Re: [xmca] B. N. Belyayev?

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Tue Apr 10 2007 - 19:54:08 PDT

Lets ask Levitin, David.

On 4/10/07, David Kellogg <> wrote:
> 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
> ---------------------------------
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Received on Tue Apr 10 20:56 PDT 2007

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