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Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Vygotsky's favourite Vygotsky)
- To: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
- Subject: Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Vygotsky's favourite Vygotsky)
- From: Anton Yasnitsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2012 21:37:55 -0700 (PDT)
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All good and valid points, thank you for your input.
To which I would respond that I indeed agree with you on virtually anything that you have just proposed.
In the light of which I would like to present my vision of how I see Vygotsky's personal/professional evolution
in the briefest possible way, yet as precisely as I can:
I believe the main problem with Vygotsky's scholarship is the huge gap between his holistic axiomatic basis,
somewhat reflexological conceptual/explanatory framework, and ambiguous/ambivalent experimental practice
during his "instrumental" period of 1920s. Thus, in his beliefs and general orientations (i.e. axiomatic basis)
he was a scholar of holist orientation which is quite natural for a person with background predominantly in
humanities and literary scholarship. In experimental practice and, even worse, in his theorizing he followed
the natural-scientific trend in psychology. The outcome: best holistic intentions, nice experiments and terribly
awful theoretical explanations that in different periods involved the slang of stimulus-reaction, very briefly--
internalization, in-growing and the like. All this quite naturally created the conflict that Vygotsky realized by,
say, early 1930s, which is reflected in a number of self-critical remarks such as those in his already quoted here
letter to Luria:
To A.R. Luria
Moscow, June 12, 1931
... The fruitlessness of what I do greatly
distresses me. My scientific thinking is going off into the realm of fantasy,
and I cannot think things through in a realistic way to the end. Nothing
is going right: I am doing the wrong things, writing the wrong things,
saying the wrong things. A fundamental reorganization is called for—and
this time I am going to carry it out.
So, in other words, the main conflict is within the system itself: the one between the stated goals of the whole
study (yes, indeed: consciousness) and the unsatisfactory, mechanistic outcome.
In this situation, Lewin's contribution appeared most handy and was most instrumental in rectifying the system.
Thus, Vygotsky was able to adjust and coordinate the three components of his scientific system: axiomatic basis,
theoretical system, and experimental practice. Therefore, regardless of what we today might think about this process
it was primarily in his own assessment that improvement took place.
Incidentally, I tend to agree with Vygotsky: rectified secundum Kurt Lewin, his theoretical system looks way better
than before. Unfortunately, just three years before Vygotsky's death this process was not over, as we can see from
the letter quoted. Such a pity, again. Anyway, from Vygotsky's perspective, HIS FAVOURITE VYGOTSKY is the one
of 1933-1934. Well, yet again, I tend to second the man,-- in this respect, at least...
I hope this clarification might help,
From: Andy Blunden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 11:21:47 PM
Subject: 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:
> 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> *To:* Anton Yasnitsky <email@example.com>; "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> *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.
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
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