Re: [xmca] Russian for "Lines of Development" and "Janet's Law"

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sun Aug 10 2008 - 10:31:26 PDT

As Bella says in her article, the distinction between the two kinds of memory is not mine but Vygotsky's and Luria's (they develop this at some length in Tool and Symbol). But they use the same distinction in their discussion of attention, pratical intelligence, etc. There is always a "natural" line of development and a "cultural one" which fuse and transform each other.
In some cases, though, the two lines of development diverge again (e.g. rationality and emotion, as discussed in Intelligence and Creativity in the Adolescence). And in all cases, the fusion is not complete, and under pathological conditions it's possible to uncover the natural function more or less in their natural state. LSV says this explains why schizophrenics find it difficult to exercise volitional control over memory, attention, and even practical intelligence.
Your position, as I understand it, is quite close to that articulated by Sasha Surmava (and also by Karpov and others), which is that Vygotsky was wrong to assume that thinking and speech have different genetic roots. Both thinking and speech are aspects of a single overlying entity, namely "activity", and this is what makes it possible for them to fuse.
My position (and, I think, Bella's) is paleo-Vygotskyan. Unless we accept that thinking and speech have different genetic roots, it's really impossible to talk about fusion and mutual transformation: how can two things fuse if they were identical in the first place? (This is Vygotsky's critique of Jamesian and reflexological views: they assume that thinking and speech are essentially both forms of behavior and thus identical, so there can be no relationship to speak of (see Vol. 1, p. 44).
On the other hand, as Sasha opines, if we accept that there are two different genetic roots (e.g. that thinking has an emotional root and speech a physiological one) then dialectical synthesis seems to be ruled out and we are condemned to dualism. I think that LSV and Luria's solution to this should be very pleasing to you as a Hegelian: the apparent "dualism" is sublatable, because both emotion and human sensuousness are profoundly social, and the natural line of development in both thinking (practical intellligence such as we see in apes) and speech (vocalizations) are sublated in a cultural artifact, namely word meaning. 
This only seems like an instance of mind over matter if we imagine that social artefacts are not made in sensuous human activity. Needless to say, that is a hypothesis which no Marxist needs to entertain. But Bella's article, written for non-Marxists, handles this problem beautifully too; her formulation is that cortical and subcortical functions can be sublated in "extra-cortical" ones.
I think there is potentially a very important implication in Bella's thinking that I would like to tease out (I'm writing a 75th anniversary review of Thinking and Speech at the moment). Of course, LSV's distinction between higher and lower psychological functions can be dualistic, if we forget the way in which they are sublated.
A lot of "Vygotskyan" work on language teaching is very dualistic in precisely this way: there is a "natural" line of foreign language learning which is similar to first language learning and one hundred percent successful which must be replicated in the classroom at all costs, and then there is this "cultural" line of classroom language learning which has such a high failure rate and which is dry and abstract and which must be eradicated.
Of course, to think this way is to condemn the foreign language learner to a perpetual lagging behind the native speaker, whose head start can be narrowed by moving forward the date of initial foreign language instruction but never entirely eliminated. This is almost the exact opposite of the true state of affairs, because even the beginning foreign language learner has more overall linguistic competence than the monolingual.
To think this way is to forget that first and foreign language learning are part of a continuous process that includes the acquisition of scientific concepts, not least scientific concepts about one's own language (e.g. scientific names which are almost always of foreign derivation, as well as the "making strange of the familiar" that allows us to understand our own language as a set of nouns, verbs, subjects, objects, tenses, etc.).
Bella correctly apprehends that school language learning is a school subject, and as such is part of an overall picture of formal schooling. But Bella DOES draw a heavy black line between PREschool foreign language learning and school language learning; VERY young foreign language learners (and not the "young learner" of Oxbridge materials design) do NOT have the extracortical devices (volitional memory, voluntary attention, literacy) to undertake foreign language learning as an object of scientific study.
This seems correct to me, but not at all a matter for celebration. Preschoolers must rely on direct visual and auditory stimulation (e.g. "immersion"). They are thus condemned, yes CONDEMNED, to repeat first language learning rather than build on it.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Sat, 8/9/08, Andy Blunden <> wrote:

From: Andy Blunden <>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Russian for "Lines of Development" and "Janet's Law"
To:, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
Date: Saturday, August 9, 2008, 5:03 PM

I am way out of my area of expertise, but David, you are
saying here that there are two different forms of memory? If
you are distinguishing between artefacts and psychological
functions I would agree that we have two different kinds of
thing here, and maybe "different lines of development" is
too weak a distinction. But if you are referring to two
psychological functions, I think the comparison works, but I
don't think you can see two different functions or entities
of any kind, but rather two different lines of development
(use of artefacts and recall) which intersect and merge.


David Kellogg wrote:
> In the same way, I think that LSV and Luria use "natural" and
"cultural" lines of development not to tell the story of the descent
of the higher psychological functions but to draw a clear demarcation line
between forms of memory that are part of our biological endowment
("eidetic", as LSV calls them, although we probably wouldn't refer
to them that way today) and those that are cultural "simultations"
(e.g. writing). The two things are functionally similar but genetically
different, but then they fuse and transform each other.

Andy Blunden 

xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Aug 10 10:35 PDT 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Sep 01 2008 - 00:30:03 PDT