Objectification and the Labour of the Negative in the Origin of Human Thinking: A Response to Chris Drain

Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (2021)
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After reading the stimulating exchange between Chris Drain and Siyaves Azeri, I wanted to reply to Drain from a slightly different angle. Drain’s latest response takes aim at what Vygotsky calls his general genetic law of development, which Drain suggests should be updated through an appreciation of Tomasello and Searle’s concept of “joint intentionality”. At the heart of Vygotsky’s thought is the claim that “every function in the cultural development of the child appears on the stage twice, in two planes, first, the social, then the psychological, first between people as an intermental category, then within the child as an intramental category”. Drain takes Vygotsky to derive this from Hegel’s “master-slave dialectic”. Drain appears to follow Alexandre Kojève’s influential interpretation of Hegel, as picked up by continental philosophers like Sartre, in which the dialectic is treated as an allegory about social antagonism. As continental thought turned against Hegel and Marx, this reading was retained and Hegel himself was associated with social subordination. As a starting point for my response, I would note that Vygotsky and Hegel are not offering a social critique here: they are making a more basic point about the process of determination as such. Radical liberal constructivist critiques of Vygotsky of the kind offered by Jones and Stetsenko follow continental philosophy and critical theory in ignoring the constructive side of Hegelian negation and recognition.



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References found in this work

Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
A Spirit of Trust: A Reading of Hegel’s phenomenology.Robert B. Brandom - 2019 - Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Mind and World.John Mcdowell - 1996 - Philosophical Quarterly 46 (182):99-109.

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