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[xmca] Affect Is Not (all of) Emotion
First of all, I want to straighten out a confusion in my last post. Then I want to make a case for Vygotsky's strong anti-Freudian position and his apparently strident championship of volition and free will in Thinking and Speech (especially Chapter Six ). Finally, I want to claim that the key difference between affect and emotion more generally is the possibility of achieving volitional control of affect through the social sharing of a feeling: emotion includes affect, but it's not limited to affect.
Disconfusion first. Mike points out that my last post was confusing because it wasn’t clear what I was rabbiting on about in the first sentence when I talked about how Vygotsky uses the word "moment" for "things" or "aspects" or "facets" (Seve's translation) or "factors" (Minick) or "elements" (Meccaci).
When Vygotsky sums up, he uses "moment" the way you or I would use "points", when you say something like "I want to make three points". When we talk using a powerpoint, there's this very strong tendency to treat the points as separate, as bullet points. And when we hear Vygotsky summing up these points at the end of the first section of Chapter Four, he really sounds redundant and long winded--the points are not distinct or separate, but linked and more or less overlapping. He made all these points at the beginning of the section anyway. Reader, be patient!
But above all let the translator have patience. Hanfmann and Vakar cut the book in half (the first Korean translation, in 1985, was just over a hundred pages!). They thought they were eliminating redundancy. Translators also changed Vygotsky’s use of “moment” to “aspect” (Seve) or “element” (Meccaci) or “factors” (Minick). But Vygotsky's use of "moment" instead of "point" has a point, and it's the same point as his apparent redundancy.
Vygotsky's "point" is, always and everywhere, that the emergence of a function is process, and a process has moments, moments which appear to overlap (but this is mostly because of the vague, imprecise, and slippery meaning of the word moment), moments which are not always clearly distinct (because we tend to treat crises as abnormal moments instead of intrinsic to develop), and moments which need to be described in slightly different ways as they develop (functionally, structurally, genetically).
And MY second point or moment is a resolute defense of Vygotsky's views on volition (against Freud and even against Luria's view that "a mind cannot control behavior any more than a shadow can carry stones"). Vygotsky is really writing in a period when, as Volosinov remarks in his critical sketch of "Freudianism", people have (correctly) lost all faith in (bourgeois) culture, society, and ideology, and there is a very strong reaction against the Enlightenment, against logic and against rationalism. This expresses itself, in Freud, Levy-Bruhl, and Blondel, in the belief that at bottom man is just an animal like any other.
Vygotsky disagrees; for him, verbal thinking and volitional behavior go together like love and marriage and horse and carriage (i.e. not phylogenetically but sociogenetically and psychologically). In Section One of Chapter Four of Thinking and Speech, Vygotsky lays out two distinct lines of development for thinking on the one hand and speech on the other by using phylogenetic evidence.
He also critically discusses the work being done on the “speech” of anthropoid apes. He does not bother to show how they are linked; that is for the chapters to come; for Vygotsky the two processes cannot be linked in phylogenesis but only in sociogenesis, just as the "vocal tract" as an organ distinct from the component organs for breathing on the one hand and eating on the other is completed in sociogenesis and not phylogenesis.
As usual, Vygotsky lays out two contrasting positions. On the one hand, Kohler and others believe that apes have the peripheral “speech” skills for speech (vocalization and gesture) but not the thinking intelligence. On the other, Yerkes and Learned hold that apes have the “ideational” intelligence but not the peripheral skills. And as usual, Vygotsky uses each position to demolish the other and then suggests an experimentum crucis, just as he does with Piaget/Bleuler and child egocentrism and again with learning and development.
Yet in many ways the most important outcome of this section lies neither in these discussions of pre-human development of vocalization and problem solving, nor in the critical discussion of Yerkes and the somewhat less critical appropriation of Kohler, nor in the strikingly prescient preview of the 1960s experiments with ape language. Here we see one of the clearest applications of the general METHOD that Vygotsky will apply in Chapter Five, Chapter Six, and Chapter Seven.
Vygotsky looks for a unit of analysis, which is a process or a line of development rather than a thing (in this case, it is the formation of a mental function). Then he discovers three different moments in its development: a phylogenetic process in itself (vocalization in itself, and practical activity in itself), a sociocultural process for others (vocalization treated as a warning by others, involuntary solutions which are only made volitional by afterthought), and only in the final moment a psychological process of deliberate, intentional, conscious mental activity: thinking, on the one hand, and on the other hand speech. It is as volitional activity, and only as volitional activity, that thinking and speech are at last unified in verbal thinking.
But now for my third point, which is (finally) that affect is not (all of) emotion. We now know that chimpanzees do learn to passively and intelligently respond to speech, and learn it well (say, up to a five year old's level). They do not simply learn vocabulary; they also understand grammar, and the great complexity of commands to which they can respond ("Take the orange and give it an injection with a syringe and then take it outside and place it in a potty") shows that there is in principle no obstacle at all to learning hypotaxis (which is, after all, only an intra-sentential form of the kind of subordination we often find in discourse).
However, chimps only do this in a human cultural environment. They won't do it without us, and they won't even do it with formal instruction (as the experiments of Yerkes and then the Gardners showed). I think this is completely consistent with Mike's work, much of which centres on the crucial observation (made by Kohler in this section) that every test of intelligence is also a test of the intelligence (and the culture) of the test designer. We test designers tend to fail the most basic empathy tests and design tests which privilege our own particular and often peculiar form of intelligence at the expense of others.
So as we might expect, humans tend to define thinking in a way that privileges the ability to think in a manner detached from the visual field of action that is made easy by the ideational functions (the experiential and logical functions) of language (as opposed to the interpersonal ones).
But wait. This ideational manner of thinking is not simply a matter of rational, logical operations favored by Piaget. For Vygotsky, the ideational includes emotion too. The social expression of supra-individual emotion (the kind of emotion we find in artworks, but also the sort we find in mass movements) is no longer dependent on face-to-face, one-on-one interaction and iconic or indexical representation. It cannot therefore be reduced to affective reactions to the visual field.
It consists of feelings which can be and which frequently are fully shared on a very wide scale through language and literature. As such it has all the qualities of social forms of cognition. And as such it must cease to be pure affect; instead it forms the basis of higher emotions, aesthetics, morals, ethics, and eventually class ideology. Unfortunately, the last of these is still the highest form of feeling that our benighted species has yet achieved.
Seoul National University of Education
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