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

David, Alexander, Phillip, all, 

David's way of elaborating the comment that free will is not 'free' from natural relationship, and therefore from necessity; that even in Vygotsky the key is not simply 'arbitrariness' or 'conventionality', reminded me of the argument held by Sergey Mareev. Mareev discusses how Vygotsky treated 'the problem of the origination of speaking activity from labour'. He notes Vygotsky's idea of 'unity of thought and speech' that 'word creates intellect and, at the same time, it is created by intellect'. He then goes on to note that,

'one can only break this word-thought-word cycle by turning the circle into a spiral. Unlike a circle, a spiral has a beginning, and its historical beginning is labour. However, it is only a *historical* beginning, for the *ontogenetic* beginning is the word. At first, a child masters speaking and only after that would he start working'

He further remarks that 'historically' means *essentially*, adding that 'the essence of speech follows from the essence of labour*. 

Is this kind of elaboration (the one of turning a circle into an spiral) connected to your argument, David? 

It is interesting that S. Mareev uses the same literature than Sasha S. uses, including Ilyenkov and Mescheryakov, to argue for exactly the opposite with regard to Vygotsky's treatment. Probably this is so because, unlike Sasha, Mareev does not mention the problems Vygotsky gets into when takas the S-R as starting point in his account of sign mediation. May it be that there is truth in all these positions? that while Vygotsky's most important legacy of a genetic unity of human thinking and communicating remains valid, the premise that 'natural perception' is passive perception of the S-R type is not and so it needs revision?


Mareev, S. (2015). Abstract and concrete understanding of activity: 'Activity' and 'labour' in soviet philosophy. In, A. Maidansky, & V. Oittinen, The Practical Essence of Man. The 'Activity Approach' in Late Soviet Philosophy (pp. 96–102). Leiden, NL: Brill.
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
Sent: 04 August 2017 23:27
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re:   Отв: Отв: Re: Ilyenkov, Marx, & Spinoza

Thanks, everybody. Particularly for the Wallace Stevens. My supervisor,
David Butt, did HIS PhD thesis on the lexicogrammar of Wallace Stevens! At
first it looks like almost random, "une folie integrale", but when you
analyze it into clauses, you find it is very finely wrought.

Vygotsky does talk about tossing coins ("the eagle and the bar" is the
Russian version of heads and tails, and I gather that means that in the
1930s they were still using the one ruble coins of the Tsarist era). It's
in the context of probability, and I think that the relationship between
meaning and wording is not random folly, but a natural relationship,
although to really see the pattern clearly you need to look
probabilistically, because speakers have free will.

But the specific examples he uses of "double stimulation" in the second
chapter of HDHMF are casting lots, tying knots (in your handkerchief, or in
a quipu) and counting on your fingers. He calls them "rudimentary
functions", things which once decided life and death questions, public
executions and tax revenues of empire, but which now stand in the dusty
corners of the cultural mind, a plaything for children or a way of deciding
who buys the next round in the pub.

In Chapter Six (paragraphs 40-42), Vygotsky is talking about the experiment
of "switching names", something I've been doing with real child siblings.
In this case, it is calling a crow "pigeon" and a pigeon "crow". He says
that it is impossible, because it would perturb expressions like "crow
black" and "pigeon blue". Beyond the phonological system, there is a
delicate woof and warp of wordings, and these wordings are all
interdependent, both on each other and on our experiences of nature.
 (Actually, even the phonological system is not completely conventional,
because of intonation and stress, which are natural. It's only
articulation--the vowels and consonants that Saussure studied in
proto-Indoeuropean--that is completely conventional)

Now, suppose we go one level higher--to meaning. We find that getting
information from somebody is done through a particular lexicogrammatical
pattern we call "questioning" while giving them information is done through
a different pattern called "making statements". These are realized as
interrogatives and declaratives respectively. Can we replicate Vygotsky's
experiment here? That is, can we use interrogatives to give information,
and declaratives to get information? Of course!

Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

(That is, "There is a blackbird walking around the feet of the women about

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

(That is, "Which do I prefer?")

The relationship of information-getting and asking a question is
natural--but it's probabilistic, because of human free will. So is the
relationship between information-giving and making a statement. We can and
do flout this natural relationship--not just in poetry, but in all kinds of
"grammatical metaphors", like "Would you mind not cawing?" which is
actually a command to a child not to yawn, or "Ontogeny recapitulates
phylogeny", which construes a process as an entity rather than as a
happening. But just because we have built devices that can flout natural
laws does nothing to repeal them. Even the wing of the blackbird does not
abolish atmospheric pressure or gravity, but only uses one to overcome the

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

"The Great Globe and All Who It Inherit:
Narrative and Dialogue in Story-telling with
Vygotsky, Halliday, and Shakespeare"

Free Chapters Downloadable at:


Recent Article: Thinking of feeling: Hasan, Vygotsky, and Some Ruminations
on the Development of Narrative in Korean Children

Free E-print Downloadable at:


On Sat, Aug 5, 2017 at 1:50 AM, White, Phillip <Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu>

> dear David,
> speaking of blackbirds -
> best,
> phillip
> Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
> BY WALLACE STEVENS<https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/wallace-stevens>
> I
> Among twenty snowy mountains,
> The only moving thing
> Was the eye of the blackbird.
> II
> I was of three minds,
> Like a tree
> In which there are three blackbirds.
> The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
> It was a small part of the pantomime.
> IV
> A man and a woman
> Are one.
> A man and a woman and a blackbird
> Are one.
> V
> I do not know which to prefer,
> The beauty of inflections
> Or the beauty of innuendoes,
> The blackbird whistling
> Or just after.
> VI
> Icicles filled the long window
> With barbaric glass.
> The shadow of the blackbird
> Crossed it, to and fro.
> The mood
> Traced in the shadow
> An indecipherable cause.
> O thin men of Haddam,
> Why do you imagine golden birds?
> Do you not see how the blackbird
> Walks around the feet
> Of the women about you?
> I know noble accents
> And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
> But I know, too,
> That the blackbird is involved
> In what I know.
> IX
> When the blackbird flew out of sight,
> It marked the edge
> Of one of many circles.
> X
> At the sight of blackbirds
> Flying in a green light,
> Even the bawds of euphony
> Would cry out sharply.
> XI
> He rode over Connecticut
> In a glass coach.
> Once, a fear pierced him,
> In that he mistook
> The shadow of his equipage
> For blackbirds.
> The river is moving.
> The blackbird must be flying.
> It was evening all afternoon.
> It was snowing
> And it was going to snow.
> The blackbird sat
> In the cedar-limbs.