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Re: [xmca] "higher psychic function"

First of all, I apologize for a very long posting, which includes not one but several overlong quotations in Russian and English. I am including it on list (and not off list as Colette suggested) because I think it's related to Huw's remarks on my remarks on the Rose paper, but if I say exactly how, I am afraid it will be even longer, so I will save that for later.
LIke Colette, I have a problem with the formulation "higher psychic/mental/psychological functions". But the problem is not "psychic". After all, Freud uses "psychic" (and apparently he DID mean it to include occult phenomena, but that is not how we understand it today).The problem, and I think Vygotsky himself had a problem here, is really the word "function". 
"Function" suggests functionalism to me, and I don't see Vygotsky as a functionalist. Not only that, in the first chapter of "The HIstory of the Development of the Higher Psychological Functions" (or anyway, the manuscript that has become known as that--there isn't any evidence that Vygotsky himself ever called it that) Vygotsky makes merciless fun of psychologists who imagine a set of higher psychological functions as second stories built, for no particular reason, and in no particular way, parallel to the elementary functions on the first floor.
Но дороги объективной и субъективной психологии в проблеме культурного развития ребенка расходятся при приближении к высшим психическим функциям. В то время как объективная психология последовательно отказывается от различения низших и высших психических функций, ограничиваясь разделением реакций на врожденные и приобретенные и рассматривая все приобретенные реакции как единый класс навыков, эмпирическая психология с великолепной последовательностью, с одной стороны, исчерпывала психическое развитие ребенка
 созреванием элементарных функций, с другой . над каждой элементарной функцией надстраивала второй этаж, неизвестно откуда взявшийся. "But the paths of objective and subjective psychology divide when they draw near the problem of cultural development of the child and the higher psychological functions. While objective psychology consistently refuses to distinguish between the lower nd the higher psychological functions and limits itsef to differentiating innate and acquired reations, placing all acquired responses in a single class of habits, empirical psychology, with splendid consistency, on the one hand, terminates the psychological development of the child with the maturation of the elementary functions, and on the other builds a second story above each elementary function, from no one knows where".
Do you REALLY want two living rooms and two kitchens in your house? Wouldn't you rather have one living room and one kitchen on the first floor and build an attic, or a spacious hall, lit by language, with maybe a library and a few guest bedrooms up there? 
Наряду с механической памятью как высшая ее форма различалась логическая память, над непроизвольным вниманием надстраивалось произвольное, над воспроизводящим воображением возвышалось творческое, над образным мышлением возносилось, как второй этаж, мышление в понятиях, низшие чувствования симметрично дополнялись высшими, импульсивная воля . 
предвидящей. "Together with mechanical memory, logical memory was distinguished as a higher form, above involuntary attention, the superstructure of voluntary attention was put up willy-nilly, above reproductive imagery creative imagination was built, with thinking in concepts as a second floor over thinking descriptively, and the lower sensations accordingly supplemented with higher feelings, and impulsiveness similarly with foresight."
Obviously, Vygotsky doesn't like the idea of "higher psychological functions" in a one to one relationship with lower ones any more than Colette does. It's not his idea, actually; it was introduced by Wundt and it was widely used by people like Kretschmer and Spranger, later Nazi psychologists)
So here's a bit of Vygotsky I have always found very useful. It is from Chapter Six of Vygotsky and Luria's book "Tool and Sign in Child Development", and it's the second paragraph of the first section, which is entitled "The Problem of the Psychological System". 
Если попытаться охватить единым взглядом все сказанное об эволюции практического интеллекта ребенка, можно увидеть следующее: основное содержание этой эволюции сводится к тому, что на место единой и притом простой функции практического интеллекта, наблюдающейся у ребенка до овладения речью, в процессе развития появляется сложная по составу, множественная, сплетенная из различных функций форма поведения. В процессе психического развития ребенка, как показывает исследование, происходит не только внутреннее
 переустройство и совершенствование отдельных функций, но и коренным образом изменяются межфункциональные связи и отношения. В результате возникают новые психологические системы, объединяющие в сложном сотрудничестве ряд отдельных элементарных функций. Эти психологические системы, эти единства высшего порядка, заступающие место гомогенных, единичных, элементарных функций, мы условно называем высшими психическими функциями. Все сказанное до сих пор заставляет нас признать: то реальное психологическое образование,
 которое в процессе развития ребенка заступает место его элементарных практических и интеллектуальных операций, не может быть обначено иначе, как психологическая система. В это понятие входят и то сложное сочетание символической и практической деятельности, на котором мы настаивали все время, и то новое соотношение ряда единичных функций, которое характерно для практического интеллекта человека, и то новое единство, в которое в ходе развития приведено это разнородное по своему составу целое. "If we ourselves were to attempt to take in at a
 single glance everything that has been said about the evoluion of the practical intellect of child, we might notice the following: the basic content of this evolution is reducible to the fact that in the place of single, and also simple, functions of practical intellect  which were observed in the child before the mastery of speech, there appears, in the process of development, a form of behavior which is woven from different functions and complex in composition. In the process of the mental development of the child, studies show, not only does an internal reconstruction and improvement of separate functions occur, but interfunctional connections and relations also radically change. As a result new psychological systems, which unite a number of separate elementary functions, in the complex collaboration appear. These psychological systems, this unity of a higher order, which intercedes in the place of homogeneous, single, elementary functions, we may
 provisionally call the higher psychological functions. Everything said here up till now forces us to recognize that the real psychological formations which in the process of the child’s development of child take the place of his elementary practical intellectual operations, cannot be treated otherwise than as a psychological system. This concept includes the complex combination of symbolic and practical activity on which we have always insisted, as well as a new relationship, characteristic of the practical intellect of man, of a number of single functions and a new unity, which in the course of development is given to this variously composed whole."
A couple of things stike me here. 
a) The first is that Vygotsky uses "higher psychological functions" PROVISIONALLY, probably because everybody else is calling them that. 
b) The second is that they are combined into something he calls a psychological SYSTEM (this is probably also provisional, since it is vague--based on the activity system of Jennings, something Huw helped me with not too long ago). 
c) The third is that as Vygotsky says, it includes "a complex combination of SYMBOLIC and practical activity. Elsehwere, (e.g. Tool and Sign, Chapters Three and Four) Vygotsky gives examples: speech (of course!), writing, counting, calculating and DRAWING.
Now the problem of "function" is really solved: Vygotsky means a whole psychological metafunction, a system, which is historically developed through enculturation, structurally subject to will, and therefore susceptible to structural and above all historical (and not just functional) analysis. 
But with the solution of this problem the word "psychic" once again becomes problematical: we don't normally think of writing, counting, and drawing as psychological functions; they are more like activities in the socio-educational world.
It turns out that Vygotsky didn't really call his great book, found in the fourth volume of the English collected works (and the third of the Russian version) "The History of the Development of the Higher Psychological Functions". It's not even clear that it was ever a single manuscript (it was published, in Russia, in two installments, and the first installment was accompanied by a note saying that the second installment did not exist).
I am wondering what he would have called his book if he had published it in one installment. It seems to me that Vygotsky loved dialectical oppositions in his titles, like "Thinking and Speech", and "Tool and Sign". So (I am speculating of course) I think he might have called it "Skill and System", or "Activity and Volition", or perhaps "Action and Will". And it's the merger an interpenetration of these two terms that takes place during cultural development which Vygotsky called--but only provisionally--the higher psychic functions.
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies 

--- On Mon, 2/13/12, Bella Kotik-Friedgut <bella.kotik@gmail.com> wrote:

From: Bella Kotik-Friedgut <bella.kotik@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] "higher psychic function"
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Monday, February 13, 2012, 4:09 AM

Dear Colette my off-list note returned rejected by your server, so:

I use "higher mental functions" or sometimes "higher psychological
functions", but the first is preferable.
Sincerely yours Bella Kotik-Friedgut

On Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 1:47 PM, Colette Murphy <c.a.murphy@qub.ac.uk>wrote:

> Dear All
> I'd be very interested to hear your views on how to edit/reword/rewrite
> the phrase "higher psychic function" in relation to Vygotsky's CH theory so
> that it be best read/understood/accepted by educationalists (more
> specifically, science education researchers)? I'm happy to engage off-list
> if this query is better treated that way.
> Thanks a million
> Colette
> Dr Colette Murphy
> Senior Lecturer
> School of Education
> 69 University St
> Queen's University
> Belfast BT7 1HL
> tel: 02890975953
> “Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by
> passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so
> entrenched in practice?”
>          John Dewey Democracy in Education 1916, Page 46
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