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[Xmca-l] Re: Writing date of Leontiev - The Present Tasks ofSovietPsychology ?


I think I am like you: I came to philosophy rather late in life and I still
go there reluctantly. But I also think that both positions: the vulgar
materialist one and the good old Bergsonian idealist one, are dualistic.

The vulgar materialists say that everything can be explained as a property
of matter. Right now that's a touching leap of faith: there isn't any way
to explain the deliberate design of behaviour as a property of matter at
the moment. My dad rattles on about quantum effects in the brain and so on,
but even if we assume that will do it, we are left with a kind of
Schrodinger's Cat problem--how do you harness those quantum effects to
raising your right arm? I don't think "mediation" can do the trick on its
own. As Ruqaiya Hasan said, mediation needs a mediator and a mediat-ee
(she's thinking of teaching, of course), and each of these has to have a
way of deliberately designing their behaviour. That is why vulgar
materialists end up transferring the properties of mediator (and mediat-ee)
to the means of mediation itself (why Wertsch, for example, tries to
explain development as "decontextualization of mediational means" rather
than by the RECONTEXTUALIZATION of that means from mediator-mediat-ee to an
imaginary mediator-mediat-ee  relationship within the learner). But the
truth is that menus can't choose, much less explain their choices: only
diners do that. So even the most vulgar materialist will end up an idealist
when confronted with a menu.

Good old Bergson is in pretty much the same position. So you say that there
is some kind of vital essence that does all this heavy lifting. You still
have to figure out some point at which the vital essence rolls up its
sleeves and interfaces with matter. At least Descartes had his pineal
gland, that is, a form of mediation. But mediation doesn't really do the
trick here either. Suppose you do what Vygotsky does in HDHMF which is to
argue that humans create counter-balances, like the stone counter-weight
that allows a woman with a weak arm to draw a heavy goat-skin of water out
of a well, and this allows us to overcome one set of stimuli and impose
instead another (e.g. to put hold out your arm impassively for an operation
without anaesthetic, or to put up with years of schooling in order to enjoy
a life of leisured ease). But then you have the same problem: the
counter-balance cannot choose to draw water, much less explain its choice:
only the woman with the weak arm can do that. So Bergsonians end up
dualists, as soon as they get thirsty.

Halliday says that there are really two ways of looking at anything: as
matter or as meaning. This actually IS true at the level of physics (we
speak of entropy of information as well as of molecular motion, and a
particle can be thought as a thing or as a wave function). It's true at the
level of biology (we can look at life as biochemistry or as ecological
interactions). It's even true in sociology (we can see a city as a pile of
bricks or as a set of social relations), and of course in my own field,
linguistics, I have to work with physical sound waves as well as with
semantics. Halliday says that these aren't really two different kinds of
substance: they are just two different ways of looking at the same

I don't think the two ways are equally useful. It seems to me that "matter"
is a more useful way of looking at physics, particularly at the beginning
of the universe, but "meaning" becomes more and more important as "matter"
gets organized in biology, sociology and above all linguistics. What I
think is that at no point is it really useful to say that anything is just
"thing", or any meaning is just "meaning". People do that sometimes, e.g.
in that text by Hibsch and in the vulgar materialist (Pavlovian)
interpretation of activity theory, or when the TKP decides that Erdogan has
simply lost all his "capacity" as well as his legitimacy to rule. But they
are either being very ingenuous or very disingenuous. There is always
meaning in matter and matter in meaning, and it doesn't much matter if we
acknowledge it or not. Matter just is, whether we mean it or not; and where
there is matter, there is movement, and where there is movement, there is
potential and hence meaning.

It is said that when Galileo was forced to renounce his heliocentric solar
system, with the subversive idea that our earth is a moveable feast, he
muttered the words "e pur si muove" ("And yet it will move!") under his
breath. I don't know if it's true or not: I suspect it's not true, because
Galileo would have known how unnecessary the words were. But here's
something that is true. The staunch Catholic and counter-reformation
painter Murillo (in whose paintings of children Mike will immediately
recognize the world view of Caravaggio) did a portrait of a penitent
Galileo in prison, staring at the wall. In 1911 the restorers of the
painting uncovered, scrawled on the prison wall and then painted over, the
words "e pur si muove!"


David Kellogg
Macquarie University

On Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 3:31 AM, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com>

> HI — I followed the link provided by Mike:
> >> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Mail/xmcamail.2011_12.dir/msg00047.html
> which got me started reading the chapter by Hiebsch, where I found what I
> copy below. Isn’t the discussion about mediation a revival of this
> fundamental issue? Idealism means dualism; the existence of something
> non-material which we would call “mind” or “consciousness”.  “Materialism”
> eliminates that non-material thing, whatever it is, and turns to culture,
> words, language, history and other aspects of social interaction to explain
> how human beings differ from animals.
> I don’t see how mediation exposes CHAT to the charge of dualism, though/ I
> would say mediation is necessary to avoid the charge of dualism. What you
> pick to do the mediation then is the question.
> It’s a pretty riviting chapter.  Here’s a quote from pages 12-13:
> "The history of psychology, like that,
> of other sciences, is the history of the conflict between
> materialism and idealism. All progressive thinkers were
> adherents of the materialist theory, while idealism al-
> ways provided a foundation of reactionary views. It not
> only hampered the progress of sciences, but was an
> obstacle to their very formation. We define idealism as
> all philosophical theories according to which the psychic
> factor is something autonomous and independent of mat-
> ter; i.e., it is not a special property of matter, nor is it
> a product of the brain. We define materialism, on the
> contrary, as all the theories which start from the assump-
> tion that the psychic factor has no independent existence,
> but is only a property of matter and is formed in the
> long process of its development.”
> This is particularly interesting to me becuase of working with researchers
> in Viet Nam — where the education system post-1975 was heavily influenced
> by the USSR. the few social scientists i have met recognize the name
> Vygotsky but i’ll bet that their view of his work is all the post-1936
> version, which would explain a lot about what I am running into.
> H
> Helena Worthen
> helenaworthen@gmail.com
> Berkeley, CA 94707
> Blog about US and Viet Nam: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
> > On Apr 15, 2017, at 7:25 AM, <lpscholar2@gmail.com> <
> lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > Michael, I am aware this thread is focused on Leontiv and tasks of
> soviet society.
> > Your prompts may need their own particular thread (the idea OF the
> plural singular)??
> >
> > If it is agreeable to include your and Alfredo’s insights into the
> orbit/trajectory of this thread (enlarging it's scope) I hesitantly move to
> note 3 (page 168) of your 2006 article.
> >
> > Your premise that ‘sign complexes’ & ‘commodities’ share a family
> resemblance because of (a third). That third is the nature ‘of’ exchange
> value that lies ‘under’ both ‘sign complexes’ & ‘commodities’. This (third)
> implying ‘commensurability’ at the HEART OF (Dad Kapital).
> >
> > This trajectory (possibly subsumed under the theme: Plural-singular) is
> moved forward in your note 3.
> > You express in this note that Karl Marx opens (Dad Kapital) with
> ‘commodity’ but does not define this term PRIOR to beginning his analysis
> but allows the ‘nature of’ commodity to emerge in the course of his
> analysis AS SOMETHING that has ‘use value’ & ‘exchange value’.
> > This being the ‘nature of’ the ‘third’.
> > This trajectory is in the (spirit of) Wittgenstein, according to which a
> word does not have meaning
> > BUT
> > That the meaning lies in its use (exchange value).
> > This indicating a family resemblance between Marx (in the German
> Ideology) & Wittgenstein’s (Philosophische Untersungen).
> >
> > I acknowledge all this is new and challenging to understand. My intent
> is to try to move along WITHIN the orbit of this trajectory squiring a
> ‘feeling’ of the mood.
> > Is it time or appropriate to open a new thread titled (Plural-Singular
> Realization)? The theme exploring the ‘nature of’ thirds that include the
> nature of ‘other’ terms as faces, factors, facets, aspects, of the UNIT as
> ‘third’
> >
> > Possibly turning to Jean-Luc Nancy?.
> > An open question
> >
> > Sent from my Windows 10 phone
> >
> > From: Wolff-Michael Roth
> > Sent: April 14, 2017 5:18 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Writing date of Leontiev - The Present Tasks
> ofSovietPsychology ?
> >
> > Larry,
> > the idea can also be expressed in the Spinozist manner: singular plural
> or
> > plural singular. The philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy---someone who doesn't
> > require mediation, and who writes about mediation that mediates nothing,
> > has articulated this idea of the plural singular. Some Spinozist Marxian
> > scholars, too, are taking this route.
> > Michael
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> --------------------
> > Wolff-Michael Roth, Lansdowne Professor
> > Applied Cognitive Science
> > MacLaurin Building A567
> > University of Victoria
> > Victoria, BC, V8P 5C2
> > http://web.uvic.ca/~mroth <http://education2.uvic.ca/faculty/mroth/>
> >
> > New book: *The Mathematics of Mathematics
> > <https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/new-
> directions-in-mathematics-and-science-education/the-
> mathematics-of-mathematics/>*
> >
> > On Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 2:56 PM, <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >> Mike indicates grounding our analyses in everyday activities as a focus.
> >> Alfredo highlights the many current manifestations of Marxian psychology
> >> in our current explorations.
> >>
> >> This may be an appropriate moment to consider  Wolff Michael Roth’s 2006
> >> article (A Dialectical Material Reading of the sign) posted here on
> April 9
> >> 2017.
> >> Page 141 to 144   opens the article with an empirical example of
> everyday
> >> activities and identifies the way signs are exchanged at 3 different
> levels.
> >> 1st) sign complexes are ‘traded’ between research assistant and
> participant
> >> 2nd) the person actually ‘translates’ one sign complex into another sign
> >> complex. (graph into text)
> >> Another kind of ‘translation’ occurs while the scientist follows a curve
> >> on the graph with his pencil, thereby ‘reproducing’ the curve iconically
> >> 3rd) Roth’s article does NOT feature the original sign complex, but in a
> >> manner that (reflects) its content, uses other material sign complexes
> to
> >> point back to the original sign complexes EXCHANGED during the encounter
> >> between the research assistant and participants in the empirical
> example.
> >>
> >> With this grounding ‘in’ and ‘of’ exchange levels, Roth moves to Marxian
> >> notions of exchange and exchange value through exploring
> >> ‘commensurability’. On page 143 Roth claims:
> >>
> >> ‘Commensurability, that is sameness in the face of difference, is at the
> >> HEART of Karl Marx’s (1976) Capital, and in particular the dialectic of
> >> commodities.’
> >>
> >> Then Roth moves to this (as if relation) between sign complexes and
> >> commodities. In Roth’s words:
> >>
> >> ‘It therefore appears as if there is some similarity between signs and
> >> commodities UNDER the light of their role and function in EXCHANGE
> >> processes’
> >>
> >> I find Roth’s exploration of ‘commensurability’ at the ‘heart’ of Marx’s
> >> writing (sign complexes) under the light of exchange relations a
> >> fascinating way of understanding (sameness in the face of difference).
> >> A theme of symmetry in the face of asymmetry.
> >> My turn is up but I find Wolff Michael and Alfredo’s collaboration
> >> generative.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Sent from my Windows 10 phone
> >>
> >> From: Alfredo Jornet Gil
> >> Sent: April 14, 2017 11:19 AM
> >> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> >> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Writing date of Leontiev - The Present Tasks of
> >> SovietPsychology ?
> >>
> >> Wow, great historical and bibliographical references, thanks.
> >>
> >> I just found this 2017 book, where Andy B. has a chapter, and which is
> one
> >> example (or rather several, as it is an edited volume) of what in the
> >> present day is taken to be a Marxist psychology.
> >>
> >> Ratner, C., & Silva, D.N.H. (Eds.) (2017). Vygotsky and Marx: Toward a
> >> Marxist Psychology. Routledge.
> >>
> >> https://books.google.ca/books?hl=no&lr=&id=ZOyfDgAAQBAJ&oi=
> >> fnd&pg=PT126&ots=YeTJ4fOp-h&sig=papwRk5IKK3cJIKophwMNOQOMhM&
> >> redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
> >> ________________________________________
> >> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> >> on behalf of mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu>
> >> Sent: 14 April 2017 18:06
> >> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> >> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Writing date of Leontiev - The Present Tasks of
> >> Soviet Psychology ?
> >>
> >> The experience of reading those articles helped to deepen our
> understanding
> >> of the Vygotsky-Leontiev falling out, Clay. For those, like myself, for
> >> whom the grounding of our analyses in everyday activities is a central
> >> concern, Leontiev gave a way to motivate deeper theorizing of the
> "context"
> >> of mediated action.
> >>
> >> Along with Yrjo Engestrom, Arne Raiethel, Alfred Lang, and others we
> came
> >> up with the "chat" name for attempts to supersede the differences
> between
> >> them. Pushed toward extremes signocentricism and authoritarian
> behaviorism,
> >> we opted for both/and.
> >>
> >> We have been chatting here ever since. And as you can see, recycling and
> >> re-thinking prior understandings as we go.
> >>
> >> mike
> >>
> >> On Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 7:19 AM, Clay Spinuzzi <
> clay.spinuzzi@utexas.edu>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >>> Thanks, David, Mike, and Haydi, for your efforts and for the link to
> the
> >>> older xmca thread! I appreciate the context as well as the link to the
> >> PDF.
> >>> CS
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> Message: 18
> >>>> Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:09:57 +1000
> >>>> From: David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> >>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Writing date of Leontiev - The Present Tasks of
> >>>>        Soviet Psychology ?
> >>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> >>>> Message-ID:
> >>>>        <CACwG6Dt=D9PusFzK8KZNq0uwd8yiXWaNUg_S3BtiOf8Fo7jNvw@mail.
> >>>> gmail.com>
> >>>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> >>>> Clay:
> >>>> We discussed this text on xmca back in 2011, e.g.
> >>>> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Mail/xmcamail.2011_12.dir/msg00047.html
> >>>> Here's what Mike said at the time:
> >>>> "From the book itself, it is difficult to date the articles or to link
> >>> them
> >>>> to a particular occasion. The book was published in 1961 and came from
> >>>> East Germany. From the introductory material by Hans Hiebsch, an East
> >>>> German
> >>>>> psychologist, it appears to have followed the "Victory of Lysenko in
> >>>> August 1948." It appeared in "Soviet Pedagogy" in Number 1, 1949. I do
> >>> not
> >>>> have a copy.
> >>>> I think I have a copy of it back in my library in Korea, in a pamphlet
> >>> put
> >>>> out by psychiatrists sympathetic to the Communist Party--sometime in
> >> the
> >>>> mid-fifties, at the height of the McCarthy witch-hunt. But I'm in
> >>> Australia
> >>>> right now!
> >>>> David Kellogg
> >>>> Macquarie University
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> --
> >>> Dr. Clay Spinuzzi
> >>> Associate Chair, Department of Rhetoric and Writing
> >>> University of Texas at Austin
> >>> 208 W. 21st St., Stop B5500
> >>> Austin, TX  78712-1038
> >>>
> >>
> >>
> >