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[Xmca-l] Re: Intrinsic motivation?

"Dualism" is a very longstanding philosophical problem and from the time of Spinoza forward it has been recognised as a problem. In my view, this problem was not resolved until Hegel, though Kant made important steps in its solution.It is more that I am opposed to the cry of "dualism" as a slogan, and the unthinking condemnation of Descartes, for committing a kind of original sin. "Dualism" is where you say (more or less) the world is made up of two kinds of substances, ..." but the solution to the discovery that there are indeed in some given situation two opposite kinds of entity, is to work out how the two are mediated, i.e., by introducing a third, or by working out how the two mutually constitute one another or how one changes into the other and vice versa. How it is never solved is by (1) declaring it to be a false dichotomy, (2) inventing a neolog to mean both one and the other, (3) denying any distinction, or (4) subsuming one under the other. In the specific instance of the distinction between thought and matter the question is more difficult, because this question is the most fundamental of all and cannot be resolved in the ways other dichotomies are resolved. Although the way the problem is posed - "thought vs matter" - is problematic, i.e., the very posing of the question seems to imply that thought is a substance, it is an inescapable dichotomy because we live it every moment of the day. Aristotle did not know of this dichotomy, because he took it for granted that the world was just how it was reflected in thought and language and there was no reason to suppose that if we looked inside any person's head we would find anything different from inside anyone else's head. It just never occurred to the ancients to make "consciousness" an object of science. Anyway, I am happy to defer to what Vygotsky says in that chapter. I read it and re-read it annually.

As to the language question, there is no doubt at all that we need specialised languages in specialised projects such as Psychology. But that definitively does not mean that researchers should start by making up words when they come across a difficulty. When the concept first appears, the word is usually already present. Problems like the relation between thinking and acting, between individual person's and their social environment have been around for millennia. They are not new problems. You would have to have very very good reasons to resolve these conceptual problems by making up new words. If you can't explain it in
ordinary English, then you probably don't understand it.

*Andy Blunden*

Greg Thompson wrote:
So Andy, I take it that you approve of Cristina's opposition of dualism. And as to the need to not rely on our natural language, I wonder if Vygtosky is with Cristina (and me) on that one. In the Two Psychologies essay that you shared (http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/crisis/psycri13.htm), Vygotsky writes:

"Høffding compares it with the same content expressed in two languages which we do not manage to reduce to a common protolanguage. But we want to know the content and not the /*language*/ in which it is expressed. In physics we have freed ourselves from language in order to study the content. We must do the same in psychology."

I'll confess to occasionally reading Vygotsky upside down (he often introduces opposing positions without any indication that they are opposed to his own), so maybe I've got it backwards. I certainly had some difficulty discerning the proper context for this paragraph, but it seems like it is straight through. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

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