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Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Vygotsky's favourite Vygotsky)
- To: Anton Yasnitsky <email@example.com>, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Vygotsky's favourite Vygotsky)
- From: Larry Purss <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2012 12:52:30 -0700
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Thank you for this inspiring conversation and deep reflection.
As I read the contrasting alternative ways of exploring Vygotsky's
developing vision [Anton emphasizing the transitions and boundary markers
and Andy seeing a scholar's life as a unified project] I'm also
reflecting on the differences of seeing exploration as *assertions* or
Anton you mention Vygotsky's passion for literary studies and also a
commitment to scientific lawfulness and search for principles [the
excitement and confusion of discovering Lewin as evidence]
Vygotsky to To A.R. Luria
Moscow, June 12, 1931
... The fruitlessness of what I do greatly
distresses me. My scientific thinking is going off into the realm of
and I cannot think things through in a realistic way to the end. Nothing
is going right: I am doing the wrong things, writing the wrong things,
saying the wrong things. A fundamental reorganization is called for—and
this time I am going to carry it out. I received a book on Aristotle’s and
Galileo’s thinking in psychology from Lewin. He has an amazing mind...
Vygotsky To R.E. Levina
June 16, 31
...The last meeting of the laboratory and tomorrow’s meeting
are devoted to a discussion with Zeigarnik on studies at the University
of Berlin. I received Lewin’s new book on the methodological problem
of psychology. Everything I see tells me that something great is happening
in (world) psychology before our very eyes. To fail to sense this or
to belittle the importance of what is going on in these passionate, tragic
attempts to find the pathway to the study of the mind, which lie at the
heart of the crisis (e.g., to simply speak of confusion in psychology, to
say that it is not a science, etc.) is to take a Philistine view of things
of the history of human thought...
The issue of *stages* or *boundaries* and the notion of transitions in
*modes* of thought I filter through a fascination with the difference
between *asserting* and *questioning* as "modes of thought" [as
linguistically and historically constituted *ways* of life]
Lewin's description of medieval painting as highlighting the individual
object in contrast to Renoir's paintings which highlight the dynamic field
as an EXAMPLE pointing to *stages* of development [expressed as modes of
thought] are historically and culturally constituted and not *merely*
subjective creative acts. This understanding can be expressed
in an "attitude" of assertion or in an "attitude" of questioning.
We can put in question the processes of "internalization" "production"
"construction" "constitutuion" "dynamics"
the ANSWERS or RES0NSES to these questions as a process of understanding
seems cultural-historically constituted.
Vygotsky, engaging with Lewin, [in reflective "conversation"] is an
example of this process AS conversation or dialogue.
Is this *way* of understanding as questioning an alternative *mode* of
thought?? or ways to constitute knowledge which may put in question Lewin's
scientific search for systemic answers to Aristotelian modes of thought??
An alternative circular mode of thought which questions scientific
assertions as only one particular mode of thought expressing a particular
*way* of life.
This is also my answer to Martin's question on the evidence for the
cultural formation of "mind"
On Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 9:37 PM, Anton Yasnitsky <email@example.com>wrote:
> All good and valid points, thank you for your input.
> To which I would respond that I indeed agree with you on virtually
> anything that you have just proposed.
> In the light of which I would like to present my vision of how I see
> Vygotsky's personal/professional evolution
> in the briefest possible way, yet as precisely as I can:
> I believe the main problem with Vygotsky's scholarship is the huge gap
> between his holistic axiomatic basis,
> somewhat reflexological conceptual/explanatory framework, and
> ambiguous/ambivalent experimental practice
> during his "instrumental" period of 1920s. Thus, in his beliefs and
> general orientations (i.e. axiomatic basis)
> he was a scholar of holist orientation which is quite natural for a person
> with background predominantly in
> humanities and literary scholarship. In experimental practice and, even
> worse, in his theorizing he followed
> the natural-scientific trend in psychology. The outcome: best holistic
> intentions, nice experiments and terribly
> awful theoretical explanations that in different periods involved the
> slang of stimulus-reaction, very briefly--
> internalization, in-growing and the like. All this quite naturally created
> the conflict that Vygotsky realized by,
> say, early 1930s, which is reflected in a number of self-critical remarks
> such as those in his already quoted here
> letter to Luria:
> To A.R. Luria
> Moscow, June 12, 1931
> ... The fruitlessness of what I do greatly
> distresses me. My scientific thinking is going off into the realm of
> and I cannot think things through in a realistic way to the end. Nothing
> is going right: I am doing the wrong things, writing the wrong things,
> saying the wrong things. A fundamental reorganization is called for—and
> this time I am going to carry it out.
> So, in other words, the main conflict is within the system itself: the one
> between the stated goals of the whole
> study (yes, indeed: consciousness) and the unsatisfactory, mechanistic
> In this situation, Lewin's contribution appeared most handy and was most
> instrumental in rectifying the system.
> Thus, Vygotsky was able to adjust and coordinate the three components of
> his scientific system: axiomatic basis,
> theoretical system, and experimental practice. Therefore, regardless of
> what we today might think about this process
> it was primarily in his own assessment that improvement took place.
> Incidentally, I tend to agree with Vygotsky: rectified secundum Kurt
> Lewin, his theoretical system looks way better
> than before. Unfortunately, just three years before Vygotsky's death this
> process was not over, as we can see from
> the letter quoted. Such a pity, again. Anyway, from Vygotsky's
> perspective, HIS FAVOURITE VYGOTSKY is the one
> of 1933-1934. Well, yet again, I tend to second the man,-- in this
> respect, at least...
> I hope this clarification might help,
> From: Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
> Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 11:21:47 PM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Systems of
> functions & Aristotelian concepts)
> Anton, it is good to hear that you have been able to determine that
> Vygotsky was growing and learning right up to the end of his short life,
> and that he remained self-critical throughout. These are essential virtues
> for a writer who is to be not only a contributor of epoch-making ideas, but
> in themselves authoritative.
> For a variety of reasons I, along with many others, are much more familiar
> with the exegesis of Hegel and Marx than I am of Vygotsky. During the 20th
> century, largely under the impact of the discovery and translation of new
> texts, and also in response to the needs of the times or to correct
> previous one-sidedness, both these writers underwent a process that
> Vygotsky is being subject to. This self-development and self-criticism is
> interpreted adversely. Along with the publication of certain texts, the
> world discovered "The Young Hegel" and "The Young Marx" which were in turn
> contrasted in a dichotomous way with "The Old Hegel" and " The Mature
> Marx." I won't go into the theoretical disputes and movements which rested
> on these *dichotomies*, but just observe that in each case there was a real
> development of the writer's thinking at the root of the dichotomy. But in
> my view, the severing of the writers' oeuvres into mutual alien bodies with
> each being given
> *evaluative* characterisations - "immature," "conservative", "romantic",
> "mechanical," etc - did a great disservice to the appropriation of the
> writers' ideas for our times. In each of the cases I have found that the
> earlier work is an essential means of understanding the significance of the
> later work/writer. Dichotomies which place diminutive or dismissive labels
> on either the earlier work or the later work block understanding. A writer
> is a whole person. Their intellectual work can only be understood as part
> of a single project (usually, there are a few exceptions) and as a part of
> their times - their intellectual and social context.
> The kind of work you do is of course invaluable for helping people grasp
> Vygotsky's ideas as part of a developmental process which continues even
> after the author dies. But I think the severing of a writer's working life
> with dichotomous and evaluative characterisations can actually be
> demoralising. That such dichotomies can be based on the author's own
> self-critical words is neither here nor there. We all have our favourite
> Marx, our favourite Hegel and our favourite Vygotsky. But we know that what
> is particularly appealing for our own project was part of a process and is
> best (even only) understood as part of that process.
> Anyway, that's my reaction.
> Anton Yasnitsky wrote:
> > Andy,
> > I regard mediation etc.pretty vague and, therefore, virtually
> meaningless. Also I regard the whole research program of Vygotsky Circle of
> their instrumental period of 1920s
> > mechanistic indeed, and this conclusion I borrow primarily from
> Vygotsky's own texts in which he severely criticized their own ideas of
> that period.
> > Finally, yes, I do find the sharp separation of all psychological
> functions (whatever this means) into either the higher or the lower binary,
> rigid, valuative, and pretty much Aristotelian, in Lewin's terminology.
> Under Lewin's strong influence Vygotsky realized the flaw in his conceptual
> system and made a serious effort at making the transition from
> > Aristotelian to Galileian in his own thinking, but, quite unfortunately,
> by the time this transition in many respects was made, he did not have too
> much time to live:
> > a couple of years, not more. Which is a pity, indeed.
> > AY
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > *From:* Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > *To:* Anton Yasnitsky <email@example.com>; "eXtended Mind, Culture,
> Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > *Sent:* Thursday, June 21, 2012 10:58:37 PM
> > *Subject:* Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Systems of
> > So Anton, you regard mediation of psychlogical functions by cultural
> artefacts as "mechanistic" and "binary"?
> > Andy
> > Anton Yasnitsky wrote:
> > > Martin,
> > >
> > > Right, this is exactly my point: much criticized for fairly
> mechanistic distinction between the lower and the higher in his earlier
> work of 1920s, Vygotsky rejected this binary opposition in his later
> writings of the 1930, although he kept using phrases "higher functions"
> or, rather, "higher processes" and the like.
> -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
> Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts
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