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[xmca] Vygotsky and Behaviourism & Fools Can be Found Anywhere

Yesterday evening I broke my own rule about using uncivil language in this
forum and failing to note carefully to whom one is addressing oneself. I
did a lousy job of translation. The Russian phrase to which I was referring
is best translated as "fools can be found anywhere." My own behavior
illustrates the truth of that aphorism applied to myself.

On Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 11:29 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> David, there are a lot of issues here, and I hope that others who know more
> than me (or less!) will chime in and help us get clarity. Can I narrow it
> down to one question: Can Vygotsky's January 1924 speech be read as a
> critique of behaviourism? And if not, how would people characterise it?
> http://marx.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1925/reflexology.htm
> What do others think?
> Andy
> David Kellogg wrote:
>> Mike means, of course, that all systems leak. Russian just has a rather
>> scatological way of putting it; I'm sure no aspersions on real persons or
>> Buridan's best were intended.
>>  Andy--there's a very good essay by Rene van der Veer in the Cambridge
>> Companion called "Vygotsky in Context: 1900-1935" (pp. 21-50). The section
>> on Kornilov (pp. 41-44) is particularly good.
>>  Rene van der Veer makes it clear that Kornilov was a very contradictory
>> man, and that "reactology" was not simply (as Luria makes it sound) a
>> relabelling of reflexes as "reactions". When Kornilov invited Vygotsky to
>> join his laboratory, it was on the basis of real agreement.
>>  First of all, both men agreed that biology was not reducible to
>> physiology. Kornilov expressed this by saying that physiology was
>> "objective" and biological processes were "subjective". Vygotsky, who for a
>> while thought that the Buridan's ass problem could be solved by simply
>> turning humans into dogs that ring their own bell, probably thought that
>> consciousness could and eventually would be accounted for ("without
>> remainder", as he liked to say) by biological processes, so long as these
>> were not understood in a narrowly physiological way.
>>  Second, both men wanted a materialist psychology and were profoundly
>> suspicious of the data produced by introspectionism. Kornilov expressed this
>> by calling his psychology "dialectical materialist" and even "Marxist", and
>> by 1925 Vygotsky was, as we know, quite hostile to this kind of nomenclature
>> (See History of the Crisis in Psychology). But Vygotsky, who for a while
>> thought that Marxism was simply coterminous with scientific, was probably
>> very sympathetic to the relabelling of responses as "reactions". When we
>> read "Educational Psychology" it is easy to find whole chapters (e.g. 2, 3
>> and even Chapter 8, "The Reinforcement and Recollection of Reaction") that
>> are part of this exercise.
>>  But I think the main thing we learn from van der Veer's essay is how
>> completely unformed psychology (and probably every other science too) was at
>> that time. That's why I don't think it's at all correct to say that
>> behaviorism was the "official" psychology of the period. In addition to
>> inviting Vygotsky, Kornilov invited the well-known Freudian A.R. Luria to
>> take part in his laboratory, and he was not at all sure that Freud's
>> psychoanalysis was a nonmaterialist variety of psychology.
>>  By the way there are also two good essays in the Companion about the
>> resemblances between Vygotsky and Mead (Anne Edwards, and Holland and
>> Lachichotte) and of course there's a similar essay in Daniels' "Introduction
>> to Vygotsky" by Valsiner and van der Veer, where they trace BOTH men's
>> thinking back to Baldwin. All of these articles suggest that there wasn't
>> that much difference between social behaviorism and early Vygotsky.
>>  Here are MY answers to your questions. You ask:  "(1) By "social
>> behaviourist" do you mean a follower of GH Mead? Or do
>> you mean someone thinking along the lines to which GH Mead would come? Can
>> you
>> define the central idea?"
>>  No, I don't. Vygotsky never read Mead or referred to him, as far as I
>> know. But "social behaviorism" is a broader concept than Mead; to me it
>> simply suggests that behavior is the explanadum and social organization is
>> the explanans. You ask:
>> "(2) The idea of construction of self (I) via Other (me) is not sufficient
>> basis
>> for calling someone "social behaviourist" is it? Whether you track
>> this idea to Hegel (1807), Mead (1932), Kojeve (1937), or elsewhere?"
>>  No, it isn't. Bakhtin was not a social behaviorist, or a behaviorist of
>> any kind as far as I can tell. I think saying that consciousness is a
>> problem in the structuring of behavior is at least potentially a very
>> different statement from saying that there is nothing more to consciousness
>> than its ability to structure behavior. You say:
>> "(3) Do you agree that Vygotsky's January 1924 speech is a full-on attack
>> on
>> Behaviourism, which was at that time the dominant creed at the Congress?
>> He also
>> attack the other speakers at the Congress."
>>  No, I don't. First of all, it wasn't the "dominant creed" at the
>> Congress, as van der Veer makes clear. Secondly, as you say, it's not clear
>> that this WAS the speech he delivered; the speech that others claim that he
>> delivered is a fairly dull one on "The Methods of Reflexological and
>> Psychological Investigation" (Vol. 3, 35-50). Thirdly, even if he did
>> deliver the "Problems" paper, it's not clear to me that it is either pro- or
>> anti-behaviorist.  Vygotsky's "Consciousness as a problem in the structure
>> of behavior" is really rather more bold than empirical but he does note that
>> in deaf mutes conscious awareness of speech and social experience emerge
>> together. To me this suggests that speech is in some very important sense
>> prior, because speech emerges before consciousness of speech (except in
>> second language learning). You say:
>> "(4) Do you think it makes sense to call someone engaged in a critique of
>> all
>> existing views, who knows they do not yet have an adequate theory and are
>> just
>> at the beginning of their critique, any "ism" ?"
>>  He was a young teacher who was trying to run a psychological laboratory
>> so he could train teachers. He wasn't in the position of someone who could
>> simply attack everybody and look smart and leave it at that.He wasn't
>> engaged in the sort of "epater les bourgeois" exercise that people do so
>> avidly at academic conferences today. I don't think even the very young
>> Vygotsky is reducible, without remainder, to chutzpah.
>>  David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
> --
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>+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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