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

[xmca] Idem per Idem

Christine forgot to give this a subject line, so I will step in. It's about Leontiev again, but it's also about phenomenology, and the God Terminus, or anyway, about God.
In "The History of the Development of the Higher Psychic Functions" (Volume Three of the Russian Collected Works, and Volume Four of the Plenum Collected Works) Vygotsky's takes on the work of Spranger. 
Spranger is still around in some form: the Myers-Briggs inventory, and the DISC profiling that business studies teachers use, and tiresome conversations you sometimes get into where every other sentence seems to begin with "He/she is the sort of person who....""
He was a student of Dilthey's, and he eventually got Dilthey's (and Hegel's) old chair at the University of Berlin (and resigned it in pique at the Nazi takeover). Vygotsky is interested in him because he is a phenomenologist, someone who believes that psychology should be descriptive but not explanatory, and that it should be rooted in the humanities rather than the natural sciences. 
Vygotsky doesn't believe this, but he thinks it is a useful weapon against the mindless reduction of reflexology and behaviorism, and a ruthless extirpation of the residual biologism of Freud and Piaget. Spranger is also the very first person to explicitly call for a historical approach to the higher psychological functions. So Vygotsky's interested. 
But disappointed. In paragraph 73 of Chapter One, Vygotsky says this:
В сущности, внесение исторического аспекта в психологическую науку в том виде, как оно осуществляется Шпрангером, не заключает в себе ничего нового, ничего революционного. Это, скорее, простая тавтология, простое уравнивание в духе столь различных в земной действительности процессов, как историческое развитие человечества и психическое развитие подростка. Не только врастание созревающего подростка в отдельные сферы культуры . право, этику, искусство, религию, профессиональную жизнь, но и сами эти сферы культуры
 возникают исключительно благодаря чисто духовному процессу, внутреннему самодвижению духа. При таком понимании истории и культуры и при таком понимании психологии сказать, что психологию следует изучать исторически, . значит, сделать тавтологическое утверждение, определить idem per idem, это значит, в сущности, что духовное следует сближать с духовным. И только, ни на йоту больше. 
In other words:
“In essence, bringing a historical aspect into psychological science in the way Spranger has done it brings us nothing new, nothing revolutionary. It is more of as simple tautology, simply equating processes as spirit that are as different in their earthly reality as the historical development of humanity and the mental development of adolescents. Not only the growing of the mature adolescent into the separate spheres of culture—right, ethics, art, religion, professional life—but these very spheres of culture appear exclusively as a result of a purely spiritual process, the internal self-propulsion of spirit. With this interpretation of history and culture and this interpretation of psychology to say that psychology should be studied historically means to make a tautological assertion, to determine idem per idem, that is, in essence, that the spirit must be put together with the spirit. This only, and not one iota more.”
“Idem per idem” is a Latin term from Bible scholarship (which Vygotsky was extremely familiar with). It means literally “the same by the same”, and it refers to passages in the Torah such as:
“I am that I am” (God’s words to Moses on Mount Sinai)
“I will be merciful to those who I wll be merciful to and I will show grace to those whom I will show grace to”” (God’s words to Moses when Moses asks to see God’s face, and God refuses, but lets him see his back—Exodus 33:19)
As you can see, God uses this “idem per idem” technique to end debate. Vygotsky, as a good Jew, loves a good debate, is not above debating with God, and hates to see a good rumpus come to an end. 
Vygotsky then makes the point that if we simply divide a process up into analytical units (e.g. bodies into cells, capitalism into commodities or consciousness into word meanings) we have a static description but not a dynamic explanation. 
But that's exactly why I think Leontiev’s system is tautological: operations compose, and therefore cannot really explain, actions. Actions make up, and therefore cannot actually account for, activities.
Consider our examples. A body is not simply a collection of tissues or even a collection of cells; it must also have blood plasma to carry the blood cells and electrical impulses to be carried by nerve cells. Capitalism is not just a bag of goods, and the human mind is not just a skull stuffed with word meanings. 
With interpretative psychology, we can see precisely what Leontiev’s kind of analysis yields when it is applied to the child. If we simply render all of the child’s experience as a single mental unit (activities, or for that matter ideas, or even word meanings), we get an interpretation but not an explanation, a descriptive analysis of things, but not a causal-dynamic model of processes.
If we want a causal-dynamic model of processes, then the analytical unit must be open, it must be able to absorb into itself things that are not itself. So for example the cell must have a permeable membrane and osmosis, the commodity must be able to absorb labor and to circulate, and the word meaning must be open to change in sense and accretion of meaning. 
A truly historical account—of the body, of society, and of the mind—has to include something that is not the body, not society, and not the mind. Without that, the account is tautological and not historical at all. 

Spranger, by the way, was an early booster of the Nazis, but it appears to have been mostly academic; he thought they supported his psychological theories--part of his schtick about "types"was devoted to showing us the difference between Jewish adolescents and good Germans. 
Personally, he appears to have been a bit too aristocratic for the Nazis when they actually seized power, and besides resigning his professorship, he protested the deportations of Jews to the East. Then he got out of Germany for a while by becoming a visiting professor in Japan. Returning home in 1944, he was soon imprisoned in connection with a plot on Hitler's life. Incredibly, he was saved by the intervention of the Japanese embassy!
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies  
--- On Thu, 12/29/11, christine schweighart <schweighartgate@hotmail.com> wrote:

From: christine schweighart <schweighartgate@hotmail.com>
Subject: [xmca] (no subject)
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Date: Thursday, December 29, 2011, 1:03 AM


I 'm torn between two passions - this  discussion won!:) I can't do justice. First Hello Arturo - we haven't spoken since discussion Bernstein's descriptive qualities   ( despite being vinculated in the same institution:))
your comment:
"The system of social regulations is built
upon everyday concepts, without which you basically cannot mediate
scientific concepts. But the notions of what is correct for the group
is always regulated by this kind of feeling, of what is felt as proper
or improper, right or wrong. And although there is emotional
contagion, at the end emotions get mediated by concepts as a way to
appease and control them. "Shows a value of the enlightenment 'rationality in control', Yet all such mediation can do is 'align' consistency of 'logic' with an underlying value - just as Wittgenstein's smallest utterence with 'gesture'A 'group' [ and this implies 'subjectification already] oriented to 'correctness' is working within a static 'correct' - to be able to keep that open  the values underpinning different conceptual dynamics - in dialogue- are continually 're-explored . [ to self-produce 'feeling of correct'  and justice etc in the ongoing dynamic.This is a sideways glance - naturally coming from a backward one - but by no means 'causal' - possibility of orienting to other than what realise now - or 'ideal'  breaks  inherently - but how /who etc. are the big questions.. A collective 'phenomenology' - but - to find conditions to be receptive to 'perspectives' is itself a 'power-relational' issue, and the 'current' social norm:value:roles in
 play are such that maintain the status quo.My current intense interest is if a 'pure' dialogic form is 'excluded' from academic practice - in terms of status recognition etc - whilst being drafted in as 'technologists' - in what then holds contradictions and 'nightmares'. Ole. Family visit ahead - Just thanks Larry for your 'time-out' to flag this in the way that you did. Christine.                            __________________________________________
xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list