Re: [xmca] déjatel’nost’

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Sun Aug 31 2008 - 06:27:32 PDT

OK, thanks for that Michael. I understand Tätigkeit, so that
settles some questions, though not all.

I have another question about Activity to add to these.

Vygotsky, Davydov, Engstrom (to take just three) all talk
about "unit of analysis", "germ-cell" or single instance (as
in Pavolv's study of the reflex), but in the works of AN
Leontyev that I have access to (on he makes no
reference to any of these terms. This seems not accidental
to me actually. Can anyone clarify this?

Did Leonteyv (a) think that "activity" passes as a "unit of
analaysis", (b) disagree with the idea that a science should
begin from a Unit of analysis, or (c) define
subject-activity-object as the "unit of analysis somewhere?

And I need citation, I'm afraid.

Wolff-Michael Roth wrote:
> Hi Andy,
> it's not just the Russian. In German there is the parallel distinction
> between "Tätigkeit" (deiatel'nost') and Aktivität (aktivnost'). In the
> former there is an orientation----toward object/motive, which is not in
> the latter, and the former is oriented toward and a result of society
> (Gesellschaft), whereas the latter is not (necessarily). When Leont'ev
> is translated into German, you find the words Tätigkeit and the
> adjective "gesellschaftlich" (societal) whereas in English there is
> activity and social----and that has made all the difference, to quote
> Robert Frost.
> Cheers,
> Michael
> On 31-Aug-08, at 4:18 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
> I wonder if our Russian speakers could indulge me again with a point of
> clarification. déjatel'nost' (or деятельность) is the Russian word for
> "activity".
> 1. I understand that in Russian the use of definite and indefeinite
> partcles (a and the) is rare, so in the title to AN Leontyev's famous
> book, does déjatel'nost' mean "an activity" or "activity" - with the
> connotation of substance that a word has in English if used without a or
> the. When we have "act, action and activity," is that third category the
> same word, déjatel'nost'?
> 2. déjatel'nost' can also be translated as "work". How strong is the
> connection between "work" and "activity" in the Russian mind when
> talking of "activity theory"? Does that sound like "work theory"? Or is
> this just like any ambiguous word. I mean, English speakers would not
> think that in this context "activity" referred to autonomous
> physiological processes, which can also be called "Activity". When
> "Theses on Feuerbach" is translated into Russian, can Russian readers
> see the diffrence between "work" and "activity"?
> Andy
> Andy Blunden wrote:
>> Fascinating response, Robert. So let's see if I understand you right.
>> A mass of interconnected actions can be understood as some *whole*
>> (and not just an arbitrary collection of individual things) if we can
>> perceive some kind of *constraint*, operating over the domain, which
>> limits the domain of possible configurations? Is that it?
>> Andy
>> Robert Bracewell wrote:
>>> Hi Andy and all,
>>> I agree with Michael that the relationship between activity and
>>> action is a
>>> constitutive one, but I think this points to a big theoretical gap in
>>> CHAT
>>> generally. If actions are the constituents of activity, then the issue
>>> arises as to how the constituents are arranged in order to constitute
>>> activity (and there may be other types of constituents in activity
>>> also). As
>>> Leont¹ev said, this arrangement cannot be serial (e.g., chains of s-r
>>> pairs), nor additive in the sense of accumulative (as contrasted with
>>> the
>>> mathematical sense). So how are we to theorize the arrangement? The
>>> issue of
>>> arranging constituents to achieve higher order structures has been
>>> treated
>>> by both linguistics and artificial intelligence. The general approach
>>> is to
>>> constrain the possible relationships between constituents--in
>>> linguistics
>>> this usually done via a grammar, in AI via a program. For CHAT I
>>> think our
>>> task may be to build on Leont¹ev and figure out these constraints.
>>> Regards,
>>> --Bob Bracewell
>>> On 8/29/08 1:24 PM, "Wolff-Michael Roth" <> wrote:
>>>> Hi Andy,
>>>> I think he expresses the constitutive relation between actions and
>>>> activity. Activity is not just the sum of actions, it presupposes
>>>> them but is itself presupposed by the actions that constitute it. I
>>>> am pasting the definition from OED, which appears to be consistent
>>>> with this (my) reading of Leont'ev. Leont'ev and Vygotsky want to do
>>>> unit analysis, not element/al analysis. That is, even if you can
>>>> identify structures within activity, these cannot stand on their own
>>>> like elements. What they are is dependent on all the other structures
>>>> that can be identified, with which they stand in a constitutive unit,
>>>> and which are subordinate to activity. :-)
>>>> molar, adj.3
>>>> 2. Psychol. Designating a large-scale unit of behaviour, esp. an
>>>> integrated set of responses serving to bring about a common goal, as
>>>> distinguished from an elementary unit of behaviour such as a
>>>> physiological response (cf. MOLECULAR adj. 5); of or relating to (the
>>>> study of) such behaviour.
>>>> Cheers,
>>>> Michael
>>>> On 29-Aug-08, at 7:11 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:
>>>> Andy,
>>>> This is just my perspective, but I still believe Activity Theory goes
>>>> back to roots in work done by Stanislavsky - in particular "On Being
>>>> an Actor" and his book on character development. I think the
>>>> argument that Stanislavsky makes is that you should never consider
>>>> each scene individually, as encapsulated and whole, I guess you could
>>>> say there should be no reification of a scene. You have to consider
>>>> a scene, and the actions of a character, not only in terms of the
>>>> entire play, but in terms of what has come before and what comes
>>>> after - that activity is part of an ongoing process. Stanislavsky
>>>> was working off the new form of playwrights such as Ibsen, Strindberg
>>>> and especially Chekhov of course. To give an example, when Nora
>>>> walks out on Torvald and her father at the end of "A Doll's House"
>>>> the scene makes little sense in an of itself, and if you think of the
>>>> scenes of the play as simply being additive you are shocked. But if
>>>> you consider it as part of a moral activity, with a building
>>>> motivation that leads to a choice of action it is extraordinarily
>>>> complelling.
>>>> Anyway, that's my two cents.
>>>> Michael
>>>> ________________________________
>>>> From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
>>>> Sent: Fri 8/29/2008 9:53 AM
>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>> Subject: [xmca] Molar, Molecular and Additive behaviour
>>>> Can anyone help me out here. Leontyev says:
>>>> "But human practice is not just a series or a sum of
>>>> actions. In other words, 'activity is a molar, not an
>>>> additive unit'."
>>>> OED says:
>>>> Molar, Psychol. Designating a large-scale unit of behaviour,
>>>> esp. an integrated set of responses serving to bring about a
>>>> common goal, as distinguished from an elementary unit of
>>>> behaviour such as a physiological response (cf. MOLECULAR
>>>> adj. 5); of or relating to (the study of) such behaviour.
>>>> 1932 E. C. TOLMAN Purposive Behavior "On the one hand,
>>>> Watson has defined behavior in terms of its strict physical
>>>> and physiological details, i.e., in terms of
>>>> receptor-process, conductor-process, and effector-process
>>>> per se. We shall designate this as the molecular definition
>>>> of behavior. And on the other hand, he has come to recognize
>>>> that behavior is more than and different from the sum of its
>>>> physiological parts. Behavior has descriptive and defining
>>>> properties of its own. And we shall designate this latter as
>>>> the molar definition of behavior."
>>>> Am I missing something. By "not additive" does Leontyev
>>>> simply mean that there's more to it than S -> R ?
>>>> Andy
>>>> David Preiss wrote:
>>>>> based on the work made by max plank and run by san francisco's
>>>>> exploratorium
>>>>> David Preiss, Ph.D.
>>>>> Subdirector de Extensión y Comunicaciones
>>>>> Escuela de Psicología
>>>>> Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
>>>>> Av Vicuña Mackenna - 4860
>>>>> 7820436 Macul
>>>>> Santiago, Chile
>>>>> Fono: 3544605
>>>>> Fax: 3544844
>>>>> e-mail:
>>>>> web personal:
>>>>> web institucional:
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> --
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435
>>>> Skype andy.blunden
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Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 
Skype andy.blunden
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Received on Sun Aug 31 06:28 PDT 2008

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