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Re: [xmca] Vladislav Lektorsky's notion of the subject

In the History of the Development of the Higher Pschological Functions, Vygotsky begins by saying that the cultural development of the child, the development of the higher psychological functions, and the formation of the child's will are one and the same thing. He asks us to simply take these things as being externally connected and simultaneous for the moment and then, in the course of a number of special studies, he shows how they are internally connected. 
Some of the special studies are not obviously connected with the formation of a self in the sense of an inner world. For example, David Kirshner and I have been reading his study on the development of counting, which Vygotsky sees has happening through the DIVISION of visual-graphic displays rather than through the addition of descrete objects (because Vygotsky is really interested in the child's ability to control his own mind rather than simply manipulate objects).
But some of the special studies clearly ARE about the formation of the self in the sense that Andy is using it (e.g. Chapter 12, Self Control, and Chapter 15, Development of Personality and World View). This isn't exactly an "inner world" (actually, I'm not sure I have one of those myself). But it's clearly one of the many things we mean when we say "self".
Aren't CHILDREN the logical place to look for the formation of a self, and also for what life looks like when you don't yet have one? I suppose you COULD use Aristotle if you really wanted to, but I think Larry is right to go back further.
Jaynes, who knew a lot about selves because as a schizophrenic he had a couple of them, wrote that the Iliad and the Odyssey could not be by the same person, because in the Iliad, people don't really have selves; when they want to have ideas, Gods appear and talk inside their heads, but in the Odyssey, Odysseus is keeping secrets from everybody, even the Gods. I by the time of Aristotle, Greeks knew what the sentence "Ajax killed himself out of pique" meant. But they probably did not know what "I need to take a year off and find myself" means. 
The difference seems significant to me. Death, the end of self, is a biomechanical event, as well as a sociocultural artefact (funerals are sociocultural artefacts, burial or cremation is a biochemical transformation). It makes sense to me that Aristotle would grasp a sense of self that is closer to man's biomechanical origins but not one that is part of our sociocultural present. 
I know that Mike rightly resists any parallelism between the youth of our own culture and the youth of our youth. But I still think that children are the place to look if we want to study how selves are formed and how they can be dissolved. 
I am not sure, but I think that children do not yet grasp either "kill myself" or "find myself". The existence of invisible friends, the obsession with being popular, and the incredulity of the teenager before the bedroom mirror all seem to be part of that process. That is why the recent news of child suicides, both here and in the USA, are so distressing to me: a gesture that is meaningful for others, but meaningless to the self.
I remember that when Bill Clinton was running for president, he signed the death warrant of a mentally disabled man who was, we were told, legally an eight year old child. He was offered a last meal, but he was full and couldn't finish his ice cream, so he set it aside and told the warden that he would come back and finish it when the execution was over. 
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

--- On Wed, 1/4/12, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Vladislav Lektorsky's notion of the subject
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 3:56 PM

While I can see that the self can be a form of inner world which only
arises as a cultural and historical accomplishment, I would not go so
far as to refer to it as an artefact. I think the human body is an
artefact, i.e., a natural, material product of human social activity,
formed by the purposes of human activity and communication, I would need
to be persuaded that the self is such a material entity, albeit also
ideal. However, I do think that the self is a phenomenon, in just the
sense that Vygotsky talked of the consciousness apprehended by
introspection as phenomenon.


Larry Purss wrote:
> Andy
> I agree that the "inner world" is cultural historical. This "inner world" as a "concept" did not exist in Aristotole's time [and not in Homer's texts]
> The term "construct" may suggest that this "inner world" is an epiphenomenon OF the real cultural-historical world and could therefore be collaped back into the cultural historical. In other words the "inner world" could be deconstructed.
>  My reading of this possibility is that once arisen as an ACTUALITY the "inner world" cannot be deconstructed except if the entire collective activity of which it is a "part" also is deconstructed.  In other words "sovereign selfs" and "sovergeign states" and "sovereign rights" exist together within a family resemblance with a shared notion of "identity" as possessive constructions.
>  Andy, cultura-historical formational artifacts such as "selfs" and "texts" are not conceptualepiphenomena that can be deconstructed [as merely "epiphenomenal concepts"] unless the entire collective activity from which the "inner world" and "texts" arises also is deconstructed [annililated]
>  If the "inner world" ACTUALLY ARISES FROM the cultural historical as a particular KIND or TYPE of "psychological world" then once arisen [developmentally/evolutionary]  it IS an actual "existence" that is NOT MERELY IDEAL [as epiphenomenal] but rather exists as a particular KIND of artifact every bit as real as cathedrals and states and rights.
>  The particular kind of subject that we are familiar with seems intimately linked to "texs" and "states" and "rights" and from my perspective is a particular possessive kind of inner world.
>  Andy, going back to Charles Taylor's notion of "theories" as necessary to SIMPLIFY and REDUCE dynamic complexity, [life always exceeds our theories] points to the need for collective activity but a central kind of activity for the "inner world" to arise I believe is hermeneutical and dialogical con-verse-ations.
> Gadamer's notion that these conversations CONTINUE to occur across the centuries [not as a backward glance but in real time].  "I" read an author such as Aristotle today and this reading [con-verse-ation] points to "texts" and "inner worlds" both arising as artifacts which occupy the same phenomenological [not epiphenomenal] actuality.
>  Therefore, we need to be cautious when saying we are constructing & deconstructing "texts" and "inner worlds" AS IF they are epiphenomenal.  They ARE phenomenal and can annililated as actualities if the cultural historical world is annililated but I don't think we can deconstruct the texts and "inner worlds" and leave this particular cultural historical world intact.
>  That is the reason I was attempting to make a distinction between the terms "construct" and "understood" [as a dialogical intersubjective notion as used by Gadamer]
>  Andy, I "hold" [possess] these perspectives tentatively, but it is where my curiosity alights.
>  Larry  
> On Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 2:33 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>     OK, Larry has selected Lektorsky's chapter in the 2009 book to read.
>     Larry, instead of running on to consider 15 different concepts of
>     the inner world, shouldn't we wait on a second and think about
>     Lekotrsky's claim? What do you think of the claim that the very
>     idea of an "inner world" or "self" is a cultural-historical
>     construct, i.e., that in say Aristotle's times, such a concept did
>     not exist and therefore that it would simply not be sensible to
>     talk of people having such a "self"?
>     Andy
>     Larry Purss wrote:
>         I went on Google Scholar and typed in "Vladislav Lektorsky"
>         The book "Learning and Expanding with Activity" came up free
>         to download.
>         I'm sending an attachment if others are interested.
>         Chapter 5 "Mediation as a Means of Collective Activity" by V.
>         Lektorsky is
>         on pages 75 to 87.
>         Page 80 explores Lektorsky's perspective of the notion of the
>         subject. I'll
>         quote what he says.
>         "The idea of the "inner world" is very important in cultural
>         and social
>         contexts. The subject as the unity of consciousness, the unity
>         of an
>         individual biography, and the center of making decisions can
>         exist only as
>         the center of "the inner world". *But the appearance of the
>         "inner world" is
>         possible only when the IDEA of "the inner" arises in culture*,
>         in other
>         words, when it is realized in forms of collective activity.
>         This means that
>         there may exist cultures and forms of activity including forms of
>         communication where the subjects have no feelings of the ego
>         and "the inner
>         world".
>             The ego of an individual subject may be UNDERSTOOD to be a
>         complicated, changing, and somewhat problematic formation.  It has
>         different layers, which sometimes are INTERPRETED as different
>         egos,
>         engaged in communication WITH EACH OTHER and formed in
>         different kinds of
>         activity and n different relations with other people. Ego
>         identity can be
>         confused and fragmented.  Thus, an individual subject can be
>         UNDERSTOOD to
>         be a collective subject. A specific feature of such a
>         collective subject is
>         that it is embodied in a single physical body and has a unity of
>         consciousness and a central ego, REGULATING activities of
>         different
>         subegos.  In cases of multiple personalities a central ego is
>         absent so
>         several egos coexist in the same body."
>         I am not endorsing this particular perspective, but offer
>         Lektorsky's
>         version of the "self" formed within activity theory as an
>         example that
>         "self" "agency" "subjectivity" "individuality" "ego" "person"
>         "agent"
>         "agency" "free will" "self-determination" "self-regulation"
>         "personality"
>         "personhood" and the RELATION between these various terms are
>         being
>         fully explored and expressed within activity theory as ARISING
>         phenomena.
>         I would like to propose that dialogical hermeneutical notions
>         of "situated
>         agency" have a place/space within this constellation of terms.
>         Larry
>     -
>     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>     *Andy Blunden*
>     Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
>     Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>
>     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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-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
*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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