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[Xmca-l] Did Vygotsky Ever Finish Anything?


Anton Yasnitsky argues that Chapter Two of HDHMF must have been
written "not later than 1930", contrary to the usual chronology, which
is 1931-1932.


If Anton is right then the manuscript was written before Luria left
for Uzbekistan; if the traditional dating is correct then it was
written more or less during the expedition itself and represents the
kind of private misgivings about the work of his collaborators that he
often expresses.

If we accept Anton's chronology then there are a few problems.

a)  Vygotsky's enthusiasm for the expedition (expressed in the
letters) is hard to explain; Vygotsky wasn't an opportunist and he had
absolutely no compunction about expressing his strong disapproval of
Luria's contribution to "Ape, Primitive, and Child". Why would he turn
around and suddenly decide that the method of using laboratory
experiments in the field was okay?

b) Anton says that the two parts of HDHMF are unrelated--they were
pasted together by the Soviet editor. But the beginning of the book
clearly prefigures the ending (see Ch. 1, p. 7 in the English Volume
Four, second para) and the end of the book also refers to the
beginning (see Ch. 15, p. 241, first three paras).

c) Vygotsky says that the second half of the book was done first (see
above paragraphs, and also p. 3, para 5). Anton has it the other way

It seems to me that the biggest problem with Anton's analysis is not
the chronology, though. It's that Anton does not recognize that HDHMF
is a major work; he doesn't even recognize it as authorial, because
Vygotsky doesn't include it in any of the lists of his published and
unpublished work.

Anton's certainly right that Vygotsky did not include the work in his
CV. But I think that the explanation is this: it was a private
manuscript, like the notebooks that Da Vinci and Wittgenstein kept.
Vygotsky used it to try to work out his own ideas for his own benefit.
That's why Chapter Four contains all this mind-changing, where
Vygotsky says that maybe Titchener is right and there are two stages
of behavior, but maybe Buhler is right, and there are three, but there
are really four, but the fourth one is sui generis, so maybe Buhler is
right after all. And that's why the manuscript contains his misgivings
about what Luria was up to.

Although I think it is a private manuscript (and that's why it has no
title--the title is one that the Soviet editors made up out of the
first five words of Chapter One) I also think it was, quite unlike
Thinking and Speech, an almost finished book. Of course, Vygotsky
never really finished anything: his mind is a discourse and not a
text. But that's true of minds quite generally, in  a sense finishing
his books and leaving new books unfinished is what we are all here

For example--a thought occurs to me. The lifespan of early man appears
to have been somewhere in the low thirties, rather like other
primates. At age fifteen, early man would be middle aged. Did they
even have children back then?

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies