to its component actions, without remainder, and an action similarly fungible into operations. That's why I think the accusation that his explanatory principle is the same as his unit of analysis (Kozulin) is true.
> I realize that this brings me very close to Nikolai Veresov. Nikolai objected to my interpreting "microcosm" as "unit of analysis" (as in "The meaning-laden word is a microcosm of human consciousness"), and pointed out that a macrocosm is not made up of microcosms. I now think his objection was correct. The "meaningful word" is not really a unit of analysis for consciousness in general (and that is why Vygotsky offers, for example, perizhvanie for young children). It is only the "and" in "Thinking and Speech".
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> --- On Mon, 12/26/11, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
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