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[Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [A person's relation to the environment is intellectual]

Annalisa, I think there is a limit to what can be achieved with back and forth dialogue like this. You have your view about what perezhivanie, experience, activity, mental function, consciousness, ... mean, and I understand something different by any of these terms. In order to progress we need to be talking in the same frame.
Can I suggest you start reading your way through Vygotsky?


*Andy Blunden*

Annalisa Aguilar wrote:

I'm a bit thrown by the line of reasoning here. Consequently, I appeal for some help.

in reference to #1) I don't see how a relationship of the child to the environment *is* a mental function. This means that the perezhivanie is located "in" the person. That doesn't seem right to me. Yes it is subjective, but it depends upon what is apparent to the child *in the environment*. If it is something like a perception, which I take to be a mental function (and an embodied one, combined), then perezhivanie could be called it a perception, but LSV didn't call it that.
I also don't understand an activity to be a mental function either. So I have to say the phrase about activity within the definition doesn't make sense to me.

I didn't suppose that we have a perezhivanie and then do something. So let's not argue about something I didn't say. I said activities *can* flow from perezhivanie. But activities can flow from many things, either consciously or unconsciously.

Perezhivanie is emotional and cognitive (a word I prefer over "intellect" or "intellectual") but I don't see that as equal to activity.  I could have a perezhivanie and do nothing, just ask a philosopher. :)

I do not see experiencing as doing. Everything we do is in experience, but everything we experience is not doing. If you can tell me what you can do without experiencing it, let me know. :)

Consider the experience of love, or fear. What is the activity of being? There is no activity inherently within these experiences. Or how about an experience of memory.  Having an attachment to a preference is an experience, a very subjective one, but that can be experienced without doing anything. Activity (as I define it) is a semi-conscious endeavor by an agent with an objective for an outcome. It is hard for me to conceive of an unconscious activity. Maybe sleep, but that doesn't seem correct. Just because we use verbs to describe these experiences doesn't make them activities.

I'm really not clear about why you introduced the dictionary entry, honestly. How is that an acorn?

in reference to #2) This answers my question! ANL did not understand how LSV meant "understand." or "understanding the significance"! OK, now I understand the snag. I did miss this part. So thanks for hitting me over the head with it.

Though I'm not understanding why the dictionary entry. Some reference must have passed me by.

When I return to the LSV quote in #2 and then I consider where does "understanding" happen, I don't think it happens as a mental function in the way a perception does. Understanding is a distributed event. A mental function is a part of it, but it is not the entirety of understanding. It depends upon the child, but also the environment.

This is why I find perezhivanie to be similar to an affordance.
Et VOILA! I have opened a can of worms... I'll venture.

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2014 10:27 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [A person's relation to the environment is intellectual]

(1) What does the Dictionary mean by a "mental function" such as a
perezhivanie "having the status of actions or activities"?

This is the nub of Marxist psychology, Annalisa. We don't think one has
a psychological state/function (eg perezhivanie) and then as a result,
you do something. The unit of analysis is an artefact mediated action;
not a mental state or a thought. Consciousness is a part, or an aspect,
of actions, of doings, which we 21st century theoreticians abstract from
the whole which is actions and activities. Experiencing is doing. Seeing
is doing.

(2) Vygotsky says: "the child understands what is going on and its true
significance, he will react to it in a different way than another child
who fails to understand it." ANL interprets "understanding" and
"understanding the significance" as essentially actions requiring an
intellect. That was the point of my quote from the Dictionary. It's an
acorn of course, not an oak tree.


*Andy Blunden*

Annalisa Aguilar wrote:
Hi Andy!

I'm pleased the metaphor communicates. I love it when that happens!

The dictionary definition is intriguing, however I detect one sticking point and that is the part that says:

"...having the status of actions or activities..."

That seems a gotcha to me. Is this a Leontiev artifact? What does having a status of actions or activities _mean_? This appears to be a distortion of the original definition and sounds almost behaviorist, as if one detects a single perezhivanie from an activity. Is this to remove subjectivity?

I don't think the eldest child's perezhivanie from suffering an alcoholic mother is equaled to his actions. If anything, perezhivanie stands on its own, activities can flow from it, but I don't see perezhivanie as having the status of activities.

The rest I do not have issue with as a definition. So much for arguing with Russian dictionaries! :)

But please, before muddying the already muddy puddle, what about the question I first asked. Where is the snag of understanding?

Yes, the intellect as you say is not devoid of affect. Got that part. But why the charge of a relation to the environment as intellectual?

Where does this _come from_?

I tried my best to speculate about that. I'd like some clarification only to tease away the where is the confusion, whether created intentionally or not, where does it happen and why?

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2014 9:32 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [A person's relation to the environment is intellectual]

Yes, Annalisa, it is that ANL is accusing LSV of finding branches in the
acorn, to use your metaphor, based on what I think may be a deliberate
misunderstanding of how LSV represents the specificity of the relation
of the child to the environment.
Tatania Akhutina, a Russian supporter of Vygotsky, pointed me to the
entry for "perezhivanie" in the Bolshoi Dictionary of Psychology, which
I translate as follows: "From the point of view of Vygotsky's theory,
perezhivanie can be approached like any other mental function that
develops in the ontogenesis of involuntary and immediate forms to higher
forms, having the status of actions or activities. This approach
opens up possibilities to distinguish between several genetic forms of
perezhivanie, as well as to search for cultural-historical means of
mastering perezhivanie.”
So the kind of perezhivanie will develop as the child develops.
If I understand Vygotsky correctly, it is between the ages of 3-7 (in
his experience) that the intellect develops. Perception of the
environment mediated by signs does not in any way suggest the absence of
affective content in those signs however,


*Andy Blunden*

Annalisa Aguilar wrote:

Hi Andy (and others),

This post is in relation to the first one labeled [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality] and informed by Andy's paper "The Problem of the Environment: In Defence of Vygotsky."

I'll continue with the second charge of Leontiev regarding the environment, as indicated in your Defense of Vygotsky paper (hosted on your page on academia.edu, for anyone late to the discussion).

#2) The charge of Leontiev (Ad. 5): "Vygotsky takes relation of the person to their environment to be an intellectual relation."

It is difficult to understand how sense and meaning as represented in perezhivanie could be taken as intellectual, especially when considering infants, to which the same theory applies (concerning environment and its impact upon the child).

I agree with you (and Vygotsky) 100% "The relation in question is always an age-specific relation, and not an intellectual relation." However the theory is not Piagetian (sp?), made of stairsteps, but a _unifying_ theory.

Infants clearly do not possess intellects, or do they? As feeling masses, bundles of joy, and other emotions, infants take in all their perceptions based upon their capacity of understanding (and is at the same time dependent upon their forming brains and bodies) and all this input stimulates and internalizes and eventually creates what will become a child and eventually an adult. Everything is in motion. Thought as reflected by infants is very affect laden. Even single words are bursting with emotion and sense as reflected back by the environment in which the child interacts. These don't seem "intellectual."

But then Andy, you had said previously that intellect is not devoid of affect in this definition.

So I suppose the question that falls out for me is: where is the snag of misunderstanding?

We might say it is "political expediency" generated (historical) or it is cognitively generated (theoretical). Now in Leontiev's case we can say it can be a little of both. However in Bozhovich's case, it must be theoretical, so I am comparing that, or better, I am suggesting a comparison of that.

Again I suppose to be more obvious, *I'm curious to understand where the disconnect happens and why.*

Is it the way "intellectual" is translated/interpreted? Must we be careful about defining this word and how Vygotsky. or rather, Leontiev used it?

Or does it have to do with projecting words that pertain to _states of completed development_ and misusing them to describe _developmental events_? If that is the case, the trap here is that we cannot use the naming of what is already developed to name and define what is still developing.

An acorn is not a tree; there are no branches in an acorn, so in terms of an acorn it makes no sense to talk about branches inside the acorn.

Yet at the same time, it seems LSV is saying the final form determines development. So I wonder if there is a language-to-concept correspondence snafu here too, not just using a "wrong" word.

I hope I made that understandable, I can't say if it is sensible, however!  :)

Kind regards,