Re: [xmca] sense and meaning

From: Wolff-Michael Roth (
Date: Wed Jul 13 2005 - 06:04:41 PDT

> point is that there is one more step between communication with
> signals and communication using symbols. What exactly enables signs to
> detach from the immediate, unmediated situation and start to be used
> in such a way that you can talk about past, and future, about
> fantastic never existing creatures, about unknowns and never
> experienced -- what enables them to become a means of deeper
> exploration and a means of understanding?

Preceding play, the children participate in all sorts of activities,
which is where language starts. In play, when sticks become horses or
the witches broom, we are well beyond the split you are writing about

But I don't think it is right to say that "signs detach from the
immediate . . .", it is people (children) who use invariant sounds as
part of activity. It is out of such activities, concrete participation
in material settings, that children begin to participate in using these
invariant sounds in other concrete settings.

The ascension from abstract to concrete means that a sound, initially
associated with one setting, and therefore, according Marx/Hegel, and
the like, "the general" comes to be recognized as the same sound used
in another setting, for another tree, etc. It is when the child
recognizes the tree as an object (Gegenstand), different from itself,
and another tree, as another Gegenstand with similar properties, while
recognizing its own self as an in-itself that is invariant, where you
have a contradiction that becomes a growth point, leading to a
separation of the sound from immediate situations, concretizing, i.e.,
variegated, many situations, . . .

I think the achievement of Hegel and Marx lies in the fact that they
pointed us to historic-genetic explanations; we cannot begin with our
preconstructions, as if language and mind had existed always. . .
because then we are in traditional psychology, which reifies common
sense concepts. . . . rather than engaging in a scientific, categorical
reconstruction of the phenomenon, which inherently is historic and


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