Re: [xmca] Method/Methodology

From: Peter Moxhay (
Date: Mon Aug 29 2005 - 06:12:59 PDT


Your remarks on V. P. Zinchenko and G. P. Schedrovitsky are truly
fascinating as well as informative! Did Davydov really write VPZ's
philosophy exam?!

May I ask for one clarification? You talk about "methodology" as used
in Russia from the 1960's on as "practically an euphemism for non-
marxist philosophy." In the case of Schedovitsky, in some of his
writings I've read, he seems to define his position as a Marxist one,
as based on an concept of activity that derives from Marx. So, in
your opinion, was Schedrovitsky's point of view (in distinction from
VPZ's) a Marxist one or not?


> Hi all,
> The number of posts I have to reply is threateningly growing so I
> have do my
> best to survive under them :-).
> First of all I have to give a clarification of my provocative tone
> concerning this at the first sight banal term.
> According to tradition formed from early sixties of the past
> century in
> Russian (Soviet) psychology, the tradition that has noting to do
> neither
> with Marxism as it is nor with ideas of Ilyenkov (Vasilij Davydov was
> extremely alone among soviet psychologists with his consistent
> Marxism and
> Ilyenkovism) so called methodology is practically an euphemism for
> non-marxist philosophy.
> Realizing that serious theoretic analysis is impossible without a
> philosophic reflection and having no case to use openly one of non-
> marxist
> philosophies (I have to repeat, that genuine nonideological Marxism
> with
> some minor exceptions was in the Soviet Union and lately in Russia
> practically unknown among serious investigators) they rename this
> philosophical or logical reflection into "methodology", as if it
> was an
> independent from philosophy, positive, free from ideology discipline.
> According to this attitude the curriculum of psychological
> faculties even
> now includes a courses of so called "methodology of psychology"
> which has
> nothing to do neither with classical philosophy nor with definite
> psychological theory. It has nothing to do with any kind of specific
> experimental methods as well. As a rule it is a florid, eclectical
> reflection based on popular here and now ideas or philosophical
> systems.
> Only one quality unifies all those reflections that's its non-marxist
> character.
> One of the best and mostly typical examples of such "methodology"
> proposes
> Vladimir Petrovitch Zinchenko. (Here I have to underline, that I
> deeply
> appreciate Vladimir Petrovitch as an outstanding scientist and a
> very kind
> person, moreover I'm seriously insisting that I regard him as one
> of my
> principal teachers in psychology. It was Zinchenko who pushed me to
> pay
> attention at Nikolai Bernstein - the greatest Russian physiologist
> with its
> ideas of alive movement. Unfortunately our mutual understanding is
> finishing
> as soon as we enter a field of so called "methodology".)
> VPZ stands openly on anti-Marxist position and in the same time
> pretends to
> be a vigotskianist. He claims marxist method as extremely
> nonproductive and
> in the same time tries to tackle the problem of germ cell. He put
> forward a
> brilliant Bernstein's idea of alive movement as a germ cell of
> psyche and
> there and then "enriches" it adding such additional "germ cells" as
> signs,
> symbols, speech and. God-Man. He modestly doesn't pretend to
> formulate a new
> psychological theory and in the same time he tries to formulate new
> pluralistic methodology combining with ease the materialistic and
> idealistic
> elements. Finally he pretends to be a profound methodologist and in
> the same
> time boasting that he have never read Spinoza or Hegel and that his
> university test on philosophy was written by Vasia Davydov.
> I want to repeat, the VPZ's understanding of "methodology" is
> typical for
> modern Russian psychology. And the case of VPZ is not the worst.
> I can repeat after Steve "I certainly agree that there is no such
> thing as a
> methodology without theory, but I also would agree with the
> statement that
> there is no such thing as a theory without methodology." In other
> words
> theory and methodology are initially connected so that bad
> methodology is
> equal to bad theory and vice versa. Nowadays one can rarely meet in
> Russian
> psychological journals an article pretending to formulate some new
> theoretic
> idea, or containing serious critic of basic theoretic concepts. But
> each
> journal have a special part concerning "methodological questions"
> and the
> mostly popular position in modern methodology is "methodological
> liberalism"
> or simply banal eclecticism and pantophagy.
> That is why I'm usually insisting that I have nothing to do with
> methodology, I am a psychologist.
> The other side of the issue is connected with the name of Georgi
> Petrovitch
> Schedrovitsky who called himself a methodologist, a methodologist
> without
> any additional definition. G.P. was an influential figure in
> seventies and
> left after himself many followers.
> But, again I have to add a drop of poison into my appreciation. All
> his
> followers in striking contrast to their dainty methodological
> reflection
> give us very modest theoretic results, the results interesting and
> understandable as a rule only for their narrow close circle.
> And this result is natural. If we as investigators are trying to
> work with
> subject matter or PREDMET which is created by a methodologist we
> are dealing
> with those narrow content which was put in it by a methodologist
> whereas
> the empirical object of our theorizing stays misunderstood. The
> point is
> that according to marxist logic the process of constituting of
> any science is the objective historical process funded in historically
> developing material practice instead of pure intellectual product
> of one
> genial scientist or methodologist.
> The best critical analysis of this issue contains in brilliant book
> of EVI's
> friend, co-author and disciple as well as a member of our newborn
> "Dialectical psychology" section Lev Naumenko <Monism as a
> principal of
> dialectical logic>. Those of XMCA members who know Russian can
> find this
> book on my website
> lng=ru . The
> subject is discussed in the second part of the book in paragraph 2.
> Printsip
> gomogennosti. Ob'ekt nauki i ee predmet.
> Many years ago at the time of the first conference on Vygotsky's
> theory at
> the Moscow Institute of Psychology in 1981 I weighed in on the
> debate with
> G.P. on the round table concerning the methodological problems. (A
> funny
> detail was that this time being an evening department psychological
> faculty
> student I was working in Davydov's Institute as cloakroom
> attendant. So the
> discussion started in academic circumstances in "Malaya" auditorium
> continued and finished in cloakroom.) I've asked G.P. about the
> role of
> methodologist in real scientific process. I insist that so called
> methodology, or methodological reflection is an inseparable part of
> any real
> cognition process and all big theorists had to be in the same time big
> methodologists, that division of labor between scientists and
> methodologists
> is something equivocal, that scientist that alienates his rights on
> methodological reflection to anybody looks like a husband who
> alienates his
> wife or daughter to the first who comes along.
> The G.P's answer was literally the following: Marx, Vygotsky,
> Einstein were
> high-brow highbrow and they really can realize not only scientific
> investigation but a methodological reflection as well. But the actual
> scientists are far from high philosophical culture (and often from any
> culture) so they are need of him as a Methodologist. ( I suspect
> that the
> utmost openness of the answer was provoked by the circumstances of
> cloakroom
> :-) ).
> Mike wrote:
>>> Once stabilized (if stabilized?) we arrive at what Schedrovitsky
>>> refers
> to as scientific activity. My
>>> main reservation is that I am unsure that there is ever a really
>>> stable
> relationship where the
>>> methodology is conventionalized.
> I can subscribe to Mike's reservation an add that stabilization of
> methodology simply means the death of science because substantial
> movement
> can't be realized without permanent specification and development
> of its
> methods.
> Peter wrote:
>>>> I'd be interested to know what you think about this usage of the
>>>> term
> "methodology." If this sense
>>>> of the term is acceptable, can we not say that Aristotle, Galileo,
> Descartes, Newton, Marx were all
>>>> doing "methodological work"?
> I think that I completely formulate my attitude to G.P.'s
> terminology. I
> think that any serious thinker is in the same time a theorist and
> methodologist. Aristotle, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Marx can't
> be the
> exception.
> Victor's dissertation on Spinoza is very interesting for me
> especially the
> footnote. It can be interesting to organize some time a special
> discussion
> concerning Spinoza and EVI, Spinoza and LSV. By the way I am going
> to put on
> my website the materials (meanwhile in Russian) of current and very
> bitter
> dispute concerning the EVI's interpretation of Spinoza. The dispute is
> taking place among the EVI's followers.
> Cheers,
> Sasha
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: [mailto:xmca-
>>] On
>> Behalf Of Mike Cole
>> Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 7:47 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Method/Methodology
>> Peter, Sasha, Steve et al--
>> Since I am stuck at a car dealer waiting for brakes to be
>> replaced and
>> they
>> have
>> a wireless hotspot, I have a moment to write on this topic which I
>> have
>> learned
>> a lot about in reading various comments.
>> My own eclectic educational path has led me to distinguish
>> between the
>> terms
>> method and methodology which appear to be used interchangeably by
>> many
>> in the chat literature I read and some in this discussion.
>> It may be that Schedrovitsky's point is compatible with what I
>> have been
>> thinking.
>> In my work I habitually use several ways of gathering evidence.
>> Observations, test
>> scores, products of people's activity, newspaper stories, budgets of
>> organizations.
>> Each of these "sources of evidence" I consider a method. The
>> ensemble of
>> these
>> mehods and the ways in which I combine them (as systematically as
>> I can
>> manage)
>> is what I think of as a methodology. Some might refer to this
>> usages as a
>> synonym
>> for "multi-method" research strategies. The difference, I think,
>> is the
>> extent to which
>> there is systematicity in how the variety of methods is chosen and
>> the
>> logic
>> that
>> connects them to each other (on the one hand) and on the theory and
>> predmet
>> on the other.
>> Once stabilized (if stabilized?) we arrive at what Schedrovitsky
>> refers
>> to
>> as scientific
>> activity. My main reservation is that I am unsure that there is
>> ever a
>> really stable relationship
>> where the methodology is conventionalized. But maybe that is simply
>> because
>> I work in
>> such a foggy arena of human inquiry.
>> mike
>> On 8/24/05, Peter Moxhay <> wrote:
>>> Sasha, Steve, and all:
>>> It is interesting that G. P. Schedrovitsky sometimes uses the term
>>> "methodology" or "methodological work" to refer to work that is done
>>> in order to *bring into being* a new science or theory. That is, the
>>> work that is done in order to constitute a new PREDMET or object of
>>> study/ subject matter. For example, he wrote (my translation):
>>>> Here you may ask: Why, in particular do I call this work
>>>> "methodological," rather than, say, scientific? Primarily because
>>>> scientific work properly speaking, i.e. work according to the
>>>> canons and laws of scientific research, is possible only within the
>>>> bounds of an already existing PREDMET (subject matter/object of
>>>> study). For example, Galileo constructed the scientific apparatus
>>>> of mechanics -- after which the scientist can make his entrance on
>>>> the stage, conduct his research within the bounds of this PREDMET,
>>>> and, in parallel, develop and transform it into other scientific
>>>> PREDMETS. And if such a PREDMET does not yet exist, scientific
>>>> research and development can simply not exist. And therefore in the
>>>> "Conversations" Galileo acted not as a scientist but as a
>>>> methodologist. And Descartes worked in precisely the same way, when
>>>> he created analytic geometry and natural-sciences type disciplines.
>>>> (From a collection, Myshlenie, ponimanie, refleksiya, published in
>>>> 2005)
>>> I'd be interested to know what you think about this usage of the
>>> term
>>> "methodology." If this sense of the term is acceptable, can we not
>>> say that Aristotle, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Marx were all doing
>>> "methodological work"?
>>> Peter
>>>> Sasha's discussion of the term "methodology" is intriguing. I
>>>> certainly agree that there is no such thing as a methodology
>>>> without theory, but I also would agree with the statement that
>>>> there is no such thing as a theory without methodology. In other
>>>> words, methodology - the use and study of method - is an essential
>>>> property of any serious theoretical system, and all serious
>>>> theories employ methodology. This of course applies to Marxism,
>>>> which can be claimed to be the most methodologically advanced
>>>> theoretical system because it consciously synthesizes all
>>>> methodologies (formal logic, dialectical logic, observation,
>>>> experiment, induction, deduction, analysis, synthesis, etc. etc.).
>>>> It is very common among Marxists of many tendencies to speak of a
>>>> "Marxist methodology," which seems to be used more or less
>>>> synonymously with the more commonly employed term "Marxist
>>>> method." One or the other or both of the two terms to my knowledge
>>>> are used ubiquitously by virtually the entire rainbow of Marxist
>>>> tendencies, dating back to the late 19th century. Googling around a
>>>> little, I notice that the term "Marxist methodology" is sometimes
>>>> used to mean "Marxist method," but not in a way that attempts to
>>>> differentiate the two. The news that Ilyenkov never used the terms
>>>> methodology (or epistemology) certainly gets my attention, and I
>>>> will think about that as I study EVI. But until Ilyenkov or Sasha
>>>> can persuade me otherwise - and I admit, I have been finding EVI
>>>> quite persuasive over the last couple years since I discovered him
>>>> through xmca - my perspective is to continue to view the term
>>>> methodology as a property of theory, and to apply the method (or
>>>> methodology if you prefer) of Marxism as best I can to understand,
>>>> among other things, the ways method and methodology are used in
>>>> human affairs.
>>>> Best,
>>>> - Steve
>>>> At 03:09 PM 8/21/2005 +0400, Sasha wrote:
>>>>> Hi all,
>>>>> IMHO the problem of meaning of so called "methodology" is a little
>>>>> bit more
>>>>> complicated than it can be estimated from the first sight. First
>>>>> of all this
>>>>> term is rather new. It was brought into fashion in the beginning
>>>>> of the last
>>>>> century. Neither Hegel nor Marx had ever used it. Certainly
>>>>> Ilyenkov knew
>>>>> this term but never used it either.
>>>> <snip>
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