Re: [xmca] a materialist psychology

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Sat May 17 2008 - 00:44:44 PDT

I still can't understand why PowerPoint doesn't work, but I
have now, with assistance from Bruce Jones, uploaded a
simple HTML version of the talk on Hegel and Cultural

The disadvantage of the HTML version is just that you have a
wait a minute between each section of the talk while the
audio is queued.

Apologies for all the fuss to get this right. nI will find
the time to transcribe it to text.


Martin Packer wrote:
> Doesn't work. File, Open brings up a selection window, not a box. This is
> PowerPoint for the Mac, of course-
> On 5/13/08 9:23 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:
>> OK, if you can't open PPT with your non-MicroSoft browser,
>> you *can* enter the URL into the File ... Open ... box of
>> your MicroSoft PowerPoint.
>> So copy
>> ""
>> and paste it into the File Open box.
>> Andy
>> Martin Packer wrote:
>>> Andy,
>>> 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.
>>> Martin
>>> 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
>>>>> ha
>>>>> 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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Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 
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Received on Sat May 17 00:46 PDT 2008

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