Re: [xmca] a materialist *dialectical* psychology

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Thu May 15 2008 - 01:47:09 PDT

Mabel Encinas wrote:

> · ‘Gross’ philosophical materialism (and please I would be very grateful is someone could give me a better word in English, I think you mentioned one in one occasion, Steve)

Mabel, the word is "vulgar". This is the word you will find
in most Marxist works on the topic.


> Now, the problem of ‘ontology’ is a difficult one,

Mabel, I tried to deal with the problem of ontology in my
paper discussed in January. Hegel I think made the key step
in resolving ontological dualism with a tripartite logical
conception of the subject. He left us of course with the
problem of the conception of the whole as "thought", but in
my opinion, this legacy is easily resolved with the help of
Vygotsky's psychology.

Declarations against dualism (and/or in favour of oneness
which immediately gives way to dichotomy) are quite useless
unless one has some definite counterproposal and I think
Hegel+Marx+Vygotsky achieves that.


as for Marx, and I believe as well for Vygotsky, passes
through a philosophical construction in which history is
foundational. I think it can be worth discussing this, but
then I would be worried that we this discussion is becoming
a big off-topic in relationship to the list (especially with
the beginning of the discussion of the new article).
> Then a good approach for understanding what idealism offers to the construction of a dialectical materialist (vs a ‘gross’ materialist) psychology, would need to recognise what Steve started to do: to recognise what idealism offers that a ‘gross materialist’ psychology does not (I would appreciate very much here some help from philosophers)? We already have some points that Steve and you underline:
> · Penetrating insights into consciousness and I would add, the recognition that consciousness has the capacity to anticipate and more generally, to ‘separate’, so to speak, from reality.
> Also you mention, Martin
> · Individual cases for their general relevance, and I would point out, but underdeveloped, because the individual is not seen in it fullness as living in the world.
> · A certain understanding of subjectivity through the light of phenomenology
> · And you mention the method, that I am not sure at this point, but yes, in idealist psychology, the analytic method is historical in certain perspectives.
> Also then, I would add that it is important
> · The recognition of history/genesis/development
> What is missing, Vygotsky would say, is the relationship between this consciousness and life, the history of consciousness as emerging from/within/as-part-of life.
> When Vygotsky put the things "right side up", he is in fact was doing more than that, he is aiming to break with dualisms, which is quite a difficult task. I think that Vygotsky supports his ideas philosophically, (“The movement of research towards philosophical problems permeates the whole contemporary psychology”, Collected works, vol. 1, p. 79), and he discusses precisely how both materialist approaches up to his times (and up to know!) and idealist psychologies, lack the possibility of a good understanding of human consciousness.
> Mabel
> Steve, Good points! When I wrote that idealist psychology had nothing to add I wasgetting caught up by Vygotsky's revolutionary rhetoric. It certainly didhave things to add: the "analytical method," for instance, the study ofindividual cases for their general relevance, was an approach which had beendeveloped in phenomenology, but which Vygotsky argued needed to be centralto his general psychology. He wrote that "we do not wish to concede one bitof the territory that belongs to us in the process of division." Theanalytic method was part of the territory to be included in a materialistpsychology.
> You're right that the principle issue is starting with the appropriateontology, and that Vygotsky was rejecting the ontological asumptions of(philosophical) idealism, as well as mixtures of idealism and materialismbecause these are ontologically dualist. So, yes, this was a dialecticalapproach, as Mabel points out, but is was a dialectical relation of theoryand practice, not of idealism and materialism (realism). Martin On 5/14/08 3:36 AM, "Steve Gabosch" <> wrote: > Mabel adds some provocative ideas to this discussion of a materialist> psychology. One of them is stressed by Ilyenkov - it has often been> the idealists in history, not as often the materialists, who have> contributed the most penetrating insights into consciousness.> > Certainly, a concrete psychology, a new general psychology, would seek> to draw on these achievements, albeit setting them "right side up" in> the process.> > It would surprise me if Martin could offer convincing evidenc
e that> Vygotsky really felt that "idealist psychology has nothing to> contribute to his new general psychology." (Maybe he can - I have> certainly not read everything Vygotsky wrote, not by a long shot). My> take from my present sense of Vygotsky is that formulation seems to> overstate the case, mixing together past and future aspects of the> issue in a way he would not.> > I don't think Vygotsky meant to dismiss idealist psychology's past -> just challenge its future. And he **was** ruthless and uncompromising> about idealist psychology's future. I think Vygotsky was saying that> the materialist camp - and not some new, "third" camp - should become> the inheritors of the achievements of the idealists, and the> leadership of the new psychology he was seeking. He seemed to be> proposing a revolutionary overthrow, with the materialists in power> and the idealists deposed - not a grand compromise where the two camps> somehow merge, or a where a "third camp" emerges in the fray.
 I think> Martin correctly emphasizes this part of Vygotsky's views.> > Keep in mind, by the way, that Vygotsky was writing in 1927 in the> USSR when he wrote his unpublished manuscript "Crisis" - he might have> a very different strategic outlook today about how the different camps> within psychology today are interacting - in the US, Europe, Asia, C> America, S America, Africa, Russia, or elsewhere - and how> revolutionary materialists ought to deal with today's realities.> Martin has correctly stressed that Vygotsky should not be taken out of> context, and this strategic commentary by Vygotsky pertaining to> trends within the USSR in the mid-1920's would be a very easy one to> do that with.> > At the same time, we can learn a lot from Vygotsky's thinking process> in formulating these ideas. Martin has been gleaning some very> valuable insights, which I and I think many others have been learning> a lot from. My take, although I have not looked into "Crisis" nearly> as deeply
 and effectively as Martin has, is Vygotsky was arguing the> **ontological** outlook of the idealists had to be abandoned, and> therefore, he was saying that idealist-based psychology needs to be> "severed" from general psychology. On this, I believe Vygotsky was> uncompromising and revolutionary, in the tradition of Marx, Engels,> Lenin, and others.> > But I have never seen Vygotsky suggest that the many discoveries,> observations and insights that idealists have developed over the> centuries should be tossed aside, that idealist psychology has> "nothing to contribute." My sense of Vygotsky is he would stress just> the opposite, in the same way Marx and Engels approached Hegel's> accomplishments and contributions. I think it is important to make a> strong point of this at the same time as the other, and I appreciate> Mabel bringing this side of the issue up.> > (As for some of Mabel's ideas about a "unified" psychology, and a> psychology that is both "causal" and "teleologic
al," I would need> more ... these are excellent topics for discussion ... perhaps Mabel,> you might toss us some thoughts sometime about how these ideas fit in> with your studies of Vygotsky and other cultural-historical theorists> on emotion ... ).> > Best wishes,> - Steve
>> Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 16:43:56 -0500> From:> Subject: Re: [xmca] a materialist *dialectical* psychology> To:> > Perhaps it would be helpful to clarify that when Vygotsky writes of "the> untenability of idealistic psychology" he is not refering to having ideals,> or even to having ideas. "Idealist" psychology is the kind of psychology> that accepts the philosophical position known as "idealism," which maintains> that all the objects we know exist only because we know them. My dictionary> defines it this way:> > € Philosophy any of various systems of thought in which the objects of> knowledge are held to be in some way dependent on the activity of mind.> Often contrasted with realism (sense 3).> > Realism, in contrast, is:> > € the doctrine that matter as the object of perception has real existence> and is neither reducible to universal mind or spirit nor dependent on a> perceiving agent. Often contrasted with idealism (sense 2).> > In ar
guing for a materialist psychology, Vygotsky was a (philsophical)> realist. His argument (in part) was that if one tries to combine both> idealism and materialism one recreates the dualism (mind/matter) which he> considered it crucial to escape.> > Martin > > > _______________________________________________> xmca mailing list> xmca who-is-at>
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Received on Thu May 15 01:49 PDT 2008

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