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[Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Can you explain in a paragraph or two,. Peter, rather than asking us all to read 10,000 words to extract an answer?


Andy Blunden
On 7/01/2017 11:23 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
Andy and others, I tried to work out the mediated/mediating question in the area of reading....see if this helps.
Smagorinsky, P., & O'Donnell-Allen, C. (1998). Reading as mediated and mediating action: Composing meaning for literature through multimedia interpretive texts. Reading Research Quarterly, 33, 198-226. Available at http://www.petersmagorinsky.net/About/PDF/RRQ/RRQ1998.pdf

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Friday, January 6, 2017 7:12 PM
To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

I have never understood this supposed distinction, Alfredo, between "mediated activity" and "mediating activity" given that all activity is mediated and all activity mediates.
Also, could you spell out what you mean by the "tension"
between perezhivanie as meaning and perezhivanie as struggle.


Andy Blunden

On 5/01/2017 6:26 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
Thanks Marc for your careful response.

I am familiar to Vygotsky's notion of cultural mediation and I am aware and acknowledge that it was elaborated as a means to overcome dualism, and that it is not analog to a computational approach.

When I brought the computing analogy, I did so with regard not to the concept of cultural mediation in general, but to the way it can be (and is) deployed analytically. I react to what it seems to me a dichotomy between a "meaning" as something that is static (thereby a form of "representation" or reflection of the relation with the environment instead of ​refraction)​​ and the experiencing-as-struggling, which is described as ​transformation or change. If so, mediation here would seem to be part of a methodological device that first dissects "a type of meaning" from "a type of activity" (or a given state from the process that changes that state), and then unites it by adding the term "mediation." And this may be my misreading, but in that (mis)reading (which perhaps is mostly due to the fact that in your empirical illustration only the initial and end product, i.e., perezhivanie, are described, but not the experiencing-as-struggle, that is, the moving between the two), mediation here seems to do as analytical concept precisely what you were afraid our monism was doing: explaining nothing. Only the end products but not the process of producing perezhivanie are revealed. This may be problematic if one attends to what Veresov argues in the paper I shared yesterday, where he defends the notion of mediation but also specifies that Vygotsky speaks of *mediating activity* (as opposed to *mediated* activity). That is, not mediation by signs as products, but mediating activity as the activity of producing signs (which again is an activity of producing social relations, perhaps what you refer as "holistic meanings"?). What do you think?

I did not think you were trying to deny the influence of Spinoza, and I do not think we ever said that Perezhivanie was primarily a move from Cartesian Dualism to Monism, as you suggest in your post. I copy and paste from my prior post:  "The fact is that Vygotsky was building a theory on the unity of the affect and the intellect that was to be grounded on Spinoza, and what we try to do is to explore how perezhivanie, as a concept being developed during the same period (but not finalised or totally settled!), could be seen from the perspective of the Spinozist Vygotsky."

I totally believe that bringing the distinction between perezhivanie as meaning, and perezhivanie as struggle, is totally relevant, and Beth Ferholt's vignettes of Where the Wild Things Are do indeed illustrate this. We really need to address this tension, which as Beth's examples and as our own everyday experience shows, is a tension that matters not just to books and to theories but to living persons (children, teachers), a tension that moreover is present and mentioned in all the articles of the symposium. The papers offer different proposals, and I think is so great we have the chance to discuss them! I too, as you, am very interesting in hearing others about the questions you had concerning sense and meaning.


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
<xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Marc Clarà
Sent: 04 January 2017 22:31
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Thank you very much, Alfredo, for sharing this excellent paper by
Veresov, and thanks also for your responses, which really helped me to
better understand your points. My main doubt about your proposal
was/is caused by the statement that the idea of cultural
mediation/mediator implies a cartesian dualism. This shocks me
because, to me, the idea of cultural mediation is absolutely crucial
(in fact, the keystone) for the construction of a monist (and
scientific) psychology that does not forget mind –that is, a cultural
psychology. From your response, however, I realized that we may be
approaching the idea of mediation in different ways. I talk of
mediation and mediators in a quite restricted way. The starting point
of my understanding of mediation is a dialectical relationship
(organic, transactional) between the subject and the world (Vygotsky departs from the scheme stimulus-response, from reflexology).
This relationship, that Vygotsky calls primitive psychological
functions, would be basically biological. However, in human beings
this relationship is mediated by cultural means: signs and tools; or
primary, secondary and terciary artifacts. These cultural means
reorganize the primitive functions (dialectic S-O relationship), which
become then higher psychological functions (S-M-O) (see for example,
The problem of the cultural development of the child, in The Vygotsky
Reader). Now, the subject, the cultural mediators, and the object form
an inseparable dialectical unit, so that the subject acts on
(transforms) the object through the prism of the cultural mediators,
the object acts on (transforms) the subject also through the prism of
the cultural mediators, and the cultural means are themselves also
transformed as a consequence of their mediation in this continuous
dynamic dialectical tension. Here, for me, it is important the idea
that the cultural means are as material (if we assume a materialist
monism) as all the rest of the world; in fact, are parts of the
material world which become signs or tools (and can be therefore
socially distributed). This permits the introduction of the scientific
study of mind-consciousness (as mediating systems of signs), because
mind is not anymore something immaterial and unobservable, but it is
as material and observable as the rest of the natural world. It is
from this view that, for me, the idea of cultural mediation is the
keystone of a monist psychology that includes mind. Thus, when I speak
of mediators, I refer to the cultural means which mediate in the S-O
dialectics; I am especially interested in signs/secondary artifacts.
Here, it is perhaps necessary to insist that when I talk of studying
mediators (and their semantic structure), this doesn't mean that they
are taken out from the activity (the flux of live) in which they
mediate (since out of activity they are not signs anymore); here, I
think Vygotsky tries again to overcome another old dichotomy, the
functionalism-structuralism one. I hope that all this makes also clear the difference between this view and that of computational psychologies (which in general are profoundly and explicitly dualist and not dialectic).

Back to perezhivanie, I'm not obviously trying to deny the influence
of Spinoza on Vygotsky's thinking (this is explicit in Vygotsky's
writings, especially in “The teaching about emotions”, in the Vol.6 of
the Collected Works). But I have doubts that Vygotsky's introduction
of the concept of perezhivanie is to be regarded primarily as a
movement towards monism (from a previous cartesian dualism), and that
this movement questions the concept of cultural mediation. Instead,
and I think that this is in line with some of González-Rey
observations in his paper, my impression is that the introduction of
the concept of perezhivanie responds more to a movement (a further
step) towards holism (something that, in my understanding, can also be
found in Spinoza). Thus, I think that the word meaning is still the
unit of analysis in the last Vygotsky -and therefore, the idea of
cultural mediation is still crucial (in fact, in The problem of the
environment, he connects the concept of perezhivanie, which has just
introduced, to the development of word meaning [p.345-346, also cited
in my paper]). However, in my view, in the last Vygotsky the focus is
not anymore primarily on the word-meaning as formed for things (or
collections of things, as in the ontogenetic research with Sakharov), but the focus is now in the formation of meaning for holistic situations.

Best regards,


2017-01-03 19:16 GMT+01:00 Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>:

Hi Marc, all,

thanks for joining and for your interesting work, which I follow
since I became aware of it. I appreciate the way in your paper you
show careful and honest attention to the texts of the authors
involved, but perhaps most of all I appreciate that the paper makes
the transformational dimension related to struggle and change
salient, a dimension all papers deemed central to perezhivanie. And I
have learned more about Vasilyuk by reading your paper. But I also
see that we have approached the question of perezhivanie differently
and I think that addressing the questions that you raise concerning
our article may be a good way to both respond and discuss your paper.

I am aware that our use of the term monism may be problematic to
some, and N. Veresov, who has recently written about this (see
attached article), warns against the dangers of simply moving from
dualism into an undifferentiating monism that relativizes everything,
making development un-studiable. This seems to be the way in which
you have understood our argument, and of course this is not what we are or want to be doing.
Probably many will think that *dialectical materialism* rather than
monism is the proper term, and I could agree with them; we do in fact
use dialectical materialism there and elsewhere. Yet, we wanted to
emphasise the Spinozist influence (an influence that also runs
through Marx) and so we found it appropriate to use the term monism,
a term that Vygotsky uses before arguing that Spinoza "develops an essentially materialistic view"
(Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 124). For us, the aim is working out
ways to empirically examine and formulate problems in ways that do
not reify a mind-body dualism.

Although overcoming dualism is foundational to the CHAT paradigm, I
would however not say that Vygotsky did get to solve all of the
problems that Cartesian dualism had created for psychology, even
though he recognised those problems brilliantly as early as in the
"Crisis". It should suffice to cite Vygotsky's own remarks, which we quote in the paper (and which A.N.
Leont'ev mentions in the introduction to the collected works), where
Vygotsky explicitly critiques some of his own prior ideas for failing
to overcome dualism. We agree with those who, like F. G. Rey, see
Vygotsky's project as a developing rather than as a finalised one.
The fact is that Vygotsky was building a theory on the unity of the
affect and the intellect that was to be grounded on Spinoza, and what
we try to do is to explore how perezhivanie, as a concept being
developed during the same period (but not finalised or totally
settled!), could be seen from the perspective of the Spinozist Vygotsky.

As you note, in our article we argue that, if one takes the Spinozist
one-substance approach, classical concepts used in non-classical
psychology, at least in the way they are commonly used in the current
literature, should be revised. One such concept is mediation. And I
personally do not have much of a problem when mediation is used to
denote the fundamental fact that every thing exists always through
*another*, never in and of itself. But I do think that it is
problematic to identify MEDIATORS, such as "a meaning", as a means to
account for or explain developmental processes and learning events,
precisely because it is there, at least in my view, that dualism creeps in.

For example, I find it paradoxical that you are concerned that our
monist approach risks turning perezhivanie into a useless category
because it may be used to explain everything and nothing, and yet you
do not seem to have a problem using the term mediation to account for
the transformation of perezhivanie without clearly elaborating on how
mediation does change anything or what it looks like as a real
process. How is it different saying that a perezhivanie mediates the
experiencing-as-struggle from simply saying that it "affects" or
"determines" it? Indeed, if perezhivanie mediates
experiencing-as-struggle, does not experiencing-as-struglgle too
mediate perezhivanie? And do not both may be said to mediate development, or development mediate them? Is not this explaining everything and nothing?

I do believe you can argue that there is a difference between
mediation and classical psychology's cause-effect relations, but to
show this you need to dig into the dialectical underpinnings of the
theory. In your paper, you offer a nice analysis of a lovely case of
a teacher who, in dealing with a challenge with one of her students,
changes her perezhivanie. I think you can rightly argue that there is
a semiotic transformation, and I fully support your statement that by
studying discourse we can empirically approach questions of
psychological development. The contradictions you show as being
involved and resolved resonate really well with what I experience as
a parent or as a teacher in the classroom. Yet, without unpacking
what this "mediation" taking place between one perezhivanie and the
next one means as a concrete and real, the same analysis could be done taking an information processing approach:
there is an situation that is processed (represented?) in one way,
which then leads to a (cognitive) dissonance, and then there is a
cognitive resolution by means of which the situation is presented
differently in consciousness (indeed, when seen in this way, the term
perezhivanie and the term "representation" become almost
indistinguishable). How is mediation, as an analytical concept,
helping here? And most importantly to the question of perezhivanie,
how is this analysis going to show the internal connection between
intellect and affect that Vygotsky formulates as constitutive of the notion of perezhivanie?

I believe that the key lies in understanding what Vygotsky means when
he says that perezhivanie is a unit of analysis. I will not repeat
here what already is written in at least a couple of the articles in
the special issue (Blunden, ours), that is the difference between
analysis by elements and unit analysis (Vygotsky 1987). A unit
analysis approach is consistent with Spinoza, for whom cause-effect
explanations were not adequate, requiring instead an understanding of
self-development, perezhivanie as a kernel cell for the development
of personality. And I think you may be after this in your article in
suggesting a form of continuous movement from perezhivanie to
experiencing-as-struggle. But perhaps the major difficulty I find is that, in positing Vygotsky's perezhivanie as "a type of meaning"
and Vasilyuk's perezhivanie (or experiencing-as-struggle) as a "type
of activity," it is difficult not to see here a division between
product and process, a division that then is analytically bridged by
the addition of a third term, mediation, that should bring back the
real movement between the product and the process.

A different approach involves considering the concrete extension of
actual living and lived social relations, and look at them as
generative phenomena. What is there in the encounter between Carla
and the child that leads to change? For it is not inside the mind,
but in real life, in consciousness as the real relation between people, that Carla is changed.
How is the semantic structure that you nicely present and attribute
to Carla a product of the social relation between her and the child?
I think that to rightfully situate perezhivanie as a concept in a
Vygotskian framework, we ought to address its relation to the genetic
law of development.

There is much more to disentangle, but this is long enough. I hope I
have succeeded in making clear these ideas. Thanks so much for
engaging in the discussion!

From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
<xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Marc Clarà
Sent: 02 January 2017 22:14
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Happy New Year and Perezhivanie!

Hi, all, and thank you so much, Alfredo, for your kind invitation to
participate in this discussion. My paper in the MCA special issue
focuses on a distinction between a type of activity, which I argue
that is what Vasilyuk called *perezhivanie* (experiencing) and a type
of semiotic mediator, which I argue that is what Vygotsky, in The
Problem of the Environment, called *perezhivanie.* I argue, following
Vasilyuk, that in experiencing activities (Vasilyuk's perezhivanie),
this type of mediator is profoundly transformed – in fact, that
experiencing activities consist of the semiotic transformation of this type of mediator.

As Veresov and Fleer argue in their commentary, perezhivanie (as a
type of
mediator) is for me a psychological phenomenon, one which is of
course conceptualized from a specific theoretical framework. But the
phenomenon is also visible from other theoretical frameworks as well,
as I mention in the paper. This phenomenon is my main interest, and
it is from this interest that I arrived at the concept of perezhivanie (not the other way around).
Now, the phenomenon is that at least emotion, reasoning, and volition
(formation of conscious purposes) seem to be decisively mediated by
holistic situational meaning. My current research concern is trying
to find ways to study and understand how this mediation occurs and
how these semiotic mediators are transformed and distributed. From
this view, I think that experiencing activities (Vasilyuk's
perezhivanie) may provide a good terrain to study these issues
(especially regarding the mediation of emotion), as I tried to exemplify in the paper.

Studying semiotic mediation, however, is of course not easy.
Following Vygotsky, I assume that extended discourse is the
manifestation of thinking within certain psychological conditions
(Vygotsky's Thinking and Speech, chapter 7), and I also assume the
Vygotsky's law of the unity of the structure and function of thinking
(Vygotsky's Thinking and Speech, chapter 6). From these two
assumptions, I propose that meaning (and its functions in human
activity) can be scientifically studied by structurally analyzing the
narratives generated by subjects, considering that the discourse
produced in the narrative is the point of departure of this study,
but that considerable analytical work must be done to move from this
discourse to the full characterization of meaning. It is in that
point where I find useful the work developed by Greimas, the usefulness of which I only suggest in the paper.

>From this background, I found many interesting ideas and questions
in the
other papers of the special issue. In this first post I will propose
two of them for possible discussion. The first one was raised by
González-Rey, when he introduces, in connection with perezhivanie,
the concepts of personality, and especially, of sense. So, which is
the conceptual (and-or
phenomenal) relation between perezhivanie and sense? González-Rey
suggests that both concepts are somewhat similar (and overcome by the
concept of “subjective sense”); my opinion, partly expressed in my
commentary, is that perezhivanie is a type of meaning, which includes
different levels of depth, and that sense corresponds to the deepest
level of meaning (which can be characterized as a system of semic
oppositions). Therefore, sense wouldn't be in opposition to meaning
(as “a microcosm of human consciousness”, as Kozulin remembers in his
commentary), although it would be in opposition to manifested meaning (the surface level of meaning).

The second issue was raised by Roth and Jornet, and I think it goes
beyond the issue of perezhivanie itself. If I understand them well,
they argue that Vygotsky's core proposal of cultural mediation is
influenced by the Cartesian dualism (mind-matter), and that a
promising approach to Cultural Psychology would be a Spinozist
monism. I am actually very interested on the issue of which
epistemological position can best substantiate the construction of a
cultural psychology, and that's why I feel inclined to take the
opportunity to ask for your opinions about that. About the proposal
of Roth and Jornet, I have some doubts. First, I don't see why
Vygotsky's proposals can be seen as dualist (in the Cartesian sense)
-I suspect that it is because of the analytical distinctions?.
Anyway, in my understanding, Vygotsky explicitly assumes a
materialist monism (for example in The Crisis), and in fact he constructs his proposal on mediation upon reflexology, which also explicitly assumed a materialist monism (e.g.
Sechenov). Would a Spinozist monism be a better point of departure? I
don't know, in my understanding it is a more idealist monism, and I
don't clearly see what could be gained. In my opinion, a scientific
psychology which includes the study of mind is only possible if any
type of monism is assumed. However, in my view, for a scientific
psychology, the ontological nature of the world is perhaps less
important (it is an issue for metaphysics?), and I am inclined to assume a neutral monism (e.g. Russell).
So from this view, a materialist monism and a Spinozist monism
wouldn't be so different, so from both views it could be assumed that
all is of the same nature and all is similarly knowable (including
mind) [which is the ontological nature of the world and to what
degree it is knowable are issues that can be left to philosophy].
However, in my opinion, this does not mean that, while assuming a
monism, analytical distinctions cannot be done when studying the
world. In that sense, I had the impression that Roth and Jornet
tended to dilute analytical distinctions in the name of monism; I
repeat that I don't know if I understood them well, but if this was
the case, in my opinion, analysis would be impossible within the new
psychology suggested by Roth and Jornet, and, regarding perezhivanie,
there would be the danger, noted by Vygotsky in The Crisis and
cautioned by Kozulin in his commentary, that by meaning everything, perezhivanie ends by meaning nothing.

Best regards and happy new year,


2017-01-02 9:12 GMT+01:00 Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>:

Dear all,

I would like to join David, Luisa, Ana, Henry and the others to wish
you all a Happy New Year! May it be full of joy, peace, and opportunity.

I also would like to begin the year announcing our first ?MCA
article discussion, ?although in fact corresponds to the last issue
of the year
just passed, Issue 4 on Perezhivanie. This is a very special
*special* issue, not only because its topic has raised lots of
interest lately in
CHAT community but also because, greatly coordinated by Andy Blunden
and the rest of the editorial team, the issue takes the form of a
symposium where authors get the chance to present and respond to
each others' ideas on the subject. In my view, this allows having a
rich and
approach to a subject as important as perezhivanie.

Following with the dialogical spirit in which the special issue was
assembled, we will focus on one lead article, but hoping to also
engage ideas and insights present in or relevant to other
contributions in the issue. ?Marc Clarà's "Vygotsky and Vasilyuk on
Perezhivanie: Two Notions and One Word" will be our focus. The
article very nicely engages the lead work of Vygotsky, but also the
less known ??(?in educational literature) but totally relevant works
of psychologist ?F. Vasilyuk and semiotician
J. Greimas, mobilising a number of key concepts including those of
mediation and transformation.

?In addition to Marc, who will soon join us, I have encouraged some
other authors in the special issue to also join as "relevant
others," if time and circumstances allow them. Let's hope that this
will help keeping the symposium spirit up.

Marc's article is attached to this e-mail and will be made open
access at the T&F pages as soon as people is back from the holidays.
The T&F link

The link to the MCA Forum pages, where we announce our discussions
and other xmca things, is here: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/

I wish us all a very productive and interesting discussion.