Re: [xmca] dialectical ideas

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Wed Nov 29 2006 - 13:29:36 PST

The subject-object problem which is most relevant to research is the great
breakthrough that Vygotsky and his group made in their experimental
technique, the method of "double stimulation" and so on.
The point is that when we do scientific research, we are self-conscious
about the fact that as a scientist we are the subject; the experimental
situation or the participants are the object, the experiment is a system of
activity involving equally both subject and object. For Cultural Psychology
(etc.) the subject is part of the experiment, but this is known also to
"traditional" objectivist science. Science as still taught in universities
requires that the subject (i.e., the experimenter) remove themselves from
the experimental activity, separate themselves from the object (it is hard
to find a coherent way of expressing this nonsense), etc., so that the
object can be observed in itself. Cultural Psychology (etc) understands
that this is nonsense. The evidence sought can only refers to the activity
of the subject and object together. So Vygotsky & Co., devised all these
marvellous experimental set-ups where the result is self-consciously
expressed in terms subject-object activity, rather than mystified in the
form of structures reified as properties of the object alone.
This does not mean, in my opinion, that Cultural Psychology is immune from
the kind of errors (eg anthropologists or zoologists who massively
intervene in an ecosystem they claim to observe and report what is
basically a reflection of themselves in the mirror of their experimental
object, mistaking that image of the subject for an object in itself)
resulting from failure to isolate the aspects of the experimental
collaboration which are attributed to the subject on one hand and the
object on the other. The point is to be self-conscious about
experimentation as collaboration, aware of the relationship.
One implication of this observation is that ZPD is of course a reification
of an aspect of subject-object collaboration as if it were a property of
the object (e.g.the child-participant). Like most reifications, there is a
material basis for it, but I think Mike made the point very well in his
Cultural Psychology book somewhere, that a ZPD is in relation to a social
position, but simply in the novice.
So realisation that subject and object mutually define one another (I think
Wolff-Michael put it very well, it's very difficult to express this
relation perfectly in a few words), does not rule out evidence-based
science, but it does rule out the idea of experience which can be reified
as simply facts, i.e., properties of the objective world, rather than the
story of particular interventions by a scientist, with regular implications
relevant to further interventions.
So people seeking empirical evidence for the validity of the ZPD as a
concept in pedagogy will collect stories of interventions in a person's
learning by "representatives" of a society (community of practice or
whatever) where evidence can be gathered that the intervention brought
about a learning development. A complex requirement, but surely not more
problematic than many other ideas about Mind. Almost every one of Marx's
Theses on Feuerbach is talking about this issue.
At 07:46 AM 29/11/2006 -0800, you wrote:
>Michael and Andy--
>I found your two forumations very useful to think with.
>I wonder if you could, in terms of your two formulations, adress the
>possibililty of empirical (not empiricist!) consequences that might guide
>On 11/29/06, Wolff-Michael Roth <> wrote:
>>I don't think that it is quite as Andy suggested. The subject (of
>>consciousness) and the object (of consciousness) are different AND
>>are not different. They are not entities, and above all they are NOT
>>elements in the activity system. They are moments, which I understand
>>as identifiable structures that cannot stand on their own but are
>>mutually constitutive with all the other structures.
>> An object (of consciousness) always is the object of consciousness
>>to a subject of consciousness. At the level of activity and action,
>>it orients the intentions (motives, goals) of collectives and
>> If you want to use the triangle as a crutch, then think of it as
>>existing twice---not just the object----materially and in consciousness.
>>On 29-Nov-06, at 7:28 AM, wrote:
>>I know this may oversimplify things, but. . . .
>>THE explanation for this? You being the Hegelphile i hope you could
>> Andy Blunden
>> <ablunden who-is-at mira.n To: "eXtended
>>Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>> et> cc:
>> Sent by: Subject: RE: [xmca]
>>Empirical Evidence for ZPD
>> xmca-bounces who-is-at web
>> 11/28/2006 03:22
>> PM
>> Please respond
>> to "eXtended
>> Mind, Culture,
>> Activity"
>>Big question Michael.
>>index.htm for
>>a book-length answer from Lektorsky.
>>Subject and object are always two distinct entities, but the subject
>>self-conscious system of activity) arises out of some definite,
>>system of activity when it becomes self-conscious, and the activity then
>>constitutes (in AN Leontyev's words) the "intertraffic" between
>>subject and
>>object. The activity of the subject then is to objectify itself in the
>>object, giving its activities material forms deposited in the objective
>>world around it, vested with meanings by which the subject
>>"institutionalises" itself.
>>So in the beginning there is no distinction, because the relevant
>>system of
>>activity has not yet become self-conscious, and in the end there is no
>>distinction because the subject has "naturalised" its activity and
>>indistinguishable from the object. These are of course both
>>tendencies, and
>>not absolute truths, and the whole life of a subject exists between
>>two poles.
>>At 02:03 PM 28/11/2006 -0500, you wrote:
>> > Andy and Paul,
>> >
>> > What is the argument that a dialectical approach, even dialectical
>> > materialism, dissolves the difference between subject and object?
>> > I guess
>> > we are all influenced by what we have been reading lately, but it
>> > seems
>> > that it is difficult for a dialectic based perspective to escape the
>> > idealism trap.
>> >
>> > Thanks,
>> >
>> > Michael
>> >
>> > -----Original Message-----
>> > From: [mailto:xmca-
>> > >] On
>> > Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>> > Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 5:09 AM
>> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> > Subject: Re: [xmca] Empirical Evidence for ZPD (was= Does
>> > VygotskyAccept
>> > the "Assistance Assumption"?)
>> >
>> > Paul, surely you overstate the matter.
>> >
>> > ZPD is, like all scientific concepts, a theory-laden object. To say
>> > that
>> > exists says that certain more or less well-defined procedures
>> > understood
>> > within the Vygotskyan theory, will produce this or that verifiable
>> > result.
>> > Otherwise what is the useof the concept and the theory of which it
>> > is a
>> > part? While there are lots of concepts within the Vygotskyan theory
>> > which
>> > are new and unique, or have a Marxist genealogy, there are also plenty
>> > which are shared with all pedagogical theories and common sense. In
>> > fact,
>> > all scientific theories must incorporate "common sense" concepts into
>> > framework in order to be truly scientific. "Empiricism" denies that
>> > scientific objects are "theory laden" and that there is anything
>> > problematic in the idea of a purely factual test for the existence
>> > of some
>> > object. But to deny Empiricism is not to deny the validity and
>> > necessity
>> > empirical evidence.
>> >
>> > And surely it is wrong to say that in Marxism or Vygotsky "the subject
>> > object distinction is dissolved". The absolute independence and
>> > separateness of subject and object is certainly denied by Marx and
>> > Vygotsky, but neither claim that "subject" and "object" are invalid
>> > concepts, or concepts between which no distinction can be made. For
>> > example, Marx does not claim that an object (e.g. ZPD) exists
>> > insofar as a
>> > subject (Vygotskyan psychology) incorporates the concept in its
>> > activity,
>> > so that empirical refutation of the concept is ruled out in
>> > principle. No
>> > subject exists in absolute separateness from every other subject, all
>> > subjects exist in a material and therefore infinitely interconnected,
>> > world. So the identity of subject and object can only be relative, not
>> > absolute.
>> >
>> > Andy
>> >
>> > At 12:26 AM 28/11/2006 -0800, you wrote:
>> >> Isnī't the idea of "empirical" evidence for the ZPD something of an
>> >> oxymoron in itself? Didn{t Vygotsky develop his thinking within the
>> >> framework of dialetical materialism, something that many north
>> >> and others seem all too ready to forget? Isn't the concept of a
>> >> ZPD a
>> >> dialectical model in itself, which is to say, a model in which the
>> >> subject object distinction is dissolved, a dissolution which
>> >> defies the
>> >> concept of empirical?
>> >> Paul Dillon
>> >
>> > Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380
>> > 9435, AIM
>> > identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > xmca mailing list
>> >
>> >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > xmca mailing list
>> >
>> >
>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380
>>9435, AIM
>>identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>>xmca mailing list
>>xmca mailing list
>>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Jan 03 2007 - 07:14:22 PST