Re: [xmca] a materialist psychology

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Mon May 12 2008 - 12:29:12 PDT


The worry I have about saying "ideality" is in the world is that it can
reintroduce a division between the material aspect of an artifact and its
ideal aspect. But there's 'ideal' in the sense that we are continually
transforming the world to try to make it accord with our ideals, rather
dubious though they might sometimes be. And there's the 'ideas' that we
undoubtedly have, which I think Vygotsky was trying to study as aspects of
the structure of material activity.


On 5/12/08 1:22 PM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:

> So, Andy and Martin--
> If Andy's changes are acceptable to Martin, where does this leave us?
> Does ideality remain in the world, and hence in humans, by virtue of
> inhabiting a human made world?
> mike
> On Sun, May 11, 2008 at 6:54 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
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> --
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden <>+61 3
>> 9380 9435 Skype andy.blunden
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