Re: [xmca] a materialist psychology

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Mon May 12 2008 - 12:25:54 PDT


Yes, I don't want to anachronistically read Darwin back into Hegel. Right
now my Hegel scholarship is restricted to Marcuse's book since all my other
books are out of reach, and Marcuse emphasizes the dynamic character of
Hegel's conception of - well, of everything. If one considers Hegel's
position that the World makes progress towards knowledge and truth, through
the means of human subjectivity, one could read this as a particular version
of evolutionism - and as you know Lenin saw Darwin as a truly dialectical

On moving from appearance to reality- I'm drawing here in part from the work
of a colleague at Duquesne, Tom Rockmore, who's an excellent Hegel scholar.
In a recent book Rockmore emphasizes that for Hegel the distinction between
appearance and reality occurs within our experience. For Kant, in contrast,
all we can ever experience is appearance. It is for Kant that there is "a
reality hidden behind appearances." For Hegel, human knowledge is fallible
but gradually progresses to more and more adequate knowledge of reality. But
what I think needs to be added is that (as I understand it) Hegel saw this
progress not as simply a result of humans knowing the world better, but also
as a result of humans transforming the world to make it suit our needs,
interests, and ideals. But that takes us into Mike's latest message...


On 5/11/08 8:54 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> Martin,
> I agree with your main conclusion about LSV, that it was a
> *materialist* psychology that he aspired to, but could I
> offer some pretty small change "corrections" to your
> observations?
> Hegel's ideas about the origins of human life are
> surprisingly inconsistent with a modern reading of him. He
> emphatically rejected the idea that humans originated from
> animals or that any animal originated out of another animal.
> He was familiar with Lamarck and rejected this theory out of
> hand. He believed that Spirit was created, as in the Book of
> Genesis, all at once. This doesn't stop us "interpreting"
> him in a materialist spirit, in the light of Darwinism.
> However, Hegel did believe that consciousness originated in
> labour, child-rearing and speech. But not out of "matter",
> whatever that would mean. The idea of matter having the
> potential for thinking is not a Hegelian idea. Matter is an
> abstraction of thought, for Hegel.
> Also, I think that to talk of how "knowledge can ... move
> beyond appearance to reality" is dubious. This retains the
> idea of a reality hidden behind appearances. If there are
> two kinds of knowledge then I think "appearance" and
> "reality" are not the right names for them. If "appearance"
> and "reality" are meant to be categorically different
> things, then I think Lenin had it right in denying this.
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> Mike,
>> 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.
>> Martin
>> 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
>>>> _______________________________________________
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