Re: [xmca] Vygotsky “ s historicism

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Sun Apr 06 2008 - 10:50:13 PDT

Hi Sasha,

I would like to respond to just two of the points in your message, though I
think they are central. The first is something I've begun to think about but
have not taken very far. It has been troubling me that Vygotsky adopts a
notion of "psychological functions" which seems from the start to divide
consciousness into separate components which then have to be stitched back
together again. I've been Goggling without much success to try to discover
the history of this 'functionalism,' and some of it seems to be medieval,
some of it even Greek (though perhaps the translations can be questioned?).
I'd welcome eduction on this from any/everybody out there!

It seems that one would indeed, as you sugest, want to both start and end
with monism: the neonate doesn't have distinct fuctions such as memory,
attention, emotion. The adult has a smoothly integrated system of such
functions. It's certainly the case that Vygotsky avoided trying to analyse
these functions separately, and indeed insisted in Thought and Language that
what was new in his appoach was that it was the study of their *relations*.
For example, although Thought & Language seems to be a study of two distinct
functions and their interrelation, Vygotsky began the book by insisting that
consciousness has to be understood as a unity of functions and that any
analysis of these two has to be conducted against a background of all the

But why talk of "functions" at all?

On 4/2/08 3:54 PM, "Alexander Surmava" <> wrote:

> To correspond this
> statement with dialectical logic we have to turn it upside down and state
> something like this: perception is an abstract form of conceptual thinking
> while ³multiple psychological functions² do not ³work together² because they
> do not exist anywhere beyond multiple psychological theories. (By the way,
> A.Leont¹ev in his late years realized the necessity of formulation basically
> new, monistic, not knocked together from different ³psychological functions²
> psychological theory but let this task to us ­ his successors.)

Your second point is that we need to pay attention not just to the ape but
also to the man. Here too I fully agree with you. When I read Vygotsky it is
with later thinkers in view, though for me it is not Leont'ev but thinkers
(and actors) such as Bourdieu and Foucault. I'm not suggesting this choice
of thinkers is better than yours, only that it's easier for me because these
later thinkers are located within work I am more familiar with, such as
critical theory and phenomenology.


> When the fact of development take place, when after Kant do
> appear firstly Hegel and lately Marx we have only one chance to understand
> both later thinker and his predecessor starting from the later, more
> developed theory. It sounds as paradox, but that is objective dialectical
> paradox of the process of cognition.

xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Apr 6 10:55 PDT 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu May 01 2008 - 17:14:13 PDT