RE: Spinoza, Buridan, & LSV -- RE: Scaffolding

From: Michael Glassman (
Date: Mon Jan 24 2005 - 08:10:41 PST

I still have a hard time finding an important relationship between Spinoza and Vygotsky, or Spinoza and Illyenkov for that matter, other than Spinoza being the forerunner of materialism. My current feeling is that Spinoza's pantheism precludes a good deal of Vygotsky's thinking about development.
As far as will, it seems to me that there is a relationship between will and material necessity (at least as far as this particular example goes). That material necessity is determined by logic. That Buridan's Ass can't understand this logic because it lacks the combination of free will and determination through necessity that humans have. Spinoza made the same materialist argument and I believe he even used the example of Buridan's Ass. Vygotsky may have gotten it there, but I think a lot of materialists use it.


From: Tony Whitson []
Sent: Mon 1/24/2005 10:30 AM
Subject: Spinoza, Buridan, & LSV -- RE: Scaffolding

I think Buridan is best known for his ideas about intellect and will. The role in LSV's thinking (via Spinoza) is suggested in the two articles referenced below.


Title: The unity of intellect and will: Vygotsky and Spinoza

Author(s): Jan Derry

Source: Educational Review Volume: 56 Number: 2 Page: 113 -- 120

DOI: 10.1080/0031910410001693209

Publisher: Carfax Publishing, part of the Taylor & Francis Group

Abstract: Jerome Bruner points out in his prologue to the first volume of the English translation of The Collected Works that Vygotsky flirts with the idea that language creates free will. This article attempts to consider the influence of the Dutch seventeenth-century philosopher Spinoza on Vygotsky. An account of Spinoza's anti-Cartesian conception of will is given, to which Vygotsky recognizes his indebtedness. We will consider elements of Spinoza's philosophy that were important to Vygotsky's theory of the development of intellect, and claim that an appreciation of the philosophy informing Vygotsky's theory of the development of intellect is necessary if the full implications of his project are to be grasped.

2005 Educational Review



Export Citation: Text RIS

Studies in East European Thought

55 (3): 199-216, September 2003

Copyright 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers

All rights reserved

The Russian Spinozists

Andrey Maidansky

Department of Humanities Taganrog Institute of Economics and Management Dzherzhinskogo 154 kv. 8 Taganrog 347931 Russia


The article deals with the history of Russian Spinozism in the 20th century, focusing attention on three interpretations of Spinoza's philosophy - by Varvara Polovtsova, Lev Vygotsky, and Evald Ilyenkov. Polovtsova profoundly explored Spinoza's logical method and contributed an excellent translation of his treatise De intellectus emendatione. Later Vygotsky and Ilyenkov applied Spinoza's method to create activity theory, an explanation of the laws and genesis of the human mind.


philosophy of Spinoza, Spinozism, Polovtsova, Vygotsky, Ilyenkov, Russian Marxism, activity theory, logical method

Article ID: 5122509




From: Michael Glassman []
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2005 7:48 AM
Subject: RE: Scaffolding


I thought Jean Buridan was a logician and a (French) contemporary of William of Occam? It seems to me Buridan's Ass is a variation on Occam's Razor and the idea that we use logic to force choice, part of the philosophical trajectory of the time. Applying mediation to this idea seems something of a stretch. I don't really get what Valsiner is getting at (why the supposedlys?) and I am wary that Vygotsky would use this as a reference for mediation.


On the other hand I am really interested as to where Vygotsky did use this and would really appreciate it if you had the reference. It might suggest that there was at least a small sliver of Vygotsky interested in logic in the same way the Pragmatists (especially Pierce) were interested in logic.





From: willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at []
Sent: Sun 1/23/2005 8:13 PM
Subject: Re: Scaffolding


This reminds me of Buridan's Ass,

I do remember Vygotsky mentioning it, but Valsiner's diagrams really
bring out the significance of the reference for mediation.


Ana Marjanovic-Shane wrote:

> It would be fascinating to compare concepts like Skinner's "shaping"
> to "scaffolding" to ZPD.
> >From the little quote by Skinner about how they taught a pigeon to
> bowl, and from the descriptions of the mother-child interactions
> (further down), there seems to emerge at least one big difference in
> the two types of learning:
> Pigeons learn within almost closed feedback loop between their
> behavior and the "reward" -- it is learning in a given situation and
> by "blind" trial and error.
> Children (people) have the "third" component, which mediates between
> the behavior and its "outcome" -- symbolic behavior -- language and
> other symbolic devices.
> I think that the process of mediation, or in other words, symbolic
> tools are that what is being constructed in ZPD. The learning is not
> direct -- ZPD is a "place" where you focus on construction of tools
> for a particular knowledge domain -- tools that can be used to
> actually get a grip on a particular domain of the reality. That is why
> it so often seems that children and adults already can do/understand
> something in play while it is still impossible in "reality".
> The question is -- can we observe learning through construction of
> symbolic tools in animals?? Or some animals? Ability to construct and
> use symbolic tools becomes an interesting evolutionary difference
> between humans and other species. The question is, is there an
> intermediary step between learning by a direct feedback loop and
> learning through a mediated ZPD? How does this new way of leaning and
> understanding come into existence in the evolution?
> Ana

Email: willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at

"The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state. These functions could be termed the buds or flowers of development rather than the "fruits" of development. The actual developmental level characterizes mental development retrospectively, while the zone of proximal development characterizes mental development prospectively." - L.S.V.

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