To Mike: Does no one read [between] Vygotsky's words?

From: Oudeyis (
Date: Mon May 03 2004 - 11:49:12 PDT


These are good questions. I'll try to elaborate, and hope that it helps to clarify some of the grayer areas.

Victor-- Your long message on LSV and ANL is in xmca limbo so I cannot get
to it today. I have read it over a couple of times in order to formulate
some questions because it evoked many in me. I am amazed you could read through
such dense material so quickly. I find both Ilyenkov and ANL very difficult
to read and understand so I fall prey to appropriating parts that I think I
do understand, such as, for example, what Bakhurst refers to as Ilyenkov's
insight about artifacts.


     EVI’s writings are very hard to understand. I think I read his Dialectical logic 3 times and parts of it 4 or 5 times – annotating his writings and annotating my previous notes where I’d already annotated his. The concept of the Ideal I must have read about 10 to 15 times. Strangely enough his 1960 work, Dialectics of the Abstract & the Concrete in Marx' s Capital, is despite its length, the clearest and most readable of all his writings. Perhaps because I’ve read Capital Vol. 1 several times in the past and had long sessions discussing it with friends and family. ANL is easier to read and understand than EVI, though I must have read his Action and Consciousness at least 5 times. It was only after reading Bakhurst’s in which he first admits the subjective idealist bias of EVI’s theories of the ideal and then goes through tortuous and inconclusive reasoning to show that EVI was not a subjective idealist that I realized that, in fact, the problem with the Concept of the Ideal is that it is a total anomaly and that it does not and cannot be truly integrated with the rest of EVI’s work.

>From my prior reading I can make one link to Davydov and have one clear

The link to Davydov is a shared insistence on understanding concepts through
understanding their history and identifying what in english is called their
"genetically primary foundation." I have encountered this notion, along with
"rising to the concrete" in his early arithmetic curriculum which eschews
giving young children examples such as 1+1 because they afford too many
genetic blind alleys.


Davydov’s reference here is probably Ilyenkov’s Dialectical Logic chapter 11: Problem of the General in Dialectics. Ilyenkov’s critique of Hegel’s reversion to formal UPS logic in the syllogism and his formulation of the “genetic universal,” e.g. “man the tool maker,” echoes Wittgenstein’s arguments against formal logical systems in the Philosophical Investigations


The question is your assertion that LSV did not create a psychology. Since
he claims that was what he was doing and Luria, from whom I learned about LSV
certainly claimed that what they were doing, I wonder if you could explain
why you say this and what is import is for people who consider themselves
psychologists. My path has led me into the view that the perspective put forward
by LSV and his followers cannot be contained by psychology and is an
interdiscipline, but I do not know what you had in mind.

     I’m basing my assertion principally on LSV’s Thought and Language. Here LSV proposes a dialectical theory of spoken language, i.e. meaningful speech, and then proceeds to demonstrate, through designed tests of children’s practical comprehension of spoken directions, how in fact meaning is unified with spoken sounds to produce meaningful speech. The point of the research is how objective speech and meaning are linked (a process that is virtually identical to Hegel’s theory of the development of the Notion – particularly of the objective notion) to form objective speech. The process of childhood acquisition of knowledge are not stages of some sort of generalization of individual psychological development but of a growing acquaintance by learning humans of the objective unity of the notion – thought – and speech in a spoken language.


     It is my view that there can be no proper objectivist science of the individual and that any subjective theory of the generalized individual must by definition be idealist, hence subjective and idealist. My reasoning goes as follows.

1. Objectivist science (and by this I mean both idealist and materialist objectivism: Hegel and Marx, if you will) asserts that objects and logic (dialectics) are real –hence they are sometimes called realists – and existent things and relations external to the individual. Individuals perceive and, more importantly for materialist objectivists, make these objects and discover the relations between them, but their perceptions and discoveries are of things that are really out there. The proper subject of research and theory are the collectively produced objects and their relation to productive processes etc.

2. Any theory of the generalized individual locates the laws of activity, biological, social and cultural in the person of the individual. The organic, the social and the educational properties of species, community and culture are for these theories a function of a group of individuals having common or nearly common properties. The approach is essentially a subjective and idealistic one, in which the relation between the active individual and his environment is necessarily mediated by mental representations of the material world. For example, for ANL the experienced object is no longer a strictly material thing external to the individual, but the image of the object as perceived by the individual.

3. ANL in “Consciousness…” and EVI in “Concepts…” make much of the passage in the Afterward of Capital

(the ideal is) “nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought”.

 EVI interprets this as substantial assertion of differentiation between the idea and the material though he insists that somehow the ideal remains detached from the individual mind (a hypothesis of group mind?). ANL’s interpretation is more straightforward, clearer, and psychological than EVI’s; the reflection of the ideal in the human mind is the way individuals perceive the material. EVI never really develops the notion of group mind, but it and a number of other similar attempts to counter the implicit subjectivism of his theory of the ideal make his “Concepts a very difficult paper to follow.

       Actually, there is another possible interpretation of Marx’s statement that is totally consistent with the objectivist-realist paradigm: While the object is a strictly sensual object, the relations between objects: the logic of relations between objects, is the product of repeated observations of objective conditions, of categorization of objects and their relations in accordance with these relations, and the formulation of relations between categories and so on. All these activities and their products, notions, are functions of mind, but all can through the medium of the object be regarded as external to the individual mind. There is then no need to postulate psychological laws to explain the ideational dimension of human production.

That’s the best I can do at the moment, I’ve got to run.


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