Re: [xmca] a materialist psychology

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Tue May 13 2008 - 17:19:56 PDT

It downloads without the soundtrack, at least to my Mac, Andy.

On 5/13/08 6:43 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> He, he. I guess it's almost self-evident that I think that
> Hegel is absolute central to both Vygotsky's program and
> even more important for its furher development. I just think
> that explanation of the human species in terms of biological
> evolution is peripheral if interesting to both projects.
> Basically work like Merlinm Donald's (which I support
> enthusiastically) are specualting on the basis of what we
> know fairly well about what we know almost nothing about. I
> am sure that if Hegel had had the benefit of reading "Origin
> of Species" he would have radically revised his theory of
> nature.
> A summary of my view of Hegel's contribution is at
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> Andy,
>> Given the points you make about Hegel, which strike me as cogent and
>> important, what is your view of the contribution Hegel made to Vygotsky's
>> program for a general psychology, and the contribution our understanding of
>> Hegel today could make for our efforts to continue such a program?
>> Martin
>> On 5/12/08 7:18 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:
>>> Both the points you make are valid enough Martin, I am just
>>> being a bit pedantically precise, but I think it's worth it.
>>> For example, as I came to realise how firmly opposed, not
>>> just unaware of biological evolution Hegel was, it really
>>> focussed my attention on how he gets development out of
>>> consciousness and human activity. Interestingly, despite the
>>> oportunity for a radically "non-essentialist" philosophy
>>> here, Hegel made gender and race differences something given
>>> by Nature and introduced horrific sexism and racism into his
>>> philosophy. But feminists and postcolonialists have not been
>>> put off using Hegel for their own purposes.
>>> Likewise, his declaration in the Philosophy of Right that he
>>> was not here concerned with the history of Right, only what
>>> right is, forces one to think very deeply about the place of
>>> historicism in science. So even though we have to amend
>>> Hegel in places - I certainly do - it is well worthwhile
>>> keeping in mind what is Hegel and what is interpretation.
>>> Re appearance and reality: what is "reality", what kind of
>>> thought-form is it? Presumably you mean it as something
>>> outside thought?? Or is it potential thought? Is it of a
>>> different substance than appearance? ... Reality is I think
>>> synonymous with Actuality for Hegel, a category which is
>>> part of the Doctrine of Essence. I really don't think you
>>> can sustain the concept of Reality in the sense of the
>>> ultimate object of knowledge.
>>> Andy
>>> Martin Packer wrote:
>>>> Andy,
>>>> 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
>>>> thinker.
>>>> 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...
>>>> Martin
>>>> 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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