I guess I see "microgenesis" as a special case of genesis generally. But maybe all cases of genesis are special.
I used to think of the relationship between microgenesis and ontogenesis by analogy with the link between phylogenesis and sociogenesis. Ironically, it was really MIKE who taught me to see the link between phylogenesis and sociogenesis as a problem and not just a postulate, as a moment when phylogenesis provides the environment for sociogenesis but sociogenesis in return provides the very content for the next (relatively short) phase of phylogenesis.
Mike argued that for hundreds of thousands of years, the rudiments of society and the vestiges of biological evolution must have co-existed (see "the co-evolution of mind and brain"). Of course, in the long run, we have to say that sociogenesis really did turn phylogenesis on its head--that we can, at least in logical terms, treat the product of phylogenesis, that is, the biological type of man, as stable and unchanging and attribute the variations we see around us to sociogenesis alone. Indeed, we must, if we are not to fall into the very worst and most unscientific fallacies of nineteenth century ethnography.
But they didn't know about all that back then, poor schleps. What they knew about were some circumstances where certain socially derived advantages, e.g. collective production, fire, cooperation, appeared to derive advantages that were not obtainable from individual advantages, and other situations where the reverse appeared to obtain. In a footnote to Scribner's article "Vygotsky's uses of history", Scribner notes that Vygotsky sometimes uses the word "phylogenesis" to refer to both prehistoric evolution and historical change in the human species (e.g. epigenetic changes such as the fact that we are growing taller, the Flynn effect, etc.
Vygotsky was certainly aware of (and actually refers to) the kinds of phenomena that Baldwin was studying--the circumstance where, for example, although the incest taboo appears to be biological and is almost certainly selected for genetically, it can be and is overcome, so that for example in almost every society the ruling classes perpetuate family fortunes largely by overcoming the innate humane distaste for semi-incestuous marriages to one degree or another. See, for example, the perverse marriage practices of ancient Egyptian royalty, and also the prevalence of diseases like porphyria and hemophilia in European royal families, and of course the American horror of miscegenation, which, viewed dispassionately, can only be seen as a good thing (and can be even better when considered passionately).
It seems logical (though not exactly historical) to say that phylogenesis provides the basis for sociogenesis, and sociogenesis then, in return, creates the next stage of phylogenesis, almost as a byproduct of a new and more important form of progress (by providing a better diet which allows us to grow taller, and by mass literacy, and of course by the Baldwin effect). Viewed from phylogenesis, sociogenesis is a kind of microgenesis, just as viewed from sociogenesis, phylogenesis appears to be no genesis at all.
Now, I am not a naturally dialectical thinker. So my first impulse when confronted with the link between sociogenesis and ontogenesis (e.g. the child learning to read) is to treat it exactly the same way. The society that children are born into seems unchanging and homogenous when we consider the diachronic variations observable in child behavior as the child grows older. But in the long run, we have to say that ontogenesis really turns sociogenesis upside-down; kids do not grow up to be their parents; they grow up to be themselves.
You can see this in the forms of literacy that children are developing in South Korea today, many of which are quite incomprehensible to me for reasons that have nothing to do with my grasp of Korean. Children do grow up and make transformations in society, and some of these transformations are contemporaneouos with the child's adolescence and young adulthood. Vygotsky himself, who seems so extraordinary to us but in many ways was quite typical of his generation, is a very good example of how ontogenesis can provide the next moment of sociogenesis. The relationship is not symmetrical--this is why i really loathe the thoughtless formula "constructs and is constructed by"--but an unsymmetrical relationship is still a relationship, else we could not say "physical chemistry" or "molecular biology".
But of course my analogy is losing its grip on reality. The Russian revolution conceived as a moment when the ontogenesis of Lenin provided the next zone of development for a whole society is the Russian revolution misconceived. And while I do think that microgenesis provides the next zone of development for ontogenesis (and that is why we must distinguish between developmentally inert forms of teaching-and-learning and those which are rich in potential for ontogenesis), I also think that there is an important sense in which microgenesis is sui generis. But that's probably true of sociogenesis and phylogenesis too!
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--------- 원본 메일 ---------
: Andy Blunden <email@example.com>
: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
: 2012년 10월 04일 목요일, 00시 59분 15초 +0900
: Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?
|Does Vygotsky ever mention "microgenesis" or whatever the Russian translation of the word is?|
mike cole wrote:
Hi Andy-- Maybe I am off on a totally mistaken path here. It would not be the first time. But in raising the examples I have, I have been seeking to clarify a question, i think initiated by greg about microgenesis.
Here is the question I have been trying to get clear about.
Is there such a process, in a Vygotskian framework, as micro-genesis that involves development? Or is all microgenetic change "learning." (As in the learning/development distinction).
So each time an answer comes back that moves the genetic domain from
microgenesis to ontogenesis from *my* perspective, its a change of topic,
not an answer.
David pointed us to Vygotsky/Koffka on maturation (development? ravitie?) and learning (obuchenie), which introduces its own ambiguities?
I want to print out the materials that David posted to read more carefully and am hoping we can either dismiss my question as a misunderstanding of what the conversation was about or hone in enough on the topic so that we all feel like we are talking about the same thing. Right now I am pretty sure we are not.
On Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 6:25 AM, Andy Blunden <email@example.com>
No, I don't believe Vygotsky is speaking of microgenesis, Mike.
My PS was responding to David saying:
"It’s that moment when learning-and-teaching leads development, or
opens the next stage of development (as Koffka says, a pfennigsworth
of learning and teaching yields a mark of development) that I always
thought was called microgenesis."
Mike Cole wrote:
Is he speaking of micro genesis, Andy?
On Oct 3, 2012, at 5:59 AM, Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Mike, reading Chapter 6 of "Thinking and Speech" about written speech,
it seems to me that Vygotsky takes the development of written speech as
archetypical and a pre-requiresite for the development of true concepts
in modern society. He actually says that in taking up instruction in
grammar (which is always associated with the learning of written speech)
he is deferring the formation of scientific concepts to "susbsequent
As is well-known, he points to at least three characteristics of written
speech which are significant: that it requires conscious awareness of
the semantic, syntactic and phonetic properties of both inner and oral
speech; it requires an abstraction from the speech-situation and in
particular the interlocutor; finally, it requires a motivation which is
entirely absent for the child when they begin to learn written speech.
Each qualitative leap, each /development/ in the psychological growth of
a child is marked by a crisis and sharp change in the will, the
development of new motivations and therewith new relationships, new
"situations". The motivation is no longer provided by the situation, an
answer is required when there is no question. Thus the achievement of
written speech requires conscious control of the will in abstraction
from the situation, and reflecting upon and controlling inner speech.
The formulation of actions, thinking, in the absence of the actual,
sensuous presence of the stimulus, is one of the most central
characteristic of conceptual thought. This is a development that is
required even in non-literate communities. But in modern societies, the
psychic functions required for conceptual, i.e., culturally inherited
means of action, are acquired through formal schooling and as I see it
the means of doing so is the mastery of written speech.
Back on the 29 September, you asked:
"Since qualitative change in the organization of sensory-motor
behavior appear off the table when discussing HIGHER psych
functions, might you turn your scalpels to the acquisition of the
ability to read a phonetic alphabet fluently? How am I going wrong
in believing that acquisition of reading is a developmental process
in which learning also plays an essential role that shifts in the
course off acquisition?"
It is really nothing to with sensory-motor behavior, even though
sensory-motor behavior is the only means by which written speech can be
manifested. But if a child has normal vision and normal control of their
hands, and these functions are sufficiently developed to recognise the
letters of the alphabet, then teaching the child to read and write them
is a good move. But it is not development itself. What is development is
acquisition of those functions Vygotsky talks about: abstraction from
the semantic, syntactic and phonetic properties of oral speech;
abstraction from interlocutor and the speech situation; and the
development of motivations to write. None of the actions implied in this
psychological development are possible unless the child has /some/ means
of written speech. Learning the ABCs simply creates the possibility for
the leap of mastering one's own thinking by the culturally-specific
means of written speech with a phonetic alphabet.
That's how I read it.
PS. David. "Microgenesis" is not really part of my vocabulary, but I
think it is not warranted to apply the term to the critical phases of
ontogenesis. These are after all ontogenesis. I have always taken
"microgenesis" to refer to the processes whereby a given psychological
condition, or process, or action, is manifested out of its conditions,
ie., something which happens every second. E.g. if I have a problem and
then I hit on the solution; or if I meet someone, and in a second or two
recognize them and adopt an orientation to them; or I want to speak in a
meeting, stand up and then speak. That is the context in which I say
concepts /are/ themselves processes of development (and not just the
product of development).
mike cole wrote:
So there is microgenetic DEVELOPMENT of reading, or is LSV talking about
the ontogenetic change that comes from mediation of activity through
On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 7:56 PM, kellogg <email@example.com> wrote:
First of all, here's Vygotsky attacking Meumann and Piaget for the
view that learning to read and write is really just learning, and not a
fundamental restructuring of the child's understanding. It's from Thinking
and Speech, Chapter Six, Part Three. But unfortunately neither English
translation is really adequate. So here is the Russian:
Обучение как бы пожинает плоды детского созревания, но само по себе
обучение остается безразличным для развития. У ребенка память, внимание и
мышление развились до такого уровня, что он может обучаться грамоте и
арифметике; но если мы его обучим грамоте и арифметике, то его память,
внимание и мышление изменятся или нет? Старая психология отвечала на этот
вопрос так: изменятся в той мере, в какой мы будем их упражнять, т.е. они
изменятся в результате упражнения, но ничего не изменится в ходе их
развития. Ничего нового не возникнет в умственном развитии ребенка от того,
что мы его обучим грамоте. Это будет тот же самый ребенок, но грамотный.
Эта точка зрения, целиком определяющая всю старую педагогическую
психологию, в том числе и известную работу Меймана, доведена до логического
предела в теории Пиаже. Его точка зрения такова, что мышление ребенка с
необходимостью проходит через известные фазы и стадии, независимо от того,
обучается этот ребенок или нет. Если он обучается, то это есть чисто
внешний факт, который еще не находится в единстве с его собственными
процессами мышления. Поэтому педагогика должна считаться с этими
автономными особенностями детского мышления как с низшим порогом,
определяющим возможности обучения. Когда же у ребенка разовьются другие
возможности мышления, тогда станет возможным и другое обучение. Для Пиаже
показателем уровня детского мышления является не то, что ребенок знает, не
то, что он способен усвоить, а то, как он мыслит в той области, где он
никакого знания не имеет. Здесь самым резким образом противопоставляются
обучение и развитие, знание и мышление. Исходя из этог Пиаже задает ребенку
такие вопросы, в отношении которых он застрахован от того, о,что ребенок
может иметь какие-нибудь знания о спрашиваемом предмете. А если мы
спрашиваем ребенка о таких вещах, о которых у него могут быть знания, то
здесь мы получаем не результаты мышления, а результаты знания. Поэтому
спонтанные понятия, возникающие в процессе развития ребенка,
рассматриваются как показательные для его мышления, а научные понятия,
возникающие из обучения, не обладают этой показательностью. Поэтому же, раз
обучение и развитие резко противопоставляются друг другу, мы приходим с
необходимостью к основному положению Пиаже, согласно которому научные
понятия скорее вытесняют спонтанные и занимают их место, чем возникают из
них, преобразуя их.
"Teaching-and-learning reaps the benefits of the children's maturation,
but is in itself of no interest to development. If we teach literacy and
numeracy when the child's memory, attention and thinking have evolved to
such a level that it can be taught, will his memory, attention and thinking
change or no? The old psychology responded to this question thus: it will
change to the extent that we exercise them, i.e. it will change as a result
of exercise, but nothing will change in the course of their development.
There is nothing new here in the mental development of the child from what
we taught him to read. It will be the same child, but competent. This
view is entirely fixed by the whole of the old educational psychology,
including the well-known work of Meumann, and brought to its logical limit
in Piaget's theory. His point of view is that the child's thinking must
needs to pass through certain phases and stages, regardless of whether the
child undergoes teaching-and-learning or not. If he undergoes it, this is
a purely external fact, which is not yet in any communion with his own
thinking processes. Pedagogy should therefore be considered alongside the
autonomous features of children's thinking, as a lower threshold
determining teaching-and-learning. When a child develops, other ways of
thinking and other forms of teaching-and-learning will then be possible. For
Piaget, the indicator of the child's thinking is not what the child knows,
not what he is able to learn, but the way he thinks in an area where he has
no knowledge. Here lies the very sharpest contrast between
teaching-and-learning and development, between knowledge and thinking. It
is on this basis that Piaget sets the child questions with respect to which
he may be assured that the child can have no knowledge whatever. For if
we ask the child about things about which he may have knowledge, here we do
not get the results of thinking, but the results of knowledge. Therefore,
spontaneous notions arising in the development of the child shall be
considered as indicative of his thinking, and scientific concepts that
arise from learning-and-teaching, do not have this potential. For the
same reason, once learning-and-teaching and development are sharply
counterposed to each other, we necessarily arrive at the main point of
Piaget, according to which scientific concepts rather displace spontaneous
and take their place rather than derive from them, transforming them."
Later on, Vygotsky dwells at some length on his disagreements with Koffka.
It will be seen that the passage which Vygotsky is lingering over is
precisely the one that Mike sent around:
Есть, наконец, третья группа теорий, которая особенно влиятельна в
европейской детской психологии. Эти теории пытаются подняться над
крайностями обеих точек зрения, которые изложены выше. Они пытаются
проплыть между Сциллой и Харибдой. При этом случается то, что обычно
происходит с теориями, занимающими среднее место между двумя крайними
точками зрения. Они становятся не над обеими теориями, а между ними,
преодолевая одну крайность ровно в такой мере, в какой они попадают в
другую. Одну неправильную теорию они преодолевают, частично уступая другой,
а другую . уступками первой. В сущности говоря, это . двойственные теории:
занимая позицию между двумя противоположными точками зрения, они на самом
деле приводят к некоторому объединению этих точек зрения.
Такова точка зрения Коффки, который заявляет с самого начала, что развитие
всегда имеет двойственный характер: во-первых, надо различать развитие как
созревание и, во-вторых, надо различать развитие как обучение. Но это и
значит признать в сущности две прежние крайние точки зрения, одну вслед за
другой, или объединить их. Первая точка зрения говорит, что процессы
развития и обучения независимы друг от друга. Ее Коффка повторяет,
утверждая, что развитие и есть созревание, не зависящее в своих внутренних
законах от обучения. Вторая точка зрения говорит, что обучение есть
развитие. Эту точку зрения Коффка повторяет буквально.
"There is, finally, a third group of theories, which is particularly
influential in European child psychology. These theories attempt to rise
above the extremes of both points of view, as set out above. They are
trying to sail between Scylla and Charybdis. In this case, what happens is
the usual case with theories that occupy the middle ground between two
extremes. They do not stand above the two theories but between them
overcoming one extreme exactly to the extent to which they veer towards the
other. They overcome one wrong theory by partially surrendering to another.
Generally speaking, it is a dualistic theory: occupying a position between
two opposing points of view, they actually result from some combination of
the two points of view."
"This is the view Koffka, who states at the outset that the development is
always dualistic: First, we must distinguish development as maturation and
second we must distinguish development as learning-and-teaching. But this
means to recognize in essence the two previous extreme positions one after
the other, or combine them. The first point of view is that the processes
of development and learning-and-teaching are independent of each other.
Here Koffka repeats the argument that development and maturation are not
dependent in their internal laws upon learning-and-teaching. The second
point of view is that learning is development. This view too Koffka repeats
word for word."
Vygotsky goes on to discuss three positive elements in Koffka's work:
First, Koffka recognizes that there are two different things and they exist
in a state of mutual dependence. Second, Koffka must introduce a new
conception of learning-and-teaching, namely the appearance of new
structures and the completion of old ones. Thirdly, Koffka raises, although
he cannot solve, the whole question of whether learning-and-teaching leads
development or the other way around. It's that moment when
learning-and-teaching leads development, or opens the next stage of
development (as Koffka says, a pfennigsworth of learning and teaching
yields a mark of development) that I always thought was called
In developing that second point, on the new STRUCTURAL conception of
learning-and-teaching that Vygotsky distinguishes between
learning-and-teaching that offers only the skill that it offers and a
transformative skill--and the example he gives of the former is learning to
type. What about the latter, though? It seems to me he has already given us
an example of the latter at the very outset of this discussion when he was
raking Meumann and Piaget over the coals. It is when a child learns that he
or she can draw speech.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--------- 원본 메일 ---------
*보낸사람*: mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
*받는사람* : "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <email@example.com>, kellogg
*날짜*: 2012년 10월 03일 수요일, 08시 43분 37초 +0900
Hi David- This message was begun several days ago but got hung up in my
messy schedule and a delay while I got to Koffka.
I would like very much to continue the microgeneis discussion started by
Greg (or was it you?) because it seems to me to get us to the heart of the
learning/development issue. We made a lot of progress a few years ago when
you and Andy and I tried to write down "our" theory of development, with
LSV as the paternal text.
While I have been off doing my form of inquiry, you have been doing
yours including all of the intense work on Tool and Znak, and immersing
yourself in the texts.
I have have a copy of Koffka at home, so I read a bunch of places where
the learning/development issue is brought up.
Rather than jump straight into conversation, I would like to provide
other xmca'ites as wish, to read the texts being discussed.
To that end, I have attached a few pages from Koffka that seem
particularly to the point. As I understand it, this approach, which
attributes cultural influences on development only for forms of action that
are species typical/universal and closely related to (acquiring a first
language, acquiring the ability to walk and run and jump and duck, and so
So the answer to questions about development being involved in learning
to ride a bike or acquing the ability to read a phonetic alphabet. The
matter is forclosed. Reading is a process of learning, ipso facto, end of
You indicate in your note that LSV also had some disagreements with
Koffka, but I was not clear on what they were. If you could elaborate in
context I would find it helpful.
So, moving slowly, and doggedly sticking to the topic of microgenesis of
functions including acquiring the ability to walk, to ride a bike, and to
learn to read, and lets include acquire a language, since that is clearly a
central topic, I attach the relevant pages from Koffka so others can see
what we are nattering on about, and at least figure out what is at stake.
If you would indicate other parts of Koffka to read, David, if you think
them relevant, I can make the pdf and distribute.
more to come.
PS-- ALL-- Note David's new email. I am probably not the only one who
missed the transition to it.
xmca mailing list
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
xmca mailing list
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list