Object-thing activism in the light of dialectics categories of "matter" and "form": philosophical educational measurement

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №8 - 2016

Author: Voznyak Sergey, Professor of the Department of Cultural Studies and Sociocultural Activity Management, Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University, Lutsk, Ukraine

Philosophical and educational discourse is designed to reflectively and critically analyze categorical content of the educational process - since categories appear to be not only forms of thinking, but also internal, intrinsic activity measurements. Such an orientation to the public gets a particular relevance against the background of varied attempts to subordinate education to the implementation of the “social order”, requests of “consumer society”, “service market” and so on. Of course, institutionalized forms of education cannot “serve” the orders of the state and its institutions, they cannot but be influenced by modern civilization. But philosophy as such has always been above the “time calls”, above actuality and determined the angle of minded consideration of reality, based on a certain integrity of being.

Categories of “form” in pedagogical literature, are presented in a very peculiar manner. There are countless publications devoted to different forms of organization of teaching and education, which determine the content of education as a set of academic disciplines to be studied, and the entire process of education is viewed as a purposeful development of the individual. A lot has been said about the dominance of formalism in the field of education, too. The categories themselves are rarely described at the appropriate level - they are not viewed as concepts of the dialectical thinking culture focused on the experience of classical philosophy.

A study of the categorical structure of thinking, one way or another, has always been a specific task of philosophy with which other branches of knowledge cannot cope with their own resources. Another thing is that this analysis can be carried out in different ways. Categories can be viewed as the given’s in a “ready-made” form, described, systematized, cataloged by different principles in different fields of science, reaffirming the conclusions by the “examples” in science and social life. Indeed, before the defining the categories, they need to be first simply described. However, this approach still seems to be obsolete since categories have long been described in the history of philosophy. Besides, the history of philosophy saw ingenious attempts to describe and explain categories.

If we consider the categories not only in the narrow terms of methodology, but from the point of view of their logical and epistemological aspects, if we try to follow the logic of their development in the cultural and historical context, if we try to analyze them in terms of the philosophical out look in order to reveal their activity-related, social and practical foundations, then we can speak of a different approach, which, in our view, has a number of advantages. Then, our intelligence categories are understood not only as an “empty forms” of thought, not as a “logical framework”, not only as a “man management”, but as a meaningful and substantive forms of human thought, which is realized not only (and not so much) in developing sign systems, but as internal determination activities, as forms of contemplation, orientation in the world. This, in its turn, enables us to understand the meaning of most of the problems of today's practice and to rethink the ways of their solution. Socio-historical, activity-ideological approach to the study of philosophical categories is the one that yields the most significant results.

The categories themselves function as universal forms of thought. But if the categories were just forms of thought, then the problem of coincidence of thought and being would be insoluble (as it happened with Kant). Therefore, categories, which are simultaneously the universal forms of being and thinking, universal definitions of reality, are the nodal points of the mind activity. After all, thinking is a social and human capacity to carry out activities in accordance with the objective laws of reality, and for this purpose - to transform the schemes of one’s own activity, change forms, methods, and characteristics of one’s own development. Categorical form is what allows a man to move not in accordance with one’s own “organization”, but in accordance with the forms and standards of reality itself.

Categories are not the “empty forms”; they are meaningful form. This gives rise to a legitimate question about the content of dialectics of the categories of “form” and “content”. It should be noted that here we deal with a specific turning of the category into itself, and retaining in this the multi-level, multi-layer mix of categorical “form-content” relation requires considerable intellectual effort and certain dialectical research method.

Education is a process of continuous development of human subjectivity, the process of turning an individual into a man through desobjectivation, assignment of specifically human (historically developed) forms of life and communication. This is where a man is formed as a man, an individual acquires one’s own human nature.

The categories of “form” has a special role in this process, because education is a formative activity.

The categories of “form” were comprehensively described and interpreted in Hegel’s “Science of Logic”. The German thinker examines three groups of categories – “form – substance”, “form – matter”, “form – content”. Let us try to find in this categorical row (social and practical) attitude to the world.

In their ideological meaning, the categories of “form and substance” serve as forms of contemplation of a social man. In its reflexive unity “form” and “substance” orient at the contemplation and at the perception of the objective world as a man-organized being, at the recognition of human nature in the external, at seeing the meaning and interpreting the seen. The world in this eidetic intuition appears as something thorough, substantial, having an absolute meaning and not allowing the subject to treat itself purely from the point of possession.

If in the above-mentioned categorical pair form and substance belong to the object, then in the “form – matter” relation both of them entirely belong to the subject. Thus, the categorical definition of “form” and “matter” are the definitions of the activity, which is one-sided and abstract, and bears in itself the form, the substance and the goal to implement them in a passive substrate - the matter. In terms of logics, these categories are the definitions of a simple labor, and in the world view terms, they are definitions voluntarist - destructive subjective activity, activism, which considers objective being as something insignificant and inconsequential. The universalization of this relationship as a way of active transformation both nature and society leads to disastrous consequences, and in the sphere of education – to the reduction, coercion and violence.

Ideological meaning of the categories of “form” and “content” is concentrated on the problem of the meaningfulness of human activity. In this case, substance and form belong to both subject and object, and therefore it is important to not only define them, but also consider their relation. It is essential to consider the very meaningfulness of the relationship between subject and object. Categories “form” and “content”, taken in their dialectics are regulators of consciously exercised human activity, i.e. the activity, which has the unity of the theoretical and the practical relationship to the world, activity and contemplative aspects of human attitudes toward the world. Such activity is aimed not only and not so much at the consumer-useful transformation of the world of objects, but rather at identification of the internal measure and essence of the transformed activity and adequate for this essence and measure transformations. Thus, this activity is open to the worlds of other subjects. Adequate human attitude to the world implies a conscious attitude to the form, which takes into account its immanent split on the content and formal form, and thus retaining the internal contradiction in the formal and the substantive in the activity.

In order to overcome deformations of the educational process there is a need for drastic restrictions of external forming activity and search for appropriate forms of building relationships of participants of pedagogical communication.

Let us return to the dialectics of the relation of categories of “form” and “matter”. Hegel wrote: “Matter is <...> a simple identity devoid of differences, which is the essence, whose definition is to be distinct from the form. Therefore, it is a foundation, or a substrate of the form ... Matter, which is defined as indifferent, or passive is opposed to form or to what is active. Form as a self-related negativity is a contradiction in itself, it is what destroys itself, repels itself from itself and defines itself. It is related to the matter and positioned in such a way as to correlate with the retention of it self as with the other <...>. Matter <...> correlates with the form as with the other only because the form is not inherent in it. Because it is a form only in itself. Therefore, the matter is to get a form, and the form should materialize, acquire the identity with itself, in other words, it should acquire stability” [2, p. 78-79]. What lies be hind this dialectics?

The movement of categorical definitions of “form” and “matter”, following Aristotle described not the “world view”, but the process of labor, the process of purposeful human activity. Indeed, under what conditions can the matter serve as a passive substrate? - Only when it serves not as the subject of contemplation, but as the subject of labor, material of activities. In this case, the activity is entirely on the side of the subject and the object of labor will take the form sculpted by a formative activity. According to Marx, labor is “an activity, by which a worker shapes the work materials, and which, therefore, materializes it self as a form in labor materials” [3, p. 59]. Marx also said: “Formative activity destroys the subject and itself. It forms the subject and materializes itself, it destroys itself in its subjective form as an activity, and destroys the subjective in the subject, i.e., eliminates its indifference to the labor purposes” [3, p. 59].

However, this indifference, this formlessness of matter as a material is just an instant to be eliminated, which is in fact eliminated in the process of activity. Identification of this moment as sustainable and self-existent leads to its absolutization. After all, the matter appears formless only from the point of view of “entelechy”, but at the same time it is clear that the matter itself has its own forms and in the sensual activity the subject deals with precisely such forms, forms of sensory things, the conversion of which is the subject of his activity. Resistance to the subject of human activity is precisely what makes its own “self”, its consistency and interconnectedness with other objects. In the process of transforming practice the objective form is repeatedly converted until the substrate matches the form, which is adequate to the goals of the man.

The greatest difficulty in this case is to overcome external opposition of form and matter, and, likewise, the external opposition of the subject, on the one hand, and of the matter with its immanent forms, on the other. “What presents itself as an activity of the form, is <...> to the same degree a proper motion of matter itself” [2, p. 81]. In these words of Hegel is the essence of the problem.

The dialectic of form and matter really describes a process of simple labor. However, when the characteristics of a simple labor are transferred to a more complicated activity, which is infinitely higher and more complicated like an educational activity, then we face a tremendous reduction. Indeed, teaching and education is the process of transformation. And if this transformation is represented in the mind and put into practice through the logical connection of the active and passive matter, then we face an object-subject activity in its educational application.

G.S. Batishchev characterizes the object-subject activity in the following way: it is “equivalent to a man's attitude to the world as an object, and it is only as an object, as an aggregate of axiologically insignificant things like the material and the background, which affects it. This material and this background, this set of tied-up things has common object-subject characteristics and principles. Therefore, if the subject obeys the latter and follow them, it can ignore the reality while formulating its goals, identifying and choosing its values that will act as the norms and principles. Thus, the impact of a man on the world becomes a value-conscious one-sided intervention and stewardship - value-conscious activity from oneself and only oneself” [1, p. 153].

Activity is objective, it has to correlate with the content of its object. But object-subject activity is “fundamentally non-objective in the sense that any existence exposed to impact that bears appointed forms of the active system. What originally was being, which was then exposed to the activity, is in the nature of things unavailable for activity, otherworldly to it. The activity emphasis is placed on changing mainly the object: the subject requires from the latter to fit into the already established trend of cognitive and common human culture, to comply with its way of development, its own measure of the standard” [1, p. 161].

If education and teaching are based on the subject-object model, then educational activity possesses all the essential features of object-subject activity. Then there is the imposition of its own form, its implementation in the mind, behavior, student subjectivity as in a kind of “matter” that needs to be flexible enough for the adoption of an appropriate form. There is no need to discuss results and effectiveness of training and learning designed in this way - they are well known.

Does it mean we have to abandon the formative activities in the educational process? No, by no means. We just need to radically restrict the object-subject activity, to take it to the periphery of the communication. Simultaneously we need a deeper understanding of the dialectics of the category of “form”. Education as a way of teaching a man an introduction of the external form into a certain “matter”, but an involvement of individuals in such forms of life-sustaining activity, inside which proper human abilities cannot be formed.

So, here we speak about a regular educational activity, which is focused not only and not so much on useful transformation of the world of objects, but rather on the identification of internal measure of the transformed reality and adequate in exactly this cultural setting transformation. Accordingly, in this case we face an activity, which is the unity of practical and theoretical relationships, i.e. creative activity, which can bear the telltale signs of the artistic process. Such activity in accordance with its concept and should be an educational process. From this it becomes clear why gaining experience in exposure to culture (as exposure to the subjectivity of the others) is a critical, the main task of the educational process, having a transcendental character (as Kant would say). These forms of such experience, containing methods of the culture’s entering human subjectivity should become the main subject of teacher’s concerns. While A theoretical pedagogy should not fulfill a “social order”, but analyze these forms without breaking the logic of co-shared activity and always bearing in mind that the forms of this experience are directly related to the intellectual culture (culture of thinking), ethical culture and artistic and aesthetic culture. In other words, with the culture of thought, will and feelings.


1. Batishchev, G.S. Vvedeniev Dialektiku tvorchestva [Introduction into Dialectics of Creativity]. – SPb:RGChI, 1997. – 459 p.

2. Hegel, G.W.F. Nauka logiki [The Science of Logics in 3 volumes];–М.:Mysl, 1971. –Т.2. – 248 p.– (Philosophical heritage).

3. Marx, K. Ekonomicheskaya Rukopis 1861-1863 Godov [Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863].Ed. 2. Vol. 47. – 659 p.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №8 - 2016

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