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[Xmca-l] Re: XMCA-ers: Help needed finding LSV references to *First* and *Second* Signal Systems



Peter:

I think Mike's right. The "second signal system" was an attempt to preserve
the idea of higher psychological functions in an atmosphere that was not
that different from what was going on in America at the same time (and
which Mike experienced first hand in both places). When I read Belyayev's
work on foreign language teaching, he talks a lot about the "second signal
system". There, are, however, two places in Vygotsky which MIGHT provide
some support, if you wanted to make the case that the "second signal
system" is not completely incompatible with Vygotsky.

One is Chapter Two of the History of the Development of the Higher Mental
functions. See below. Starting around paragraph 142, Vygotsky likens
Pavlov's model of the brain as a telephone exchange. The problem, of
course, is that back then telephone exchanges did require human operators
to make the connection!

The other is the discussion of "second order symbolism" in the work of
Delacroix, which you can find in Chapter Six of Thinking and Speech and
also in Chapter 7 of HDHMF (fifth para). This is a very different
notion--it's the idea that writing is a set of symbols for speaking.

David Kellogg
Macquarie University


>From HDHMF, Chapter Two, Research Method

We know that, as Pavlov says, “the most general bases of higher nervous
activity are ascribed to the large hemispheres, the same in both higher
animals and in people, and for this reason even elementary phenomena of
this activity must be identical in the one and in the other in both normal
and pathological cases” (1951, p. 15). Actually, this can scarcely be
disputed. But as soon as we go from the elementary phenomena of higher
nervous activity to the complex, to the higher phenomena within this higher
– in the physiological sense – activity, then two different methodological
paths for studying the specific uniqueness of human higher behavior open
before us.

One is the path to further study of complication, enrichment, and
differentiation of the same phenomena that experimental study ascertains in
animals. Here, on this path, the greatest restraint must be observed. In
transferring information on higher nervous activity of animals to higher
activity of man, we must constantly check the factual similarities in the
function of organs in man and animals, but in general the principle itself
of the research remains the same as it was in the study of animals. This is
the path of physiological study.

True, this circumstance is of major significance and in the area of
physiological study of behavior, in a comparative study of man and animals,
we must not put the function of the heart, stomach, and other organs which
are so similar to that of man on the same plane with higher nervous
activity. In the words of I. P. Pavlov, “It is specifically this activity
that so strikingly sets man apart from the rank of animals, that places man
immeasurably above the whole animal world” (ibid. p. 414). And we might
expect that along the path of physiological research we will find a
specific qualitative difference in human activity. Let us recall the words
of Pavlov cited above on the quantitative and qualitative incomparability
of the word with conditioned stimuli of animals. Even in the plan of strict
physiological consideration, “the grandiose signalistics of speech” stands
outside the whole other mass of stimuli, the “multicapaciousness of the
word” places it in a unique position.

The other path is the path of psychological research. From the very
beginning, it proposes to seek the specific uniqueness of human behavior
which does take us beyond the initial point. The specific uniqueness is
considered not only in its subsequent complexity and development,
quantitative and qualitative refinement of the cerebral hemispheres, but
primarily in the social nature of man and in a new method of adaptation, as
compared with animals, that sets man apart. The main difference between the
behavior of man and of animals consists not only in that the human brain is
immeasurably above the brain of the dog and that the higher nervous
activity “so strikingly sets man apart from the rank of animals,” but most
of all, because it is the brain of a social being and because the laws of
higher nervous activity of man are manifested and act in the human
personality.

But let us return again to the “most general bases of higher nervous
activity, related to the cerebral hemispheres,” and identical in higher
animals and man. We think that it is in this point that we can disclose
with definitive clarity the difference of which we speak. The most general
basis of behavior, identical in man and animals, is *signalization.* Pavlov
said, “So the basic and most general activity of the cerebral hemispheres
is signaling with an infinite number of signals and with changeable
signalization” (ibid., p. 30). As is known, this is the most general
formulation of the whole idea of conditioned reflexes that lies at the base
of the physiology of higher nervous activity.

But human behavior is distinguished exactly in that it creates artificial
signaling stimuli, primarily the grandiose signalization of speech, and in
this way masters the signaling activity of the cerebral hemispheres. If the
basic and most general activity of the cerebral hemispheres in animals and
in man is signalization, then the basic and most general activity of man
that differentiates man from animals in the first place, from the aspect of
psychology, is *signification,* that is, creation and use of signs. We are
using this word in its most literal sense and precise meaning.
Signification is the creation and use of signs, that is, artificial signals.

We will consider more closely this new principle of activity. It must not
in any sense be contrasted with the principle of signalization. Changeable
signalization that results in the formation of temporary, conditional,
special connections between the organism and the environment is an
indispensable, biological prerequisite of the higher activity that we
arbitrarily call signification and is its base. The system of connections
that is established in the brain of an animal is a copy or reflection of
natural connections between “all kinds of agents of nature” that signal the
arrival of immediately favorable or destructive phenomena.

It is very obvious that such signalization – a reflection of the natural
connection of phenomena, wholly created by natural conditions – cannot be
an adequate basis of human behavior. For human adaptation, an active *change
in the nature of man *is essential. It is the basis of all human history.
It necessarily presupposes an active change in man’s behavior. “Affecting
the environment by this movement and changing it, he changes his own nature
at the same time,” says Marx. “He develops forces asleep in it and subjects
the play of these forces to his own will” (K. Marx and F. Engels, *Collected
Works,* Vol. 23, pp. 188-189
<https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htm#forces>).


On Sat, Oct 29, 2016 at 7:50 AM, Peter Feigenbaum [Staff] <
pfeigenbaum@fordham.edu> wrote:

> Mike,
>
> Thanks for the Luria references.  From a cursory reading of the relevant
> passages in the Luria & Yudovich book, and judging by some of the other
> sources you listed, I get the impression that there hasn't been much
> theoretical *fleshing out* of the structures of the second signal system.
> I hope that the concept of a first and second signal system is not just a
> political argument, but instead has some real substance. I find it hard to
> imagine that our *animal* (stimulus-response) system of thinking is
> developmentally unrelated to our *human* (conversational
> initiation-response) system of thinking.
>
> If anyone else knows of any passages from Vygotsky related to this topic,
> please don't hold back!
>
> Much obliged.
>
> In solidarity,
> Peter
>
>
> On Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 1:56 PM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>
> > Peter-- If you google Luria "second signal system" you will come up with
> > several references. There is a copy at luria.ucsd.edu of his little book
> > with Yudovich on twins that uses that language.
> >
> > It is not online (so far as i know), but Luria's article on "Speech
> > development and the formation of mental processes" in Cole and
> > Maltzman, *Handbook
> > of Soviet Psychology. *Basic Books, 1969 uses this term a lot.
> >
> > I believe you will find an upsurge of usage associated with the late
> > 1940's-50's when Vygotskians were under severe attack, there were special
> > "Pavlov sessions" where they had to recant their errors, and the use of
> > first and second signal system by Pavlov
> > allowed them a life line to orthodoxy.
> >
> > mike
> >
> > On Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 10:43 AM, Peter Feigenbaum [Staff] <
> > pfeigenbaum@fordham.edu> wrote:
> >
> > > Dear colleagues,
> > >
> > > I don't wish to detract in any way from the very serious and absolutely
> > > necessary discussion about male sensitivity (or should I say
> > insensitivity)
> > > to the voices of the women inhabiting this list, but I sure could use
> > your
> > > collective help with a small matter of scholarship. I am trying to
> locate
> > > any passages in LSV's Collected Works in English in which he refers to
> > the
> > > *first* and *second* signal systems.
> > >
> > > My understanding is that Vygotsky considers the first signal system as
> > the
> > > biologically inherited stimulus-response (S-R) system of reflexes as
> > > described by Pavlov, whereas the second signal system refers to the
> > > culturally inherited system of initiation-response that is particular
> to
> > > human conversational activity. I am working with the hypothesis that,
> in
> > > ontogenetic development, the first signal system becomes *domesticated*
> > by,
> > > and ultimately subordinated to, the second signal system. That is, the
> > S-R
> > > form of thinking becomes developmentally transformed into the
> > > Initiation-Response form of thinking that is characteristic of a person
> > > performing a listening-speaking turn in conversation.
> > >
> > > If any of the wonderful scholars on this list could help point this
> poor,
> > > stumbling colleague
> > > in the right direction, I would be most grateful.
> > >
> > > Warm wishes to all,
> > > Peter
> > >
> > > p.s. -- Let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to
> > Mike
> > > for creating this list in the first place, and with it the opportunity
> > for
> > > Vygotskian scholars the world over to share and discuss our ideas in an
> > > open and honest forum. For my part, I pledge to do my level best to
> raise
> > > my own consciousness where it is deficient so that my participation in
> > this
> > > forum will be as inclusive and respectful to all of its participants as
> > is
> > > humanly possible.
> > >
> > > --
> > > Peter Feigenbaum, Ph.D.
> > > Director,
> > > Office of Institutional Research
> > > <http://www.fordham.edu/academics/office_of_the_
> > > provos/office_of_institutio/index.asp>
> > > Fordham University
> > > Thebaud Hall-202
> > > Bronx, NY 10458
> > >
> > > Phone: (718) 817-2243
> > > Fax: (718) 817-3817
> > > email: pfeigenbaum@fordham.edu
> > >
> >
>
>
>
> --
> Peter Feigenbaum, Ph.D.
> Director,
> Office of Institutional Research
> <http://www.fordham.edu/academics/office_of_the_
> provos/office_of_institutio/index.asp>
> Fordham University
> Thebaud Hall-202
> Bronx, NY 10458
>
> Phone: (718) 817-2243
> Fax: (718) 817-3817
> email: pfeigenbaum@fordham.edu
>