Re: [xmca] Did the Butterfly Leave the Cocoon, and then what?

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Fri Feb 22 2008 - 06:54:08 PST


Let me say first that you are very generous in your appraisal of my paper.
It's received more praise here than I anticipated, and I'm delighted.
Perhaps soon the other shoe will drop and people will identify problems, and
that will be fine. Reading it again I think I crammed a lot into a few
pages, and any suggestions for ways to improve the argument or clarity will
be welcome.

The biggest surprise for me when reading Crisis was discovering how Vygotsky
intended to resolve the dualism of materialist and idealist forms of
psychology. I expected he would try to transcend both, to bridge the gap, as
you say. But instead he declared the need to cut away idealism and discard
it. In retrospect it should not be such a surprise that he opted for a
materialist psychology, and certainly the proposal for a materialist study
of consciousness is sufficiently, well, revolutionary to make one pause
before criticizing his move.

It's clear that where the dialectical resolution takes place, for him, is
between theory and practice. Practice provides the test for theory, but it
also drives theory in the sense that theory takes on the practical concern
(emancipatory concern?) of enabling mastery of the mind.

I think there's room in a materialist psychology for both ideographic and
nomothetic aspects. Analysis, as Vygotsky describes it, is the study of
individual cases for their general relevance; it involves an abstraction
from their particularity. But the study of particulars for their general
significance would presumably operate within a single, materialist, ontology
and epistemology.


On 2/21/08 11:28 AM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:

> Martin--
> I have been reading and pondering the "two psychologies" problem as
> discussed toward the front of your article.
> Metaphors of dying people and the need for a surgeon's knife read a little
> strangely in retrospect, but I have long
> thought, and tried to act on, the idea that a "theory-in-practice"
> methodology was essential to bridging the two
> psychologies with their different ontologies and epistemologies.
> However, by the criteria assembled in your paper, even when we include use
> of a genetic component as central to
> the required resolution (which I also subscribe to) it is unclear to me
> whether Vygotsky or anyone else has created
> the new, natural science uber psychology that he called for.
> My own route has been akin to Luria's version of romantic science which puts
> idiographic and nomothetic knowledge into
> dialogue with each other and the analyst in valued sociocultural
> practices/activities. Its a methodological solution, not, as
> I understand it, a theoretical one. (But theory/methodology/empirical data
> gathering appear to me to all be part of a single
> theory.practice unity.
> But this route fails the test as I understand it from your careful reading
> of "Crisis" and other documents. Right?
> mike
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