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Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Systems of functions & Aristotelian concepts)

Anton, it is good to hear that you have been able to determine that Vygotsky was growing and learning right up to the end of his short life, and that he remained self-critical throughout. These are essential virtues for a writer who is to be not only a contributor of epoch-making ideas, but in themselves authoritative.

For a variety of reasons I, along with many others, are much more familiar with the exegesis of Hegel and Marx than I am of Vygotsky. During the 20th century, largely under the impact of the discovery and translation of new texts, and also in response to the needs of the times or to correct previous one-sidedness, both these writers underwent a process that Vygotsky is being subject to. This self-development and self-criticism is interpreted adversely. Along with the publication of certain texts, the world discovered "The Young Hegel" and "The Young Marx" which were in turn contrasted in a dichotomous way with "The Old Hegel" and " The Mature Marx." I won't go into the theoretical disputes and movements which rested on these *dichotomies*, but just observe that in each case there was a real development of the writer's thinking at the root of the dichotomy. But in my view, the severing of the writers' oeuvres into mutual alien bodies with each being given *evaluative* characterisations - "immature," "conservative", "romantic", "mechanical," etc - did a great disservice to the appropriation of the writers' ideas for our times. In each of the cases I have found that the earlier work is an essential means of understanding the significance of the later work/writer. Dichotomies which place diminutive or dismissive labels on either the earlier work or the later work block understanding. A writer is a whole person. Their intellectual work can only be understood as part of a single project (usually, there are a few exceptions) and as a part of their times - their intellectual and social context.

The kind of work you do is of course invaluable for helping people grasp Vygotsky's ideas as part of a developmental process which continues even after the author dies. But I think the severing of a writer's working life with dichotomous and evaluative characterisations can actually be demoralising. That such dichotomies can be based on the author's own self-critical words is neither here nor there. We all have our favourite Marx, our favourite Hegel and our favourite Vygotsky. But we know that what is particularly appealing for our own project was part of a process and is best (even only) understood as part of that process.

Anyway, that's my reaction.

Anton Yasnitsky wrote:
Andy, I regard mediation etc.pretty vague and, therefore, virtually meaningless. Also I regard the whole research program of Vygotsky Circle of their instrumental period of 1920s mechanistic indeed, and this conclusion I borrow primarily from Vygotsky's own texts in which he severely criticized their own ideas of that period.

Finally, yes, I do find the sharp separation of all psychological functions (whatever this means) into either the higher or the lower binary, rigid, valuative, and pretty much Aristotelian, in Lewin's terminology. Under Lewin's strong influence Vygotsky realized the flaw in his conceptual system and made a serious effort at making the transition from Aristotelian to Galileian in his own thinking, but, quite unfortunately, by the time this transition in many respects was made, he did not have too much time to live:
a couple of years, not more. Which is a pity, indeed.


*From:* Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
*To:* Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com>; "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
*Sent:* Thursday, June 21, 2012 10:58:37 PM
*Subject:* Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Systems of functions)

So Anton, you regard mediation of psychlogical functions by cultural artefacts as "mechanistic" and "binary"?

Anton Yasnitsky wrote:
> Martin,
> Right, this is exactly my point: much criticized for fairly mechanistic distinction between the lower and the higher in his earlier work of 1920s, Vygotsky rejected this binary opposition in his later writings of the 1930, although he kept using phrases "higher functions" or, rather, "higher processes" and the like.

*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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