Monday, December 3, 2012

Lev Vygotsky on Meaning, Thought, and Language

The following quotes on meaning, thought, and language by the cultural-historical activity theorist Lev Vygotsky. I'll post more on Vygotsky and CHAT as my understanding of it improves.
"We found the unit that reflects the unity of thinking and speech in the meaning of the word. As we have tried to show, word meaning is a unity of both processes that cannot be further decomposed. That is, we cannot say that word meaning is a phenomenon of either speech or thinking."
"the connection between thought and word is neither inherent or primal. This connection emerges, changes, and grows with the development of thought and word."
" would be incorrect to represent thinking and speech as processes that are externally related to one another, as two independent forces moving and acting in parallel with one another or intersecting at specific points and interacting mechanically. The absence of a primal connection between thought and word does not imply that this connection can arise only as an external connection between two fundamentally heterogeneous forms of the activity of consciousness."
"The discovery that word meaning changes and develops is our new and fundamental contribution to the theory of thinking and speech. It is our major discovery, a discovery that has allowed us to overcome the postulate of constancy and unchangableness of word meaning which has provided the foundation for previous theories of thinking and speech."
"The nature of meaning is revealed in generalization. The basic and central feature of any word ‘is generalization. All words generalize."
"It is important to emphasize, however, that the fact that the internal nature of word meaning changes implies that the relationship of thought to word changes as well."
"The movement of thinking from thought to word is a developmental process. Thought is not expressed but completed in the word."
"Any thought strives to unify, to establish a relationship between one thing and another, Any thought has movement. It unfolds. It fulfills some function or resolves some task. This flow of thought is realized as an internal movement through several planes, as a transition from thought to word and from word to thought. Thus, the first task in an analysis of the relationship of thought and word as a movement from thought to word is to analyze the phases that compose this movement, to differentiate the planes through which thought passes as it becomes embodied in the word."
"The structure of speech is not a simple mirror image of the structure of thought. it cannot, therefore, be placed on thought like clothes off a rack. Speech does not merely serve as the expression of developed thought. Thought is restructured as it is transformed into speech. It is not expressed but completed in the word."
"The partitioning of speech into semantics and phonology is not given at the outset. It arises in the course of development. The child must differentiate these two aspects of speech. He must become consciously aware of the different nature of each to permit the gradual descension that is presupposed in the living process of meaningful speech."
"Thought imprints a logical emphasis on one word in a phrase, isolating the psychological predicate. Without this, no phrase would be comprehensible."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rosa Luxemburg - Stagnation of Marxism

The following quotes are taken from Rosa Luxemburg's 1903 article "Stagnation and Progress in Marxism", which can be found at the Marxists Internet Archive. Although these words were written at the turn of the last century, what comrade Luxemburg has to say is relevant to us today.
"The actual fact is that – apart for one or two independent contributions which mark a theoretician advance – since the publication of the last volume of Capital and of the last of Engels’s writings there have appeared nothing more than a few excellent popularizations and expositions of Marxist theory. The substance of that theory remains just where the two founders of scientific socialism left it."
"The scrupulous endeavor to keep “within the bounds of Marxism” may at times have been just as disastrous to the integrity of the thought process as has been the other extreme – the complete repudiation of the Marxist outlook, and the determination to manifest “independence of thought” at all hazards."
" is only where economic matters are concerned that we are entitled to speak of a more or less completely elaborated body of doctrines bequeathed us by Marx. The most valuable of all his teachings, the materialist-dialectical conception of history, presents itself to us as nothing more than a method of investigation, as a few inspired leading thoughts, which offer us glimpses into the entirely new world, which open us to endless perspectives of independent activity, which wing our spirit for bold flights into unexplored regions."
"...the theory of historical materialism remains as unelaborated and sketchy as was when first formulated by its creators."
"It is pure illusion to suppose that the working class, in its upward striving, can of its own accord become immeasurably creative in the theoretical domain. ... The active participation of the workers in the march of science is subject to fulfillment of very definite social conditions."
"Only in proportion as our movement progresses, and demands the solution of new practical problems do we dip once more into the treasury of Marx’s thought, in order to extract therefrom and to utilize new fragments of his doctrine. But since our movement, like all the campaigns of practical life, inclines to go on working in old ruts of thought, and to cling to principles after they have ceased to be valid, the theoretical utilization of the Marxist system proceed very slowly."
"If, then, today we detect a stagnation in our movement as far as these theoretical matters are concerned, this is not because the Marxist theory upon which we are nourished is incapable of development or has become out-of-date. On the contrary, it is because we have not yet learned how to make an adequate use of the most important mental weapons which we had taken out of the Marxist arsenal on account of our urgent need for them in the early stages of our struggle."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friedrich Engels on Science and Philosophy

"Dialectics divested of mysticism becomes an absolute necessity for natural science, which has forsaken the field where rigid categories sufficed, which represent as it were the lower mathematics of logic, its everyday weapons. Philosophy takes its revenge posthumously on natural science for the latter having deserted it..." - Engels
"If that is said by a mystical natural scientist, who means nothing by it, it is calmly allowed to pass, but if a philosopher says the same thing, and one who means something by it, and indeed au fond something correct, although in inverted form, then it is mysticism and a terrible crime." - Engels
"Natural scientists believe that they free themselves from philosophy by ignoring it or abusing it. They cannot, however, make any headway without thought, and for thought they need thought determinations. But they take these categories unreflectingly from the common consciousness of so-called educated persons..." - Engels
"Natural scientists may adopt whatever attitude they please, they are still under the domination of philosophy. It is only a question whether they want to be dominated by a bad, fashionable philosophy or by a form of theoretical thought which rests on acquaintance with the history of thought and its achievements." - Engels

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Social Criticism - Marx Quotes

"In the struggle against that state of affairs, criticism is no passion of the head, it is the head of passion. It is not a lancet, it is a weapon. Its object is its enemy, which it wants not to refute but to exterminate. ... It no longer assumes the quality of an end-in-itself, but only of a means. Its essential pathos is indignation, its essential work is denunciation." 
"Criticism dealing with this content is criticism in a hand-to-hand fight, and in such a fight the point is not whether the opponent is a noble, equal, interesting opponent, the point is to strike him." 
"The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses. Theory is capable of gripping the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself." 
"Theory is fulfilled in a people only insofar as it is the fulfilment of the needs of that people." 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Marx on Hegel's Phenomenology

I recently bought AV Miller's translation of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. In light of that, I've decided to reread some of Marx's statements on it in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.

"The outstanding achievement of Hegel’s Phänomenologie and of its final outcome, the dialectic of negativity as the moving and generating principle, is thus first that Hegel conceives the self-creation of man as a process...he thus grasps the essence of labour and comprehends objective the outcome of man’s own labour."

"Hegel’s standpoint is that of modern political economy. He grasps labour as the essence of man – as man’s essence which stands the test: he sees only the positive, not the negative side of labour. Labour is man’s coming-to-be for himself within alienation, or as alienated man. The only labour which Hegel knows and recognises is abstractly mental labour."  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Three Worlds Theory in the 21st Century

"In my view, the United States and the Soviet Union belong to the first world. The in-between Japan, Europe and Canada belong to the second world. The third world is very populous. Except Japan, Asia belongs to the third world. So does the whole of Africa and Latin America" - Mao
"From the perspective of the changes that have taken place in international relations, the world today in fact has three sides or three worlds in existence which are mutually related as well as contradictory. The United States and the Soviet Union belong to the first world. Developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regions belong to the third world. And the developed countries in between the two belong to the second world". - Deng Xiaoping

During the 1970s Chairman Mao Zedong formulated his Three Worlds Theory. Since then, times have changed. The Soviet Union is gone and former third world nations have become neo-colonial puppets. Due to these changes, the Three Worlds Theory is now obsolete. It should simply be swept under the rug without any attempts at reformulating it. This is how some people - Marxists and non-Marxists alike - think.

Before we do this, lets ask: Can we really be so sure that this theory is obsolete? Perhaps the post cold war world isn't as different as we like to think. To get a more definite answer, we must look at the international situation since the end of the cold war.

Initially the Three Worlds Theory certainly did become obsolete. A bipolar world was replaced by a hegemonic one. With the fall of the USSR the very condition that allowed for independent and semi-independent Third World nations to exist in the first place was gone. Now the world was dominated by only two types of nations: the US and her allies. This New World Order is now beginning to crumble.

Starting with the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, a so-called Pink Tide has swept Latin America. In this region, many US stooges have been replaced by independent leaders. These rulers have, in tern, established strong connections among themselves and with other independent nations. This growing group of nations that defy US hegemony are the new Third World. With this change in circumstances, it's imperative that we consider this theory, and reinvigorate it so that it's in line with present circumstances.

Anti-Imperialists of the world, UNITE! 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hegel: Quality and Quantity Dialectic

The following quotes are taken from Hegel's Science of Logic and The Shorter Logic.
"Determinate Being is Being with a character or mode — which simply is; and such unmediated character is Quality." - Shorter Logic
"Quality may be described as the determinate mode immediate and identical with Being...A something is what it is in virtue of its quality, and losing its quality it ceases to be what it is." - Shorter Logic
"A thing is what it is, only in and by reason of its limit. We cannot therefore regard the limit as only external to being which is then and there. It rather goes through and through the whole of such existence." - Shorter Logic
"The view of limit, as merely an external characteristic of being-there-and-then, arises from a confusion of quantitative with qualitative limit. Here we are speaking primarily of the qualitative limit. If, for example, we observe a piece of ground, three acres large, that circumstance is its quantitative limit. But, in addition, the ground is, it may be, a meadow, not a wood or a pond. This is its qualitative limit." - Shorter Logic
"In something, its limit as quality is essentially its determinateness. If, however, by limit we mean quantitative limit, then when, for example, a field alters its limit it still remains what it was before, a field. If on the other hand its qualitative limit is altered, then since this is the determinateness which makes it a field, it becomes a meadow, wood, and so on. A red, whether brighter or paler, is still red; but if it altered its quality it would cease to be red, would become blue or some other colour." - The Science of Logic
"If we take a closer look at what a limit implies, we see it involving a contradiction in itself, and thus evincing its dialectical nature. On the one side limit makes the reality of a thing; on the other it is its negation." - Shorter Logic
"The transition from Quality to not found in our ordinary way of thinking, which deems each of these categories to exist independently beside the other. We are in the habit of saying that things are not merely qualitatively, but also quantitatively defined; but whence these categories originate, and how they are related to each other, are questions not further examined." - Shorter Logic
"If we proceed to consider their quantity, we get the conception of an indifferent and external character or mode, of such a kind that a thing remains what it is, though its quantity is altered, and the thing becomes greater or less." - Shorter Logic
"On the one hand, the quantitative features of existence may be altered, without affecting its quality. On the other hand, this increase and diminution, immaterial though it be, has its limit, by exceeding which the quality suffers change. Thus the temperature of water is, in the first place, a point of no consequence in respect of its liquidity: still with the increase of diminution of the temperature of the liquid water, there comes a point where this state of cohesion suffers a qualitative change, and the water is converted into steam or ice." - Shorter Logic
"the alterations of being in general are not only the transition of one magnitude into another, but a transition from quality into quantity and vice versa, a becoming-other which is an interruption of gradualness and the production of something qualitatively different from the reality which preceded it. Water, in cooling, does not gradually harden as if it thickened like porridge, gradually solidifying until it reached the consistency of ice; it suddenly solidifies, all at once. It can remain quite fluid even at freezing point if it is standing undisturbed, and then a slight shock will bring it into the solid state." - The Science of Logic

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mao Zedong Quotes - Oppose Book Worship

You can find the full article here:
"Quite a few comrades always keep their eyes shut and talk nonsense, and for a Communist that is disgraceful. How can a Communist keep his eyes shut and talk nonsense?"
"Conclusions invariably come after investigation, and not before. Only a blockhead cudgels his brains on his own, or together with a group, to "find solution" or "evolve an idea" without making any investigation."
"When we say Marxism is correct, it is certainly not because Marx was a "prophet" but because his theory has been proved correct in our practice and in our struggle."
"Of course we should study Marxist books, but this study must be integrated with our country's actual conditions. We need books, but we must overcome book worship, which is divorced from the actual situation."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Winston Churchill: Poison Gas Quote

Winston Churchill wasn't a hero. To the contrary, the man was a genocidal pig. If you're offended by this I suggest that you spend less time drinking tea and more time reading. What follows is a secret memoranda that he wrote that supported the use of poison gas against the native Arab tribesmen.
I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favour of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragment of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tips: Blogging and Youtube Promotion

I'm not primarily a blogger. My interest lies elsewhere. For me, Youtube and, to a lesser extent Twitter, are my true passions. In fact, I didn't create this blog for the sake of blogging. Rather, I created it as a means to promote my youtube channel. Admittedly, I have failed to use this blog as an effective means to redirect traffic to my youtube channel, CommunistWarrior1917. This isn't my area of expertise. If any of you have any tips on how to effectively use blogs to get more youtube video views and/or subscribers, please leave a comment below. Thanks for your help!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tweet-versation on Marxism & Factionalism

What follows is a conversation I had with @Thomas_Gardiner on twitter. @RadicalLeftist is me. I hope that this contributes toyour own understanding of Marx!
Me:Understanding Marx's philosophical background in general is ESSENTIAL to having an in-depth understanding of Marx
Gardiner:indeed, a sole focus on historical materialism without understanding how it ties to radical democratic humanism is misguided
Me:True, but...another mistake that has been made - which is the opposite of the 1 u pointed out - is 2 equate #Marxism wit it(humanism)
Gardiner:1 thing I've learned is tht Marxism's doomed unless we all end the factionalism over differentiations in personal philosophy
Me:What we all need 2 realize is that only Marx knew what Marx went. What we call Marxism is only an interpretation.
Gardiner:yep, and therein lies the way to greater cooperation between different Marxist factions

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nietzsche On Philosophers

Quotes from Twilight of Idols:
"I mistrust all systematizers and avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity."
"They think that they show their respect for a subject when they dehistoricize it sub specie aeternitas — when they turn it into a mummy. Everything that philosophers handled over the past thousands of years turned into concept mummies; nothing real escaped their grasp alive. Whenever these venerable concept idolators revere something, they kill it and stuff it; they suck the life out of everything they worship."
"The other characteristic of philosophers is no less dangerous; it consists in confusing the last and the first. They place that which comes at the the beginning, as the beginning. This again is nothing but their way of showing reverence: the higher may not grow out of the lower..."
"Origin out of something else is considered an objection, a questioning of value. All the highest values are of the first rank; all the highest concepts, that which has being, the unconditional, the good, the true, the perfect — all these cannot have become and must therefore be causes. All these, moreover, cannot be unlike each other or in contradiction to each other."
Quotes from Beyond Good and Evil:
"We must wait for a new species of philosopher to arrive, who will have some other, opposite tastes and inclinations than the previous ones. Philosophers of the Perilous Perhaps, in every sense!"
After keeping an eye on and reading between the lines of the philosophers for a long time, I find that I must tell myself the following: the largest part of conscious thinking must be considered an instinctual activity, even in the case of philosophical thinking.
"Even behind logic and its apparent sovereignty of development stand...demands for preserving a certain type of life."
"Every one of them pretends that he has discovered and reached his opinions through the self-development of cold, pure, divinely untroubled dialectic, whereas, at bottom, a pre-conceived dogma, a notion, an institution, or mostly a heart's defended by them with arguments sought after the fact.
"I do not believe a "desire for comprehension" is the father of philosophy, but rather that a quite different desire has here as elsewhere used comprehension (together with miscomprehension) as tools to serve its own ends."
"...the moral (or amoral) intentions of each philosophy constitute the protoplasm from which each entire plant has grown."
"It always creates the world in its own image; it cannot do otherwise, for philosophy is this tyrannical desire; it is the most spiritual will to power, to "creation of the world," to the causa prima.
"The various philosophical concepts do not evolve at random or autonomously but in reference and relationship to one another..."
"Their thinking is in fact not so much a discovering as a recognizing, remembering, a return and homecoming to a remote, ancient, commonly stocked household of the soul out of which the concepts grew."
Quotes from The Anti-Christ:
"A word now against Kant as a moralist. A virtue must be our invention; it must spring out of our personal need and defence. In every other case it is a source of danger. That which does not belong to our life menaces it; a virtue which has its roots in mere respect for the concept of “virtue,” as Kant would have it, is pernicious."
"Nothing works a more complete and penetrating disaster than every “impersonal” duty, every sacrifice before the Moloch of abstraction."
"I put aside a few sceptics, the types of decency in the history of philosophy: the rest haven’t the slightest conception of intellectual integrity. They behave like women, all these great enthusiasts and prodigies—they regard “beautiful feelings” as arguments, the “heaving breast” as the bellows of divine inspiration, conviction as the criterion of truth."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sartre - "Existentialism is a Humanism" quotes

What follows is some short quotes from my reading of Jean-Paul Sartre's "Existentialism is a Humanism". These quotes were originally tweeted by me.
"every truth and every action imply both an environment and a human subjectivity."
"existence comes before essence"
"In the philosophic atheism of the 18th century, the notion of God is suppressed, but not...the idea that essence is prior to existence"
For Enlightenment materialism,
"the essence of man precedes that historic existence which we confront in experience."
"man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards."
"Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism."
" is true that existence is prior to essence, man is responsible for what he is."
"God does not exist, is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end"
"There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it."
"man is free, man is freedom."
"we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse."
"I can neither seek within myself for an authentic impulse to action, nor can I expect, from some ethic, formulae that will enable me to act"
"No rule of general morality can show you what you ought to do"
"You are free, therefore choose, that is to say, invent."
"Our aim is precisely to establish the human kingdom as a pattern of values in distinction from the material world."
"The other is indispensable to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I can have of myself."
"It is in this world that man has to decide what he is..."
"although it is impossible to find in each and every man a universal essence...there is nevertheless a human universality of condition."
"man finds himself in an organised situation in which he is himself involved"
"There is this in common between art and morality, that in both we have to do with creation and invention."
"the actions of men of good faith have, as their ultimate significance, the quest of freedom itself as such."
"Those who hide from this total freedom, in a guise of solemnity or with deterministic excuses, I shall call cowards."
"to say that we invent values means neither more nor less than this; that there is no sense in life a priori."
"an existentialist will never take man as the end, since man is still to be determined."
"Man is all the time outside of himself: it is in projecting and losing himself beyond himself that he makes man to exist"
"we remind man that there is no legislator but himself; that he himself, thus abandoned, must decide for himself"
"Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position."