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

Nice point, David.


Andy Blunden
On 7/08/2017 9:42 AM, David Kellogg wrote:

In the second chapter of "Pedology of the Adolescent" on methodology,
Vygotsky introduces the idea that pedology is a "science of a natural
whole", like geography, astronomy, ecology, and unlike biology, chemistry,
physics and mathematics. Every discipline is defined by the object of
study, but in some cases that object of study is itself the product of
analysis into elements, while in other cases the object of study is a
'Gestalt" that appears as such in nature. In order to get the idealized
object of study of biology (in order to see that bacteria, fungi,
invertebrates and vertebrates are equally "living things") we require
analysis into something that is not a unit but an element (e.g. metabolism,
reproduction, homeostasis, equilibrium). The same thing is even more true
of chemical molecules and the idealized billiard balls that physicists play
with, and the object of study in mathematics is wholly imaginary, like
religion and literature. But in order to get the concrete object of study
of geography, astronomy, ecology and pedology, all we really have to do is
to pay attention and observe: the object of study is given as such by

Vygotsky then says that people try to deny these sciences of natural wholes
scientific status, because they supposedly do not have methods that are
proper to themselves. The geographer, for example, has to consult a
botanist and a zoologist and even an anthropologist to compile a geography
of Australia. The astronomer depends on the physicist, the chemist, and the
mathematician. Ecologists are notoriously "eclectic" in this sense (it
should be obvious by now that I am not using "eclectic" in a perjorative
sense, to mean a cardinal sin), and as Vygotsky puts it, the pedologist has
no ways other than anatomy and physiology to describe the physical child,
no ways other than those of the psychologist to describe her or his
behaviour, and no ways other than those of the linguist to describe his or
her speech. It is easy to conclude from this that pedology is
methodologically eclectic, or--if we want to put a positive spin on
it--"interdisciplinary" (like applied linguistics, which feeds omnivorously
on other disciplines) or "transdisciplinary" (like my own tradition of
systemic-functional linguistics, which tries to look at everything in terms
of meaning, much as the nineteenth century scientists looked at everything
in terms of time and history, and the eighteenth century "philosophes"
thought about everything in terms of taxonomy and quantification)

But Vygotsky doesn't say this. What he says is that the "primary" methods
taken from other disciplines like anatomy/physiology, psychology, and
linguistics are subordinated to very different goals than the ones they
have on their home ground. The physiologist looks at physiology across the
ages, not simply at the physiology of the seven-year-old child. But the
pedologist, instead of looking at other ages, looks at the psychology of
the seven-year-old and the language of the seven-year-old, and tries to
explain them. To rise to explanation, the pedologist requires "secondary"
methods, and these are quite specific to the science of the natural whole:
the genetic method, the comparative method, and the synthetic method. For
Vygotsky, the natural whole is not even the child, but the child in
development--i.e. the specific age period. The age periods are like pages
of a flip-book, or frames of a motion picture: put together, they allow us
to see the dynamism of development. But of course putting each frame
together, and putting the frames together into a moving image, require what
(Basil) Bernstein called "weakly classified" forms of knowledge.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

PS: Actually, the English is brilliant. Any poet can give you the stoniness
of the stone in English. But only a non-native can give us the Englishness
of the English.


On Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 6:09 AM, Alexander Surmava <
alexander.surmava@yahoo.com> wrote:

Dear David, I didn’t evenmention Marx as antinaturalist. This is the exact
citation from my article:“They (evidently – LSV & EVI – A.S.) are also at
one in recognizing thesocial, cultural-historical nature of the human
psyche, in their antinaturalism.”

I agree with you that Marx andSpinoza can be hardly defined as

In case of Vygotsky andIlyenkov everything is slightly more complicated.
Their common antipathy tonaïve attempts to deduce human psyche directly
from corporeal basis, from genesand from neurophysiology is something
evident. They both insisted that humanpsychology ascends to culture and
history. And this idea makes their positionssimilar to “antinaturalism”.
Surely, it doesn’t mean that they reject Nature asthe substance in
Spinozian meaning.

Nevertheless, there is aproblem here. And this problem is a problem of
transition from Nature toCulture and in this point Vygotsky’s superficial
idea of conventional signs andcoin tossing game looks evidently less
serious than Ilyenkov’s materialimplements, which are initial and universal
form of ideality.

Anyway, I’m slightly afraidthat there is a problem with mutual
understanding in our communication, becauseinitially we are following too
unlike philosophic traditions…

Thus I don’t know what youmean describing LSV’s methodology as “eclectic”?
You mean that he was a thinkerfree from ideological blinders, or you mean
that his theoretic culture wasregrettably low?

As for me, I definitely shareposition of Hegel, Marx and Ilyenkov, and
estimate eclecticism as the greatestsin for a researcher. Moreover, I am
sure that intentionally Vygotsky probablyshared the similar position.

Something else entirely is thefact that involuntarily Vygotsky himself
sank into eclecticism to a wideextent. In fact, the trap of eclecticism is
a usual risk for a researcher inthe process of building a theory. In the
same time eclecticism accuratelyindicates that a researcher got lost in

Vygotsky’s interpretation offreedom that is again something what is
necessary to discuss.

There is two oppositetraditions in interpretation of this concept in the
history of philosophy. Thefirst – Cartesian, the second – Spinozian.
(evidently Marxism shares the secondone.)

The Cartesian one implies thata person has a magic ability to act contrary
to natural law. Surely, Spinoza asa materialist rejects such a possibility
as something fantastic. But it doesn’tmean that Spinoza is a fan of

According to Spinoza freedomis not a possibility to dream about fairy
tales of totally unfettered freedom.From Spinoza’s point of view to be
free, to realize your freedom means torealize your aims. Meanwhile one can
realize his/her aims only in he/she willact strictly in accordance with
natural necessity.  Only in this case one will be free and willgain his
aim. Otherwise, he/she will successfully break their neck. As for LSVhe was
thoughtful enough to set up the problem of freedom as the centralproblem of
psychology, but being not capable to overcome the Stimulus-Reactiveapproach
he had no chance to solve the problem of freedom. Problem of freedomis
something absolutely unsolvable for S->R automaton, and it has clear
decisionfor acting subject. Anyhow, coin tossing in best case can help to
solve senselessproblem of Buridan donkey and can not help a human person in
substantial choice.

Probablymy position in this crucial question can be clarified by my PPT
presentation “EvaldIlyenkov vs Leo Vygotsky”


     пятница, 4 августа 2017 3:23 David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>

  I think that Sasha, on p. 37 of "Ilyenkov and the Revolution in
Psychology", slips one by us. He quotes Davydov, who says that Ilyenkov
provided the logical-philosophical basis for cultural-historical theory and
for Vygotsky's theory of instruction based on development. He then says
that Davydov is wrong on both counts: neither Ilyenkov nor Vygotsky would
have considered cultural-historical theory truly scientific, and Ilyenkov
hardly ever mentions Vygotsky. Before we can ask what Sasha means by the
first, he is off trying to explain why Ilyenkov doesn't mention Vygotsky
much. There are lots of reasons not to mention Vygotsky when you are doing
philosophy. I am more interested in Sasha's notion that Vygotsky would not
have considered Davydov's version of the theory scientific.

Sasha calls Ilyenkov, Vygotsky, and Marx anti-naturalists. He says it is
because of their recognition of the social, cultural-historical nature of
the human psyche. But in all three cases, that social, cultural-historical
"nature" really is natural at its base: it depends on a "thinking body" in
the case of Ilyenkov (something Descartes would not have rejected!), it
depends on the domestication of the human body and mind in the case of
Vygotsky, and of course it depends on the transformation of use values into
exchange values in Marx. So I am not at all sure in what sense they are
"anti-naturalist". If we take the Spinozan view, to be anti-naturalist is
to be anti-substance, anti-thought, anti-extension. I don't think that
applies to Marx, Vygotsky, or even Ilyenkov.

I'm reading the Pedology of the Adolescent, and I find Vygotsky to be much
more methodologically eclectic than Sasha suggests with phrases like "sole
correct scientific method" and "whose theoretical analysis alone" (38). In
my reading, Vygotsky doesn't think of methods like that: methods are only
appropriate or inappropriate to problems of study. When you are studying
behaviour, psychology may be the appropriate method, but when you are
studying anatomy, try physiology. It is clear that Vygotsky has a
preference for his own "functional method of dual stimulation", but that is
precisely because it is appropriate to the goal of diagnosing the "next",
or proximal, zone of development. I think that even the psychotherapist's
couch, which as Sasha points out was artificially constructed out of
Freud's overwheening self-interest, had a place in Vygotsky's "science of a
natural whole": the only method he really does reject with disgust is the
practice of imagining what it is like to be a child and then pretending
that you have real scientific data. In the HDHMF, Vygotsky has a good deal
to say about Wundt and Titchener, not all of it critical (Chapters 3,4,5,
where "Titchener's Piano" is the empirical basis of his experiments with
choice). In contrast, Vygotsky has nothing to say about Socrates and Plato.

I think that, rather like the "aphorisms" Sasha cites on 39, Sasha's paper
just touches on the problem that has always puzzled me: how Vygotsky
reconciles the explanans of Spinoza with his chosen explanandum of choice
and free will. It seems to me that they are reconcilable, but only through
the path that Sasha refuses to take, that is, the path of the semiotic,
semantic, systemic structure of the "thinking body". Vygotsky says that he
wants to know what a real human does in the Buridan situation, tethered
like the donkey between two equidistant and apparently equal piles of hay.

Buridan himself would say that such a situation does not exist: piles of
hay are never equidistant and never exactly equal, and the universe is
really constructed like a chess game, where in any conceivable situation,
there is one and only one perfectly rational move, even if it is quite
beyond the power of man, beast, or even supercomputer to ever know what it
is. That was, I gather, Spinoza's solution as well, except that Spinoza
drew the logical conclusion that when you do not know which choice is
better, you must necessarily defer until you do. In the meantime, the
proliferation of choice, like the proliferation of method, is a positive
good, the closest we miserable slaves can get to freedom.

On Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 5:23 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu>


I did my best to follow the thread on Ilyenkov, Marx, & Spinoza and I
probably did not read it as closely as I could have, nor did I read the
originating article, that is, the one Mike attached as the knot to this
thread, but I shall.

Of course being a big fan of Spinoza I had to eye-wig in and see what was
to be seen on this here persistent thread.

I would like to make a contribution as a point in contrast, to what is
becoming more prominent in my understanding of the non-dual view of the
apparent world as seen through Vedanta.

First, and I'm sure I shall be corrected, please note, I see the Western
viewpoint (as springing from Descartes) as depicted as a linear rational
(and historical) view whereby thought and material are different
As I understand, according to Descartes, material comes into being
thought. I think first before I am first. Is this correct?

Spinoza, as I understand, saw that there was a historical aspect that
Descartes missed that we actually transform material and it transforms
thought and so on, as they weaves through one another. And so on through
time. But how could this happen that if material and thought were of
different substances?  (Am I getting this right?)

But he also saw that we are not separate from nature, and are indeed
helplessly subject to it, we are nature but nature isn't us. Yet this
nature could not be separate from God, and thus with some lens-grinding
Spinoza came to see that not only is nature not separate from God, and
nature is not separate from us, but God is also not separate from us
because we are of the same "substance" in nature, that we are indeed, as
the same "material."

But then what of free will? Are we merely reacting like mechanical
or chemical reactions? or is there choice?

>From my Vedanta studies there are similarities to the monist Sponiza
worldview of nature and God being one substance extending through time,
transforming through laws of physics and so forth. I'm not clear how
Spinoza saw the mind, and it seems that psychology, not having been
named/formed/created historically at that point in time, he had to have a
different word for that, which seems to have been "spirit," methinks.

So we are at odds at the way translations go not only from one language
another but from one historical moment to another (the way words mind
versus spirit are used). But the actual ontology was perhaps the very
turtle both psychology's notion of mind and Spinoza's notion of spirit
identically referencing.

Just thinking out loud here.

Now in Vedanta, the cosmology is such that the mind and the body are
indeed one substance, if there is a substance at all. And that the
perceivable world, is just a beginningless dance of names and forms,
whereby one thing becomes another thing, and its name changes, and so on
through time and space. That there is an order of consequences through
actions and reactions. Understanding the nature of those actions and
reactions helps offer choice to the person, as to what actions one hopes
perform to gain a particular (desired) consequence. And such is the
importance of karma, to consider one's actions and the consequences that
will come of them. It's just science, but a science incorporating the
subtle forms not just the gross.

If all that is here is non-dual, as the ancients claimed, then it would
have to mean that mind and body are one substance, it seems that quantum
physics does show that things are not as solid as we might think, and
the mind is not as unaffected by gross material as we once thought.

So if I am understanding the Vedic view of the mind and body being
material, that is, of one substance, this substance must exist in name
form across a spectrum, whereby on the one side we have all that is
and on the other we have all that is gross, again in terms of name and
of said substance.

A metaphor for this concept could be a consideration of the different
forms of water. Solid at one temperature, liquid in another, and steam in
yet another. If time and space are relative (i.e., Einstein), then let's
pretend that they are infinitely stable if seen at an instant in time
now, the present moment). Then it does seem that ice is a different
"material" than water, and also steam. But in reality their substance is
identical: H2O.

This is a gross simplification (pun intended), because we have one
substance in three forms, but never at the same time, though in the same
place. The change is caused by temperature, and we can only see the
of form witnessed through time. But also the name changes too. So there
as if an appearance of a linear change.

W1(ice) must pass through W2(water) to become W3(steam) and back again,
through time (with the help of temperature), but W occupies the same
though the volume might change a little.

OK, thanks for staying with me this far.

As I'm understanding it, there is in the Vedic worldview three gunas
(branches, or better "properties") of which the perceivable world
these being sattwa (energy, purity, light), rajas (action, movement,
and tamas (form, heaviness, inertia, darkness). And every *thing* that
be a *thing* is a unique combination of sattwa, rajas, and tamas. But
is relative. For example a rock as more tamas than a river, which has
rajas than a rock, but the sunlight shining on the rock and the river
more sattwa than either of them. In otherwords, it's all relative. There
tamas and sattva in the river, and rajas and tamas in the sunlight, and
sattwa and rajas even in the rock, but those are in smaller ratios than
other dominant properties therein.

If we consider Einstein's theory of relativity, E = mc2, then this might
also be seen sattwa = tamas multiplied by the speed of rajas. Put another
way, that tamas in its gross form is transformed into sattwa its subtle
form through rajas, its movement(activity) through time and space.

This is from the aspect of the material world, as we (humans) can
perceive, through physical laws. That there is only one substance here,
metaphor like water, is what Spinoza (I think) was attempting to "see,"
through a lens of inquiry and curiosity. How might this inquiry transcend
the dualism as presented by Descartes?

But I would like to prpose right about now that the dualism as presented
by Descartes was "historically invented" as a means to bypass
persecution by the Church fathers (i.e. Galileo). It is not apparent to
that Descartes even believed everything that he wrote, but that it was a
story crafted to gift the material world for experimentation (with
impunity) to the scientists (so we could really figure out what was going
on here in the material world) and to leave the empty carton of the
"spiritual" (i.e. the mind) to the Church, which was just like selling
Church a bridge that leads to swampland, really. And it worked!

I digress. Because the mind question really is a material question, but
a subtle nature, and it would have to be that if we assert non-duality,
which I am, but you do not have to, as that is your choice! :)

It ends up that much of cognitive science is showing mind as a material
question to be the case, for example by its examination of distributed
cognition, embodied thinking, and so on, and also in cultural psychology
(like wet water) the way culture's soup creates so much of our human
experience. It is all relative, which means, to be relative it must be
unified substance. Mind is created through activity and culture, which
creates activity and culture, as woven threads extending out through time
and space in all directions.

Substance is a difficult and slippery word, because anything that would
made of this substance couldn't be perceived by us, as we are products of
that substance.

It gets a bit Escher here if we could. You know staircases collapsing
one another, or hands drawing themselves, etc. Kind of Mobius strippy.

But this creates a reality of turtles all the way down, of infinite
regression. That does not work.

Spinoza's insight is that there IS a oneness, and that this can be
experienced ("seen"), but only through spiritual pursuit of
self-examination and inquiry, which was a kind of purification to him. In
this sense there is free will, because one is choosing to do this self
reflection, but on the other hand there is a necessary result that comes
seeing what is already there, nothing is "produced". Hence the beauty of
him being a lensgrinder, is a marvelous metaphor in so many aspects.

My intuition is that LSV was attempting to balance Spinoza's substance
with Marx's materialism as a way to bring the two together, with the goal
of illustrating that there was a predictable "physics" to the way mind
develops as a necessary consequence of culture moving through history
meaning), and vice versa (culture and history being created in turn by

This is not a linear summation or consequence, but an intermingling of
three properties (in relation to one another), light, mass, and energy or
as the ancients called them sattwa, rajas, and tamas, and these
are always in movement and in consequence to one another, but from the
aspect of the perceivable world.

>From the aspect of itself, it is static, nothing is changing, and it
exists outside of time and space. This is what Spinoza would have called
God (or nature), or in Vedanta, "Brahman," which cannot be objectified,
it can be known because it is the only "thing" here, upon which all
depend for existence. Like the pot is dependent upon the clay for its

This metaphor useful here for how the clay still "sees itself" as clay
even if it is in the shape of the pot, or a plate, but the pot can only
"see itself" as a pot if the form is of a particularly named shape, but
no longer one if the pot-shape is shattered, though the clay remains
regardless of the presence of the pot-shape or shard-shape. It is still
clay. Relative to the pot, the clay is not changing, outside time and
space, relative to the pot, which is changing inside time and space.

When a pot can only see its own potness, then it appears there can be no
unifying principle inside time and space. It is a duality. But if pot can
see that its true unifying substance is clay, then its clayness stands
outside of time and space, and it continues to exist as long as clay is
there, just in transformation from the aspect inside time and space, but
eternal from the aspect outside of time and space.

Thanks for reading, and thanks also for your commentary. All being food
my pot. :)

Kind regards,