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Re: [xmca] Classical German Philosophy

I can't answer most of these questions Mike, but the "root model" is not a unit-of-analysis and no Urphaenomen. It simply doesn't qualify; it is an open-ended totality that is not given to the senses and is a compound of 11 concepts. It is the foundation for an abstract empirical research project with some marxist terminology thrown in.

I presume that Yrjo realised this at the time he wrote Expanding, because just when he's completed his review of units-of-analysis, he drops the term and introduces his "root model" and the "terms and conditions" he specifies for the "root model" have some characteristics of unit-of-analysis but mostly they are inventions of his own.

I repeat: I think it is a great book. A classic, but I would say, in a nutshell:

A N Leontyev was right in determining that Vygotsky had a problem in that he omitted from his unit of analysis the motivation for action. It remained "over the horizon" for Vygotsky. ANL was right in determining that an Activity Theory, and a concept of "an activity" (singular) was needed, but failed in extending LSV's methodology to solve this problem. So ANL left us a functionalist solution to the shortfalls in Vygotsky's theory. Yrjo (in my opinion) addressed a lot of the problems in ANL's theory, but continued his methodology. That's how I see it. I think most of the researchers on this list in one way or another seek to compensate for the limitations of LSV's unit; if they don't follow ANL, they usually use modern ideas like discourse theory, poststructuralism, etc.


mike cole wrote:
Now darn, I thought the "root model" was a paraphrase of the idea of
"genetically primary example" which I had (probably mistakenly!) associated with the idea of urphenomenon, from, well, maybe, some once upon a time German or other.

All of this may be related to the question of what the term, development,
refers to.

For myself, I have been wondering a lot about the relationship between the terms learning and development in Yrjo's writing. Sometimes they seem to be different, sometimes the same. By contrast, its difficult to see how to make the distinction at all in a variety of approaches that go under the banner of "socio-cultural".

Gets puzzlinger and puzzlinger, the further I go. Probably some vicious circle, sans spiral, despite time in the unit of analysis.

On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 6:25 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Engestrom's original book is a great book. I really enjoyed the
    critique of Mead, Popper and so on, and his stuff about mediation is
    just like the pre-Phenomenology Hegel (1803-5). And this is no
    accident because these triangles were passed down the line to us via
    Marx and Vygotsky.

    The difference comes when you get to the Concept. Engestrom abandons
    "unit of analysis" in favour of "root model," though he certainly
    doesn't make any big fanfare about this departure. But it is
    faithfully recorded in "Expanding."

    The Individual-Universal-Particular moments of a concept is a
    completely different thing from (for example) Norms, Tools and
    Division-of-Labour. Each of Norms, Tools and DoL can exist
    separately. It is true of course that a tool is not a tool until it
    is used in labour and there are many other such "mutual
    constitutions" going on in Engestrom's "root model," but in the end
    the root model is a collection of 11 different concepts. Hegel's is
    just one concept, a.k.a. "Unit of analysis." It is just impossible
    to think a concept without a word or artefact of some kind which is
    the focal point of the thought, instantiated in an individual and
    involved in some social practice (eg speaking and hearing, or
    reading and writing). This is more than "mutual constitution."


    mike cole wrote:

        Hell, Andy, I know nothing, so to speak of Hegel. But after
        Michael helps us focus
        in on what he finds valuable in Heidegger, we will be better
        educated. Note, re
        "triangles within triangles"

        You have to consider the expanded triangle, "genetically" in
        terms of its origins,
        and as a mutually constituted whole. Sounds a lot like your
        characterization of

        On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 4:23 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
        <mailto:ablunden@mira.net> <mailto:ablunden@mira.net
        <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

           Although many others played a role, it was Hegel who taught
        us how
           to finally overcome dichotomies and conceive things as a
        whole. In
           his anatomy of Mind, Hegel has two cross-cutting triangles,
        not just
           the usual series of triangles-within-triangles that are more

           (1) Hegel makes the concept the unit of a social formation,
        not the
           individual person, and expends a lot of heat and lots of
           triads-within-triads tracing how the forms of practice and their
           representation emerge, independently of the will and awareness of
           individuals. First create your concept, then people can think it.

           (2) The subject itself (still not an individual mind) has three
           "moments" Individual, Universal and Particular. The Universal is
           what we call "artefact" (well not necessarily a token, but
        what it
           is that makes the artefact what it is, the whole class of
           The Particular are the social practices (forms of practice,
           institutions and their instantiation) in which the Universal
        is (as
           Michael says) *constituted*. The Individual is an actual existent
           thing or person which implements the actvity. As CEOs like to say
           "an organisation is only as good as it people."

           Hegel knew, like everyone else knows, that only individual human
           beings, with skulls, think. There is no such thing (except
           metaphorically) as "collective consciousness" - only shared
           artefacts and social practices/activities and a lot of
           thinking and acting in concert.

           So I make no apology for talking about individuals, or asserting
           that without individual people and material tokens of
        artefacts and
           practices, there would be no mind.


           PS. I know nothing of Heidegger.

           Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:

               Hi Mike,
               the issue I want to highlight is the mutual constitution. It
               makes no sense to talk about tools as if they could be
               and talked about independent of the concrete practical
               object/motive oriented activity. You cannot talk about
               subjectivity/identity independent of activity, and yet
        people do
               it all of the time. Take, for example, all those scholars who
               use interviews to get at "identity," and do not make thematic
               the fact that the interview is the activity, and its
               object/motive is the production of the interview/text.
               the text has anything to do with the activity of a teacher at
               school, or a student at school, never (hardly every) is

               The same, we observe scholars who are looking for and writing
               about the tools, as if the nature of the tool could be
               identified independent of the activity---

               This is precisely the point Heidegger makes, and – sorry
               you are NOT right on this point in your commentary –
               says precisely in many instances what Leont'ev also says, and
               Heidegger did it a few years before Leont'ev.

               ((And again, sorry Andy, Heidegger works out precisely
        the issue
               of consciousness in activity, and the relation of the
        subject to
               the tool, which is at the heart of Leont'ev))

               Mike, what we are getting to, then, is cognition separate
               life, cognition that makes no sense because it is not
               to the senses in sensual practical activity.
               Precisely when we substantialize the things that are part
        of the
               activity --- for Leont'ev, only those things are relevant
               are relevant to the subject, and this point is brought out by
               Klaus Holzkamp ---- not the kind of stuff outside researchers
               bring to the situation when they take the triangle as the
               through which they look at situations, at activities. For the
               subject it is totally irrelevant what the researcher sees and
               thinks, and this is another form of breaking things out of an
               integrated and dynamic whole.


               On 2010-03-07, at 8:28 AM, mike cole wrote:

               Thanks Andy, and Michael for the section ref to Leontiev.

               Could I repeat a second part of my question which appears to
               have gotten
               lost in the multiple threads?

               Michael wrote: "you have been breaking out individual
               (constitutive) moments
               of activity and treated them as elements, much like
        others take
               the YE
               triangle and then break out the object, the subject, the
               division of labor,
               the tools..."

               I asked about how one talks about how one breaks out
        "moments of
               (that is how I phrase the matter when I am thoughtful
        enough to
               do so), and,
               having highlighted them, given the impression that they are
               elements in a static sense. What sort of language does
        one use
               to be able,
               for example, to talk about a particular division of labor,
               without at least
               deep backgrounding, say, the tools being used or the web of
               social rules
               that are recruited in this instance?

               Even to say that "everything is connected to everything else"
               implies some
               notion of "things/processes" that are connected. How to avoid
               misunderstanding and distinguish it from disagreement?

               On Sun, Mar 7, 2010 at 2:50 AM, Andy Blunden
        <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>
               <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

                   If anyone is interested in exploring the German
                   and the roots of
                   Activity Theory and Cultural Psychology in their
        writings, I
                   have put
                   together a page :
                   where you can browse as you wish ...

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

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        <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>

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

    xmca mailing list
    xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

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

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