[Marxism] Re: human origins

Paul H. Dillon illonph at pacbell.net
Tue Aug 9 11:41:29 MDT 2005

In this context I find it interesting` that Vygotsky and Luria's 
ethnological work was so roundly condemned as racist.  It's like Levi-Bruhl, 
or even Levi-Strauss for that matter if you accept Sartre's critique of his 
"structuralization of history".  The "complex use of language" that Nick 
refers to might have been as recent an invention as 300 or 400 years ago, if 
we assume that consciousness changes with mode of production.  And that's 
what Vygotsky and Luria were saying.  So what we get is not biological 
species at all but cultural species that reflect certain powers of the 
symbolic medium to . . .  well you can fill in the rest yourself but as a 
marxist we would certainly have to say that culture has been formed in class 
struggle.   Yes this brings back in "cultural evolution" and all of the 
dangerous slippery slopes along that terrain, but as Marxists we also know 
that that is a consequence of imperialist relations between modes of 
production and has nothing to do with a hierarchy of values.   And it also 
makes sense out of this chicken and egg question.

Paul Dillon

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Nick Halliday" <halliday.nick at gmail.com>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 6:40 AM
Subject: [Marxism] Re: human origins

Re: [Marxism] Re: human origins

CC>>This is true, but irrelevant to the question at issue, of WHEN
language appeared. Your argument images the "first human" being born
from a non-human, and when she is five she begins speaking to her
mother who, being non-human, cannot understand her child! :-)>>

My goodness but this list has a lot of active minded readers. A bit
too active. Where did I ever argue this? Are you sure you are not
letting your imagination get the better of you? There are certainly
cases where children can't communicate well in one particular language
with their mothers (and that would be in the development of a pidgin
to a creole), but that doesn't mean they can't communicate or that
they identify each other as belonging to a different species.

>>What evolved was the _ability_ to speak. >>

The question for me is more like when did vocalizing turn into
psychologically controlled, linguistically complex speech. I suggested
a gestural component (and therefore to some extent not as arbitrary as
Brown's generic 'symbolling') which migrated from the entire upper
body to the face. This would also have involved the synchronization of
gesture with vocalization. All of this, so far, you you have
ignored--I guess because you were so blatantly wrong about sign
language. So in some sense we could still say that the human ability
to 'speak' controlled speech is gestural. It certainly is of multiple
modes (which add to its redundancy): visual, kinesthetic, auditory.


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