Re: [xmca] a materialist psychology

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Tue May 13 2008 - 18:45:55 PDT


I get the dingle, then silence on the 2nd slide, downloaded from either
site. If I try to run it in KeyNote instead of PowerPoint I get a message
saying the mp3 files are missing. But it's a large file (1.6M) so I suspect
they're in there somewhere.


On 5/13/08 7:47 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> Oh! and before that, when you are asked to Open or Save, of
> course you *open* it!
> Andy
> 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
>> t.ppt
>> 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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Received on Tue May 13 18:47 PDT 2008

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