Re: [xmca] is Leontiev (1983) available in English?

From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch who-is-at>
Date: Sun Aug 03 2008 - 09:33:22 PDT

David Kellogg kindly wrote me offlist with a better idea about which
Wertsch volume had a Leontiev chapter:

He said:
I think it's this:
       Leontiev, A.N. (1979, 1981). The problem of activity in
psychology. In Wertsch, J.V. (ed.) The concept of activity in Soviet
psychology. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
      But this seems very similar to Chapter Three of Activity,
Consciousness and Personality to me; there are minor differences,
which might just be due to retranslation.
      As I understand it, Activity, Consciousness and Personality was
ANL's attempt to develop a theory of personality. There is a rather
different Leontiev book, called Problems of the Development of the
Mind (1981, Moscow: Progress), which I found somewhat more
representative of the man and his oeuvre.

Yay! So there is another book by L. in English. I thought so. In
fact, we studied from this one in 2003 (he says, wiping away some
mental cobwebs). It was two chapters in section II of Problems of the
Development of Mind - the famous hunters and beaters example of
activity is discussed in this chapter 2. (Activity, Consciousness,
and Personality, was discussed in 2000 on xmca.) The book is not in
print, of course, but there are some extracts online, courtesy of Paul
Ballantyne, links below. The Wikipedia entry on Leontiev carries
these links, btw. We studied this material in a version from the
original book itself - I printed out pages 157-273, all of section
II, but that is all I have. Chapter 1 in this section offers a look
at the depth of Leontiev's work in evolutionary zoopsychology, aka
comparative psychology, which was an important basis of his theory of
human activity and consciousness. I was looking at it tonight in part
to find clues to understand differences between animal and human
communication, as part of the discussion of the difference between
signals and symbols.
Extracts from: Leontyev, [Leontiev], A.N. (1981). "The problem of the
origin of sensation" (pp. 7-53). In Problems of the Development of the
Mind. (Trans. M. Kopylova) Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Extracts from: Leontyev, [Leontiev], A.N. (1981). "An outline of the
evolution of the psyche" (pp. 156-326). Problems of the Development of
the Mind. (Trans. M. Kopylova) Moscow: Progress Publishers.
On this site there is also an excellent, very helpful and succinct
summary of Leontiev's approach to comparative psychology, and how it
connects to his work on activity and the human psyche.

The Comparative Psychology of A.N. Leontyev (U.S.S.R.), by Charles W.

One thing I notice as I skim over this Leontiev material again was how
dense and difficult it seemed a few years ago, but now it seems much
more readable, now that I have a better idea of where ANL was going,
and perhaps, of some of the limitations of, and constraints on CHAT in
his generation. But whatever "shortcomings" one may see - and they
are always important to see - and easier to find in hindsight! - such
as his discussion of animal communication, which does not (because it
couldn't) take into account important recent findings, such as monkeys
that have alarm sounds for different kinds of enemies (from above or
below, for example) and chimps that can talk to humans (and each
other!) using human taught sign language - despite any of this kind of
shortcoming, or others, ANL's writings played a huge role in rounding
out, updating, and codifying first generation CHAT work in way that
made 3rd generation CHAT possible, and that alone makes him important
to study. I think the proposal to conceptualize Vygotsky and Leontiev
as co-leaders of the general CHAT lineage over the course of a first
and second generation was a brilliant and constructive one.

I think we will also see more Luria appear in 3rd generation CHAT,
which I think we are still very much in, as scholars discover ways
that his cultural-historical methods in neuropsychology offer insights
into how to understand recent discoveries in brain science - in
cultural-historical, and not just biological and medical ways. As I
see it, Luria, like Leontiev, also left many clues for how to tap 1st
generation CHAT, and use the cultural-historical method to its
fullest. Luckily, some of Luria's important work is still in print in
English. But are there other important Luria books and articles out
of print, or never translated?

Is there any chance the Leontiev material in the three 2005 Journal of
Russian and Eastern Psychology issues Dot mentions will appear in a
more accessible form? And the book idea Dot mentioned looks like the
perfect way to get ACP back in print. That would be remarkable to
interview Dmitry, as well as include the A.A. material from the 2005
Russian book, and have three generations of Leontievs, and Sokolova,
represented in a new English translation. And while I am tooting the
horn of getting seminal CHAT work in English and in print, as many
know, Engestrom's 1987 Learning By Expanding also needs to be back in
print in English!

- Steve

On Aug 3, 2008, at 1:28 AM, Phil Chappell wrote:

> Hi Dot,
> Thanks so much for pointing to these issues in JREEP. My university
> finally got a subscription and I'm able to access the articles you
> mention. Certainly a Collected Works of A.N. Leontiev would be a
> valuable addition to our collective resources. The "home lecture" on
> Will prepared by ANL especially for his grandson contains some
> interesting and apparently final thoughts in a welcome accessible
> style. I've pasted the abstract below
> Thanks again and regards,
> Phil
> Published based on a tape recording, the text represents a 1978
> “home lec-
> ture” personally prepared for and read to the grandson of A.N.
> Leontiev
> [Dmitry], at his request when he was a first-year student at the
> School of
> Psychology of Moscow State University. The lecture was recorded on a
> tape
> recorder that had recently been given to A.N. Leontiev on the
> occasion of his
> seventieth birthday. In preparing the transcript for publication
> only stylistic
> corrections were made; repetition and grammatical and syntactical
> dispari-
> ties were eliminated, along with clarifying questions and their
> answers when
> they added nothing to the main substance of the lecture.
> Chronologically, the lecture “Will” is one of the last, if not the
> last, original
> scholarly texts of A.N. Leontiev and it merits publication. It is
> significant in
> that A.N. Leontiev did not specifically devote a single published
> work, manu-
> script, or public lecture to the problem of will. Except for lecture
> notes and the
> stenographic records of his courses in general psychology, the
> publication of
> which would be possible only after extensive work, this lecture is
> the only
> source of clarification of his views on this issue. The content of
> this lecture
> probably does not require a special commentary, as it was designed
> for an
> audience with minimal understanding of psychology, and is
> distinguished by
> its exceptionally accessible explanations.
> On 02/08/2008, at 8:00 AM, Dot Robbins wrote:
>> Steve wrote: "For sure, we need Leontiev's writings already in
>> English back in
>> print, and more translated and published. I wonder if there is
>> anything else in English by Leontiev we might be able to get on one
>> of
>> these sites in the meantime."
>> In the Journal of Russian & East European Psychology, there are
>> three issues of A. N. Leontiev in English. Vol. 43, Nos. 3, 4, 5,
>> 2005. The first issue is a translation written as a small book for
>> the 100th centennial celebration of Leontiev's life and the
>> conference in Moscow. The second issue has an introduction by E. E.
>> Sokolova, and The Study of the Environment in the Pedological Works
>> of L. S. Vygotsky; Transference of Action as a Function of
>> Intellect; The Problem of the Development of the Intellect and
>> Learning in Human Psychology; Paper Presented at the All-Union
>> Institute of Experimental Medicine. And the third issue has
>> lectures transcribed and translated. The lectures are taken from a
>> book from 2000, Smysl. I have an extra copy of the Russian version,
>> and would be happy to send it to anyone who is interested. Also, in
>> 2005, Dmitry Leontiev (with A. A. Leontiev [he worked on it before
>> his death on August 12, 2004], and E. E. Sokolova)
>> published a book called A. N. Leontiev: Activity, Consciousness,
>> Personality....There are very interesting pictures, commentaries, a
>> re-publication of Activity, Consciousness, Personality, oral
>> biobliographical notes on A. N. Leontiev, and a listing of all (or
>> most) of his publications. I would love to see this book translated
>> into English, if anyone would be interested in such a project. It
>> might be an interesting idea to have an interview with Dmitry
>> Leontiev about his grandfather, and have that published. If there
>> is interest, I would be happy to contact him about that.
>> with good wishes to all,
>> Dot
>> _______________________________________________
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