Re: [xmca] Vygotsky's "objective" psychology

From: Emily Duvall <duvalleg who-is-at>
Date: Fri May 18 2007 - 20:10:58 PDT

In the 1925 "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behavior"
(available online by the way), Vygotsky says excluding consciousness
from the domain of scientific psychology preserves the dualism and
spiritualism of subjective psychology. In discussing the subjective, he
notes the following:.

    "In this view a subject's report is in no sense an act of
self-observation that interferes like getting a spoon of tar into the
barrel of honey of objective scientific investigation. No
self-observation at all. The subject is not at all in the situation of
an observer; he does not help an experimenter observe reflexes hidden
from his view. To the very end, and during the actual giving of an
account, a subject fully remains the object of an experiment; but
certain changes or transformations are introduced into the experiment
itself, through subsequent questioning; a new irritant is introduced (a
new questioning), and a new reflex enables us to assess the undetected
portions of the preceding one. The entire experiment passes through a
"double lens".
    It is necessary to include such a passing of an experience through
the secondary reactions of consciousness in the methods of psychological
investigation. An individual's behavior and the establishment of new
conditional reactions are governed not only by disclosed, complete, and
fully detected reactions, but also by reactions, undisclosed in their
external part, invisible to the naked eye."
    Later he states "the mechanism of social behavior and the mechanism
of consciousness are the same. Speech, on the one hand, is a system of
"reflexes for social contact", and, on the other, a system, most
eminently, of reflexes of consciousness, a system for reflecting other
systems.... The mechanism for knowing oneself (self-awareness) is the
same as the mechanism for knowing others....The individual aspect of
consciousness is constructed as derived and secondary, based on the
social and exactly according to its model."

    My understanding, then, of objective psychology is that it is not
based on a distinction of 'what I the scientist observe' about the
person/process as being more scientific than 'what you observe about
yourself', but that objective psychology includes as scientific 'what I
the scientist observe' and 'what you are aware of and can tell me '.
 From Problems of Method:

"We regard our method as important because it helps to objectify inner
psychological processes; stimulus-response methods are objective, [p.
75] but they are limited to the study of external responses that are
usually in the subject's repertoire to begin with. We believe that our
approach to objectifying inner psychological processes is much more
adequate, where the goals of psychological research are concerned, than
the method of studying preexisting, objective responses. Only the
objectification of the inner process guarantees access to specific forms
of higher behavior as opposed to subordinate forms."

Ultimately, an objective psychology is dialogic and dialectical...Am I
on the right track?
~ Em

Andy Blunden wrote:
> In Chapter 1 of "Crisis in Psychology" Vygotsky talks a lot about
> "subjective psychology", which might shed more light on exactly what
> he meant by "objective psychology".
> I think he is talking about the methodology for collecting and
> analysing data. "Subjective Psychology" regards data accessible by
> introspection as the only truly valid data for psychology. As opposed
> to psychoanalysis, behaviourism, reflexology and his own methods of
> experimentation, which in different ways demand that material data
> determined by observation by another person must form the basis for
> scientific study.
> Andy
> At 03:40 PM 18/05/2007 -0500, you wrote:
>> This summer I'm trying to catch up on some long-overdue reading. I've
>> begun
>> with Vol. 3 of the Plenum series, the Collected Works of L. S. Vygotsky:
>> Problems with the History and Theory of Psychology.
>> First, Rene van der Veer's Foreword and introductory chapter are well
>> worth
>> reading, particularly in informing our periodic discussions of
>> problems with
>> translation from one language to another; and especially of translating
>> Vygotsky, who "never rewrote a text for the sake of improving its
>> style and
>> readability" (van der Veer, p. v).
>> Vol. 3 of the English-language version is actually Vol. 1 of the Russian
>> collection, and it includes Leont'ev's introduction to the Russian
>> series
>> (Leont'ev's intro is titled "On Vygotsky's Creative Development"). I'm
>> puzzled by some of the phrasing, and wonder if I'm coming up against a
>> translation issue (which happened when I first read of Vygotsky's
>> "genetic"
>> method, which is developmental and not biological, as I'd originally
>> assumed). Leont'ev says that Vygotsky sought "to build a new, objective
>> psychology." I'm having trouble with the term "objective" here. My
>> sense of
>> Vygotsky's project was that it involved what we now think of as
>> constructivism, which is typically positioned against objectivism. At
>> the
>> same time, I know that some use the term "object" to refer to the
>> goal-oriented nature of activity. Can anyone help me with my trouble in
>> understanding the use of the term "objective" in this context?
>> One final thing: I'm aware that there's some disagreement over the
>> extent to
>> which Vygotsky's work is Marxist. Leont'ev unambiguously describes
>> Vygotsky's work as inherently Marxist (e.g., "[Vygotsky's] new
>> psychology
>> which dealt with the most complex phenomena of the mental life of man,
>> including consciousness, could only evolve on the basis of Marxism"
>> (Leont'ev, p. 15). I'm not sure why others would think
>> differently--perhaps
>> someone who finds Vygotsky insuffiently Marxist could clarify.
>> In any case, I hope that your own summer work is off to a good start.
>> Peter
>> Peter Smagorinsky
>> The University of Georgia
>> Department of Language and Literacy Education
>> 125 Aderhold Hall
>> Athens, GA 30602-7123
>> /fax:706-542-4509/phone:706-542-4507/
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> Andy Blunden. The Subject -
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

He only earns his freedom and his life, who takes them every day by storm.
-- Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Emily Duvall
Doctoral Candidate (ABD) / Graduate Assistant-Instructor
Language and Literacy Education (LLED)
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
College of Education
Penn State University
256 Chambers Bldg.
University Park , PA  16802
814-861-3315 (home)
814-404-6175 (cell)
814-863-4511 (office)
FAX: 814-863-7602
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Received on Fri May 18 21:12 PDT 2007

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