Re: [xmca] And now for something completely different: Larry Craig

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Fri Dec 07 2007 - 18:57:50 PST

Estimado Paul:
  I guess when two people disagree as comprehensively as we two usually do, there is always a temptation to simply reply holistically. It is more economical for me to think of your position as a single idealist morass, and even more economical to lump it in with that of Wolff-Michael Roth, so that I can recycle some of my old thoughts and avoid learning new vocabulary and reading Max Weber or re-reading Bourdieu.
  But you are right, it's a temptation that is worth resisting.It is so very worth resisting that I think YOU should resist it too. When I wrote that nobody on the list would object to an argument, I did not mean ALL of my argument (I know that there are people out there to object to Marxism in almost any form). I meant one statement in particular, namely:
  a) "The mind of an individual after death is not the same as a living mind. It is merely the various traces of that once living mind recorded in sundry cultural-historical artefacts."
  Now, I suppose I should have attached a rider, saying that nobody except the esteemed Paul Dillon would object to this statement. But when I look carefully at what you've written, I find that you don't really object to the statement as a whole, but only to various parts of it, such as "the mind of an individual" and "sundry cultural historical artefacts". I am not particularly attached to these parts of it, so I am very happy to rephrase it, thus:
  b) "The mind of a living person is not the same as that of a dead person."
To me b) seems self-evident, but then I also think that about:
  c) "A discourse is not the same as a text."
  To tell you the truth, the two statements are closely related in my mind; I think of texts as being the traces of discourses in cultural artefacts, like the will and testament of a dead person. Yet c) is something that almost every linguist I know finds it possible to disagree with!
  It seems to me that where we really disagree is not on the origins of mind. We both agree that it arises through interactions, that is, it is a discourse and not a textual trace. It's what happens next that we disagree about: you believe that it is "preserved" for future generations as a semiotic tradition or a legacy, and that this is completely equivalent to the original discourse.
  I agree that it is preserved as a semiotic trace of some kind. But what happens next is that semiotic traces (let us call them texts, and not simply dead traditions or legacies) become parts of new discourses.
  This happens because dead people do not communicate, and even their texts do not communicate by themselves. Instead, living people use them to communicate. And in this case the people who pick up the textual traces of previous discourses are different people with somewhat different minds, not the same minds as the original author. This is what allows the social, collective mind (since we must now avoid the word "culture") to develop.
  And it seems to me that no development is possible without some form of destruction, in this case, the destruction of the minds of the dead by those of the living. To me this is what dialectics is really there to describe.
  Trotsky, not Lenin, was the man who said the Bolshevik Revolution would not have happened without Lenin's presence at Finland Station (and this idea was developed at considerable length by Edmund Wilson before I seized on it). I think this statement, however contentious, is still a very long ways from saying that Lenin invented the Bolshevik Revolution. A purely holistic response to a complex argument is(along with Viennese pastry and the works of Zizek) another temptation that is worth not succumbing to.
  Human creativity (and tradition too!) is omnipresent in humans, and so it is never a sufficient cause of development in and of itself. To explain revolutions by citing individual creativity is a little like "explaining" them by referring to oppression. If oppression were enough to incite revolution, there would never be anything but on this miserable earth.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Fri Dec 7 18:59 PST 2007

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