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[Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

It's an 12 minute talk, Huw, (8 mins for discussion) aimed at critiquing the foundations of AT, proposing a new foundation, and presenting an outline of how asbestos was first produced and then banned. :) The full story is in the book. But thanks for the pointer. I'll try to address it.

I don't touch on AN Leontyev's dualism of need and object, but you have raised it. There is a need for insulation material for buildings. There is also a need for buildings that don't give you cancer. The need for insulation does not find an adequate object in asbestos because asbestos fails to meet the need for safety. A need can be met by different objects. I can resolve that contradiction by spelling out the need more precisely. But asbestos production *was* the object and yet it didn't meet the need - for safe insulation.

But the real object of the talk is to critique the idea that if a social formation is producing something (either because the Central Ctee said so or because the market said so) then ipso facto there is an objective need for it. This is OK for dealing with the child who is not doing their homework and failing to learn to read. The teacher with some good reason thinks they have the final say, the Truth, about the objective need for literacy. But the fact is that the Central Committee and the Market both get it very wrong sometimes. And these are after all, for social theory, the interesting cases. In large measure that is the problem I am addressing myself to.

*Andy Blunden*

Huw Lloyd wrote:

    One's conceptual frame is unified through commitment to a
    life-project. Opinions and evidence which don't fit the conceptual
    frame generated by the central concept of a life-project, its
    vision of the Good Life. There is a 10 minute talk on this in
    relation to denial of the dangers posed to health by asbestos

    Apologies for going on too long.

I've caught up with this thread, briefly.

Andy, I think your article could be tightened up a little on the notion of objective as simple. You make the case towards the end that objective need should not be considered as unproblematic (which can be generalised to the notion that anything objective should not be taken as unproblematic). However you also state early on:

"Far from there being any need which is met by asbestos and provides an objective motive for its production, it is now universally acknowledged that asbestos kills people."

Which, to me, seems to confuse the substance with the functional (technological) properties deemed to be of good value, i.e. that it would be a mistake to state that asbestos itself fulfils a need, rather it is the functional relations fulfilled and established by it, that was deemed productive.

I don't think this undermines your point about projects here, but it does, I think, change the view that Leontyev's formulation was not adequate sociologically, to an assertion about how to construe motive (i.e. as related to a means of production).

There is, of course, a new danger that one takes the concept in "projects" as some new kind of fixed point. But I think there is already a tradition here, in the form of myth as a means of production.


    *Andy Blunden*

    Charles Bazerman wrote:

        I am with you, and not only because of climate change
        deniers.  The sociocultural critique has been important to
        show that humans make knowledge, and they do it from their own
        interests and perspectives.  Yet, various disciplines and
        sciences, have come to know more about the world in ways that
        are less entangled with the limits of individual or small
        group perceptions and interests.
        Disciplines do represent the world outside of themselves,
        gathering data--of course selectively through their own
        devices, their means of collection, forms of inscription and
        display, etc...  Historically, the methodological standards in
        different fields have evolved to include more awareness of the
        contingency, fragility, and specificity of samples, data and
analysis--along with increasing cleverness of our tools. This is what methodology is all about. I tend to view
        objectivity not as an absolute, but an awareness of ways in
        which we are entangled with the phenomena we are trying to
        study, and to find ways to disentangle ourselves less.
        So from this perspective, incorporating the sociocultural
        critique creates challenges to maintain the persuasiveness of
        our data, representation, and analysis. Over the last few
        decades, we have been struggling in different disciplines to
        incorporate this critique but yet maintain the disciplinary
        projects of advancing contingent, but useful and reliable
        knowledge.  I like your term warranted assertability. I myself
        have relied on the idea of accountability--in terms of being
        able to give a good account of your research actions when
        queried from various directions. But it is important to the
        advance of knowledge that we find ways to gather and
        understand information about the world (in which we are both
        living parts and the constructors of knowledge about that
        world including ourselves) that recognizes the contingency of
        our knowledge but does not evaporate our confidence in that
        knowledge into a vapor of contingency only.

        I have struggled with this issue for many years in my work on
        the rhetoric of science and have discussed it in various ways,
        drawing on the work of many others (Ludwik Fleck still seems
        important to me over many years), but more work needs to be
        done to crystallize an understanding that leaves science and
        social science standing despite it being created by poor,
        frail, interested, humans of limited and skewed vision.

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Glassman, Michael" <glassman.13@osu.edu
        Date: Monday, September 22, 2014 11:21 am
        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder
        To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
        <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>>

            It seems to me that articles like this can be a double
            edged sword.  They use examples where culture has an
            influence on how we see things but then offer the
            generalization that science is perspective.  This is the
            same line you hear by climate deniers who claim that the
            climatologists have a liberal bias.   Science is based on
            individual perspective until it doesn't.   I'm their book
            is a much more nuanced discussion.   This is a really
            complex issue which at this particular moment has
            extraordinary import.  Maybe we need to find other ways to
            discuss this - like warranted assertability.  Perhaps I
            have been spending too much time reading about the
            politics of climate change lately and it has spooked me.

            From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
            <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>] on behalf of
            David Preiss [daviddpreiss@gmail.com
            Sent: Sunday, September 21, 2014 9:41 PM
            To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
            Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

            And they make claims for all humankind.

            Enviado desde mi iPhone

El 21-09-2014, a las 22:16, Martin John Packer
            <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co <mailto:mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>>
                So there are two distinct problems here: First, the
researchers are
            not diverse. Second, the people they (we?) study are not

                    On Sep 21, 2014, at 8:11 PM, David Preiss
                    Loved the WEIRD acronym. One of the best ironies
I've seen in
            recent scientific writing.
                    Enviado desde mi iPhone

El 21-09-2014, a las 18:57, Rod Parker-Rees
            <mailto:R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk>> escribió:
                        Great article, David - highlights the
importance (at every level)
            of being aware of what others might find odd about us
            (secondary socialisation?).

                        -----Original Message-----
                        From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
            <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>] On Behalf Of
            David Preiss
                        Sent: 21 September 2014 18:31
                        To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
                        Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: in the eye of the beholder

                        This article is revelant for this topic:

                        Enviado desde mi iPhone

                            El 21-09-2014, a las 13:42, mike cole
                            <mcole@ucsd.edu <mailto:mcole@ucsd.edu>>

                            The book by Medin and Bang, "Who's asking"
                            published by MIT is GREAT
                            reading. Seeing this in Scientific
                            American is super.


                            On Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 8:18 AM, David
                            Preiss <daviddpreiss@gmail.com

                                What a fantastic piece Peter! Loved
                                the references to primatology.

                                Enviado desde mi iPhone

                                    El 21-09-2014, a las 7:31, Peter
                                    Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu
                                    <mailto:smago@uga.edu>> escribió:

                            Development and Evolution are both ...
"processes of construction
                            re- construction in which heterogeneous
resources are
            contingently but
                            more or less reliably reassembled for each
                            life cycle." [Oyama,
                            Griffiths, and Gray, 2001]

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