tools and rumours

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Wed Apr 28 2004 - 10:36:25 PDT

Well, Eugene and Ana, this is as good a place as any to return to XMCA after
three weeks away.

You asked,
> > I think a discussion between psychological tools mediating higher
psychological functions
> and material tools meditating subject-object relations can interesting...

This characterization of tools strikes me as odd for its separation of the
psychological and the material on the one hand, and the "higher psychological
functions verswus subject-object relations on the other. Apropos of the
discussion of dualisms in the parallel discussion around Michael G's work,
these distinctions are difficult for me to understand. Could you supply
some examples to clarify them?

As for the wierdness of Luria's work on lie detectors and having a friend's
brain in his study:

There is a lot to admire in the van der Veer and Valsiner archeology of the
work of Vyotosky and his colleagues, but neither of these examples strikes
me as admirable.

#1. As should be clear from a reading of the Nature of Human Conflicts, the
major scientific motivation for the combined motor method was not to create
a lie detector and its use preceeded Stalin's rise to power by many years.
That it was used in ways I find ethically unacceptable is perhaps worth
discussing, along with a lot of other research about which I feel the same
way. But ripped out of context, it is not helpful.

#2. The brain in question was that of Sergei Eisenshtein. Luria was an
executor of SME's will and a speicalist in the study of the brain. He also
had many Eiesenshtein original drawings in the same study. They conducted
joint research. I do not know why it was Eisenshtein's will that Luria should
preseve his brain, but again, taken out of context, the story is simply

The issues around the central asian research are far more interesting to me.
To this day, Russian students of Luria, Peter Tulviste, Toomela, Zinchenko,
and others, criticize my "soft, liberal" views concerning the nature of
cultural-historical change as it relates to psychological change. Even in
my preface to Luria's cross cultural work I was personally critical of his
mode of research in Central Asia which is, nonethheless, of great interest,
on methodological grounds.

It is also still very widely cited as evidence of historical changes in psycholoical processes and the methods he used were at least as sophhisticated as those
in use by contemporary heroes of American cross-cultural research. Again, plenty to discuss here.

But in order to make such discussion of value, I strongly suggest that we
go to original sources and not to second hand accounts which pose as
neutral, fact-driven descriptions when they are not.

What part of this would people like to follow up on?

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