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

I think the evidence is in that speech and labour (i.e., tool-use) co-evolved, but writing came a whole epoch later. I do not think it is a sustainable "developmentalist" point of view that a form of activity can first be differentiated and then be mediated: the mediation and the differentiation co-evolve (so to speak). That's the whole point.

On my update to:

I never claimed that Vygotsky only got his Hegel through Marx: his knowledge of Hegel was mediated through a number of sources (including Lenin and Engels and probably Plekhanov, followers of Deborin and Lewin). The correction you referred to was my admission that the passage you drew my attention to in HDHMF I had overlooked in my catalogue, and that it had to be included with the one or two other allusions which seem to have come from a reading of the section of Hegel's Subjective Spirit named "Psychology". Someone, c. 1931, drew his attention to these passages. There are other passages of The Subjective Spirit which would have been of great interest to Vygotsky and would certainly have been appropriated if he had ever read them, but he hadn't, far less the Logic (though he had studied Lenin's Annotations on the Logic) or the Phenomenology, which no Marxist or Psychologist read in the period of his lifetime.

Is it time yet, David, for you to make a correction to your claim that the Vygotsky archive would eventually turn up Vygotsky's annotations on the Phenomenology?


Andy Blunden
On 3/05/2016 9:00 AM, David Kellogg wrote:

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 one.

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 <mailto: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

    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 Blunden
    http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>

    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