RE: [xmca] LCA-- transparency

From: Alexander Surmava (
Date: Sun Jul 03 2005 - 16:56:41 PDT

Hi Mike and All,

There is another way to explain the phenomenon of transparency of a tool.
If we are proceeding from the Ilyenkov-Spinozian understanding of thinking
as the mode of action of the so-called "thinking body". (The alternative to
this Spinozian approach are the countless attempts to understand thinking as
manipulation with conventional signs or symbols. L.S.Vygotsky itself
balanced on the edge of two above mentioned approaches. The drama of his
theoretic search turns quite clear as well as designing from this point of

"The cardinal distinction between the mode of action of a thinking body and
that of any other body, quite clearly noted by Descartes and the Cartesians,
but not understood by them, is that the former actively builds (constructs)
the shape (trajectory) of its own movement in space in conformity with the
shape (configuration and position) of the other body, coordinating the shape
of its own movement (its own activity) with the shape of the other body,
whatever it is." (E.V.Ilyenkov Dialectical Logic Ch.2) a tool like hammer or
a blind person's cane turns to be the very humans organ which actively
conforms the shape of an external subject ("predmet").

"When the blind man picks up the cane" the cane is the subject itself. When
he begins touch the "the sidewalk at its tip" the subject is the sidewalk
and cane plays role of a human's (inorganic) organ. Here is the point where
der Hund begraben. Here Ilyenkov have seen the key to the dialectic as well
as materialistic approach to the most difficult problems of theoretical

By the way Petr Yakovlevitch Galperin made a mistake when trying to
understand the tool mediated activity he took a tool as a subject, as
PREDMET. In such word usage

the substantial distinction between PREDMET as a target of special
(thinking) activity and any accidental extrasomatic thing disappears.

Sorry if I've turned the common conversation in an inappropriate direction.
The cause of it lays not in my evil will but in difficulties of
intercultural communication :-).



Sasha Surmava



Alexander V. Surmava

Ph.D. Assistant Professor

The Russian State University for the Humanities

The Vygotsky Institute of Psychology
Liapidevskogo str. 8-2-274

125581 Moscow, Russia

tel./fax: (095) 455-88-24



From: [] On
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Saturday, July 02, 2005 9:45 PM
To: Wolff-Michael Roth
Cc: eXtended Media, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] LCA-- transparency


If the journal is online, I will read with interest and if it is not, might
you provide a pdf,

I was starting from the cane and hammer examples, for which the glasses
metaphor does
not work well, at least for me.

When the blind man picks up the cane, it is not transparent and the mind, in
Bateson's rendering of the
discussion, stops at the fingers and palm of the hand. But with habitual
use, the "mind" or the "mind's eye"
moves to the end of the stick, to the sidewalk at its tip, and then even
further outward when walking on a
habitual path.... I can find an electronic version of the example if it is
not familiar. I would need to go to
the library to get Heiddeger.

What is it that makes the stick, as it were, become transparent, or the
handle of the hammer? Or, in the
case of the spike, that it is "seen through" to its source?

On 7/2/05, Wolff-Michael Roth < <>> wrote:

Hi Mike and others,
I used the word "transparent" in analogy to glasses that I wear and
that I do not notice. That is, in my practice, it is as if I was not
wearing these glasses, I am looking right through, they are
transparent. In the article where I develop this argument, I provide an
example of a water technician who points to a spike on the graph and
says, "This is a clogged pipe". Of course, what she is pointing to is
not a clogged pipe, but an index pointing to the clogged pipe. In her
practice, therefore, she looks right through the spike and sees the
world, as if it was a pair of glasses allowing her to see the world.

I compare this to the infamous painting "This is not a pipe" by Rene
Magritte, and the analysis Foucault provided of it in "This is not a
pipe". ([drawing of a pipe for smoking] captioned "Ceci n'est pas une

I also describe how the signs become transparent, after being the
object of inquiry initially, then become tools for analysis, and then
disappear, seemingly. I use triangle notations to show the movement of
the graphs (signs) in the process.

Roth, W.-M. (2003). Competent workplace mathematics: How signs become
transparent in use. International

Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, 8(3), 161-189.

By the way, I started out trying to make a case for Ricardo
Nemirovsky's concept of fusion, but didn't get anywhere . . .

On 2-Jul-05, at 10:27 AM, Mike Cole wrote:

> An extra long wait on the tarmac in New York heading home gave me
> plenty of time to read the interesting articles
> by Wells, Halliday, and Hasan in preparation for participating in the
> discussion. But first I have started to read sequentially
> through the messages and want to pick up on some earlier points.
> A comnment from wolf-michael in the signs and tools discussion
> touches on an issue of great interest to me. Transparency.
> Here is the statement that set me off.
> one more comment--if a tool such a cane or hammer is transparent in
> use, then it is similar to my tongue or my arm or my leg, it is part
> of
> me and the world begins on the other end.
> Question: what are the conditions that produce transparency? Is there
> a consensual answer to this question?
> mike
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> xmca mailing list
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