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Re: [xmca] "higher psychic function"

Hi Colette,

Here are my couple of cents (pennies :)?) re your query:

1. Please keep it in mind that, as surprising as it may look, Vygotsky apparently never used expression "psychic [psikhicheskie] functions", but virtually everywhere referred to them as "psychological [psikholologicheskie] functions". This is the conclusion I came to in my research, and it was corroborated (or rather predated) by the work of Peter Keiler. Manuscript is currently in preparation, fyi.

2. After 1930 there is no point talking about "higher functions" as related to Vygotsky, because for him the idea of an isolated function in the 1930s is totally overtaken by the idea of "interfunctional connections" and "system of functions". The period of 1930s is dedicated to reinterpreting earlier data -- that of Vygotsky's mechanicist "functionalist", "instrumental psychology" period of 1920s-- in terms and from the  perspective of fairly Gestaltist, holistic view on psyche/mind as a system. Therefore, keep in mind that whatever you are going to say about *functions* might be true of Vygotsky's earlier and immature "instrumental psychology" period of 1920s, but definitely not of the way he was trying to think about human psychology during his more interesting period of 1930s.

3. Finally, speaking of  educationalists, especially those not familiar with the quasi-vygotksian socio-cultural-activity-theory slang, I guess, you might try to formulate, rephrase the phrase in question as "cultural psychological functions" or, perhaps even  better, "processes". This way, you would get fairly close to the original meaning of the phrase to Vygotsky, and, at the same time, avoid either unnecessary functionalism (which was all there in the 1920s, but not in the 1930s), or somewhat misleading "psychic" (which, in fact was never there), 
or obscure and slangy "mediation" and "internalization" of pretty much of "vygotskian", but not original Vygotsky's discourse. Also, I guess there is something immediately and intuitively clear about this phrase, i.e.  "cultural psychological processes", that does not seem to potentially raise problems of understanding among your targeted audience.

All best,

 From: Colette Murphy <c.a.murphy@qub.ac.uk>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu> 
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2012 6:47:56 AM
Subject: [xmca] "higher psychic function"
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

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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