[xmca] A. N. Leontiev/Personality

From: Dot Robbins (drobbins72000@yahoo.com)
Date: Mon Nov 07 2005 - 14:59:41 PST

Dear Friends,

Anna could not address all issues that have been raised in these long comments. There are other points of focus in trying to reach levels of unity within theoretical paradigms mentioned, here regarding Russian Activity Theory. I will simply state that A. A. Leontiev and D. A. Leontiev have proposed periods of development within Russian psychology, and I totally apologize for not having the time to go back to my sources now [so, if wrong, I apologize]: There was an initial period of cultural-historical theory, then the period of activity theory (with A. N. Leontiev, and we cannot forget S. L. Rubenstein, as we have done so far); and then, in the last years of A. N. Leontiev's life, a period also lasting many years after his death, there has been a focus within Russian Activity Theory on “Personality” as a whole [to today], something that is lacking in Western psychology. Now, we do not have such a complete Russian psychology of Personality to date, but it is certainly a proje!
 ct for
 the future. The second point is this: Vygotsky worked for a sense of human empowerment, the "freedom of the will to action," or there are many other phrases, tied together with Spinozian monism, or Yaroshevsky's understanding of “sociodeterminism," etc. We cannot return to dualistic diatribes on idealism/materialism, monism/dialectic, etc.; but, we must move ahead with a sense of unity, something Anna has truly attempted. My suggestion is to return to the founders of the psychology we all support. Please let me give a couple of quotes from our founders:


Is there a psychology of activity? There is no such thing! And there never was such a thing either for Vygotsky or for [A. N.] 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 the activity of a limited and rigid consciousness. (A. A. Leontyev, 1992, p. 44)


The developed meanings turn toward the external world. The behavior of man becomes reasonable and free in the external sense. It turns toward the person him/herself--his/her behaviour acquires characteristics of will. The world of emotions, the world of inner experience is generalized---humans get out of the “bondage of [the] emotions,” people contain an inner freedom. That is the ideal of Spinoza. The assertion of reason and freedom in humans is the inspiration of the whole of Lev Semenovich's thought regarding consciousness. (A. N. Leontyev 1933/1989).


I hope that we can expand this discussion, and not limit it to simple polemics. One of the greatest contributions Russian cultural-historical theory, and activity theory, have made have been the real unity of theory with real praxis, in hospitals, schools, in WWII, in real praxis with the blind and death, with aphasia, inter alia…..a process of unique reciprocity between theory and praxis (not just the dichtomy of the individual and the social). I hope we do not tip the balance with our discussions, only using cognitive thinking per se. A. A. Leontiev, D. A. Leontiev, E. E. Sokolova have reproduced A. N. Leontiev’s book Activity, Consciousness, Personality this year (2005) in Russian. It contains 431 pages. My goal is to try to bring Russian translations to the West, so that we have original voices to work from. Perhaps we can focus on trying to find the funding to get this book translated into English, and read again from original sources. If you can offer help, please let !
 me know.

With warm regards,


(P.S. thanks to Peter M. for his clarity of the terms used with "psyche" and "consciousness"….and the word “mechanism” is another typical Russian word translated in so many ways…..and thanks to Andy for the push to include other theories….In Moscow, this is now happening with people such as Dmitry Leontiev, regarding existential psychology, The Viktor Frankl conference to celebrate his 100th birthday last summer, etc.)


Dorothy (Dot) Robbins
Professor of German
Russian Orphanage Vyschgorod

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