RE: [xmca] Empirical Evidence for ZPD

From: Alexander Surmava (
Date: Mon Dec 04 2006 - 16:52:27 PST


My text is in MS office Word 2003

I'll attach it now in rtf and htm.




-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Paul Dillon
Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 4:01 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Empirical Evidence for ZPD




  I downloaded the English articles from your website but could not open
them with Word, just got formatting code. Could you tell me how I might
open them, what program you use?


  Paul Dillon


Alexander Surmava <> wrote:

  Hi Martin,




The fragment of “Crisis” which has attracted your interest is worth to

comment cause it contains both deep insights and equally deep



But before comment - a little preface.


Deepening into L.Vygotsky’s texts we have to realize what our aim is, what

are we looking for?


In case of “Crisis…” it is obvious that we can have two motivations: the

first is a historical interest. We can examine the text from the point of

view of development of Vygotsky’s ideas.


The alternative motivation takes place if we are seeking the methodological

ideas in “Crisis…”


Both motivations are looking as equally possible. But actually reading of

“Crisis…” with “methodological” motivation can be hardly estimated as an

effective investment of your researcher’s time. I mean that Vygotsky was one

of the pioneers of investigation of Marx’ method, of dialectic as a

methodology and he left us a couple of deep insights in this domain like say

an idea about germ cell, or analysis in units. But…


How do you value an investigator say biologist (not historian of biology

!!!) who will seek the methods of his current investigations in a monograph

issued in 1927? I’m afraid that this researcher will have grate problems

with publication of results of his investigations, cause the majority of

researchers’ community will estimate his methods slightly fossil while the

researcher slightly eccentric.


If Vygotsky was right in his theoretic reflection, if human’s creativity is

based on his culture and if real theoretic culture of Vygotsky was Marxism,

it means that we in our current investigations have to base on the most

up-to-date version of dialectical logic instead of classical work written in



Meanwhile between 1927 and 2006 Marxist theory was not dead. In the middle

of the last century the great step in the development of Dialectical logic

was made by Evald Il’enkov. So if one wants to continue the Vygotsky’s

theoretic researches, one need to study Marxist method from more up-to-date

saucer – the works of Evald Il’enkov first of all Dialectics of the Abstract

and Concrete, Dialectical Logic, The Concept of the Ideal, Leninist

Dialectics and Metaphysics of Positivism.


I repeat, if Vygotsky didn’t make a mistake regarding himself as a Marxist,

so we to go deeper into Vygotskian (=Marxist, or =Dialectical) psychology

have to study dialectic method rather from Il’enkov then from Vygotsky. I am

sure that if Vygotsky was alive now he would evidently share this position.


To demonstrate both similarities and differences between Vygotsky’s and

Il’enkov’s comprehension of Dialectic one need to realize a special

comparative analysis of their texts. And we (I mean a group of Il’enkov’s

disciples: Lev Naumenko, Alexander Simakin, Alexei Novokhatko, me and some

others) are planning to write a multi-author book about this topic. Such an

investigation was totally impossible in Soviet days because a tiny hint to

Vygotsky criticism could gave a heavy weapon to enemies of CHAT and shift

the discussion from academic to ideological soil. On the contrary, now such

an analysis is the only way to save the school from degeneration into



But let’s return to your question about ontological and epistemological

aspects of psychophysical problem. I think, that the difficulties you have

experienced in comprehension of the fragment is quite objective, because the

fragment is really vague. Vygotsky is trying to play an away match

discussing the problem in Neo-Kantianist terms - Ontology, Gnoseology

(Epistemology) - while dialectic regards all this notions excessive.


According to Il’enkov as well as Lenin Dialectic is a Logic and Theory of

Knowledge of Marxism so that we haven’t need in three words because this

three notions are identical. If you like to examine their arguments in

detail you can find it in Chapter 9 On the Coincidence of Logic with

Dialectics and the Theory of Knowledge of Materialism of “Dialectcal logic”


Now what I think about all of this. Surely the relationship of Geist and

matter is the most universal formula of the problem of identity of Thinking

and Being. Substantially, dialectically it was discussed in Descartes’ and

Spinoza’s reflections and rethought by Il’enkov in the first two chapters of

“Dialectical logic


The problem of so called “Ontological” status of subject and object has two

simple answers:


1. ascends to Descartes and supposes an existence of two separate

substances with opposite ontological status. So Descartes saves the special

ontological status for realm of thought, will, reflection etc, etc.

2. ascends to Spinoza and supposes an existence of only one substance.

So it insists that there is only one “Ontological status”, that assumption

of the second bodyless “Ontological status” is a simple return to mythology.


Evald Il’enkov in his “Dialectic of Ideality” summarize all this in

following words: (s tochki zreniya posledovatel'nogo materializma v mire

voobsche net i ne mozhet byt' nichego, krome dvizhuscheisya materii, krome

beskonechnoi sovokupnosti material'nyh tel, sobytii, protsessov i



(from the point of view of consistent materialism there is not actually and

can’t be anything but moving matter, but unlimited totality of material

bodies, events, processes and condition). It is characteristic that Il’enkov

did this statement in his classical work concerning the problem of ideality.


Thus even hypothetical admission of existence of more than one “ontological”

state leads us to strong contradiction with the basics of Spinozism. It

(this contradiction) meant nothing for idealist Hoffding but it was awkward

for materialist and Spinozist Vygotsky.


Vygotsky declares: “Both mind and body are for us objective, but whereas

mental objects [geistigen Objekte] are by their nature related to the

knowing subject, the body exists only as an object for us.”


Here in understanding of objects as having by nature nothing to with any

subjectivity or cognition Vygotsky against his Spinozian inclinations acts

as pure Cartesian.


As for subject-object relation it can be understood in different theoretic

cultures quite differently. In formal logic and in positivist tradition the

subject-object relation is no more than a grammatical definition. As it was

clearly described by our colleague David Kellogg:


“I guess for me a subject is a grammatical subject or else a discourse

subject (that is, a "speaking subject") and an object is either a

grammatical object or a hearer or listener. So that puts me in the semiotic

camp rather than the activity theoretic one, though I am willing to accept

that the activity theoretic camp probably has a lot more interesting things

to say about animals.”


It is characteristic that some problematic interest from dialectic approach

he waits only to understand the nature of ungrammatical animals.


The dialectical alternative is in understanding of subject-object relation

as relation which arises from spontaneous activity of some special sort of

bodies (we mean living or in terms of Il’enkov “thinking bodies”) so that as

a result of this activity we have a fact of mutual positioning of Subject

and its Object (or better Gegenstand or Predmet).


I’m afraid that it’s impossible to comment the last one as briefly as David

did, so for more details I can only address to my text “LIFE, PSYCHE,

CONSCIOUSNESS” which is available to download in English from here:


As for Vygotsky’s sophisticated reasoning about reflection in the mirror it

gives us one extra prove of his unwilling Cartesianism and a chance to

demonstrate the potential of activity approach.


But the topic is so tasty and the time in Moscow is so late (or already

early :-)) that I will leave my comments for the nest post.








-----Original Message-----

From: [] On

Behalf Of Martin Packer

Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2006 4:55 PM

To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity

Subject: Re: [xmca] Empirical Evidence for ZPD




Given the current discussion of the dialectic this seems an excellent time


to ask for guidance on some passages from Vygotksy's 'Crisis' that strike me


as important, but which I find confusing. Sasha, I'd welcome your


interpretation. Vygotsky is arguing for the need, in a truly 'general'


psychology, to distinguish the epistemological problem of the relation of


subject and object from the ontological problem of the relation between mind


and body, and then of course to solve both problems. Then he writes:




"³We must not mix up the relation between subject and object with the


relation between mind and body, as Høffding [1908] splendidly explains. The


distinction between mind [Geist] and matter is a distinction in [established


at the level of] the content of our knowledge. But the distinction between


subject and object manifests [establishes] itself independently from the


content of our knowledge.² (323) [The material in brackets is my


modifications to the translations based on the Spanish version; a bit risky,


I know]




He then quotes Hoffding:




³Both mind and body are for us objective, but whereas mental objects


[geistigen Objekte] are by their nature related to the knowing subject, the


body exists only as an object for us. The relation between subject and


object is an epistemological problem [Erkenntnisproblem], the relation


between mind and matter is an ontological problem [Daseinsproblem].²




I find it difficult to reconcile these two paragraphs. Is he saying that


mind and body are objective for us; we experience them as really existing.


But all objects are such only for a knowing subject, so the body, for


example, exists as a real object only for us, as subjects. This distinction,


between subject and object, arises whether we experience it or not? Or,


since Œknowledge¹ is something valued for V, perhaps he's saying that Geist


and matter are things we can know. They are real. Their relation is a


problem, and it is ontological. Whereas subject and object are how things


appear, or how they can appear, in ³epistemological consciousness,² i.e.


introspection. It follows that the subjective (the for-us) must not merely


be described but also explained, in terms of real objects and real


processes. Mental processes are real processes, not identical with


subjectivity. ³Empirical, psychological consciousness² is, it seems,


non-dualistic. My joy is real (and non-dualistic). My introspection of this


joy introduces dualism.




A few pages later:




"³After 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 nature² (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.)








On 11/30/06 2:43 AM, "" wrote:




> Hi Mike,




> I mean the text from the volume 6 of Russian collected works of LSV


> "Utchenie ob emotziakh" or "Spinoza" as it was titled by LSV himself.












xmca mailing list



xmca mailing list





Check out the all-new Yahoo! Mail beta - Fire up a more powerful email and
get things done faster.


xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Jan 03 2007 - 07:06:18 PST