The issues being discussed among people with very different experiences of
life and history and very differnt languages would be complicated to decide
favor of one or another "side" if all were twins living in more or less
environments!! They have not been conclusively resolved ever.
Many members of this list/commuity have given generously of their time and
try to express their understandings. At times these comments have seemed
conflictive. Those without glass in their homes may feel free to throw
rocks, but I believe it would
be really destructive to each and everyone of us to feel such certainties of
other's "culpable" motives/
understandings/statements that people turned on each other. There are much
more obvious intellectual/
social targets of our anger threatening the lives of your children and
grandchildren, never mind our privileged
selves who can participate in this conversation.
If you have never done so, read Doesteoevsky's The Idiot. I side with Prince
Myishkin. And thou?
So far as I know, the definitive solution to the issues raised by Anna have
never been definitively solved. That does not
mean that I endorse all her views. I endorse this discussion, We face
incredible challenges as a species, never mind
our variously self interested subgroups. My adivce? Tread softly.
Those who are absolutely certain of the truth shoiuld of course try to save
us benighted downtrodden idots. But those
who have doubts should tread as softly as possible while expressing their
very best thoughtout opinions-- and no one
should follow my foolish exampe in hitting reply and continuing to resist
the idea that xmca should be a censored discusion.
Who is so convinced of their virtue and bravery that THEY will bell the cat?
This is not relativism. It is antifratricidalism.
On 11/7/05, Victor <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Yo Sasha,
> While I am quite as concerned as you are with the integrity of the
> materialist paradigm of CHAT and appreciate your criticisms of Anna's
> in this regard, I do not agree with your over-all evaluation of her work.
> 1.. The positing of a fundamental dialectical contradiction between
> subjectivity and objectivity is not a reversion to dualism, and it is
> implicitly idealist in concept. Quite the contrary, the dialectical
> contradiction between subject and object and subjectivity and objectivity
> a prerequisite of Historical Materialism in all its forms including CHAT.
> guess I should add here a reminder of our previous discussion of the
> difference between Spinozan and Historical Materialism where I made the
> point that the germ of their difference is that the latter adopts in full
> the principle that the state of men's place in the universe is a product
> men's active (i.e. as subject) interaction with the objective material
> conditions of his existence. AS sometimes appears to reify subjectivity
> a process or even a substance, which is a complete misinterpretation of
> meaning of the term, subject, in both Objective Idealism and in Historical
> Materialism, but considering the general tenor of her work I regard this
> an problem of expression rather than of principle. Still, carelessness in
> expression may of course engender new principles, and I whole-heartedly
> appreciate your noting them and your explications of their theoretical
> implications for CHAT.
> 2.. The dialectical principle that at higher levels of complexity
> (concreteness) social and other derivative forms turn into active forms
> actively modify their own material basis may be well-known to and even
> classical CHAT, but I reiterate my earlier comments that I've seen no CHAT
> research that tackles impact of ideas on social reality as subjective
> (Hegelian sense if you will) contradictions of that reality. The issue of
> the real impact of ideas on material social conditions is of critical
> importance for a materialist theory that lays claim to its relevance to
> aspects of human activity and human history. The basic principle of
> dialectical reciprocity is at least as old as chapter 2 of Ilyenkov's
> Dialectics of the Abstract & the Concrete in Marx's Capital, and, as I
> understand it, what is new in AS's propositions is that the significance
> dialectical reciprocity be applied to the relation of ideas to social
> organization, an application that necessitates the interpretation of ideas
> as subjective products.
> 3.. Regarding the related problem of Truth in research. We should not
> forget that the Truth in "intelligent materialism" is not one of absolute
> being but of effective practice. The absolute truth of being is
> to the objectivism of the contemplationist philosophies of the ancients;
> Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, and Feuerbach, predecessors and important
> contributors to Historical Materialism, but certainly not exemplars of the
> materialism of Marx, Lenin, and Ilyenkov. For intelligent materialism
> is always relative to the practical problem posed, and is never a Truth of
> being, but of action, of the movement between object and subject.
> Anna's paper may not be an important revolutionary contribution to theory
> hope I've shown that most of her arguments are easily integrated into the
> existing CHAT paradigm), but rather as a truly revolutionary proposal for
> the expansion of the field of CHAT into areas that should have been
> addressed long ago by CHAT researchers, namely the impact of subjectivity
> (i.e. ideas) on social life and the consequent results of this impact as
> manifested in the impact of idea- modified social organization on men's
> interaction with the material conditions of their existence (i.e. the
> of production).
> Victor Friedlander-Rakocz
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Alexander Surmava" <email@example.com>
> To: "'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Sent: Sunday, November 06, 2005 17:09
> Subject: RE: [xmca] Stetsenko- Material practice, human
> > Hi Steve and everybody,
> > Anna's article has provoked the XMCA community to a meaty discussion and
> > this alone is enough for us to appreciate Anna for her good work. I can
> > add
> > that Anna Stetsenko displays great courage choosing one of the most
> > fundamental problems of CHAT as a subject of her criticism.
> > I agree with AS that if we really want to be guided by the approach
> > developed by Vygotsky and his followers, we must not just repeat their
> > classical definitions but develop and update them ourselves; especially
> > since neither Vygotsky, nor Leont'ev have left us an accomplished
> > Vygotsky has made the first and the most difficult steps to Marxist,
> > dialectical psychology, but his bold attempt was interrupted by his
> > untimely
> > death in the very beginning, he literally stopped in the middle of a
> > sentence. Leont'ev who succeeded him did his best to elaborate a
> > consistent
> > activity theory, but at the end of his life publicly confessed (in "Home
> > discussion") that AT is still facing serious difficulties, that he say
> > can't
> > explain how external activity transforms into internal activity. That
> > frank
> > confession, more than anything else, testified to his high theoretical
> > level
> > and his honesty as a researcher. Dealing with theoretical heritage of
> > a
> > high value we have to be accurate as we need to move CHAT approach
> > to the status of a consistent theory which will be more effective in
> > diverse
> > forms of practice and escape the danger of losing the critical passion
> > its core ideas.
> > I'll be frank, I find Anna's article extremely ambiguous, not to say
> > dangerous in the abovementioned meaning.
> > Anna pretends to fix certain gaps
> > "in initial formulations of activity theory (also
> > taken up by many followers of this school)" for the purpose to resolve
> > them
> > and "to move to new levels of a consequentially materialist and
> > nonreductionist theory of human development that would not exclude human
> > subjectivity from the dialectical account of social life."
> > I fully agree with this statement. Let's see how she realizes her goal
> > let's start with a short definition.
> > The principal distinction between materialism and idealism lies in what
> > put as the starting point of our theoretical movement. Materialists try
> > explain the most complex forms of objective reality starting from the
> > of a material Nature or substance as the only and fully all-sufficient
> > basis
> > of existence and comprehension for all developed forms. Idealism finds
> > this
> > task insoluble and puts forward some supplementary, extra principles
> > "soul" or "spirit", "consciousness" or "will", "thinking" or "psyche",
> > "sensation", "creativity" or "socially organized experience" as equally
> > basic and substantial forms.
> > It's easy to see that the last sentence is simply a summary of Anna's
> > article. She only adds to the abovementioned list a new term "human
> > subjective ness" or "human subjectivity (in its various aspects)". It's
> > obvious that it ranks with the abovementioned terms being according to
> > goals
> > of AS's article renamed from "psyche," "psychic reflection". Thus she
> > starts
> > her movement "to new consequentially materialist. theory" from declaring
> > a
> > consequentially idealist one.
> > Surely she repeatedly asserts that this human subjectivity is derivative
> > from human activity and social practice, but here we have to make things
> > clear.
> > 1. If so called human subjective ness is an entirely derivative form in
> > relation to the object related activity, if it is not a causa sui but
> > a
> > modus of object related activity then Anna is pushing against an open
> > (with her extra principle) and doesn't add any novelty to classical AT.
> > is awkward to recall that a development in dialectical tradition was
> > understood as being derived solely from material activity, but we are
> > dealing with real (not only formal) development when a social
> > form turns into active form, itself a form that actively reshapes its
> > material basis. That is an old and well known dialectical principle and
> > all
> > the classics of CHAT knew it well enough. So, if Anna's "human
> > ness" is an entirely derivative principle (from the object related
> > activity)
> > we are staying in old good AT. But the content (I mean something
> > relatively
> > novel) of her article disappears before our eyes as morning fog under
> > sun.
> > 2. If not, if her new principle comprehends at the slightest degree as
> > causa
> > sui or a substance (I mean as something containing all its casualty
> > its own realm), if she supposes that there is any side or feature of
> > "human
> > subjective ness" which cannot be derived from object oriented activity
> > has its own independent background, we are immediately leaving even
> > inconsequential materialism, and as it plays a principal role for CHAT
> > theory, we leave CHAT itself.
> > Anna indicates that
> > "a broad-and powerfully materialist-formulation is
> > clearly emphasizing a one-sided dependence of human subjectivity on the
> > processes of material production (especially in A.N.Leont'ev's works)
> > on
> > associated societal forms of exchange between people (especially in
> > Vygotsky's works). Namely, human subjectivity is conceptualized as
> > originating from, and subordinate to, the collective exchanges and
> > material
> > production."
> > Here she should better say IN besides AND because concerning so-called
> > "societal (why not social?) form of exchange," Anna repeats the same
> > blunder
> > as with "human subjective ness". Social relations according to Marxist
> > (and
> > CHAT) tradition have to be comprehended as derivative forms from human's
> > material production of their life. So we can hardly estimate "the
> > collective
> > exchanges and material production" as two-fold system of interactions.
> > Even
> > less we can adopt her further argumentation.
> > "This formulation is lacking one important idea that
> > was implicitly present in Marx's works-the idea that in human history
> > there
> > exists not only an interdependence and co-evolution of the material
> > production on the one hand, and the societal (i.e., collective,
> > inter-subjective) forms of life, on the other."
> > Here we again meet with a serious error. "Social" (I don't know anything
> > about a "societal") in Marx doesn't mean collective or inter-subjective.
> > Thus a human personality for each of CHAT founders was an individual,
> > non-collective phenomena and at the same time 100% social in essence. As
> > for
> > Marx's comprehension of subjective ness we will discuss it a little
> > "One other aspect of human life also co-evolves
> > together with these two processes."
> > "These two processes" are presenting a good example of false
> > just like Cartesian two substances. "Material production" at least human
> > "material production" can't be imagined in abstraction from society. So
> > doesn't need to be completed with another abstraction of the same false
> > sort
> > as "societal ness" interpreted in abstraction both from material
> > production
> > and from human subjective ness."
> > Namely, the subjective mechanisms allowing for
> > individual participation in collective processes of material production
> > are
> > also implicated in the functioning of what essentially is a unified
> > three-fold system of interactions. That is, the idea that still needs to
> > be
> > spelled out is that all three processes at the very foundation of human
> > life
> > and development-the material production of tools, the social exchanges
> > among
> > people, and the individual mechanisms regulating this production and
> > exchanges-all co-evolve, interpenetrating and influencing each other,
> > never
> > becoming completely detached or independent from each other."
> > Under dialectical logic to understand something we have to move, to
> > from abstract to concrete, tracing the development of a single germ cell
> > to
> > the reach the variety of mature, developed forms. This way is rather
> > difficult as it requires us to find in the very reality the notorious
> > cell and then follow it in its fully contradictory path of development.
> > The
> > contradiction itself is something hardly endurable which demands from an
> > investigator all his intellectual as well as moral resources. Much
> > as
> > well as nonproductive way is to multiply initial principles or germ
> > Here AS follows VPZ, who is trying to invent a substantially new CHAT
> > liberated from Marxism, and by no means after LSV, ANL or EVI.
> > But what about the principle of subjective ness as such?
> > The most curious is that a principle of activity, or more precisely the
> > principle of object determined activity or principle of "predmetness,"
> > doesn't need to be enriched by Anna's newly invented principle of human
> > subjectivity especially since the principle of activity and the
> > of
> > subject ness (in a case of animals and human beings it appears in it
> > developed form as principle of subjective ness) one and the same
> > for Il'enkov, as well as for ANL and LSV.
> > The second curious detail is that both AS and Lois are quite right
> > connecting the human possibility to change a world with his/her
> > subjectivity, but what kind of subjectivity they are going to deal with:
> > an
> > abstract subjective ness well-founded in a). human soul (Farewell to
> > ANL, EVI) or b). in human's physiology (Farewell to LSV, ANL, EVI as
> > well),
> > both listed variants are leading us back at best to Piaget or Freud with
> > their autistic subject adversarial to a misunderstood and aggressive
> > world. The alternative choice is a subjective ness interpret as a form
> > human object determined activity.
> > Let's recall the first thesis on Feuerbach:
> > 1. The main defect of all hitherto-existing
> > materialism - that of Feuerbach included - is that the Object [der
> > Gegenstand], actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of
> > the
> > object [Objekts], or of contemplation [Anschauung], but not as human
> > sensuous activity, practice [Praxis], not subjectively. Hence it
> > that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by
> > idealism - but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know
> > real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects
> > [Objekte],
> > differentiated from thought-objects, but he does not conceive human
> > activity
> > itself as objective [gegenstandliche] activity. In The Essence of
> > Christianity [Das Wesen des Christenthums], he therefore regards the
> > theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while
> > is
> > conceived and defined only in its dirty-Jewish form of appearance
> > [Erscheinungsform]. Hence he does not grasp the significance of
> > 'revolutionary', of 'practical-critical', activity.
> > Here is the answer to the discussed problem.
> > Let's try to expound the process of genesis of subjectivity.
> > First of all we have to recall three logical as well as natural
> > stages of development of Nature, I mean mechanism, chemism and organism.
> >>From the logical point of view there is only three stages, three levels
> > organization of interaction: the mechanism, the chemism and the
> > Modern Physics as a science is not equal to mechanism. (Newtonian
> > was.)
> > Logically the essence of mechanical type of interaction characterized by
> > principal symmetry. I mean that in mechanical interaction anything
> > interacts
> > with everything. And we can't distinguish the acting side from passive
> > one.
> > In chemism the interaction remains symmetrical; we still can't point the
> > active side of interaction. But now one (chemically) interacts only with
> > the
> > specific "partner" in Hegelian terms called "it's own other" (svoye -
> > inoye). For example an acid can chemically interact only with an alkalis
> > or
> > metals. Otherwise the interaction will have only mechanic character.
> > But the most advanced, the highly organized type of interaction is
> > type. Here and now we can and have to distinguish acting side =
> > and passive side "predmet". In contrast to mechanism and chemism living
> > subject needs in specific interaction partner not only to have a
> > possibility
> > to manifest its specific (mechanical or chemical) qualities, but to
> > a
> > living subject.
> > So the subject ness appears on the stage with the life as its essential
> > characteristic.
> > Surely when we deal with an abstract life we haven't any reason to
> > identify
> > this subject ness with subjective ness or psyche. On this stage we meet
> > with
> > subject ness "in itself".
> > The next stage is the transition to the specific form of object directed
> > activity characterized for multi-cellular animals. Here we meet with
> > reflexive form of object directed activity, a psyche or subject ness
> > itself".
> > Finally, only in human history the subject ness can transform itself
> > the highest form which possesses a logical form "in and for itself"
> > means that the very subjective ness starts to be a subject for itself
> > thus liberates itself from any external boundaries, comes to real self
> > realization.
> > I want to underline that this third and highest stage is not a gift from
> > on
> > high. That is something that mankind and each of us has to win in our
> > permanent historical struggle with overwhelming forces of Nature and
> > alienated forces of mankind itself.
> > To win in this severe competition with ourselves (we keep in mind that
> > Nature as well as historically developing and inevitably imperfect
> > society -
> > are a human itself) we have to understand ourselves (in both Natural and
> > social dimensions). And to realize this task we need to comprehend an
> > objective truth. That's why I can hardly agree with Lois in her
> > "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."
> > Here some extra comments are necessary.
> > Nowadays the very idea of searching for a truth is unpopular. The idea
> > absolute truth is usually associated with unilateral and obstinate
> > dogmatism
> > and as a sole alternative to dogmatism a total relativism is expanding.
> > Meanwhile in classical philosophy, I mean in the very philosophy which
> > armed
> > Vygotsky and his followers the philosophy marked by names of Plato,
> > Aristotle, Spinoza, Hegel, Marx and Il'enkov, the absolute truth is not
> > only a cause for being horrified but a sharp dialectical instrument.
> > inappropriate to continue this argumentation so I'll add only that
> > Vygotsky
> > himself can't be understood properly from the relativistic stance. To
> > prove
> > it one has just to cast a glance into his "Historical meaning."
> > He regarded his investigations as a search of truth and was certain of
> > feasibility of this mission as a necessary condition of liberation of a
> > human, of transformation them into real subjects.
> > I'll repeat that we can try to approach to the problem of real
> > ness from two opposite directions. We can depart the stage of CHAT
> > reproaching it with the lack of interest in subjective ness and simply
> > postulate it as something substantial, something independent from object
> > determined activity power. In this case all complaints against the
> > insufficient ness of real subjective ness we'll be able to bring only
> > Nature or God.
> > On the contrary if we are regarding a subject ness as a historically
> > developing essence and without a blinkers of political correctness, are
> > looking at the actual state of affairs as for instance that in modern
> > society the intellectual, ideal and material work is divided among
> > different
> > persons and the very subjectivity of a human being is substantially
> > suppressed and distorted by the great amount of alienated social forces
> > like
> > School for the masses, Mass media and advertisement then the hope for
> > better
> > future still emerges.
> > Finally I anyway want again to appreciate Anna's work for its
> > role of our discussion.
> > Cheers
> > Sasha
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> > Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
> > Sent: Saturday, November 05, 2005 8:26 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: Re: [xmca] Stetsenko- Material practice, human
> > subjectivity,intersubjectivity
> > The xmca discussion of Anna Stetsenko's paper shows this paper to be
> > highly stimulating for discussing and possibly re-thinking the basic
> > concepts of CHAT. Things that especially impress me about this paper
> > as a stimulus for advancing CHAT's theoretical work include its
> > affirmation of the basic Marxist sociological and philosophical
> > premises at the foundation of CHAT, its applications of the principle
> > of object-relatedness to all levels of activity, its criticism of
> > gaps in the previous work of CHAT theorists and researchers, and its
> > pointing toward a new materialist ontology of subjectivity that
> > emphasizes the role of human subjectivity in human activities.
> > As I see it, what is precisely new and potentially path-changing in
> > this paper are two core ideas. In core idea one, AS advocates
> > accurately seeing the co-evolutionary, interpenetrating, mutually
> > influencing, and dialectically connected character ... of the cause
> > and effect relationships among three emergent levels (my term) of
> > regulatory mechanisms that she identifies human labor and activity as
> > generating - (in my terms) socio-economic processes, socio-cultural
> > activity, and subjectivity. Saying this core idea again because it
> > is in some ways a major leap in conceptualization, human activity is
> > conceptualized by Stetsenko as a generator of increasingly complex
> > levels of regulatory mechanisms that are intrinsically interconnected
> > and co-developing - namely, the socio-economic, the socio-cultural,
> > and the subjective. In core idea two, she elevates the idea of
> > object-relatedness to a foundational principle of CHAT and advocates
> > applying this principle to all three of these levels of human
> > activity to explore how they interpenetrate and co-evolve. Her
> > criticisms of Vygotsky, Leont'ev, Ilyenkov and trends within CHAT in
> > general, and her suggestions for improving the CHAT research project,
> > illustrate how she sees her ontological outlook being applied, and
> > how past CHAT efforts in specific ways fell short of their potential
> > because the ontological outlooks they employed were incomplete and
> > one-sided.
> > But if this new ontological conceptualization makes new demands on
> > what and how CHAT should be researching human activity, then,
> > conversely, there are also high demands on this restructured CHAT
> > ontology to deliver the goods. One place it may need to begin would
> > be to produce convincing empirical evidence for the existence, nature
> > and interconnectedness of these levels of "regulatory mechanisms"
> > (keeping in mind BTW Bill's wise caution that the term "mechanism" is
> > a reductionist metaphor - which raises the question, just what is a
> > "regulatory mechanism"?). Another beginning place is meeting the
> > necessary challenge of developing practical applications that flow
> > from this increased ontological understanding of how these levels of
> > human activity work together. And then there is the challenge of
> > reviewing previous research work in the CHAT tradition with these new
> > lenses, looking for deeper insights than previously possible. In the
> > same vein, if CHAT is destined to give birth to a general psychology
> > that can unify the science of human subjectivity and human activity
> > as a whole - as Vygotsky hoped - then AS's suggested improvements to
> > the conceptualizations employed by CHAT should contribute to better
> > explanations of research work from many other schools of psychology
> > in ways not as possible for CHAT researchers before.
> > I see Anna Stetsenko's paper as an exciting step forward toward
> > meeting these historic challenges.
> > - Steve
> > _______________________________________________
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