I would certainly be interested in hearing more about the distinctions
you're making between responsiveness, awareness and consciousness.
To add to the (my) confusion, digging through my notes I've come across the
following note by translator Norris Minick in Thinking & Speech (p. 388, n.
“By the phrase ‘conscious awareness’ we gloss the Russian osaznanie, which V
carefully and consistently uses and distinguishes from the term soznanie or
‘consciousness.’ Vygotsky clarifies the difference between the two at
several points in the text… the earlier translation of this volume (…Thought
and language…) rendered both terms as ‘consciousness,’ introducing a
confusion not to be found in the original Russian text.”
The links to neuroscience are very interesting. If I understand it
correctly, Vygotsky's psychology was the study of consciousness and
physiology (the material basis of consciousness). The division of labor that
developed between Vygotsky and Luria speaks to this, I think. Modern
neuroscience too often wants to treat consciousness as an epiphenomenon, but
Vygotsky clearly viewed it as having a purpose: it has evolved because it
serves an important function. After my last message I recalled Vygotsky's
insistence that consciousness appears when action meets an obstacle. I'm
pretty confident he says this as early as Educational Psychology, and as
late as T&S, but I can't track down specific citations at this moment. And
this links to David's comments about volition. Consciousness occurs when our
prereflective action is blocked, and we must deliberate, look around, and
consider alternatives. A two-way link to volition: Cs arises from practical
activity, and serves to reorganize that activity. Cs gives us the will to do
what is hard to do, what needs to be done, what at first grasp seems
impossible to do.
And while I'm cutting and pasting from my notes, this is from the last pages
of Educational Psychology:
“Man has set himself the goal of becoming master of his own feelings, of
lifting the instincts to the heights of consciousness and making them
transparent, of stretching the thread of will into what is concealed and
into the underground, and to thereby lift himself up to a new stage, to
create a ‘higher’ sociociological type, a, so to speak, super-man.” 351
None of this gives my students a *definition* of consciousness. But perhaps
one has to be satisfied with a *history* of it, a story that describes how
it comes into being and then departs again.
On 2/9/07 11:24 AM, "Vera Steiner" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> I sent my message on consciousness before reading Martin's "harried
> instructor seeks words of wisdom." It is a fine discussion, and my
> apologies for not referring to it in my somewhat differently focused
> comments.In my class last night, I tried to differentiate between
> responsiveness, awareness and consciousness, a hard task, but if anyone
> is interested, I would be willing to struggle with it some more in our
> discussions. Right now, I have to leave the house and the computer,
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> Trying to get the worms out of one can I seem to have opened another, but I
>> think David may have rescued me before I started to ask. Trying to explain
>> why studying consciousness was important to Vygotsky, I started with the
>> assertion that for him (and me too) consciousness is in our interaction with
>> the world. I suppose that all animals have consciousness, perhaps even
>> plants in some sense, since they respond to changes in the environment (day
>> & night; the movement of the sun) and so must sense these in some way. But
>> human consciousness is, one supposes, much more complex, and it develops.
>> If consciousness is in our interactions, not in our heads, that is helpful
>> when we are trying to avoid dualistic thinking. And, yes, Vygotsky was
>> trying to give a materialistic account of consciousness, which at first
>> seems pretty contradictory.
>> Psychology today generally doesn¹t consider consciousness: in one class one
>> might study memory, in another perception, in a third language, and so on.
>>> From Vygotsky¹s point of view this has divided up something unitary after
>> all, in my conscious existence I am thinking at one moment, remembering
>> something the next, then imagining something, talking, ... and even this
>> account divides consciousness up too much. So the proper study of
>> consciousness is the study of all these functions in their
>> interrelationship. It is, I said, only to keep things simple that Vygotsky
>> focuses mainly on thinking and talking in the book we are reading.
>> I said some more. I said it in (bad) Spanish and now I can¹t remember it in
>> And they said, okay, very good, but what was Vygotsky¹s definition of
>> Œconsciousness¹? Give us a definition of consciousness, and keep it concise
>> and formal. They said this with a (collective) smile, so I know they weren¹t
>> expecting a dictionary definition, even before reading David¹s message. But
>> I wasn¹t able to give a (good) answer.
>> David, for me, too, consciousness is not cognition. I completely agree with
>> you that volition is crucial for Vygotsky. (For example, I think Vygotsky¹s
>> position on scientific concepts is misunderstood when people say that such
>> concepts enable self-control; V is clear that it¹s the other way round:
>> self-control, mastery of one¹s own psychological functions, makes such
>> concepts possible.) But I¹m not entirely comfortable *equating*
>> consciousness with volition. I guess for a first shot I¹d say that volition
>> is a relation between consciousness and functions that lack consciousness.
>> One thing I like about this formulation is that it includes the possibility
>> that consciousness is social, intersubjective, and that self-control has its
>> roots in control-by-others. And I do believe that this was Vygotsky¹s
>> position (in-itself; for-others; for-itself). But having put it this way
>> one has to distinguish carefully between consciousness and
>> self-consciousness, no?
>> Enough for one day. I¹m off for enchiladas. More words of wisdom from XMCA¹s
>> collective consciousness will be much appreciated!
>> p.s I think Osimbologia may be a Nahuatl word. ;) I saw a wonderful
>> Spanish-Nahuatl dictionary the other day. Any takers?
>> xmca mailing list
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