Nikolai VeresovNote: This is the introduction to Nikolai Versov's book and there are references to other chapters which are not available online.
"For me the primary question is the question of method, that is for me the question of truth…"
From Vygotsky’s letter to A. R. Luria (1926).
"Method means the path, we understand method as the means of cognition;
but the path in all of its points is determined by the goal."
Lev Vygotsky (1927)
During the last three decades the name of Russian scholar Lev Vygotsky has become increasingly known as one of the most important in the history of psychology. Practically all his main books are translated to English and other languages; several international conferences were dedicated to his contribution to modern psychology. The huge amount of literature in Russia and the West makes it possible to speak of "Vygotsky’s boom" in discussing his original impact on modern psychology, pedagogy, social sciences, and the theory of science, epistemology, and the methodology of cognition.
Thus, several historical biographical investigations must be mentioned (Cole & Scribner 1978, Kozulin 1990, A. Leont'ev 1990, 1996, Newman & Holsman 1993, Radzikhovskii 1979b, Radzikhovskii & Khomskaya 1981, Shchedrovitskii 1992, Van der Veer & Valsiner 1991, Yaroshevsky 1989, 1993). Together with memories of A. Luria and A. N. Leont'ev (Leont'ev 1982, 1989, Leont'ev & Luria 1968, Luria 1979, 1982) who were the closest associates of Vygotsky, these works present quite a detailed picture of the history of his scientific ideas. There are several works specifically analysing the cultural-historical theory itself (Elhammoumi 1996, Daniels 1996) and its impact on contemporary psychology (Frawley 1997, Puzyrei 1986, Ratner 1991). There are several works completely dedicated to the analysis of different aspects of Vygotsky's theory (in particular, the idea of signification and the sign as "psychological tool", the concept of internalisation and the problem of the cultural development of human behaviour, the zone of proximal development (Bruner 1984, Hedegaard 1992, Smagorinsky 1995, Wertsch 1991), and the principal idea of the unit of meaning and sense in the structure of consciousness), and their concrete applications (Berk & Winsler 1995, Daniels 1994, Dixon-Krauss 1996, Hautamäki 1982, Minick 1987, Moll 1992, Ratner 1991, Rogoff & Wertsch 1984, Scribner & Cole 1981, Van der Veer 1994, Wertsch 1985a, Wertsch et al. 1995, Wertsch & Sohner 1995).
The cultural-historical theory was created in theoretical dialogue and polemics with different philosophical and psychological approaches contemporary to Vygotsky. So, the relations of Vygotsky's works with the philosophy and method of Marxism (Atramonov 1994, Davydov & Radzikhovskii 1985, Lee 1985, Wertsch 1981, 1983, 1985b, Yaroshevsky 1992), the psychoanalysis (Etkind 1993, 1994, Pesic & Baucal 1996, Wilson & Weinstein 1992, 1996), the theory of J. Piaget (Glassman 1994, Glick 1983, Howe 1996, Tudge & Rogoff 1989, Tryphon & Voneche 1996), A. Bandura (Tudge & Winerhoff 1993), H. Wallon (Netshine-Grynberg 1991, 1995), J. Gibson (Still & Costal 1991, Wosniak 1992), G. H. Mead (Vocate 1994, Markova 1990, Gellantly et al. 1989) and E. Erikson (Penuel & Wertsch 1995) remain in the centre of discussions. Practically all investigators of Vygotsky agree that the cultural-historical theory was the theory of the development of consciousness, and the idea of monistic mediated determination radically separates this theory from the traditional dualistic reflexological formula, based on the postulate of immediacy (look, for example, Davydov & Radzikhovskii 1985, 57, Yaroshevsky, 1989, 284-286). As for methodological works, I can say that the comparative analysis of the cultural-historical theory’s principles (the principle of mediation and of object-relatedness, the postulate of activity, the principle of analysis by units and so on) with traditional principles and postulates of psychological schools contemporary with Vygotsky is also quite widely presented in scientific literature (Asmolov 1986-1987, Bozhovich 1977, Radzikovskii 1990, Zinchenko 1985 and others).
All this creates the "classical picture" of Vygotsky's views on the development of mind. The latest literature did not bring any principal new colours to this picture: Vygotsky is represented as one of the classical figures in a history of psychology (Papadopoulos 1996, Umrikhin 1997). The cultural historical theory is seen as the basis for concrete researches, for example in a zone of proximal development (Sinha-Christopher 1996, Fogel et al. 1997, Cox & Lightfoot 1997).
The situation looks so that as though it were not possible to say anything really new about Vygotsky’s theory. On the other hand, there are several items that still remain on the "periphery" of discussions. The first of them is the problem of the pre-history of the cultural-historical theory of development of higher psychological functions. In comparison with widespread discussions in the literature of the "classical" Moscow period of 1928-1934, the period when the cultural-historical approach appeared, the previous stages of the development of Vygotsky’s theoretical views are mostly presented as something secondary, having no significance of its own. The literature dedicated to that period looks like the combination of commentaries, controversial opinions, fragmentary explanations with different obvious misunderstandings and certain chronological and factual mistakes (for details see Chapters II and III). But the appearance of the cultural-historical theory was predetermined by the previous periods of scientific evolution of Vygotsky’s theoretical and methodological views.
Questions for discussion and investigations are: what contradictions of "classical" psychological disciplines (and, probably, contradictions of his own views) Vygotsky-the scientist tried to overcome in creating the cultural-historical approach, why and by what he was not satisfied and, finally, why he considered the cultural-historical approach as something that was necessary for contemporary psychology? What sorts of psychological problems the theory was created to solve and why were the classical psychological theories not able to solve these problems? What task led Vygotsky in his scientific search?
To answer these questions and, therefore, to define what was the alternative that Vygotsky presented, we must investigate the pre-history of the cultural-historical approach as it was presented in Vygotsky’s books, unpublished manuscripts and articles. This task is the task of reconstructing the path Vygotsky undertook opening and overcoming traditional contradictions in psychology and establishing new theoretical models and concepts, making what is known as the cultural-historical theory. It goes without saying that without this reconstruction the understanding of Vygotsky (that remains as one of the most acute for modern investigators) seems to be artificial and hopeless.
This task predetermined the present study.
Among different requirements for the analysis of any scientific theory, its original contribution and its explanatory potential, there are at least two aspects of principal importance. The first of these aspects is the requirement to analyse the given theory, its conceptual apparatus, its system of notions and explanatory principles in comparison with other contemporary theories within the framework of the general course of scientific cognition. In such a type of approach the merits and, consequently, the place and the role of the analysed theory become clearer. On the other hand, this approach gives some opportunities to see the perspectives of analysed theory - the perspectives which are very often "hidden" in the theory waiting their time to be opened and developed.
The second of these requirements concerns the analysis of the theory in its own development. The analysis of the theory from the point of view of its own theoretical positions, fundamental ideas and principles as well as relations and connections between them (let us call it "structural" analysis) is important and even necessary. On the other hand, this way is not the only one which is possible. What is also important and necessary is that we must reconstruct such relations and connections in their development, in particular, asking when and for what explanatory task and with what aims they were worked out, how they appeared and perhaps replaced each other, what was the internal logic of their appearance, what contradictions they are able to solve and what those solutions were. Basic ideas, explanatory principles and a system of notions together with the conceptual apparatus constitute the theory, but theories do not appear at once as a whole. Everything needs time and the creation of a new theory is not a free game of a lonely mind; it appears gradually, very often in a complicated process of controversial and even dramatic searches. Very often these searches, these achievements and the process of the development of the theory to its final form are not evident. That is why traditionally the scientific theories are analysed mostly from the angle of their structure. However, it seems to be clear enough, that without all these components in analysis the adequate and correct structural approach is hardly possible. Moreover, without this second aspect of analysis, we cannot say that the first of these aspects are completely fulfilled.
In the case of the cultural-historical theory of the development of higher psychological functions created by L. Vygotsky there appear to be the situation, which looks as though that there are a huge number of studies about the relations, connections and principal theoretical differences of this theory and other psychological approaches. On the other hand, there are a great number of works (theoretical, methodological and historical ones) that belong to the type of analysis I defined as "structural". All basic ideas, fundamental positions and notions of Vygotsky’s theory are discovered in modern psychological literature in their relations and mutual determinations. All this makes it possible to describe the cultural-historical approach as one of the classical psychological theories of 20th century. On the other hand, in the case of Vygotsky's theory we have a typical example of how long, complicated and controversial the way to this theory was. The cultural-historical approach was created gradually, step by step, and even stage by stage. Some of the ideas that traditionally are attributed to this theory (in particular, the principle of mediation and the idea of sign), originally were worked out before the theory itself and on the basis of different theoretical models Vygotsky followed. Moreover, some principal concepts Vygotsky used (in particular, the concept of consciousness and the concept of activity) changed their content and meaning at different stages so that the researcher must frequently take into consideration in what concrete sense Vygotsky used those concepts in different works. Without this historical reconstruction of the changes of meanings of concepts and terms an adequate structural analysis of cultural-historical theory is not possible. Briefly speaking, an adequate analysis of the place and the role, the significance and the original impact of Vygotsky's approach to world psychology is not possible without an analysis of the way he moved towards the cultural-historical theory. The understanding of the result is not complete without the understanding of the path to the result. It is true not only because the result (the theory or approach) is an inseparable part of that path, it is true also because in this particular case the main achievements of the cultural-historical approach were rooted in and determined by previous periods of Vygotsky’s theoretical work. If we accept the cultural-historical theory as a certain system of those achievements it will be clear then that the structure of the theory and the connections between its explanatory principles, notions, concepts and the terminological apparatus cannot be understood without the analysis of those previous stages on the path to the cultural-historical theory.
Unfortunately, in comparison with the cultural-historical theory itself, the previous stages of Vygotsky’s theoretical work have not been investigated and presented in the modern literature so well. In my opinion, this brings some misunderstandings and even mistakes not only to the interpretation of the previous periods of Vygotsky’s work and to the explanation of the theoretical positions he followed "on the road to his theory", but to the interpretation of the cultural-historical theory itself.
These circumstances focussed the present study. The leading idea of the book was to discover and reconstruct the essence and the content of different stages of Vygotsky’s creative evolution before the cultural-historical approach, to analyse the theoretical positions and explanatory models he followed, to trace the occurrence (and the logic of this occurrence) of the main notions and concepts and, consequently, the occurrence of the cultural-historical theory itself. In my opinion this type of analysis will help to understand not only the explanatory potential and the heuristic force of Vygotsky’s approach, but also will help to define the place of that theory among the main psychological schools of 20th century. I hope that this kind of analysis will bring an opportunity not only for an understanding of what alternative to main psychological schools the cultural-historical theory was, but also to understand on what classical traditions of theorising it was based. So, the specific tasks of the study predetermined the methodology I followed in the book.
The subtitle of the book is "historical and methodological analysis". I must, therefore, explain what I mean by this. Every historical analysis must contain not only the reconstruction of historical events and certain circumstances; the first problem here is the problem of the adequate division of investigated matter into periods (periodisation), and the other one is the problem of finding and evidencing the criteria of such periodisation. In the case of Vygotsky (as in many other cases) each stage was signified with internal contradictions and the solutions to those contradictions mostly predetermined the next stages; in the case of Vygotsky (unlike in many other cases) it seems that he himself understood those contradictions more and deeper than anybody else. We could even say that those contradictions were rooted in the very methodology of the analysis of problems, and this means that the adequate reconstruction of different periods of development of Vygotsky’s views before the cultural-historical theory (and, probably, within this theory) is not possible without methodological analysis of Vygotsky’s works and theoretical models in 1917-1927. So, historical analysis as an analysis of the development of ideas cannot be separated from the methodological analysis of these ideas.
Analysing the literature dedicated to Vygotsky we can find different attempts at such kinds of periodisation based on different criteria. Thus, one of the similar features of such different researches as the books of M. Yaroshevsky (Yaroshevsky 1989, 1993) and A. Kozulin (Kozulin 1990) is that the historical analysis of the development (or, by A. Kozulin’s words, the biography) of Vygotsky’s ideas is presented in accordance with some biographical facts and circumstances. According to this approach, there were no leading or through idea in Vygotsky’s search; at any rate this idea is not even mentioned in these books, or presented as something secondary and artificial in principle. Of course, from the historical standpoint, such division of Vygotsky’s theoretical development into periods looks obvious. On the other hand, I must say that, first, it is also obvious that the stages of development of his theoretical views did not completely correspond with the stages of his scientific career. Moreover, such principle of presenting the evolution of Vygotsky’s approach creates obvious historical and methodological mistakes. For instance, analysing Vygotsky’s Psychology of Art, A. Kozulin discussed the idea of "psychological tools" (Kozulin, 1990, 45-46). But the careful analysis of that book of Vygotsky's shows that the concept or notion and even the term of "psychological tool" were not used in Psychology of Art and the theoretical basis of the book was quite reflexological (for more details see Chapter II).
On the other hand, in the book of M. Yaroshevsky we can find something absolutely opposite. Discussing Vygotsky’s "Historical Sense of Psychological Crisis", he mentioned that realising that reflexology did not have the potential to explain the social and historical regulation of the human psyche, Vygotsky begun searching in a fundamentally new direction, which was conceived as persistently implementing the principles of "natural-scientific knowledge-causality (determinism) and the objective method" (Yaroshevsky 1989, 195). From here it follows logically that Vygotsky rejected reflexology in 1927. I must say on this that such an assertion does not correspond with the texts of Vygotsky himself. Thus, in his important article of 1925 "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour" Vygotsky strictly criticised the idea of reflex and reflexology as such and presented the scientific programme (working hypothesis) of the study of consciousness (Vygotsky 1979, 10-12, Vygotsky 1982, 82-83). Furthermore, this behaviouristic model was the theoretical basis of Vygotsky’s defectological articles of 1925-1927 (Vygotsky 1983, 34-49, 49-62). So, in the book of M. Yaroshevsky, the period of 1925-1927 was not only missed historically and biographically, but is absolutely missed methodologically; at any rate, the attempt of Vygotsky to find the social behaviourism as a "third way" in psychology, was not presented and even discussed (see Chapter IV).
All this means that first of all we must find the certain leading idea, leading task of Vygotsky-the researcher, the task which shows different periods of his work as attempts to solve this task. Taking this task into account we will find the logic of overall development. Otherwise we will get no more than explanations of Vygotsky’s development as sudden laps and inexplicable "jumps" from one psychological problem to another (from pedagogical psychology to the psychology of art, from the psychology of the abnormal child to the methodological analysis of crisis in psychology, from the problems of paedology to the development of thinking, etc.).
In modern literature we can find such approaches based on the theoretical rather than biographical criteria. One of these approaches established by the works of A. N. Leont’ev (Leont'ev 1982, 1989) and, partly, by A. N. Leont'ev and A. R. Luria (Leont'ev & Luria 1968) presents Vygotsky as a founder or "scientific father" and even as the first representative of activity-oriented approach in psychology. This point of view dominated Soviet literature and was strictly shared by leading researchers of Vygotsky in the West (look for instance Wertsch 1981, 1985a, 1985b, 1985c). However, this picture that is in some sense absolutely correct methodologically (no one can be under any doubt that the cultural-historical theory of Vygotsky was one of the theoretical and methodological sources of the psychological theory of activity) is not completely correct historically.
I will illustrate this by two examples. The first of these examples is a terminological one; I mean the term activity. In his works A. N. Leont'ev stressed that the term activity (deyatelnost) is the central concept of activity-oriented approach. According to A. N. Leont'ev activity is the goal directed and object-oriented system of actions of the individual. A. N. Leont'ev stressed also that the meaning of the term activity is very close to the concept Tätigkeit (practical, labour activity of the individual) as it was presented in German classical philosophy in contrast to the term Aktivität as traditional in psychology at that times (Leont'ev, 1974-1975, 6-9).
The point of my criticism here is that we must distinguish at least two meanings of the Russian term deyatelnost (activity). The first meaning of this word is connected with the physiological glossary, in particular, with I. Pavlov's higher nervous activity (vysshaya nervnaya deyatelnost) that had, of course, nothing common with Tätigkeit. I must say, and the elementary textual analysis of Vygotsky's works in Russian shows this quite clearly, that Vygotsky used the term deyatelnost only in this strict sense with this meaning before 1928 (see Chapter III).
It goes without saying that the ignorance of this very important circumstance creates a lot of troubles especially for those who deal only with English versions of Vygotsky's texts. Actually, being well informed of so-called "cultural-historical theory of activity" the reader has no other choice than to understand the term activity in the early works of Vygotsky in accordance with A. N. Leont'ev's interpretation which does not help in understanding these correctly.
The second illustration is a mistake of chronology. According to A. N. Leont’ev and A. R. Luria, Vygotsky started to work in scientific psychology in 1924, trying to apply the concept of activity and to create the materialistic psychological theory (Leont’ev 1982, Leont’ev 1989, 24, Leont’ev & Luria 1960, 9). This statement was repeated by J. Bruner in the first English edition of Vygotsky’s Thought and Language in 1962. The problem is that it does not correspond with reality since Vygotsky himself pointed out 1917 as the year he started his psychological work. Now this fact reflected in Russian (Yaroshevsky 1989, A. A. Leont’ev 1990, and others) and in the Western (Wertsch 1985) literature can be considered as indisputable. In spite of this, in the prologue to the English edition of the collected works of Vygotsky in 1987, J. Bruner repeated that Vygotsky’s "systematic work in psychology did not begin until 1924" (Bruner 1987, 1).
As for the Western term "cultural-historical theory of activity" which has no equivalent in Soviet and Russian literature, it can be defined as the "secondary result" of incorrect presentation of the theoretical and historical relations between two different theories - the cultural-historical theory of Vygotsky and the psychological theory of activity of A. N. Leont'ev. Vygotsky himself never called his approach " the cultural-historical theory of activity", but "the cultural-historical theory of the development of higher psychical functions/processes" and A. N. Leont'ev always called his approach the psychological theory of activity. To understand the methodological relations between these two theories is not possible without adequate historical and terminological analysis, in particular, without the reconstruction of the pre-history of cultural-historical theory, presented in Vygotsky's works before 1928. On the other hand, A. N. Leont'ev's theory of activity can by right be considered as one of the possible ways of development of ideas of Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory; perhaps because of political and ideological circumstances in the Soviet Union, it was the only possible way of such development.
Speaking of this I do not mean, of course, that the periodisation I discuss is absolutely wrong. We can say, however, that it is not a great overstatement to assert that these two theories are connected in such a way that what Vygotsky started is the same what Leont’ev eventually came to. Starting from the problem of personality and culture in his earlier literary-critical articles (Vygodsky 1916), he moved to discovering the problems of the development of thinking and other higher mental functions in the child presented in his last book Thinking and Speech (Vygotsky 1934b). On the other hand, starting from the problems of intellectual development of the child (Leont’ev 1932 52-81), Leont’ev moved to the problems of personality. Developing the activity-oriented approach, A. N. Leont’ev was not an orthodox "intellectualist"; one of the main achievements of the activity-oriented approach was the idea of the "world image" he came to in the last years of his life (Leont’ev 1983, 255, Leont’ev 1994, 27). It was not, of course, the backward looking repetition, but on the other hand, that was not a fortuitous accident. The point is that this plane, this dimension of abyssal relations between these theories remains undiscovered. According to the "history versus methodology" principle some researchers, mostly historians, present relations between these two theories as "two different theoretical lines or two different worlds of ideas" (Yaroshevsky, 1992, 94), but some of them, mostly theorists, present them as a process of narrowing, a simplifying of the initial ideas of cultural-historical theory in the theory of activity, (Zinchenko 1993b, 5). So, these are examples of one-sided reflections based on one-sided criteria of analysis.
Let’s have a look now at various periodisations of the development of Vygotsky’s ideas presented in Western literature. Thus, at least three works must be noted here - the articles of N. Minick (1987) and J. P. Das (1995) and the book of R. Van der Veer and J. Valsiner (1991).
In the Introduction to the English edition of Collected Works of Vygotsky discussing the development of Vygotsky’s thought, N. Minick pays special attention to the problem of the adequate periodisation of this development and to the adequate criteria of the division of the evolution of Vygotsky’s ideas. According to N. Minick, the development of Vygotsky’s thought can be divided into three periods (phases); the first from 1925 to 1930, the second which starts in 1930 and ends in 1932, and the last one - from 1933 to 1934 (Minick 1987). So, N. Minick wrote that "in each of these phases, he [Vygotsky] carefully defined a construct which represented his general analytic object (i.e. the 'higher mental function' or 'instrumental act' in the first phase and the 'psychological system' in the second). In the third phase in the development of his thought, Vygotsky did not identify a comparable analytic object, but he did initiate a major effort to describe how psychological constructs would have to be conceptualised and defined if they were to facilitate the study of psychological development in connection with social interaction and social practice". (Minick 1987, 31.) This means that "psychological constructs" reflecting certain "analytical objects" are presented as criteria for the division of the history of Vygotsky’s views into periods. "Three major phases in the development of Vygotsky’s thought can be identified by focusing on the constructs that served as his analytic units and explanatory principles" (Minick 1987, 17). Moreover; "fundamental for Vygotsky's efforts to develop... the explanatory framework were his attempts to establish criteria for defining psychological constructs" (Minick 1987, 31). The merit of N. Minick’s periodisation is obvious; the criteria for the division into phases are found in the theoretical field of Vygotsky’s works. They are not taken "from the air"; they have quite solid grounds.
On the other hand, this approach brings a lot of questions, partly historical and partly theoretical ones. According to N. Minick's opinion the first period (phase) in the development of Vygotsky's thought starts in 1925 and ends by 1930 (Minick 1987, 18-23). "Between 1925 and 1930, Vygotsky focused on an analytic unit that he called the 'instrumental act', a unit of activity mediated by signs that are used as tools or instruments to control behaviour. During this phase...the assumption that the stimulus-response unit provides the common foundation for learning and behaviour in both humans and animals was fundamental for Vygotsky's theory. He argued, however, that speech and other historically developed sign systems provide humans with a unique form of stimuli that they can use to influence or control their own behaviour. He saw the use of signs in the mediation of behaviour as the foundation for the development of volitional forms of behaviour that cannot be fully understood in terms of stimulus-response laws" (Minick 1987, 17.) All this seems to be quite logical, but can we argue that 1925 is the correct date of the beginning of Vygotsky creative evolution? The point is that there were at least two large and important works of Vygotsky written before 1924, namely, Pedagogical psychology and Psychology of Art. We have enough biographical data and scientific investigations that these books were mostly or even completely ready before 1924 (Wertsch 1985, Yaroshevsky 1989, and others). But the problem is that these works that have great importance for the evolution of Vygotsky's approach, are not even mentioned in N. Minick's article. I can suppose that probably N. Minick ignored these works just to distinguish Vygotsky the reflexologist (no one can find the idea of sign mediated action in Pedagogical Psychology) and Vygotsky the theorist of the cultural-social approach.
It is true that in 1925 Vygotsky rejected the reflexology as a way of analysis of higher forms of behaviour. But it is also a fact that the book "Historical Sense of Psychological Crisis" (1926-1927) which reflects very important stage in the development of Vygotsky’s thought must be taken into consideration. That book from which the cultural-historical theory practically started was strictly dedicated to methodological and theoretical problems and the investigator of the evolution of Vygotsky cannot ignore this obvious circumstance. Unfortunately, in the article of N. Minick which is full of references on small Vygotsky’s articles (Minick 1987, 34-36), this large and principal work in the development of Vygotsky’s ideas is not even mentioned. This could be put even more strongly. Let’s take two Vygotsky’s articles, for example "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour" (Vygotsky 1925a, Vygotsky 1979) and "The problem of the cultural development of the child" (Vygotsky 1929). It is clear that having the same subject-matter they are as absolutely different in their theoretical basis as if they were written by different scientists. There is nothing about cultural development in the first one, and there is nothing about reflexes in the second one, but according to N. Minick’s periodisation, they must reflect the same period of evolution of Vygotsky’s views. So, the situation looks paradoxical; books and articles which obviously reflect the stages of the development of Vygotsky’s ideas and its internal logic, obviously and completely destroy the logic N. Minick’s periodisation is based on.
The next question comes logically. According to N. Minick, "fundamental to Vygotsky’s efforts to develop…an explanatory framework were his attempts to establish criteria for defining psychological constructs…In each of these phases, he carefully defined a construct which represented his general analytical object". (Minick 1987, 31.) I can support this just because every researcher must know the subject-matter of his discovery and Vygotsky was not, of course, an exception. But there are several questions to be answered. If the history of Vygotsky’s development was in some sense the history of "psychological constructs" why and with what aim did Vygotsky change "constructs" and "analytical objects" as well, why was he not satisfied with previous ones, replacing them and searching for new ones? If the periodisation does not help to answer these questions and does not correspond with the logic of development of the object it describes, can we say then for what scientific purposes we need such periodisation at all?
Another type of periodisation of the development of Vygotsky's thoughts is presented in the article of J. P. Das. Distinguishing two ways (aspects) in that development - Vygotsky-the theorist (cognitive psychologist), and Vygotsky-educational psychologist who proposed the theory of disability in child development, the author divides the first aspect of the development of Vygotsky's theoretical positions into three phases. The first phase is concerned with the analysis of the instrumental act. The second phase is seen as "transportation" from the traditional stimulus-response psychological theory to a theory of psychological systems, and the last phase is presented as an attempt to explain the problem of psychological development with the concepts of action and interaction (Das 1995). I would like to say here that this point of view has, of course, some grounds both in the historical and methodological planes. Thus, between 1925 and 1927 the basic theoretical model of consciousness Vygotsky followed was the "behaviouristic" one (the analysis of that theoretical model is presented in Chapter III). But on the other hand, that theoretical model was not the first one and Vygotsky "arrived" at that position from that first, "reflexological" one (for the methodological reasons for that see Chapter II). This circumstance must be taken into consideration, otherwise we cannot be sure that the periodisation we make is completely correct. The second point here is that it was really true that the idea of development of higher psychical processes was not the central one for Vygotsky in 1924-1927. During that period Vygotsky followed the functional-structural analysis (which can be called the theory of psychological systems) and the genetic method was not worked out. That is why, in particular, the famous concept of the "zone of proximal development" appeared only in 1932-1933 (more of the history of that concept see Valsiner & Van der Veer (1993)). The change from functional-structural analysis (what Vygotsky called the "analytical" method) to the instrumental method had deep reasons; those reasons were connected with the change of Vygotsky's opinion on the principles of monism and objectivity in the analysis of mind (more of this in Chapter IV). Without taking into account this circumstance we can hardly make clear the main stages and the logic of the development of Vygotsky's thoughts.
And finally, from my point of view, the division of the development of Vygotsky's thoughts into two aspects (Vygotsky-the cognitive psychologist and Vygotsky-the educational psychologist) looks as somewhat artificial and, therefore, can hardly help to understand the logic of this development. The point of my criticism here is that some of Vygotsky's famous theoretical concepts (in particular, the concept of mediation, sign and the meaning) were results of his work in the field of the education of children with defects and disabilities (more of this see in Chapter III). All this shows that this type of periodisation describes the development of Vygotsky's thought, but does not explain this development. We can use such a type of approach if the task is to describe different aspects of Vygotsky's work, but if the task is to explain the whole development of Vygotsky's thought we have to find different criteria.
So, even the brief analysis of the literature shows that periodisations based on historical criteria only are not completely correct (they do not reflect the theoretical evolution of Vygotsky’s thought) and, on the other hand, variants of division into periods based on "theoretical" criteria are wrong since they missed and ignored important historical events, biographical facts and even whole periods of the development of Vygotsky’s original approach to psychology, very often only because these facts, events and periods do not correspond to the presented logic. All this shows how difficult this task is, but it also shows how necessary, important and acute this task is.
Thus, in their book, that is, to my mind, one of the best English books about Vygotsky, R. Van der Veer and J. Valsiner, while mentioning that "it is somewhat artificial to separate a persons life-course into stages" stressed nevertheless, that they have chosen a loose structure within which to work because of "many themes of intellectual pursuit that are dealt with at a late stage have their roots earlier, and there is a remarkable (but not complete) continuity in Vygotsky’s ideas, from the time when he was a young idealistic literary scholar…to the paedological period of his life in the early 1930s". (Van der Veer & Valsiner 1991, 2.)
In fact, R. Van der Veer and J. Valsiner distinguish two main periods of Vygotsky’s theoretical development, namely, before and after 1928. I must say that this is absolutely historically and methodologically correct. Moreover, what we have here is periodisation based on mixed criteria, partly historical and partly methodological. It seems that R. Van der Veer and J. Valsiner completely realised this character of their historical approach to the analysis of Vygotsky’s scientific evolution. "The book is organised in a way that preserves the continuity of Vygotsky’s life-course while emphasising different thematic areas of his intellectual pursuits at different periods" (Van der Veer & Valsiner 1991, 2). Applying this logic strictly, these authors discovered not only the historical but also the theoretical relations and connections of different periods of Vygotsky’s scientific career, which makes this book a brilliant masterpiece of such kind of historical analysis.
On the other hand, there are some "weak points" in this approach; to my mind, these "weak points" are rooted in a chosen unclear mixed criteria. The first question is connected with the problem of the development of Vygotsky’s ideas before 1928. It is absolutely right that in the cultural-historical theory (which was, in some sense, the theoretical basis for his paedological works) Vygotsky developed some of his early ideas rooted in literary-critical period, in particular the idea of cultural determinism and the perception of artistic text (see Chapter I for more details). His theory did not appear as a whole in one day - it has its own history, the history of opportunities taken and chances missed, broken borders and limitations and newly created ones. In this sense he was the son of his time and socio-cultural surrounding. But, on the other hand, some of the ideas that traditionally are referred to the cultural-historical theory appeared before 1928 and on an absolutely different theoretical basis. In different periods before 1928 Vygotsky radically changed those theoretical bases and even the very methods and ways of the analysis of mind as a psychological problem. Moreover, we have enough grounds for saying that some of his famous ideas that are traditionally considered as part of Vygotsky's main original impact in psychology (the idea of mediation, the concept of the zone of proximal development, the idea of the development of theoretical concepts) were, at least for him, no more than certain steps, fragments and concrete applications of his main ideas of the socio-cultural origins of psyche. It appears that Vygotsky was always trying to find the theoretical solution of certain task or problem. We can say, therefore, that the development of theoretical foundations (which predetermined the appearance of Vygotsky’s famous concepts), and the steps, periods and phases of that development was one of the important "hidden" lines of his work. This "line" cannot be ignored and we have some opportunities to reconstruct it. This can be illustrated with one example. It is more or less clear that two of Vygotsky’s books, Pedagogical Psychology and Psychology of Art can be referred to the same period of Vygotsky’s life. We can suppose, consequently, that they were based on the same theoretical basis, namely, reflexological one. This means that we have the brilliant opportunity to reconstruct, to draw out this basis through the comparative analysis of these books. Unfortunately, we have no such analysis even now; according to the classical tradition of dividing Vygotsky’s development into periods these two books are analysed separately. R. Van der Veer and J. Valsiner follow this tradition and the mixed criteria they used plays a very significant role here. Speaking of this I do not want to say that mixed criteria are wrong or that periodisation is invalid. My point is to show by example how this criteria and the "methodology versus history" principle of analysis work in practice. In this case it gives an opportunity for the analysis that is correct historically, but at the same time, closes the opportunity for the methodological correct analysis (comparative analysis of these books is presented in Chapter II).
Concluding what was discussed in this paragraph I must specially point out that my task was not to prove that historical periodisations presented in modern literature are incorrect and even invalid. I must say that the analysis shows that each of them originally and subjectively reflects different aspects of the objective picture of the development of Vygotsky’s theory. Each of these periodisations reflects from different standpoints the contradictory and extremely complicated character of that development. But, on the other hand, the task is not to find Vygotsky’s contradictions and not even to explain them. The task is to understand the objective logic of the appearance of these contradictions. The task is to observe the reasons for their appearance which were connected not, of course, only with Vygotsky’s personal life story and destiny, but mostly reflected the objective laws of scientific cognition on the whole. This task is what I call the methodological analysis.
There were theoretical contradictions rooted in the very methods and initial principles of analysis of mind dominating the psychology of that time. To find these methodological roots means not only to understand what alternative to traditional psychological explanatory principles Vygotsky searched for; to find these methodological roots means also to discover the possible alternatives to Vygotsky.
It is quite clear that this methodological "dimension" of the hidden logic of the development of Vygotsky’s thought is not possible without the historical one. It is clear, on the other hand, that every attempt to explain correctly the development of Vygotsky’s ideas only historically is essentially one-sided and narrow. The situation "methodology versus history" which determines the "state of affairs" in modern literature about the development of Vygotsky’s theoretical views cannot work anymore and must be replaced with the "methodology and history" principle.
The cultural-historical theory was developed by Vygotsky as an answer to the crisis in psychology and Vygotsky like many others was not satisfied with the traditional methods of analysis of mind, he tried to find a new way. But the problem is to understand why he tried to find the new way, what was the general task, the general problem for which traditional classical psychology could not give an adequate solution. Fortunately, Vygotsky had this task; unfortunately, this task remained (and remains) unsolved. Actually, that task was "the red line" of Vygotsky’s scientific evolution and this simplifies the understanding and reconstruction of this evolution. From my point of view, this idea, this general problem and this leading task of Vygotsky can be presented by three key words; consciousness, monism, and objectivity. What Vygotsky searched for was the objective scientific theory of human consciousness on the basis of consecutive monism. One could say, of course, that there is nothing new in this assertion. But it is one thing just to declare and repeat as a common place that Vygotsky was the psychologist of consciousness, and another thing it is to apply this idea as a basis for the methodological analysis of his development. It is one thing to repeat in every book that Vygotsky tried to find the objective methods of analysis of mind, but it is another thing to reconstruct correctly how Vygotsky understood consciousness, objectivity and psychological monism in different periods of his scientific evolution, why he changed his opinion on what consciousness as the subject-matter of psychology is, what really, practically monism in psychology is, and finally, what Vygotsky meant by the term objectivity and what reasons inspired him to change his opinion on this.
The present book is an attempt at the historical and methodological analysis of Vygotsky’s path to the cultural-historical theory as the objective monistic theory of human consciousness and its development, and an attempt to reconstruct the main stages of that path. So, consciousness, monism and objectivity are key words of this book and the reconstruction of relations and connections between these three concepts in Vygotsky’s works is this book’s red line. My task is to prove, mostly based on Vygotsky’s original texts, that the goal of understanding Vygotsky’s way of thinking correctly is not achievable without careful reconstruction of these conceptual relations and connections. But first I will explain what I mean by this.
The main aspects of the method of analysis this book is based on, can be defined as (1) the methodological aspect; (2) the historical aspect and (3) comparative aspect. Of course, they are not separate ways of analysing the subject; they cannot be separated from each other; they constitute the whole method. But here I will present all these three aspects separately with the aim of showing their explanatory potential and their importance. Presenting these three aspects of the method I will also show what concrete results (I hope that they are new ones) I have got discovering the chosen topic.
Among the great amount of literature about the cultural-historical theory and the overall development of Vygotsky’s thoughts there are not so many sources concerning the methodological analysis of theoretical positions Vygotsky followed before the cultural-historical theory was worked out in its classical form. Traditionally, the period from 1917 (when Vygotsky really begun his work in psychology) to 1927 (when the main outlines of the cultural-historical approach appeared) is mostly presented as something secondary having no independent importance. The significance of that period is mostly underestimated and in general that period remains as a "dark phase" in Vygotsky’s creative evolution. On the other hand, a careful analysis of Vygotsky’s books and articles of that period (which was quite long in comparison with the next "famous" one) shows quite brightly that Vygotsky had at least two original and independent theoretical positions on the problem of human consciousness, its nature and the structure. Moreover, during that period and on the basis of those theoretical "models" Vygotsky used a certain conceptual apparatus and fundamental explanatory principles which were not strictly borrowed from reflexology or behaviourism, as it is very often presented in modern literature about Vygotsky, but were created specially for the task of building an adequate theory of human consciousness. I can say even more: that task was the leading one for Vygotsky in every period of his work, the concept of consciousness was one of the central ones for Vygotsky, but, on the other hand, the approach to that problem changed quite radically. So, the theoretical "models" of human consciousness Vygotsky followed in 1917-1927 were created not by the strong influence of the reflexology of I. Pavlov and V. Bekhterev (but, on the other hand, we must take into account those influences); they were created independently as results of his own searches. The conceptual and terminological apparatus (which looked like a reflexological one), and the explanatory principles Vygotsky used were essentially new, and their meanings were not known to reflexologists and behaviourists. That is why the reconstruction of the original meanings and senses of the terminology Vygotsky used is one of the most important tasks. So, the methodological aspect of the method this book is based on includes the reconstruction of the content of theoretical positions Vygotsky created and followed in his research of the problem of human consciousness. To reconstruct those positions we have to discover (1) the terminological apparatus and the corpus of notions and concepts, (2) the types of analysis of consciousness and (3) the explanatory principles, their merits and limits that forced Vygotsky to change them in different stages of his work.
The following examples will illustrate this point. Thus, in the earlier works of Vygotsky - Pedagogical Psychology (1926), Psychology of Art (1925) and "The methods of reflexological and psychological investigation" (1926) - the notion of reflex played the central role. But, on the other hand, what was important was that Vygotsky used that term in its original meaning. First, the term reflex was seen within the framework of the problem of human consciousness. The consciousness itself was seen as a certain complexity of inhibited reflexes. The second point was that the reflexological idea that the structure of the reflex completely reflects the structure of external stimuli was not only borrowed, but also essentially advanced; so, consciousness was seen as a certain transmitting mechanism between one (primary) group of reflexes and another (secondary). What was really new was that the primary reflex was seen as a stimulus for the secondary reflex. That was the essence of the "reflexological model of human consciousness" which was quite far from classical reflexology, but was rooted there (for more detailed analysis see Chapter II).
It seems that Vygotsky was not completely satisfied with that model. In 1925 in the article "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour" he rejected the idea of any reflexological explanation of consciousness turning to the concept of response (reaction). Here again we must take into account the very important point that the sense of that term in Vygotsky’s glossary was not the same as in behaviourism. First, according to Vygotsky, response was not only seen as a basic component of the structure of behaviour, but also as an element which includes internal and external components. That was the essence of the "structural-behaviouristic" model of human consciousness that replaced the previous reflexological one. What was really new and what made that model not completely traditional was the idea that man is conscious because his behaviour is conscious, therefore the problem of consciousness could be explained naturally, by analysing the natural mechanisms of an organism’s responses. It is remarkable, to my mind, that similarly as the term reflex, just like the term response (reaction) was used in different ways and for different purposes than it was used in behaviourism. The analysis I made (see Chapter III) shows that those terms had their senses only relatively to the notion of consciousness and therefore must be analysed only relatively to that term.
These two particular examples show how important and necessary an adequate reconstruction of the original meanings of the Vygotsky’s terminology is. On the other hand, the changes in the conceptual apparatus reflected the changes of the types of analysis of the problem of human consciousness Vygotsky applied in different periods of his work before the cultural-historical approach.
It is well known that one of the main achievements of the cultural-historical theory of the development of higher psychological functions/processes was the idea of the analysis by units as opposed to the traditional analysis by elements (mechanical analysis) dominating the psychology at that time. This point in Vygotsky’s approach to the analysis of mind is substantially shown in the scientific literature (see Chapter V for details). It is true that the idea of the unit of analysis of consciousness (mind) was the turning point in Vygotsky’s theoretical evolution. Nevertheless, what is not shown here is the question of what was the basis that idea appeared on; the historical dimension of this problem can be formulated with the question "When and why was that idea worked out?" Unfortunately, in the modern literature we cannot find the answer and the situation looks as though the idea was created on an "empty place" and was one of the Vygotsky’s intellectual insights. Moreover, according to the common opinion the units Vygotsky selected did not always correspond to the requirements he had formulated. From this it logically follows that Vygotsky formulated the requirements for the units of the analysis of mind first, and after that he tried to find the adequate unit (mediated action, the meaning and finally, the sense). From this it follows also that Vygotsky never used the analysis with elements (mechanical analysis). I must say that methodologically and historically these two assertions are not correct.
First, the analysis of Vygotsky’s works shows that what is now well known as "the requirements for the unit of the analysis of mind" were formulated not before 1934; the most adequate explanation of this was formulated only in Thinking and Speech (Vygotsky 1934b) (see Chapter IV). From this it follows that the idea of the analysis with units had its own history in the process of the development of Vygotsky’s theoretical views. Actually, presenting that idea, Vygotsky tried to overcome the methodological contradiction of psychology - the contradiction between the principal dualistic character of its constructions (based on the fundamental idea of the relations between the individual and the environment as two systems) and the requirement of monistic explanation of the nature of mind. Second, during the period of 1917-1927 Vygotsky, like many others, used the analysis with elements in his theoretical models. For instance, in Pedagogical psychology (1926) the development of the consciousness in the process of education were discussed as the appearance of new conditional reflexes and consciousness itself was seen as a certain complexity or the aggregation of inhibited reflexes. And finally, in the "Historical Sense of Psychological Crisis" (1926-1927) Vygotsky directly wrote that the discovery of the mechanism of a single response was the key to psychology as a whole (Vygotsky 1982, 407). Here the term mechanism was, of course, more than a word. Let us take, for example, the passage from the "Instrumental method in psychology" (1928) where Vygotsky, discussing the problem of instrumental acts, strictly wrote that "artificial [instrumental] acts are natural ones and they can be reduced to natural ones, as any mechanism (or technical tool) can be decomposed to the system of natural forces and processes" (Vygotsky 1982, 104). And finally, in 1931 in the "History of the Development of Higher Psychological Functions" criticising the behaviourist methodology, Vygotsky mentioned that "the psychologist’s most vital challenge is that of overcoming and bringing to light the hidden mechanisms underlying complex human psychology. Though the behaviourist method is objective and adequate to the study of simple reflexive acts, it clearly fails when applied to the study of complex psychological processes. The inner mechanisms characteristic of these processes remain hidden". (Vygotsky 1978, 122.)
All this gives enough grounds for the conclusion that the idea of the analysis with elements (mechanical analysis) was the principal position in Vygotsky’s psychology before 1934 and that the essence of that position was that mechanistic analysis was used as a synonym of natural-scientific objective analysis. It was replaced by the analysis with units when Vygotsky changed his principal position of what could be defined as the natural explanation of mind. Actually, this shows that what is well known as Vygotsky’s "requirements for the unit of analysis of mind" were the results of changes of the requirements to the objective analysis of mind, and, therefore, they made sense only in that context and must be analysed only relatively to that context.
So, the examples presented above show how important the methodological aspect of the analysis of earlier works of Vygotsky is and how such analysis helps to understand correctly not only the development of Vygotsky’s theoretical positions, but the cultural-historical theory as a whole. On the other hand, it shows also that the adequate study of both these points is hardly possible without the historical aspect.
As it was already mentioned, one of the most important problems discussed in the present study was the problem of an adequate reconstruction of the main periods of the development of Vygotsky’s theoretical views in the period between 1917- 1927. This means that it was necessary to discover (and even to find) the internal logic of that development; the logic of changes of the theoretical positions, conceptual apparatus and basic explanatory principles of which the cultural-historical theory was the result. According to this, I tried to find and reconstruct the "moving forces" of that development and the main contradictions in Vygotsky’s theoretical models which were those "moving forces". The detailed analysis of those contradictions is presented in this book (see Chapter II, III, and IV), but nevertheless, here I want to discuss some results I have obtained.
One of the most important (and most complete investigated in the literature) ideas of the cultural-historical theory is the idea (principle) of mediation of higher psychical processes. On the other hand, even nowadays we have no works concerning the origin of that principle. Traditionally this principle is analysed as a certain "object", one of Vygotsky’s postulates, but not as a derivative result of the development of his theoretical positions. It is true that the main achievements of the cultural-historical theory were connected with that principle, but it is also true that the principle of mediation itself was one of the most important achievements in the development of Vygotsky’s theoretical views. This very important aspect remains practically undiscovered. The results I have obtained give the opportunity to trace out how, when and for what purpose that principle originally appeared.
From the very beginning of his work in psychology the main methodological problem Vygotsky tried to solve was the problem of the possibility of objective knowledge of the subjective world of the individual. Taking this into account we can reconstruct the overall logic of his search. As many others he started with the idea that the only possible way of "objective" analysis of that subjective world is strict observation - the method that was applied in reflexology. On the one hand in the "reflexological model" the consciousness was presented as a system of inhibited reflexes, as inner space between stimuli and reactions. According to this model the structure of reaction reflects the structure of the system of stimuli. Consequently, the only possibility for the objective analysis of the "subjective world" was seen as the analysis of the structure of external system of stimuli (words in the analysis of thoughts and artistic text in analysis of emotions). Actually, this idea was one of the main ones in Psychology of Art and Pedagogical Psychology. On the other hand, it was more and more clear that such a way of analysis did not solve the problem. The point Vygotsky mentioned was that consciousness, as a psychological fact reconstructs not only the behavior of the individual, but also the system of external stimuli. That led to the conclusion that first, the structure of behaviour could not in principle be presented as a system of reflexes (even external ones) and second, to the rejection of the very idea of the possibility of any strict observation as an objective method of the analysis of mind. That was the starting point of a new idea of objectivity and the objective type of analysis of mind - the principle of indirect analysis of consciousness and its functions. This requirement was formulated in the article "Methods of psychological and reflexological investigation" (1926). The most important point there was that the method of indirect analysis was in strong contradiction to the reflexological model of human consciousness Vygotsky followed (for more details see Chapter II). That deep theoretical contradiction was "the motive force" for the next step. So, the next step (from the principle of indirect analysis to the principle of mediation) was made later, in 1925-1927. So, we can say that the principle of mediation was not a certain postulate "taken from the air". This result appeared in the "cross-point" of at least two lines in the development of Vygotsky’s theoretical positions - the idea of consciousness and the idea of the possibility of its objective scientific analysis. It means that its appearance was basically predetermined by those two ideas. It means, finally, that the understanding of its original explanatory potential is not possible without taking into consideration the "behaviouristic" theoretical model of human consciousness as one of the most important and the most productive theoretical achievements of Vygotsky before the cultural-historical theory.
The discovering of historical and biographical mistakes in literature about Vygotsky’s life was not the central point of my study. Nevertheless such mistakes very often lead to the wrong theoretical conclusions in analysis and interpretation of the cultural-historical theory (more of this in Chapter II, III, and IV). Moreover, some of these mistakes do not correspond to the evident biographical data. That is why I had to pay attention to them. Some of these mistakes are already corrected (Yaroshevsky 1989, Van der Veer & Valsiner 1991), but instead of this they are widely reproduced in different sources. Some of them are so old that nobody considered them as mistakes. These mistakes and misunderstandings are explained in my book.
First, it is not correct that Vygotsky started his scientific career in psychology only in 1924 (Minick 1987,1); his first psychological book (the Pedagogical Psychology) was completed before 1924 during the Gomel period of his work (for more details see Chapter II). So, it was 1917 when Vygotsky practically started his work in psychology. It is not correct that the article "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour"(1925) was the "written version of a speech delivered by Vygotsky at the Second All-Union Congress of psycho-neurologists, held in Leningrad in 1924" (Cole & Scribner 1978, 5, Cole 1979, 3). It was held in Petrograd’s All-Russian Congress of psycho-neurologists and the written version of that report was published as an article "Methods of psychological and reflexological investigation" (1926). The point here is that those articles reflected different theoretical positions (and periods) of Vygotsky’s work and that circumstance cannot be ignored. It is not correct that the cultural-historical theory was created in 1924-1925 (Radzikhovsky & Khomskaya 1981, 16-17) - we have enough grounds for the assertion that is was created in 1928 (for more details see Chapter IV). This, in particular, means that the researcher must be very careful in citing Vygotsky’s texts of 1925-1927 since they all were based on the theoretical foundations that were quite far from the cultural-historical theory. And finally, it is not true that Vygotsky died "in the spring of 1934" (Minick 1987, 17) and "at the age of 38" (Bruner 1987, 1) - Vygotsky died of tuberculosis on June 11, 1934 at the age of 37.
This aspect of a method I applied allows us to restore the initial contents of concepts and terms and theoretical positions of early works of Vygotsky. This presents the opportunity to show not only principal differences between those early positions and the cultural-historical theory of the development of higher psychological processes, but to restore the roots and origins of this theory as well.
As it was already mentioned in different periods of the development of his theoretical views Vygotsky used the same psychological concepts, terms and notions in different and even opposite meanings. The present book is one of the attempts to compare those meanings and to explain those differences. The following example will illustrate this point.
One of the central notions in Vygotsky’s theory is the notion of activity. Traditionally, this notion is referred to the activity-oriented approach in psychology created by A. N. Leont’ev and A. R. Luria. These three names are so closely connected (Vygotsky-Leont’ev-Luria line) that almost no one doubts that Vygotsky was a scientific ancestor and founder of the activity-oriented approach. On the other hand, the comparative analysis of the notion activity in Vygotsky’s early works shows that between 1917 and 1927 he used that notion in a different meaning than it was later introduced and developed in the psychological theory of activity. Thus, as was shown in Chapter III, in his works of 1924-1927 Vygotsky used the term activity (deyatelnost) in the sense of German Aktivität. The comparative analysis of Vygotsky’s texts shows that by that notion Vygotsky did not mean "object-referred and goal-directed activity of the individual", the analogue to the German Tätigkeit, that was central in the activity-oriented approach. On the contrary, we can say that Vygotsky used the term deyatelnost in the same sense as I. Pavlov and V. Bekhterev used it in "higher nervous activity" (vysshaya nervnaya deyatelnost). I think that this circumstance which does not appear to be important, has, nevertheless, one significant aspect. By this I mean that the idea of psychological tool, which is also one of the most important in the cultural-historical theory could not be worked out before 1927 within the theoretical framework of Vygotsky’s views. This means, in particular, that any attempt to find this idea in Vygotsky’s early works (see for instance Kozulin 1990, 44-45) are misleading and even incorrect. This means also that the widespread opinion that Vygotsky introduced a sort of new perspective emphasising the development of consciousness in relation to the structure of human labour activity (Emihovich & Lima 1995, Holt & Morris, 1993) or that the origins of that concept can be found in the early writings of Vygotsky (Kozulin 1996, 264-274, Nardi 1996) can no longer be considered as absolutely indisputable. In any case, I could not find out in the early works of Vygotsky the notion of activity used in a sense of Tätigkeit. So, even this particular example shows that the analysis of Vygotsky’s principal concepts and notions is hardly possible without taking into account on what theoretical foundations they were based (for more details see Chapter III). On the other hand, the problem here is those theoretical positions must be reconstructed and restored themselves.
The comparative aspect of the method I used in the present book allows us to restore at least two theoretical models of human consciousness as a psychological problem Vygotsky followed before the cultural-historical theory. Unfortunately we have no such analysis in modern literature and traditionally the early writings of Vygotsky has been discovered relatively independently of each other. This leads to the situation that the logic of the development of those positions and their internal contradictions as motive forces of that development remain closed or simply disappear and this creates difficulties in understanding the origins of the cultural-historical theory.
Thus, the comparative analysis of texts of the Pedagogical Psychology and the Psychology of Art (see Chapter II) has allowed us not only to reveal their theoretical unity, but also to restore the essence, the main achievements and contradictions of the "reflexological" theoretical model of human consciousness. Moreover, such an analysis allows us to show the origins and causes, which forced Vygotsky to search for the new theoretical basis and to reject the idea of the reflexological explanation of mind. Furthermore, the textual comparative analysis of two of Vygotsky’s articles ("Methods of psychological and reflexological investigation" (1926) and "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour" (1925)) made it possible to compare the reflexological and behaviouristic theoretical models of human consciousness and to show the principal differences between them (see Chapter III). I used the same method in Chapter III trying to reconstruct the content of the second, ("behaviouristic-structural") theoretical model of the analysis of consciousness Vygotsky followed in 1925-1927. The point of departure here was that the working hypothesis of consciousness as a problem of the structure of human behaviour presented in 1925 (Vygotsky 1925a) was developed in defectological works in 1925-1927 (Vygotsky 1925b, Vygotsky 1983). And finally, the comparison of the theoretical positions of "The Historical Sense of Psychological Crisis" with previous works of Vygotsky's (Chapter IV) allowed us to reconstruct "the motive forces" that led to the cultural-historical theory.
The problem of adequate translations of scientific texts into foreign languages is, of course, one of the most complicated problems for researchers, especially in a case where we deal with historical texts. The most important problem here is how to avoid "modernisation" in such translations. Comparative analysis of some Vygotsky’s texts and their English translations I made (see Chapter II and III) shows that we have some grounds for the assertions that English translations are in some sense the English versions and that they differ from their Russian sources. The incorrect translations of the titles of Vygotsky’s books and articles is not the main point I want to stress since this point was already discussed in the literature. My point here is to show some gross errors in English versions of Vygotsky’s early articles that have not been corrected until now. Some of them are really curious and have no theoretical importance, in particular, the Sahara in "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour" was translated as Berlin (Vygotsky 1982, 84, Vygotsky 1979, 13). On the other hand, some of them in spite of their particular character destroy the initial sense of Vygotsky’s thought. The following examples of mistakes I discovered by comparative analysis will show this point more clearly.
One of the main points of "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour" was that according to Vygotsky the concept of reflex could not be used to explain the nature of consciousness (see Chapter III). In particular, Vygotsky mentioned that "man is by no means a leather sack of reflexes and the brain is not a hotel for conditional reflexes that just happen to arrive there together" (Vygotsky 1982, 81). In the English version of the article this passage reads as follows: "In fact, we are a leather sack filled with reflexes, but the brain is still not a hostel of complex groups, associations…" (Vygotsky 1979, 9). Moreover, in that article Vygotsky used such terms as irritant and reaction. In the English version the term irritant and the term irritation, which is not, of course, the same as irritant, were translated as stimulus. So, this creates some difficulties not only in understanding of where Vygotsky speaks of the object which brings irritation and where he speaks of the irritation as a process, but (and this is the most important point) why Vygotsky used the term irritant. Does this mean that Vygotsky just did not know that term at all then? I can say that Vygotsky, of course, knew the term stimulus and used that term quite widely. But in that article he specially and consciously used the term irritant. We can ask, of course, why he used it, but we can ask this question only if we take the Russian text of the article. Those who use the English version have no such questions at all.
As for the term reaction, in the English version this term was translated in some places as reaction, but in some places as response. Moreover, the term soznanie (consciousness) Vygotsky used speaking of the psychical functions of a special type that the individual can master and control (volitional or, in other words, secondary functions) in contrast to the term psihika (all psychical functions including involitional ones) is translated as mind or as consciousness without taking into account the concrete context. One the one hand, this is not a big mistake, but the problem is that the term psihika is also translated as mind and, therefore, the difference between these two terms disappeares.
And finally, in the last paragraph of the article when Vygotsky discussed the position of psychologists-behaviourists which was very close to his own position as "relationship between reactions" (Vygotsky 1982, 98) it was translated as "relationship between actions" (Vygotsky 1989, 35). That is why I decided to present a new translation of Vygotsky’s "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour" (See Appendix)
No one can doubt that Vygotsky was, first of all, the psychologist of consciousness. "Psychology defined itself as the science of consciousness,"- he wrote - "but psychology says almost nothing about consciousness" (Vygotsky 1968a, 182). But the problem is that in different periods of his scientific work he discovered and even defined the consciousness as psychological problem from different, sometimes opposite and even contrary theoretical positions. We could say that there was dramatic theoretical evolution in his views on consciousness and its nature. In 1915 -1917 his first published and unpublished texts (literary-critical articles and the etude about Hamlet) were mostly dedicated to philosophical and aesthetic problems of culture, with bright and clear but not systematised psychological motifs, concerning ideas of personality and the consciousness. It is remarkable that the term "consciousness" appeared in these texts in a context of the problem of personality and culture. But, on the other hand, the appearance of this term in Vygotsky’s texts was not accidental; the problem of human consciousness, personality and culture was one of the central ones in intellectual debates of that time and Vygotsky tried to find his own original voice. Psychology did not occupy the central place in his mind - we could say that Vygotsky was not satisfied with "naturalistic psychology" with the depths of consciousness as its subject-matter. Nevertheless, that period was important from the point of view of the further evolution of Vygotsky's search. The philosophy of Russia's "silver age of culture" was the basis he started from. Chapter I of the book is dedicated to these items. In particular, it contains three important aspects of the evolution of Vygotsky’s psychological views;
1) the socio-cultural environment of that time;
2) the first influences on Vygotsky’s style of thinking and its philosophical background;
3) an analysis of first scientific works of Vygotsky (literary-critical articles and the etude about Hamlet).
Thus, in this chapter, the influences of the philosophical conceptions of Russian scholar Gustav Shpet and Ukrainian linguist A. Potebnya on earlier works of Vygotsky were discovered. Speaking of Vygotsky’s essay about Shakespeare’s Hamlet, some psychological ideas of that work, in particular, the ideas of the perception of the artistic text and the idea of cultural determinism of the personality and its consciousness are traced out. The importance of these ideas is obvious since they were developed by Vygotsky later in Psychology of Art (1925) and, partly, in Thinking and Speech (1934).
As was already mentioned, Vygotsky started his scientific career as a psychologist in 1917. During the period between 1817 and 1924, when Vygotsky worked as a teacher and the head of psychological laboratory in Gomel he worked out the scientific programme of psychological study, his first, "reflexological" theoretical model of human consciousness. In his texts of 1922-1924 he defined consciousness as the "reflex of reflexes", as "inner space" between stimulus and reaction and even strictly identified the consciousness with psyche. Furthermore, his first book, Pedagogical Psychology, read as a hymn to the conditioned reflex.
Chapter II of this book is dedicated to this period of Vygotsky’s life that is not already well described in the scientific literature. On the other hand, this task is one of the most important since according to some biographical data both of Vygotsky’s main books (Pedagogical Psychology and Psychology of Art) were prepared during that period. However, there is no comparative analysis of these two books from the point of view of their methodological and theoretical similarity. Moreover, in the "classical picture" of Vygotsky’s work, dominated in the scientific literature, these two books are presented as reflecting different periods of Vygotsky’s work. This is one of the many obvious mistakes and misunderstandings of Vygotsky’s works. Because of this, the first paragraph of the chapter is dedicated to the problems of such misunderstandings. The second paragraph is dedicated to the analysis of Vygotsky’s texts, prepared in Gomel and their role in presenting of the ideas developed in Psychology of Art and Pedagogical Psychology. The historical and theoretical roots of the problem of consciousness and of the possibilities of its scientific analysis are shown. In particular, it seems to be obvious that the first theoretical model of consciousness in Vygotsky’s work was the reflexological one.
The reflexological approach to the problem of human consciousness was not a temporary passion of Vygotsky. In the next two paragraphs of the chapter the analysis of the reflexological theoretical model of human consciousness is presented within the framework of the contents of Pedagogical Psychology and Psychology of Art. The final paragraph of the chapter is dedicated to a comparative analysis of the ideas of human consciousness in these two books. This is the first comparative developmental theoretical analysis of those books in the literature about Vygotsky. The significance and the main achievements of that period are that on the one hand, in reflexological methods Vygotsky saw the possibilities for psychological monism; in the requirement of strict direct observation of the organism’s reactions he saw the principle of objectivity in scientific analysis. But, on the other hand, the main theoretical achievement of Vygotsky’s thought in that "reflexological period" was connected with the appearance of the idea of the indirect nature of higher psychical functions. This idea and this new explanatory principle destroyed the initial theoretical basis on which they originally were worked out. This was one of the main reasons that inspired Vygotsky not only to reject the reflexological way of explanation of the psyche in his later works, but (and that was the point of principal methodological importance) to change his opinion on the problem of objectivity and, consequently, on the problem of human consciousness as a whole. Because of the principle of mediated character of higher psychical functions it was not possible to study consciousness as a system of reflexes, even inhibited ones. The situation asked for a different theoretical basis. Moreover, it was that new theoretical basis that made it possible to transform the idea of indirect analysis into the principle of mediation.
The period between 1924 and 1927, investigated in Chapter III, was remarkable because of two important and principal changes in Vygotsky’s approach to the problem of human consciousness;
1) the transition from the reflexological theoretical model of analysis to consciousness as a problem of the structure of human behaviour;
2) the appearance of two principal new theoretical concepts (the concept of cultural sign and meaning) and explanatory principles (the principles of systemic or "structural-functional" analysis).
The first of them was presented in Vygotsky’s famous article "Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behaviour"(1925), the second one could be found in his "defectological" articles of 1925-1927. We must say, therefore, that the main ideas of the cultural-historical theory were rooted in those works and predetermined by their theoretical basis; on the other hand, it is obvious that new ideas were in strong contradiction with the basis they appeared on. All this leads to the necessity of adequate methodological identification of the cultural-historical theory itself. The first paragraph of the chapter is dedicated to this identification. The methodological basis of this identification was the idea of dualism and monism. Within these framework it is shown that the main contradiction of Vygotsky’s views of that period was the contradiction between the task of creating a monistic theory of consciousness and a dualistic methodology of analysis. Thus, in particular, the intervention of the third element (psychological sign) in the "stimulus-reaction" formula, transforming the direct relations between man and environment into indirect ones, changes nothing in principle. Vygotsky’s approach therefore was based on the same classical "two-systems" postulate. On the other hand, the attempt by Vygotsky to overcome this dualistic style of thinking, and his achievements in this way must be analysed more accurately than they are presented in the literature about Vygotsky in Russia and the West. The appearance of these contradictions is in the centre of the analysis of Vygotsky’s works in this chapter.
Chapter IV is completely dedicated to the analysis of Vygotsky’s book "Historical Sense of Psychological Crisis" (1926-1927) as the certain watershed between the earlier works and theoretical models of Vygotsky and the cultural-historical theory. This analysis is not presented from "classical" angle that dominates in the scientific literature. First, connections with previous works of Vygotsky are shown, and second, the problems of relations between this book and the cultural-historical theory are discussed. This provides the opportunity to understand the character and principal achievements of the cultural-historical approach to the problem of human consciousness and its development.
Chapter V, the final and conclusive one, summarises the main results of the study presented in the book, in particular:
1) The methodological and historical problems connected with the stages of the theoretical evolution of Vygotsky’s views were uncovered in the present study;
2) An examination of the weak and even incorrect points in the "classical picture" of Vygotsky’s work.
3) The themes that separate the present study from this "classical picture" and examination of the ideas it brings to an adequate understanding of the cultural-historical theory;
4) The role of Vygotsky and the cultural-historical theory of consciousness as an attempt to overcome psychological dualism and the way that role can be understood from the point of view of the systemic psychology based on the "man-environment" system concept.
In psychology Vygotsky was and remains a man ahead of his time; some of his ideas still await their discovery and development. But before that, they await understanding and reconstruction. On the other hand, he was the son of his epoch - the dramatic and contradictory time of transformation of prerevolutionary Russia into the postrevolutionary Soviet Union. He was, in the full sense of this word, the heir of the classical Russian cultural tradition, and at the same time, one of the most enthusiastic creators of a new, socialistic, one. The drama and the tragedy of that time were the drama and the tragedy of his own destiny. He had come to Marxism and psychology by difficult paths.
Therefore, the understanding of Vygotsky as a man in science will not be complete without an analysis of Vygotsky as a personality in culture. Of course, we can say practically the same about every scholar. But the phenomenon of Vygotsky was that the problem of the individual's development in culture was the central theme of his search and one of the main questions of the time he lived in. My book is not a scientific biography in full sense of this word. I prefer to call it Vygotskian etudes concentrating around the problem of human consciousness and its objective monistic psychological analysis. I do not want to say that the "methodology and history" type of analysis presented in the book is the only one correct way to discover Vygotsky’s creative evolution on the way to the cultural-historical theory. It will be more than enough for me if my approach will be accepted by readers as one of the possible ways of analysing Vygotsky’s multi-dimensional world, which shows how deep and really multi-dimensional this world is.