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Re: [xmca] RE: xmca Digest, Vol 75, Issue 8, Re: Bladeless Knives Without Handles (David Kellogg)

I appreciate your well constructed and supported response to David's
questions.  You mentioned that your book is now on the internet. Could you
please supply a link. I would enjoy reading more on your contrasting
Vygotskian "ideas" with Vygotskian "theory".  I don't want to shift the
conversation between you and David, but the place of "history" as it
developed/develops in CHT and how the subjective and objective are
intertwined [withIN an historically emerging process] seems central to
furthering the discussion that opened up when reflecting on Rey's article
and how reflection [as illumination] may also be referred to as diffraction
[as illumination]. Both are metaphors for understanding or INsight but point
to different aspects of perspectival realism. [John Shotter gets credit for
this metaphor as he borrowed it from Karen Barad, who borrowed it from N.


On Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 11:17 PM, Nikolai Veresov <nveresov@hotmail.com>wrote:

> Dear David.
> Thank you for the questions - to discuss the content is what I wanted to
> find here.
> Here are my answers and comments. They are mostly about "Marxist
> and Non-Marxist Aspects of the Cultural-Historical Psychology of L.S.
> Vygotsky" (Outlines 2005, No. 1)
> > > p. 32: “Any attempt to find a cultural-historical theory amidst the
> > > pre-1928 writings of Vygotsky would be futile.”
> What
> is scientific theory? There are different definitions, yet I am sure you
> agree that a theory is not just a number or
> collection of general ideas and abstractions.
> Theory should have (1)the subject-matter
> (2) the system of main interconnected concepts explaining this
> subject-matter
> (3) the system of principles of analysis of this subject-matter (4) general
> law
> (laws) and (5) the research method.
> What
> is cultural-historical theory (CHT) from this perspective? This theory is
> the theory
> of cultural development of higher mental functions of human beings.
> Cultural-historical
> theory is the theory of DEVELOPMENT. All main concepts of CHT are related
> to
> development (zone of proximal development, social situation of development,
> source of development, general law of development and so on).
> On the contrary,
> in Psychology of art there is no such term “higher mental functions”.
> The book
> is devoted to the analysis of aesthetic reaction, which is clearly shown in
> its Preface and subtitle.
> On the other hand, there were some ideas in
> Psychology of Art which were developed by Vygotsky in the
> cultural-historical
> theory later, but separate ideas are not the theory.
> Cultural-historical theory
> did not appear before 1928, whereas some ideas did. That was what I tried
> to show
> in my book (by the way, the book is available in Internet now).
> > > I note that this overemphasis is partially contradicted on p. 43, where
> you
> > > say "We may add than (sic) the cultural-historical theory of the
> development
> > > of higher mental functions worked out by Vygotsky in 1927-1928 was an
> > > attempt to overcome the traditional dualism in the psychological
> explanation
> > > of mind.”
> Yes, let
> us come to the content. Look: Vygotsky:
> “Development is not simply a function which can be determined entirely by X
> units of heredity  and I units of
> environment.
>  It is an historical  complex,
> which  at any  stage reflects  its past content. In other words,  the
> artificial  separation
> (DUALISM in Russian text!, Vol. 5, p. 309)
> of heredity and environment
> points  us in a fallacious
> direction;  it obscures  the
> fact that development  is an uninterrupted
> process which  feeds upon  itself;
> that it is not a puppet  which
> can  be controlled  by jerking
> two strings” (Vol. 2, p. 253).
> I
> think that the idea of the social as a source of development of higher
> mental
> functions was an attempt to overcome the dualism in understanding
> of mental
> development. Of course, the problem of dualism is deeper (it took many
> pages in
> my book to discuss this problem), yet I would like to say
> that in my opinion
> there is no contradiction between these two statements of mine.
> In my book I
> tried to show that to overcome the dualism was one of the main ideas which
> led
> Vygotsky from one stage to another.
> > > But mostly I think the overemphasis on a break is contradicted by
> > > Psychology of Art, where I do find, particularly in the last part, the
> > > eminently cultural-historical idea that art is a tool of social
> emotion,
> > > that art is an individuation of a social emotion in much the same way
> that a
> > > sense is an individuation of meaning. This is explicitly contrasted to
> the
> > > Bukharinist idea that art is the socialization of an individual
> emotion.
> My
> approach is that discussing the evolution of Vygotsky’s views we have to
> have
> in mind the complexity of this evolution.
> Some ideas which appeared in early
> writings disappeared in the later ones and were not included into the
> theory
> (for example, consciousness as the reflex of reflexes),
> some ideas which appeared
> in early stages were reconceptualised and included into the theory (for
> example, the idea of sign mediation appeared in 1925-1926 in defectological
> articles),
> some of the ideas appeared during the last period (for example, ZPD)
> and could not be found in the early stages.
> So, cultural-historical idea of art
> as a tool which you refer to, is the idea, not the cultural historical
> theory.
> I agree, this idea was developed by Vygotsky in later stages, but the idea
> is
> not the theory. There are no theories without ideas, there are ideas which
> are
> not theories.
> > > Again on p. 32, you have this to say:
> > >
> > > “In contrast to the widespread discussions in the literature of the
> > > ‘classical’ Moscow period when the cultural historical approach
> appeared
> > > (1928-1934), the earlier stages in the development of Vygotsky’s
> theoretical
> > > views are generally presented as being of no serious significance.”
> > >
> > > This seems unfair.
> I
> agree. However, I meant mostly Russian researchers of that time. On the
> other
> hand, if you compare the number of publications in English in 2002-2005 you
> can
> clearly see that most of them were about cultural-historical theory, not of
> Psychology of Art. Of course, Psychology of Art was not neglected, I just
> wanted to say that this period was underestimated from the point of view of
> DEVELOPMENT of Vygotsky’s thought. I wrote directly – "earlier stages in
> the
> development" (p. 32). Really, there were not so much papers explaining the
> development of his ideas from Psychology of Art to “History of development
> of
> higher mental functions”, for example. The key word of my message was
> “development”.
> > > a) Why do you think that "Tool and Symbol" is an incorrect translation?
> I
> > > think that all symbols are signs, but not all signs are symbols.
> However,
> > > Vygotsky and Luria are really interested in speech, which is a symbolic
> sign
> > > (rather than, say, an indexical one like a footprint or an iconic one
> like
> > > an actual foot).
> I have
> two reasons. (1) Because the Russian title is Tool and Sign (Orudie i
> Znak),
> znak is sign, symbol is simvol in Russian. If Vygotsky himself entitled the
> paper “Tool and Sign” it should be translated as Tool and Sign, right?
> (2)See:  “basic and most general  activity of man that differentiates  man
> from animals  in the  first place,
> from the aspect of psychology,  is
> signification,  that  is, creation
> and use of signs.
> We are using this word in its most literal sense and
> precise meaning. Signification is the creation and use of signs, that is,
> artificial signals” (Vol, 4. P. 55).
> Please note that Vygotsky uses here the term
> znak – sign.
> > > b) You list as "non-Marxist" influences on Vygotsky the following
> writers:
> > > Florensky, Sorokin, Blonsky, and Meyerhold. That's a pretty mixed bag
> by any
> > > standard: Florensky was a Russian Orthodox monk, Sorokin, if I have the
> > > right guy, was a minister in the Kerensky government and later founder
> of
> > > the sociology department at Harvard, Blonsky was Vygotsky's colleague,
> and
> > > he certainly considered himself a Marxist, and of course, Meyerhold was
> the
> > > founder of the Moscow Theatre and a member of the Bolshevik Party.
> I am
> sorry, I think that it is a kind of misunderstanding here. What I wrote
> was: «It was not only Marxism which influenced Vygotsky» (see the
> first page of my article). “Not
> every thought of Vygotsky could be attributed to his famous theory, and
> what is
> more, there are some traits  within his
> theory, which are mistakenly identified as exclusively Marxist (p.32).
> “Vygotsky’s
> philosophical orientation was wider than Marxism” (Ibid.) “NOT ONLY
> Marxism”
> does not mean non-Marxism. Of course, for Marxists it means “non-Marxism”
> :), but
> not for me, because I am not a Marxist. To say that «his philosophical
> orientation was wider than Marxism» does not mean that he was not a
> Marxist. By
> the word “orientation” I mean erudition, competence, knowledge. By the way,
> philosophical orientation (competence) of Carl Marx was wider than Marxism,
> but
> he was a Marxist, right? As for the list of “non-Marxist influences” which
> you
> find “a pretty mixed bag by any standard” I should say that the list I give
> in
> my paper is here: “Rather than I. Pavlov or Marx it is V. Soloviev, N.
> Berdiaev, A. Belyi and the Russian symbolists, A. Potebnya, W. Humboldt, W.
> Shakespeare, O. Mandelshtam, V. Shklovsky, Yu. Aikhenvald, G. Shpet, P.
> Blonsky
> and many others who form his social and cultural environment and act as
> participants
> in his scientific dialogues” (p.32). Do you have objections?
> > >  But what
> > > makes you think that Florensky and Sorokin had any influence on him at
> all?
> Sorry, this is not the point. I
> wrote that “the view of cultural signs as psychological tools and as the
> organ
> of an individual was widely discussed in Russian non-Marxist philosophy at
> the
> beginning of the twentieth century (p. 45). I did not say that Florensky
> and
> Sorokin had direct influence on him (I think, however, they did). I said
> that “In
> claiming that the use of signs leads humans to a completely new and specific
> structure of behaviour and the creation of new forms of culturally based
> mental
> function, was Vygotsky closer to Marx than to non-Marxist P. Sorokin? At
> the
> same time, in claiming that the cultural sign is a means of social
> communication, was Vygotsky closer to P. Sorokin (who wrote that
> “connection of
> the individuals with the same symbols connects them to each other”) than to
> Marx?
> (p. 45). I also wrote “some traits in Vygotsky’s theory, traditionally
> considered Marxist – such as the concept of the social origins of mind or
> sign
> as psychological tool – also might have (SEE – MIGHT HAVE!) deeper and
> wider
> roots in the works of Shpet, Florensky, Blonsky, Sorokin and Meierhold". I
> am
> sorry for possible misunderstanding, my point was to say that to make
> conclusions about Vygotsky’s Marxism on the basis of several selected ideas
> might be inadequate.
> However, the general question
> of my paper was: “When we speak about Vygotsky and Marxism we should ask
> what
> kind of Marxism we mean? Is it the Marxism of Marx or the diametrically
> opposed
> Marxisms of Althusser and Habermas? Perhaps we mean the Marxisms of Trotsky
> or
> even that of V. Lenin? Most likely we mean the Marxism in the spirit of E.
> Ilyenkov?
> (p. 32). By the way, Bukharin, whose views you see as explicitly contrasted
> to
> Vygotsky, was a Marxist, the member of the Communist Party and one of the
> leaders of the Party, the member of the Central Committee. According to
> your
> logic, if I understand it right, Vygotsky views (opposite to Marxist
> Bukharin’s) are not Marxist. David, there is no canonical Marxism, there
> are
> various and contradicting each other Marxisms and Marxists, including
> Maoists
> and Trotskyites, are permanently in the process of discussion which of them
> is true
> Marxism. I think you agree that my question (What Marxism do we mean?) is
> important, otherwise it does not make any sense to discuss the relations
> between Vygotsky and Marxism on serious basis. Declarations are not enough
> in
> this particular case.
> Thank you. I apologise for my
> awful English.
> Nikolai (you can call me Nikolai if
> you like).
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