Re: [xmca] Monism Is Not Reductionist

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Wed Mar 14 2007 - 14:15:14 PST


I'm losing track of our conversation! My general sense, perhaps incorrect,
has been that you assume concept formation involves internalization because
you are adopting a mind/world dualism: that these are distinct ontological
realms. If I'm mischaracterizing your position then I apologize. But your
most recent message still sounds this way to me, so let me reply again to
that aspect.

You write:

On 3/12/07 10:53 PM, "David Kellogg" <> wrote:

> I don't think Marxists have this problem: we just start with reality and
> assume that human concept formation is the thing we have to explain, and
> proceed with some faith that in the end it will turn out to be a part of that
> reality itself. After all, everything else has. though to 'start with reality' is pretty straightforward. Of course
the materialist starting point is that humans are part of reality, we
evolved pretty late, our knowledge of the world is still developing and is
in a real sense part of that world. But beyond this is gets complicated. We
can assume, and agree to assume, that the world exists. But (I'll try to
explain this again; I'm obviously not doing a good job) once we assume that
it is *wood* that exists we are necessarily talking and knowing within a
particular culture. As you point out, different cultures even carve up
'wood' differently (pardon the pun), and this surely isn't simply "based on
the perception of how it grows." Commodities exist, and wood exists too,
within, and *only* within, particular cultural practices. This is a version
of realism, and according to Bakhurst it is one that Lenin held at least
part of the time, and it is also a *social ontology.* We are dealing not
with mind/reality, but consciousness-in-social-world.

I'm not the first person by any means to argue against a representational
account of mind, and in favor of a position in which a level of
intersubjective phenomena exists *with* which both minds (I would refer to
say consciousness) and the objects we encounter are real. If it helps, think
of Kuhn's notion of paradigm. We always operate within a paradigm (a form of
life; a language game). Within one paradigm what exists is 'wood' (not the
word, the object, the material). Within another paradigm what exists may be
'cellulose fibres.' Within yet another (laboratory life, perhaps), it is
'molecules of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.' Within yet another, 'quarks.'

These are real objects, constituted by cultural practices. Because if we
start to think that they are just different names for one 'underlying' set
of objects, we find that we can say absolutely nothing about what these
objects 'really' are. To do so we'd have to step out of every paradigm,
every language game, every culture. And then what language would we use? And
that just ain't possible (as Husserl showed, to his embarassment).


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