Re: [xmca] Empirical Evidence for ZPD

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Sat Dec 02 2006 - 11:20:33 PST

Fernanda, I'm sure reading Spinoza would help a lot, if I had the time.
Hegel wrote along similar lines too, no? But if Vygotsky is taken to be
saying "the same" as Hegel, or Spinoza, or Marx, one wonders what he was
trying to figure out? If Hegel, for example, gave a coherent account of the
development from self-certainty to systematic knowledge, what did V feel was
left for psychology to do? (And to reply that Hegel was an idealist and
therefore mistaken is to read Hegel anachronistically, I think; and I don't
believe that V read him that way.) Marx, too, had not supplied what V was
looking for. No one, it seems, had yet specified how to build a science for
the investigation of how mind is constituted. So in Crisis he's not merely
repeating the dialectical formulae that "the teachers of Marxism beforehand"
had offered, but trying to craft something new. I'm trying to better
understand what that new science was to be.


On 12/2/06 2:01 PM, "Fernanda Liberali" <> wrote:

> I suggest reading Spinoza's descripton of the Substance/ Nature and
> attributes. This quote from Vygotsky is almost exactly what Spinoza says in
> the Ethics.
> A quote form a discussion of Spinoza:
> "...the idea of a single Substance which is absolute, universal and infinite.
> It is an active and self-generating force, the cause of itself, in itself and
> by itself; hence, everything propagated by this force was generated since
> eternity. Therefore, this Substance cannot be constituted by distinct and
> separable parts, as dualist monotheists, based on binary logics, used to
> envisage. This single Substance consists of indefinite endless attributes.
> These attributes are conceived as modifications on the substance /Nature/ God,
> of which human beings can only distinguish two: extension and thought,
> inextricable and intricate, as they have to do with one and only indivisible
> Substance. From extension derives materiality, which means the bodies as
> infinite ways of extension; and, from thought, derive ideas and souls, its
> finite modes. Everything that takes place in the attribute of extension also
> happens in the attribute of thought, as things and ideas have the same origin
> and they follow the same laws and principles, though in a qualitatively
> distinct manner. These attributes are not deductible or dependent, but
> parallel, i.e., there is no kind of domination or submission of one over the
> other. In short, if the body is affected, so is the soul. Consequently, the
> long Cartesian hierarchic tradition, which defines the soul as superior to the
> body, is broken." (Liberali And Fuga, 2006)
> Fernanda
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Martin Packer" <>
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Sent: Saturday, December 02, 2006 4:41 PM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Empirical Evidence for ZPD
> Natalia, thanks very much. The cyrillic didn't come through, but I can piece
> together the English:
> "after all a cornerstone of materialism is a proposition about (that)
> consciousness and the brain are, both, a product (of nature), (and) a part
> of nature, (the one) that reflects the rest of nature"
> Might you be able to take a look at the other two excerpts in the original
> Russian?
> Let me think about this 'out loud' a little. This is the point in Crisis
> where Vygotsky is specifying what a truly Marxist psychology, a 'general'
> psychology, must study. A science, he insists, studies not appearances but
> what really exists. Optics, for example, studies mirror surfaces and light
> rays, not the images we see in the mirror, for the latter are phantoms. A
> scientific psychology must study the real processes that can give rise to
> such appearances, not (just) the appearances. [It's not clear to me how far
> to go with this seeming analogy between the way a mirror reflects and the
> way the brain/Cs 'reflects the rest of nature'.] So any descriptive,
> intuitionist phenomenology must be rejected. What really exists? A
> materialist maintains that the brain exists, and consciousness too. V cites
> Lenin to the effect that what is matter, what is objective, is what exists
> independently of human consciousness. And, seemingly paradoxically,
> consciousness can exist outside our consciousness: for we can be conscious
> without being self-conscious. I can see without knowing that I see. So a
> general psychology must study consciousness, but to know the mind we can't
> rely on introspection, in part because in introspection mind splits into
> subject and object: a dualism arises in the act of self-reflection. We can't
> establish a psychological science only on the basis of what we experience
> directly (as Husserl tried to do); it must be based on knowledge, which is
> the result of analysis, not merely of experience. And what is analysis?
> Complicated answer put briefly: analysis lies at the intersection of
> methodology and practice: it is the exhaustive study of a single case in all
> its connections, taken as a social microcosm. It involves what Marx
> (following Hegel) called abstraction.
> I'll confess I'm still not clear what V is proposing as the solutions to the
> epistemological and ontological problems that he has distinguished. It looks
> to me as though he is saying that the epistemological problem - that
> concerning the relation between subject and object - arises only when one
> accepts uncritically the dualism that arises in introspection (or 'blind
> empiricism'?). So once one rejects introspection this problem dissolves. The
> implication is that if one begins not with introspection but with practice,
> one avoids any subject-object dualism. The ontological problem - concerning
> the relation between mind and matter - is what he's trying to study, no? How
> is a brain-in-a-body-in-a-social-world the basis for consciousness, then
> self-consciousness, then self-mastery and knowledge?
> Hmmm
> Martin
>> Hi Martin,
>> I found it --- in Russian, vol.1 of "Sobranie Sochinenii", on page 416.
>> It reads in Russian as very similar to the English quote your posted above:
>> "Âåäü -- after all-- ê›àåóãîëüíûì êàìíåì ìàòå›èàëèçìà -- a corneestone of
>> materialism -- ÿâëÿåòñÿ ïîëîæåíèå î òîì, -- is a proposition about, --- ÷òî
>> ñîçíàíèå è ìîçã åñòü ï›îäóêò --- (that) consciousness and the brain are,
>> both, a product (of nature),--- ÷àñòü ï›è›îäû, ---(and) a part of nature, --
>> îò›àæàflùàflöàÿ îñòàëüíófl ï›è›îäó -- (the one) that reflects the rest of
>> nature"
>> Or something like this.
>> Hope this is helpful, and not making things more confusing.
>> Cheers,
>> Natalia.
> On 11/30/06 2:47 PM, "Natalia Gajdamaschko" <> wrote:
>> On Thu, 30 Nov 2006 08:55:29 -0500 wrote:
>>> A few pages later:
>>> "“After all, a cornerstone of materialism is the proposition that
>>> consciousness and the brain are a product, a part of nature, which reflect
>>> the rest of nature” (327).
>>> The last sentence is not grammatical English, so something has clearly
>> gone
>>> wrong with the translation.
>>> If anyone has access to the original Russian and could comment,that
>>> would be
>>> great. (Page numbers are from the version in The Essential Vygotsky.)
>>> Martin
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