[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

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

Excellent questions and considerations, Haydi. Asking and thinking about these questions as you are is very helpful.

Is there, in principle, such a thing as activity theory in Vygotsky's work? Where? Did Vygotsky's theory of semiotic mediation depart from an activity theory perspective in Thinking and Speech (and perhaps other works in his last years, 1932-1934)? Does Vygotsky's theory of semiotic mediation postulate the supremacy of sign over action?

Btw, am I reading from your remarks correctly, that I sounded to you annoyed with Jussi's paper? My apologies for that. I worried if I might have come across a little too argumentatively toward Jussi. I will pay better attention to my manners. I do, as do you, welcome and appreciate Jussi's excellent work putting together a fine paper. Scholarship can sometimes feel like a thankless task, and I certainly do not want to contribute to that feeling. I hope Jussi joins this discussion, and he is certainly welcome to argue back! I for one am open to the possibility that he has arguments and evidence that will sway me to think differently. I know I learned from this paper and from other things he has written, and I look forward to reading more of Jussi. There are a lot of things I like about the way he approaches these difficult questions of theory and history in CHAT.

As for Vygotsky and activity theory ... to my knowledge, Vygotsky himself did not formulate an activity theory. That contribution, as many know, came out of the Kharkov School led by ANL in the 1930's. As I understand it, activity theory developed in several directions in the USSR, and migrated to other countries, where there are still more forms it has taken, some very different. I would like to learn more about these different directions. Is there an article tracing this history? The one led by AN Leontiev, of course, continued to embrace Vygotsky's work, and it is the version that gets studied as part of CHAT today. At the same time, there has been a continuing discussion and debate within CHAT, and between followers of Vygotsky and of AN Leontiev, over how compatible activity theory and sign mediation theory are. For some, perhaps many, it has always been an uneasy alliance.

Among the basic contributions Vygotsky made in the area of theory, of course, was his brilliant critique of behaviorism, which Jussi draws on. Vygotsky strenuously argued that psychology must study human **consciousness**, and that behaviorism must be discarded as a valid approach to psychology because it can't or won't study consciousness. This concept, so seemingly obvious to many today, was genius-level thinking in the 1920's in the USSR.

Another contribution Vygotsky made was to argue that a central goal of psychology must be to develop an authentic "general" psychology, an overall psychology which theoretically organizes and oversees all the sub-disciplines of psychology. This is a central theme of his monograph "Crisis." He advocated that this effort should make full use of dialectical materialist ontology, epistemology, and methodology (i.e., Marxism), but the goal should not be the creation of a "Marxist" psychology, but rather, a general psychology. I like to add the term "systematic." That is what I think CHAT should set its long- term sights on, btw - helping develop a general, systematic psychology. Much more than just Marxism is and will be needed to develop such a thing. I think Vygotsky's concepts on the need for a general psychology were perhaps his most important of all.

On Ilyenkov's article, I really liked it, too. It never occurred to me that Vygotsky would disagree with one word in it. Does anyone see something he might have a point of contention with? As for Vygotsky's theory of sign mediation, I have seen no evidence that he gave "priority" or "supremacy" to signs over actions, or even signs (psychological tools) over tools (physical tools). To my knowledge, to the extent he dealt with the concept of "supremacy," he maintained an unwavering materialist and dialectical understanding of the relationship of matter and mind, being and consciousness, external (out of body) and internal (within body) aspects of mind and culture, in all his writings, including Thinking and Speech. Vygotsky was not an idealist, he was a materialist - one of the finest the 20th Century produced.

The great discovery Vygotsky made in his theory of semiotic mediation is that word meaning is the basic unit of human consciousness. This is a thoroughly materialist theory and discovery, in my opinion. In no way, in my readings of Vygotsky, did he counterpose or prioritize the mediational and semiotic nature of psychological tools **over** the object-based realities of human actions. He was neither an objectivist or a subjectivist, prioritizing neither the objective aspects of consciousness over the subjective, or vice versa. He was not a **mechanical** materialist, finding linear, simplistic, gradual relations between the subject and object, and the object and the subject, in every corner. He was a **dialectical** materialist, who was extremely keen on the mutual reciprocity of the relations between objects and consciousness, and especially, between subjectivity and objectivity within individual consciousness.

Leontiev worked on the opposite side of the same coin - he became keen on ways to understand the mutual reciprocity of the relations between the subject and the object in human activities, in the external dimensions of the same process.

I see activity theory as essential companion to sign mediation theory in a number of important ways. I will mention three. For one, it provides a way of looking for and recognizing the elements necessarily involved in any particular act of human consciousness, or the same thing, any conscious human act, by pointing to the necessary existence of conditions, goals and motives in human activity. For another, it shows how individuals (subjects) when they are engaged in any conscious act are mediated by both internal and external objects (tools and signs, etc.). And still another, it shows how the thing they acting on, that is, doing things to, is the center of the process, and that this object of the activity is organically connected to the motives and goals, and conditions and operations of the activity.

All of these insights provide vital analyses of the necessary contexts and platforms of conscious human action. Just as Vygotsky pointed to essential dynamics of internal subject-object relations in human consciousness (captured by the analytical unit 'word-meaning'), Leontiev pointed to essential dynamics of external subject-object relations (captured by the analytical unit 'activity' and concepts such as actions, goals, operations, conditions, motives, and objects).

At the same time, I see nothing incompatible about the two theories. Which is not to defend every word they each said about their respective ideas. Vygotsky and/or Leontiev did say (or were translated or stenographed or whatever to supposedly say) things that were one-sided. They undoubtedly did not fully think through some their ideas. Their work was always admittedly incomplete. They were both humble and very conscious of how their ideas were "in process." Some of their passages need criticism, correction, improvement, perhaps even rejection. This is a normal aspect of theory-building.

Anna Stetsenko's criticism of Leontiev as under-appreciating of the role of subjectivism in externalizing (acting, doing, expressing) in her 2005 MCA article strikes me as especially insightful, and a very good model of how to go about this kind of criticism and collective theory-building. Jussi'sHer criticism in that same article of Ilyenkov's essay The Concept of the Ideal (1977) points to what she sees as a one-sided explication, where Ilyenkov missed out in her opinion on a similar dynamic as did Leontiev. Her insights, themselves worthy of careful critique, can only move the discussion about their ideas forward.

Anna's critique, in my mind, does not undermine the power of these theories. To the contrary, it shows ways to strengthen them, fill in gaps, make them more whole. In my opinion, all three of these theories go together very well. They necessarily reinforce each other. But there is much work to be done to combine them, sharpen them, clarify them, integrate them with each other, with philosophy, with modern psychology, with social science.

Some thoughts on the weight of activity theory within CHAT ... A very important role that I see activity theory playing today is as a kind of bridge between sociology and psychology. Today, it has a lot of weight, perhaps even more than the semiotic mediation theory side of CHAT. But I think that may be temporary. Ironically, the extent to which activity theory is successful may wind up being its 'demise', to put it a little playfully. As the more viable and dialectical trends within materialist psychology and materialist sociology begin to find common ground in coming decades - (I am suspecting there will be a generalized tendency in this direction because I think there will be a new world radicalization and a new openness for the kind of psychology Vygotsky was envisioning) - the ideas of activity theory may become more and more accepted by both "sides" (by both materialist psychology and materialist sociology). Activity theory, therefore, could lose its "bridge" or perhaps, "mediational" role.

In other words, its significance today may lie in its ability to bridge the vast schism between psychology and sociology, who not only speak different languages across this historic divide, but each side of the gap is highly fractured into dozens of irreconcilable schools of thought. This, of course, is all part of the "crisis" Vygotsky spoke of. As a viable materialist wing of social science begins to emerge and find new ways to integrate materialist psychology and sociology, create a common language, a common theoretical foundation, and eliminate the long time schism between these social sciences, activity theory may play less and less of its current "common denominator" role. It will become less and less a "theory," and become more and more just everyday technical terminology to describe "activity," which will be equally sensible in the newly unifying trends in psychology and sociology, and disappear as something "in between".

I am just speculating, of course, offering some imaginative perspective. Some theories die of obviousness and acceptance once the science around them begins to mature and becomes culturally established. This could happen to activity theory, at least within the unifying materialist camps in social science.

In contrast, the theory of sign mediation, Vygotsky's theory of the semiotic nature of human consciousness, is more likely going to be the one that will undergo significant development and transformation. It is much more far-reaching than activity theory. It covers much more poorly understood and unknown territory. It is more likely to undergo radical changes as it begins to have impact on materialist sociology, and vice versa. Vygotsky's theory of consciousness extends very deeply into social theory and is therefore going to be impacted by changes in social theory and empirical discovery.

And impacted especially by changes in neuropsychology, by far the fast changing field in the social sciences today.

Luria did brilliant work based on his vast knowledge of brain lesions, the only empirical window into the brain/mind of his day. But psychiatric medications and brain scanning today are opening up new, revolutionary windows into the mind and brain that are already challenging everything ever said about human consciousness.

If CHAT is going to become a viable voice in the creation of a new psychology, it must seek ways to apply Vygotsky's discoveries to neuropsychological theory and research, and vice versa. Vygotsky's discoveries about word-meaning as being common to both thinking and speech, and appearing at very early ages, coinciding with the fundamental initial "socialization" of the human infant (I believe Derek would disagree with that claim) - along with LSV's conceptualization of word-meaning as the essential unit or cell of human consciousness - have yet to be systematically applied to modern mind/brain research. That one of the founders of CHAT was a world- renowned founder of neuropsychology should provide great encouragement for developing this side of CHAT, daunting as it is.

Holy Cow! some might be saying here. Is Steve serious? Combine psychology, sociology AND neuropsychology into one general, systematic social science? Using CHAT as a basis?

Yes, I am dreaming big. Such an endeavor would be a scientific synthesis unlike any ever accomplished. It may take centuries. But I don't have such hopes because I personally know how to do this. I have them because I don't know why we can't figure out how.

- Steve

On Feb 1, 2009, at 2:49 AM, Haydi Zulfei wrote:

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 .
--- 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.’ (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.’
(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.


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
Vygotsky’s 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?

- 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.


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 SIGNIFICANCE 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
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
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
xmca mailing list

Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

<ILYENKO ON MESHCHERYAKOV.pdf><Copy (2) of Vygotsky_still_alive_JS_final .doc>_______________________________________________
xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list