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[xmca] Vygotsky & Kurt Lewin

Lewin attached

Greg Thompson wrote:
Andy and Michael,
First off, I didn't see where the Lewin article was. Can you direct me to
it or send it my way perhaps?

As for the beef with Aristotle, non-Aristotelianism often refers to a
rejection of system that was developed from Aristotle's work and is often
more of a critique of common sense thinking than it is a critique of
Aristotle himself. Lewin was also hanging out with Count Korzybski who was
developing a non-Aristotelian system circa 1930's called General Semantics.
It is very clear that this was not a critique of Aristotle but instead a
critique of common sense thinking that begins with Aristotelian laws of
logic - something that Korzybski argued was a result of the
subject-predicate nature of language.

Similar to Lewin, Korzybski was developing an approach that was processual
and relational, and which didn't make the Aristotelian (i.e. common sense)
mistake of emphasizing things as essences.


On Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 9:15 AM, Michael Glassman <MGlassman@ehe.osu.edu>wrote:

Hi Andy,

I think the reason Lewin gave short shrift to Aristotle is that he was
less interested in getting Aritstotle right and more interested in
attempting to foster change in the way psychologists and others think by
pushing the Gallilean model.  It's funny, but it seems Lewin was always
throwing things out or picking them up based on the needs of the moments.
 Before 1946 Lewin was committed to social research as a documentable
science.  But after 1946 and his work in Action Research and his starting
of the National Testing Laboratory he said that maybe we shouldn't be
worrying so much about science for the foreseeable future and concentrate
on the processes of change - which had half of his team at MIT doing
backflips, and the other half (led by Festinger) pulling their hair out.

The more I read about him the more I think this guy must have been a hoot
to be around - not your normal academic.



From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Andy Blunden
Sent: Fri 6/22/2012 11:53 AM
To: Anton Yasnitsky; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Systems of
functions, Vygotsky & Kurt Lewin's Uebergang)

Well Anton, thanks to Martin, I have now read the Lewin paper. If Lewin
had sent this paper to Vygotsky c. 1926, I could believe that it caused
some reconsideration in his approach. But you say this happened c. 1930.
I find this odd. The "Aristotlean" features of science which Lewin
critiques I find Vygotsky well on top of at least from 1928. I don't
tend to put a lot of weight on his pre-1928 works and rely mostly on T&S
and the manuscripts of the last period, so maybe I'm missing something.
The critique of "neo-Aristotleanism" applies to mainstream trends of
psychology to this day but I don't see them as relevant to criticism of
Vygotsky. And also, I am surprised that Lewin treats Aristotle in such a
one-sided way. There is much in the very things for which he condemns
Aristotle which were given a rational form in Hegel's critique of
positivist science, but Lewin makes no mention of this. But I had always
assumed that Lewin was a significant source of LSV's knowledge of Hegel.


Anton Yasnitsky wrote:

Yep, there is such evidence. In his letters (published by now) there are
several references to the fact that he had just received
the book from Lewin (i.e. directly from him). Also, here and there in
his writings one can come across references to Lewin's methodological ideas
before the Uebergang paper, i.e. to the methodological works of
mid-1920s that he apparently started reading and--even more importantly--
understanding by the end of the decade. I tend to interpret this process
as truly groundbreaking experience for Vygotsky that started gradual change
his mindset from the mechanicism of his instrumental period of 1920s to
really holisitc psychology of the last couple years of his life. Indeed,
everything was changing
very fast, but that's the way it was for late Vygotsky, i.e. for
Vygotsky from the end of 1930 until the summer of 1934. In terms of
languages, I believe our character
was way more comfortable with German, but I still would assume that he
could read English with relative fluency, too. On the other hand, judging
by the
quotes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, one of the most essential fiction
oeuvre for him, he read it in Russian translation. So, in other words, I am
not quite sure
about English, but given that he directly corresponded with Lewin, the
author could have easily sent him the work in the original, i.e. in German.
In addition, there were a bunch of guys there with first-hand knowledge
of Lewin and his work(s), with whom he could converse in their native
the fact is that three former Lewin's students eventually landed in
Moscow and, from 1930 were working/collaborating with Vygotsky and Luria
too, I guess.
As to Lewin's field theory and its impact on Vygotsky I should say that
as far as I can see it NOW, Lewin's impact, whatever profound it must have
was not too much reflected in Vygotsky's finished work of 1930s. But, in
any case, the fact is that in some writings of 1930s the high frequency of
the use of "field"
in various combinations and diverse phrasal expressions is really
telling. Not to mention the famous/notorious "zone of possible [proximal,
nearest] development" and the
not so famous "social situation of development", the phrases that, to
me, are very much resemblant of Lewin's topological framework.
Final note: the interrelations between Vygotsky-Luria and Lewin-Koffka
are a topic of a research in progress. Something has already been published,
in Russian only, I am afraid, something will be published shortly.


 From: Michael Glassman <MGlassman@ehe.osu.edu>
To: Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com>; "eXtended Mind, Culture,
 Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 7:33:00 PM
Subject: RE: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Systems of

This is interesting.   Is there any evidence that Vygotsky read Lewin's
work on the move from an Aristotelian to Galiliean perspective of
relationships.  It would have been a short window I think, and Vygotsky
probably would have had to read the original articles in German - or
perhaps he just discussed them with people.
Do you think this would have also had an impact on how he viewed social
relationships.  The teaching/learning aspects of Vygotsky are often
presented as being hierarchical in nature, but I'm thinking the Galilean
perspective was Lewin's entry point into Field theory.  Did Vygotsky see
information relationship as more dynamic in his later writings?


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Anton Yasnitsky
Sent: Thu 6/21/2012 7:19 PM
To: Martin Packer; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy (Systems of


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. The idea of "higher" perfectly fit his
notion of "peak psychology" of 1932-1934, but the distinction higher-lower
was gone.
Indeed, the introduction of the idea of systems of functions and
inter-functional connections/relations rather than isolated functions was
instrumental in
this theoretical shift. In a couple of places he clearly states that
psychological processes are not built "in two storeys", but are rather
of more or less the same set of components, well, let's call them
Following Kurt Lewin's methodological works (such as the one on the
transition from Aristotelian to Galileian thinking),
in 1930s Vygotsky gradually revised his earlier naive binary oppositions
and his later concepts, I believe, are better thought of as gradients than
valuative and rigid oppositions.
That's how I understand the evolution of Vygotsky's thought and
conceptual system, at least.
As to imagination, I am not quite sure that in his late texts he refers
to it as a function, although he might well have done so here and there,
given his
fairly inconsistent and imprecise use of psychological terminology. As
to leading, I do not quite recall him referring to any function as leading,
but, more precisely,
I believe he discusses "leading activity", which makes some difference.
In any case, indeed, it is really hard to say if imagination is really a
"higher" hmmmm....
psychological phenomenon, especially so, given its transitory character
in children's development from total boundedness with "visual field" towards
abstract thinking and volitional behaviour. So, it is "higher" than
purely motor-perceptual system of an infant, a prerequisite for
preschoolers play, and,
I guess, from Vygotsky's perspective, might be regarded as not so high
in relation to the "higher" abstract thinking of adolescents and,
obviously, adults.

From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
To: Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com>; "eXtended Mind, Culture,
 Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 6:38:06 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy


Is your point that LSV moved away from the notions of lower and higher
psychological functions, towards that of systems of functions? I've been
mulling over the fact that in his late texts on child development
imagination is a leading function in early childhood, and it seems odd to
call that either lower or higher. Or perhaps I'm misinterpreting your posts.

On Jun 21, 2012, at 8:05 AM, Anton Yasnitsky wrote:

Like I said, I am under the impression that Vygotsky's expression
"higher psychological [mental] functions" for Vygotsky means so many things
(although in different texts authored in different periods of his life)
that it is bordering on total meaninglessness. Therefore, rephrasing our
"everything can be ... higher mental function", no problem with that :)

Thus, if I may reformulate the question, we are looking for the textual
proof that Vygotsky did refer to creativity as higher mental/psychological
function, right, Peter?


By the way, speaking of mental/psychological, here is a funny thing:
despite his virtually boundless flexibility in many respects, Vygotsky NEVER
used the word "mental" (literally: psychic, psychical -- psikhicheskie)
when he referred to functions, but only "psychological". Later on, this
was pretty consistently "corrected" by his devoted best students in
many --but not all--of his posthumous publications of  Soviet period.
Curious detail,
isn't it? A recent study that has been done back in Germany
demonstrates this mysterious peculiarity of Vygotsky's discourse of his
lifetime period
as opposed to his posthumous publications, and will be published
shortly in several international languages in PsyAnima, Dubna Psychological
( http://www.psyanima.ru/journal/2011/4/index.php ).

From: Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 6:23:57 AM
Subject: RE: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy

In any case, in service of the scholarly discussion, I'm genuinely
puzzled by the idea that creativity is a higher mental function, and would
appreciate further clarity to that provided by Anton. Thx,p
-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
On Behalf Of Peter Smagorinsky
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 6:20 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy

My apologies to Francine if my mnemonic sounded snide--I was going from
the pronunciation guide on the article that I had scanned, and I have no
idea of who put it there. With a name like Smagorinsky (which also might be
an Ellis Island adjustment), making fun of people's names is not usually
part of my approach. I'm glad to have the correction. Peter
-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
On Behalf Of larry smolucha
Sent: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 9:22 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: [xmca] Smolucha - pronunciation/genealogy

Message from Francine Smolucha:
I have been a member of XMCA for several years - anyone could haveasked
me how to pronounce my last name.
I not surprised that the discussion of the work my husband and I have
donebegins with a snide comment about our last name.Growing up in Chicago
as a Polish-American, other ethnic groupswould often make fun of your last
name, and tell insulting Polish jokes abouthow stupid Poles are. Polish
immigrants often had their last names Americanizedby immigration officials
at Ellis Island. In order for other ethnic groups to be able topronounce,
and spell a Polish last name, Poles would typically use an easy English
My husband's family would usually say Smo-lou-ka.Some family members
would say Smo-lou-cha.The proper Polish pronunciation is Smo-whoo-ha
(Smolucha has an umlaut over the u).The Smolucha family 'Y' chromosome is
Scandinavian (Vikings who settled Eastern Europecirca 800 A.D.) - we had
the National Geographic Society's Genoanthropology project do aDNA analysis.
When I married into the Smolucha family, I chose to use my married name
out of respect formy husband's family. By the way, my maiden name is Polish
As I have been working on my new paper titled "A Vygotskian Theory of
Cultural Synergy andCultural Creativity", my conversation with a
Latin-American colleague required that I debunksome popular misconceptions
about 'white ethnics.' So I retell the story here:
My own family is 'Celtic' Polish in origin (the Krakov area was settled
by Celts, Vienna was originally a Celtic village). The European Celts
disappeared from history. Poland itself did not existfor over 150 years
(from approximately 1760 until 1918) - while it was divided among
Prussia(then Germany), Austria, and Russia. [The Palestinian loss of
statehood is not unique in history.]One of my great grandmothers ran an
illegal underground school in her farmhouse near Vilna where she taught
children how to read and write the Polish language. The Czar had
orderedanyone doing so to be shot. Her son (my grandfather) had to be
smuggled out of St. Petersburgon a cattle ship bound for Canada after the
aborted 1905 Russia revolution - he was a memberof a student group being
hunted down by the Czar's orders. Back in Krakov, my other grandfatherwas
serving in Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph's 'Polish' cavalry (Austrian
occupied Poland beingrenamed Galactia) -
grandpa's wife was Spanish Hapsburg.
My parents, both first generation Americans, did not attend high
school, instead my Dad worked in the Chicago Stock Yards as a teenager (you
might recall Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle.)My mom was a factory girl.
They grew up in that famous Chicago ghetto known as Back-of-the-Yards.Five
months after they were married, Pearl Harbor was attacked -  my Dad served
in the Army fieldartlllery, doing four beachheads in the South Pacific
(Aleutians, Kwajelian, Philippines, & Okinawa).His unit would have landed
in the first wave in the Invasion of Japan - which was cancelled whenJapan
surrendered after the atomic bombs were dropped. Mom spent the war years
building fighterplanes in a defense plant - yes, Rosie the Riveter.
We come from a family heritage of people who think for themselves and
are honor bound to do theright thing.
If anyone is interested in discussing the Vygotsky Theory of Creativity
that we have been publishing in thelast 27 years, I welcome the scholarly
discourse. In addition to my 1992 Reconstruction of Vygotsky'sTheory of
Creativity, you might read our 2012 publication Vygotsky's Theory of
Creativity: Figurative thinking Allied withLiteral Thinking [in
Contemporary Perspectives on Research in Creativity in Early Childhood
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*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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*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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