Re: [xmca] a materialist psychology

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Sun May 11 2008 - 15:42:29 PDT


The more I think about this (and I have been thinking on it some in the
interim), the more comfortable I am that Vygotsky indeed insisted on lopping
off the idealist side of psychology's dualism. The notion that the stuff of
the universe is solely material, and that there is no separate, distinct
'mental stuff' or 'spiritual stuff' has a long and distiguished history, as
the BBC program makes clear. A materialist psychology would have been fully
in line with Marx's materialism. And even Hegel, despite being labelled an
idealist and despite Marx's claim to have turned him on his head, recognized
that humans evolved from simpler stuff which must have had its origins in
matter. The capacity for thinking, Hegel reasoned, is a potential which is
inherent in matter, and develops over time, rather than having its source in
some other, etherial, transcendental or platonic realm.

Vygotsky's materialist psychology avoids equating the mental with the
subjective, or consciousness with appearance as representation. It follows
that the study of consciousness is not the study of appearances that are
entirely distinct from reality (Kant's vision). It is not the study of the
way a person constructs mental representations of a world that exists
outside them. For Vygotsky, like Hegel, Marx & Feuerbach, our knowledge can
progress, and move beyond appearance to reality. If we accept this, we need
to have a different conception of the way humans live in the world. Vygotsky
wanted to study the "material, sensory acts" in which a person knows their
world. He wanted to study the mind, but not as a mental subject, or
subjectivity, related to external objects. This is the way mind appears to
itself in introspection, but in action mind is not divided in this way.
Mind, and consciousness, are real and objective processes because they exist
in the interactions between bodies and material objects. And these can be
studied empirically.


On 5/11/08 1:29 PM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:

> What is your current take on this issue, Martin? Perhaps a followup in MCA
> is warranted?
> mike
> On Tue, Apr 29, 2008 at 6:08 PM, Martin Packer <> wrote:
>> In the article published in MCA that was discussed here recently I pointed
>> out that in Crisis Vygotsky declared the need to end the dualism in
>> psychology by eliminating the idealist pole and developing a thoroughly
>> materialist psychology. Some of the history of materialism, both in its
>> reductionist and non-reductionist versions (V¹s being the latter) can be
>> heard at the link below, in the BBC Radio program In Our Time. At the end
>> we
>> learn that they ran out of time to discuss Hegel and Marx, which is rather
>> a
>> shame. (This is the same program which a year or so ago ran a poll in
>> which
>> Marx was voted the most important philosopher of all time, much to host
>> Melvyn Bragg¹s surprise and dismay.)
>> <>
>> Martin
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

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Received on Sun May 11 15:43 PDT 2008

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