Re: [xmca] Subject: Verb, Object

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Sun Dec 30 2007 - 10:34:15 PST

  If "the object of activity [is] always over the horizon" (ie, out of sight) doesn't this imply that any supposedly individual subject of the activity could never consciously represent the object in a way that corresponds to it. And, if this is so, what kind of agency could be attributed to a subject that can't represent to itself the object of its activity? An unconscious agent?? A sleep walker?
  I think Ilyenkov's analyses of the social production of concepts provides a way out of the dilemma but the subject in Ilyenkov is not an individual.

Mike Cole <> wrote:
  Leontiev, you msean, Peg. And in the book that David K was reading last time
(My spelling is attributable to the use of the "whole word" method of
reading instruction and perhaps
to the fact that I am left handed. Glad it also pushes at the
skill/knowledge issue as a bonus.

I picked on the same phrase Peg did, but mostly the firs part where you ask
the question of whether
the object of activity can be defined in advance. This sparked two different
lines of thought. First,
that Yrjo speaks of the object of activity always being over the horizon.
Which is related to a line from
Tennyson's Ulysees quoted by Dewey:

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.I take this metaphor to include listening
to what other's say and seeing where it leads,
and to point to a process in time (a developmental process?) by which a
merely understandable
motive (having been imagined by others who describe it to you) and a "really
effective" motive,
e.g., one that now guides your action and its (future) direction.

It also fits with an understanding of the ideal and material aspects of
objects being wildly interwoven.


On Dec 29, 2007 8:05 AM, Peg Griffin

> Interesting work, Andy, thanks for what you have done and pointing to what
> is yet to be done!
> I am particularly moved to reply to a little point at the end with a
> question. When discussing immanent critique, you write "But I think we
> can't
> define the "object" of activity in advance. To start with, we have to take
> it as a whole. We have to listen to what subjects say and accept to a
> certain extent what they say the object is, and see where it leads."
> Here is my question: Do you see here any connection with Leonie's
> distinction and relation between "really effective" and "merely
> understood"
> motives?
> PG
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Andy Blunden
> Sent: Friday, December 28, 2007 6:14 PM
> To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Subject: Verb, Object
> That remark is really to signal that I don't as yet have a worked-out
> response to the issues David has been raising in relation to ANL's concept
> of "activity" only some criticisms of my own. But at the moment, I believe
> that "immanent critique" holds the key. Here is how I understand the idea
> of "immanent critique".
> "Immanent critique" was first developed by Hegel in his Phenomenology.
> See
> where Hegel explains it. The Phenomenology is the canonical example of
> "immanent critique". Hegel does not back sit back and look at the various
> forms of consciousness which have succeeded one another in history, and
> "criticise" tehm from his own superior point of view, but "enters into"
> them, adopts and follows their logic and asks questions of a way of
> thinking from its own standpoint. That is, he follows the path of its own
> critique, until the "ideology" itself leads to an impasse. Subsequently,
> sometimes after an interval, sometimes directly arising from the
> self-scepticism, a new way of thinking arises, which is able to cope with
> or avoid the contradictions into which the previous one fell. And so the
> process goes on. Americans will recognise shades of Thomas Kuhn here, and
> we should all recognise Marx's obsession with political economy. (For
> example, if you look at how capital worked up until 1883, i.e. before
> Taylor's experiments in scientific management, you will see that Marx's
> concept of value was just how capitalists worked. Taylor made a critique
> of
> this business of lengthening the working day and keeping wages down. Marx
> was following capital's own critique, but he died in 1883 and his
> followers
> didn't know what to do next)
> So "immanent critique" means critiquing an object by following its own
> logic:
> "So my friend you say that ..., so doesn't that mean that ... and
> didn't you say you were against that?"
> What does it mean to say that social psychology should adopt "immanent
> critique" as an approach to defining the subject-object relation and its
> concept of "activity"? Well, as I said, this is work in progress, OK? But
> we have to see a subject (its opinions, its strengths, its psychoses, its
> "standpoint", its identity, etc.) as one of many or several possible
> subjects which are part and parcel of a certain way of life. The activity
> which a subject is involved in is defined *by the subject* (and to a
> certain extent vice versa) and becomes something else as a result of the
> working out of that system of activity (and the subject's own critique of
> it).
> So for example, the subject might say "I am a tradesperson. Everyone will
> always need a plumber. I don't have to beg for my money. These
> paper-pushers could disappear tomorrow and we wouldn't miss them ...etc
> etc" - the collected prejudices of a randomly chosen figure in our
> society.
> He is involved in the practice of a trade which guarantees her a
> respectable living standard. The question is, how do contradictions arise
> in *that* way of thinking as the trade become more and more one of
> plugging
> in integrated components, work that can be done by a kid, but work control
> requires the use of all sorts of computers, etc., etc., and altogether all
> the assumptions his or her way of life is predicated on change. ...
> I am only guessing with the above. But I think we can't define the
> "object"
> of activity in advance. To start with, we have to take it as a whole. We
> have to listen to what subjects say and accept to a certain extent what
> they say the object is, and see where it leads.
> Andy
> At 10:09 AM 28/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
> >I follow you right up to the last paragraph in this note, Andy, where you
> >write:
> >
> >I want to go back to Hegel methodologically and work on the claim that an
> >*immanent* critique of the categories of activity is the only viable
> >approach. Otherwise, we are just pulling pre-determined categories out of
> >our own heads. The latter is the usual approach in my view.
> >
> >Probably this means that I need to go back and read your article more
> >carefully.
> >What is an *immanent" critique?
> >
> >mike
> >
> >On Dec 27, 2007 2:35 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
> >
> > > Re Leontyev's concept of "activity'. I wanted to leave this to a kind
> of
> > > "stage two" but since I want to use a category of activity too I have
> to
> > > get to it.
> > >
> > > So far as I can see, for ANL, "activity" is paradigmatically but not
> > > exclusively the "external" activity, of an individual organism. So it
> is
> > > the same category of "activity" as Fichte used in his critique of
> Kant,
> > > which Hegel picks up on. And for ANL it is "instrumental" to use
> Mike's
> > > word (instrumental allows the object to be another subject, treated as
> an
> > > object though), or "purposive", though I think inclusive of unintended
> or
> > > non-conscious components of the actions. So it must be very similar to
> the
> > > category of "practice" insofar as theory and practice are
> differentiated.
> > >
> > > The problem comes for me when you have to get "stuck into" this
> category
> > > and work out the appropriate way of elaborating the various *forms* of
> > > activity. With some good reason, ANL I think moves to a Marxist
> paradigm
> > > of
> > > "mode of production", practice-as-labour, in order to mobilise a
> series
> of
> > > categories through which activity can be grasped. This leads to the
> > > problem
> > > that David identified, namely, that the dichotomy between labour and
> > > communication is a false one. In fact this dichotomy has caused havoc
> in
> > > the whole stream of Cultural Psychology over the past 200 years, from
> > > Hegel
> > > to Marx to CHAT to contemporary contintental philosophy. Hegel dropped
> the
> > > paradigm of labour in favour of a paradigm of critique around 1805, at
> the
> > > same time as he adopted a monological concept of Spirit. Marx returned
> to
> > > a
> > > paradigm of labour in 1844. Then in the anti-Marxist tide of the
> post-WW2
> > > period everyone from French philosophers to critical theorists
> abandoned
> > > labour for communication as the paradigm. Some also turn to aesthetic
> > > acitivity as the paradigm (subject-object, subject-other or
> subject-self
> > > are the three possible relations here).
> > >
> > > It seemed to me that the position of LSV which I so valued was that
> > > held that it was the WHOLE of social practice (not just labour), and
> the
> > > WHOLE of culture (not just means of production) which were the
> operative
> > > concepts for psychology.
> > >
> > > The problem remains though, if we are not to simply adopt and take
> over
> > > the
> > > orthodox marxist categories of the labour process as the basis for
> > > psychology, and I think that is the case, and we are not to go with
> > > Foucault, Derrida, Habermas etc., and ditch labour in favour of
> > > communicative action (or aesthetic action in some cases), then how do
> we
> > > begin to get a handle on activity which is appropriate for psychology?
> > >
> > > I want to go back to Hegel methodologically and work on the claim that
> an
> > > *immanent* critique of the categories of activity is the only viable
> > > approach. Otherwise, we are just pulling pre-determined categories out
> of
> > > our own heads. The latter is the usual approach in my view.
> > >
> > > Andy
> > >
> > > At 11:11 AM 27/12/2007 -0800, you wrote:
> > > >Great help, David, thanks. And Andy and Paul.
> > > >
> > > >David- In Cultural Psychology I also level the charge of a focus on
> > > >instrumentality - object oriented-ness at Leontiev. But you can find
> > > places
> > > >in his writing where the "object" is a
> > > >person, a sujbect, and he talks about subject-subject relations.
> Yrjo
> > > has
> > > >some such quote in Learning by Expanding.
> > > >...
> > >
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > xmca mailing list
> > >
> > >
> > >
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> Andy Blunden : (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
> mobile 0409 358 651
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Received on Sun Dec 30 10:36 PST 2007

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