Re: [xmca] subjectivity

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Tue Nov 01 2005 - 15:02:17 PST


My reading of Anna Stesenko's paper diverges from yours, in both the points
you highlight.

1. when I see the term 'intersubjectivity' I understand it in the light of
the much cited and often reprinted article by Charles Taylor,
'Interpretation and the sciences of man [sic.]' Taylor argues that the
social sciences, focused on mental states (beliefs and opinions) and overt
actions, has completed missed an important level of intersubjective
phenomena. These are the social institutions and public practices which
precede and make possible individual-level phenomena. They play what Taylor
calls a 'constitutive' role. The public practices of voting, for example,
precede and make possible an individual's preference for a candidate.

Read this way, 'intersubjective' certainly does not signify the direct
relations between two psyches.

2. I see Anna as recommending that activity is the appropriate unit of
analysis, and in addition pointing out that consciousness and subjectivity
arise in activity. Indeed, one of the things I really like about Anna's
paper is the way she encourages us to think of subjectivity as inherently
*in* practice. Insofar as practice is embodied human activity, it is an
intelligent relatedness to the world. There's a link back here to Brentano's
notion of 'intentionality,' which has nothing to do with deliberateness but
is the recognition that there is a directionality to all human experience:
out thoughts, feelings, wishes, plans, are all directed towards objects in
the world.

We tend to think of consciousness as in the head, in part because our
paradigm example of consciousness is contemplative reflection - Descartes
sitting thinking in his room, freed from cares and concerns. We have to
think of this as only a secondary phenomenon. Anna's position, as I read it,
is that consciousness is, first of all, to be found in practical activity.
When my hand gropes for a can of soup at the back of the cupboard in my
kitchen, my consciousness is *in* my fingertips' exploration. This not, as
you put it, "The idea as the psyche as an independent entity with a reality
of its own." On the contrary, it avoids positing the psyche as some inner,
personal space or entity.

I seea connection here (though Anna may not agree with me) with V.
Zinchenko's chapter in Jim Wertsch's 1985 edited book in which he argues
that if we are to avoid dualism we must conceive of "a different ontology of
mental activity," in which we acknowledge that mental action can be both
internal and external. We must avoid a dichotmy between mental (inside) and
material (outside), and instead we need to see 'mental' phenomena in (*in*)
activity. The subjective, Zinchenko argues, must be included in reality.
Understood this way, tool-mediated action will be seen to have *intrinsic*
cognitive, executive, and emotional-evaluative components. Subjectivity is
a structure of living movement.

On 10/30/05 7:50 PM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:

> Among my uncertainties as we start to dig more deeply into Anna's article
> is whether we are using key terms in the same way. An old worry with
> respect to the word, object, and one that occurred to me in seeking to
> interpret the article. But subjectivity is also a term, the meaning of which
> varies with the discourse it is a part of. I thought it might be useful to
> identify
> the range of meanings we bring to the discussion. As a start, here is the
> wikipedia
> entry.
> The OED gives this defintion:
> *. a.* Consciousness of one's perceived states. *1821*
> *Blackw. Mag.* X. 249 In the object, we infer our own existence and
> subjectivity. *1874*
> *Compar. Philol.* vii. 287 The idea of life, and therefore of subjectivity,
> is put out of sight. *1885* J.
> *Types Eth. Th.* I. I. xi. 8. 211 They forbid us to appropriate to our own
> subjectivity the intelligent acts of which we are conscious.
> *b.* A conscious being.
> *1830* COLERIDGE <>in
> *Lit. Rem.* (1838) III. 1 The Identity. The absolute subjectivity, whose
> only attribute is the Good. *1840* W. H.
> MILL<>
> *Applic. Panth. Princ.* I. 103 Individuals stand as 'the subjectivities that
> realize the substantial' of the Idea.
> *2. a.* The quality or condition of viewing things exclusively through the
> medium of one's own mind or individuality; the condition of being dominated
> by or absorbed in one's personal feelings, thoughts, concerns, etc.; hence,
> individuality, personality.
> [*1812* SOUTHEY <> *
> Omniana* I. 220 The nature of Bulls, which will be found always to contain
> in them a confusion of (what the Schoolmen would have called) Objectivety
> and Subjectivety, in plain English, the impression of a thing as it exists
> in itself and extrinsically, with the idea which the mind abstracts from the
> impression.] *1827* HARE<>
> *Guesses* (1859) 97 Often..the plural *we* is..a help to those who cannot
> get quit of their subjectivity, or write about objects objectively. *1844* W.
> G. WARD <> *Ideal
> Chr. Ch.* (ed. 2) 79 The vast increase of what is called subjectivity; the
> very much greater portion of man's life and interest which is occupied in
> observation of his own thoughts, feelings, and actions. *1871* R. H.
> *Ess.* I. 248 'Subjectivity', as it is called, clouds the eyes; we want to
> know how far our own individual deficiencies, and sins, and impulses, colour
> our vision. *1880* *Scribner's Mag.* XX. 117 [Poe's] studies of character
> were not made from observation, but from acquaintance with himself; and this
> subjectivity, or egoism, crippled his invention. *1886*
> *Ess. fr. Guardian* I. 11 This pioneer of an everybody's literature had his
> subjectivities.
> *b.* That quality of literary or graphic art which depends on the expression
> of the personality or individuality of the artist; the individuality of an
> artist as expressed in his work.
> *1830* COLERIDGE <>
> *Table T.* 12 May, A subjectivity of the poet, as of Milton, who is himself
> before himself in everything he writes. *1882-3* *Schaff's Encycl. Relig.
> Knowl.* II. 953/2 Characteristics of Hebrew..poetry: 1. Subjectivity. The
> Hebrew poet deals only with what concerns him personally. *1889* E.
> *Seas & Lands* iv. (1895) 49 'Fidelis' (Agnes Maude Machar), who is
> frequently called the first of Dominion poetesses, excels in a graceful
> subjectivity.
> I am CERTAIN that there are very important discussions of uses of this term
> more appropriate to the present discussion. I would find it helpful to be
> pointed to the relevant sources.
> Mary-- How do we collectively get our eyes coordinated on "Becoming
> post-human"? That seems important
> mike
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

On 11/1/05 1:50 AM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> The philosophical foundations laid by LSV, ANL & Co., are
> "counter-intuitive". The impression of being an individual, looking at
> images projected on to a little screen inside our heads, is a really
> powerful illusion. The idea of we individuals, making decisions which
> determine the course of our lives, against a "background" of society,
> is also a compelling illusion, an illusion which is the product of the
> conditions we are living today.
> What you are suggesting is firstly to ditch the philosophical concept
> of subjectivity by using the word "subjectivity" to mean individual
> consciousness, and ditch the concept of philosophical activity by
> denoting activity as "inter-personal." So right away it is hard to
> even discuss the subject, because we have lost the hard-won concepts
> on which the CHAT tradition has rested, and adopted instead the system
> of concepts on which individualist philosophy is founded.
> Everyone is prepared to accept that "individuals are influenced by
> their social environment". A scale from 0 to 100% is fine, and let's
> all agree that the truth is somewhere in the middle. But this is not
> the level of thinking that attracted me to CHAT, and has kept me
> listening to your debates, often lurking it is true, for almost a
> decade. I can get that anywhere.
> Andy
> At 01:29 AM 1/11/2005 -0500, you wrote:
> Andy,
> why do you think that that the mediation is discounted if you talk
> about subjectivity and inter-personal processes on a continuum?
> Ana M-S
> Andy Blunden wrote:
> The problem is, IMHO, that once we define the relevant
> structure as
> inter-individual and intra-individual, we have moved away
> from the
> insights which have given the CHAT tradition its great strength.
> This
> posing of the problem makes the individual the basic unit of
> analysis
> and discounts the existence of mediation (i.e. the "CH" part of
> at a fundamental level. Personally, I think this is the wrong
> way to
> go to find a solution to the objectivist tendencies in CHAT.
> Andy
> At 08:11 PM 31/10/2005 +0000, bb wrote:
> Further, subjectivity is a continuum of
> inter-individual to
> intra-individual processes (thus allowing for in-the-head
> processes
> such as memory and attention, as well across-the-heads
> processes
> such as communication?), supporting the claim that "This
> approach
> therefore helps to ascertain the agentive role of
> individual
> processes and of human subjectivity within a profoundly
> social,
> transactional, and object-related ontology of human life."
> Andy Blunden, on behalf of the Victorian Peace Network, Phone
> (+61)
> 03-9380 9435
> Alexander Surmava's Tour - September/October 2006
> [1][1][2]/alexander-surmava/index.htm
> References
> 1. [2]
> 2. [3]
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> [4]
> --
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----
> Ana Marjanovic-Shane
> 151 W. Tulpehocken St.
> Philadelphia, PA 19144
> Home office: (215) 843-2909
> Mobile: (267) 334-2905
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> [5]
> Andy Blunden, on behalf of the Victorian Peace Network, Phone (+61)
> 03-9380 9435
> Alexander Surmava's Tour - September/October 2006
> [6][7]/alexander-surmava/index.htm
> References
> 1.[2/
> 2.
> 3.
> 4.
> 5.
> 6.
> 7.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Dec 01 2005 - 01:00:06 PST