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[Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

Lyric as ever, David.
And I used "interdisciplinary", following Davydov as it happens, rightly or wrongly implying "from one discipline to another" rather than "in many disciplines" (multidisciplinary) or "across disciplines" (transdisciplinary), ie. above disciplines. I think disciplines are quite necessary, but they need to be connected.

And is that reference to Tolstoy in Thinking and Speech, David?
*Andy Blunden*

David Kellogg wrote:
I can always tell when people are getting a little defensive on the
list. First of all, charges get responded to long before they are even
made (profuse and unsubstantiated professions of being poorly read).
Secondly, people get told to go and read things (though I think what
Andy recommended was not, in fact, Wittgenstein on the ineffable).
Thirdly, I find that I myself begin to begin sentences with "I" rather
than with "Do you mean...?". Finally, to take an example from a
different thread on the list, there is a certain gratuitous intrusion
of "tu quoques" argumentation:  Leontiev's revisionism is defended on
the grounds that Stalin was the George W. Bush of Soviet science.

(I would not thought it actually possible to be unfair to Stalin,
still less to provoke me to defend him, but I do have to say that
while both men were responsible for literally millions of unnecessary
deaths, Stalin successfully defeated Hitler, while Bush merely tried
to defeat social security and gay marriage and utterly failed. In any
case, the real issue is whether the American academic community ever
took Bush's scientific beliefs at all seriously, to which I trust the
answer is no.)

There is no reason, that I can see, for any defensiveness. I do not,
for example, think that Haydi's comments are aimed at me, both because
he is always very pleasant to me when he is asking me for articles off
list and because he is clearly addressing his remarks to Westerners,
and I am only Western by virtue of my choice of parents (believe me,
my choice of wife has a lot more to do with what I think and say). I
think you, Annalisa, have still less reason to be defensive than I do;
you've raised some fascinating questions, and we've had a very lucid
and enjoyable discussion.

For example...

a) As Tolstoy says, the label is ready when the concept is ready. Each
historical epoch does tend to have what Halliday calls a "theme",
which certainly influences the kinds of things we are ready to label
units. Halliday's example is that prior to the nineteenth century
mathematics and quantification was a central "theme" in science, in
the nineteenth century, particularly after Darwin, "history" become
the main theme, and this was replaced, at least in linguistics and at
least post-Saussure, by "structure". Hallidays says, and I agree, that
these themes are not "inter-" or "multi-" disciplinary (because that
implies that the main locus of intellectual activity is still the
discipline, which is not thematic but defined by the object of study).
They are trans-disciplinary (which is why I always felt that Andy's
book on concepts should be called "transdisciplinary" rather than
"multidisciplinary").  I think that "activity" is an attempt to create
a kind of transdisciplinary theme for the twenty-first century, and I
strongly feel that the true theme should be something like "meaning",
for some of the reasons you say (that is, experience is not limited to
activity, nor is meaning limited to the activity of signs).

b) I think that "idealism" is something like intellectualism; it's a
fairly time specific charge, one that was made in a particular
historical context. With intellectualism, the charge is that the
source of intellect is intellect itself, in embryo, and that the
development of intellect is essentially like inflating a rubber raft.
With idealism, the charge is actually similar; it is that the ideal
actually exists, in embryo, in material artifacts, and we merely
inflate it through activity. Martin's formulation "plump materialism"
is delightful, because it really turns this around: it says that the
material already exists in ideas: the ideal means, at least from the
functional point of view, that something is potentially material It's
a view with which I strongly agree (but perhaps I am puppeteering
again, and that is not what Martin meant.)

c) Lysenko was, in a weird way, a wild-eyed idealist, or at least a
denier of materialism. He believed that things that Soviet children
learned would be passed on to their children without instruction, and
that in this way the Soviet dream would come true in a single
generation  and in a single country. I think that Vygotsky understood
perfectly well that it would not be so easy; he could see that higher
psychological functions are par excellance the things that require
instruction and that instruction depends very much on material
resources (in a very early work he points out that juvenile
delinquency cannot be seriously addressed until child homelessness is
elminated). But Vygotsky believed in a kind of plump Darwinism: he
understood that laws like the Jennings principle (that is, that an
organism's activity is a function of the potential of its organs) do
not apply to artificial organs (that is, tools) and that these
artificial organs can be handed down to children, albeit with

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 3 November 2014 09:55, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:
Hi David,

I am finally returning to complete my answer to your reply from this thread.

I am swimming in texts and so I am just replying with the *understanding* that I may have missed important points, and I hope that others will forgive my ignorance of texts. I would hope that I wouldn't be banned from contribution because I did not read the LSV Collected Works in its entirety and all commentaries made up to the present day.

Having said that, I was aware before coming to this list that there is a rift caused by the historical and personal fallout between LSV and ANL. I have shared that my sense that this has had more to do with the politics of the time. If that is not correct, I'm sure I will work that out in time, and my posting my understanding isn't meant to express a prescription for interpretation in any way shape or form.

I appreciate your synthesizing down what you call three points for the political challenges.

(a) Activity as unit of analysis: I cannot dispute that in some scenarios activity can be useful as *a* unit of analysis. But I cannot abide by activity as *the* unit of analysis for all scenarios. At this juncture, I'm fairly decided upon that, and if that places me in a political camp, hook, line, and sinker, I can't help how people interpret that. We all label the world based upon our own experiences and the emotional attachments that come with them. And we are all free in the way we do that labeling. So label away if that is necessary to you. Though I'd prefer you didn't. :)

[an aside: Speaking of labeling, I'd like to add that I prefer not to be limited by a label of activity for my experiences, as I have experiences beyond activity. I'm actually interested in subjective experience, stripped away of labels. In my discussions with others recently, I have learned how limited the English language is in describing what this is. One could call it "the sublime," one could call it aesthetic experience, but these are adjectives to experience, and they come with baggage. So if anyone has an idea to what I'm referring please hand it over, and please don't hand me Wittgenstein's quote about the ineffable! :) --end aside]

(b) In consideration of this notion of ideal, I am curious in my own intellectual journey to better understand this, as we did not discuss the ideal in seminar when discussing word-meaning. But that the word was general, as in the way scientific concepts function in relation to everyday concepts. To my sense, conflating this into idealism is pouring the baby out with the bathwater. That is how it feels to me. But I can understand why this is a difficult Vygotskian concept to grasp, as it took me many false steps to actually "get it," and sometimes I require a refresher.

I appreciate your observation that Anglophones have a different understanding based upon a preferred first text. But as I attempted to say in an earlier post, this split may have also to do with the time lapse between translations, the translations themselves (in reference to Thinking and Speech), and that the work was kept underwraps for so long and therefore decontextualized from the flow of scientific idea exchanges and research as represented in the literature, alongside the actual cultural practice of doing the science.

This is not an uncommon event when dealing with decontextualized texts. We cannot help but project our own word-meanings upon our interpretations. Perhaps it is a sin, but I would hope it is a guiltless sin, if we all do it. I see that this is why we have need for one another, to try to minimize that.

Consider the Egyptian hieroglyphs for example of decontextualized texts and how that ancient culture being absent, the only recourse to access meaning was through the Rosetta stone, and if not for that, they would only be mute, pretty picture writing! We must start from where we stand, which is why sometimes 7+4=10 as a first step in understanding.

(c) Lamarck/Lysenko: You make a great point that for those researchers in their respective contexts, if writing about child development, they are required to confer with the science of genetics. Thank you for that. Since I am not a scientist I could not know this.

Now in regard to the theoretical snafus:

(a) Perezhivanie: I have not yet read the lecture on heredity, though I shall, but I can see if a lecture on environment follows a lecture on heredity, that they cannot be divorced from each other and these cannot be divorced from the body of the lecture series. It makes me also consider the recent developments in epigenetics.

(b) Personality: I thank you for adding to my vocabulary the words "retroleptic" and "proleptic" and I will need some time to digest this. For me, it is tempting to posit personality as subjective and objective, but I think I can see why this might be problematic.

(c) Development: development itself develops is a great way to say it! "Personality as bootstrap" ?

In response to your one sock-puppet clapping, I would add, that we struggle so much to deal with our inner speech, but when all is said and done who is it who is listening to the inner speech? And who is there when the speech goes quiet? :)

Thanks for a great post. I learned a lot.

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 5:20 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

Hi David,

Actually it is probably me who is muddling, like a mud puddle!

How wonderful that you provide the Russian! I am presuming that you do the Russian of course.

What I want to say quickly is regarding

1) Darwin v. Lamarck - You have gone quickly over and beyond what I know and so I will have to catch up with this. However, one area I have wanted to go over more closely is the connection to Darwinism. Vera covered this in her seminar, but it has been sometime ago now and I would not mind a refresher. Having said that, because we covered so much material, I don't recall if we covered competing "evolution" theories contemporary to the work. If we did, it was very quickly. So thank you for these references!

I appreciate the "tabla rasa" quote. I seem to recall this.

2) Stalinist Bubbles - I have failed to use a good metaphor by saying "bubble." I didn't mean "living in a bubble" as if to create voluntary or desired insulation from the rest of the world, as perhaps a kind of narcissism. No. I meant bubble in the sense the reality of the closure of intellectual borders between the countries (and institutions abroad), where things look transparent but the membrane tends to actually keep everything out or in. I didn't mean at all to imply that he was not aware of his contemporaries. What I meant to say is the West was not aware of him! I hope I have corrected that line of thinking.

3) Geological Movements Between Giants - I will keep your note in mind, as I get to this reading. Again thanks!

I have a feeling I will be moved to return to this email and comment more upon it, with hopes you will too.

More in the not so immediate future (on this thread anyway).

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 3:37 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

Dear Annalisa:

What a marvelous muddle of misinterpretations I appear to have made!
As Huw points out, I am always doing this. It's not deliberate, but
nevertheless over the years I have grown rather fond of some of them.
And, as Leonard Cohen says, there is a crack in everything, but that's
how the light gets in.

Point One: Stalinism vs. Marxism, and Lysenkoism vs. Darwinism:

Of course, to most people in Russia and outside Russia, Stalinism WAS
Marxism. But Vygotsky certainly knew better. Take this, from the first
lecture on pedology. Vygotsky is discussing three theories of how
development might take place--the theory that it is preformed, the
theory that it is entirely determined, and the theory that development
must NECESSARILY involve structures that are NOT preformed but also
NOT environmentally determined. He has just disposed of the first of
these, the "personality theory" of Stern (which is the idea that
intellect comes pre-formed in the child, something Vygotsky refers to
as "intellectualism", because it leads to the circular idea that the
explanation for intellect is nothing more than pre-existing
intellect). Vygotsky says:

1-51] Другая, противоположная этой и столь же, мне кажется,
неправильная теория развития заключается в том, что развитие
рассматривается как процесс, обусловленный не внутренними своими
законами, а как процесс, который всецело определяется извне, средой.
Такие точки зрения развивались и в буржуазной науке и имели место и в
советской педологии в течение долгого времени. Полагали, что ребенок
есть пассивный продукт, который получается оттого, что среда
определенным образом воздействует на ребенка, что, таким образом,
развитие заключается в том, что ребенок впитывает в себя, вбирает в
себя, вносит в себя извне такие особенности, которые заключает среда
окружающих его людей. Например, говорят: развитие детской речи
происходит потому, что ребенок слышит, - вокруг него говорят, он
начинает подражать и тоже начинает говорить, он просто усваивает речь,
заучивает речь. Спрашивается, почему он ее усваивает с 1,5 до 5 лет, а
не раньше и не позже? Почему он ее усваивает так, что проходит
определенные этапы? Почему он ее не заучивает так, как заучивают в
школе какой-нибудь урок? На все эти вопросы эта теория не может дать
ответа. Но она до конца развивает свою точку зрения, рассматривая
ребенка, как когда-то рассматривали, не как маленького взрослого (это
теория преформизма), а как "tabula rasa" - вы слышали, вероятно, это
выражение. Старые педагоги, старые философы высказывали такую точку
зрения, что ребенок есть "tabula rasa" - белый лист бумаги, чистая
доска, как они говорят (римляне писали на чистой доске), на которой
ничего не написано, и что вы на ней напишете, то на ней и будет
заключаться; т.е. ребенок есть чисто пассивный продукт, который с
собой не привносит с самого начала никаких моментов, определяющих ход
его развития. Это есть просто воспринимающий аппарат, просто сосуд,
который в ходе своего развития заполняется тем, что составляет
содержание его опыта. Ребенок есть просто отпечаток среды, он внешним
путем из этой среды усваивает и присваивает себе то, что он видит у
окружающих его людей.

("Another developmental theory, opposed to this and equally, it seems
to me, wrong, is that  development is seen as a process which is not
due to its own internal laws but as a process that is entirely
determined externally by the environment. Such points of view have
been developed in bourgeois science and have occurred in Soviet
pedology for a long time. The belief that the child is a passive
product arose because of the specific impact of the environment on the
child; thus the development is only that the child absorbs, acquires
and assimilates into himself outside such features that enter into the
milieu of people around him. We say, for example, that the development
of the child's speech is because the child hears what is said around
him, he begins to imitate it and thus also begins to speak; he merely
absorbs it, learning it. The question is, why does he learn it from
1.5 to 5 years, and not earlier or later? Why does he learn it in a
way that goes through defined stages? Why does he not learn it just as
any lesson is memorized at school? None of these questions can be
answered by this theory. Instead, it develops a point of view which
considers the child, not as once he was considered, a young adult (the
theory of preformism) but instead as a “tabula rasa” (Vygotsky uses
the Latin original here—DK), an expression that you have probably
heard: a white sheet of paper, a blank slate, as they say (the Romans
wrote on a clean slate) on which nothing is written and that will take
whatever you write on it; i.e. the child is a purely passive product
which does not bring with him from the outset any of the moments that
will determine the course of his development. He is simply a
perceiving machine, a vessel that, during its development, is filled
with the content of his experience. The child is simply imprinted by
the environment; through the external path of the environment he
acquires and assigns to himself what he sees in the people around

You notice how Vygotsky rather mischievously points out that these
"Marxist" ideas are simply the equivalent of bourgeois behaviorism
(but notice that, unlike Leontiev, he does not name names, and that he
picks on a trend that is dominant rather than on the dead and the

Similarly, to most people inside Russia, Lysenkoism WAS Darwinism
(Lysenko put forward the Lamarckian theory that learned
characteristics could then be handed down genetically to
offspring--this has been interpreted by people as a statement about
eugenically creating a perfect socialist man within a single
generation, but at the time it had more to do with growing wheat in
winter). But Vygotsky knew better--in Chapter Five of "The History of
the Development of Higher Mental Functions" (p. 100, if you have the
English Collected Works), Vygotsky spends a page or two contrasting
Lamarck to Darwin. ( He doesn't condemn Buhler for trying to combine
them; interestingly, he leaves open the possibility that Lamarckianism
DOES work--for cultural functions, and not for biological ones.

Point Two: Personalism. Vygotsky was NOT in a bubble, and that was
part of his problem; he was living in a country which was trying to
create one. Remember that Vygotsky was a Jew, that is, what Stalin
would later call a "rootless cosmopolitan". Jews in Russia were not
really considered Russians. They benefitted enormously from the
Bolshevik Revolution (Vygotsky was preparing himself for either
medicine or the law, because those were the only professions open to
Jews, but with the Revolution suddenly every door was open to
him--except, of course, for that of physical health and it is somewhat
ironic that he spent his last three years trying to become a doctor
after all).  He was ferociously literate (you remember that German was
quite literally his mother's tongue, and so I think Andy's speculation
that he never read Hegel must be taken as both unproven and unlikely).
He was particularly well read in the very latest in German
psychology--which in his time was the very latest on earth--and his
work is full of references to the most obscure writers, including
Realschule teachers in Saxony and Ph.D. students in Leipzig.

So Vygotsky read and actually met Wilhelm Stern, who was creating a
kind of psychology of the personality which later became immensely
popular with the Catholic church (and remains quite dominant in
Germany today). As we saw above, it's a preformist theory: it says the
child comes with a personality and with the idea of speech all
hard-wired (and of course this latter idea is still at the core of
Chomskyan linguistics today). Vygotsky's criticism of
"intellectualism" is that if we want to explain the intellect we need
to start with something that is manifestly NOT intellect, or at least
not intellect in its finished form (e.g. emotion). If you begin with
something that is already intellect, what you have is not an
explanation of development but only a description of growth. The same
criticism can, of course, be applied to the concept of "personality",
and it's why Levitin calls his book about the Vygotsky school "One Is
Not Born a Personality".

Point Three: Most people consider that Vygotsky's August 2, 1933,
letter to Leontiev signals their definitive break-up. I'm not so sure;
it seems to me the parting of ways occurred earlier in some way and
later in others. I prefer to think of it as a geological movement
rather than an interpersonal drama. But you read it and decide!

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 29 October 2014 14:18, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:
Hi David!

I was so happy to read your post. Thank you for going through it so carefully.

Immediate things I have learned from your post:
1. Leontiev not only rejected Marxism (for Stalinism) but also Darwinism for Lamarck. I'm not sure what this means at this point, because I am not familiar with Lamarck's work. But dismissing Darwin seems non-trivial.

2. "Is personality all that matters?" as a question in psychology at that time. Is that a fair statement?

3. I am grateful for your rendering of the events as the split occurred, and I have downloaded the letters and will read these as soon as I can.

As you say, we must pick up the wreckage to understand the causes. What I think about is how we may have moved forward without the missing pieces without perhaps noticing that there were missing pieces!

With truth as the baseline, and science as the means, we must filter out the parts that are wrong and not useful, and doing so need not be controversial, but unifying. This seems to be a good thing.

Anyone is free to correct me, but perhaps what makes this situation so peculiar, is that Vygotsky and his cohorts lived in something of a bubble. We know he did meet some researchers in the West (the train to London), but most of his work was generated from reading the work of others and his experiments were based upon those readings. I seem to recall Piaget did not hear about him until long after LSV's passing (I may not have that exactly right). Then the fact that the texts were banned and everything and everyone associated with LSV was forced underground.

Fast forward to the future and we have Luria meeting Bruner as the first point of contact in the US. I'm only an armchair historian, so I don't have all the facts. However, I can certainly understand the disruption in the exchange of ideas evident in 20th Century psychology because Vygotsky's work was not available to contemporaries for international peer review and compare this to, say, the disruption in the exchange of ideas in 17th Century physics because Galileo was under house arrest. Somehow I think Galileo had an easier time as did other scientists of his time to access his work, which may not be saying much, or it may be saying a lot, depending upon how ironic you feel when you read this.

My point is everyone suffers when there is no intellectual freedom. We suffer today for not having had access to LSV's work, as did his contemporaries, who either were forced to disavow it or who did not even know it existed.

I value intellectual freedom probably more than other kinds of freedoms. I always like to say I will gain more freedom by giving freedom to others. :)

David, I'd like to reply further to the rest your email in another post, which I hope I have time to address tomorrow.

Until then...

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2014 3:28 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

Dear Annalisa:

Yes, you are right--there are watchers who are benefiting. In
particular, I am watching as the discussion gradually seems to come
over to two points that were initially pared away but which I find
essential to the whole puzzle. And there too you are right--they are
historical and theoretical, first of all Leontiev's "politically
expedient" support for Stalinism (and consequently his rejection of
genuine Marxism, and even basic Darwinism), and secondly the question
of whether personality stands alone as the object of psychology.

First of all, I don't know of the circumstances of Leontiev's writings
on the environment any more than Andy does. But the split between
Vygotsky and Leontiev is well documented. We have letters, in which
Vygotsky first tries to convince "A.N." of the importance of
consciousness and fails (in 1931), where he remarks to Luria the
importance of trying to convince Leontiev, the "breakup" of the
original group in 1931 (a heartbreaking letter) and then Vygotsky's
much more reserved letters to Leontiev just before his death (May
1934). All of this in "In Memory of L.S. Vygotsky: Letters to Students
and Colleagues", Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, vol.
45, No. 2 (pp. 11-60), See also Anton Yasnitsky's Ph.D. work:


I feel as you do, that under the circumstances, the criticisms of
Leontiev and P.I. Zinchenko and others were acts of betrayal, similar
to what Lysenko did to his old professor Vavilov, the would-be founder
of modern Soviet genetics. But I also think that the best we can do
now is to try to locate and counter the long term effects upon our
understanding of Vygotsky's ideas. It seems to me that there are (at
least) three:

a) As Kozulin has remarked (and Andy came very close to admitting),
Leontiev made "activity" into both the object of investigation and the
explanatory principle. This is essentially what Leontiev himself
accused Vygotsky of doing with "perezhivanie", and it is indeed a form
of circular reasoning: activity is explained by activity itself. This
revisionism is a long term effect because very few people who use
activity as a unit of analysis realize that although activity is made
up of action and nothing but, action is not simply a microcosm of

b) Leontiev and Zinchenko (and later Wertsch) rejected word meaning as
a unit of analysis for verbal thinking as "idealist". This has meant
rejection of what to me is Vygotsky's most important and lasting
contribution, something he shares with Volosinov, which is the
discovery that the developed mind has a semantic structure rather than
a "behavioral" or "cognitive" one. This revisionism is a long-term
effect because it has divided Vygotsky in two, particularly in the
anglophone world (a Vygotsky of "Mind in Society" which scarcely
mentions language and one of "Thinking and Speech" which scarcely
mentions anything without mentioning language).

c) Leontiev's concept of development is Lamarckian and not
Darwinian--it cannot involve the nasty surprises of real development
(e.g. the crisis, which Leontiev explicitly rejects on p. 362 of his
book Problems of the Development of the Mind).This is a long term
effect because it has been taken up by the so-called "Neo-Vygotskyans"
(see Karpov's book, "The Neo-Vygotskyan Approach to Child
Development", CUP 2005). Leontiev embraced Lysenkoism, and never
renounced it; and in the twentieth century, you cannot write
scientifically about development without a scientific understanding of
modern genetics that is incompatible with Lysenkoism.

The second, theoretical, issue that you raise actually follows on from
point a). Why isn't "perizhivanie" a circular construction the same
way that "activity" is? The answer is that it is--if you use
perizhivanie to investigate perizhivanie--or even some kind of
mega-perizhivanie called "personality". But of course that isn't what
Vygotsky does at all.

a) First of all, in Vygotsky's essay perizhivanie is a unit of
analysis for a very specific problem: differentiating the contribution
of the environment from the contribution of the child in the
understanding of experience. Perizhivanie includes both in a very
simplified form: the emotional response of the child to the
environment. At the same time, however, it is not circular because it
is an open system--open to the contribution from the  child's
hereditary endowment (which as Vygotsky says in the lecture on
heredity can actually change as the child develops) as well as open to
the various contributions from the child's cultural endowment that
Leontiev and his followers insisted were the alpha and omega of

b) Secondly, personality is not so much a "mega-perizhivanie" as a
"meta-perezhivanie", since, as Vygotsky makes very clear in the last
chapter of the History of the Development of Higher Mental Functions,
personality is really only half of the unit he posits for child
development, the other half of which he calls "world outlook". What is
the difference? It is tempting to say that the difference is that one
is more subjective and the other more objective, but it's not really
reducible to that. I think, if I had to point to a single criterion
for differentiating the two, I would say that "perezhivanie" is
retroleptic, looking back to emotion and reflecting upon it, while
"world outlook" is proleptic.

c) Thirdly, Vygotsky's theory of development is a second order theory:
the means of development itself develops. So you notice that in the
lecture on the environment, he begins with a very short passage on
perezhivanie but then segues almost seamlessly--so that you scarcely
notice it--into a discussion of sense and signification in word
meaning. To me, this suggests that the development of personality is
eventually subsumed (or sublated, if you prefer) by something
else--the development of verbal thinking. This is rather hard for us
to accept; we all feel as if we are basically personalities and
nothing else. But of course the personality must come to the end of
its useful life sometime, in much the same way that Vygotsky's spoken
lectures were subsumed by his written speech at the moment of his

Let me just finish by saying that I was a bit thrown by the ref to the
Bildungsroman too! But I think Andy is referring to Goethe's "Life of
Wilhelm Meister" or perhaps to "Elective Affinities" (which is where
Vygotsky probably got the spiel about the water molecule, though John
Stuart Mill uses it too). Andy's ref, like his idea that personality
is the object of psychology, is too narrativistic for my taste--I
think that the mind does indeed have a semantic structure, but that
semantic structure is really more like a dialogue than a text. A
narrative without dialogue is a little like the sound of one sock
puppet clapping.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 27 October 2014 11:38, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:
Hi Andy,

Thanks for some additional information.

Yes, "political expediency" (PE) is an understatement to be sure, from the sound of it. I don't know if I can imagine myself to denounce my own beloved teachers in order that I may live and be promoted. The idea makes me quite ill, and certainly more sympathetic to Leontiev.

However, the challenge seems to be that we must tease away the PE aspect to try to clear the view to the generation of the theories (or divergence thereof). If that isn't reasonable, let me know. I do not mean to be reductive and minimize the political issues in any way.

I am merely attempting to go slowly over this so that I gain a clear picture of the collision of ideas and the apparent wreckage and what pieces were retrieved and extended upon.

So I suppose there are a few things I would enjoy clarity about.

First is historical:

How much do we know that is factual in Leontiev's motivation to deny the theories? What is speculative? This is not a flippant two questions. What I mean is are there contemporary documents (or any other documents that come after Stalin's death, or any other time) that discuss this parting of the ways and motivations for doing so? Is this Leontiev paper all that we possess?

What do you mean that the differences show through, despite the PE factor? We cannot fully remove the PE factor, I know, but how much does it explain the "real differences" if it is clouding the view?

Second is theoretical:

I understand perezhivanie is experiential, specific to the individual in question, based upon the person's genetics, level of development, emotional awareness, and intellectual ability at the time of the situation (event), but importantly that the perezhivanie is also inclusive of aspects of the environment itself and how the environment exerts force on the person (combined or in interaction with the more personal or "internal" factors).

[I'm afraid I was lost at the reference to the autobiography. Goethe is beyond the limits of my knowledge at this time. :) ]

Furthermore, that the development of the person is not necessarily a "summation of all perezhivanies." If only because a single experience can radically change a person's makeup entirely, whether for good or ill. That a single "unit" can possibly transform the entire whole? (I'm thinking for example the impact of PTSD. I hesitate to resort to a pathological example, it just what seems to illustrate the best about experiences affecting the whole).

However I agree that my personality is the manifest expression of the "collection" of all my experiences, I'm not sure if I could say "summation," since this sounds mechanical in nature, rather than systemic.

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2014 7:39 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

I don't know exactly when the ANL document was written or where/if it
was published originally, but it was certainly after LSV's death and
before ANL's death (i.e. some time 1935-1975), most likely during
Stalin's time. "Political expediency" somewhat understates the issue. A
convincing denunciation of  a colleague's theory was very often a matter
of life and death. Which is not to say that the honourable choice may
not have been to speak the truth and take the consequences, rather than
lie and enjoy promotion. In that sense, this document, being dishonest,
is not the ideal medium for understanding the real differences between
these two former comrades. Nonetheless, I think the real differences
show through.

On the question of units. The idea is that a person's character develops
through a series of experiences. Each experiences adds a new
sensibility, a new aversion, a new preference, a new insight, etc., so
from that point of view a person's character can be understand as the
product or sum of a series of such experiences, as for example, when
someone writes their autobiography, especially if they follow in the
Goethean tradition of Bildungsromanen.

*Andy Blunden*

Annalisa Aguilar wrote:
Hi Andy,

I must explain: Since I hadn't read the entire paper, I was searching
for the 8 points in the first half of the paper, which is The
Prosecution half. This is to say the "8 charges" you had indicated in
your post, are actually listed in the second half, the Defense half.
So I suppose the structure threw me. (Sorry to create any confusion, all!)

But I'd like to continue my exercise openly, as it appears there are
watchers who are benefiting. So here goes (I will go more slowly and
not flood the list).

#1) The charge by Leontiev (Ad. 4): Perezhivanie, as a manifestation
of the whole personality, cannot be the determinant of personality.

One nagging question: Vygotsky, while living (as I understand), had a
large social group in which they openly discussed all of these
theories. If Leontiev was privy to this community, how could he not
have understood the points concerning perezhivanie? It is not that I
accuse Leontiev as being obstinate or thick (that would be an easy
thing to do), but that I want to understand how could he have missed
this if there were other parties available to discuss the nature of
Vygotsky's perezhivanie? The community must have discussed these
concepts without Vygotsky present, among each other. Am I wrong in
this thinking?

I don't think Vygotsky was like Jesus with confused disciples. It
seemed that he treated his students as equals and that he himself
benefited from their input to the theories.

If I may, I position this question with the imagination as-if Vygotsky
and Leontiev were here on this list discussing various theories, as we
are here. There was a lot of discussion going on, sharing and the like.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't these lectures on perezhivanie
happen earlier in the decade of time Vygotsky graced us? Or am I mistaken?

I suppose I am attempting to answer the question, How did Leontiev not
understand perezhivanie as a determinant? And perhaps in gaining an
answer to this question, we might learn something about *teaching* the
concept of perezhivanie?

Of course it is possible that this was entirely caused by political
expediency. But if that is the case, how can we know this?

But to the content of the charge: "Perezhivanie, as a manifestation of
the whole personality, cannot be the determinant of personality."

I am having a hard time discussing perezhivanie as a "fragment of the
whole." If only because fragment means "a part of", and I don't think
"unit" is necessarily a material thing, but also an abstraction like
the whole is an abstraction.

For example: The water molecule metaphor. (I hope we do not reduce the
molecule to hydrogen and oxygen and begin flames on the list). In our
perception, we *imagine* the molecule. We know that molecules exist,
just like we know that the ocean exists. But when we perceive the
ocean, it's also not a perception in its entirety, but completed in
our imagination like the molecule is, and this is why I feel the unit,
seen as a fragment, seems problematic.

If we want to study the nature of oceans we want to study the nature
of water, since water is the material of the ocean. Also, the water
molecule is the unit we must use to understand the behavior of the
water. And so the molecule becomes the unit of analysis.

If the metaphor works, the ocean is the ideal, and final form. Can we
say that the water molecule determines the nature of the ocean? It
seems so, since the behavior of water (as indicated by the nature of
its molecule) will reveal significantly the nature of the ocean,
moreso than dividing the ocean into fragments, and I'm not sure how
one would divide the ocean into fragments, anyway!

BTW, I am proposing this metaphor because we know that LSV used the
metaphor of the water molecule himself, though I don't think he spoke
of oceans, just water. Still, I wonder if it works?

Kind regards,