Theory of Activity and Phenomenology – Alternative Dispositives of the Philosophers of the Sixties
Abstract: The article analyzes the content and opposition of two approaches that were formed in philosophy in the 60s of the last century - activity–theoretic and phenomenological. If the theory of activity was formed under the influence of Marxist ideas and psychology, then phenomenology was formed under existentialism and the theory of consciousness. The evolution of the views of G.P. Shchedrovitsky and M. Foucault, who chose Marxism and built, the first, a theory of activity and methodology, the second – a doctrine that includes an analysis of discourses, institutions and power, is compared. If Shchedrovitsky struggled with psychologism and subjectivism all his life, Foucault eventually overcomes Marxist influence and returns to the study of personality, outlining the main ideas of the philosophy of subjectivity in the last period of his life. The approach of Shchedrovitsky, who extended hypotheses about thinking and activity to any kind of intellectual activity (as a result, he could not understand the nature and essence of thinking), is opposed to the phenomenological approach. The latter sets the task of comprehending new ways of thinking, new beginnings in specific subjects and disciplines, with the statement that research does not presuppose either a certain point of view or a certain direction, that it is unsubstantiated (which is hardly true). Although phenomenologists polemize with methodology, denying the latter, the author argues that phenomenology is also a certain area of methodology, but fundamentally different from Shchedrovitsky's "pan-methodology".
Keywords:activity, conscience, methodology, phenomenology, mind, action, research, forming, subjectivity, personality
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The modern desire to understand the foundations of the thinking of the generation of the sixties is understandable: from this start, changes began that led to the completion of the socialist system in three decades, including the revival of philosophy in the late 50s, early 60s. One of the important trends in the transformation of Russian philosophical thinking is the formation of concepts of activity based on Marxism (in psychology and philosophy itself) and, somewhat later, partly as a reaction to these concepts, phenomenology. Many famous philosophers of that time experienced the influence of these two trends, however, this influence is better seen from modern times. I will consider the difference between these two approaches and dispositives on the examples of the views of my teacher G.P. Shchedrovitsky, in fact, his opponents Merab Mamardashvili and Vladimir Bibikhin, as well as the Sixties Michel Foucault. At the same time, I will try to implement a humanitarian approach, one of the features of which, according to Mikhail Bakhtin, is the opportunity to give a voice to those who are being investigated. Not one spirit, but two – the studied and the studying, the interaction of spirits," Bakhtin wrote [1, p. 349]. Giving a voice means, at first glance, excessive quoting of the philosophers we are interested in, but in this case it is just a method.
Merab Mamardashvili, like most other Soviet philosophers, came from Marxism, but, as is known, unlike them, he came to phenomenology. His twists and turns of creative destiny can be compared with those that Foucault underwent. The latter in his youth chose from two different philosophical directions – Marxism and existentialism with phenomenology. He chose Marxism, but not in the version of the early concept of alienation, but in the version of Marxism reinterpreted by Foucault on the basis of semiotics (the book "Words and Things") and sociology (hence the later interest in institutions and power). Foucault understood semiotics and sociology broadly, philosophically, and in this respect unconventionally.
"Here," writes S. Tabachnikova, "we come, perhaps, to the essence of the transformation that Foucault's thought underwent at the turn of the 50s: starting with the History of Madness, he does not just refuse to raise the question of "man" and "subjectivity" in an existential–phenomenological or in Marxist terms, he ceases to think in terms of subjectivity at all, especially to look for its “secrets", wherever and in whatever. Foucault is moving away from the existentialist ontology of “primordial presence”, “presence-in-the-world”, just as he is moving away from the Marxist ontology of “alienation”, leaving the old themes only as targets for attacks. He leaves, it would seem, radically and decisively. Not, however, in order to move on to any other, but standing in the same row, form of thought about a person. The task of constructing the "anthropology of a particular person" turns into a special kind of historical analysis and criticism of the very mental and cultural prerequisites within which such a project could only arise – criticism that, in fact, is looking for an opportunity for the thought itself to be different" [11, p. 423].
The forms of rationality, Foucault himself writes, "are based on the foundation of human practice and human history, and since these things were made, they can – if you know how they were made – be remade <...> the question of the subject can also be considered in a more practical way: starting from the study of institutions that they made objects of knowledge and subordination out of individual subjects, that is, through the study of hospitals, prisons" (cit. according to [11, pp. 441, 430]).
However, the last stage of Foucault's creative search is a return to the study of consciousness and activity of the individual, which resulted in the concept of "epimeleia/cura sui" ("self–care")." "Self–care," Foucault explains, "presupposes a kind of observation of what you think and what happens inside your thought... epimeleia also always means a certain course of action carried out by the subject in relation to himself, namely, the action by which he takes care of himself, changes, cleanses, transforms (transforme) and transforms (transfigure) itself ... <...> To know the selfto know oneself, to know the divine principle, to know it in oneself, this, I believe, is fundamental in the Platonic and Neoplatonic form of "self-care"" [12, pp. 285, 292-293]. As we can see, the concept of epimeleia retains the Marxist pathos of transformation, although it now refers to the subject.
And my teacher G.P. Shchedrovitsky chose Marxism from two directions (Marxism and psychology) without hesitation, which later explains his fierce denial of personality. "The main thing is that there is thinking, and it doesn't matter what it is implemented on... we need to understand that the world of people, or people as such with their psychology, is a secondary world, the realization of the world of thinking and activity, and if we want to understand and imagine all this naturally, we must consider the world of thinking and activity, and not the world of people, because people are random epiphenomena of the world of thinking and activity… So, the main problem that arose then, in the 50s ... so where does a person exist? Is it an autonomous entity or is it just a particle inside the mass moving according to the laws of this mass? This is one form of this question. The other is creativity. Does it belong to the individual or does it belong to a functional place in the human organization and structure? I answer this question very harshly: of course, not to an individual, but to a functional place! <...> A simple thing is stated: there is some culture, a set of knowledge that is transmitted from generation to generation, and then a person is born - orthogonally to all this - and either he will be connected with this very spirit, will make a spirit available, or will not connect <...>
Thus, psychologism, or naturalism, was overcome. And this, I say, is again the most important opposition, which, from my point of view, decides the fate of the twentieth century and the next two or three centuries, since the interpretation of thinking as an emanation of man and human consciousness is, in my deep conviction, the greatest delusion of European history. And this is what makes us idiots today and hinders our development" [16, pp. 56-57].
And this despite the fact that Shchedrovitsky himself was a bright personality and did not deny it in a private interview given to Nikolai Shchukin. The personality, as I show, is characterized by independent behavior, due to the fact that it builds its own, often not coinciding with the generally accepted, idea of the world and of itself in it. Shchedrovitsky writes that his idea of the world was formed largely by reading historical literature. "So," Shchedrovitsky recalls, talking about his formation, "the reality of my thinking was set and determined by reading a large number of books... there was my idea of myself and my personality in reality... my personality was not represented by me in the reality of situations in which I actually lived – the yard, the family, class, school, sports school, immediate comrades, but in reality history. That's probably where my personality should have been placed; there I probably imagined it to myself in some way, well, maybe not her, but, in any case, what should be done and accomplished by me... for myself, in my own projects, aspirations, orientations I existed only there, and only that world, the world of human history, was for me not just a real world, but a real world, more precisely, a world in which it was necessary to be realized" [13, p.146, 148].
But Shchedrovitsky did not come out to phenomenology, he denied it, as well as personality. The realization of the values of Marxism resulted in Shchedrovitsky's construction of the theory of activity and methodology. It is worth first separating two concepts of activity: the activity of an individual, close in content to the concept of "action", and activity as a Marxist project. It will be mainly about the second concept. "We believe," writes V.V. Davydov, "that it is the concept of activity that can be the initial abstraction, the concretization of which will allow us to create a general theory of the development of people's social existence and various particular theories of its individual spheres. There are great obstacles on this path, one of which is precisely connected with the difficulties of further developing a philosophical and logical understanding of activity" [6, p. 14].
The following three points were important for the Marxist understanding of activity. Activity was defined as a reality that allowed to explain the development and transformation in the logic of the laws of social nature. In fact, a management instance was built into it – activity is what manages and what is managed. These moments were thought in unity. The third point, activity was understood as "ultimate ontology". The question is how to understand this: activity as activity and transformation (here the meaning is close to the meaning of the concept of action) and activity as sociality, development, management and ontology? It seems that these characteristics are different. Indeed, it is difficult to understand this now, but it must be taken into account that the philosophers of that time thought dialectically, striving to grasp the most diverse phenomena in order to take them in unity.
Understanding thinking as an activity, and considering that the essence of activity lies in the transformation of social reality, Shchedrovitsky once explained in a polemic with the author: "And here it seems that many of you should exclaim: – Yes, go away altogether! We've had enough of those who remake the world… I understand this thesis, on the one hand, because it is really very disgusting. But on the other hand, dear colleagues, it is impossible not to remake the world. Marx was right. No matter how you feel about what is happening now and what happened in previous decades, this principle of remaking the world remains one of the fundamental provisions of European culture in general, philosophy and methodology in particular. And in any case, I must speak sincerely and frankly: we professed this principle and believed that people should remake the world, change it. And our whole life has been like a life of remaking the world ... Yes, and if you have now gained a curse and set your individual goal and task to develop or transform (change) thinking, then you need an artificially technical picture of thinking. To be able to change thinking, build new forms and create new contents..." [14, p. 65, 103].
And here's how Shchedrovitsky in the early 70s explains why it is necessary to isolate activities: "We observe a lot of different things and want, following the ideals and standards of natural science thinking, to find some laws governing the life of these things" [15, p. 39]. At that time, he believed that nothing but activity existed. At lectures in the 70s, one of the participants asks the question: "Is it impossible to break out of the activity ?" To which G. Shchedrovitsky replies: "it is impossible and it is not necessary. It is only necessary to develop activities by climbing up and up the steps. Of course, we don't get an object, always only knowledge, but we don't need an object.... You won't be able to jump out of it anywhere. The very attempt to go beyond the limits of activity is nonsense" [15, pp. 64, 71].
Of course, there was no place for personality in the so-called activity, since personality does not imply a deindividual reality, but a private, unique one. For example, V.S. Bybler, relying on medieval material, defines a person as follows. "The pairing of the Simpleton and the Scholastic (with the inclusion of the Master as a mediator of these poles) is crucial – for the idea of personality – the discrepancy of the individual with himself in the context of medieval culture. – The discrepancy and the possibility of self-exclusion and self-exclusion that allows an individual of this era to break out of the limits of external social and ideological determination and self-determine his fate, his consciousness, i.e. to live in the horizon of personality. That is, to be an individual, not a social role. Here there is a necessary mutual determination between the regulatory idea of personality (in real life – medieval, ancient or modern – personality is always only regulatory and never present) and the actual being of the individual . There is no individual in the idea of personality; there is no personal horizon in the self-isolation of the individual (outside of loneliness)" [4, p. 122].
I would pay attention to such moments: "to be an individual, not a social role", "the individual's discrepancy with himself", "to break out of the limits of external social and ideological determination", "to self-determine his fate", finally, "there is no personal horizon outside of loneliness". Yes, these are characteristics of a personality, of course, not "mass" (there is one [10, pp. 130-131]), but "unique", but does not a similar unique individual set the ideal of a personality?
The position of the individual "from consciousness", characteristic of phenomenology, was also excluded in the Marxist project of activity. Phenomenology developed as a reaction to the traditional philosophical worldview coming from Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle, in modern times from Descartes, Kant, Hegel and Schelling, a tradition insisting on the uniqueness of reality as an entity (true, this entity was interpreted differently), on the uniqueness of its scientific description (in reality, too, very different from different philosophers). Phenomenologists, starting with Husserl, do not come from the essence (reality) that is outside of man, but from his consciousness, vision and experience, from the events that a person experiences. They are not interested in maintaining the established ways of describing the world, but in creating intellectual and individual conditions for building new ways and forms of cognition of reality, for constant change and development of thinking.
"The way of considering this question (about the meaning of being. – V.R. )," writes M. Heidegger, "is phenomenological. Thus, this study does not presuppose either a certain “point of view” or a certain “direction”, because phenomenology is not and cannot become either one or the other, as long as it is understood correctly <...> .
Every essential thinking requires that thought and positions be melted out of the basic mindset like metal every time. If there is no basic attitude, then everything is just a forced ringing of concepts and verbal shells<...> The thinking of being as an event is the original thinking, which, as a separation from the first beginning, prepares the beginning of another <...> Event : a reliable light of the realization of being in the most extreme horizon of the inner need of historical man" [17, p. 27].
"Existence, metaphysics assures," V. Bibikhin explains in one of the last articles, "exists, i.e. it is ready in some way. On the contrary, Being is always only realized. It comes true in an event that is always instantaneous, and flaring up, creates places, places where God passes and escapes again. If they are looking for a glimmer of mystery not to expose, but to reveal its mystery, is it possible to rely on existence?... Events cannot be arranged by thought, or, rather, this way: the whole thought, starting with its own possibility, has given responsibility for itself to the unsupported in the middle " [3, pp. 110-111].
Of course, there were an order of magnitude more supporters of the theory of activity among the philosophers of the Sixties than there were supporters of the phenomenological approach and thinking. Accordingly, there were more life decisions based on the first worldview. Let's compare, for example, how Shchedrovitsky and Mamardashvili formulated the meaning of life. The first saw him in the restoration of the Russian intelligentsia and the creation of a kind of order of methodologists who will ensure the proper development of Russia. The second is in such an understanding of oneself and life that will allow one to pass into the reality of spiritual salvation (probably different for each individual).
"It was then, in 1952," Shchedrovitsky recalls, "that I formulated for myself the basic principle that determined my entire future life and work: in order for Russia to take its place in the world, it is necessary to restore the intelligentsia of Russia... I really still think of myself as an ideologist of the intelligentsia, an ideologist if you can say so, actually cultural, cultural, cultural and technical work…An intellectual is obliged to remain a thinker: this is his socio-cultural purpose, his duty in society" [13, pp. 288, 302, 303].
"The most important thing in Proust's text," Mamardashvili reflects, –is clearly visible the path of man. And the “path”, by definition, if we take this word with a capital letter, is the path by which a person comes out of some kind of darkness: from the darkness of his life, from the darkness of impressions, from the darkness of existing customs, from the darkness of the existing social system, from the darkness of the existing culture, his “I", her a carrier, and must go somewhere where the pointing arrow of his unique personal experience shines... And the whole of life, in a sense, consists in whether a person is able to unwind to the end what really happened to him, what he really experiences and what kind of story grows out of his destiny" [8, pp. 155, 156]. "The destiny of man," explains Merab, "is to be fulfilled in the image and likeness of God. The image and likeness of God is a symbol, because in this complex phrase I introduced a metaphysical connotation into the definition of human destiny, that is, some kind of super–experienced representation, in this case of God. But actually I'm talking about a simple thing. Namely, man is not created by nature and evolution. A person is being created. Continuously, over and over again created. It is created in history, with the participation of himself, his individual efforts. And this is his continuous creation and is set for him in the mirror image of himself by the symbol “the image and likeness of God.” That is, man is a being whose emergence is continuously renewed. With each individual and in each individual" [8, pp. 58, 59].
A feature of G.P. Shchedrovitsky's activity approach is its addition with a methodological approach. Having moved on to the construction of the theory of activity in the 60s, Shchedrovitsky and representatives of the MMK (Moscow Methodological Circle) positioned themselves in philosophy precisely as methodologists. And this is not by chance, the variant of the methodology that they created was also a project close to Marxist. Of course, it did not presuppose the construction of socialism and the abolition of private property, but nevertheless it was based on Marxist principles – the requirement of a rational organization of labor and management, social justice, understood in the spirit of socialist ideals, the idea of development, the installation of a type of social action that should ensure this development, in fact, ignoring (due to beliefs and poor knowledge) reactions to this action of society, culture and historical traditions.
Technologically, the methodology in MMK was understood as, on the one hand, rationing of thinking and activity, on the other – as their programming and design. Speaking on behalf of phenomenology, V. Bibikhin in the book "Wittgenstein: the Change of Aspect" polemizes with Shchedrovitsky, arguing that methodological guidance in the form of norms or projects (programs) is not required for thinking and obtaining knowledge, since thinking and knowledge are tautological and subject-conditioned. According to Bibikhin, following Wittgenstein, logic is already contained in the language itself and its constructions (phrases), it is not the guides and rails along which we consciously roll our thought, but an immanent, unconscious property of our language and speech expression. What, Bibikhin asks, does the methodological analysis of a certain phrase, for example, a logical conclusion, give us?
"We," Bibikhin replies, "will probably have a sense of satisfaction from the identification and successful distribution of signs (we know what a function is, what an implication is, what truth is). Perhaps we will expand the scheme within which we conduct the distribution to the sphere of activity, for the sake of completeness of the picture ? mental activity, and connect it to the general methodology. Along the way, we will have considerations and objections, we will start to argue about ourselves or openly. We will get involved in the work that we have always done professionally and called it philosophy. What if you don't do it?
What if you pause on the line before an organizational and active game. Let's change our vision, look with different eyes. The phrase does not communicate anything that would push us to any kind of activity: it is a tautology. You can go the difficult way to see a tautology in it: remember that before writing and reading the signs, we had already agreed on their semantics and by recording the phrase, we only expanded, repeated what we ourselves had already invested in the semantics of following. Semantic truth and tautology are equivalent concepts" [2, pp. 42-43].
How can one understand this controversy, who is right – Bibikhin or Shchedrovitsky? On the one hand, Shchedrovitsky seems to be right, because starting with Parmenides, intellectual activity (reasoning, proofs, problem solving, theory building, justification, etc.) presupposes guidance (widely understood rationing), first in the form of definitions, then Aristotelian rules and categories (logic), then Descartes' methods, and finally methodology.
But there is a manual and a manual. It's one thing when Descartes formulates specific rules of a "good mind", here we are talking about also quite specific new ways of thinking in mathematics and physics. "By method," he writes, "I mean precise and simple rules, strict observance of which always prevents the acceptance of the false for the true, and, without unnecessary waste of mental strength, but gradually and continuously increasing knowledge, contributes to the fact that the mind reaches true knowledge of everything that is available to it... The whole method consists in the order and placement of what the tip of the mind should be directed at in order to discover any truth... for the method is for these minor arts nothing more than a constant observance of the order inherent in themselves or introduced into them by ingenious ingenuity" [7, pp. 89, 95].
It is another matter when Descartes asserts that "almost no one thinks about a good mind (bona mens) or about this all-encompassing wisdom, while all other occupations are valuable not so much in themselves as because they render her some services..." [7, p. 80]. In this case, he generalizes the concept of "good mind" to any kind of thinking, to any science. Which is hardly right.
My research shows that Shchedrovitsky always thought, generalizing the concept of thinking, to any kind of thinking and science. So at first he believed that thinking is a phenomenon of symbolic substitution (any thinking), then that it is an activity, later "methodological thinking", even later "pure thinking" as part of my activity [9, pp. 75-113]. And every time Shchedrovitsky tried to extend these concepts to any kind of thinking. Then he thought similarly about activity. As a result, as I show, Shchedrovitsky failed to understand the essence and nature of thinking [9, pp. 82-85]. In particular, because he immediately thought of hypotheses about thinking as correct and grasping all kinds of thinking.
While, probably, it was necessary to start with the analysis of specific types of thinking (in different types of sciences, in different historical periods, in design, in engineering, in art, etc.) and, only after describing these types of thinking and comparing them with each other, it was worth proceeding to cautious generalizations – constituting thinking as such. At the same time, of course, in order to study specific types of thinking, it was necessary to formulate hypotheses about the essence and nature of thinking, realizing, however, that these are just hypotheses that need verification and justification.
Another obstacle that made it difficult for Shchedrovitsky to understand thinking was the simultaneous study of thinking and its formation. In the first MMK program – "building a theory of thinking", these tasks were still different. The study of thinking was put forward as the main task, and its formation had to be based on the research results obtained at the same time. But starting with the formulation of the second program – "construction of the theory of activity" and the third program – "construction of the concept of mental activity", the task of formation becomes the main one, and research is not forgotten (no, formally this task is spoken out), but in reality the study of thinking fades into the background or is generally omitted. In my opinion, the concept of "methodological thinking" is introduced by Shchedrovitsky, in fact, to justify, on the one hand, the rejection of the study of thinking and activity, and on the other – to justify the work of methodologists (their own thinking and activity) as models of thinking as such [9, p. 98].
Phenomenologists, in my opinion, have another drawback. They correctly point out that it is necessary to avoid hasty generalizations, they demand to adhere to specific subjects, to implement specific types of creative activity, namely those in which new ways of thinking, sciences and disciplines are created. But at the same time, for some reason, only these specific types of intellectual activity are considered genuine thinking, while others, for example, within the framework of normal science (according to T. Kuhn) are considered as secondary, not so much thinking as remembering. For example, J. Deleuze prefers to call intellectual activity characteristic of normal science "recognition", so to speak, standard thinking, and genuine thinking is only such activity where an event occurs and people begin to think in a new way.
"The first ones are objects of recognition. Thinking and all its faculties can find full application here; thinking can work, but this preoccupation and application have nothing to do with thinking. Thinking is filled here only with its own image... The conditions of genuine criticism and genuine thinking are the same: the destruction of the way of thinking ? as one's own assumption, the genesis of the act of reflection in thinking itself. There is something in the world that makes you think. This something is an object of meeting, not recognition. What is encountered can be Socrates, a temple, a demon... Let us recall the profound texts of Heidegger, who shows that while thinking is limited to the assumption of its good nature and good will in the form of everyday consciousness, ratio, cogitatio natura universalis, it does not think at all, being a prisoner of public opinion, frozen in abstract possibility ...: “A person can think then, because he has such an opportunity, but the possible is not yet guarantees that we will be able to do this"; thinking thinks only forcibly, having to meet something that "makes you think", something that should be thought about – and you need to think about the unthinkable or non-thought, that is, the constant fact that "we are not thinking yet"" [5, p. 181, 135].
Phenomenologists are also mistaken in the fact that they are not aware of themselves: they themselves are, in some respects, methodologists, only of a different direction. After all, the principles they state or criticism from the phenomenologists of methodology are nothing but a guide to thinking. But naturally, a different mindset. However, does phenomenological thinking cancel classical thinking? However, at present, phenomenological thinking is also understood as classical. Just different kinds of thinking and different forms of its awareness.