Intentionality and Semiotics: What Leont'ev supposedly wrote

From: Bill Barowy (
Date: Mon Dec 20 2004 - 09:14:36 PST

Don, here's what I have of the collective hunt from Leont'ev to supplement
what's been sent out thus far. The ending connection Leont'ev makes between
conciousness and social relations would seem fundamental to semiotics too,
would it not? The move made here is to change the unit of analysis to be
something greater than an individual -- and this also seems to be what
Peircian semiotics accomplishes?

Leont'ev, A. N. (1981): Problems of the Development of Mind. Moscow: Progress
Publishers. Pp 210-213

"Let us now examine the fundamental structure of the individuals activity in
the conditions of a collective labour process from this standpoint. When a
member of a group performs his labour activity he also does it to satisfy one
of his needs. A beater, for example, taking part in a primaeval collective
hunt, was stimulated by a need for food or, perhaps, a need for clothing,
which the skin of the dead animal would meet for him. At what, however, was
his activity directly aimed? It may have been directed, for example, at
frightening a herd of animals and sending them toward other hunters, hiding
in ambush. That, properly speaking, is what should be the result of the
activity of this man. And the activity of this individual member of the hunt
ends with that. The rest is completed by the other members. This result, i.e.
the frightening of game, etc. understandably does not in itself, and may not,
lead to satisfaction of the beaters need for food, or the skin of the animal.
What the processes of his activity were directed to did not, consequently,
coincide with what stimulated them, i.e. did not coincide with the motive of
his activity; the two were divided from one another in this instance.
Processes, the object and motive of which do not coincide with one another,
we shall call actions. We can say, for example, that the beaters activity is
the hunt, and the frightening of game his action.

How is it possible for action to arise, i.e. for there to be a division
between the object of activity and its motive? It obviously only becomes
possible in a joint, collective process of acting on nature. The product of
the process as a whole, which meets the need of the group, also leads to
satisfaction of the needs of the separate individual as well, although he
himself may not perform the final operations (e.g. the direct attack on the
game and the killing of it), which directly lead to possession of the object
of the given need. Genetically (i.e. in its origin) the separation of the
object and motive of individual activity is a result of the exarticulating of
the separate operations from a previously complex, polyphase, but single
activity. These same separate operations, by now completing the content of
the individuals given activity, are also transformed into in-dependent
actions for him, although they continue, as regards the collective labour
process as a whole, of course, to be only some of its partial links.


A beaters frightening of game leads to satisfaction of his need for it not at
all because such are the natural conditions of the given material situation;
rather the contrary, these conditions are such in normal cases that the
individual frightening of game eliminates his chance of catching it. In that
case what unites the direct result of this activity with its final outcome?
Obviously, nothing other than the given individual relation with the other
members of the group, by virtue of which he gets his share of the bag from
them, i.e. part of the product of their joint labour activity. This
relationship, this connection is realized through the activity of other
people, which means that it is the activity of other people that constitutes
the objective basis of the specific structure of the human individual
activity, means that historically, i.e. through its genesis, the connection
between the motive and the object of an action reflects objective social
connections and relations rather than natural ones. The complex activity of
higher animals governed by natural material connections and relations is thus
converted in man into activity that is governed by connections and relations
that are primordially social. That also constitutes the direct reason why a
specifically human form of reflection of reality, human consciousness,

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