Re: [xmca] Re: Kant and the Strange Situation

From: Wolff-Michael Roth <mroth who-is-at>
Date: Sat Oct 25 2008 - 11:59:38 PDT

that is right. I just did a search on the 700 pages of PDF version of
Das Kapital and found exactly 4 incidences of the letter sequence
"reflekt", which would pick up all the noun and verb versions.

In the other 3 instances we have not yet discussed, the verb
"reflekt" may be read as "correspond" rather than as "being mirror
image of" because, in each case, the reflection is DIFFERENT than the
thing being reflected.



PS: Marx says about English that it is a "language that loves to
express the immediate thing in Germanic form but what corresponds to
the thing in a Romanic manner" (p. 50 note 4, MEW Band 23). The
example he gives for the immediate (material) thing is use-value, the
(dialectically) corresponding ideal is exchange-value.

As I am writing the PS, I am thinking that the "reflection" in
Leont'ev really refers to the dialectical complement, we have on the
one hand the material plain, on the other the ideal plane, and they
correspond, they are not equal, says Marx, they CANNOT be equal, for
otherwise we do not get the dialectical tension. It is probably
better to think "correspond" when Leont'ev writes "reflection" rather
than reflect in the mirror sense.

PPS: I just searched the German translation of Leont'ev Activity,
Consciousness, Personality. In it, the verb reflect appears 5 times,
the noun never. In the first instance, "reflektieren" is used in the
sense of "think about", in the second instance it is a reference to
light that reflects of an object and falls onto the retina, the third
is the same as the second, the fourth in articulating what Rubinstein
rather than he thinks, and in the fifth case he uses the term "on the
level of the reflecting consciousness", but here again it is
consciousness that deliberates, not that is a reflection of reality
(like in the mirror case)

I think that is pretty definitive about the use of the term of
reflection in Kant, Marx, and Leont'ev.

On 25-Oct-08, at 10:37 AM, Martin Packer wrote:


That's helpful. Marx doesn't use reflection much, and like you I
can't find
it in Kant. But it's in the English translations of Vygotsky,
Leontiev, and
Lenin - who I suspect may have been the source of the problem. Or
it's being used in the sense of bringing to expression, as you
suggest. Can
someone help us by comparing the Leontiev passges I cited with the
When I have some more time I'll track down examples in Vygotsky too.


Hi Martin,

Marx does indeed use the term "widerspiegeln" in the sentence you cite.

Das Gehirn der
Privatproduzenten spiegelt diesen doppelten gesellschaftlichen
Charakter ihrer Privatarbeiten nur wider in den Formen, welche im
praktischen Verkehr, im Produktenaustausch erscheinen - den
nützlichen Charakter ihrer Privatarbeiten also in
der Form, daß das Arbeitsprodukt nützlich sein muß, und zwar für
andre - den gesellschaftlichen Charakter der Gleichheit der
Arbeiten in der Form des gemeinsamen Wertcharakters
dieser materiell verschiednen Dinge, der Arbeitsprodukte.

But the Duden, the reference work of German language says that there
are 2 different senses. One is reflection as in a mirror, the other
one that something brings to expression. In this context, I do not
see Marx draw on the mirror idea.

For those who have trouble, perhaps the analogy with mathematical
functions. In German, what a mathematical function does is
"abbilden," which is, provide a projection of, or reflection, or
whatever. You have the word Bild, image, picture in the verb. But
when you look at functions, only y = f(x) = x, or -x gives you what
you would get in the mirror analogy. You get very different things
when you use different functions, log functions, etc. Then the
relationship between the points on a line no longer is the same in
the "image", that is, the target domain.

We sometimes see the word "refraction" in the works of Russian
psychologists, which may be better than reflection. It allows you to
think of looking at the world through a kaleidoscope, and you get all
sorts of things, none of which look like "the real thing."


On 25-Oct-08, at 9:01 AM, Martin Packer wrote:


Here's one example from Marx, and several from Leontiev, if we can
get into
the Russian too.

"The twofold social character of the labour of the individual appears to
him, when *reflected* in his brain, only under those forms which are
impressed upon that labour in every-day practice by the exchange of
products." Marx, Capital, Chapter 1, section 4.

" Activity is a non-additive unit of the corporeal, material life of the
material subject. In the narrower sense, i.e., on the psychological
it is a unit of life, mediated by mental *reflection*, by an *image,*
real function is to orientate the subject in the objective world."
Activity & Consciousness.

" The circular nature of the processes effecting the interaction of the
organism with the environment has been generally acknowledged. But
the main
thing is not this circular structure as such, but the fact that the
*reflection* of the objective world is not directly generated by the
external influences themselves, but by the processes through which the
subject comes into practical contact with the objective world, and which
therefore necessarily obey its independent properties, connections, and
relations." ibid

" Thus, individual consciousness as a specifically human form of the
subjective *reflection* of objective reality may be understood only
as the
product of those relations and mediacies that arise in the course of the
establishment and development of society." ibid

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