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RE: Comments on Arievitch issues

Here is the way I have been thinking about it (through a pragmatic lense) on objectivity, things, relationships, and other such issues.
There seem to be two ways to consider objectivity (probably a whole lot more actually, but I'll stick with two).  The first way is to actually objectify the thing in the world.  That is you take a thing in the world and present it as a separate object with its own qualities - these are qualities that can be known if you know the object.  The second type of objectivity (coming from Dewey's exploration of inquiry) is objectivity that comes from doing things.  That is when you engage in activity in the world and use things in that engagement, the activity works, the problem is solved, based on your prediction of how those things would react in the course of the activity.
An example - I suppose.  There are two ways of objectively exploring the relationship of wood to water when attempting to build a boat.  The first way is to say that the wood has certain qualities, it has a certain mass, and the water also has certain qualities, certain mass.  When the water is placed on water, because of the relationship between the two objects, the wood will float on the water.  It is a principle.  The second way to look at it is that when you put wood on the water it will float.  This is an objective outcome that comes from actually doing.  I know that on first glance it seems like the same thing - but there is a really important difference.  In the first there are things in the world that I can know, and by knowing these things it instills in me a certain amount of power (because I know more about these things than you do and therefore I am an "expert".  Even if I don't solve the problem - I build a boat that eventually sinks - I am the expert and therefore you are stuck with me).  If I base my relationship with you on my ability to solve the problem, and now that I have a greater understanding of the object, our relationship is much more fluid.  I say okay, come with me, let's engage in this experiment together and see if the wood will float.  I think it will float, because based on relationship of mass it has float many times before, but I am also aware that every problem is a little bit different, every situation is a little bit different, so while I have a certain level of assuredness I do not have certainty.  You say ah, maybe it won't float, maybe that is just a subjective belief that you have that it will float.  We put the wood on the water together and it floats.  It is an objective finding - when you put the wood on the water in this situation it is going to float.  And you have to agree with that because we don't base our beliefs on what I think or what you think (subjectivity is pretty useless in human interaction), but on what works.  And the wood floating on water works.  And if our educational relationship is working right that will become part of your activity when you need to build a boat, you will put wood on water with some assuredness, and if it works that is the objective fact of what happened.  But you also realize that if, for whatever reason it doesn't work, we've got a problem and we have to engage in a more creative inquiry in order to figure out how to solve it.  A creative inquiry where previous expertise carries little weight in the relationship.
So there may be things in the world separate from humans or there may not.  What does it matter really in the course of human activity?  The only thing that matters is that way we use these things to solve the problems in our lives.  Things in the world only have meaning to us as we use them, as instruments in our lives, in our communities.  What this suggests is that there is really no meliorative reason for the first type of objectivity, the type where we objectify a rock, or a theory, or a piece of history.  Yet we do this all the time, don't we?  We say this is Vygotsky, I know Vygotsky, and treat Vygotsky as an object.  But Vygotsky is no use to us in making our community better unless we are actually using his ideas to solve a problem.  So why do we do it?  There must be a reason, because humans a rational, we do things (at least initially) for a reason - don't we?  These things become habit (which has its own reason) - but we do objectify things for a reason.  
Something to think about maybe.  Or maybe the pragmatists were wrong and the realists were right.  Maybe the reason we objectify things is because if we know objects then we can control our environment.  The first type of objectivity and the recognition of things in the world separate from ourselves allows us to reach out to those things when we need them and use them to control our environment.  Or maybe Dewey is right and the first type of objectivity is a way to gain and solidify political power.  If I can create a community where I know and you don't, then you have to come to me to find out if you are using that thing right, I can extend this expertise to other areas, and I am not restricted by whether my knowledge of the object actually works in human use.


From: Mike Cole [mailto:mcole@weber.ucsd.edu]
Sent: Tue 7/6/2004 7:42 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: Comments on Arievitch issues

I sent this message from my web-based mailer a few days ago and
it appears that only Matt saw it, and it does not appear in the
archived messages. A gremlin mystery for sure. So here is a repeat.
Its already a nostalgic reminder of a day when I ahd 5 minutes to
spare! But perhaps still of some interest to some.