[xmca] Re: Anna's Article: Where's the dualism?

From: Lois Holzman (lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org)
Date: Tue Nov 01 2005 - 21:36:59 PST

Anna¹s article was a fascinating read for me‹I found it to be an extremely
creative and well-argued attempt to resolve a 19th century
philosophical/psychological problem. And judging from the several comments
so far, there are a lot of opinions on the problem itself and specific
articulations and formulations of Anna¹s argument. I¹d like to offer a
postmodern perspective as my critical engagement of Anna¹s article. Because
I know Anna and she and I have had a few lively (and lovely) conversations,
I think she will characterize me as having what she calls ³the now popular
relativistic stance² ‹ to which I plead guilty.
As I see it, the way Anna formulates and engages the problem she poses for
CHAT continues the tradition of 19th century science and Marxism (which was
19th century science), rather than breaking with either. I suspect, from the
way she speaks about Marx and about science, that this was both intentional
and not. From a postmodern view, a way of relating to Anna¹s statement of
the problem‹e.g., ³ways to overcome the dualism between individual and
social processes Š² is to ask what we mean by dualism (or dichotomy, as she
refers to it elsewhere); what kind of conception is it? Anna¹s conception of
dualism/dichotomy, following in the modernist tradition, rests in the final
analysis on the conception of reductionism. As I read postmodernists, the
best of them want to and try to give up reductionism (scientific,
ontological, methodological, theoretical) as a way of understanding.
So as I was reading I kept asking, what/where is the dualism/dichotomy Anna
is speaking of, because I didn¹t see any. I do not understand why individual
and social processes must be seen as dualistic, nor as separate and in need
of conceptual connection. Can¹t we have them/accept them both without
reductionist understanding? Can they not be understood as ³simultaneously
tool and result² to use Vygotsky¹s phrase? Even Marx sometimes escapes the
scientific tradition he was immersed in. I refer to Marx (but different
writings of Marx than those Anna cites). So while Marx was surely influenced
and to a large extent entrenched in a 19th century scientific worldview, he
did have some insights that are more consistent with postmodern thought than
modernism. For example (from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts):
³the social character is the universal character of the whole movement; as
society itself produces man as man, so it is produced by him. Activity and
mind are social in their content as well as in their origin; they are social
activity and social mind.² And ³Individual human life and species-life are
not different thingsŠIn his species-consciousness man confirms his real
social life.² Where is the dualism?
One more thoughtŠ Anna¹s characterization of the science activity (p. 83) as
having to do with determinacy and certainty and conclusionary with regard to
truth and value is at odds with mine and, more to the point of her article,
seems to me at odds with her characterization of the Vygotsky, Leontiev, et
al enterprise and socio-cultural-political context and with their own
writings. I always thought good science had to do with discovery, not with
truth and certainty. I don't think of Vygotsky's search for method as a
search for truth, but as a step in the process of changing the world.
What do others think?

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