[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] catharsis and category, OR to hell with "category" as "dramatic collision"! :)

Just a remark, on "kategoriia". The whole theory of "Psychology as drama" that 
Nikolai Veresov constructed is based on the idea of importance and a fairly 
idiosyncratic interpretation of a word "kategoriia" that occurs in a couple of 
Vygotsky's texts of 1930. Thus, I do not believe believe that Nikolai is going 
to easily withdraw from his position that creators of original theories 
typically defend until the last drops of their blood. If I am not mistaken, in 
his presentation Nikolai criticizes the Mind in Society for dropping this 
"kategoriia" word out of the "main law of development", which, by the way, 
Vygotsky quite correctly attributes to Pierre Janet. On the tape, in part 2 on 
vimeo online Dr. Veresov accuses in fatal inaccuracy the translators/creators of 
Mind in Society (1978) and goes as far as to claim that, quoting from the video 

 ...the "Category" is the key word here. If you cut away the "category", the 
word "category" when you are translating, you are just killing the message, you 
are just killing the meaning of the law, of the formulation of the law (18:55 

I assume this statement means that any reformulation of this "general law" of 
development without reference to "category"/"kategoriia" would kill the message, 
not necessarily as it applies to translating from Russian into English, as the 
presenter suggests. In other words, I interpret this as the statement that the 
law without   "category"/"kategoriia" kills the distinctly Vygotskian meaning of 
the law.

Well, fine. Please consider an example. Or, rather, a counter-example. One is 
invited to have a look at Vygotsky ... without Vygotsky :). Indeed so: in his 
seminal presentation on October 9, 1930, in which a new theoretical program of 
research on "psychological functions" was introduced, Vygotsky yet again 
presents this "law of development" (and I believe the restated "general law of 
development" can be easily recognized by anybody):

Изучая процессы высших функций у детей, мы пришли к следующему потрясшему нас 
выводу: всякая высшая форма поведения появляется в своем развитии на сцене 
дважды - сперва как коллективная форма поведения, как функция 
интерпсихологическая, затем как функция интрапсихологическая, как известный 
способ поведения

Same thing in English:

When we studied the processes of the higher functions in children we came to the 
following staggering conclusion: each higher form of behavior enters the scene 
twice in its development--first as a collective form of behavior, as an 
inter-psychological function, then as an intra-psychological function, as a 
certain way of behaving (Vygotsky, 1930/1997, p. 95)


Here it is: Vygotsky without Vygotsky, according to Veresov; or, alternatively, 
the law without "kategoriia/category", -- choose whatever you like.

Another argument against the revelation of "category" in Vygotsky would be that 
the word appears quite a lot of times in the texts of Vygotsky, -- and even 
beside his formulation of general law -- in purely normal, traditional and 
canonical usage, that is, meaning just what it is: a "category". But that would 
be too much: Vygotsky's quote   above without any "category" whatsoever should 


PS For a similar discussion along these lines please feel free to check out a 
not so recent yet unfinished discussion online here: 

----- Original Message ----
From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Tue, June 14, 2011 10:51:12 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] catharsis and category

I should report on the outcome of my investigations of this question. Nikolai 
Veresov and I have met and agreed only that we cannot agree, so, so far as I 
know he retains his position, but I will leave it Nikolai to say what that is. I 
cannot speak for him.

However, I have verified that the word /kategoria/, was translated from Greek 
via Latin into English as "predicament" and from 1580, meant "predicament" in 
the sense of a "problematic situation" and whatismore "kategoria" is used to 
this day in Rhetoric and in a broadly similar sense, but only in highly 
specialist discourses. Not "category," just "kategoria." There is some evidence 
also that kategoria is used in the theory of theatre in a similar sense to this 
day. So, I have to give some plausibility to the claim that the word had such a 
sense in Vygotsky's circle of theatrical friends in Moscow before he went into 
psychology, but I cannot document it from that time. "Predicement" remains the 
technical word in theatre for the situation from which a plot develops, the 
source of the basic tension which drives the story. I have long been of the 
view, on the basis of reading Volume 5 of the LSV CW, that the "social situation 
of development" can be characterised in Vygotsky's view, as a "predicament." But 
I made the connection with a Marxist view of history, not the theory of theatre.

On Catharsis, I have found the source of this concept in Freud and an article by 
Freud is attached. It is called "working through" in this article. Interesting. 
It makes sense.

Thank you Anton, and Huw for your insights,

Andy Blunden wrote:
> Thank you Huw. Very encrouaging. "Resolution" seems to capture a lot of it.
> I have consulted the OED On-line for "*category*" and found nothing surprising 
>about its meaning, as used by Aristotle and Kant and in mathematics, more or 
>less meaning "class" but extendable to abstract concepts. But what OED did tell 
>me, which adds yet another intriguing thread to the puzzle, is that its Latin 
>roots mean "predicament," and in olden days, "category" used to be translated as 
> Now "predicament" here is related to "predicate" as in subject and predicate, a 
>key metaphysical distinction for Aristotle and dialectics generally, but it 
>forces me to reflect on the relation of "predicament" - and therefore "category" 
>- to "situation", as in "social situation of development," which I have always 
>said, based on how Vygotsky uses the term, should be understood as a 
>"predicament," but in the common usage of this word as a situation or trap, from 
>which one must make a development in order to escape.
> *Catharsis*, according to OED is the Greek word meaning "cleansing" or 
>"purging," which is of course what is commonly understood by the word. With 
>reference to Aristotle is means "the purification of the emotions by vicarious 
>experience." Vicarious!? The Freudian usage you referred to (thank you), Huw, is 
>"The process of relieving an abnormal excitement by re-establishing the 
>association of the emotion with the memory or idea of the event which was the 
>first cause of it, and of eliminating it by abreaction."  This sounds very much 
>like how I have understood Vygotsky to be using the term!!
> All that is fine. A true detective story, as Anton says! But what is the 
>Russian word which is a unity of these disparate concepts??!!
> :)
> Andy
> Huw Lloyd wrote:
>> On 9 June 2011 08:24, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net 
>><mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:
>>     I have been watching Nikolai Veresov's videos on vimeo. I refer to
>>     No. 2 in particular: http://vimeo.com/groups/chat/videos/10226589
>>     In this talk, Nikolai is explaining his view of the development of
>>     Vygotsky's theory of the development of the high mental functions
>>     through the appropriation of social functions, and in doing so, he
>>     appears to be mistaking the English word "category" for the
>>     English word "catharsis."
>> I think that there is an issue with the English (Freudian) use of "catharsis" 
>>that refers to expression without genuine influence, which a) I don't think is 
>>cathartic and b) not what was intended in psychology of art, i.e. achieving, or 
>>identifying with, a genuine change (or resolution), even if only a resolution of 
>>a staged performance (identification), or some other art.
>> This notion of "real" catharsis then becomes more related to the notion of 
>> In my studies and thinking I have been happy with Nikolai's use of the term 
>>category and it's relation to stage.  With respect to plan/plane correspondences 
>>there are several overlapping aspects, which seem to be quite precisely captured 
>>by this otherwise ambiguous term (joint context, intention and topological 
>> The dramatic conflict (category) has correspondence with (distributed) 
>>self-organisation.  The social participation of emotionally led behaviour leads 
>>to structured forms of participation, e.g. acquiring new coordinating structures 
>>in the process of achieving one's goals.
>> Huw

-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: 
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
MIA: http://www.marxists.org

xmca mailing list