Re: [xmca] Vygotsky “ s historicism

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Sun Apr 06 2008 - 16:47:08 PDT


So the task would be to develop the study of the forms of the activity of
consciousness. Let me jump threads to the discussion of emotion, to mention
two texts that in the past I've found very helpful for re-thinking emotion
as interactional and in the world. Old but great! The first builds on
Sartre's analysis of emotions as transformations of our way of being in the
world. The second views emotions as interpersonal movements (and more):

Hall, R. L., & Cobey, V. E. (1976). Emotion as transformation of the world.
Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 6, 180-198.

de Rivera, J. (1977). A structural theory of the emotions. Psychological
Issues, 10 (whole number #40).

If emotions are in and of interaction-in-the-world - forms of the activity
of consciousness - and not in the mind, we can surely study them


On 4/6/08 3:48 PM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:

> I like that formulation a lot, Martin. Little chance to gain general
> agreement, but perhaps a chance
> for some finer grained pointers toward a more satisfactory formulation.
> thanks
> mike
> On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 12:49 PM, Martin Packer <> wrote:
>> Mike,
>> No, I agree with your characterization of "embryology onwards..." When V
>> writes of "psychological [mental] functions" perhaps the problem is with
>> me
>> rather than him, but it's very easy to take for granted that perception,
>> attention, memory, emotion, thought are distinct mental systems. We all
>> see
>> to now exactly what each one is, and we think we can consider them
>> separately.
>> OK, let's assume the problem is with me. So V immediately redefines
>> psychological functions as "forms of the activity of consciousness." In
>> Sasha's terms, this would be "object-directed activity," no? If
>> consciousness is real and objective, to be located in the interaction
>> between person and environment, as I have argued, then the different forms
>> of its activity would also be real and objective, always aspects of a
>> whole,
>> albeit one that is organized differently over ontogenesis.
>> Martin
>> On 4/6/08 1:29 PM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:
>>> Martin and Sasha-
>>> I am having trouble following all the differernt threads and have this
>> idea
>>> it would be a good idea
>>> to summarize where we think each of them stands in terms of points
>> agreed
>>> upon, appoints clearly
>>> disagreed about, and points of confusion (on the assumption we can
>>> distinguish)!! A brief comment on
>>> a move made here by Martin that strikes me as a misdirection: I Bold in
>> red
>>> the part I want to focus on below.
>>> On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 10:50 AM, Martin Packer <> wrote:
>>>> 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!
>>> Where does this idea come from? We don'[t need lsv to know that at
>> birth,
>>> and before
>>> birth for normal term infants, that the different "psychological
>> functions"
>>> are no "separate
>>> components". From early embryology onward (at least!!) we are dealing
>> with a
>>> complex,
>>> morphologically and functionally differentiated organism|environment
>> (even
>>> layers of
>>> envrionment), the CONFIGURATIONS of which change over development. We
>> are
>>> not talking
>>> about stitching together Frankenstein here, we are talking about organic
>>> evolution. Both
>>> organism, "its" enviroment, and their inter-relationships are all and
>> always
>>> changing vis a vis
>>> each other.
>>> That is how I understand the starting point of our analysis. Is this not
>>> something we can agree upon?
>>> And if not, what is a formulation we might be able to start with??
>>> mike
>>>> 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
>>>> others.
>>>> 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.
>>>> Martin
>>>>> 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.
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