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

Re: [xmca] Vygotsky and Behaviourism

Hello Andy:

I see glimpses of the functional method of double stimulation as well as
the combined motor method outlined in the paper.  But certainly Vygotsky
appears to firmly believe consciousness is the result of reflexes.  Not a
divorce  by any means.  However, he is not happy with the objective nature
of the firm reflexologists.  He mentions the need for qualitative study of
human consciousness.  I like the tone with which this paper comes across.
It really shows that Vygotsky owes much to the minds before him but is more
then willing to take the infant psychology into new territory.


                      Andy Blunden                                                                                          
                      <ablunden@mira.n         To:                                                                          
                      et>                      cc:      xmca <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>                                          
                      Sent by:                 Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky and Behaviourism                                
                      02/05/2009 01:29                                                                                      
                      Please respond                                                                                        
                      to Andy Blunden;                                                                                      
                      Please respond                                                                                        
                      to "eXtended                                                                                          
                      Mind, Culture,                                                                                        

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?


What do others think?

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
> 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
> 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/ +61 3 9380 9435
Skype andy.blunden
Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list