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[Xmca-l] Re: Отв: Re: Отв: Re: Отв: Re: Unit of Analysis

Dear Sasha, Ivan, 

this is a really interesting discussion, and one much needed, I think. 

Sasha, I agree with and share most of your points, I too think that there is a challenge that any Vygotskian has to deal with here, rather than accepting widespread and fashionable readings of Vygotsky's legacy that allow plain dualistic constructivism to continue under the "sociocultural" label. But I have two questions that I think need 

First, on your remark,

"And only secondarily the activity crystallizes in the form of verbal signs denoting certain properties of wood..."

I am with you throughout, but this point, both in Ilyenkov and elsewhere, becomes difficult for me every time. This may be because I have not yet seen all the ground that actually is covered across the leap that goes from supposedly primary object-oriented action to so-called 'verbal' as secondary. Accepting I may be wrong or missed some point, I have a number of problems with this:

I have a hard time reducing human communication to the 'verbal', and assuming that there may have been some object-oriented action that was not first communicative action among humans. Even if this perhaps was Vygotsky's fail too, I continue seeing that in most cases 'the verbal' is reduced to exactly that, verbalisation, of the idea of language as tool, words as crystallisations in the same way that hammers are... But what I think is key is *communication*, which cannot be reduced to the verbal alone, but which in humans happens to invariably have to deal with the verbal. If anything is a crystallisation, it is the form of the human larynx perhaps, but not 'verbs'. And so, I am inclined to think that addressing each other in soci(et)al relations is not well captured in the concept of object-oriented action as you just elaborated it, if the fact of human communication becomes secondary. 

I am not here suggesting that communication itself is object-less, and that object-orientedness emerges with language...  But I do not think either that first is object-orientedness of practical action, and only later language, in the sense of human communication. I wonder whether the germ cell that would account for the *psychological fact* of the basic human need of social relation with others can do without capturing in itself the first most essential moment of the human life. 

Now, at the beginning of this thread I asked you whether, at some point along the line, we would be able to show how these important and necessary elaborations could have any analytical implications for the researchers/practitioners. I do not doubt we can reach that point, but I also think that precisely that point is being neglected when considering Vygotsky's legacy here. I am aware that your critique builds upon your admirable enterprise to account for the basic trait not only of humans, but of life in general, that it is not about stimulus-response, but a self-reproducing force what characterizes biological systems. I do agree that any psychological theory that starts from the S-R assumption is doomed to failure, and so I think the idea of mediation as in the triangle S-Mediation-R is wrong. I think Vygotsky would and did accept his own failure on this point (see all notes in Zavershneva, etc). Yet, even if accepting that Vygotsky may have not found his germ cell (something others like Andy Blunden may come and dispute), I do not think that Vygotsky was wrong in his quest to postulate the primacy not of the verbal in any verbalistic sense, but of human communication, which happens to invariably evolve into verbal forms across cultures. And so my problem may be this: even if I accept that the basic germ cell must be of the shape of a relation that has a subject and her object of action as irreducible aspects, I do not think that claiming the secondary nature of the verbal when explaining psychological development is wise, unless by verbal you just mean only the highest forms of communication. Vygotsky did not begin from those higher forms, he rather fought to find that kernel that would allow for developing into those higher forms, and did so from a profound respect to the basic fact of human social relation as primary. I do not yet see how the account you are unfolding takes up this basic truth as starting point in human ontogeny. If object-orientedness is a fact of life systems, then we need to qualify it with respect to different species, but, in psychology, with respect to  ontogenetic (person) development. If I had to bring a Spinozist approach to understand my daughter's development, I doubt I could even get started unless I had a notion that would have the relation between my daughter and her societal environment, characterised by "the curse of matter, of moving layers of air", as the starting point. 

I think here I side with Mikhailov (2006), who sees that: 

"the 'unit' of this capacity [the capacity for the subjective motivation of human actions] is not a special abstraction like the reciprocal transitions of real into ideal forms and vice versa, but the act of *communication*—the act of addressing others and addressing the self as an other within the self". 

So, yes, verbal *forms* may be secondary, but the fact of verbal communication I think is primary, and I think here Vygotsky was not on the wrong path, even if he made a wrong start. 

My second question to you concerns the following remark:

"A living, active subject must interact with the object of his living vital activity that opposes him. Such interaction can theoretically be understood as life and/or thinking."

I do agree with the phrase if the sense is that we do not need an S-R scheme, but rather a unit of self-reproducing life that has subject and object as its irreducible aspects. But then, I wonder how adequate you consider the notion of 'interaction', cause I am afraid it often leads to another dualism, that of the person on the one end, and the object of her actions on the other, and then the actions yet become a third one that mediates between the two... To get out of this, there are notions better than interaction, such as transaction, which has been mentioned in previous e-mails, including those by Roth. We discuss this idea in several works, that if the unit is self-moving, it is not inter-action (as the interaction between two things), but transactional, which Dewey and Bentley characterised as "the right to see together, extensionally and durationally, much that is talked about conventionally as if it were composed of irreconcilable separates". I am sure you aware of this distinction, but when we describe subjects interacting with their objects, there is the danger to fall back or be heard as if falling back into the dualism we are in fact overcoming. 

Thanks for this relevant discussion,

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Alexander Surmava <alexander.surmava@yahoo.com>
Sent: 24 September 2017 22:58
To: Ivan Uemlianin; EXtended Mind Culture Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l]  Re: Отв: Re: Отв: Re: Отв: Re: Unit of Analysis

The fourth post on the topic. Reply to IvanThe Russian translation of the discussion is duplicated here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/564569043580624/permalink/1447798525257667/

|  Dear Sasha

  |  Dear Ivan!

  |  Дорогой Иван!




|  Thank you for your bilingual text! And thank you for sparing me the "academic courtesy" :)

  |  I will answer your comments with pleasure.

 And I'll start by asking you to clarify once again - what, at least slightly resembling Spinoza's central ideas, did you find in Vygotsky?

  |  С удовольствием отвечу тебе на твои замечания.

 И опять начну с того, что попрошу тебя уточнить – что, хотя бы отдаленно напоминающее центральные идеи Спинозы ты нашел у Выготского?

|  Again I agree with most but not all of your email, and again the disagreement is where you touch on Vygotsky.

  |  And let's agree that we will not consider simple verbal declarations of adherence to Spinozism. Not because we do not believe in their sincerity, but because science does not consist of naked intentions. Science has to produce at least some result, hasn't it? :-)

  |  И давай договоримся, что простые словесные декларации о приверженности Спинозизму мы рассматривать не будем. Не потому, что не верим в их искренность, а потому, что наука не состоит из одних намерений. Наука должна предъявить хотя бы некоторый результат. Не так ли? :-)

|  I don't think Vygotsky completed this project, perhaps he only started it off, to be continued by Leontiev, Ilyenkov and others. My defensive position is merely that he was not barking up the wrong tree.

  |  The fact that Vygotsky did not finish his project is something absolutely indisputable. Therefore, we have to evaluate not a holistic, concrete theoretical system, which he simply did not have time to create, but his first, necessarily the most abstract steps.

 Essentially, it is necessary to evaluate the "germ cell" of his theory, of course, if it was found at all.

 At the same time, again, we will judge not by the declarations of Leontyev and Ilyenkov, but by the content of their theorizing.

 I know, of course, that Leontiev always insisted publicly that he and Vygotsky had a single theoretical approach, differing only in the level of abstractness and concreteness. But I am convinced that Leontiev's statements were motivated exclusively by political reasons.

 This is sad, but from the point of view of the "germ cell" one can not speak about Vygotsky's theory, in principle, for he could not distinguish this cell (he did not have enough time for that).

 Of course, I can make mistakes in this assessment, and you or someone else knows what should be considered as the "germ cell" of Vygotsky's theory. In this case, I will be glad to make it known and amend my position. If, of course, the theoretical analysis confirms that the proposed category is suitable for the role assigned to it.

 For Ilyenkov, the role of such a "germ cell" is played by an object-oriented action, it is also an "action copying the form of an object", it is also “predmetnaya deyatelnost”. Leontiev was close to the same understanding of the "germ cell", exploring in detail the so-called "perceptual actions, plastically resembling the form of an object".

 As far as I know Vygotsky hadn’t nothing even remotely similar to the idea of activity understood in Spinozian way. Although the word "activity" he used often enough. But one thing is a WORD, and quite another is the concept behind it, an understanding of the essence of the matter. One thing is "word" and quite another "concept."

 It must be admitted, however, that both Ilyenkov and Leontiev also did not go very far from the original "germ cell" to the concrete theory. Their concepts are also filled with unresolved contradictions. But I stress, from their position with all their contradictions, there is a way forward, not to a dead end.

 An analysis of the contradictions between Leontiev and Ilyenkov, I am ready to discuss in further reports.

  |  То, что Выготский не закончил свой проект - нечто совершенно бесспорное. Потому оценивать нам приходится не целостную, конкретную теоретическую систему, которую он просто не успел создать, а ее первые, вынужденно самые абстрактные шаги.

 По-существу оценивать необходимо именно «зародышевую клетку» теории, конечно, если она вообще была найдена. (Если же автор ее найти не успел, то, как ни печально, но нечего по большому счету и оценивать.)
 По тому, что Выгосткий предлагает рассматривать в качестве такой клеточки можно будет судить о том, являются ли теории Леонтьева-Ильенкова логическим продолжением и развитием его теории, или они являются ее теоретическим отрицанием. При этом опять-таки, будем судить не по декларациям Леонтьева и Ильенкова, а по содержанию их теоретизирования.
 Мне, разумеется, известно, что публично Леонтьев всегда настаивал на том, что у них с Выготским был единый теоретический подход, различавшийся только уровнем абстрактности-конкретности. Но я убежден, что эти заявления Леонтьева мотивировались исключительно политическими причинами.

 Я полагаю, что как ни печально, но с точки зрения «зародышевой клеточки» о теории Выготского нельзя говорить в принципе, ибо выделить эту клеточку он просто не смог (не успел).
 Впрочем, я не исключаю, что могу ошибаться, и что тебе или кому-то еще известно – что именно следует считать «зародышевой клеточкой» теории Выготского. В таком случае, буду рад внести поправку в свою позицию. Если конечно, теоретический анализ подтвердит, что данная категория подходит для отведенной ей роли.

 Для Ильенкова такой клеточкой является – чувственно-предметное действие, оно же «действие по форме предмета», оно же предметная деятельность. Леонтьев близок к такому же пониманию клеточки, достаточно подробно исследуя так называемые «перцептивные действия, пластически уподобляющиеся форме предмета».

 У Выготского, насколько мне известно нет ничего даже отдаленно похожего на так понимаемую деятельность. Хотя слово «деятельность» или «активность» он, разумеется, использовал достаточно часто. Но одно дело СЛОВО, и совсем другое – стоящее за ним понятие, понимание существа дела. Одно дело «слово» и совсем другое «понятие».

 Надо, впрочем, признать, что и Ильенков, и Леонтьев тоже не очень далеко продвинулись от исходной зародышевой клеточки к конкретной теории. Их концепции тоже наполнены не снятыми противоречиями. Но от ИХ противоречий, вне всякого сомнения есть путь вперед.

 Анализ противоречий Леонтьева и Ильенкова я готов обсудить в дальнейших сообщениях.

|  As I've said, I think his treatment of the child's socialisation is fully Spinozan and materialist.  e.g., the way the activity of the social environment is transmitted to the child.  Surely word meaning is treated here (e.g. in Thinking and Speech) as a reflection of activity.

  |  If we are trying to understand how the child's psyche (activity) arises and develops, we must consider his/her own object oriented activity, rather than the activity of the "social environment". For from the point of view, from the position of the child, all this stuff is not an activity at all, because that is not HIS/HERE activity, but some external circumstances, external stimuli. The child himself in such a scheme is regarded as something totally passive. But a child can not be alive and at the same time not active, because object-oriented activity is life. Therefore, the child's actual development always depends not on external, even if not physical, but social impacts on him, but on the activity of the child himself. Meanwhile, about the activity of the child himself, about an "action copying the form of an object", Vygotsky did not say a single word.

 Where and in what do you see Spinozism here?

 At the same time, how did you see the reflection of activity in the child's learning of the meanings of words? What real activity leads the child's thinking from concept-heap to concept-complex and from concept-complex to scientific concept? And where does Vygotsky have said at least a single word on this subject?

 Moreover, Vygotsky's proposed scheme for the development of the concept is anything, only not the real logic of growth and development of concepts, development of understanding.

 However, this topic should not be dealt with between the case, because it is too serious. Therefore, we will return to it a little later.

  |  Если мы пытаемся понять как возникает и развивается психика (деятельность) ребенка, мы должны рассматривать его собственную предметную деятельность, а не деятельность «социального окружения», или «социальной среды». Ибо с точки зрения, с позиции ребенка, все это не деятельность, не его деятельность, но некие внешние обстоятельства, внешние стимулы. Сам же ребенок в такой схеме рассматривается как нечто пассивное. Но полностью пассивным ребенок, покуда он жив быть не может, а значит окажут ли эти внешние обстоятельства какое-то влияние на его развитие, или не окажут зависит в общем случае не от этих воздействий, а от деятельности самого ребенка. Между тем, о деятельности самого ребенка, как активном движении по форме предмета, у Выготского не сказано ни единого слова.
 Где и в чем здесь ты усматриваешь спинозизм?

 Заодно, каким образом ты разглядел отражение деятельности в освоении ребенком значений слов? Какая деятельность переводит мышление ребенка от понятия-кучи к понятию-комплексу и от понятия-комплекса к научному понятию? И где на эту тему есть хотя бы единое слово у Выготского?

 Тем более, что сама только что названная схема освоения понятия, предложенная Выготским, является чем угодно, только не реальной логикой роста и развития именно понятий, развития понимания.
 Впрочем, и этой темы, не следует касаться походя, ибо она слишком серьезна. А потому, мы вернемся к ней немного позднее.

|  The activity of the social environment (including its verbal behaviour) is adopted by the child.

  |  If "the activity of the social environment" (including its verbal behavior)"is only perceived by the child, then, as we said above, there is no activity of the child at all, and there is activity of someone else, which means that the child does not develop in this situation. Similarly, the student does not develops while the teacher is generating a flood of activities if the student himself is asleep, or directs his activity at an exciting game on his smartphone.

 Once again, what does Spinoza and Spinozism have to do with it?

  |  Если «деятельность социальной среды» (включая её вербальную активность) всего лишь воспринимается ребенком, то, как мы уже сказали выше, здесь нет деятельности ребенка, а есть деятельность кого-то другого, а значит ребенок в такой ситуации НЕ РАЗВИВАЕТСЯ, как не развивается ученик, в то время как учитель is generating a flood of activities если при этом сам ученик спит, или направляет свою деятельность на увлекательную игру на своем смартфоне.

 Еще раз, при чем тут Спиноза и спинозизм?

|  Vygotsky was an experimental psychologist and his experiments, and his critique of Piaget's & others' experiments, aim to show the practical ways that word meaning is created and transmitted.

  |  An experiment without theory is blind and deaf to any facts. So the criticism of the psychologist-experimenter is no different from criticism of the scientist-theorist. And with his theory of the development of meanings of words that he identified with the development of thinking as such, Vygotsky came to a complete standstill. Below we will show this by analysing the results of the "Uzbek" experiment and analysis of the so-called methodology of Vygotsky-Sakharov.

  |  Эксперимент без теории слеп и глух к любым фактам. Поэтому критика психолога-экспериментатора нечем не отличается от критики ученого-теоретика. А со своей теорией развития значения слов, которые он отождествил с развитием мышления как такового, Выготский попал в полный тупик. Ниже мы покажем это на анализе результатов «узбекского» эксперимента и анализе так называемой методики Выготского-Сахарова.

|  The problem of the Ideal --- how Thinking and Extension relate --- is there in Spinoza.  For all his undoubted Monism and materialism this problem is smudged over in his definition of the Attributes in E1d4:

  |  Ivan, with all due respect I can not agree with your conclusion that the problem of the relation of “Thinking” to “Extention” is identical with the problem of the nature of Ideal or the problem of the nature of Mind. And even more I can’t agree with your paradoxical statement that with “undoubted monism and materialism”, one can preserve some kind of ambiguous or blurred attitude to this problem.

 Spinoza (and Ilyenkov) had a particular though a crystal clear and unambiguous view at this matter - the concept of the Ideal (the concept of Mind) is not synonymous with the Cartesian disembodied-thinking substance, not a synonym for the Lockean and positivistic "mental" plan. The Cartesian psychophysical problem has no solution in principle, for it is completely false. “Thinking” and “Extension” do not interact in any way, for they do not exist in the Nature as such. There is simply no senseless extension. At least from the moment when the Nature with the necessity inherent in its nature generates living beings. In the Nature, there is no incorporeal thinking and can not be NEVER.

 A living, active subject must interact with the object of his living vital activity that opposes him. Such interaction can theoretically be understood as life and/or thinking. The ideal is either a living form of such a living movement (in accordance with the form of an object) or the same form of movement, but frozen in the form of the natural instrument, the organic body of living beings, or the cultural instrument of this activity, primarily tools of labor. So the form, nature of the wood is represented either in the form of a live movement of an experienced woodcutter or carpenter, or in the form of their tools - an ax, a cleaver, a plane, etc.

 And only secondarily the activity crystallizes in the form of verbal signs denoting certain properties of wood.

 However, I must stop here, for I understand that all that is said here can hardly be understood, outside the context of a more thorough discussion of the nature of the category of ideality and its understanding in the logic of Marx. To stop in order to return to the topic later and more fundamentally.

  |  Иван, при всем желании, не могу согласиться с твоим выводом о том, что проблема отношения «Мышления» к «Протяженности» тождественна проблеме природы Идеального, проблеме природы Мышления. И тем более с твоим парадоксальным утверждением, что при несомненном монизме и материализме, можно сохранять некое двусмысленное или смазанное отношение к этой проблеме.

 Спиноза (и Ильенков) занимают в этом вопросе кристально четкую и недвусмысленную позицию – понятие Идеального (понятие Мышления) не синоним картезианской бестелесно-мыслящей субстанции, не синоним локковского и позитивистского «ментального» плана. Картезианская психофизическая проблема не имеет решения в принципе, ибо совершенно ложно поставлена. Мышление и протяженность не взаимодействуют никак, ибо не существуют в природе как таковые. Бессмысленной протяженности а мире просто нет. По крайней мере начиная с того момента, когда природа с необходимостью, заложенной в ее природе, порождает живых существ. Бестелесного же мышления в природе нет и быть не может НИКОГДА.

 Взаимодействуют же, причем необходимо, живой, деятельный субъект с противостоящим ему предметом его жизнедеятельности. Такое взаимодействие есть и жизнь, и мышление. Идеальное же есть либо живая форма такого живого движения (по форме предмета), либо эта же форма, застывшая в форме естественного орудия, органического тела живых существ, либо культурного орудия этой деятельности, прежде всего – орудия труда. Так форма, природа древесины представлена либо в форме живого движения опытного дровосека или плотника, либо в форме их орудий – топора, колуна, рубанка и т.д. И только вторично в виде словесных знаков, обозначающих те или иные свойства древесины.

 Впрочем, и здесь я вынужден остановиться, ибо понимаю, что все сказанное здесь едва ли может быть понято, вне контекста более основательного разговора о природе категории идеальности и ее понимании в логике Маркса. Остановиться для того, чтобы вернуться к теме позднее и более фундаментально.

|  SPINOZA: E1 d4: By attribute, I mean that which *the intellect* perceives as constituting the essence of substance.

  |  Spinoz's definition of the "attribute" is absolutely accurate and transparent, although it was expressed in a specific language of the XVII century. The opposition of Thinking and Extantion as two attributes of the Substance in the language  of Marx, are identical to the opposition of the ideal and the material. Both the ideal and the material are not something independent from each other, but are positing each other definitions of world matter and its movement, Nature as a whole, the material Universe.

  |  Спинозовская дефиниция «атрибута» абсолютно точна и прозрачна, хотя и выражена на специфическом языке XVII века. Противоположность мышления и протяжения как двух атрибутов Субстанции на языке современной философии, на языке Маркса тождественны противоположности идеального и материального. И идеальное, и материальное не независимые друг от друга сущности, но полагающие друг друга определения мировой материи, ее движения, Природы в целом, материальной Вселенной.

|  Which intellect?

  |  You are asking whose intellect Spinoza means in his definition of "attribute"?

 I think that the intellect of coming to a knowledge, active subject.

  |  Ты спрашиваешь о чьем интеллекте толкует Спиноза в своей дефиниции «атрибута»?

 Думаю, что об интеллекте познающего, деятельного субъекта.

|  Vygotksy's psychology might have shown the way forward for a psychology (& even a philosophy of mind) that does without Thinking (in Spinoza's sense, of a distinct Attribute of Substance) altogether, and has only Extension and "imaginatio" (as in E2 p17).

  |  To follow your advice and try to do without Mind or Thinking (in the Spinozian sense, as a special attribute of The Substance) would mean, in Spinoza's style, to think of Nature or God in an imperfect way, as something lifeless and meaningless. Such a path in philosophy is not something new. This is the path of vulgar materialism of Lametrie and Kabanis, and from more modern characters - the path of Pavlov, behaviorists, adepts of "Cognitive science", etc.

 However, it is impossible to be a consistent vulgar materialist, not allowing in your system a fraction of no less vulgar idealism.

 At the same Pavlov vulgar idealism is presented in the form of "reflexes of the goal," "reflexes of freedom." In your discourse, vulgar idealism is seen - in the proposal to replace the theoretically clear Spinoza-defined thinking as an attribute of the substance to its own, but much less clearly theoretically articulated concept of “imagination”.

  |  Последовать твоему совету и попытаться обойтись без Мышления (в спинозовском смысле, как особого атрибута субстанции) значило бы, говоря в стиле Спинозы, мыслить Природу или Бога несовершенным образом, как нечто безжизненное и бессмысленное. Такой путь в философии не нов. Это путь вульгарного материализма Ламетри, Кабаниса, а из более современных персонажей – путь Павлова, бихевиористов, адептов «Cognitive science» и пр.
 Впрочем, невозможно быть последовательным вульгарным материалистом, не допуская в свою систему толику не менее вульгарного идеализма. У того же Павлова вульгарный идеализм присутствует в виде «рефлексов цели», «рефлексов свободы». В твоем рассуждении вульгарный идеализм просматривается – в предложении заменить теоретически четкое определенное Спинозой мышление как атрибута субстанции на его же, но куда менее четко теоретически артикулированное понятие воображения - "imaginatio".

|  Best wishes

  |  All the best

  |  Всего самого доброго,

|  Ivan

  |  Sasha

  |  Саша


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