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

It's got , I think , to be a vicious circle . Many say that men live with their culture . Yes, of course , they do . But the big problem is if they , then , don't act ! And whether which one could have come or could come from the other both initially and ultimately . Initially goes to the phylogenetic process to the effect that man came into being with 'deed' or with 'word' . Those who so heavily lean on 'culture' and 'consciousness' and 'sign' and  'semiosis'  altogether , should say if these categories are standing on their own , have been standing on their own , directly , immediately , secure and guarantee living continuance . Ontologically speaking , a child is a little scientist as Chomsky once said , just needing to be exposed to a language , no needing to interact and act ? As far as I can remember Leontiev believes in activity being a unit of life itself (for a discussion see A.A.LEONTIEV --units and levels of activity--and this is where all
 focus to entrap L) . And 'system' is the label used by Engestrom . Now we are living in a very complicated world of enormously-multiplication of all sorts of phenomena . But does that rule out the initialities and essentialities of food , shelter , protection , game (hunting) and the aftermath ? Today , too , man has to struggle with Nature and with hostile blocking hindrances put up in his way to reach a prosperous , tranquil way of living in society . He has to take culture as mediating but what is culture ? Where did it come from ? Did man , without acting , reach having culture (material and spiritual) ? He also needs 'consciousness' to take from . But what is consciousness ? It's there fixed for ever like a storage-house  on the alert for you to give it the honour of your presence and seek some needy things out of it and then leave without a good-bye ? You have to act even today and in the future , too , taking from the consciousness but with each
 taking you encounter it anew because you should act in the direction of a particular goal which does not give you all compentency and omnipotency of dealing with it whatever you want . It's just during the act , it gets clearer and clearer until you reach a REIFICATION all the time having been involved with the IDEAL you've got from REALITY or , better , the OBJECTIVE MATERIAL WORLD . And all culture and consciousness you so heavily and at times quite salienly lean against are but REiFIED PRODUCTS of previous generation's actions and activities . Leontiev says behind the SHELL (word) is the 'kernel' , 'marrow' -- word meaning all in all itself a process of action ; how can you create a meaning without an action ; yes , in a way you can create meaning out of other meanings in the privacy of thinking but three problems occur : a. if you call thinking an activity or not b. your other meanings are action-based or not c. whether you want to be a dead living
 imprisoned in a room ? then , in fact , we are facing three layers here : THE SHELL , THE KERNEL AND THE WHOLE FRUIT , A REIFIED PRODUCT OF A PROCESS OF PLANTING , WATERING , ETC. ; and when a social conflict occurs whether in the province of 'social meaning' or in the province of the (personal meaning - sense- perezhivanie-experiencing) , then you knowingly or unknowingly reach a point of act to resolve the conflict . The problem with Vygotsky is not that he does not believe in act , at least , because he wants 'transformation' , 'freedom' whatever you like . And the problem with Leontiev is not that he is negligent of the profundity and profusion of signs in the life of man today . The point is whether to stick to the Labour theory of Marx (vygotsky relevant or irrelevant) as a way to 'salvation' --so bitter a taste I know --or to the huge world of nowadays' ?? motley and versatile products of semiosis-based phenomena leading at large to 'negotiation'
 and 'dialogues' hopefully leading to fantastically-believed automatically action-generating of 'emancipation' in confronting the ACTION-BASED day-to-day operations of Capitalism . 

Andy :[[Robert Brandom does the same thing. There is a whole tendency which is so

afraid of Marx and the forces of production that they have theoretically
excised the entire human-made material world from human society.]]



 From: Arturo Escandon <arturo.escandon@gmail.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu> 
Sent: Thursday, 29 December 2011, 19:55:59
Subject: Re: [xmca] Interpreting Leontiev: functionalism and Anglo Finnish Insufficiences

Hi David.

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 <vaughndogblack@yahoo.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 <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:




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