Re: [xmca] my new questions

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Wed Jan 30 2008 - 17:12:58 PST


Running through (where the
quote from Leontyev is to be found) and looking at each usage of the word
"subject," it seems to me that Leontyev uses the word "subject" in the
sense typical of modern social sciences, i.e., a kind of modernised Kantian
sense, of an individual person. That being the case, the word "material" in
"material subject" is simply a flag - all persons are material. (like
people insert the word "human" where it is not required, also as a kind of

Perhaps I could use this space to say a few words about the issue of monism
and dualism as I see it.

During the long period during which Christianity dominated European life,
prior to the Renaissance, monism and dualism manifested itself in various
forms of the question as to whether God alone ruled the world or there was
a struggle between God and the Devil. All kinds of heretics (including Arab
and Jewish heretics) posed a kind of dualism which was understood by
everyone to be challenging the Church. Descartes' famous dualism of two
substances, matter and thought, was only the culmination of a 1,400 year
struggle against religious monism.

Nevertheless, Descartes' dualism then immediately became the problem rather
than the solution, and Spinoza famously copied everything about Descartes
except he tried to produce a monism, and in a supreme irony was labelled a
heretic (specifically, a Pantheist) by the very liberal Jewish community in
the Dutch Republic where he lived. In my opinion, Spinoza's solution to the
problem of dualism is like Schelling's solution: "the night in which all
cows are black." It goes nowhere.

 From there efforts, to reconcile thought and matter basically led to
either materialist dogmatism or subjective idealism, sceptical, Theist or
solipsistic. And it was that confrontation between two opposed dogmatisms
that Kant tried to adjudicate with his "critical philosophy." (Ilyenkov is
great on this.) But in fact his efforts only led to a multiplicity of
dualisms and contradictions, which tortured the minds of the students of
philosophy of his time, and ever since.

In my opinion, Hegel resolved the question to a great extent by
transforming the problem from ontology to one of logic - not two
substances, two faculties, or whatever, but a logical relation between
individual, particular and universal. Steve rightly objected to by
reintroduction of a notion of ontology here, but in my opinion, in the era
of natural science, it actually helps to remind ourselves of the
ontological origins of Hegel's idea.

At a public event marking the 200th Anniversary of Hegel's Phenomenology, a
good Hegelian friend of mine, Paul Ashton, responded to boringly repetitive
denunciations of the "Cartesian dualism" asking anyone who was not feeling
that dualism right now please see him afterwards because he would like to
be where they were. He got no offers. But science does not correspond to
appearances. We live the feeling of dualism, of an inner private life
separate from the public activity outside of us, but in trying to explain
this experience of dualism, we have to use one or another form of a
Hegelian triplicity, I think.


At 03:23 PM 30/01/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>Dear Andy
> Thank you for the explanation .
> Tonight , I had just Steve Gabosch and you here on the xmca . Your
> 40-item SUBJCET discussion has encouraged all the folk to ask you to do
> the same with all conflict-ridden terms and words which to this day have
> not been so neatly and in just one compact package presented and worked
> out . Catherene Connery said something like this , too .
> Now , if possible , please look at these two quotes :
> --Activity is a non-additive unit of the corporeal, material life of
> the material subject.
> --Fashioned out of what is given by nature, culture is subject to
> objective constraints. Among such constraints are the "rules" that are
> manifested in the behavior of institutions such as the market, the state,
> technological innovation, and so on, as well as the objective constraints
> imposed on the human body, which is as much a cultural product as our
> domestic animals and our clothes, fashioned from the material provided by
> nature to fit in with other artifacts in a definite form of life.
> Things which are very easily digested , might not strengthen the power
> of mind and reflection to a considerable extent . I think all the folk
> should be first of all thankful to you because of the thought feed ! you
> provide them with :) .
> I have read these two passages many times and thought first about the
> objective meaning it might convery and second about the personal meaning
> (sense) it might transmit to the reader . And these are my guessings :
> 1. Leontyev , by material subject , does not mean a subject which is or
> who is involved in materialities .
> 2. To the end of the article , L does not try to expose the meaning of
> the word MATERIAL in relation to the word SUBJECT .
> 3. Then I have to take it this way that L wants to go back to the
> philosophical monism of the history of the whole universe pre-animate
> post-animate , pre-human as well as post-human . One remembers ILYENKO ,
> 4. Before focusing on the passage from L , I had long been focusing on
> the word BODY in your thought-provoking article . If you had presented a
> compact discussion about BODY as you have done with the term SUBJECT , I
> might have been able to get soon to the focal point ; but alas ! in your
> whole ordered system of presentation I could not manage to reach a
> satisfying destination .
> 5. Up to the end of the article , you , too , have not dealt with this
> term as an exposition of its content .
> 6. Therefore I had to accept the idea that , as you referred to in your
> response to my previous message , just from the beginning and because L
> has not presented a satisfying answer to the question "What is the system
> of activity?" , we should accept the CATEGORY OF SUBJECT
> (self-consciousness) , then when we have done that , we can easily and
> without feeling any conflict , contradiction , antinomy accept that
> consequently BODY could be determined as product of MATERIAL CULTURAL
> ARTIFACTS the true essense of which comes from NATURE . I know of NO
> distortions I've probably / certainly made into the whole thing .
> I need your help as ever .
> Best Wishes
> Heidi Zulfai
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  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Wed Jan 30 17:14 PST 2008

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