Re: [xmca] New Polls Are Open: Park your swords at the door

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Wed Nov 09 2005 - 16:55:01 PST

Thanks for your reply, Victor, I still have Sasha's prior one to get back to
and time closing in on me fast!

Regarding XMCA discourse and the Fencing metaphor--

We always run an especially fine line through a thicket of
difficult-to-detect/interpret ambiguities seeking to understand
each other in this medium. Its band width is narrow and its time course
short, and generally speaking, we do not know
each other well. Speaking for myself, I think the "object" of xmca is deeper
understanding of human development in as
many of its aspects as we can manage. That various forms of competition (of
ideas, people, institutions, etc) is mixed
into such an undertaking is unescapble.But since it is growth of
understanding I (we I like to imagine) are after, metaphors
of growth that go yes-and versus yes-but have a kind of privelege. The risk
of course, is that it simples becomes "yes, and let
me tell you that you are so right and so virtuous that you need not contend
with the following contradictory fact....." Still, swords
were designed to kill, and skill at killing appears a more present danger
than skill at growing (although I admit that finding a way
to make growth more evenly distributed and within ecological constraints may
prove the most difficult test of all).

In this medium, and in this community-of-typing-and-reading, directly
disparaging others has not proven productive of growth.
Of course, I know too little of fencing to know that when I park that
german-made finnish rapier I was given as part of a very
military looking ritual, I am really putting it up. It looks so parked
there, leaning against the back of the closet!). I slump corrected!

Your comments on societal-social help me to go back to consider for the
first time distinctions I did not know enough to make and
to reconsider the earlier discussions, in particular Sasha's (to my ear)
harsh comments on social-societal, since I was heretofore
seeing virtue in the way the distinction wasy being made (by Michael, it
appears). In this connection, I often reflect on the fact that
in its early usage in English, the term, individual, referred explicitly to
a member of the a group. Probably from latin.

I like the interpretation that Marx was being sarcastic, it seemed to me
that was the case, although I knew less of the context than
you provided. That does not improve my appreciation for the rhetorical tool
that he used to express himself and reminds me that
in writing theses in the 19th century sarcasm was perhaps sometimes as
difficult to mark as it is in e-mail, where it is a risky tool
to use without elaborate marking. No kidding !!! (so to speak)

On 11/9/05, Victor <> wrote:
> Yo Mike and everybody,
> PART 1
> On, fencing* and dirty-Jewish practicality:
> I certainly concur with AS on the importance of context in interpreting
> the
> reference to fencing, literary and sword-assisted, and the use of the
> phrase
> "dirty-Jewish" in the sentence of the "Ad Feuerbach" that ends "while
> practice is conceived and defined only in its dirty-Jewish form of
> appearance".
> Regarding fencing, the context was more or less dialogue which is a duel
> of
> sorts in which theses are proposed, countered with contradictions and the
> contradictions countered with further considerations, the whole process
> eventually leading to a product that unites in some fashion the
> contradictions incorporated within it. In dialogue as in fencing on this
> level the objective is to learn rather than to win.
> It appears to me that the problem here may be a matter of differential
> conventions regarding the management of dialogue. Marx and Lenin were
> sharp
> contenders, often using language and tactics in presenting and arguing
> their
> position that are much more aggressive than is commonly accepted among
> Anglo-Saxon intellectual circles. On the other hand, they rarely if ever
> lost touch with the issues at stake, even when using critique to suggest
> the
> motivations of their co-respondents. Also, neither of them adopted the
> general policy of silencing those whose opinions differed from theirs by
> any
> means other than effective argument (examples may be given on request).
> Another example, this time ethnographic: here in the Eastern Mediterranean
> (the birth-place of the recorded dialogue) argument can be quite
> passionate,
> passion being regarded as an important indicator of just how seriously the
> co-respondents are committed to the dialogue. As a general rule of thumb,
> as long as the participants in the dialogue continue to address the issue
> under discussion and present cogent arguments, the "noise" of style can be
> appreciated for what it is and not confused with the object of debate.
> An additional note: I tend to agree with the tenor of the tactic of
> Improv (improvisation?) proposed by Lois H's, though I prefer Bakhtin' s
> representation of the Socratic method which appears to be a more creative
> way of achieving the same end. It is, by the way, also a superior method
> in
> fencing.
> Marx's use of the term, "dirty Jewish form" is clearly a sarcastic
> reference to the sterile, antiseptic materialism of Feuerbach and, perhaps
> a
> snide crack at the then peculiarly German form of intellectual snobbery of
> aggressive pride in cultural provinciality. There seems to me no need to
> add to Sasha's commentary on this issue.
> PART 2:
> Society -Societal:
> A discussion on the meaning of the term society and its utility for
> practical research is a string of its own.
> As I read Sasha's argument ion the use of the term "societal" in AS's
> paper concerns specifically the sentence:
> "Exploration into the functioning, contradictions, and transformations
> between the societal and individual forms of life, relatively (and
> inevitably) neglected in the philosophical and economical analyses..."
> Sasha objects to the contention by Anna that there can be contradictions
> between the societal and individual forms of life. That the societal and
> the individual as forms of life are entirely interdependent and that an
> abstraction of either from the other and any contradictions derived from
> these abstractions is a purely intellectual construct that fails to
> represent actual conditions in the real world. He then concludes that real
> contradictions can only be entirely societal or personal, since these are
> two entirely different phenomena.
> It appears to me that there is here a complete confusion of categories.
> Anna presents society and individual forms of life as in contradiction,
> which Sasha quite consistently interprets as forms of society and forms of
> individuality (of personality), which are indeed objects that appear to me
> also as distinct as the taste of steak and the visually perceived diagonal
> of the square. I suggest that instead of discussing society and
> individuality as distinct forms of life, we regard them for what they are,
> abstract representations of interdependent particularities of the abstract
> concept under investigation, whether it be the capitalist mode of
> production, the ruled game or the development of science.
> On the other hand, when Sasha argues that the societal and the
> individual as forms of life are entirely interdependent and that an
> abstraction of either from the other and any contradictions derived from
> these abstractions is a purely intellectual construct that fails to
> represent actual conditions in the real world he's not discussing the
> difference between society and personality, but something quite different.
> While I certainly can agree with the idea that the social and the
> individual
> are interdependent particularities within the universal, say of practice,
> of
> logic, or some such-like abstract concept this does not obviate the
> existence of contradictions between them. On the contrary it is the very
> fact that they are interdependent yet different aspects of practicality,
> of
> logic or whatever, is exactly what makes them contradictory moments of the
> dialectic. It is in this regard that we can regard the emergence of say
> individual knowledge or interest from out of the socially-communally
> determined ideals or objectives as negations of these latter, negations
> that
> incorporate within them the social-communal forms they contradict. To what
> extent do these abstractions represent real conditions? No better or worse
> than other abstractions such as capitalism, capitalist, and labourer just
> to
> name a few, after all, logic, dialectics and the theory of knowledge are
> essentially the same thing, no?
> Regards,
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Mike, swords are "put up", not "parked".
> Victor Friedlander-Rakocz
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Mike Cole" <>
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Sent: Wednesday, November 09, 2005 0:29
> Subject: [xmca] New Polls Are Open: Park your swords at the door
> The abstracts of articles from the next issue of XMCA discussion are now
> available for you
> to check out on the MCA webpage. See what you like and vote for it.
> Sasha and Victor -- Please put away your swords! Literary adventures using
> these implements,
> even used as metaphors, are not likely to deepen our understanding. Never
> mind that I shudder whenever
> I read Marx's first thesis on Feurbach with its reference to Jews in a
> manner I find totally unacceptable,
> however much I might be able to work on interpreting it in its historical
> context, etc.
> Might someone pick up on Joe's earler note to suggest where the current
> critical/philosophical around Anna's
> article articulates in different practices for thos of who insufficiently
> school in the arguments to be able to
> figure out how to keep things straight. What difference(s) do these
> differences make?
> My own ability to engage xmca is going to be increasingly limited over the
> next four weeks as I prepare for an
> NSF site visit, getting course materials ready for winter quarter in
> January, and lectures in Chile.
> I suggest that Lois's strategy of "yes and" be adopted as a way of giving
> people the opportunity to acknoweldge
> and add. If it seems necessary to destroy/undo, be as careful as if your
> own
> life might be the object of that
> acdtivity!!
> mike
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