RE: [xmca] Did the Butterfly Leave the Cocoon, and then what?

From: Michael Glassman <MGlassman who-is-at>
Date: Fri Feb 22 2008 - 20:11:15 PST

See, this is the thing. If you read the chapter titled with empiricism in the Crisis in Psychology it has basically nothing to do with Marx. The chapter starts with James (the split between an empirical psychology and a spiritual psychology comes from James I think. He really wanted the two separate, because I think he thought it was in the best interests of both and if they were brought together they are two fraternal twins that would eventually strangle each other). But most of the chapter was about Munsterberg (his book actually), who was in many ways James' more scientific alter ego, dedicated to keeping James' project in empirical psychology alive. By the way, the way in which I read the chapter Vygotsky was making the same argument a number of people make against James/Munsterberg empiricism which is that it really is impossible to make the claim that there is such a thing as an empirical psychology without accepting that it must have a metaphysical framework. I think at this point that maybe Vygotsky had not really abandoned some mix of idealism and materialism (and I'm not sure he ever did).
But just to get back to the point I think Vygotsky was trying to develop his own definition of empiricism, and I think maybe it was informed by Marx as well, but that is just it, ideas have a lot of sources and exploration shouldn't be limited to just a few.


From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
Sent: Fri 2/22/2008 10:46 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Did the Butterfly Leave the Cocoon, and then what?

Well, in my experience, in this case, it is true.
Recently I read an article by a well-known expert on LSV who I judge had
not read Hegel or Marx, and I read laughable commentary about LSV's "method
of thesis-antithesis-synthesis" which the author mistakenly thought had
something to do with Hegel and Marx's use of the same fiction. This was
helpful for me because a couple of months ago I spoke to a guy who had a
book in draft about whether LSV's dialectic came from Marx or Hegel based
on the premise that Marx used the "method of thesis-antithesis-synthesis".
On being questioned, the writer claimed "The Misery of Philosophy" as his
source, but it turned out that it was Proudhon using these terms and being
ridiculed for it by Marx. All I am saying is that confusion reigns. LSV was
"steeped" in Marxism. What he meant by "Empiricism" would have been
informed by voluminous Marxist literature attacking empiricism at that
time, possibly, rather than James. One gets what one can from a writer;
that's fine of course. We all can only read a certain tiny portion of what
has been written, and exotic appropriations are always original and
creative. But when a writer is working within a genre such as Marxism, I
really think that a broader familiarity with that genre is essential. Stern
and Spinoza are a different question altogether.

At 08:11 PM 22/02/2008 -0500, you wrote:
>Andy, come on - to say it's difficult to understand somebody if you
>haven't read one of the progenitors of their ideas is a rather dicey
>proposition. I mean it seems to me Vygotsky took his ideas from a number
>of different sources. I've also heard people say you couldn't understand
>what Vygotsky meant by concepts if you haven't read Stern. Others say you
>can't really understand Vygotsky if you haven't read Spinoza. I could
>make the argument that you can't understand what Vygotsky meant by
>empiricism unless you read James. I mean all different sources go in to
>all our ideas, but in the end they are our ideas, and they rise and they
>fall and they are understood or misunderstood as a result of our own efforts.
>From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
>Sent: Fri 2/22/2008 5:49 PM
>To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>Subject: RE: [xmca] Did the Butterfly Leave the Cocoon, and then what?
>Philip, I've always wondered how someone who has not read Hegel understands
>what LSV meant by a "genuine concept" as opposed to a "pseudo-concept" at
>all actually. And how anyone who had not read Marx's Capital could
>understand what LSV meant by a "unit of analysis." Self-evidently people
>do, so I admit to an element of irony here, but what about it?
>At 12:31 PM 22/02/2008 -0700, you wrote:
> >Martin, I found your paper a pleasure to read - provided for me multiple
> >insights about LV, particularly about the intellectual-historical context
> >that he matured in. What i'm writing here is rather a kind on running
> >dialogue, based on your text, my experiences, other texts i've read.
> >
> >I can't say that these are my final thoughts, or concrete - mostly
> >thoughts that stochastically emerged in response to your text. (by the
> >way, don't you think that Wertsch took history into account in the text in
> >which he describes the history of pole vaulting, and the historical
> >changes that emerged over time as practice and technology changed?)
> >
> >so, what i'm about to put out here is a kind of muddle that's my initial
> >start in working with your paper.
> >
> >for me the answer to your title is "yes, Vygotsky is relevant." After
> >reading your paper, my own conclusion is that Vygotsky's work has
> >transcended Marxism. I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion that it's
> >necessary for future scholars to read "Marx, Hegel, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky
> >...". I strongly agree that it is "perhaps na´ve to think that we can use
> >the one (psychology) that Vygotsky fashioned unmodified", as you write in
> >your final sentence.
> >
> >I thought of Newton as I read your paper, all of his "natural laws" of
> >motion and light that he constructed, and considered too that Newton was
> >at heart and practice, an alchemist. To understand Newton, we do
> >understand his historical context, but we don't read the alchemy texts in
> >order to understand his work - even his construction of labeling his work
> >"laws of nature", in order to avoid being attacked as a religious heretic,
> >we understand - so that when Newton explains that he's merely revealing
> >the laws of God, I don't think then that we turn to the bible for further
> >illumination or Aquinas or Descartes.
> >
> >So too with Vygotsky - the authors you, Martin, cite (Marx, Hegel, Engels,
> >Lenin & Trotsky) - I look back to as situated in a word of positivism,
> >with beliefs of utopianism (new society, new man & forces controlled by
> >men themselves & the root of the content and disconent of mend, and which
> >in that way determines their destiny & the new man could self-consciously
> >grasp and master the laws of his own formation & time to change the world
> >& fate & destiny & science of history & the natural laws of society's
> >movement & lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society,
> >etc.) and I consider what epistemological failures these beliefs were.
> >
> >Instead, I consider Gregory Bateson (1904 - 84), who had many of the same
> >concerns as Vygotsky (1896 - 34), or Foucault (1926 - 84), as well as
> >Pierre Bourdieu and Bruno Latour, who emerged also out of the tradition of
> >Kant, and Hegel, and yes, referred back to Marx and Engels, though
> >certainly not Lenin and Trotsky, 'and struggled with the multiple
> >questions of "mind in society" -
> >
> >I find the greatest strength in your paper beginning on page 23 with
> >'Vygotsky's Account of 'Child History'" . I think Vygotsky's brilliant
> >lies in picking out gems from Marx - as in your quotes - but then building
> >a method of research that looks at consciousness, language, memory, change
> >over time - and the utilization of the concept of 'sublated'. Vygotsky's
> >exploration of consciousness is so much richer and grounded in the
> >dialectic of theory and practice, than say Jung's or Freud's notions of
> >consciousness. It is a brilliant insight, as you explain, in the
> >understanding of "coming to act on oneself as one acted on others, or as
> >others acted on one" (p. 28). (Which goes a long way in explaining why
> >Russians failed at socialism - tracing their historical path of a
> >multiplicity of repressions for 500 years - and why northern European
> >nations did such a far more successful job of socialism - those nations
> >did not have 500 years of state police, censorship, and power residing in
> >a single person - they had a far greater source of flexibility of cultural
> >resources to build on.) So, for a conception of history to build a new
> >psychology on, a new pedagogy in my case, I'd much rather look to
> >Foucault, Bateson, Vygotsky, Bourdieu, Cole, Wertsch, and read Tolstoy's
> >"War and Peace" - for in Tolstoy one sees that the stochastic emergence
> >of events assures that there is no developmental path of history, much
> >less psychology and education.
> >
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>mobile 0409 358 651
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Received on Fri Feb 22 20:13 PST 2008

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