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Re: [xmca] Intensions in context and speech complexity ; From 2-?: Zinchenko on internalization and externalization

I want to pick up on a very interesting comment by Dot regarding internalization in her July 23 response to Peter:

"It is the development of psychological functional organs (as opposed to morphological organs) that can be studied as the result of internalization, not internalization itself (although a number of neuroscientists are doing very interesting work)."


I happen to be reading an article by V. P. Zinchenko, "From Classical to Organic Psychology: In Commemoration of Lev Vygotsky's Birth," based on a talk he gave in 1996. It appears in the 2002 collection edited by Dot and Anna Stetsenko, Voices Within Vygotsky's Non- Classical Psychology.

V.P. Zinchenko's article touches on the psychological functional organs idea touched on by Dot, and how it relates to internalization. I will be sharing VPZ's thoughts on this and other aspects of internalization in a series of quotes from the article.

VPZ explains that **internalization** is best understood in terms of the process of **externalization**. This is a potent concept Anna Stetsenko promoted in a 2005 paper in the MCA Journal, which we discussed here on xmca at the time.

In my opinion, VPZ's article sheds rather more light on the core questions involved in the cultural-historical exploration of internalization than Peter's little "romp" seems to. See what you think.


My selection of 12 or so quotes and combinations of quotes of various lengths touches on topics such as:

1. what are functional psychological organs
2. mediation and the construction of functional psychological organs
3. how internalization is intertwined with externalization
4. the basis of internalization
5. some of the limitations of Soviet activity theory
6. some historical reasons for the limitations of Soviet activity theory
7. replacing the concept of "internalization" with "differentiation of movement"
8. the relationship of subjectivity and externalization
9. Vygotsky's concept of the sign and externalization
10. word and deed as equal partners in psychological processes
11. the problem of the naturalistic interpretation of internalization
12.  Vygotsky on thinking and action

1. VPZ explains the concept of the functional psychological organ, first by referring to Ukhtomsky (1978).

"Ukhtomsky believed that subjective, mental entities are objectivized in the "body" of the functional organs of an individual (i.e., virtual organs as particular skills, as opposed to morphological organs such as an arm). These functional organs are just as real as the usual morphological ones. Ukhtomsky (1978) defined functional ogans as "any temporary combination of forces that are capable of achieving a specific outcome," p. 95) or as activities distributed in time and space. He wrote that an individual's functional organ is similar to a dynamic mobile agent. As exampls of functional organs Ukhtomsky mentioned psychological phenomena, such as memories of the past, intentions, and an integral view of the world. He emphasized that these are novel formations [*novoobrazpvaniya*], which arise when individuals interact with the environment, in their activity, as they actively come forard to meet the demands of their environment." pg 7.

"Scholars such as N.A. Bernstein, A.V. Zaporozhets, A.N. Leontiev, and A.R. Luria broadly used and developed the concept of functional organs, or an individual's novel formations. They believed that an individual's functional organs have certain bodily properties, for example, they have a biodynamic sensuous affective "tissue." Functional organs or psychological functional systems should be viewed as matter (tissue) that eventually constitutes the spiritual organism, the anatomy and physiology of the human spirit itself." pg 8.

"In Vygotsky's writings, the term *psychological functional system* is analogous to the notion of *functional organ*." pg 8.

2. VPZ goes on to relate functional psychological organs to mediation, and how mediators or psychological tools enable the construction of these organs.

"Meditation constitutes the very core of cultural-historical psychology. Meditational acts (now being intensively studied by B.D. Elkonin and his colleagues) contain the secret of development, the secret of how real forms are transformed into ideal ones, and vice versa. When objects, tools, and signs are incorporated into natural psychological forms (to retain Vygotsky's term, which he was repeatedly criticized for), the latter are transformed into ideal cultural ones. These forms then acquire an object, tool, sign, word or symbol - related to the instrumental, mental capacity of operations, actions, and activity in a broad sense.

"What does the concept of *transformation* actually mean? Transformation is the process in which novel functional organs are constructed. This process is performed by means of mediators that Vygotsky called "psychological tools," or "psychological instruments." pg 9.

3. VPZ sees that part of the problem with discussions of internalization is how the naturalistic interpretation of the internal (which, of course, Vygotsky directly opposed) tends to dominate discussions of internalization. The process of internalization involves not just moving **in** but also moving **out**.

"As long as we are bound to a naturalistic understanding of what the internal is (that is akin to the Freudian naturalistic understanding of the unconscious), internalization will continue to be viewed as *growing into* emptiness, into *nowhere*. Leont'ev was aware of the flaws of such a naturalistic interpretation, and in his later work he insisted that in the processes of internalization the internal plane is born, that is, it emerges for the first time. However, Leont'ev did not study this process. Nonetheless, what he said is sufficient to conclude that internalization involves simultaneous *growing into* and *growing out*. In other words, internalization should not be taken to mean that activity is plunged into some "depths" of the internal plane. Internalization should not be likened to the Freudian mechanism of repressing memories into the unconscious." pg 15

4. VPZ offers the following summary of internalization, which parallels Vygotsky's concept of the sociocultural transformation of lower mental functions into higher:

"With regard to internalization, the crux of the matter is that in order for a process to grow, and for it to be able to then generate anything new, this process must first exist and go through certain transformations." pg 16.

5. VPZ suggests that Soviet activity theory's concept of internalization was inhibited by a naturalistic interpretation of internalization that caused researchers to ignore some key insights by Vygotsky into internalization.

"A naturalistic interpretation of internalization delayed research into object-related activity and object-related actions as such." pg 16

"Orientation, memorization, decision-making and the like happened to be viewed as representing a higher level, whereas execution and performance were reduced [by activity theorists such as AN Leont'ev, A.V. Zaporozhets and others, see pg 15 -sg] ] to elementary, lower, even primitive processes. Naturally, everybody wanted to do research at the higher levels and abandon the "lower" ones as quickly as possible. Many did so in their pursuit of the theory of internalization, according to which practical actions connect with concrete, rough, visible objects *growing into* a subtle ideal matter [culturally meaningful material -sg], and are then transferred into an internal plane. This view was partly inspired by Vygotsky's division of mental processes into natural and cultural, or lower and higher ones. What was ignored in this approach was that Vygotsky viewed movement exactly as a higher process, similar to the process of perception, memory, and attention, and he also linked movement to the development of symbolic activity (Vygotsky, 1984, p 54 [Collected Works, (Vol 6): Scientific legacy. Moscow: Pedagogy.])." pg 16.

6. VPZ offers an explanation for this narrow naturalistic approach to internalization in Soviet activity theory.

"It is not the fault but the misfortune of Soviet psychology that the concept of "object-related activity" has never been theoretically developed. Pyatigorsky has recently drawn attention to this fact. This task was tackled by E. Ilyenkov [Russian philosopher; 1924-1979] and V. Davydov [1930-1998], and E. Yudin [1930-1976]. Yet, the philosophical concept of object-related activity, as well as the concepts of external and internal, remain [continue -sg] to be implemented in psychology in a quite naturalistic manner. Indeed, why did psychologists (including S.L. Rubenstein [1889-1960] and A.N. Leont'ev [1903-1979]) prefer such concepts such as "object-related activity," "object-practical activity," "object-sensuous activity," to that of "spiritual/mental-practical activity," which would be in line with Hegelian and Marxist philosophy? The answer to this rhetorical question is quite clear from a sociological perspective. These psychologists simply had no choice. In the hostile Soviet ideological climate, the issues of spirituality (i.e., immaterial aspects of reality) were not on the agenda. Instead, practice was placed at the center of everything and was regarded as the origin of knowledge, as the criterion of truth, and as the highest value. During those times, to even introduce the concept of object-related activity was nearly a heroic deed, a kind of challenge to society, a protest against an epoch that entailed a bizarre combination of slavery and empty activism on the one hand, and true enthusiasm and creativity on the other. This concept, however, lost many of its important spiritual/ mental, and ideal dimensions. The "soul" of objects of activity was lost, as well as the symbolic functions enshrined in them in the process of their creation. Even works of art had to meet the criteria of socialist realism and other ideological requirements. As a result, activity had to be characterized not in spiritual/mental, but in material terms." pg 17.

7. VPZ suggests that the concept of internalization can be replaced by the concepts of differentiation of movement, joint action and social activity (which I would like to see more explanation about, by the way). He says that this "differentiation of movement" is not just about **internalization** per se, but also needs to include **externalization**.

"Returning to object-related activity, if we assume from the very beginning that *material* is as much ideal as it is material, as much object-related as it is mental (and even spiritual/mental); and if we assume that movement lives not in its external form, but also in its internal form; and, if we admit that object-related action is not only mediated by external instruments or semiotic menas, but also contains within itself, in its internal form, an image, purpose, intention, motive, word; and ultimately, if we assume that the object-related activity is itself a kind of ideal form - then in this case, the concept of internalization will become unnecessary for theoretical psychology. One should not, however, be too zealous in rejecting this concept even though it is already beginning to be replaced with the concept of *differentiation* of movement, object-related (or joint) action, and object-related (or social) activity (see Gordoyeva, 1995; Zinchenko, 1995a). In such differentiation, the germ cells of mental formations that are present from the start in object-related activity are not internalized *to* anywhere; but, on the contrary, are objectivized and externalized; that is, they grow outward and become independent of object-related activity." pg 18.

8. After quoting Rubenstein, VPZ continues his discussion of the limitations of reducing activity to its components. He points away from this narrower application of activity theory toward the richer prospect of researching subjective, internal forms via **externalization**. He explains that subjective, internal forms of activity can generally only be conceptualized by the person and observed by others **after** they have been externalized.

"Thus, one should not focus so much on reducing activity to its components, but focus on how the external forms are elaborated and how internal forms of activity and its constitutive actions are developed. It is important to note that internal forms represent the realm of the subjective, and yet they resist being described as internal. This is like the situation with a myriad of emotions and feelings, shades of color, smells, and so on, which are so hard to conceptualize. Such things can be conceptualized only after they have been objectivized, externalized." pg 18

9. VPZ continues, relating this idea of externalization to Vygotsky's ideas.

"Such an interpretation sits well with Vygotsky's assumption that through the use of mediators, higher mental processes are brought outwards, transformed into external activity, and that a person's behavior is transformed into an object that can then be mastered. Vygotsky's idea that signs move from the inside outwards should not be taken literally. It is just such literal interpretations that gave rise to the commonly accepted notion of internalization. However, the core of Vygotsky's view is that by means of signs, the mental functions are brought outwards, are objectivized, and transformed into external (more exactly, into observable) actions and activities." pg 18.

10. Turning to the question of word and deed, and thought and action, VPZ suggests that Vygotsky viewed them as equal partners.

"To discuss the problem of how word and deed are interrelated, one does not need to reflect so much on what is at the beginning and what is at the end. Rather, one needs to consider Vygotsky's line of reasoning, according to which the word (thought) and deed (action) appear as equal, both of which are struggling on equal terms. The passages from Vygotsky, cited above, on the relations between thought and action, tell the same story." pg 21

11. A key problem with the naturalistic interpretation of internalization is it does not take into account creativity.

"The largest problem is that the logic of internalization- externalization [in the common, naturalistic interpretation -sg] eliminates the creative nature of the developmental process, without which new formations cannot arise. This logic leaves no place for intuition, insight, and ultimately, for revelation." pg 21

12. I will finish off this long series of quotations with some of VPZ's comments that themselves include some relevant quotations from Vygotsky. The essential idea here is that the internal and external, thinking and action, the word and the deed, are are inextricably co- mingled co-partners in psychological processes, all of which are inherent aspects and products of human activity. The Vygotsky (1983) quotes are from the Vygotsky's Collected Works (Vol.5): Foundations of defectology. Moscow: Pedagogy.

(VPZ:) "In essence, my argument has been the following: External (object-related) and internal (mental) activities are equally psychological, equally related to objects, equally ideal and cultural, equally deserving of psychological scrutiny. The differences that exist between them can in no way be related to the philosophical problems of what is primary and secondary, or to the fundamental problem of the origins of mind. Vygotsky (1983) was aware of this understanding:

(Vygotsky:) "We also know that both types of activity - thinking and real action - are not separated from each other by an impassable gap; actually, in reality, at each and every step, we observer how thought is transformed into action and action is transformed into thought. Hence, both of these dynamic systems - the more dynamic one related to thinking, and the less dynamic one related to action - are not isolated from each other. In actuality, the transition of the fluid dynamics of thought into the more rigid, solid dynamics of action and vice versa ... should and actually occur all the time. (p 249)"

(VPZ:) "Vygotsky (1983) then went on to make this statement even more specific:

(Vygotsky:) "As Schiller says, ideas readily live in harmony with one another, yet they violently collide in space. Therefore, when a child begins to think in a given situation, this not only means that the situation changes in how it is perceived and interpreted, but above all, that the whole dynamic changes. The dynamics of a real situation, when converted into the fluid dynamics of thought, reveal a situation's new features, new opportunities for movement, association, and communication among subsystems. However, this direct motion of dynamics from the actual situation to thought would be quite useless and unnecessary, if the reverse, the backward transition from the fluid dynamics of thought into rigid and firm dynamic systems of real action also did not exist. The difficulty of implementing a set of intentions is directly related to the fact that the dynamics of an idea, with all its fluidity and freedom, must be transformed into the dynamics of real action. (p. 250)" pg 19.

(VPZ:) "It should be noted that in these excerpts we find nothing about external and internal, or internalization and externalization. And the opposition between object-related and psychological actions is not mentioned either.

(VPZ continues:) "Leont'ev went to great lengths to show that the external and internal planes are characterized by structures that are fundamentally similar. Some of his followers transformed this careful formulation into the claim that external and internal forms of activity are identical. Vygotsky (1983) had no illusions with this regard:

(Vygotsky:) "The dynamics of thinking do not simply mirror the dynamic relations that rule in real actions. If thinking changed nothing in dynamic action, it would be absolutely useless. Certainly, life determines consciousness. Consciousness arises from life and represents only one of its varied aspects. But having emerged, thinking itself starts to determine life, or, more exactly, thinking life determines itself through consciousness. As soon as we separate thinking from life, from dynamics and needs, as soon as we deprive thinking of its agency - we thereby close off any possibility of revealing and explaining thinking and its most fundamental purpose, that is, to define a mode of life and behavior, to vary our actions, to direct them and release them from the power of particular concrete situations. (p. 252)" pg 19-20.

<end of quotes>

- Steve

On Jul 23, 2009, at 8:23 PM, Dot Robbins wrote:

Dear Peter, David, Andy, Mike, and all,
Thank you Peter, for opening a discussion on internalization. It is an extremely difficult discussion. Thank you Mike, Andy, David for helpful points.

Well, in being very honest, I am disturbed by many of the claims/ accusations regarding Vygotsky, such as : “Crudely put, the internalization model assumes that the signhood of language units has already been established by ‘society’ and that these already signifying units then implant themselves into the individual’s psyche.” So many points I hope more people will have time to discuss. I am not sure why the word “linguistics” was used. I have never heard of a Vygotskian linguistics before as such….and, the words “language theory” and “semiotics” have taken on an incredibly polarizing position for many….

Clearly, viewing certain aspects of Vygotsky’s thoughts on language within a fragmented framework is something that needs to be discussed in general….it is very sad for me to often see ideas within polarized debates, where, for example, activity is dislocated from signs; or internalization is subordinated to appropriation (in
some cases), etc.

Here, I was especially discouraged to read the few words on Luria….I felt so sad that Luria’s approach to language was not considered in a deeper fashion….I am not trying to simply criticize….but, we must be aware that a very extended reading of Vygotsky in context is so extremely important….it would be helpful to place his thoughts within the history he lived in and was influenced by….W. von Humboldt, A. A. Potebnya, up to the semiotics of Sergei Eisenstein….to then include art, aesthetics, poetry, defectology, etc.

For me, understanding Vygotsky must take place on a higher metacognitive, metatheoretical level….to solve any problem, as I understand Vygotsky, we must stand higher, taller than the problem. There will never be a clear explanation of internalization, nor consciousness, etc. within concrete thinking alone, and certainly not within linguistic theory. I would think that the attack would be against
Western linguistics, not Vygotsky.

If we want to understand Vygotsky’s thoughts on language and semiotics (people do not need to be so opposed to semiotics, because it is not used as a single explanatory theory….however, there is no cultural activity without the meaningful use of signs, etc.), we cannot overlook the theories of A. A. Leontiev. For those interested, please check the Journal of Russian and East European Psychology (Vol. 44, Nrs. 3 and 4, 2006).

Regarding internalization…..many have written on that, and I have as well (2001, 2003), and we need to re-read many ideas of many people. Most of all we must transcend 3-dimensional thinking. There are many levels of internalization (Andy stated this), just like the ZPD, etc. …..And, until we start to view Vygotsky’s thoughts on language from a metacognitive perspective, then fragmented, concrete dialogue will be simple arguing for the sake of argument, in my opinion…it is what we do
with these theories that matter.

If we want to get closer to some understanding of “internalization,” I would think that linguistics would not be the place to go to for answers.

It is the development of psychological functional organs (as opposed to morphological organs) that can be studied as the result of internalization, not internalization itself (although a number of neuroscientists are doing very interesting work).

I will close with a quote from E. V. Aidman and D. A. Leontiev : (“From being motivated to motivating oneself: A Vygotskian perspective. In Studies in Soviet Thought, 41,1991): “It is stressed that the interiorization process is not merely a move of a function from without, but rather the process of building the inner (mental) structure of consciousness. The word ‘interiorization’ should be thus considered as a metaphor depicting the result rather than the process of development of higher psychological functions” (p.
143). ....

Again, I want to stress the need to read A. A. Leontiev and A. R. Luria when speaking of language theories....I have attached an un- published, old paper on Luria, with no time to re-read it, and with no references....the reason I am sending it (and feel free not to look at it) is to simply see the overall complexities needed in a discussion of language theories within the Vygotskian framework.....

I agree with Peter that so little has been written on this important aspect of Vygotsky....and, I appreciate Peter's attempt to push us all in this direction.

With warm regards to all,

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