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Re: [xmca] writing, continued
There is a minor kerfuffle going on in the literary world about whether Dostoevsky ever met Charles Dickens. We know he was in London for about seven days (apparently, to see the Grand Exhibition and to stalk the slums of South London). We know that shortly after his return to Russia he began to publish works by Elizabeth Gaskell, one of Dickens' writers, in Russian. But the account of his meeting with Dickens is just a little TOO coherent and meaningful for some people.
Apparently, Dostoevsky told his doctor about the meeting some seventeen years after the fact. The great English lion told his virtually unknown Russian guest that his good, sweet, pure characters like Little Nell were based only on what he wished to have been, while his evil, cruel, and impure Bill Sykes' were based on what he feared he had become. "I have within me, two personalities", said Dickens. "Only two?" said Dostoevsky, in considerable disappointment.
One of the things that Vygotsky says in Tool and Sign is that writing is one of the "external lines of development" of the higher psychic functions, along with speech, counting, calculating, and drawing.
I have often wondered exactly which external line of development is which higher psychic function. Speech is obviously linked to verbalized perception, and counting to logical attention and then logical memory, and drawing to imagination and then complex formation.
But of course speech is also linked to logical memory and to complex formation, and drawing is probably linked to verbalized perception ("Mommy! Draw me my name!") and eventually everything is linked to absolutely everything.
It is tempting to think that they all pull in one direction, e.g. concept formation, or formation of the self. That is why I follow Paula's work on the Vigotsky blocks and Peter's video on the concept with such interest. But it is also tempting to to think the opposite.
At the beginning of "The Development of the Higher Psychological Functions", Vygotsky is rather merciless about the idea that each lower psychological function has a higher function built on its second storey (why do you need two kitchens, and why do you want an upstairs living room?)
He is not just making fun of the fact that the interpretative psychologists who construct the higher functions this way have really forgotten about the stairs (because there isn't any clear link between higher and lower). He is also pointing out that the rooms on the second floor are much more tightly connected, and the great hall of speech which connects them to the landing is not just a broom closet.
Does this mean that the higher psychological functions are convergent in their evolution, while the lower ones are divergent? I think not. At the beginning of the Development of the Higher Psychic Functions, Vygotsky is talking about how the very same experiment (roughly a stimulus response one, or a timed reaction one) is seen in very different ways by Wundt on the one hand and by the Russian reflexologists on the other.
в одном случае эксперимент имеет своей задачей вызвать и представить подлежащий изучению психический процесс, в другом он преследует цели каузально-динамического, естественно-научного раскрытия реальных причинных или генетических связей того или иного процесса. В первом случае центральную роль играет самонаблюдение; во втором . эксперимент над деятельностью может, принципиально рассуждая, обойтись вовсе без самонаблюдения или отвести ему подчиненную роль. Но за тем и другим типом эксперимента стоит та же
универсальная схема, в которой место реакции занимают один раз переживание, другой раз деятельность.
"...(I)n one case the experiment has as its task to cause and to present the mental process being subjected to study, while in the other it pursues the goals of the causal- dynamic, natural-science uncovering of the real causal or genetic connections of one or process or another. In the first case introspection plays a central role; in the second, the experiment on an activity can, speaking in principle, manage completely without introspection or to lend a subordinate role to it. But behind both types of experiment, the one and the other, stands the same universal schema, in which the role of the reaction is occupied in one instance by lived experience, and in another instance by activity."
The Russian word Vygotsky uses for “experience” is of course, our old friend “perizhivanie” (переживание), or the feeling of what happens in life when you reflect on it, while the Russian word Vygotsky uses for “activity” is, of course, our old friend “dyatyel’nost’” (деятельность), or the “activity” of activity theory!
I think that Vygotsky sees that these are two linked lines of development, and that they both develop in the direction of the higher functions, the narrative, the role, and ultimately the many-rooted self and the many-branching personality.
But I think the way they develop is as much through differentiation as it is through unification, perhaps more. In any case, I don't think the self or the personality ever loses the pluralism it derives from experience and from activity and above all from narrativizing and play acting. Hence Dostoevsky's astonishment, and the unlikelihood that the maximum population of any human mind is two.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Sat, 1/14/12, mike cole <email@example.com> wrote:
From: mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [xmca] writing, continued
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Saturday, January 14, 2012, 5:02 PM
The oral/written language differentiation is sufficiently central to CHAT
ideas that I thought there might be
As I (imperfectly) recall, Greg raised the issue with respect to his own
writing. David reminded us that
*Tool and Sign* and of course *Speech and Thought* have a lot to say.
Anyway, the question of now different instruments of writing afford
different dynamics of thought is a live topic
of convesation as a PRACTICAL matter at lchc, never mind being
So, those those interested, here is another article in that topic area.
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