[xmca] B. N. Belyayev?

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Tue Apr 10 2007 - 16:57:32 PDT

Dear Anton:
  Thanks for THAT! That certainly settles when Belyayev knew about Vygotsky: from the very beginning, and from first hand.
  I should have known. Belyayev's book has no explicit references to recently re-published papers by LSV (he was too cautious for that, I guess). But from the very beginning Belyayev sets out a distinction between "education" and "instruction" that is clearly based on development/learning. He argues against behaviorist learning (in terms that pre-figure but actually go deeper Chomsky's critique of "Verbal Behavior") but also against excessive cognitivism (contrary to what some people have said about Vygotsky, he makes it clear that they knew exactly what was wrong with grammar translation). He talks about the folding away of the use of the native language and verbal thought in a foreign language. And above all, as you point out, he argues for the integration of affect and intellect in study.
  Two things threw me off track. The first is a passing curtsey to the "second signal system." But Mike suggests (in "The Making of Mind") that this is something of a cloud of ink behind which hid both unreconstructed Pavolvians and unrepentant Vygotskyans, and your discovery makes it very clear which school Belyayev frequented. The second was some thoughts I've been having about Vygotsky's death (timely, according to Mike), and about his last words (according to Levitin, "I am ready" or "I am finished").
  Mike's argument is that Vygotsky worked himself to death to avoid the purges. This bothers me a little. I can only imagine him doing this if he believed that an early exit was in the interests of perpetuating his work. Similarly, I cannot imagine someone who knows that he has just opened the door on the world's first truly scientific psychology quickly shutting it again and dying with the words "I am finished" on his lips; if Levitin's account is correct then he can only have meant "I am ready".
  Levitin tells the story of how Vygotsky met the purges head on, directly countered the accusations made against him and actually succeeded in winning over his principal accusers, at least initially. One of them oversaw, at great (possibly fatal) cost to his own career, the posthumous publication of "Thinking and Speech". I can see, then, how Vygotsky might have subsequently calculated that dying in the purge would mean his work would never see the light of day at all, while dying before the purge might open the door a crack.
  On the face of it, Vygotsky seems to have grossly miscalculated; his death seems to have merely facilitated the inevitable eclipse. But did it? After all, there was a brief thaw on his work only three years after Stalin's death. Many people who disappeared in the purges did not reappear in print for another two decades. So initially I guessed that Belyayev must have profitted from this brief thaw (his book was published in 1957).
  But now, as you say, the story gets even more interesting. Vygotsky's "timely" death was neither a premature foreword an unpublished book or a successful attempt to move up its posthumous pulbication by twenty years. It was what made it possible for Vygotsky's STUDENTS to keep his ideas alive in a living, breathing, human, social form.
  Was Belyayev one of these? It sure looks like it. As for Vygotsky's last words, I guess everybody knows what they were. They were "Thinking and Speech". (And how they resound resound!)
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

 Get your own web address.
 Have a HUGE year through Yahoo! Small Business.
xmca mailing list
Received on Tue Apr 10 18:00 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Mar 21 2008 - 16:41:48 PDT