Re: Objekt -- back to the future

From: Peg Griffin (
Date: Mon Apr 18 2005 - 07:43:54 PDT

Thanks, Mike for the Arne and thanks, Ana for the Burke and more.

Mike, doesn't what Arne includes as Ritva's comment remind you of the way we worked the text and the teacher into the early triangles we made to explore the reading work with Armandito and (was it) Billy in the re-mediation work?

Ana, I like thinking about the classes of definables that are defined in terms of what they are not -- middle child or middle class being two exemplars. (I admit to pride about working class tying to substance beyond ...)
Phonemes are also defined in terms of what they are not in a well defined system. (Yes, there're articulatory or acoustic properties, but essentially my American English /b/ is defined as not /p/, /d/, /t/, /k/, /g/, /s/ etc., even vowels and other grain/system defined units.)
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane
  Sent: Sunday, April 17, 2005 10:59 PM
  Subject: Re: Objekt -- back to the future

  Arne said:

    Curiously, this word then came to mean inanimate objects, mainly.
    Therefore, a more abstract kind of name was invented by coining
    "Gegenstand", a translation of Latin objectum -- "thing presented to the
    mind", as the Oxford Concise Dict explains, -- "and not to the council or
    to the community" as we might add. "Gegenstand" means that *which stands
    counter me*, then. This happened around 1650, I believe.

  Thus "Gegenstand" is that "which stands counter me". German word for Object contains in itself what Burke described as Dramatistic "NO". A negation. Here is a very curious quote from Burke:

    "..the "One" family and the "No" family do seem surprisingly close for words so logically at odds. There is the fact that something of great price can be called "priceless", that double negation sometimes cancel out and sometimes intensify the negative, that Latin and Greek verbs of fearing reverse the normal indicative use of negatives. Nor it is hard to see how the Latin words for with and against (cum and contra) can come from the same root, when we think of these two usages in English: "I fought with the enemy; I fought with my friends against the enemy"; and contra in the sense of "over against" or "in contact with" has given us the word country."

  So the question is :-) , can we ever be objective without being negative? :-) just kidding or not!


  Mike Cole wrote:
    Seems to me like you and Mary, each in your own ways, are paraphrasing Peg's comments re play about subjective object and objective subject. Of course, with respect
    to the object of my desire it is difficult to be.... ugh, objective.

    On 4/17/05, bb <> wrote:
      Actually, I found the post of Sheila being the "object of your affections" most revealing, as Sheila is not only the object, but also participating in the subject, as wooing definitely invoves at least two people (with some strange exceptions). Pretty cool case to develop, esp. since those with significant others can relate. Now THIS could be a canonical study, IMHO, which, since MHO is free, could be worth every penny! Hopefully more.


      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: Mike Cole <>
      To: Xmca <>
      Date: Sun, 17 Apr 2005 20:27:46 +0000
      Subject: re: Objekt -- back to the future
      Just for curiousity, I googled "object of activity" on lchc. Somewhere I have a large file with
      early parts of this discussion. But I enclose one note that is part of a thread participated in
      by Arne Raeithel and Ritva Engestrom that points toward a discussion that could be re-
      membered by present participants in xmca to good effect.
      Date: 95-03-31
      =46rom: Raeithel Arne
      Subject: Re: two parts/three parts (*very* long)
      To: xpractice

      Again, Ritva has laid her gentle finger on something like a wound (not yet
      a scar, there was no time for much healing) of the activity approach: What
      to do about the conceptual difficulties of the "object" of communicative

      As she said, I struggled with this in the past. My "Kommunikation als
      gegenst=E4ndliche T=E4tigkeit" was published in spring of 1989, before the
      command socialism went bankrupt for good. One reader, Alfred Lang,
      commented that it is a curiously agonizing text, saying essentially simple
      and old things along convoluted lines of arguments. "I am happy that I
      never succumbed to the seduction of Marxism," he added -- if I remember the
      same as he does (are you reading this, Alfred?).

      In short form, I have to recount the argument here for the (doubtful)
      benefit of readers of English, before I'm able try to tell you-all what
      came as a revelation to me in the state I was in late night: The
      distinction of "self"-regulative objectives and referential objects leads
      to a very useful combination of the two types of extended triangles of my
      last note (did I note that it was one-third-baked? :-).

      This is how Ritva put the solution:

>Bakhtin is unusual clear in the issue that in producing utterances,
>we are working with two kinds of objects: interlocutor (I have
>called it 'social object') and life (or 'content' in the sense of the
>possibilities of human activity). I see that the 'social object' alone
>is a special case of meaning construction. ...
>Applied to conversations, the "dual orientation of language" makes it
>possible to view, e.g., a medical consultation as a local dialogue in
>which a patient and a doctor share an attempt to construct the
>referential object of the consultation and to solve practically the
>problem related to the object. From the viewpoint of conversation,
>the object is not just an object of the doctor's "tool-mediated"
>action. It is an *object of the consultation* that includes the
>subjective perspectives of both the patient and the doctor.

      The diagramming task for me now is: to clearly distinguish the two kinds of
      (i) object of the transaction / content / reference object(ive) of Act.
      (ii) interlocutor / social object / "self"-regulative objective of Act

      In a sense, Bateson et al. said this with their "relational aspect" and
      "content aspect" of every communication, and before them Karl B=FChler whose
      works I still could not re-read. I wish I had time! Seems that I will get
      some soon (knock on wood).


      But first, my argument from 1988: Why we-in-the-AAM (Activity Approach
      Movement :-) should treat communication as *one special type of object-
      oriented activity*, and not as a separate kind of experience/acting in
      general ?

      The latter alternative had been advocated by Lomov:

      "Activity" should be the term for the S/O-relation (changing nature), and
      "Communication" was to be clearly separated, because it exists in an
      S/S-relation (changing "superstructure", "ideology", "beliefs", "sets", and
      so on). This smelled to my nose badly of Cartesianism, as I would say
      today, after the last three years of e-discussion in the xfamily and in the
      Peirce-L. -- I hope I have not done unjustice to Lomov's text (I do not
      have it in English, somewhen in the Sov.Psychol., I guess). Would somebody
      please correct me, if I am wrong?

      I asked myself with violent disbelief: How could these be ever separated?
      As if the other subject would not be an object at the same time. As if any
      talk would not have a "shared" (divided and distributed and spanned over
      the relation) object if it sustains itself at all...

      But my German colleagues, Rainer Oesterreich and Marianne Resch, also had
      chosen this binary distinction: Handlungen und Kommunikationen (actions and
      communications). They refused to consider the alternative: that
      communications have the same kind of basic regulative structure as the
      actions that a single actor/person tries to realise with his or her goals
      in mind, eye, and trouserpocket (e.g. knot in the h'kerchief).

      My article thus grew out of an internal discussion paper of the Institut
      f=FCr Humanwissenschaft in Arbeit und Ausbildung of the Technical University
      of Berlin. I wanted to overcome the obvious counter-argument: that we
      scientists are treating compatriote, democratically equal subjects as we
      would inanimate objects, and are even saying that this is how every- body
      treats everybody. That is: I wanted to make clear what "object" meant in
      the original discourse in the middle 19th century, when Marx turned from a
      spirited Hegelian into a passionate and determined materialist of his own

      Great help I found in the works of Peter Keiler who, as a participant in
      the CoP of Critical Psychologists at the Free University of Berlin, was
      criticising several versions of Vygotsky Light making the rounds in student
      papers and teachers' seminar texts of the late seventies.

      The conceptual problem has to do with the category called "gegenst=E4ndliche
      T=E4tigkeit" -- usually translated as object-oriented activity. It means
      literally a being active with regard to some thing. The word thing (German
      Ding) incidentally means nothing more than "issue brought before the
      "Thing" (i.e. a palaver of the elders; central men who had, however, talked
      in their home spheres about the issues before that...).

      Curiously, this word then came to mean inanimate objects, mainly.
      Therefore, a more abstract kind of name was invented by coining
      "Gegenstand", a translation of Latin objectum -- "thing presented to the
      mind", as the Oxford Concise Dict explains, -- "and not to the council or
      to the community" as we might add. "Gegenstand" means that *which stands
      counter me*, then. This happened around 1650, I believe. Meanwhile
      "Gegenstand" again means concrete objects for most people, although it is
      also still the abstract word used in laws and court discourses, in
      technical papers like patents, some philosophy, etc.

      =46rom this analysis I concluded to work with a neo-logism: "counter-
      process" (Gegenprozess): that which a me or we wrestles with. "Prozess" is
      also the word in German for a trial before a judge; therefore the
      collateral meanings evoked are beneficial: Something social, running in
      conventional forms, yet never to be predicted; except by *very clever*
      young or old LA Law figures, maybe... That's what's making the suspense for
      many who watch that series.


      Peter Keiler found three senses of "gegenst=E4ndlich" in Marx's early
      writings (before 1848 and the Manifesto):

      A human may:

      (1) wrestle literally, i.e. bodily, with another human. The prime example
      for Marx here was Love, not War, building on Feuerbach's passionate
      arguments against the pure spirit processes of Hegel, and on the very fresh

      experience with Jenny Marx -- they had their wedding before they decided to
      emigrate to Paris, driven away by Prussian censorship.

      This means that reproduction of the community of bodies is the primary

      meaning. This is said against the orthodox Marxist error to put production
      first in a theory of human history.

      Related to a counter process then means to *be* a body, single or in

      transactions, in love, work, and "trouble". A good name for this shade of
      meaning of the category might be "human Drama" -- as Politzer suggested,
      and Vygotsky took up enthusiastically.

      (2) Humans may wrestle with things -- what he or she or they *have* as
      their external object, nature, and sense, [was sie "als Gegenstand, Natur,
      Sinn ausser sich haben", Marx 1844]
      i.e. with things, social situations,
      products, organisations,...

      This is the usually meaning in activity theory -- the reference object
      numbered (i) above when we look at a conversation at work.

      (3) Humans may wrestle with one another non-literally, they may *be*
      object, nature, and sense for a third (party, being, CoP,...) [k=F6nnen
      "selbst Gegenstand, Natur, Sinn f=FCr ein drittes sein", Marx 1844]

      This, I propose is sense (ii) of object from above, i.e. Ritva's "social
      object", and what I take to be Vygotsky's intended meaning when he defined
      the difference of the sign from the tool as it's self-directedness or

      inner-directedness. -- Peirce also saw as prime function of semiosis the
      beautiful, ethical, and true self-control, true, that is, in the sense that
      any conceivable and living community of scholars will finally accept as the

      ground from where to go further...

      I have stressed many times here in the xfamily that we shouldn't construe
      "self" as meaning only the [social] individual, and we also should not

      think that the problem of the border of individuals or groups or CoPs is
      solved with a renounce of Cartesiam dichotomies. Therefore, "internal" may
      mean "internal to a class", for instance, pertaining to the social object

      of the class, to its (their) self- regulative objective.

      Imagine my sheer wonder when I found that Peirce's Firstness, Secondness,
      and Thirdness match exactly with the three shades of "object" with respect

      to subject's activity that Marx had distinguished when Peirce was a
      five-years-old, listening intently to his father, the great mathematician...

      In the next post, I will propose some diagrams for working with these ideas.

      So long: Arne.

      Marx, K. (1968/1844). Kritik der Hegelschen Dialektik und Philo-
      sophie =FCberhaupt. [General Critique of Hegelian Dialectics and

      Philosophy]. MEW Erg.Bd. 1, pp 568-588. Berlin: Dietz Verlag.
      Raeithel, A. (1989). Kommunikation als gegenst=E4ndliche T=E4tigkeit.
      Zu einigen philosophischen Problemen der kulturhistorischen
      Psychologie. In: Knobloch, C. (Ed.). Kognition und Kommunikation.

      Beitr=E4ge zur Psychologie der Zeichenverwendung. M=FCnster: Nodus,
      pp. 29-70.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun May 01 2005 - 01:00:07 PDT