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[Xmca-l] Re: In defense of Vygotsky ["Sense and meaning" really means consciousness, which really means intellectualism]

Hello Martin,

I hesitate to have this conversation on consciousness, because I am not sure if it is of interest to the members of the list. I also do not want to create a tempestuous discussion on a very tricky topic such as consciousness. 

You indicate there are implications of mind and material duality, with which I do not believe I disagree. However, I believe likewise there are implications for assigning consciousness as a product of mental and other processes, and this is why I would prefer to say that the mind is a product of mental and other processes, not consciousness.

My position may seem to run counter to a materialist rendering of mind (or consciousness as the word is typically used in materialist discourse), but I don't believe that it has to.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I feel obliged to do more reading on this before openly discussing it. I did by accident discover an intriguing paper by K.E. Levitin called, "Always a Meaningful Pattern." from JREEP Vol. 36.No. 6. which I am currently wading through. It discusses Charles Sherrington a British neuroscientist who received the Nobel Prize in 1932, and his resistance to materialist theories of consciousness that were prevalent with Russian counterparts. Sarkarov evidently wrote a paper about the contention between Sherrington and Pavlov titled, "The Cunning of Sir Charles," which evidently "reads like a detective story" and I may try to find it, if it has been translated from the Russian. ...in case anyone's curious about that.

Andy seems to have a good story of how "consciousness" came into usage and that this usage is from the German. Seems like a reasonable explanation. Given that Freud and other prominent psychologists were German, as was Marx and various other muscular philosophers of the 19th Century, it makes sense. Regardless of how engrained it is, for me, it doesn't seem like a good use of the word, but that is me. I'm not attempting to change anyone's consciousness on that. Just because mind means "spirit" in German, seems like a bad reason to give up using "mind" in English. It's almost as if "mind" has become a profanity.

Vygotsky's book was titled "Mind in Society," not "Consciousness in Society" which as a title would really not work, as I see it.

Martin, I also do not see how various arrangements of matter indeed support consciousness so I'd have to ask your clarity upon that idea, because no where I look in the world where there is consciousness and I rearrange it does it seem to make a difference. Somehow I don't think you are talking about Feng Shui!  :)

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces+annalisa=unm.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces+annalisa=unm.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>
Sent: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 12:39 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: In defense of Vygotsky ["Sense and meaning" really means consciousness, which really means intellectualism]

In my view, Annalisa, "consciousness" is used instead of "mind" because if we don't take that step it is all to easy to fall into the assumption that mind is a separate kind of entity from matter; that is, to adopt the ontological dualism of 'the mental' versus 'the material.'

That confusion then leads to questions like "what can 'material' mean when mind is material?" Whereas if we ask instead "what can 'material' mean when consciousness is material?" we should be a lot less baffled, because it is evident that various arrangements of matter do indeed support consciousness.


On Oct 28, 2014, at 12:21 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:

> I'm curious why "consciousness" is used instead of "mind." Is there an answer to this other than philosophical? Or is it the case that the matter is accepted as settled because of historical materialism's prerogatives? In other words, is the use of the word just accepted as such because it has become a convention? Do people today question the use of the word as it has been used?