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[Xmca-l] Re: Отв: Re: Ilyenkov, Marx, & Spinoza

It is true, Alfredo, that the absence of free will (as everywhere outside of human life) does not imply determinism. But Spinoza held both positions. It is a long time since I studied Spinoza and I don't have notes from that time, so I can't source my own recollections on this.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains it thusly: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza-modal/


Andy Blunden
On 27/07/2017 10:58 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
Yes, Vygotsky's interest in Spinoza was sustained, though I doubt he agreed that this was 'thinly disguised dualism.' It does not sound like that when he writes that '[Spinoza is] the antithesis to parallelism and, consequently to the dualism of Descartes' (English collected works, vol. 6, p. 122).

In any case, I know of no one arguing these days to try to wholesale 'apply' Spinoza's ontology to psychology either.

I am not sure how you are using the notion *determinist* or why determinism would be involved in ruling out *free will*. Understanding this would greatly help me see your points.


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: 27 July 2017 14:39
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Отв: Re: Ilyenkov, Marx, & Spinoza

Alfredo, there is indeed clear textual evidence that
Vygotsky maintained an intense interest in Spinoza. My guess
is that it was Spinoza's place in the history of philosophy
as the first person to attempt to overcome Descartes'
dualism by building a monist, material philosophy, based on
Descartes' "geometric" method, which held Vygotsky's
interest and respect. This effort, for which Spinoza was
persecuted, inspired many philosophers despite Spinoza being
banned across Europe for more than a century.

However, I see no evidence that Vygotsky entertained for a
moment Spinoza's "solution", viz., a single substance,
a.k.a., God or Nature, or anything else you want to call it,
with infinitely many attributes, one being extension and
another being thought and the infinitely many others being
God knows what. I see plenty of evidence that Vygotsky
followed the idealist Hegel in conceiving of that one
substance as Activity - for Hegel under the name of "Spirit."

As a free-thinking philosopher, Spinoza's works are full of
insightful aphorisms and so on. His basic project (a monist
materialism) is right. But his solution is hopeless and I
have not met a single soul who has usefully appropriated
this substance with infinite attributes. Apart from its
mysticism, it is (as Vygotsky notes) *determinist* and rules
out free will, and is a thinly disguised dualism: one
substance with two attributes instead of two substances. Any
attempt to deploy Spinozan ontology in experimental
Psychology is a charade.

In the 21st century, Spinoza is no longer a dead dog, but he
is a dead end.


Andy Blunden

On 27/07/2017 8:29 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
Hi Alexander,

a very interesting text, written in brilliant prose. I very much appreciate your observations that 'the psychophysical (and not the psychophysiological) ... poses a REAL task akin to that which arose in the course of the evolution of living and mobile beings', and that 'intelligent action ... is itself ... congruent with the real corporeal form of some other body'. These propositions interest me a lot. Indeed, and led by W-M Roth, we did last year co-author a book where we entertained such propositions with respect to educational psychology (front matter attached, link here: ).

Like you, in that book, we are critical to Vygotsky's ways of writing about signs, specially in the works you cite. Yet, upon reading your article, on the whole, I wondered whether your characterisation was fair to Vygotsky's actual legacy. You describe Vygotsky's position as this:

'an unfree, essentially mechanical puppet acquires freedom through overcoming natural determination (the SR reaction, the mechanical triggering of a response by an external stimulus) in the act of mediation by a cultural sign'

I agree that Vygotsky clearly uses the term 'sign' in many instances in the conventional sense you refer to. But this way of writing sharply contrasts with other important tenets and arguments in his legacy. When I read Vygotsky's characterisations of the 'word' in Thinking and Speech, for example, I do not think he 'understands the word unambiguously as an arbitrary, conventional sign', as you suggest in your article (p. 40). In chapter 7, and paraphrasing Feuerbach, he writes that 'the word  is what ... is absolutely impossible for one person but possible for two. The word is the most direct manifestation of the historical nature of human consciousness' (English Vol. 1, p. 285). To me, that suggests a very different view of words as signs than simply conventional, arbitrary (as if unconstrained and magic) means.

In other places, he also writes that, 'Freedom, as the opposite of nature, cannot find a place in [Spinoza's system]. Freedom may be only an element of that nature, not an opposite to natural necessity but only one of the forms of this necessity' (English Collected works, vol. 6, p. 172). Coming from someone who would also write that any higher psychological function was first a societal relation (and what is action if not a societal relation?), how could he believe that the solution to the problem of freedom was arbitrariness, being as he was committed to social-historical necessity, to human needs?

In our book, we try to address these kind of contradictions by imagining what a Vygotskyan (educational) psychology would be if Vygotsky would have indeed pursued the Spinozist quest he did not finish. I think there may be more common ground between Vygotsky and Ilyenkov than your article allows, but this is surely not very much explored in mainstream uptakes. I am only a student on these matters, and I can not know in advance how far we will come with this integrative program, but it seems to me that neither discarding semiotics for the primacy of action, nor discarding action for the primacy of semiotics are promising paths.

In the hope to sustain productive dialogue,

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Alexandre Sourmava <avramus@gmail.com>
Sent: 26 July 2017 00:27
To: ablunden@mira.net; Larry Purss; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l]       Отв:  Re: Ilyenkov, Marx, & Spinoza

Hi, Larry!

Thank you for your attentionto the article.
Your retelling of the topic is quite correct.
However, I think it can be useful to add my little comment concerning the topicunder discussion.
Bernstein’s position is substantially spinozian and thereby antisemiotic.
Evidently, he bluntly contradicts to Vygotsky’sattempts to use arbitrary sign as a magic key designed to solve the problem of freedom (independence from mechanical causality).
Thus Vygotsky insisted that
”Looking from the very broad philosophical perspective the whole realm ofhistory, culture, and language is the realm of arbitrariness. So the method ofconditional reflex acquires a very broad meaning of a natural-historical methodconcerning human, of a tie that binds history and evolution together.”
(«В самом широком философском смысле этого терминавесь мир истории, культуры, языка — это царство условности. В этом смысле методусловных рефлексов приобретает широчайшее значение методаприродно-исторического в применении к человеку, узла, который связывает историюи эволюцию»

ВыготскийЛ. С. Психологическая наука в СССР. В кн.: «Общественные науки в СССР(1917-1927 гг.)». М., 1928, с. 30.)

There exists a prejudice that so called “Cultural-historical theory” withits arbitrary signs is a sophisticated antithesis to coarse Pavlov’s mechanicalapproach. Alas, that is far from reality. In fact, these two theories are identical.That is the reason why Nicolai Bernstein who was Vygotsky’s good friend had neverreferred to his ideas.

Sasha Surmava

      вторник, 25 июля 2017 4:29 Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> писал(а):

   I see.

This is a slightly different context. The original meaning
of "paradigm," before the popularisation of Thomas Kuhn's
work, was a "founding exemplar."
"Exemplar" presumably has the same etymology as "example."

The idea of "an example" as being one of numerous instances
of a process is a different concept, the opposite really.


Andy Blunden

On 25/07/2017 2:01 AM, Larry Purss wrote:
I will reference where I got the notion of linking
[example] and [framework]. If this becomes interesting
will open another thread.
  From David L. Marshall titled : "Historical and
Philosophical Stances: Max Harold Fisch, a Paradigm for
Intellectual Historians" -2009-

PAGE 270:

"Max Fisch constitutes an alternative to any intellectual
historical method insisting that practiontioners remain
agnostics about the value of the ideas they study.  It is
the chief contention of this essay that he is a 'paradigm'
for intellectual historians, a paradigm in the original
Greek sense of an *example* and in the DERIVED
contemporary sense of a *framework* within which the
community of research can proceed. Indeed it is just such
*doubling* of the philological object qua example into a
carapace for ongoing action and thought that Fisch
explored in a variety of ways during his half century of
creative intellectual work. "

Andy, not sure if this is adequate context, but the
relationality of [example : framework] through the concept
*paradigm* seemed generative??

On Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 7:21 AM, Andy Blunden
<ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

      "actions" or "an action" ... no extra word is needed.
      Extra words like "singular," "individual" or "single"
      only confuse the matter. "Examples" is too vague.

      Cannot make sense of the rest of your message at all,


      Andy Blunden
      http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>

      On 25/07/2017 12:17 AM, Lplarry wrote:

      Following your lead it may be preferable to say
      single (individual) to indicate the uniqueness of
      variable  social actions. This doubling  (by
      including both terms) may crystallize the intended
      meaning as you mention.

      Andy is this vein can we also include the term

      Then the moving TRANS forming from single
      (individual) social acts towards (practices) would
      indicate the movement from examples to exemplary
      actions and further movement (historicity) toward
      (framework) practices.

      (framework) practices being another doubling.

      So moving (transforming) from single social  examples
      through exemplary social  examples crystallizing in
      social framework practices.

      Is this reasonable?

      Or not

      Sent from my Windows 10 phone

      *From: *Andy Blunden <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>
      *Sent: *July 24, 2017 6:57 AM
      *To: *eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
      *Cc: *Alexander Surmava <mailto:monada@netvox.ru>
      *Subject: *[Xmca-l] Re: Ilyenkov, Marx, & Spinoza

      Larry, when you say "Action IS individual," did you

      to say that *actions* - the individual units of
      *action* are

      individual? In which can it is of course a tautology.

      But *action* is irreducibly *social*, and so is every

      "individual" action. Or better, so is every
      "singular" action.

      A lot of relevant differences are coded in the English

      language by the use of the count-noun or mass noun
      form, but

      on the whole the set of words (action, actions,

      activities) and the set of words (practice,
      practices) have

      no systematic difference running across all
      disciplines and

      schools of thought. For us CHATters, "activities" are

      If you read Hegel and Marx, there is an added issue: the

      German words for action (Handlung) and activity

      are more or less inverted for Hegel, and he doesn't use

      Aktivitat at all.



      Andy Blunden

      http://home.mira.net/~andy <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy>


      On 24/07/2017 11:42 PM, Larry Purss wrote:

      > Alexander, Mike,

      > Thanks for the article.

      > Moving to page 51 I noticed that when referencing
      Bernstein he contrasted (action) with (practice) and
      did not REPEAT (identity) the thesis about the role
      of practice in knowing).

      > Two formulas:

      > • Knowing THROUGH ‘action’

      > • Verification of knowing THROUGH ‘practice’


      > These two formulas closely RESEMBLE each other but
      do not co-incide


      > Action IS individual

      > Practice IS a social category.


      > Sociohistorical (practice) in the final analysis is
      nothing other than the SUM total of the actions of
      individual who are separate.


      > Individual action is LIKE a single experiment.
      They are alike in that both individual action & a
      single experiment are poorly suited to the role of :


      > A philosophical criterion of (truth).


      > I do not have the background to intelligently
      comment, but did register this theme as provocative
      FOR further thought and wording.

      > And for generating intelligent commentary





      > Sent from Mail for Windows 10


      > From: Ivan Uemlianin

      > Sent: July 20, 2017 11:17 AM

      > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity

      > Cc: Alexander Surmava

      > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Ilyenkov, Marx, & Spinoza


      > Yes very interesting thank you! (Ilyenkov fan)


      > Ivan


      > --

      > festina lente



      >> On 20 Jul 2017, at 18:00, mike cole
      <mcole@ucsd.edu> <mailto:mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:


      >> This article might prove of interest to those who
      have been discussing

      >> LSV's sources in

      >> marx and spinoza.

      >> mike

      >> <Ilyenkov_and_the_Revolution_in_Psycholog.pdf>