Back in 2010 I reviewed a collection of Gestaltist articles on microgenesis (Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 290-293).:
Innovating Genesis: Microgenesis and Constructive Mind in Action, (2008) E. Abbey and R. Diriwachter (eds.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
I don't recommend it, actually. I got into because I have always thought that one way to distinguish learning from development is to say that microgenesis refers to a particular KIND of learning, viz. that which leads to ontogenesis. Mike objected to this view, I think because he has the more traditional view that learning is one type of microgenesis.
That's very much the view put forward by the Ganzheitpsychologie and its adherents in this book. Almost everybody sets themselves the methodological problem of determining how many hairs it takes to say that somebody has a beard, and whether beardiness is intrinsic in the existence of every hair. Hardly anybody sets themselves the more interesting methodological problem of deciding whether the various studies in the book are actually talking about the same thing, and if so what that same thing might be.
For example, one study looks at people doing the video game "Duck Shoot" and tries to extrapolate this to the microgenesis of murder and suicide. But as a reviewer crisply remarks, "Live ducks in the experimental study are just video images, not the real duck!"
This morning, I was re-reading Hamlet, and Vygotsky's Hamlet essay, about which I know you have pondered oft and deeply. As you know, there is some discussion of whether Ophelia committed suicide and can be legitimately buried in consecrated ground (the gravedigger says no, and Gertrude describes Ophelia's death to Laertes as an accident; she is eventually buried in hallowed ground but not given a Christian service as a compromise).
A footnote in my edition of the play says that this is actually a reference to legal arguments in 1561-62 about the suicide of Sir James Hale, who drowned himself in 1554. There was a lawsuit, because although nobody begrudged him a Christian burial, English law held that the lands of a suicide were forfeit, and the family wished to inherit. So there was a lively discussion of the nature of human action, and it was decided that each act has three parts: the imagination, the resolution, and the perfection thereof, and self-murder had to be in all three for the land to be forfeited.
FIRST CLOWN: For here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly, it argues an act, and an act hath three branches--it is to act, to do, to perform.
SECOND CLOWN: Nay, but hear you goodman delver
FIRST CLOWN: Give me leave. Here lies the water--good. Here stands the man--god. If the man go to this water and drown himself, it is will-he, nill he, he goes--mark you that. But if the water come to him, and drown him, he drowns not himself.
The idea is that only suicide is really willy-nilly; everything else is an act of god. So microgenesis is the study of will-he, nill-he?
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
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