RE: Leont'ev-Vygotsky controversy

Date: Thu Feb 19 2004 - 03:36:24 PST

Dear Friends,
Thank you so very much for such an interesting discussion. I hope there can be
more talk about "object" and "mediators" in future. This note concerns the
aspect of "unity," and I would just like to say a couple of things. The first
is about Alexei Alexeevitch (son of A. N Leontiev). Alexei Alexeevitch makes a
real point of mentioing and crediting Vygotsky, Luria, and many other thinkers
in almost all of his lectures I have heard at Moscow State Univ. this year, and
at a conference in Mexico last year. Yesterday, when he was speaking about
activity, he mentioned Vygotsky posivitely at least 15 times. He spoke directly
about serious problem of applying the term "activity" alone, without the
accompanying aspects of consciousness, personality, individual free will of
action, etc. It is most interesting to see A. A. Leontiev connect his
psycholinguistic theories to one of the central cores of Vygotsky, with
changes, of course. Here is a quote from him: "Is there a psychology of
activity? There is no such thing! And there never was such a thing either for
Vygotsky or for Leontyev! There was 'a psychology of activity, of
consciousness, and of personality'...Unfortunately, contemporary psychology has
to a large extent transformed itself from a science of the infinitely
developing human being in an infinitely changing world, from a science of the
action of the free and creative personality, into a science of a limited and
rigid consciousness" )[p. 44] (Leontyev, A. A. (1992). Ecce Homo:
Methodological problems of the activity theoretical approach. Multidisciplinary
Newsletter for Activity Theory, 11/12, 41-44.)
     The last point regards the famous letter of Feb. 5, 1932 from A. N.
Leontiev to Vygotsky. This letter was in the Luria archives until last fall,
and it has been published in Russian in the Psychological Journal, 2003, Vol.
24, Nr. 1, 14-28, with a forward by A. A. and D. A. Leontiev. They speak openly
about the "myth of the break" between Vygotsky and Leontiev, and they disagree
with Gita's statements in her 1996 book. Personally, I am not sure what to
believe regarding everything that is said in the forward, but I feel that this
letter is very interesting and will explain the inner thoughts of A. N.
Leontiev, as they have not been explained before. It is called: "The Myth of
the Break: A. N. Leont'ev and L. S. Vygotskij in 1932." In the next few months
it will be published in English in the Journal of Russian and East European
Psychology. As one well-known Russian psychologist once stated: "Luria
developed his thoughts and system staying close to Vygotsky's method; Leontiev
used Vygotsky's ideas to develop his own thoughts and system, basing his ideas
on various core aspects of Vygotsky." Both Luria and Leontiev were students and
collaborators of Vygotsky at one point, and there is no written record to date
that shows any evidence that Leontiev and Luria disagreed with Vygotsky's
position and leadership. One last comment: D. A. Leontiev has published a
number of new books of lectures by A. N. Leontiev in Russian. It is my feeling
that we do not yet have enough information translated from Russian. It is a
very exciting time for all of us, and this discussion has been most beneficial
for me. Thanks each of you.

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