RE: Does no one read [between] Vygotsky's words?: reposting Victor's post

From: Eugene Matusov (
Date: Sun May 02 2004 - 13:14:38 PDT

Dear everybody-

As far as I know, the article "The Concept of the Ideal" was written by
El'enkov in the early 60s or even the late 50s for the Philosophical
Encyclopedia that was published in the early 60s (1964?). I'm not aware of
1977 (re?)publication of this paper. Does anybody know anything about 1977
publication? Is it the same article?

> Ilyenkov in "The Concept of the Ideal." describe the
> object as representing the ideational "image of the object" presumably in
> the mind of the observer.

This does not fit my memory of Il'enkov's argument about object. Does
anybody have a direct quote?


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve Gabosch []
> Sent: Sunday, May 02, 2004 12:32 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Does no one read [between] Vygotsky's words?: reposting
Victor's post
> I happen to have it handy, here is Victor's post again.
> - Steve
> Mike,
> These ideas are still in a somewhat formative state, but I'll give it a
> Just a bit of background: about three months ago, P. Jones asked if I had
> written something on Ilyenkov's concepts of Ideality, i.e. those he
> presented in his 1977 article "The Concept of the Ideal." After reading
> article about 8-9 times and finding it no less clear at the 8th reading
> it was at the first reading I went through the corpus of Ilyenkov's works
> (those translated into English that is) and reviewed all available
> interpretations of EVI's works by D. Bakhurst's and of P. Jones. My
> impression was that the subjective idealist implications of the article of
> 1977 (I basically agree with Bakhurst here) were a striking anomaly when
> compared to the rest of EVI's writings, both those preceding and following
> the publication of the 1977 article (here I take exception to Bakhurst's
> efforts to regard "The Concepts..." as an integral part of Ilyenkov's life
> work). This raised the interesting question; how did EVI - one of the
> sharpest critics of Logical Positivism of the last century - come to write
> up what is in essence a subjective idealist theory of the ideal?! "The
> Concept of the Ideal" was part of a collection of articles including
> ev's important "Activity and consciousness" published as,(1977) Philosophy
> in the USSR: Problems of dialectical materialism. I just finished
> reading/rereading the available writings of Leontiev (reread his, (1978)
> Activity Consciousness and Personality, and read and reread his, (1977)
> "Activity and Consciousness," several times) and a respectable number of
> links between "The Concept...," and "Activity and Consciousness," suggests
> that the anomalies of "The Concept of the Ideal" might well be the
> consequence of a theoretical expansion of Leont'ev's Activity theory.
> -----------------------------On the Issues--------------------------------
> As I wrote earlier Vygotsky's work is one of the most accomplished
> adaptation of materialist dialectics to new issues. I can't say the same
> Leontiev. Leont'ev's theorizing represents a reversion to subjective
> idealism; interesting because he succeeds in doing this without appearing
> reject official dialectical materialism. He manages to do this mainly by
> refraining from writing about the general philosophic implications of his
> ideas. It appears to me that Ilyenkov in his article of 1977 presents a
> broad philosophical foundation for Leont'ev's Action Theory and collides
> head on with the subjective idealism implicit to Leont'evs basic ideas.
> differential evaluation of Vygotsky's work - especially his theories on
> production of language - from the Action model of Leont'ev is mostly based
> on several basic features of material logic and its .
> First, a definition of terms: the abstract and the concrete; the
> universal, the particular and the singular
> (You can skip this if you're acquainted with these terms).
> 1. Abstract and Concrete: Materialist logic (and here my main reference is
> Ilyenkov's 1960 work The *Dialectics of the Abstract & the Concrete in
> s Capital* particularly Chapter 2 - The Unity of the Abstract & the
> as a Law of Thought and Chapter 3 - Ascent from the Abstract to the
> Concrete) regards abstract and concrete concepts as being equally linked
> the material world and distinguishes between them only in terms of their
> relatedness to other concepts regarding that world. For example,
> exchange or barter represents the most elementary form of commodification
> and can be regarded as both historically abstract and as a fairly abstract
> feature of Capitalist economy. It is historically abstract because as a
> pre-capitalist form of exchange it plays a rather minimal role, i.e. it is
> fairly isolated form of activity, in the general mode of production by
> men produced the conditions that perpetuate the life of their households
> etc. It is abstract within the context of modern Capitalism because it is
> only the basic cell of the whole system of the Capitalist mode of
> production. To arrive at the latter, a great many other abstractions;
> theory of surplus value, money, and so on must be added to the basic
> abstraction of primitive exchange.
> 2. Universal, particular and singular (individual): The logical categories
> of general, particular and singular (individual) are generally, though not
> universally related to the distinction between the abstract and the
> concrete. The Materialist version of universality (here I also rely
> considerably on Ilyenkov's (1974) *Dialectical Logic* Chapter 11: Problem
> of the General in Dialectics) is essentially one of shared origin rather
> than one of shared properties (as it is in the case of formal logical
> reasoning). Take, for example, the principle of exchange of commodities
> a universal feature of Capitalism. The contradictions implicit to
> exchange that so characterize the whole of the Capitalist mode of
> are as fundamental as primitive exchange itself, yet primitive exchange is
> most rare and marginal form of social relation in modern Capitalism.
> Relations may and usually do develop from individual cases as singular
> phenomena, become particular forms of social activity as limited but
> recurrent events, and may as in the case of commodity exchange become
> universal features of whole social systems.
> The important theoretical achievement of Vygotsky is a thoroughly material
> and dialectical theory of the production of a special kind of object; the
> object produced strictly as a means for information transmission. This
> of object emerges from a dialectical union of material production (in the
> case of spoken language this is the production of speech), with the
> formation of the notion or logic. No less brilliant are the means whereby
> LSV demonstrates the processes whereby this union is first achieved and
> develops. LSV's scientific research shows is that the production of
> for transmission of information (let's call them semiotic objects) enables
> 1. Objectification of the notion at any and all stages of its development
> 2. The objective representation of the structures of simple and complex
> stages of the notion: syntax and logic.
> 3. Interaction between the production of semiotic objects and the
> development of more complex forms of the notion.
> Though LSV's research is realized through structured examination of
> individual activity, its aims are to determine and test general -
> universal - laws of the production of semiotic objects (see the
> of universal, particular and singular (individual) using the same
> approach as that used by Marx to determine the laws of production and
> manifestation in the Capitalist mode of production.
> Leont'ev's "Activity and Consciousness," makes no explicitly philosophical
> observations and appears on the surface to be what its author asserts it
> be; a materialist theory of personality. However, a careful reading
> some pretty pointed questions concerning the materialist character of
> ev's version of Activity Theory. For example, Leontiev in "Activity and
> consciousness", and Ilyenkov in "The Concept of the Ideal." describe the
> object as representing the ideational "image of the object" presumably in
> the mind of the observer. This is a very peculiar assertion for
> materialists and even for objective idealists. Ideation - the formation
> the Notion - is ideality because it involves the development of knowledge
> that of recurrent relation - that cannot be immediately sensed by human
> perception (by the active spirit for Hegelians). Both Idealist realism
> Materialism firmly assert that the object itself is immediately detectable
> by sensual means. The various forms of subjective idealism; Kantian,
> Logical Positivism and so on, do argue that perception is as ideational as
> relation and that immediate access to the material world is beyond human
> abilities. The assertion that the object represents an image of the object
> is much more consistent with how subjective idealists regard the relation
> between the mind and the world than it does either objective idealism or
> Marxist materialism.
> Leontiev aim; the formulation of laws of individual behaviour, is a direct
> challenge to objectivist logic. In objectivist logic; Idealist and
> Materialist there can be no laws of individual behaviour. Individuals'
> behaviours are singular manifestations of laws involving relations on the
> scale of communities, social system, humanity, and life forms in general.
> Leontiev does not even make an effort to justify the formation of a
> theory of personality. He just makes one, and ignores the broader
> ontological and epistemological implications. I think Ilyenkov's 1977
> article may well have been an attempt to deal with the philosophic
> posed by Leont'ev's general theory of personality. It's an interesting
> unconvincing effort. Bakhurst, (1991) "The Problem of the Ideal."
> Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy: From the Bolsheviks to
> Evald Ilyenkov, makes a considerable effort to distinguish between
> Ilyenkov's concept of the ideal and the general run of subjective idealist
> philosophy; but ultimately comes to the conclusion that Ilyenkov's
> on the ideal are neither clear nor decisive. No great wonder! Ilyenkov
> trying to find some way of reconciling a philosophical argument at least
> ancient as the first publication of Aristotle's logics.
> Enough for now.
> Addendum: the place of psychology as a scientific discipline.
> As I wrote above, there is a general or rough correspondence between
> development towards the concrete and the development of less general
> concepts. Simple statistics is sufficient to show that the more concrete
> the concept, the more relations are incorporated in its formation, and so
> the more likely that at least some of the relations that contribute to its
> formation will differ from other similarly concrete concepts. The
> individual case, be it a person, a movement or whatever will, by
> be one that contains some or many relations or combination of relations to
> the material world that are entirely its own. Such an individual or
> singularity may serve as the subject of analysis as a manifestation of
> general laws governing human activity in the case of the individual, but
> is worthless as a basis for the formation of a general theory. For this
> of thinking psychology and research into individual personality is an
> important application of theory to real problems (like the engineer who
> concentrates all the general and particular knowledge about bridge
> to actually construct a bridge in an actual location having specific -
> unique - material conditions etc.), but it cannot form the basis for
> theory.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Mike Cole" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2004 9:55 PM
> Subject: Re: Does no one read [between] Vygotsky's words?
> > Victor-- Could you elaborate on the comment about the differences
> > LSV and his students/colleagues? Davydov, for example, was a big
> > of Ilyenkov and a critic of LSV's ideas on concepts on, I believe,
> > marxist foundations. Leontiev is used by a lot of current AT people as
> > guiding light. What differences that make a difference do you see?
> > mike

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