[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

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

Hi David Kirsh,

You know, after I posted, I was thinking about this, and whether animals have a way of dealing with meaning, such as dogs hearing their names from their masters and basic commands like "sit!" etc. And then we have gorillas who know signing. 

So it figures I'd be called out on that! :) Let me eat my hat.

I don't believe however that meaning was a unit of analysis, but word-meaning, which is different. I don't think it's possible to use meaning as a unit for the very reason that it is formless and dependent upon other things, such as culture, and affect for example.

I suppose what I was thinking about when I posted, at the time of Vygotsky and his observance of the crisis of psychology, was there was not a scientific way to connect biology to the mind, just subjective interpretation (Freud) and behavior (Pavlov). Now, I may have been too abbreviated in my representation of psychology of the time, but this is just a list post! I know there were many other branches of research, such as the Gestalt school, Buhler, Piaget, etc. So I hope I'm not being unfair there. The connection to body and mind was the holy grail at the time, wasn't it?

Also, the fact that Vygotsky was very gifted in language, it makes sense that he went the route that he did. I don't mean to say that language was the only avenue to create concepts, meaning, etc during development, but perhaps for him it was a pathway that brought the most yield in terms of connecting body to mind and thus avoiding the Descartes problem?

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of David H Kirshner <dkirsh@lsu.edu>
Sent: Monday, November 3, 2014 3:58 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

> meaning is what distinguishes us as human and not machine or animal

Except that some of the higher animals can learn words and their meanings. It's syntax they lack.

Also, whereas "word-meaning" has some formal properties that may make it suitable as a unit of analysis, it's not clear that all meaning is tied to words, or even to language; cognitive scientists talk of imagistic meaning, etc. Perhaps the branching off to activity theory was in part a rejection of having something as formless as meaning as a unit of analysis.


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Annalisa Aguilar
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2014 2:06 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

Hi David,

(a) Meaning: Interesting. When I spoke of labels, I meant it in terms of an individual mind. What is there before the label, not after? I don't see the harm in applying this dynamic of naming across groups who wish to determine themes in their activities, just that isn't how I meant it. :)

Do you mean to say that there is a new theme manifesting in which we are interacting before the label manifests? I'm not sure I understand, but I am trying.

Still, meaning is my choice, if I'm allowed to cast a vote, because meaning is what distinguishes us as human and not machine or animal. Words are tools because they have meaning, they are the glue to what we do and think. I don't know how far we could get doing anything if we didn't have words (we, as a society, and we as, you and I, and we as, me and myself - a stretch of the plural first person, I know, but to account for self-reflection and inner speech). Furthermore, I don't know how far we'd get if words didn't have meaning. So I see meaning as the germ, the seed, and I agree with LSV that word-meaning is how we give meaning a form in our minds ("consciousness" to those who have issue with the word "mind"), if this is what he was saying.

Word-meaning is a placeholder, like the oil lamp is the holder of the flame. It can be the unit for neuroscience, for anthropology, for philosophy, for learning, for linguistics, for computation, for many, many kinds of angles to study mind.

I don't mean to upset anyone, but to only give an honest account that when I examine activity, I don't see that same kind of reach. Of course I am not willing to abandon activity, for the record. I just view activity differently. I believe we are more than what we do. I accept that people disagree with that, and that is OK.

(b) Idealism and intellectualism: This does smack of Descartes' dualism. And now with the phrase of "plump materialism" meming around the list, I'll have to hunt that paper of Martin's down and cast my eyes upon it. :)

What is so great about the list is that I can read a paper and then pose a question to the author, and I think that is the point of the list and I am really on with that. I regret that I did not climb aboard a few years ago when Vera first told us about it.

(c) Lysenko: Seems to be an odd way to see the world as he did, but that way of thinking seems to have been plump with the times.

I very much like the idea of seeing a book or a saw as an artificial organ, but also a library, a town hall, an art museum, a university campus, all as external organs to our abilities. The metaphor may break down as all metaphors do, but "artificial organ" does lend itself to how thought and custom are stored beyond the brain, and that seems correct.

Kind regards,



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 th
 eme 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 excellence 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 eliminated). 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, albei
 t with instruction.

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,
> Annalisa
> ________________________________________
> 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,
> Annalisa
> ________________________________________
> 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
> him.)
> 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
> dying).
> 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,
>> Annalisa
>> ________________________________________
>> 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:
>> http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12124-011-9168-5/fulltext.h
>> tml#Sec1
>> 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 activity.
>> 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
>> development.
>> 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
>> death.
>> 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,
>>> Annalisa
>>> ________________________________________
>>> 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]
>>> Annalisa,
>>> 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
>>> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> ----
>>> *Andy Blunden*
>>> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
>>> 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,
>>>> Annalisa