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[Xmca-l] Re: Spinoza on xmca

Buridan's Donkey is all of us when the social discourse is so entirely dominated by consumerism. Behavioral economists are on to the paradox of choice in a consumer society with so many options, forced on us by institutional arrangements (Andy's concepts) that profile selling and profit making, rather than living a life of quality. In fact selling and making a profit are our quality of life. What a sad life for us little people. No wonder the U.S. is so low compared to the rest of the world in measurements of happiness, as scientific as most measurement  Andy's description of the "asbestos project" (which deserves the kind of status that Buridan's Ass got), overreaching bosses have finally met their match.  And Shakespeare is replete with overreaching pride. If this isn't empirical confirmation for  Spinoza, with his views on the vanity of worldliness and the fatuousness of ambition, what is? I'm with Andy: Why can't adults just be adults? Now here's where I remember one of my maxims: all criticism is projection. So, we're all freaks. But some of us take themselves so seriously. I am thinking of guys like Stalin and Hitler. It's too bad they didn't get better talk therapy. 

On being a monist, what is to be done? If we're going material, we have to consider Heisenberg's principle of indeterminacy in measuring a quantum world, hence to whatever the brain is doing when thinking takes place. That doesn't mean that the quantum construal of the world is any "truer" than a Newtonian one, but it's a construal that one has to take into consideration when we engage the world. I think a dynamic systems approach to the development of cognition and action (Thelen and Smith, 1993 and 1994) blends well with a quantum world. In such a world, there is no blueprint for cognition or action available to the homunculus. There is only us human organisms engaged in a dialog with our environment, one largely created by humans, cultural. So, to engage the world, to have a life of meaning, I have no choice but to collaborate with others in good projects. From projects come narratives. A narrative of mental illness profiles the struggle with oneself: William James fought off depression on his way to a meaningful life. Baruch Spinoza's narrative profiles struggles with others in accomplishing his work. Cantor and Peirce got the double whammy, a synergy of insanity and bullying. Thanks to them, though not JUST to them, we are having this dialog. They are part of the dialog. I actually hear them talking to me. Just kidding! Maybe.

So, how did these guys do it? How else but by engaging in the life of the mind: "…a world of extraordinary richness, extending far beyond the physical reality it is grounded in." (Langacker, 2008, p. 4)? Science is truly a humanity, and from a CG perspective, and Vygotsky's I think, this monist project will always be a work in progress. Spinoza's vision is optimistic, even joyful, but not easy. Joy in motion. The dance of life. Okay, I'm insufferable. 


I have heard your assertion that the enlightenment started with Spinoza from a Univ of New Mexico prof (Michael Nutkiewicz), a Spinoza scholar. In fact, it was his talk that made me love Spinoza.According to Michael, Spinoza just did it with the language of the middle ages, which you found evidence of with his use of  "deeds" among other things.

Also, David, I agree with everything you say about Krashen. In my dissertation he and Chomsky were all the rage, so I HAD to point out why I didn't take from them.  

On Sep 6, 2014, at 3:35 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:

> Probably the world's oldest naturalistic novel (in the sense of an
> anti-Romance) is not Don Quixote, but an outrageously pornographic
> philosophical treatise called Jin Ping Mei (after its three main
> heroines). It was published sometime in the late Ming Dynasty, i.e.
> before 1644, and nobody really knows who the author is, but he signs
> himself   "the unserious scholar of Lanling" (nobody really knows were
> Lanling was, but people think it was someplace in Shandong Province,
> not that far from here).
> Not the sort of thing that Spinoza would have written. But the Ethics
> is concerned with the same sort of thing that "the unserious scholar
> of Lanling" wrote: the vanity of worldliness, the fatuousness of
> ambition, and of course the moral good of pleasure. More importantly,
> Spinoza wrote the three words that really (in my opinion) began the
> Enlightenment ("Deus Sive Natura"), words that could have been the
> epigraph to Jin Ping Mei, since it too is concerned with the truths of
> nature and the naturalness (as opposed to the unknowable nature) of
> truth.
> I think that the reason why Spinoza is controversial on this list has
> to do with his solution of the mind-body problem. Andy has always
> considered Spinoza's response inadequate by virtue of its extremism; a
> kind of "cutting of the Gordian knot" rather than a trying to unravel
> it. Descartes says minds are spirit stuff and bodies are another
> matter, and never the twain to the meet, and Spinoza's answer is just
> to say that everything in the world is made of sentient meat--some of
> it may be more sentient (or perhaps we need to say POTENTIALLY more
> sentient) and some of it less so, but everything has to at least
> potentially have both ideality and materiality or it can't really
> partake of reality to begin with (or anyway we cannot partake of its
> reallity). This solution, it seems to me, makes good sense, and I
> think it also made perfect sense to Vygotsky, and it's part of a long
> tradition of anti-Aristotelian thinking that goes back at least as far
> as Jean Buridan.
> Vygotsky is quite interested in Buridan, and not just his famous
> donkey (in HDHMF Vygotsky shows that he knows perfectly well that the
> donkey was made up not by Buridan but by his Aristotelian enemies).
> One reason is that Buridan appears to have been one of the first who
> suggested that, contrary to what Aristotle thought (and contrary to
> what English grammar suggests), the laws of nature were perfectly
> determinate in the present and the future as well as in the past
> (Aristotle considered the past fully determined but the present and
> the future intrinsically indeterminate, because of free will). The
> donkey was apparently an attempt by the Aristotelians to prove Buridan
> wrong: since humans do not starve to death in a Buridan situation,
> free will must exist, and therefore we really do live in two different
> worlds: a fully determined past and an essentially unknowable
> non-past.
> Spinoza, like Buridan, did believe that in any one situation there
> was, from a strictly rationalist point of view, only one right course
> of action (as in a game of chess, which as Von Neumann pointed out, is
> not really a game at all but simply an unsolved calculation). This was
> as true of moral and economic problems as it was of mathematical ones.
> And Spinoza, like Buridan, argued that if the the right course of
> action was unclear, the thing to do was to suspend judgment and keep
> calculating until it became clear--and this is actually where Vygotsky
> gets his epigraph for "Psychology of Art" ("No one has hitherto laid
> down the limits to the powers of the body...").
> Halliday insists on rendering grammatical choice as a set of
> bifurcations or trifurcations--Buridan decisions which, taken one by
> one, are manageable, and only in the their cumulative, synoptic result
> seem inhumanely complex. And I think that one reason he insists on
> this is that he insists on knowing not only how the whole system
> works, but also how it could have come about, and above all why.
> For example, when I first read:
> "Ann came with a date and Bill without one".
> I couldn't help thinking that Ann and Bill came together--poor Ann
> thinking that Bill was her date and Bill, the lout, on the lookout for
> a new one. The reason I can't help thinking such "unserious scholar of
> Lanling" thoughts is tha I, like Halliday, usually start from the
> point of view that an utterance like this has to have some
> point--there has to be some reason why "came" is elided. By eliding
> "came", the hearer is left with the strong feeling that something is
> missing on Bill's side of the equation. Such dramas do happen in real
> life, and have done so since at least the Ming dynasty, but they don't
> really seem to make it into grammar books.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> PS: Henry--I am an ELT person just like you (and I am within a decade
> of retirement age, despite my unserious demeanour). So I understood
> the reference to Krashen. But for most people on the list the name
> Krashen either means nothing at all, or refers to an admirable
> defendent of bilingual education in the state of California and not a
> rather hidebound and rigid second language acquisition theorist whose
> theory of language is straight Chomsky and whose theory of learning
> and acquisition is straight Piaget.
> The data I gave was data recorded by one of my graduates on her cell
> phone during the first moments of her class. Most of my grads,
> including this one, are non-native speakers of English.
> dk
> On 7 September 2014 04:51, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>> Hi Henry-- There goes my pile of books that need to be read before bed time!
>> Spinoza goes up there right next to Dead Souls.
>> However, David having already claimed the mantle of unserious scholar, and
>> you having made the same claim, I am afraid that I have to make precisely
>> the same claim on the unrefutable grounds that no one pays me any longer
>> for what I do so I get to be as unserious as i can seriously be!
>> mike
>> On Sat, Sep 6, 2014 at 12:33 PM, Henry G. Shonerd III <hshonerd@gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> Hi Mike,
>>> All I can say now is that Spinoza is famously quoted as having said, "The
>>> more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become
>>> a lover of what is." This quote happens to appear in the introduction to a
>>> very popular self help book, Loving What Is, by Byron Katie (2002). I
>>> bought the book , obviously, because I thought I needed help. It did, but
>>> it also introduced me to Spinoza. And that has been a deeper "help". So,
>>> from a personal perspective, I can totally understand how Spinoza and
>>> periizhvanie would be connected. For all of you ESL teachers out there, who
>>> doesn't remember Krashen on the "affective filter" and I have been seeing a
>>> lot on character and education lately. Oh yes, and how failing is important
>>> to eventual success. Teasing out issues in the education of
>>> non-mainstreamers, and recognizing how the current system is toxic for
>>> everyone, I think Spinoza's analysis and the narrative of his life are
>>> powerful. Vygotsky hits me the same way. Cantor, the mathematician, and
>>> Pierce, the philosopher/logician/semiotician, also constantly come up for
>>> me. They were ridiculed by the received cognoscenti of the time, so much so
>>> that the suffered mental breakdowns. But they pushed on to develop tools in
>>> math and semiotics that seem to me are complementary with Vygotsky. Again I
>>> get to take the role of unserious scholar here, so think of my thoughts as
>>> gaming on line and don't take the game too seriously.
>>> Henry
>>> On Sep 5, 2014, at 6:42 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>>>> Hi David and Henry--
>>>> David-- I was intrigued by your comment that Spinoza is a controversial
>>>> topic on xmca. I googled Spinoza on the main web page and came up with 4K
>>>> plus hits (!!). My own impression is that few on this list, me included,
>>>> have engaged in serious study of Spinoza let alone the imprint of Spinoza
>>>> on Vygotsky.
>>>> What is the nature of the controversy? What is at stake? The topic is of
>>>> particular interest to me at present because I have been part of
>>>> discussions with people who are focused on Vygotsky's use of perezhivanie
>>>> in his later work, where the relation of emotion and cognition is a
>>> central
>>>> concern and Spinoza is clearly relevant.
>>>> Henry and anyone interested in chasing down what has been written about
>>>> various topics in xmca chatter, take advantage of the nice google search
>>> at
>>>> lchc.ucsd.edu.
>>>> mike
>>>> (who enmeshed in the sense/meaning distinction in all of its multilingual
>>>> confusifications at present)