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Re: [xmca] Consciousness"only a part of the material quality of the man-sign"

Good observations about "inner" and "outer," Vera. As an approach to some of these issues, I say "the human body is an artefact like any other."

You say "The categorical distinction between Cs and matter baffles me." Understood. Hegel (or maybe Fichte) was the first person in modern times to realize that this dichotomy is not a good place to start from to resolve the problem of the human condition, or build a system, etc., etc. He simply side-stepped the whole problem with which everyone from Descartes to Kant had been obsessed (including Spinoza). He left this dichotomy to the side and never ever talked about it. His "Ontology" is the first book of the Logic: he reduced Ontology to a critique of the concept of Being. That was a brilliant step. And it was also our first response to the problem of defining consciousness: "Why bother?"

But the problem and the dichotomy is there nonetheless and from time to time it comes up, especially in Psychology, such as when we have people saying "consciousness is material" and we have to deal with it. We have to get clarity. But the consciousness-matter dichotomy is not a good starting point for science.

What to do then? The first answer was Monism. e.g. "everything is matter, even consciousness." Or "consciousness is a property of matter" etc. This does not sidestep the problem but denies it. As I repeatedly said to Martin, if everything is matter, everything you say about matter is a motherhood statement. There is a distinction.

What Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Vygotsky, Leontyev and Peirce all did, each in their own inimitable fashion, was to move away from the binary to a three-part ontology. In general they have "activity" as the mediating element. For Hegel it is "Particular." But the three "moments" can never ever exist separately, they are always moments of one and the same entity. So Cs is always correlated in some way(s) with matter *in and through activity*. There is no Cs without activity.

So our writers rarely talk about this hateful dichotomy, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It cannot be abolished by a monism which simply denies it. Mediation not Monism.

Does that resolve the issues?

Vera Steiner wrote:
I always wondered why "inside" in its strictest interpretation, that of the brain/mind that is not accessible to unmediated eye sight should be such a pervasive metaphor. Now, the "inner" is becoming more accessible with CAT scans, X-ray, imaging, etc, should it still be called "inside?" Theories are not immune to technological change, and this which is so loaded an issue, we are stuck in an old dichotomy. Why is stone the best example for matter? Why not blood that also changes with environmental, physiological and pathological variables? It changes as does the brain/mind through action, through aging, through education, through the increasing, sophisticated understanding of meanings. All of these changes take place with people, or by and through their uses of signs and symbols, which are the consequences of their prior, collective actions? Is material only that which we can touch, but not what we create, including our minds which we create in.interaction with others? The categorical distinction between Cs and matter baffles me, The discussion is still governed, I believe on both sides, by the old difference between in here, that voice in my head, or those images, which are no longer inaccessible, no longer "inner" in the old sense of the word when approached with material tools and the grass outside. But, it seems we cannot help but be snared by its pervasive, metaphoric power..
----- Original Message ----- From: "Martin Packer" <packer@duq.edu>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Saturday, September 26, 2009 6:40 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Consciousness"only a part of the material quality of the man-sign"


You're misrepresenting what I wrote, and why I wrote it. I am indeed arguing that all representational systems are material. Yet I find myself dealing constantly with colleagues who believe that psychology must study non-material representational systems. That to understand children's development, for example, requires studying their 'internal,' 'mental' representations. I was citing Donald's work as an example that does a good job of explaining human cognitive development (historical rather than ontogenetic, but that's not an important difference in this context) with reference only to representational systems that are material. Plus brain functioning, construed in non- representational ways. No tautology here, and no problem.


On Sep 26, 2009, at 7:54 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:

Martin referred to a series of "representational systems" being all "material"; I pointed out that Martin had already said that *everything*, even consciousness, was material so the statement that these representational systems were material was a "motherhood statement", i.e., a tautology.

So I responded "show me a representational system which is *not* material" which is a problem for Martin because he says that everything is material.

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Andy Blunden http://www.erythrospress.com/
Classics in Activity Theory: Hegel, Leontyev, Meshcheryakov, Ilyenkov $20 ea

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