Well, first of all, the passage I was referring to was this one, from Thinking and Speech, where Vygotsky is discussing the distinction between learning and development that he acquired from Koffka:
"We have seen that learning and development do not coincide but represent two processes which present reciprocal inter-relationships which are very complicated. Learning proceeds well only when it precedes development. Then it awakens and brings to life an entire series of functions which are found in a stage of maturing, in the area of proximal development. In this lies the extremely important role played by learning in development. In this way, we differentiate the learning of the child from the entrainment of the animal. In this the learning of the child which finishes and completes his development, differs from learning specific abilities such as learning to write with a typewriter or ride a bicycle, that do not exercise any particular influence on development. Formal (discipline of)* materials in each subject is the sphere in which the influence of learning upon development appears and is realized. Learning would be completely useless if it could only utilize what was already matured in development, if it could not be in itself the source of development, the source of new principles."
This is my re-translation of Meccaci's Italian translation: it's paragraph 47 of Section Three, Chapter Six, "Pensiero e linguaggio" Roma: Laterza, 1990: 275.
But what Mike is really asking for is not bicycle riding as a specific example. Elsewhere, Vygotsky uses the example of golf, and in another place it's the perception based skills that Thorndike uses to "prove" that the ability to estimate the length of line segments will not generalize to, for example, the estimation of the size of angles. What we are really looking for is much more general and criterial.
Vygotsky says exactly what he is looking for near the end of Chapter Five of HDHMF, p. 109 in Vol. 4. First of all, he says that in development the "substratum" remains the same. I think he's making the same point he made about structural change in Thinking and Speech, and it's a very general one: with respect to biological development, the laws of physics remain the same; with respect to sociogenetic development, the laws of phylogenesis remain the same. We may go through all of Merscheryakov's four versions of the genetic laws in the same way:
a) With respect to cultural development, the laws of nature remain the same.
b) With respect to individual development, the laws of society remain the same.
c) With respect to intra-mental development, the capacity of extramental development remains,
d) With respect to the academic concept, the everyday concept remains.
Secondly, he says that development always "internal" in consequence: changes in weather do not produce development until they become changes in climate and the organism produces some adapatation, and in the same way changes in the child's mental operations do not create development until they are part of the child's mental organization.
Thirdly. Joseph Glick has pointed out that Vygotsky, like Piaget, does believe in some form of stage dependency--precisely because development is a whole and unitary process, it is intimately connected with the past and future of the organism and cannot simply be a conditional acquisition of a skill.
Those are very general qualities of development; but Vygotsky then goes on to enumerate three qualities that belong very specifically to cultural development. Firstly, cultural development rquires some kind of "nourishment" or "assimilation" from a cultural environment. Secondly, that assimilation depends on a pre-existing biomechanical and later cultural foundation (the example Vygotsky gives is the child's assimilation of school arithmetic on the basis of 'natural' understandings of 'more' and "less" and "equal"). And thirdly, cultural development is always and everywhere of a "revolutionary", that is, a nonlinear type--by which Vygotsky means that the very processes which cause development are themselves transformed.
That's why I think that after the age of about one or two, we can pretty much exclude physical skills, Mike. It seems to me that after the age of one or two the only "growth" or "maturation" that has this reflexive ability to completely transform all hitherto existing forms of growth and maturation and remake them in their image is some form of language development.
That brings me to Andy's post. I think I disagree on (at least) three points:
a) Andy says we can't distinguish in principle between tools and signs. Vygotsky says we can and we must (the whole last part of his Research Method chapter in HDHMF, pp. 60-62 in Vol. 4. His distinction is FUNCTIONAL: the one allows mastery of the environment, but the other allows only mastery of that part of the environment that is human behavior.
b) Andy insists that Vygotsky never read Hegel. Why would he not read Hegel? Almost everybody else in his generation did (Spet, Volosinov, Mevedev, even Bakhtin who hardly ever read anything). To me, the way Vygotsky re-interpreted the Ach experiments is simply a working out of the categories we find in the Logic on the basis of Sakharov's data.
Vygotsky was fully literate in German from his mother. We know that in Thinking and Speech Chapter Two he is reading Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks, in whch Lenin remarks that one cannot understand the first volume of Capital without reading the whole of Hegel's "Logic". The Philosophical Notebooks are, largely, Lenin's marginal notes to Hegel's Logic. We know that Vygotsky wanted to understand and assimilate the whole of Marx's method in Capital. Why would Vygotsky read the marginal notes and not the actual Logic? (See also Vygotsky's discussion of ways of translating Hegel iinto Russian on p. 81 of Vol. 4, Andy!)
c) Andy says that there is no way of expressing Vygotsky's anti-dualism in English or Russian. First of all, at the end of Chapter Three (p. 82), he says that there are no 'higher' functions without the lower ones, but that the lower ones cannot "exhaust" the essence of the higher functions (he gets this from Engels' discussion of whether neuropsychology will ever "exhaust" the content of human thinking). Secondly, on p 91, he speculates that the "higher" functions will soon be seen as the same kind of lumping together and reducing to a common denominator as throwing together conditional and unconditional reactions was in the nineteenth century. You know, maybe sometime in the early twenty-first century?
This immanent anti-dualism, brought about by applying distinctions WITHIN categories which were once applied BETWEEN them, is where I think I really agree whole-heartedly with Andy. A dualist? He was Jewish!
Два мира - плотский и духовный-
Two worlds, thinking and extension
Thoughts within and things outside
Make creation. God’s intention
Makes them one past all divide
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
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