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[Xmca-l] Re: Mediating Activity and Mediated Activity


You and I both come out of the pugilistic left, and we live in a country
where socks are considered formal apparel. So I imagine that no question
mark is required to start a discussion; nor pulling of punches to finish

I think I made the case that the distinction was pretty useful, at least to
Beyoncé fans--if not, see Vygotsky's conclusion to Chapter Two of HDHMF,
where he points out that the precise nature of the relationship of signs
and tools needs to be worked out yet, but in any case that relation is
indirect; it MUST pass through a super-category he calls MEDIATING
activities. For YOU and for HEGEL, all activity can be said to be both
mediating and mediated, but this is a non-developmental point of view: for
a developmentalist, one must perforce be differentiated first.
Phylogenetically, it seems likely that tools were differentiated before
signs, but ontogenetically it is usually the other way around.

What really IS academic in the extreme is your own distinction between
"really quoting" Hegel and quoting Hegel in a footnote to Marx academic.
It's also quite unprovable. By the way, this might be a good place to
acknowledge the corrections you have recently made to your assertion that
every single Hegel reference you have found in Vygotsky's work can be found
verbatim in Marx.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

On Mon, May 2, 2016 at 12:00 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> I didn't see a question mark anywhere David, but (for reasons of my own)
> could I just note that Vygotsky is not really quoting Hegel, but rather
> quoting Marx quoting Hegel's Shorter Logic in an author's footnote to
> /Capital/. Marx puts an interesting twist on the point Hegel is making in
> the original. I think it is a twist which preserves Hegel's meaning, but it
> is really the opposite of what Hegel is saying.
> By "the cunning of Reason" Hegel means how History and social processes in
> general unfold according to their own logic, irrespective of the intentions
> of their human actors. Marx twists this to make the point that natural
> objects act according to human purposes, not their material properties as
> such.
> I agree that when Hegel is talking about human affairs, "Spirit" means
> "Activity", but of course unlike Marx, Hegel deifies Spirit. For Marx, men
> make history, only not under conditions of their own choosing. For Hegel,
> men are mere tools of the Weltgeist (world spirit).
> I was able to grasp the distinction between mediating and mediated
> activity, though given that all activity is mediated and all activity is
> mediating, the distinction strikes me as academic in the extreme. I remain
> to be convinced that Hegel knoew of any such distinction.
> The paragraph following the note on "cunning of Reason" in the Shorter
> Logic is an interesting one:
> TheRealised Endis thus the overt unity of subjective and objective. It is
> however essentially characteristic of this unity, that the subjective and
> objective are neutralised and cancelled only in the point of their
> one-sidedness, while the objective is subdued and made conformable to the
> End, as the free notion, and thereby to the power above it. The End
> maintains itself against and in the objective: for it is no mere one-sided
> subjective or particular, it is also the concrete universal, the implicit
> identity of both. This universal, as simply reflected in itself, is the
> content which remains unchanged through all the three/termini/of the
> syllogism and their movement.
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
> On 2/05/2016 9:03 AM, David Kellogg wrote:
>> I'm reading a chapter by Janette Freidrich in the collection "Vygotski
>> maintenant" published in 2011. It's an imaginary dialogue between Buhler
>> and Vygotsky on the former's theory of language and the latter's
>> criticisms
>> thereof, very cleverly written in INDIRECT SPEECH so that Friedrich
>> doesn't
>> have to waste time trying to imitate the voice of each or pretend that she
>> knows the exact wording of each argument. Friedrich begins with Hegel's
>> distinction (from the LONGER Logic, the one that I've never read) between
>> mediating activity and mediated activity.
>> Mediating activity is what Vygotsky talks about using the quote from Hegel
>> in HDHMF Chapter Two: it's when your role is essentially bystanding, when
>> you use one force of nature, more or less in the natural state, against
>> another.For example, you arrange the downspout of your house roof gutters
>> so that it bores a hole in a piece of limestone. Or you hang your wet
>> laundry on a tree branch and let the sun dry it out instead of trying to
>> wring it dry yourself..
>> Mediated activity is in some ways the same, but in others completely
>> opposite. It's the same in that you are using one natural force against
>> another, but it's opposite in the sense that your role is not bystanding;
>> you are yourself one of the forces of nature. For example, instead of
>> arranging the downspout, you make a chisel or a drill of some kind to bore
>> a hole in a piece of limestone and sculpt it into a flagstone or a
>> tombstone. Or you beat the laundry dry with a tree branch instead of just
>> hanging it there.
>> Friedrich points out that in Vygotsky's early work (e.g. "The History of
>> the Crisis") Vygotsky speaks of psychic tools--he is treating ALL activity
>> as "mediated" rather than mediating. But in HDHMF, we know that he
>> CRITIQUES this point of view, precisely because it equates the sign and
>> the
>> tool. Now, you might think that the sign even more like mediated activity
>> and even less like mediating activity than the tool. After all, sign users
>> are not bystanders; they are even more intimately and intensively and
>> deliberately involved as subjects than tools. But that confuses the sign
>> user with the sign itself. It also ignores a key difference between
>> mediating activity and mediated activity--which is that in mediating
>> activity the force of nature is allowed to act according to its own
>> properties. When I use a word, I do not try to transform it from a sound
>> into something else; or rather, if I do, then I get something that is less
>> obviously language and more like onomatopoeia.
>> While I read, I am listening to Beyoncé's new album "Lemonade", which is
>> an
>> attempt to take a force of nature (the sour lemons of a husband's
>> infidelity) and to transform it into something larger than life or twice
>> as
>> natural (the eponymous lemonade). It's an uneasy cross between a mediating
>> activity ("for colored girls who have considered suicide | when the
>> rainbow
>> is enuf", where 20 imaginary characters are used and Ntozake Shange simply
>> stands back) and a mediated one ("Black Macho and the Myth of Superwoman",
>> where Michelle Wallace tries to use her own experiences alongside a
>> traditional academic approach). Beyoncé can't quite figure out whether she
>> wants to do this as a mediating choreographer for an ineffable everywoman
>> or as a mediated activity by the one and only Pasha Bey.
>> David Kellogg
>> Macquarie University
Status: O