Re: [xmca] a materialist psychology

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Tue May 13 2008 - 17:47:00 PDT

Oh! and before that, when you are asked to Open or Save, of
course you *open* it!


Andy Blunden wrote:
> You press the round button, then it will go to the first slide with a
> "dingle" sound and a couple of seconds later I start talking. Otherwise
> try
> I can't imagine how it would not work on a Mac or otherwise.
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> 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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Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 
Skype andy.blunden
xmca mailing list
Received on Tue May 13 17:47 PDT 2008

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