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[xmca] Re: Vygotskii-Lewin as gestaltists and the critics of gestaltism in '30s

A most devoted critic. Okay.


On Apr 24, 2013, at 7:23 PM, Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com<mailto:the_yasya@yahoo.com>> wrote:

Oh, this one is pretty easy. Two points:

Point 1. The source is fairly idiosyncratic and should be almost totally distrusted. Firstly, Vygotsky never wrote this text:
Leontiev (A.N.) and Zaporozhets did. This text was generated on the basis of the notes the two guys were taking
during Vygotskii's several hours long presentation, and only God knows what exactly the whole talk was about.
Naturally, the title was invented by the publishers of these notes --Leontiev A.A. and Ryabova (Akhutina)--who
released it for the first time in 1968. Then, the textological hybrid was republished in the Collected Works,
with grave mistakes in chronology, but, quite  possibly, there are also other involuntary mistakes and
deliberate censorship in the style of Yaroshevskii's usual brutal editing of Vygotskii's texts.

Luckily, some notes that Vygotskii prepared BEFORE the talk have preserved and--
hurray, hurray!--were published fairly recently by Zavershneva.
I guess, furthermore, we also published the stuff in English some time ago. Quite a bonus, I would say.
So, it might be pretty interesting to compare the two sources, whatever brief and fragmentary both are.
Anyway, all this needs to be kept in mind as long as this publication is concerned.

Point 2. To the matter: "cultural-historical gestalt psychology" as a synthesis of Soviet Luria-Vygotskian and, on the other hand,
German-American gestalt psychology. Regardless of what Vygotskii--or, rather Leontiev, Zaporozhets and
Yaroshevskii--say in this paper "The problem of consciousness", there is overwhelming evidence of most intensive
and productive contacts between the two groups of scholars and, if not mutual convergence, then most enthusiastic
attempts to integrate German-American gestaltist scholarship in the Soviet Union.
I could probably try to relate this story here, but for the time being would refer to the work that has already been done.
It took me several [already published] papers to provide arguments in support of this claim.
Some of these are in Russian, but the just of one of these is available in English (and some other languages), too.
All these are available here, right after Keiler's seminal work that shows that Vygotsky never spoke of
"cultural-historical psychology" or, for that matter, "higher psychic functions" (vysshie psikhicheskie funktsii):


FYI, Russian paper provides numerous footnotes not in Russian that might give some idea of the contents of the paper.
Also, there are a couple of nice original documents published as Illustrations within this Russian paper.

Still, the paper does not deal directly with the issue of theoretical synthesis. Well, in fact, such paper is not written yet.
In a couple of words, though, the idea is as follows, I guess: profoundly influenced by gestaltist holism from late 1929
onwards, Vygotskii, however, moves closer to Kurt Lewin, who, in turn, started expressing his criticism of gestaltist
preoccupation with holism in favour of more balanced view that would take into consideration the wholeness and,
on the other hand, the life of organs and the processes in the sub-parts of the whole, including the processes of
separation and fragmentation. This development looked too revisionist for the hardcore gestaltist, and fairly renegade.
It is pretty much in this sense Vygotskii was--along with Lewin--a most devoted gestaltist and, at the same time,
its staunch critic. This is how I would interpret  Lewin's and Vygotskii's  both holism-gestaltism and its critic to the extent
of the danger of excommunication from the ranks of faithful gestaltists. This is true of the decade of 1930s, but not earlier.


From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu<mailto:packer@duq.edu>>
To: Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com<mailto:the_yasya@yahoo.com>>; "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>>
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 6:20:34 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] "semiotic/semantic [semicheskyj] analysis" (timeo Vygotskii et dona ferentem)

Hi Anton,

In "The problem of consciousness" (Collected Works, vol. 3), LSV writes that gestalt psychology makes the mistake of assuming that the psychological functions form a specific kind of unified structure. He says that he wants to treat this assumption as the problem: to explore the connections among the psychological functions, and how these connections change dynamically.

Certainly one can read this as an influence of gestalt psychology on his work. But it doesn't seem much of a movement towards a synthesis, or to encourage such a synthesis. What's your take on this?


On Apr 23, 2013, at 7:54 PM, Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com<mailto:the_yasya@yahoo.com>> wrote:

> As I mentioned this on several occasions, a synthesis of Vygotskian ideas with the solid system of gestaltist thought--
> the "cultural-historical gestalt psychology", if I may--looks like a very interesting and most promising option
> for the development of Vygotskiana in psychology today.

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