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[Xmca-l] Re: Intrinsic motivation?

I don't know about play, Larry, and I wouldn't want to counterpose Heller to MacIntyre. Heller is adding a further dimension to what MacIntyre has pointed out. The importance for me is how she points to the fact that different ethics (and different forms of cognition and language) apply within a project as opposed to in "the general community." The difficulty then is how to conceptualise this "general community." This is where people often introduce open-ended abstractions like "context" or "society", but I prefer to stick to project as a unit of analysis, and recognise that communication and interaction between projects requires a different ethics (and language, concepts, etc.) than that which applies within any one project - you don't talk to your family the same way your talk to strangers in the street or colleagues at work.


*Andy Blunden*

Larry Purss wrote:
thank you for posting this section of Andy's book.
I appreciated your highlighting the ethical concerns and linking projects
to MacIntyre's exploration of *virtue* and *ethics*.

I would like to hear more about Heller refuting MacIntyre's understanding
of the loss of virtue through the loss of a dense ethos of  institutional
relations in the tendency or movement towards  the looser ethos of

Is Heller questioning the communitarian orientation of MacIntyre's ethics??

This *introduction* certainly opens a field for further play

On Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 6:21 PM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>

A lovely book indeed!

For those playing along at home (and without access to the book), I have
pasted the relevant section from Andy's chapter below. Please note that
this is from Andy's introductory chapter in the book Collaborative
Projects: An Interdisciplinary Study. The book can be found here:




One of the great strengths of Activity Theory with ‘collaborative project’
as the unit of analysis is that collaboration is not only an observable
phenomenon which can be a means of scientific description and explanation,
but it is also an *ethic*, and one with powerful normative force in
contemporary, secular society. Having a concept which is both a unit of
analysis for science and a secular ethical norm gives it a special place in
social science and its practical application, particularly in sciences such
as economics, jurisprudence and sociology whose subject matter is ethical

For example, economic science assumes that economic agents will act
‘rationally’ within the bounds of the information available to them at the
time. But the definition of ‘rational’ assumed by economic science is
contrary to the ethics of large sections of social life. When governments
make policies and laws based on a conception of what is ethical, then such
laws function so as to *propagate *the ethic which is built into the
science. This process, which has gone on since governments began to take
policy advice from economists in the 18th century, has had deleterious
effects on human welfare.

In 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre published *After Virtue*, which, despite the
fact that MacIntyre had converted to Catholicism in 1980, became a
reference point for secular ethics. MacIntyre situates ethical norms in
‘practices’ which he understands much as I understand ‘projects’: “Every
activity, every enquiry, every practice aims at some good” (1981, p. 139).
MacIntyre distinguished between ‘internal goods’ “realized in the course of
trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to,
and partially definitive of, that form of activity” (1981, p. 175) and
‘external goods’ such as prizes, monetary rewards and wages which are used
to sustain the practice, and are associated with the transformation of the
form of practice into an institution. In this connection, MacIntyre refers
to the “corrupting power of institutions” (1981, p. 181). For MacIntyre
also, the concept of ‘project’ extends from the organizations such as a
school or hospital to entire political communities, “concerned with the
whole of life, not with this or that good, but with man’s good as such”
(1981, p. 146). The virtue ethics which MacIntyre builds on this conception
of social life is precisely consistent with the ‘project’ approach to
Activity Theory.

One qualification to MacIntyre’s ethical project which is important to the
task at hand is Agnes Heller’s (1987) contrast between the sense of
equality which prevails within the ‘dense ethos’ uniting participants in a
project, and the ‘loose ethos’ which characterizes the marketplace of
public intercourse. Heller observes that the obligation to treat others as
equals is not universal. While we are obliged to treat equals equally,
within the practices of an institution ‘equals should be treated equally
and unequals unequally’ – the boss gets paid more, managers give orders to
subordinates, parents bear the burdens of care for their children, etc.
Utopian dreams notwithstanding, there is no real project within which
equality is truly the norm. Consequently, Heller points out that the
ongoing displacement of the formerly dense ethos of institutional life by
the loose ethos of modernity which underlies MacIntyre’s concerns is *not
regressive development. However, the critical problem of developing a
universal ethos which can sustain a genuinely human life still lies before
us. Since human freedom can only be attained through mediated
self-determination, *i.e.*, participation in projects, the ethics of
between projects *must be central to our concerns.

Finally, I will briefly touch on discourse ethics (Habermas, 2001) which
requires that “all those affected” be counted as participants in a
discourse. This requirement is not only vague and abstract, but untenable.
Who decides who is affected, and how exactly does an individual remote from
the discourse participate? But more significantly, what are the
discussants *doing
together *which gives a purpose to the discourse? Seyla Benhabib (1992)
reminds us that “discourse ethics ... is not to be construed primarily
as a *hypothetical
*thought process, carried out singly by the moral agent ... but rather as
an *actual *dialogue situation.” Moral maxims based on the hypothetical
interests of a generalized other are meaningless. To be meaningful at all
such an ethics presupposes state or supra-state institutions, as
representatives of the generalized other, to mediate social action, which
is an unwarranted restriction on the moral standpoint. Rather, the real
relations between any two individuals is given by the projects in which
they collaborate, whether that ‘collaboration’ entails cooperation or
conflict over the object. Collaboration is a strong ethical norm, but
encompasses a complex variety of nuances according to the mode of
collaboration. The complex ethics entailed in consultation, attribution,
privacy, sharing, ownership, division of labor, negotiation of norms,
consistency, and so on, provide a real basis for the construction of an
ethics for the modern, secular world.

One of the corollaries of Benhabib’s (2002) approach is that the concept of
nation-state has to be disentangled into the several distinct projects
which are conflated in the notion which has pertained since the Treaty of
Westphalia. This is a task which can only be resolved by a social theory
which takes projects and not abstract general categories as its basic

On Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 6:54 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

Relevant references to MacIntyre's "After Virtue" are on pp. 7-8 of
"Collaborative Projects. An Interdisciplinary Study," which I know you
a copy of, Greg. He uses the expressions "internal reward" and "external

*Andy Blunden*

Greg Thompson wrote:

And one more thing Andy (I realize given the hour down-under, you are
probably slumbering - hopefully not dogmatically...), could you sell us
why we should look at MacIntyre on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
Your suggestion that Cristina read MacIntyre on extrinsic and intrinsic
motivation was less than convincing to me if only b.c. I know nothing
it! -greg

On Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 12:00 PM, Greg Thompson <
<mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>> wrote:

    I'm a bit baffled by your response to Cristina. It seems fair
    enough to try to recover Descartes as not necessarily a bad guy.
But I didn't take that to be Cristina's point.
    It seems to me that she was arguing against Cartesian dualism - a
    particular way in which we Westerners (and we aren't the only ones
    who do this) divide up the world into various kinds binaries -
    subject/object, mind/body, nature/culture, emotion/reason, and so
    Are you advocating that these should be the governing categories
    of the human sciences?
    If so, then "real human language" will work just fine.
    If not, then the "real human language" called English will pose
    some significant problems for imagining things other than they are.

    On Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 9:07 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
    <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

        There is far too much in your message to deal with on an email
        list. What I usually do in such cases is simply pick a bit I
        think I can respond to and ignore the rest. OK?

        I think *real human languages* - as opposed to made up
        languages like Esperanto or the kind of mixture of neologs,
        hyphenated words and other gobbydegook fashionable in some
        academic circles - can be underestimated. Sure, one must use
        specialised jargon sometimes, to communicate to a specialised
        collaborator in a shared discipline, but generally that is
        because the jargon has itself a long track record. Don't try
        and make up words and concepts, at least, take a year or two
        about it if you have to.

        Secondly, Descartes was no fool. He was the person that first
        treated consciousness as an object of science, and the many of
        those belonging to the dualist tradition he was part of wound
        up being burnt at the stake for suggesting that the world was
        not necessarily identical to how it seemed. So I'd say, better
        to suffer association with Descartes than make up words and
        expressions. The Fascist campaign launched against him in the
        1930s was not meant to help us. He deserves respect.

        For example, my development is not the same the development
        some project makes. And no amount of playing with words can
        eliminate that without degenerating into nonsense. I must
        correct something I said which was wrong in my earlier post
        though. I said that the relation between projects was the
        crucial thing in personality development. Not completely true.
        As Jean Lave has shown so well, the relation between a person
        and a project they are committed to is equally important,
        their role, so to speak. Take these two together.

        Motives instead of motivation is good. More definite. But I
        don't agree at all that Leontyev resolves this problem. For a
        start his dichotomy between 'objective' motives, i.e., those
        endorsed by the hegemonic power in the given social formation,
        and 'subjective', usually unacknowledged, motives, is in my
        view a product of the times he lived in, and not useful for
        us. The question is: how does the person form a *concept* of
        the object? It is the object-concept which is the crucial
        thing in talking abut motives. Over and above the relation
        between the worker's project of providing for his family (or
        whatever) and the employer's project of expanding the
        proportion of the social labour subsumed under his/her
        capital. The relation between these two projects doubtless
        seems to the boss to be the difference between the worker's
        subjective, secret, self-interest, and his own "objective"
        motive. But his point of view is not necessarily ours.

        Have a read of Alasdair MacIntyre on extrinsic and intrinsic
        motives, too.

        That's more than enough.

        *Andy Blunden*

        Maria Cristina Migliore wrote:

            Greg and Andy,

            Thank you for your comments.

            Greg, I absolutely agree with you about the difficulties
            of overcoming our
            western language and thoughts, so influenced by the
            Cartesian dualism.
            Andy, I hope to be able to show a bit how I connect
            activities in what

            About my attempts to overcome a dualistic language: I tend
            to prefer to
            talk about a) single development (as suggest by Cole and
            Wertsh) instead of
            individual and activity (or context or project)
            development; b) dimensions
            of a phenomenon instead of levels of a phenomenon
            (micro-meso-macro); c)
            motives instead of motivation.

            However it happens that I need to swing between ‘my’ new
            language and the
            ‘standard’ one, because I am living in a still Cartesian
            world and I need
            to be understood by people (and even myself!) who are (am)
            made of this
            Cartesian world.

    --     Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Anthropology
    882 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
    Brigham Young University
    Provo, UT 84602

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
882 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
882 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602