Re: [xmca] artefact 3

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Thu Jan 10 2008 - 07:46:29 PST

  OK. I think I do understand the central aim of your paper and my comments on Peter Sawchuk's forwarded message (which I followed up with a review of various of the articles he has made available online) were meant to validate that contribution. But it seems to me that the strong points have more to do with the problem of "the subject" than with clarifying the notion of "culture". I don't really think the notion of "culture" is even important to that purpose. But this does not mean that the dimension of ideality isnj't important, clearly it is.
  And that's why the "flattening" of artefacts is troubling and there is really more than a "hint" of flattening in your proposal. I didn't find any acknowledgement that what Wartkofsky calls type-2 artefacts (scripts and schemas in mike's expansion), or type-3 artefacts (say a jungle jim, ferris wheel, roller coaster,, chess set, or inflatable playmate) are distinguished from type-1 artefacts (say, a shovel, an irrigation canal, a Lincoln 200 amp. arc welder, a locomotive, a big 8 wheeler, etc). You say you've never felt the need to use such distinctions but that doesn't do away with the fact that these distinctions are central to the CHAT model of culture as presented in mike's Cultural Psychology. This isn't an endorsement of Wartkofky's categories on my part but a recognition that some distinctions need to be made, simply saying that because that thought relies on a physical basis of electrical impulses and is therefor material just ignores the fact that lumping a
 shovel, table manners, and a surfboard, into a nominalistic category don't help us understand anything at all about "artefacts" in general or in these particular instances.
  Furthermore your statement "the only way you are going to get through the
vagueness of concept of culture and cultural difference is to have an
absolutely clear meaning for the word "culture" really surprised me, especially because later in the message you make a strong point about the difference between "what people do and what they say". I really don't agree that one can clarify a concept by "defining" the meaning of a word . This seems to be the very opposite of how one goes about progressing from "notions" to "concepts". and, as far as I understand, is contrary to the dialectical interpretation of the universal-particular-individual relations , the interpretation at the heart of your article. Ilyenjov (DAC, Ch1, p.36 of MIA markup) indicates that "what one usually calls concepts; man, house, animal, etc." are anything but concepts precisely because they are based on definitions. The word "culture" explains absolutely nothing and is impossible to link to any "particular". Contrast it to the concept of the commodity, something that exists concretely yet the properties of which allowed Marx to derive
 all of the other categories of the capitalist economic system or mode of production.
  Finally, my comments of "BongoBongo" and "BingoBango" were not really about cultural differences but about mike's use of Geertz's interpretative anthropology to ensure coherence in the CHAT culture model. Perhaps more illustrative would have been the international culture of endless-summer surfers. Something Californians,Peruvians, and Australians all know first hand, no? Difficult to call it a "sub-culture" since it transcends all "cultural" boundaries. Seems amenable to a Geertzian approach (for example Tom Wolfe's "The Pump House Gang") but also illustrates, upon further examination of its genesis and structure, the limitations of the interpretative approach for explaining the real coherence of that phenomena.
  For me these issues are far from being resolved. but I think the starting point turns of how one views the subject; the recognition that even the limit-case, the individual is not self-identical but incorporates the same contradictions and multiplicities present in the collectivies of various kinds.
  Andy Blunden <> wrote:
  Briefly Paul, yes I think there is a hint of "flattening" in what I have
proposed. I said at the outset that the paper only aims to clarify
fundamentals of CHAT. It is not reductionist. I am not denying the
validity of Wartofsky's categorisations, I have just never found the
occasion to use them. I think the only way you are going to get through the
vagueness of concept of culture and cultural difference is to have an
absolutely clear meaning for the word "culture". That in no way reduces,
bypasses or overlooks the infinite complexity of questions cultural
difference, which involves far more than a mass of artefacts.

You say that you 'share Mike's concern about the utility of that
"cultural/social" distinction.' I find that an unhelpful term and I don't
know where it comes from. Are you saying that it is not helpful to
distinguish between the material things (artefacts of various sorts), which
are used to implement some social practice or institution and the actual
actions and operations that constitute that social practice or institution?
That the difference between what people do and what they say,, between what
happened in history and what was written about it, between the academic
activity that goes on in a university and the books and buildings that make
up a university? That the common difference indicated here - between things
and the activities in which things are "activated" - is not useful?

At 01:52 AM 10/01/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>I haven't participated much in this discussion although I have read every
>post. In a way that has been part of the problem since I've followed out
>the threads and references. I often begin responses to threads that I
>don't finish in one sitting and save in the drafts folder. So it seems
>coincidental (synchronistic?) that I was preparing an post entitled
>"artefact" that got stored in the drafts folder just about the same time
>Andy must have been preparing his "artefacts" post. Now it seems relevant
>to at least share and expand.
> This was stored 4 or 5 days ago:
> Mike's "ugh", in a message responding to my post questioning the word
> "culture" , impelled me to read the chapter of Cullt Psych that he
> attached I read Cult Psych 5 or 6 years ago but really had forgotten the
> specifics of the model of culture presented in the book, the key
> elements of which I understand to be : the ideal/material duality
> implicit in all artefacts; Wartofsky's 3 types of artefacts,; the
> notions of schema and script, in which (at least) type-2 artefacts are
> linked contextually to activity/practice; where context also has has a
> dual existence as "that which surrounds" and "that which weaves
> together." The term culture reconnected to its etymological origins
> in cultivating, a garden being an appropriate metaphor for the domain
> of artifact mediated activity or practice whose manifestation in
> "cultures", coherent and consistent groups of activities/practices, in w .
> Although I can see some of the relations between Hegel and CHAT that
> Andy proposes; e.g., the relationship of meaning to scripts or schemas
> (CHAT) and that between the universal and the particular (Hegel),
> And that's as far as I got before storing it the drafts folder.
> Moving on: if Andy is using mike's model of "culture" I don't believe
> he adequately deals with the differences implicit Wartofsky's
> artefact-type differentiation. In fact, it seems as though all the
> artefacts in Andy's presentation are Type-1, which on another plane is
> analogous the analytic philosophers' mania to reduce all logic to
> first-order propositional logic, a comparison Andy might well be able to
> relate to (beneath Godel's beaming grin). The idea that artefacts can
> be usefully categorized as "cultural" and "social" seems a step backward
> from Wartofsky's approach, especially as enhanced by mike's refinement
> of the type-2 artefacts into schemas and scripts (pure and practical
> reason?) while reserving the aesthetic dimension for type-3 artefacts
> (play, imagination, fantasy, art, etc. w/ no grounding in
> "necessity"). So I share mike's concern about the utiltiy of that
> "cultural/social" distinction.
> At the same time, I am not persuaded that mike's appeal to Geertz can
> provide a "coherence" keystone that could hold together all the different
> elements that one might want to call "a BongoBongo culture" as opposed
> to a "BingoBango culture" . It is well known that Geertz's "thick
> description" really provides no guidelines allowing someone other than
> Geertz to go out and find the same thing, produce the same
> description. So I remain skeptical about the utility of "culture" as
> anything more than a catch-all term. But insofar as one uses that term,
> Andy's definition "all artefacts" seems inadequate.
> On the other hand, the Sawchuk message that Andy forwarded, emphasizes
> the important contribution I think Andy is trying to get at. Schemas and
> scripts are universals the specific meanings they assume in real-time
> activity the particulars. The universal-particular yes providing an
> important insight into the relation between the cultural-historical
> processes and structures and the individuals participation. Sawchuk
> moves in a very useful direction from my perspective . . . especially his
> emphasis on the use-value/.exchange-value dichotomy .
> Well, this one doesn't get stored, incomplete as it may be. Perhaps
> Andy could elaborate a bit on the flattening of artefacts into type-1
> that I perceive in his analysis .
> Paul
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Received on Thu Jan 10 07:48 PST 2008

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