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Mediation AND monism was Re: [xmca] Consciousness"only a part of the material quality of theman-sign"
See comments below.
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.
Why not both? Are they necessarily counterposed? Or aren't they both
fundamental to a [note the article] dialectical materialism?
Andy, you may not think the monist element useful; others, including me,
might find it necessary to a fundamentally materialist approach - either way
the problem with motherhood statements isn't that they're not true but that
nobody could disagree with them. In fact, in the wider world there are
plenty of people who do but that's not the issue here.
Consciousness is not just correlated with matter through activity but also
through the particular organisation of matter that enables consciousness to
emerge. One of the reasons the question has been posed in dichotomous terms
that aren't useful is that up to now (I nearly wrote 'until now' but we're
not there yet) there has not been an adequate scientific explanation of
consciousness which has allowed all sorts of both reductionist materialism
and idealist mysticism (not quite the word I'm after - nor am I including
Andy in that) to flourish. I started but did not finish writing a post as
follows a couple of days ago:
<<Isn't the idea of consciousness as an emergent property of matter the key
understanding the relationship between the two? Consciousness is then the
result of a particular form of organisation of a particular form of matter
(brain cells) and cannot exist without it but has properties that mean it is
not simply reducible to a particular configuration of physical matter.
Exactly how the 'upward causation' works is not yet known but as I
understand it this view is both compatible with both the current state of
the science and with a non-reductionist materialist philosophy .
This is not to say that 'consciousness is given' in the sense of being
rather that the matter develops both through biological processes and in
a form affected by interaction with the environment - for humans,
The idea of emergence implies a stratified conception of both matter and of
human beings and thus is not reductionist. Rather the point is that if we
are talking about a materialist ontology one has to provide an explanation
of how higher order forms (both historically and in terms of complexity)
such as consciousness are possible at all on the basis of lower order forms.
Otherwise they are left hanging. I don't have a problem with the idea of a
'substratum' if understood as a level that we need to understand the
properties of consciousness rather than something separate. A multi-level
ontology (with more than the three levels Andy refers to but including them)
necessarily implies mediation but also includes the 'monist' moment. Matter
as abstraction from its forms - is, I think, necessary even if one is asking
such a 'higher order', 'social' question as the nature of the ideal. Perhaps
we can all agree that this is taken for granted and a motherhood statement -
if so, good but I think it's still necessary to state it.
Finally a few points I intended to make earlier:
(1) I think people have been using the term material in two different
senses - one = reducible to matter; two = having a material force or impact
on the world - which maybe has confused things;
(2) To say consciousness is 'all we have' to know the workl with is
irrelevant to conceptualising the relationship between matter and
consciousness. It is an epistemological statement rather than an ontological
one. If we were to discuss whether or how a true ontology was possible or
sustainable given consciousness is 'all we have', that would be a different
discussion to which there are both philosophical and above all practical (cf
Theses on Feuerbach) answers.
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" <email@example.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Saturday, September 26, 2009 6:40 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Consciousness"only a part of the material quality of
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
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