RE: [xmca] Vygotsky ´ s historicism

From: Michael Glassman <MGlassman who-is-at ehe.osu.edu>
Date: Tue Apr 08 2008 - 09:22:28 PDT

I had thought that the problem people had with idealism was not that it takes place inside of the head, but that its general thesis that progress in thinking occurs inside of the head and is not dependent on actual experience with the real world. There are two (or some might say one) reasons for this. The first is that idealism is separate from the material world, because the material world is is secular/profane while human thought is perfection of understanding given to humans by some great spirit (e.g. God), so individuals are better off depending on individual thought rather than material based experience. The second, more secular version of idealism, which is sort of making the same argument, is that individuals are better off progressing through thought and then allowing material experience to catch up to it (Chomsky and Fodor). Chomsky in particular has an interesting example of this when he describes scientific advances such as Newton's gravity which made no sense in terms of the mechanical experience people were having in the world. According to Chomsky the scientific community actually became angry with Newton because they believed he was bringing some guiding spirit back in to the fray. In any case, at this level idealists argued that is you could progress through your own thought, then you must already have that knowledge (if not from God then from evolution I suppose) - making the case for the learning paradox (which has been discussed on this list).
 
Some materialists seem these days to actually take the traditional opinion of the realists, that there is nothing you can know of an object outside of your material experience with it. Progressing purely through thought is either an illusion (you must have had the experience somewhere) or a fantasy (we're going to make a million dollars with this idea Ethel!). I think that some materialists don't take the realist position and see material as more of a jumping off point for progression of pure thought (I always thought of Piaget in this way - and couldn't we make the argument that Marx, or even Engels took this approach as well). Yet a lot of people (James, Peirce) really feared this idealism, because how could you tell the difference between the future or end points that were and the future and end points that you wanted or served your particular purposes.
 
So I'm curious, how does Illyenkov deal with these problems - the learning paradox and the possible arbitrariness of thought driven end points.
 
Michael
 

________________________________

From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Andy Blunden
Sent: Sun 4/6/2008 6:30 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky ´ s historicism

I think part of the difficulty with getting people to accept that unity of
material and ideal is that people generally take ideal to be almost
synonymous with "subjective" or "in consciousness" whereas "material"
simply means "outside of and independent of consciousness". For us,
however, "ideal" can also be material, distinguishing what is artifact from
what is nature.

Andy
At 02:37 PM 6/04/2008 -0700, Mike Cole wrote:
>Andy tells me that my attempts to color code do not work any better than
>my ideas! :-) I'll see if caps help in the future.
>
>Andy-- I intepreted Martin's interpretion to derive from our earlier
>discussions of material/ideal psychologies and the effort to supercede them
>with a new psychology a la LSV. In that disucssion we started to come to
>a position that consciousness emerges from interaction between
>human organism and environment and in THAT sense is objective. Probably
>just another of my confusions, probably.
>mike
>
>On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 2:00 PM, Andy Blunden
><<mailto:ablunden@mira.net>ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>I don't really know what it would mean to say that "consciousness is ...
>>objective." If consciousness is objective what is not objective, what is
>>subjective? Activity is objective for sure, but if we say "consciousness
>>is objective" surely we destroy the very meaning of subject and object,
>>not just a distinction or a dichotomy.
>>
>>Classical German philosophy offered several solutions to this problem
>>represented by Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel and Marx. The
>>"consciousness is ... objective" solution, i.e., erasing the difference
>>between subjective and objective is, I think, the Schelling solution,
>>which I see as a declaration that there ought not to be such a problem.
>>But the fact is that there is such a problem, namely intelligent, active
>>human beings with some kind of ability to have conceptions of the world.
>>How is it so?
>>
>>Andy
>>
>>
>>At 01:48 PM 6/04/2008 -0700, you wrote:
>>>I like that formulation a lot, Martin. Little chance to gain general
>>>agreement, but perhaps a chance
>>>for some finer grained pointers toward a more satisfactory formulation.
>>>
>>>thanks
>>>mike
>>>
>>>On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 12:49 PM, Martin Packer
>>><<mailto:packer@duq.edu>packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>>
>>> > Mike,
>>> >
>>> > No, I agree with your characterization of "embryology onwards..." When V
>>> > writes of "psychological [mental] functions" perhaps the problem is with
>>> > me
>>> > rather than him, but it's very easy to take for granted that perception,
>>> > attention, memory, emotion, thought are distinct mental systems. We all
>>> > see
>>> > to now exactly what each one is, and we think we can consider them
>>> > separately.
>>> >
>>> > OK, let's assume the problem is with me. So V immediately redefines
>>> > psychological functions as "forms of the activity of consciousness." In
>>> > Sasha's terms, this would be "object-directed activity," no? If
>>> > consciousness is real and objective, to be located in the interaction
>>> > between person and environment, as I have argued, then the different
>>> forms
>>> > of its activity would also be real and objective, always aspects of a
>>> > whole,
>>> > albeit one that is organized differently over ontogenesis.
>>> >
>>> > Martin
>>> >
>>> > On 4/6/08 1:29 PM, "Mike Cole"
>>> <<mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> >
>>> > > Martin and Sasha-
>>> > >
>>> > > I am having trouble following all the differernt threads and have this
>>> > idea
>>> > > it would be a good idea
>>> > > to summarize where we think each of them stands in terms of points
>>> > agreed
>>> > > upon, appoints clearly
>>> > > disagreed about, and points of confusion (on the assumption we can
>>> > > distinguish)!! A brief comment on
>>> > > a move made here by Martin that strikes me as a misdirection: I Bold in
>>> > red
>>> > > the part I want to focus on below.
>>> > >
>>> > > On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 10:50 AM, Martin Packer
>>> <<mailto:packer@duq.edu>packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>> > >
>>> > >> Hi Sasha,
>>> > >>
>>> > >> I would like to respond to just two of the points in your message,
>>> > though
>>> > >> I
>>> > >> think they are central. The first is something I've begun to think
>>> > about
>>> > >> but
>>> > >> have not taken very far.* It has been troubling me that Vygotsky
>>> adopts
>>> > a
>>> > >> notion of "psychological functions" which seems from the start to
>>> > divide
>>> > >> consciousness into separate components which then have to be stitched
>>> > back
>>> > >> together again.* I've been Goggling without much success to try to
>>> > >> discover
>>> > >> the history of this 'functionalism,' and some of it seems to be
>>> > medieval,
>>> > >> some of it even Greek (though perhaps the translations can be
>>> > >> questioned?).
>>> > >> I'd welcome eduction on this from any/everybody out there!
>>> > >>
>>> > >
>>> > > Where does this idea come from? We don'[t need lsv to know that at
>>> > birth,
>>> > > and before
>>> > > birth for normal term infants, that the different "psychological
>>> > functions"
>>> > > are no "separate
>>> > > components". From early embryology onward (at least!!) we are dealing
>>> > with a
>>> > > complex,
>>> > > morphologically and functionally differentiated organism|environment
>>> > (even
>>> > > layers of
>>> > > envrionment), the CONFIGURATIONS of which change over development. We
>>> > are
>>> > > not talking
>>> > > about stitching together Frankenstein here, we are talking about
>>> organic
>>> > > evolution. Both
>>> > > organism, "its" enviroment, and their inter-relationships are all and
>>> > always
>>> > > changing vis a vis
>>> > > each other.
>>> > >
>>> > > That is how I understand the starting point of our analysis. Is
>>> this not
>>> > > something we can agree upon?
>>> > > And if not, what is a formulation we might be able to start with??
>>> > > mike
>>> > >
>>> > >>
>>> > >> It seems that one would indeed, as you sugest, want to both start and
>>> > end
>>> > >> with monism: the neonate doesn't have distinct fuctions such as
>>> memory,
>>> > >> attention, emotion. The adult has a smoothly integrated system of such
>>> > >> functions. It's certainly the case that Vygotsky avoided trying to
>>> > analyse
>>> > >> these functions separately, and indeed insisted in Thought and
>>> Language
>>> > >> that
>>> > >> what was new in his appoach was that it was the study of their
>>> > >> *relations*.
>>> > >> For example, although Thought & Language seems to be a study of two
>>> > >> distinct
>>> > >> functions and their interrelation, Vygotsky began the book by
>>> insisting
>>> > >> that
>>> > >> consciousness has to be understood as a unity of functions and
>>> that any
>>> > >> analysis of these two has to be conducted against a background of all
>>> > the
>>> > >> others.
>>> > >>
>>> > >> But why talk of "functions" at all?
>>> > >>
>>> > >> On 4/2/08 3:54 PM, "Alexander Surmava"
>>> <<mailto:monada@netvox.ru>monada@netvox.ru> wrote:
>>> > >>
>>> > >>> To correspond this
>>> > >>> statement with dialectical logic we have to turn it upside down and
>>> > >> state
>>> > >>> something like this: perception is an abstract form of conceptual
>>> > >> thinking
>>> > >>> while ³multiple psychological functions² do not ³work together²
>>> > because
>>> > >> they
>>> > >>> do not exist anywhere beyond multiple psychological theories. (By the
>>> > >> way,
>>> > >>> A.Leont¹ev in his late years realized the necessity of formulation
>>> > >> basically
>>> > >>> new, monistic, not knocked together from different ³psychological
>>> > >> functions²
>>> > >>> psychological theory but let this task to us ­ his successors.)
>>> > >>
>>> > >> Your second point is that we need to pay attention not just to the ape
>>> > but
>>> > >> also to the man. Here too I fully agree with you. When I read Vygotsky
>>> > it
>>> > >> is
>>> > >> with later thinkers in view, though for me it is not Leont'ev but
>>> > thinkers
>>> > >> (and actors) such as Bourdieu and Foucault. I'm not suggesting this
>>> > choice
>>> > >> of thinkers is better than yours, only that it's easier for me because
>>> > >> these
>>> > >> later thinkers are located within work I am more familiar with,
>>> such as
>>> > >> critical theory and phenomenology.
>>> > >>
>>> > >> Martin
>>> > >>
>>> > >>> When the fact of development take place, when after Kant do
>>> > >>> appear firstly Hegel and lately Marx we have only one chance to
>>> > >> understand
>>> > >>> both later thinker and his predecessor starting from the later, more
>>> > >>> developed theory. It sounds as paradox, but that is objective
>>> > >> dialectical
>>> > >>> paradox of the process of cognition.
>>> > >>
>>> > >>
>>> > >> _______________________________________________
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>>> > >> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>>> > >>
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>> Andy Blunden :
>> <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/ <http://home.mira.net/~andy/> >http://home.mira.net/~andy/ tel (H) +61 3
>> 9380 9435, mobile 0409 358 651

  Andy Blunden : http://home.mira.net/~andy/ tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Tue Apr 8 09:24 PDT 2008

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