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[Xmca-l] Re: how to broaden/enliven the xmca discussion

I think the study Martin described highlights the important fact that children do NOT simply imitate what they see others doing - along with the 'hard' knowledge about  'what people do' they pick up on 'soft' knowledge about how people FEEL about what they do. So the knowing they have about the use of an object which has been actively SHOWN to them is importantly different from the knowing they have about the use of an object which they have  'eavesdropped on'. For me this is one of the key distinctions between the nature of knowing involved in knowledge about znachenie and the kind of knowing (imbued with body and vitality of personal experience) which is involved in smysl.

In David's terms, znachenie is more the stuff of reason because it is generalised, communicable and cool whereas smysl is more the stuff of passion because it 'thick', personal and intricately tied to embodied knowing.

I would challenge Martin's  account of Dmitry Leontiev's  argument that meaning is objectively fixed to 'what is' -  'irrespective of one's personal relation to it' - yes, znachenie - common sense or agreed meaning is more 'objective' than smysl but it is still socially constructed - meanings are agreed by dint of their common use (what people do 'as a rule') rather than because they reflect an absolute objectivity.

Laws and statutes are 'fixed' but not 'true' and because they are generalised (like concepts) in order to be widely applicable, they always have to be interpreted (like concepts) by case law - stories about how they work in specific situations.

I think it is easy to overlook the extent to which our actions and decisions are 'coloured' by  feelings about what we know -

We rarely recognize the extent in which our conscious estimates of what is worthwhile and what is not, are due to standards of which we are not conscious at all. But in general it may be said that the things which we take for granted without enquiry or reflection are just the things which determine our conscious thinking and decide our conclusions. And these habitudes which lie below the level of reflection are just those which have been formed in the constant give and take of relationship with others.

Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan. p.22

All the best,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] on behalf of Andy Blunden [ablunden@mira.net]
Sent: 10 October 2014 05:25
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: how to broaden/enliven the xmca discussion

Well the Russian words are whatever is usually translated as "sense" and
I think one was смысль and the other was значение.

*Andy Blunden*

Natalia Gajdamaschko wrote:
> усваивает? (Mind you, I don't have a Russian text in hand but this is what comes to mind while reading this para).
> NG
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "mike cole" <mcole@ucsd.edu>
> To: "Andy Blunden" <ablunden@mira.net>, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> Sent: Thursday, October 9, 2014 8:42:11 PM
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: how to broaden/enliven the xmca discussion
> Assimilate is a very unfortunate word choice. I wonder what the Russian was.
> mike
> On Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 6:08 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>> Dmitry Leontyev's main speech to ISCAR (at the pre-conference on Monday)
>> was all about the dualism between sense and meaning, including the Russian
>> terms (was it mysl and znachnie or something?) and the German Sinn and
>> Bedeutung, and he preferred in ENglish to use "personal meaning" and
>> "public meaning" to clarify the difference, because "sense" is so
>> polysemic. A wonderful dualistic world, simply divided between internal,
>> psychological sense and non-psychological, material/external meaning. The
>> clearest explication of the fallacy of AN Leontyev's approach I have ever
>> witnessed.
>> Anyway, as I understand it, "meaning" is objectively fixed in words by the
>> objective relations between words and words, words and things, and between
>> things. "Sense" is the internal psychological reflection of this external
>> world. So in the "Evolution of the Psyche" I read:
>>    "Meaning is the reflection of reality irrespective of man’s
>>    individual, personal relation to it. Man finds an already prepared,
>>    historically formed system of meanings and assimilates it just as he
>>    masters a tool, the material prototype of meaning. The psychological
>>    fact proper, the fact of my life, is this, (a) that I do or do not
>>    assimilate a given meaning, do or do not master it, and (b) what it
>>    becomes for me and for my personality in so far as I assimilate it;
>>    and that depends on what subjective, personal sense it has for me."
>> So I guess "primitive consciousness" is sort of like these people who vote
>> for George Bush because "he's my kind of guy," and don't reflect on it. :)
>> Andy
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> *Andy Blunden*
>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>> mike cole wrote:
>>> I, to, have returned to Leontiev's develoment book following David's
>>> suggestion. Still reading,
>>> but passages such as the following really dicombobulate me.
>>> "The coincidences of sense and meanings is the main feature of primitive
>>> consciousness."
>>> mike
>>> On Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 4:21 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:
>>> ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>>     This discussion has sent me back to looking at A N Leontyev's
>>>     "Development of Mind." For all his faults, ANL expended a lot of
>>>     energy in tracing the phylogenetic evolution of activity (which
>>>     for ANL is a broad category, inclusive of unconscious activity).
>>>     He traces the evolution of behaviour (as in animals without a
>>>     central nervous system operating on a reflex basis) through
>>>     conditioned reflexes and habits to operations (scripts which can
>>>     be moved from one situation to another and adapted to conditions
>>>     without conscious awareness) to actions (consciously determined by
>>>     their immediate goal) to activities (where the goal is remote from
>>>     the immediate actions, and a whole series of actions are required
>>>     to meet the goal). Then he is able to trace the movement back and
>>>     forth between behaviour, operational activity, actions and
>>>     activities in both ontogenesis and microgenesis. I have always
>>>     been a bit impatient with this kind of move (reifying a theory of
>>>     human activity into Nature and then importing it back), but I have
>>>     to say it was a useful exercise. And clarifying.
>>>     Here is a link to an excerpt from part of this work:
>>>     http://www.marxists.org/archive/leontev/works/1981/evolution.htm
>>>     Andy
>>>     ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> ------------
>>>     *Andy Blunden*
>>>     http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>>     <http://home.pacific.net.au/%7Eandy/>
>>>     David Kellogg wrote:
>>>         All of which has to be sung with screams of pain (Strauss has, you
>>>         see, stacked the deck in Rousseau's favor). But maybe both
>>>         singing and
>>>         speech are exaptations of something that is functionally
>>>         neither and
>>>         not specific to humans at all, which for want of a better name
>>>         we can
>>>         call activity WITHOUT thinking.
>>>         David Kellogg
>>>         Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>>> --
>>> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal with a natural science with an
>>> object that creates history. Ernst Boesch.


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