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Re: [xmca] Consciousness, Piaget

Mike, et al--

I see two problems with the formulation I used about Ilyenkov claiming that ideality is independent of consciousness and will ...

First, it would have been clearer if I had specified **individual** consciousness and will, as in a **particular** individual's mentality. Ilyenkov explained that ideality as a phenomena occurs as a result of **social** processes. According to him, ideality is not just something that happens inside individual heads.

Second, there is an even more important problem with my formulation - the way I used the word, "independent," which, used by itself in the context I put it, is one-sided and misleading. Ilyenkov puts it much more clearly:

"“Ideality” is, indeed, necessarily connected with consciousness and will, but not at all in the way that the old, pre-Marxist materialism describes this connection. It is not ideality that is an “aspect”, or “form of manifestation” of the conscious-will sphere but, on the contrary, the conscious-will character of the human mentality is a form of manifestation, an “aspect” or mental manifestation of the *ideal* (i.e., socio-historically generated) *plane of relationships between man and nature*."
paragraph 133 of 143 in The Concept of the Ideal
see http://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/ideal/ideal.htm

As a result of this little side discussion on ideality, I found myself taking another close look at this essay, and have put something together on it in another post. Thanks, Mike.

- Steve

On Sep 10, 2009, at 2:35 PM, Mike Cole wrote:

Steve et al--

I have not been a real part of this discussion because I have been meeting up-close deadines and trying to read very carefully through Anna Sfard's book.*Thinks as Communicating. *I also find Ilyenkov very difficult and
have, thus far, only "cherry picked" ideas that seemed to give
voice to intuitions I have had during years of teaching, but could find no relevant formulations for. So I cannot respond adequately here, Steve, to
your question, although taken in its present context, I find it very
difficult to believe that " ideality (roughly, the social meanings of
things) is independent of human will and consciousness as well." Partly this is because I assume the artificial to be the embodiment to prior human goal
achieving actions that have
survived to be present in our current activities.

Recently Jay published a review of Anna's book in MCA which is well worth
reading, but
as i work my way through it, her ideas reverberate with the traces of the
current discussion
I am able to grok in passing, or feel like I am "getting."

One of these is her suggestion that a concept is " a word or other signifier WITH ITS DISCURSIVE USE (my emphasis). That complicates identifying words and concepts and moves us toward a Wittgensteinian notion of word meaning.

I also think that reading the Davydov materials posted by Andy is important
because VVD
was quite critical of Vygotsky's notion of concept.

I am also trying to think about how to extended the into-image-making
"level" of consciousness, which occurs, "behind our backs" (or beneath our
notice) and other forms of
imagination which are clearly linguistically mediated and quite deliberate
-- A book on
"Rational Imagination."

I sure wish there was a way to allign our temporally and geographically
distributed musing
and wonderings. For now, getting the XMCA archive fixed up and stable is the
next best step
I can manage.

Thanks to you and David and the others who are doing close readings and well
summaries, evaluations, and extrapolations. Keeps the golden ring just
almost within reach.


On Thu, Sep 10, 2009 at 3:38 PM, Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com> wrote:

Mike, David, all: I have a question about the how some of Ilyenkov's views on thinking and consciousness align with the comments on consciousness that you make, Mike, in your 2006 article, which you linked us to the other day (see post below). Keeping in mind that this article had a more specific purpose, to make the case for the intertwining of phylogeny and culture in human mental life, it nevertheless makes a brief but very interesting point
about consciousness itself.

I find myself agreeing with both Ilyenkov, and the observations in this article. But there seem to be some links missing between the two views,
which I am puzzling over.

Ilyenkov, for his part, makes it clear that he believes the world of
objects is independent of human will and consciousness.  In my
interpretation of the passages from Problems of Dialectical Logic that David and I have been discussing, Ilyenkov also believes that the **connections** between human thought and the world of objects are independent of human will
and consciousness.  Furthermore, in Chapter 8 of his book Problems of
Dialectical Logic (1974/1977), and in his essay The Concept of the Ideal (1962/1977), Ilyenkov argues that the ideal, that is, ideality (roughly, the social meanings of things) is independent of human will and consciousness as

My question is: How do Ilyenkov's claims - or perhaps put another way,
**do** his claims - align with Mike's thoughts on consciousness?

Here are Mike's comments about human consciousness in this 2006 article,
which seem very reasonable to me:

"A provocative way to think about phylogeny–culture–cognition relations among humans is to consider the combination of processes that appears to be necessary for an adult human to experience a visual image of the world (the same processes presumably apply to images in other sensory modalities but
the relevant data are lacking)." p 237

After a very helpful description of human vision processes, (which, after
reading this, could be said to be discontinuously continuous and
continuously discontinuous!), Mike concludes:

"Following the logic of this line of research on what might be termed ‘‘the components of the visual image” we can conclude that one component is highly specified by factors arising from human beings’ phylogenetic history and one part from the individual’s culturally organized experience, which itself is the residue of the cultural history of the individual’s social group. However, these two sources of experience are not sufficient to provide a coherent image of the object before one’s eyes. Rather, it requires a ‘‘third component,” the active reconciliation or filling-in by active humans seeking to make sense of their experience for an integrated, veridical image
of the world to arise and be maintained.

"In addition to its value as a reminder of the tripartite nature of human
conscious experience, the stabilized image experiment is valuable in
underlining the fact that the causal relations between the brain and culture are bi-directional and that neither constituent of psychological processes is sufficient; the active resolving activity of the human being striving to make sense of the world is a necessary component of normal consciousness as
well."  p 239.

- Steve

On Sep 3, 2009, at 4:18 PM, Mike Cole wrote:

Your multi-lingualism, as always, David, is very helpful, along with your
broad and close readings.

I am a very late comer to the issues of consciousness, having been raised
the era when the term
was exorcized by American psychology. You can find my first halting steps
coming to grips with
the idea in *Cultural Psychology, *in the chapter where I describe the analysis of question-asking reading that Peg Griffin invented and which I still work with as a teaching tool. There we replace the solid triangle with a triangle that is "open at the front end" putting time along the
bottom line and having a gap
between the mediated and direct connections between subject and object.
process of filling that
gap is the process of consciousness. This idea appears in a different
nascent form in analysis of
fixed images on the retina that can be found at
The fixed image data make clear that tripartate nature of HUMAN
consiousness, where discoordination is constituitive of consciousness.
elsewhere i have written about taking the russian term,
voobrazhenie  into-image-making as THE fundamental cognitive act.

All of these involve, I believe,
a) awareness
b) noticing
c) selection
d) potential anticipation

But there are so many more and many different ways of thinking of the
matter. False consciousness is a term I worry about a lot.

Color me self conscious.

On Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 4:03 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com

Tony, Mike:

We translated Piaget's "prise de conscience" as "seizure of
except that in Korean the verbal noun has the more psychological sense of "grasping" as when you grasp a meaning that you didn't really understand
a phrase that you have heard many times. So, to nominalize, the "prise de
conscience" is the "graspture of awareness" or the "rapture of
Every child is an awareness raptor.

I think that one important thing to grasp here is that "conscience" in French is not really the homuncular "consciousness" we have in English,
more than it is the obvious false friend, the meaning of a moral
"conscience" that we find in English writings on ethics. It has a number
OTHER meanings that attracted Vygotsky to Piaget, to wit:

a) awareness

b) noticing

c) selection

d) potential anticipation

It seems to me that all of these can be conceptualized as moments in the passing of the child from a relatively passive, reactive state to a much
more voluntary, volitional one.

Last night, I was re-reading Engestrom's old book "Learning by
which some of our teachers are busy translating into Korean. In Chapter
he does try to tackle the question that I think gives the "prise de
conscience" its real importance, which is the question of whether and at
what point learning is REVERSIBLE--at what point the laying down of
socioculturally accumulated experience becomes the creation of new
for the next phase of sociocultural progress.

I think Engestrom sees Vygotsky's preliminary considerations of history (which he describes, it seems to me incorrectly, as phenomenological),
laboratory experiments (what Paula and Carol replicated), his empirical classroom observations (Chapter Six of T&S) and his theorizing as moments
a single process which can be REVERSED in order to yield the next, higher phase of expansion. The first process works from outside in, and the
from inside out.

The problem, it seems to me, is the crisis. the "prise de conscience" is
really a crisis par excellence, and a crisis is by definition NOT
reversible. For example, awareness is not simply the end point of
done backwards, nor is noticing the endpoint of attentional selection in reverse. Obviously, active anticipation requires awareness, noticing,
and attentional selection, but not vice versa.

So the crisis obeys different laws, and we can also expect post- critical development to be different from precritical development in important
In physics, a shock wave cannot, by definition, be understood with the
mathematics we use to describe continuous phenomenon. And the shock
reverberates: if a crisis is generally restructuring, we have to expect
the laws of the next phase of social progress are going to be in some way
fundamentally different.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education


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