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Re: [xmca] Vygotsky's Plural Discourse!!


Certainly in this paper that Haydi has sent Ilyenkov's definition of
internalization is exemplary:

"the process by which external actions?that is, actions in the space outside
the skull, outside the human body?are turned into internal actions, into
actions that take place inside the human body in general and inside the
brain in particular."

Here 'inside' and 'outside' most evidently refer to places in material
space, within and without the body. No reference at all to any 'mental'
space or place. And Ilyenkov states clearly that this was Vygotsky's
understanding too.

I haven't yet go to the point about reflection. Can you give us a gloss,
Andy, of how Ilyenkov gives flesh to the idea of reflection? (And in what
sense a congenitally blind child forms an 'image'?!)


On 2/1/09 8:54 AM, "Andy Blunden" <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> Also, the Ilyenkov article is interesting in that he winds
> up with the idea of mind hingeing around the capacity to
> form an image of the external world through the practical
> use of artifacts. When you read Meshcheryakov's descriptions
> of how young kids who are blind and deaf and have never
> known language or any specifically human object, go about
> forming that image, it does really give flesh to the
> understanding of these Russians of the idea of "reflection."
> Andy
> Haydi Zulfei wrote:
>> Steve,
>> To tell you the truth , I still don't know the weight , height , and place of
>> AT within the whole CHAT . Is there , in principle , such a thing as AT
>> within the works of Vygotksy ? Where is it ? Where are they ? Apparently , if
>> the division is right whether with Jussi or with David , whoever , Vygotsky
>> III said a irreversible good-bye to the AT . Then why CHAT ? Don't you think
>> Faith overshadows Reason when supporting Sign-Belief ? You might ask me the
>> same question vis a vis Leontiev : OK ! I'm not yet in the position to say
>> for certain if Vygotsky went wrong at some point and if he did , where
>> exactly was it ? I really need to read more . But with Leontiev , I don't see
>> so many things wrong . Just I know Leontiev here occupies a very lower case
>> UNFORTUNATELY as Marx does . One very good respectable learned active
>> participant once wrote to me Leontiev was one of those whom he should stay
>> away from . Now , I sent you the article/lecture by Ilyenko
>>  on Alexandr Meshcheryakov , which now will be sent to others . This and
>> these we owe to Dot Robbins . I'm not so indeterminate over providing sort of
>> a discussion ; however , when I read the writing , for a moment I thought as
>> if Ilyenko were alive and knew about the discussion , so he aimed at this
>> article . Most and majority of the lines are direct responses to the
>> Sign-Belief . The secondary , derivative position of sign and all semiosis
>> vis a vis real object , artificial objects , actions with them etc.etc. is so
>> clear in this writing which leaves no doubt as to the rejection of the
>> supremacy of SIGN over ACTION (within bounds of AT) when compared one to the
>> other . 
>> When reading Jussi's paper , I marked as usual the points I liked to think
>> about afterwards , but after reading Ilyenko's writing , which is also marked
>> , I saw they could be seen as contrasts . And there is always the option of *
>> delete * for non-enthusiasts . I , as one , always say * welcome * to
>> whatever is sent to us from comrades , let alone getting annoyed .
>> Best
>> Haydi   
>> --- On Fri, 1/30/09, Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com> wrote:
>> From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com>
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky's Plural Discourse!!
>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> Date: Friday, January 30, 2009, 2:47 PM
>> Some comments on Jussi's very interesting paper.  Semiotic mediation,
>> socio-behaviorism, epistemological breaks.
>> ********************************
>> First, on semiotic mediation.
>> Jussi's discussion of Vygotsky's theory of semiotic mediation being the
>> basis of consciousness, formulated late in Vygotsky's short career, and how
>> it transitioned from an instrumentalist concept, seems to be his paper's
>> strongest aspect, where Jussi assembles the most persuasive quotes and
>> arguments.  I believe this assemblage adds up to an unfortunately narrow
>> assessment of Vygotsky's overall approach to psychology and consciousness,
>> but Jussi makes a strong case that needs to be taken very seriously.  I
>> applaud
>> his scholarship and work on this.  He offers a worthy argument.  It appears
>> that
>> his work dovetails very nicely with many of David Kellogg's insights into
>> Vygotsky's last and most important work, Thinking and Speech, including
>> David's emphasis on semiotic mediation.
>> I owe Sasha a serious response to his recent comprehensive post, which
>> replied,
>> among other things, to my objection to what I perceived as an erroneous
>> reduction of Vygotsky to a theory of sign mediation.  Again, as above, I
>> claimed
>> that reducing Vygotsky - meaning, Vygotsky I, II or III, to use David's
>> terminology - to his 1932-34 theory of semiotic mediation, is a narrow
>> assessment of his approach to psychology.  Have I managed to climb my way out
>> on
>> a limb?  We'll see ...  :-))
>> My question at this point, since Jussi has spoken so well, is to Sasha - what
>> is your evaluation of Jussi's take on Vygotsky's theory of semiotic or
>> sign mediation?  Do you agree, for example, with Jussi's description of
>> Vygotsky's views on sign mediation, for example, in the section "Sign
>> and Meaning" (pg 11) where Jussi says things like:
>> "If the lower forms of activity are characterised by the immediacy of
>> psychological  processes, the higher psychological functions are
>> characterized
>> by sign-mediation."
>> "It is clear for him [Vygotsky] that the sign mediation ?is the most
>> important distinguishing characteristic of all higher mental functions.¹ (L.
>> S. Vygotsky, 1999b, 41)."
>> "The use of signs results in a completely new and specific structure of
>> behaviour in man, a structure that breaks with the traditions of natural
>> behaviour and creates new forms of cultural-psychological activity. (L. S.
>> Vygotsky, 1999b, 47)."
>> "There is no sign without meaning. ?The formation of meaning is the main
>> function of sign. Meaning is
>> everywhere where there is a sign --- meaning is inherent in the sign.¹
>> (Vygotsky, 1997h, 134, 136)."
>> Also, Sasha, if you would, please repeat, even if ever so briefly, what you
>> find incorrect about Vygotsky's views here, as Jussi has expressed them.
>> *************************************
>> Second, on socio-behaviorism.
>> Another theme in Jussi's paper is that Vygotsky went through three stages,
>> the first, behaviorism.
>> David sees Jussi's three stages as overlapping quite a bit with his
>> Vygotsky I, II, and III, which he bases on Norris Minick's analysis.
>> Similar how?  They strike me as quite different, except for perhaps seeing
>> 1932-1934 as a specific phase.  I like Minick's analysis myself - it is a
>> good starting point for a very important study.  Certainly, Vygotsky was in
>> constant transition his whole career.
>> But was there really more than one Vygotsky?  Were there enough Vygotskys to
>> satisfy both David's and Jussi's sequences?  Are there enough LSV's
>> for each of us to have several Vygotsky's of our very own?  :-))  Anyway,
>> Plenum CW Vol 1 is on Google Books (yay!) and here is the Minick article.
>> "The Development of Vygotsky's Thought: An Introduction"  I see no
>> discussion of a behaviorist phase by Minick, btw.
>> http://books.google.com/books?id=u8UTfKFWb5UC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=vygotsky+co
>> llective+works+minick&source=web&ots=VAYusF0J-0&sig=xOE1A6IM58poswGLWdrpqawx7
>> hU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA33,M1
>> Jussi does well discussing the aspects of the transition from an instrumental
>> to semiotic viewpoint, from early to late CHP, but I find his discussion of
>> Vygotsky's so-called "socio-behaviorist" phase unconvincing.  His
>> focus on pg 3-5 in his paper on a 1925 essay by Vygotsky, found in Plenum CW
>> Vol
>> 3.  Jussi offers a reading of that essay that is, in an important way, the
>> opposite of mine.  I appreciate that Jussi's paper got me to take this close
>> look at Vygotsky's 1925 essay. I had looked at it before, but somewhat
>> quickly.  This time, I read it with great interest.  In some passages,
>> Vygotsky
>> does sound like a behaviorist.  And it is true that in this essay Vygotsky
>> restricts himself to the terms of the behaviorism-reflexologism of his time,
>> which was dominated by Pavlov (and according to Minick, Bekhterev) in the
>> Soviet
>> psychology of the time.  My reading, which is certainly somewhat speculative,
>> not having done the thorough study of Soviet psychology in the 1920's that
>> this kind of inquiry requires, is that Vygotsky was doing everything he could
>> to
>> prove, using Pavlovian terminology and his persuasive writing abilities, that
>> the central subject of psychological research should be consciousness, not
>> reflexes, and that behaviorism was simply dead wrong about that and a lot of
>> things.  My reading is that Vygotsky was attempting to **defeat** behaviorism
>> in
>> that essay, using its own terms.  Or more precisely, relegate it to the study
>> only of animal and human reflexes, which it indeed was making important
>> discoveries in.
>> I think Jussi is right on a very important observation: Vygotsky is
>> certainly,
>> from our point of view looking back, being somewhat contradictory at this
>> point
>> in his career, in 1925.  But rather than assess Vygotsky as "committed to
>> behaviorism," I would assess him has committed to **anti**-behaviorism and
>> **anti**-reflexology, but still not having found sufficient arguments and
>> evidence to fully dismiss and move beyond them, that is, replace them.  So,
>> as
>> part of his searing  critique (and Vygotsky sure could cook, one of the
>> things
>> we love about him), he is forced to use behaviorism's own discoveries and
>> terms to try to defeat them as serious contenders for hegemony in Soviet
>> psychological research.  At the time, this was a David and Goliath endeavor..
>> For that moment in time, the behaviorist approach was one of the most
>> advanced
>> materialist psychology's available, but hopelessly and erroneously committed
>> to denying the importance or even existence of consciousness and will.  It
>> was a
>> materialist counterpoint, but a badly mistaken one, to subjectivist
>> psychology. 
>> Vygotsky, to my knowledge, was unwavering in this assessment of behaviorism -
>> its objectivist materialism was equally erroneous in its approach to human
>> psychology as was the subjectivist idealism of other schools.  One
>> understated
>> mind and ignored it, the other overstated and isolated it.  That 1925 essay
>> may
>> have been, in fact, LSV's goodbye letter to behaviorism, his funeral address
>> to it.  He was going to go study consciousness, and so should all
>> psychologists.
>>  'Nice knowing y'all.  'Bye!'
>> In other words, my take on the 1925 essay Jussi cites is that Vygotsky was
>> using dialectical thinking to challenge and stretch this mechanical
>> materialist
>> trend to its extremes, to force it over the boundaries it refused to cross,
>> with
>> a very deliberate intent on breaking its back in the process.  His 1924
>> speech
>> that started his Moscow career was in that spirit, as was his 1926-27 Crisis
>> monograph wherever it mentions behaviorism, and to my knowledge, everything
>> he
>> ever said about behaviorism was also written with these intents.  No one
>> confuses cultural psychology or cultural-historical research with behaviorism
>> in
>> any way today.  The record shows Vygotsky always opposed it.  It does not
>> appear
>> historically supportable to characterize Vygotsky as a behaviorist, a
>> socio-behaviorist, a reflexologist, or a reactologist, even for a month, let
>> alone from say 1917 through 1927.  He was a die-hard opponent, and never an
>> advocate of those schools.  Yes?
>> I should add that I don't think discarding this aspect of Jussi's paper
>> takes away from the insights he offers in the above-discussed portions.  If
>> anything, it removes a distraction.
>> Something that is always hard to do from a distance, and especially from the
>> future, let alone a different country, is fully grasp the rhetorical issues
>> and
>> contexts that drive a given piece of ideological writing.  Vygotsky in 1925
>> was
>> still establishing his own turf, still even getting his doctorate, still
>> integrating himself as a psychologist.  Things were changing very fast in the
>> USSR, and all over the world.  These observations are only indicative, and of
>> course don't prove that my reading is "better" than Jussi's.
>> My point is that there can be much more going on than meets the eye when one
>> studies the meanings of quotes.  To understand the quotes Jussi offers, we
>> need
>> to look at them historically for their full meaning.
>> One interesting viewpoint on this 1925 essay and Vygotsky's view of
>> behaviorism, is that of AN Leontyev, who wrote and introduction to the
>> Russian
>> version of this volume of the CW, "On Vygotsky's Creative
>> Development," where he discusses this essay and Vygotsky and behaviorism on
>> pg 14 of the Plenum Vol 3 of the CW.  There is no hint from Leontyev that
>> Vygotsky went through a behaviorist phase. (Btw, what is
>> "socio"-behaviorism?)  I am interested in who else has offered
>> commentary on the relationship of Vygotsky and behaviorism.  I know I for one
>> would benefit from others that have looked into this.  And Jussi may have
>> more
>> insights and views in addition to those he shared in his paper.
>> ********************
>> Finally, on Vygtosky's supposed epistemological breaks.
>> Here, Jussi, in my opinion, is on very thin ice.  I am afraid that neither
>> Althusser nor Foucault are much help to Jussi's thesis, since neither were
>> discussing Vygotsky.  Just because it might rain in London does not mean it
>> is. 
>> The biggest problem with Jussi's thesis is that Vygotsky never claimed or
>> observed he underwent a change in outlook of the magnitude of an
>> "epistemological break."  (Or am I wrong? Please correct me on this if
>> I am!)  The second biggest problem is that Vygotsky was very clear, from at
>> least the early 20's, that he was ontologically and epistemologically a
>> dialectical materialist.  From this he never budged - in fact, he
>> consistently
>> grew more confident and capable as a Marxist theoretician. He consistently
>> applied the methodology of dialectical and historical materialism to
>> psychology.
>>  As a matter of fact, he made some significant improvements to Marxist
>> methodology, making him one of the preeminent Marxist theoreticians of the
>> 20th
>> Century.  In my opinion, no epistemological assessment of Vygotsky makes
>> sense
>> without fully assessing him as a Marxist philosopher and methodologist.
>> This is part of the content of those sharp words, "narrow,"
>> "one-sided," I have used in this regard.  For me, to view Vygotsky as
>> first and foremost a semiotic mediationist, a theoretician of sign mediation,
>> would be like regarding Marx as first and foremost an economic analyst with
>> an
>> interesting theory about labor.  This would be a narrow, one-sided assessment
>> of
>> Marx's work, as I think it is Vygotsky's.
>> At the same time, Jussi's chart and discussion of "The development of
>> Vygotsky¹s theory of signs as semiotic mediators" needs to be scrutinized
>> closely and given serious consideration.  He suggests not one but two
>> epistemological breaks, one between LSV's supposed socio-behaviorism phase
>> and instrumentalist (early CHP) phase, and another, which he puts a question
>> mark over, between early CHP, and late CHP, when LSV solidified his his
>> semiotic
>> approach to consciousness.  I like, by the way, the way Jussi looks for
>> "explanatory concepts" and "methodology of inquiry" to make
>> his analytical comparison.  Thumbs up to the thinking that went into that.
>> It
>> does not demonstrate epistemological breaks, in my view, but it does suggest
>> ways to look at the development of many of Vygotsky's ideas, in addition to
>> his theory of signs as semiotic mediators.
>> But restricting one's view of Vygotsky's overall trajectory,
>> ideological development, research work and discoveries to just his work on
>> signs
>> - and judging "epistemological breaks" therefrom - to me loses sight
>> of far too many other important contributions by Vygotsky - and this is very
>> important - the contributions of Vygotsky **and his associates**.   Vygotsky
>> was
>> the leader of something much bigger than himself, something which was broken
>> up
>> by the Stalinist machine - but by no means killed off.  Just delayed.
>> What is this something?  As I hope I emphasized above, Jussi makes some
>> valuable contributions to better understanding some important **parts** of
>> this
>> something.  But, I think, one has to step back and look at much more than
>> just
>> Vygotsky's innovative ideas about the role of semiosis (sign use) in human
>> consciousness and meaning-making to evaluate his work epistemologically,
>> methodologically, and above all, as the founder of this "something,"
>> place-named for the time being cultural-historical psychology.  Much more.
>> Yes?
>> Best,
>> - Steve
>> On Jan 29, 2009, at 10:42 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>> David, I am being quite frank when I said I know nothing of this topic. I
>> responded because I was asked to. But in any case, re Vygotsky vs.
>> Behaviourism,
>> I think I was basing myself on the Introduction to "Mind in Society"
>> so perhaps Mike could clarify for me.
>>> Andy
>>> David Kellogg wrote:
>>>> In defense (!) of Louis Althusser. He is really talking about the
>> youth of a science being the SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS of newness, and as such it's
>> a pretty good metaphor. It's in the context of Althusser's essay on
>> Freud and Lacan (in Lenin on Philosophy and other Essays).  My dear Andy,
>> behaviorism was the official psychology of the USSR in 1923, when they barely
>> even had an official army? When the Commissar of War, Leon Trotsky, was a fan
>> of
>> Freud's writings? And Vygotsky "trashed" behaviorism in a paper
>> that claimed that consciousness could be explained as the structure of
>> behavior?
>> Doesn't seem likely, does it?
>>>> Unlike Andy, I agree completely with Jussi's point on semiotics.
>> Why else would LSV say that word meaning is a microcosm of human
>> consciousness?
>> When Vygotsky says that the mind is made of semiotic material, he is
>> explaining
>> exactly how it is that it becomes possible to internalize social relations as
>> psychological ones and exactly why it is that human minds develop from the
>> outside in rather than from the inside out.
>>>> In Hegel's Phenomeonology of the Mind (section 157) he discusses
>> the "inverted world", the moment where two modes of existence are
>> mapped on to each other (e.g. being onto concept). We find this particular
>> trope
>> throughout Vygotsky whenever we pass from (e.g.) the phylogenetic
>> semiohistorical timescale to the sociocultural one, or from the sociocultural
>> semiohistorical timescale to the ontogenetic one. (And also from the
>> ontogenetic
>> to the microgenetic.)
>>>> In the inverted world, the first shall be last and the last shall be
>> first. (Or, as Mike says, the only thing we really know for sure about the
>> mirror is that right is left is right is left.) For example, on the
>> phylogenetic
>> timescale sex differentiation is late emerging but on the sociocultural
>> timescale it's very early.  This, and not some purely functional difference,
>> is why tools are different from signs. Tools are late emerging in
>> phylogenesis,
>> but they are very early emerging in sociocultural history, but the mastery of
>> tools is late again in ontogenesis, and on the other hand comparatively early
>> in
>> the microgenetic mastery of a skill. Signs (in the form of signals) are very
>> early emerging in phylogenesis, but very late (in the form of written
>> symbols)
>> in sociocultural history, and again very early in ontogenesis. The
>> of signs (that is, there signifying as opposed to their indicative function)
>> is
>> late emerging in microgenetic development.
>>>> It seems to me that THIS more than anything accounts for the CRITICAL
>> differences we find in development when we change time scales. Of course, on
>> one
>> level, it's a little like comparing weather and climate (or climate and
>> global warming). We are always talking about time and the changes wrought
>> thereby.
>>>> But the changes wrought are qualitatively different and not simply
>> quantitatively so. When we change semiohistorical timescales (when
>> ontogenesis
>> erupts into sociocultural history, as when children grow up and create social
>> progress, or when sociocultural progress changes the course of evolution, as
>> when clothes replace fur and houses replace caves), the very order of things
>> is
>> changed.
>>>> At some point the first must BECOME last and the last must BECOME
>> first. That critical tipping point is not a matter of smooth development;
>> it's a moment of violent crisis. In ontogenesis, signs do not replace tools
>> in a gradualistic, benevolent, Biblical manner after the beatitudes; they
>> must
>> lay violent hands upon them and overthrow them by force.  The same is true of
>> microgenesis, at least from what I've seen. The transition from a first
>> language to a foreign one is a profoundly uprooting experience and only much
>> later liberating (In first language learning, we find that deliberate control
>> of
>> phonemes is very late, but in second language learning it's at the very
>> beginning; conversely, in first language learning, fluency occurs almost
>> immediately while in foreign language learning it comes late if at all.)
>>>> Contrary to what Foucault says (and what Stalin thought), discourse is
>> part of the SUPERSTRUCTURE of society. That is the very opposite of what
>> Stalinist linguists like Ya Marr (and also Stalin himself) claimed. It's
>> also AGAINST what Halliday and Ruqaiya Hasan say today (they believe that
>> language is the base and not the superstructure of society).
>>>> Of course, if we say that language is part of the ideological
>> superstructure and not part of the productive base of sociocultural progress
>> (that is, cultural historical change), this does not mean that it is
>> insignificant. But it DOES mean that it is not causative, at least with
>> respect
>> to cultural history. Language does not by itself bring about a transformation
>> in
>> the relations of production.  On the semiohistorical timescale of cultural
>> history, language cannot create or destroy state power; it is a result and
>> not a
>> reason, a consequence and not a cause. Of course, as we know, results can
>> become
>> reasons, and consequences can become causes. But when that happens, there is
>> a
>> qualitative change in the very domain, the timescale, of history.
>>>> But late Vygotsky, Vygotsky III, knows that ontogenesis is special,
>> distinguishable, distinct from cultural history. It's distinct precisely
>> because in ontogenesis (but not in cultural history) language IS a reason and
>> not just a result, word meaning IS a cause and not just a consequence. In
>> fact,
>> verbal thinking and imagination (and of course play) are precisely the result
>> of
>> the INABILITY of object oriented human activity to provide for the child's
>> wants, needs, and desires.  Here, actually, there IS a parallel with cultural
>> history, for throughout sociocultural change, man has created literature and
>> art
>> precisely as a result of the INABILITY of human labour to provide from man's
>> wants, needs, and desires for a harmonious society without the exploitation
>> of
>> man by man. But of course in sociocultural history, play is late emerging and
>> in
>> ontogenesis it's quite early, because the first shall always be last and the
>> last shall be first.
>>>> I also agree with Zinchenko's point on two paradigms: the paradigm
>> of mediated action at the core of activity theory is NOT the paradigm of word
>> meaning at the core of a cultural historical psychology. I think that Mike
>> and
>> other founders of CHAT founded it as a loose federation between two rather
>> incompatible Vygotskies, the Vygotsky of mediated action and the Vygotsky of
>> wod
>> meaning, with the assumption that a common tradition and a set of common
>> practices would hold it together.  That assumption has proved quite
>> justified.
>> In China, we say that a good marriage is the same bed and different dreams.
>> Otherwise, what do you talk about over breakfast?  David Kellogg
>>>> Seoul National University of Education
>>>>      _______________________________________________
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>>> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype
>> andy.blunden
>>> Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:
>>> http://www.marxists.org/admin/books/index.htm
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