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RE: [xmca] Re: Bladeless Knives Without Handles (David Kellogg)

Dear Professor Kellogg,

Thank you for such detailed and thoughtful reply too. As far as I can I’ll try to be in the track of you :-).
Following our tradition I’ll start from Russian-ness again. Surely I hold in high respect the right of each of us to have any personal associations. One surely can apply to his/her personal association between CYRILLIC letters and some vague personal taste of his/her view of Russian national character or more concretely the special “Russian” style of theoretic arguing :-). I guess that you hint at something like this. Not at “bast shoes” (лапти) or “Russian dolls” (матрёшки).
I am sorry to say I’m entirely Russian in this sense, though I am not sure that I have even one drop of Russian blood in my veins. The same “Russian” style of thinking or “Russian” mentality was typical for Ilyenkov and substantially for Vygotsky. All of them aimed at searching for truth and believed that the truth can be found; at least that we can approach it closer and closer. Surely the style per se can’t guarantee the success in scientific research, in finding the desired truth. But anyhow this disposition is evidently much more appropriate for reaching it than the disposition of politically correct relativism.
Here we meet one strange fact. If we will try to find more examples of such “Russian-ness” in modern Russia we will meet with total failure. It has practically completely disappeared. The dominating style in psychological and even wider in socio-humanitarian research now is composed exchange of balanced arguments which don’t pretend to open any truth but are aimed only at winning the recognition of narrow circle of colleagues.
>From the other sight we will find a lot of examples of such “Russian-ness” in the handicraft shop of one XVII century Amsterdam’s lens polisher, or in the professorial studies of Fichte and Hegel in XIX century Berlin’s university and finally in London’s flat of political emigrant whose name was Karl Marx. Moreover we will find the same “Russian-ness” on the streets of ancient Ephesus, Clazomenae <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clazomenae>  and Athens and later in many times and places.
Concerning “reflection” - this understanding of “Russian-ness” reflects indeed, but it reflects not an accidentality of personal associations between CYRILLIC signs and something vaguely Russian but something much more substantial, much more objective – the real cultural and political history and opposition of rational (classical) thinking and so called “non-classical”, or “post-modernist” one arising from this history. Also it reflects the highest degree of alienation and marketisation <http://multitran.ru/c/m.exe?a=118&t=2669388_1_2>  which involves now academic field so that research from passionate searching truth turned to cool calculating production of salable substitute products.  

David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>  <mailto:vaughndogblack@yahoo.com%3e%20>  wrote:

	Marxism, as a method, can include both the (metaphorical) use of the word "reflection" (in the sense that Cyrillic "reflects" spoken Russian) and the brilliant synthesis of a genetic, functional, and structural explanation that we find in books like "Thinking and Speech" and "Marxism and the Philosophy of Language".

Your statement that “Marxism, as a method, can include” this and that, sounds as an expert opinion. Surely I entirely recognize your right to be an expert in this and many other fields and you probably are such an expert. And yet, can you be so kind to specify what do you mean when you are referring to “Marxism as a method”? I put this question because it seems to me that we use the term “Marxism” in slightly different sense. 
As for me, I had luck to communicate with Ilyenkov during his last years so my Marxism was directly influenced by Evald Vasil’evitch. Even when I dare to argue with some of his definitions, I try to formulate my argumentation in strict concordance with his Marxist or simply dialectical logic.
Surely I know that according the modern academic tradition “Marxist” is a person who publicly declares his/her adherence to Marxism exactly as a Christian is a person who declares that he/she loves Christ. It is considered excessive to demand a proof of the fact. (At least in modern Protestantism.) Even more it is considered inappropriate. As if asking for such proof we encroach on smb's privacy.
Surely if we consider Marxism a quasi-religion and in popular neo-Kantian manner regard it as a special set of “values”, all what we have said previously is quite correct.
But what if we concede a heretical idea that Marx was not neo-Kantian but was a Marxist, and that he believed that his theory has some objective, scientific sense, and that he had really succeeded in transformation of philosophy, historiography and political economy from false and venal ideology into objective science?  In this hardly probable case my modest wish to be presented scientific proofs when we discuss Marxism, sounds a little more convincing, doesn’t it? (Incidentally I voluntary use the term “scientific” in broad Marxist sense as a definition of objective, true cognition. Not in neo-Kantian sense as description of supposedly specific naturalistic type of cognition. Just as Ilyenkov and Karl Marx used to use it.)
So when I state that both Vygotsky and Voloshinov were not Marxists I don’t mean that they had some specific incompatible with Marxism values. I don't care about their values at all. Their values are nothing more than details of their personal biography. Especially as because their values were substantially different, I guess. What I really mean is that their theoretic position was very far from Marxism and that is easy to prove without much trouble.
Let’s put Vygotsky aside for some time not to hurt his fans. The personality of the author of “MARXISM AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE” whoever it was is handier for critical analysis.  Firstly because he is less personalized, and secondly and essentially because his theoretic ideas are substantially better articulated than Vygotsky’s.
Let's examine a fragment from Voloshinov’s text and start from translating it from his special probably influenced by Rosicrucianism :-) language to more standard Marxist one. I mean let's change the term “ideology” to “ideality”. Such substitution is not only possible, but also useful for the sense of the text because it eliminates a strong smack of self-travesty from the text.
	Any ideological product is not only itself a part of reality (natural or social), just as is any physical body, any instrument of production, or any product for consumption, it also, in contradistinction to these other phenomena, reflects and refracts another reality outside of itself. Everything ideological possesses meaning: it represents, depicts, or stands for something lying outside of itself. In other words, it is a sign. Without signs there is no ideology. A physical body equals itself, so to speak; it does not signify anything but wholly coincides with its particular, given nature. In this case, there is no question of ideology.
If the Author of the text actually considers the ideology or the false consciousness we have nothing here to discuss. Falsehood per se hasn’t its own measure or law. This is something that was evident even for ancient philosophers. On the contrary the truth has its law and measure. Truth is a measure not only for itself but for lie too. Thus a straight line is a measure not only for straightness, but for crookedness too. That is something that was absolutely clear even for Aristotle.
>From the other side the Author’s text permits substitution of ideology to ideality, moreover it will only benefit from it.
Let’s read it redrafted <file:///C:\Users\AVRamus\AppData\Local\Temp\Word_0> .
	Any ideal thing or ideality per se is not only itself a part of reality (natural or social), just as is any physical body, any instrument of production, or any product for consumption, it also, in contradistinction to these other phenomena, reflects and refracts another reality outside of itself. Everything ideal possesses meaning: it represents, depicts, or stands for something lying outside of itself. In other words, it is a sign. Without signs there is no ideal. A physical body equals itself, so to speak; it does not signify anything but wholly coincides with its particular, given nature. In this case, there is no question of ideality.

The first definition which underlines the representative character of ideality is rather exact. Here Ilyenkov's and the Author's positions are very close, not to say identical. But the usage of the word “refract” contains a single nuance that tells one from the other. For materialist Ilyenkov as well as for Spinoza and Marx not to mention <file:///C:\Users\AVRamus\AppData\Local\Temp\Word_2>  objective idealists Plato and Hegel the main sense of ideality is its ability to reflect the true nature of its object. I repeat - true, undistorted.
That is why they will never coquette with the term "refract" or even “distort” like Voloshinov in his “Marxism…” and Vygotsky in his “Historical sense…” did. 
	Thus the latter insisted that psyche “…is an organ of selection, a sieve filtering the world and changing it so that it becomes possible to act. In this resides its positive role – not in reflection (the non-mental reflects as well; the thermometer is more precise than sensation), but in the fact that it does not always reflect correctly, i.e., subjectively distorts reality to the advantage of the organism.”
I wonder what kind of magic makes possible that this distortion acts certainly to the advantage of the subject? And not to its disadvantage?
Divine Providence? 
Is that just what you mean essentially “materialistic” and moreover “Marxist” solution?
What is indisputable that an ideality can't be understood from a single thing but necessarily needs relation of two things in which the first one represents the other. And here the main question emerges: what type of representation leads us to true understanding of an object, to its ideal representation, and what representation can lead us to false, or distort image, lead us to IDEOLOGY in its genuine Marxist scornful sense.
Strictly speaking we have scanty choice between two. The first one is well known sign representation with aid of conventional sign. Evidently it can reflect nothing but subjective will of a person who designates something with aid of this sign. And it does not matter if this person is a single man or woman or the convention has a “social” character, is a social convention. Paper or even better electronic money is a striking example of such a social convention which works only inside the society which has established this convention. In a virgin forest or in a desert your bank-papers or plastic cards can serve you at the best as kindling for your campfire so that all their ideality will soon vanish into smoke.
(BTW Vygotsky’s signs were closer to more primitive personal convention, like in Sakharov-Vygotsky experiment with so called artificial concepts, while Voloshinov evidently appealed to social convention.)
The alternative to conventional type of representation is representation by instruments of labour. The form of the latter as contrasted to conventional sign is something substantially objective and independent from any subjective will all the same individual or social. Thus the form of a splitting axe reflects the cleavability of a log whereas the form of a spoon reflects the fluidity of its content. The same ideal representation we can find in a bird’s wing that represents the nature of air and flight. From this materialistic account all signs and symbols can be regarded only as derivative and secondary to instruments of labor form of ideality. That is why a human language as res symbolice can be acquired by a child only after he/she starts to utilize tools, and never in reverse order. That is not only a theoretic statement but an empirical fact.
Meanwhile both Vygotsky and Voloshinov rejected the idea that instruments of labor can reflect anything. Vygotsky declared that a tangible tool can’t play a role of psychological tool, can’t mediate our psychic activity because it is directed incorrectly. Instead of be directed straight on the soul, or at least on the Pineal gland, an implement is directed on the tangible object. That is why the mediation needs a special immaterial tool and Vygotsky thought up an arbitrary sign as such tool. He asserted that between a tool of thinking or psychological tool and material instrument of labour is only relation of analogy. That is to say between them there is no relation at all.
Voloshinov’s attitude to instruments of labor as a mean of idealization is even more negative that Vygotsky’s one. 
	“A tool by itself is devoid of any special meaning; it commands only some designated function – to serve this or that purpose in production. The tool serves that purpose as the particular, given thing that it is, without reflecting or standing for anything else. However, a tool may also be converted into an ideological sign. Such, for instance, is the hammer and sickle insignia for the Soviet Union. In this case, hammer and sickle possesses a purely ideological meaning. Additionally, any instrument of production may be ideologically decorated. Tools used by prehistoric man are covered with pictures or designs – that is, with signs. So treated, a tool still does not, of course, itself become a sign.”
 The hammer and sickle insignia as an example of an “ideological sign” is an evident mockery. Indeed the hammer and sickle insignia was utilized by Soviet leaders for the purpose of “ideological decoration” of real exploiter relations of wage labour in cities and serfdom in “Kolkhoze” villages. In other words this sign was utilized ideologically indeed. Here the term “ideology” was applied correctly.
But ideality per se is something opposite to “ideology”. As a philosophical category it was aimed to find true, not ideological solutions of the problem of cognition. It has to give us a chance to explain objective, not arbitrary character of our theoretical concepts. And the idea of “thinking as specific object oriented modus operandi of thinking (or living) body” as well as the idea that the first and concretely universal form of ideality in human practice is nothing but instruments of labour are real materialistic and dialectic alternative to the dead end of conventionalism.
Surely we can treat Marxism widely and insist that it includes the metaphorical use of the word "reflection" as well as of many other “words”.
But though we regard strict scientific style of reasoning as much more appropriate for scientific and even more “Marxist” research than “metaphorical” one. Surely if we discuss the real painful problems of today and not practice the ambiguous ideological verbiage. 
As for evident Marxist Lenin with his definitions of “reflection” and all the more for such questionable Marxists as Vygotsky and Voloshinov I think that it is useless even to try to discuss them “…without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of…” Ilyenkov’s Dialectical Logic and all other of his late works including “Dialectic of Ideality”.
David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>  <mailto:vaughndogblack@yahoo.com%3e%20>  wrote:
	But Vygotsky is very clear that we are looking at something that develops, and that later on, the older child really is able to make anything into anything.
You are absolutely right. Vygotsky was very clear in his discourse about “development” indeed. Even when he mixed it up with degradation. Certainly the older child is wise enough to lie calling even a snowflake a spade when we as his parents, or teachers, or bosses press him/her for it. But the problem is how to prevent such alienating from the truth “development”, not to greet it. At least if we pretend to be Marxists.

Alexander (Sasha) Surmava

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David Kellogg
Sent: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 7:07 AM
To: Culture ActivityeXtended Mind
Subject: RE: [xmca] Re: Bladeless Knives Without Handles (David Kellogg)

Dear Professor Surmava:
Thanks for the very considered, considerate, articulate and well-articulated response. I am tempted to call it a very Russian one, but of course my sense of what Russian-ness is not nearly as subtle, well-differentiated, and...well, RUSSIAN as yours.
What I really meant was simply that the CYRILLIC of your name was a non-symbolic signifier of your Russian-ness. It's non-symbolic because it doesn't have a conditional one-to-one "contractual" relationship between wording and meaning; it applies to all wordings rendered in the Cyrllic alphabet (even my name, written in Russian, looks Russian to me). 
So I think it "reflects" Russian-ness in quite a different way than contractualism or convention. Contractualism (conventionalism) is transient; it applies only to the moment into which we enter the contract (the "state of the chessboard", as Saussure liked to say) and for the duration of the contract. That's not true of historical relationships like this one: they begin long before their official launch date (pre Saint Cyril) and they go on operating long after their sell-by date. 
Contractualism is conditional; it depends upon the various functional goals of the contracted parties. That's not true of the relationship between a script and a spoken language; we often see that the rise of a script is the result of exaptation, the borrowing of a particular form (often. as in the case of Russian, religious) that evolved for one purpose and its application to quite a different one (usually secular) and that the switch from one function to another is anything but conditional.
Finally, contractualism is content-independent; in theory, we imagine that any human script can express the sounds of any human language more or less well, but in practice we find that, as Halliday likes to say, a given speech gets the writing system that it deserves, in the long run. There is a good reason (that is, a historically tested reason) why Chinese is not written in an alphabet, and why the Latin alphabet is so poorly suited to Russian transliteration.
I guess I feel that Marxism is both vast in scope and precise in abstraction; it can include many social and psychological phenomena as well as exclude many careless generalizations (e.g. to biology, as in Lysenkoism). Marxism, as a method, can include both the (metaphorical) use of the word "reflection" (in the sense that Cyrillic "reflects" spoken Russian) and the brilliant synthesis of a genetic, functional, and structural explanation that we find in books like "Thinking and Speech" and "Marxism and the Philosophy of Language" (that is, the sense that things are the way they are because they do what they have to do, but they do what they have to do because of the way they have been). 
It seems to me that Marxism includes "reflection" in a genetic and historical sense. Lenin is just saying that reality got her first, well before we did, and our consciousness of that reality is therefore not a priori. We may not feel that way; we may feel that consciousness is simply "given" (by whom? And more importantly, to whom?).
But that sense is really an illusion, just like the feeling of weightlessness that our own bodies have to ourselves. When my wife tries to drag me out of bed in the morning before I have had my morning coffee, she is acutely aware that my body does have weight and that this weight is quite prior to consciousness.
I don't think that Lenin is saying that the mind reflects anything in a functional sense or a structural sense. Functionally, and structurally, the Marxist response to the "mirror" metaphor for mind is is rather closer to that of Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng. It is said that the fifth patriarch, when he was dying, wrote the following poem:
The body is a Bodhi tree
The mind is like a mirror
So sweep them daily, keep them clean
And let no dust appear!
To which Hui Neng, whose job it was to sweep the temple grounds, wrote:
The body is no Bodhi tree
The mind is not a mirror
Neither one can be swept clean
For where can dust appear?
When dust appears on my books, it does not in any way obscure what they say (or, as we say in French, what they "veut dire"); their meaning is made of that ideality of which Ilyenkov speaks when he says that the idea of a wooden table contains not a single atom of carbon. 
So it seems to me that "reflection" is not a function of the mind, nor is reflectiveness part of its structure; it is far truer to say that the meta-functions of the human mind lie in human discourse and therefore that the structure of the human mind lies close to that of textual meaning.
One of these books, which I have right next to "Thinking and Speech", is Voloshinov's "Marxism and the Philosophy of Language", and here too I think the word Marxism is apposite. I don't really care who wrote the book; but I am more inclined to think that the author was an earnest young linguist who had dabbled in Rosicrucianism and read Vygotsky than that it was a garrulous one-legged literary critic who had dabbled in Russian Orthodox mysticism and read Rabelais.
It seems to me that Voloshinov is arguing that reported speech is the way that it is because of what it does (both reflect an utterance and reflect upon the utterer). He also points out that what it does has changed over history: it has gone from uncritical, authoritarian monologic assertion (what we find in ancient monuments) to rationalist monologism, to rather more critical dialogism, and finally to a complete refusal of any objectivity to the narrator. 
And it seems to me that Marxism is a method that is simultaneously historical, functional, and structural: it holds that human artefacts (including texts) are the way they are because of what they have to do, but what they have to do depends on their history and changes a lot in the course thereof. 
By that criterion, both "Thinking and Speech" and "Marxism and the Philosophy of Language" are Marxist texts, not only because of who their authors were (whoever their were) but because of their methodological structure and also because they perform Marxist tasks (viz. offering a materialist but nevertheless dialectical explanation of the history of language studies to the early twentieth century and establishing a historically materialist prolegomena to the history of human consciousness). 
Of course, not every approach that synthesizes genetic, functional, and structural data is a Marxist one, and in particular I think that methods which assume that what is important at one genetic period remains important throughout history are highly suspect. It is actually for that very reason that I am suspicious of all contractual, conditional, and conventionalist accounts of language: I think they are really only accounts of the language of contracts, conditions and conventions.
I don't even use the term "natural laws", which in addition to assuming lack of change, and equivalence between regularities that are literally without any exceptions and those (such the laws of language) where meaning involves the constant negotiation of exceptions, is something between an oxymoron and an outright contradiction in terms. Depending on how metaphorical we want to be about the word "law" or the word "nature".
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies   
I see, reading over your generous reply, that I have rather rudely ignored some of your interesting questions. So let me just quote your words, and put in my rejoinders, in dialogic form. (Huw does this a lot, and although it's sometimes hard to figure out who is saying what, it's always worth trying!)

Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote:

"You are probably right that language is often examined from “highly metaphorical level” and looking from this “high” level the relationship between a noun and its object sometime looks like “reflection”. But can you explain what is mechanism of this reflection? Banal association between sign and its denotatum? Than what are the law and the intrinsic measure of such association?"
DK: Nouns are a good example. Yes, for young children, there is a banal association between a noun and a thing; it is little more than a name, and the name is little more than a way of getting the child's sticky little hands on the thing. 
For older children, the noun is a generalization, but not yet an abstraction, and this is one reason why the nouns in my data base of child language tend to be concrete, and children of a certain age become very conscious of number and gender in nouns. 
For adults, though, even a name is an example of a concept: we tend to say things like "You know, she's one of those people who...." which is not something that very young children ever say. It actually turns out that very small children are quite bad at metaphor, and they are apt to respond to "I would like to propose a toast" by looking around for the bread.
Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote: 
"Can we find in this association something objective, something that lies beyond our subjective will, beyond our arbitrariness, beyond convention?"
DK: Yes, but the objective element keeps changing, doesn't it? For the young child it's a physical object. For the older child it's an experienced grouping of some kind. And for the adult it's a concept, which is, thanks to its ontogenetic and sociogenetic history, not exactly arbitrary, and therefore not entirely conventional or contractual. 

Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote: 
"Can you give a tiny hint to explain how a little child starts to reflect or idealize objective world in his/her thinking in the process of learning to use these verbal signs?" 
DK: It seems to me that the child does it the same way I do it: generalizing and abstracting. But even before that, of course, there is a "natural history" of signs: the foot, the footprint, and a whole range of onomatopoeic expressions that children are extremely fond of and which remain as fossils in adult speech. 
Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote: 
"Or thinking per se is not necessarily mediated with verbal or any other signs?"

DK: No, not necessarily. If I hear a loud noise and I jump, there is probably some kind of thinking going on somewhere. But VERBAL thinking is necessarily mediated by signs; that's one reason why it's a lot slower.
Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote: 
"Nota bene: Vygotsky NEVER explains what he means as “low psychic functions”, so one can only guess, from the context of his texts that “low psychic functions” is nothing but an aggregate of mechanical reflexes which the Lord knows how are attributed as psychic."
DK: I assume he meant exactly what other people of his time who used the term meant, though. It's a distinction which can be found in standard medical psychologies of the time (e.g. Kretschmer 1916). But the medical psychologies give it an anatomical basis, and Vygotsky is trying to give it a social-semiotic one.

Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote: 
"Surely implements have some symbolic quality – they represent their objects – but this representation is not something arbitrary, but entirely objective, something that fundamentally arises from their tangible form which was formed in the process of object oriented activity. Thus a bird’s wing represents air and flight and this representation, which has nothing to do with any arbitrariness, is just what Marx and Ilyenkov meant as ideal representation."
DK: But form reflects function in words too. Just as birds wings may either be adapted for gliding or for self-powered flight, words may depend on the environment or include their own source of power. For example, our everyday words tend to be short and morphologically simple, while our scientific words are longer and morphologically complex. Nouns and verbs carry their object reference in their persons, but deictics and demonstratives do not. Long sentences are more polite than short ones, and commands are highly stripped down and streamlined in very much the same way that a bird's wing is. And of course, function reflects history in turn.
Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote: 
"It is significant that Vygotsky stumbles along such type of representation when a child involved into the experimental game of renaming objects rejects some of such renamings. Thus he/she easily approves renaming of a chair into a train but he/she affectively rejects renaming  a lamp into a table, or a knife into a chair. Vygotsky didn’t find a better explanation of this ultimately interesting phenomenon than to say: “Experiments show that both in play and in speech the child is far from consciously realizing the relativity of the sign operation or of the arbitrarily established connection of sign and meaning” (“Tool and symbol…”). He obviously failed to take into account this phenomenon as a key to the most intimate mechanism of formation of human consciousness. So if we need an example of "semiotic dead end" we have no need to leave psychological field for Saussure’s linguistics because Vygotsky’s psychology gives us an excellent  example of the same conventionalist genre."
DK: Vygotsky's failure is not obvious to me at all. In his lectures on play at the Herzen Pedogogical Institute, he clearly does realize that the child's activity has a lot to do with whether he can play horsie with a stick or a matchstick or a card or a table. 
But Vygotsky is very clear that we are looking at something that develops, and that later on, the older child really is able to make anything into anything. So the activity-oriented semiosis you are talking about is only one stage in the process that he is talking about; in order to play horsie with a table rather than a stick, you have to be able to abstract away the leggedness of the horse and then re-attach it symbolically.

Александр Сурмава <avramus@gmail.com> wrote: 
"I do think that such very strict philosophical (≡scientific) concept as “ideality” (“reflection”) is deep enough to help us understand concrete psychological phenomena (for example, the way  languages are learned). Surely if it is really strict, not vague. 
DK: And I perfectly agree. The problem is change and development. The way in which a footprint reflects a foot is different from the way in which a shoe reflects a foot. And the way in which the word "foot" accomodates a foot is also rather different from the way the word "pedicure" conforms with it. 

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