Re: germ cells germs cells all abound

From: Peter Moxhay (
Date: Tue May 10 2005 - 09:08:12 PDT

Phillip, Mike, all:

This has been a helpful discussion all around on the abstract and the

Can anyone help apply this to Jurow's work?

Or is she using such a different paradigm for generalization that we
should avoid trying to do this?


> Glad the Hedegaard example was useful to you Phillip. Preparing for
> another class, I stumbled back across this passage from Engestrom,
> prior millenium.
> The point of departure in Il'enkov's work is a redifinition of the
> meaning of 'concrete' and 'abstract'. Contrary to the common notions,
> dialectics does not see 'concrete' as something sensually palpable and
> 'abstract' as something conceptual or mentally constructed. 'Concrete'
> is rather the  holistic quality of systemic interconnectedness.
> "(...) if consciousness has perceived an individual thing as such,
> without grasping the whole concrete chain of interconnections  within
> which the thing actually exists, that means it has perceived the thing
> in an extremely abstract way despite the fact that it has perceived it
> in direct concrete sensual observation, in all the fullness of its
> sensually tangible image.
> On the contrary, when consciousness has perceived a thing in its
> interconnections  with all the other, just as individual things,
> facts, phenomena, if it has grasped the individual through its
> universal interconnections, then it has for the first time perceived
> it concretely, even if a notion of it was formed not through direct
> contemplation, touching or smelling but rather through speech from
> other individuals and is consequently devoid of immediately sensual
> features." (Ilyenkov 1982, 87-88.)
> General notions are formal abstractions since they separate arbitrary
> features of objects form their interconnections. Genuine concepts are
> concrete abstractions since they reflect and reconstruct the systemic
> and interconnected nature of the objects.  This systemic nature is not
> of the  static classificatory 'genus-species' type but of a genetic
> and dynamic   type. Il'enkov uses Marx's concept of the proletariat to
> illustrate this.
> "When Marx and Engels worked out the concept of the proletariat as the
> most revolutionary class of bourgeois society, as the gravedigger of
> capitalism, it was in principle impossible to obtain this concept by
> considering an abstractly general trait inherent in each separate
> proletarian and each particular stratum of the proletariat. A formal
> abstraction which could be made in the mid-19th century by comparing
> all individual representatives of the proletariat, by the kind of
> abstracting recommended by non-dialectical logic, would have
> characterised the proletariat as the most oppressed passively
> suffering poverty-ridden class capable, at best, only of a desperate
> hungry rebellion.
> This concept [better: general notion; Y.E.] of the proletariat was
> current in the innumerable studies of that time, in the philanthropic
> writings of the contemporaries of Marx and Engels, and in the works of
> utopian socialists. This abstraction was a precise reflection of the
> empirically general. But it was only Marx and Engels who obtained a
> theoretical  expression of these empirical facts (...).
> The concept of the proletariat, as distinct from the empirical
> general notion of it, was not a formal abstraction here but a
> theoretical expression of the objective conditions of its development
> containing a comprehension of its objective role and of the latter's
> tendency of development. (...)
> The truth of this concept was shown, as is well known, by the real
> transformation of the proletariat from a 'class in itself' into a
> 'class for itself'. The proletariat developed, in the full sense of
> the term, towards a correspondence with 'its own concept' (...)."
> (Ilyenkov 1982, 130-131.)
> In other words, the systemic nature of the genuine concept is
> essentially temporal, historical and developmental. The concept
> expresses the origin and the developmental tendency of the totality it
> reconstructs.
> "To comprehend  a phenomenon means to discover the mode of its origin,
> the rule according to which the phenomenon emerges with necessity
> rooted in the concrete totality of  conditions, it means to analyse
> the very conditions of the origin of phenomena. That is the general
> formula for the formation of a concept  (...)." (Ilyenkov 1982, 177.)
> Moreover, the concept "expresses a reality which, while being quite a
> particular phenomenon among other particular phenomena, is at the same
> time a genuinely universal element, a 'cell' in all the other
> particular phenomena" (Ilyenkov 1982, 79). The task of genuine concept
> formation is thus to find out the developmental 'germ cell', the
> initial genetic abstraction, of the totality under investigation and
> to develop it into its full concrete diversity. Herein lies the kernel
> of the 'other logic' Vygotsky pleaded for but could never formulate.
> "The logical development of categories (...) must coincide with the
> historical development of the object (Ilyenkov 1982, 215-216; italics
> added)." In other words, we are not talking of an eternal and
> content-indifferent logic  but of a developmental logic of the object
> itself. This logic is stored nowhere in the form of ready-made
> formulas to be imposed upon the object. To the contrary, "the concrete
> history of a concrete object should be considered in each particular
> case rather than history in general" (Ilyenkov 1982, 215).

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