Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Dialectical Logic of Cultural and Activity Psychology as a Tool to Identify the Nature of Mental Reality

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Dialectical Logic of Cultural and Activity Psychology as a Tool to Identify the Nature of Mental Reality

Article excerpt

The most fundamental issues of psychology related to professional self-identification of psychologists have been discussed at various psychological congresses and conferences as well as on the pages of scientific periodicals recently. Thus, the psychological review issued by the Russian Higher School of Economics offered for discussion the following two related issues: whether it is generally possible to "metacomprehend" the mental reality, as it was cherished by Lev Vygotsky; and what is the nature of reality studied by psychology (Editorial, 2010, p. 74). I'd like to give my own reply to the first question: I believe that the Vygotsky metacomprehension of the mental reality is practicable if we accept his methodological basis for such metacomprehension involving indispensably a certain reflection prior to resolving this or that issue of psychological science. As Vygotsky put it in his Historical sense of psychological crisis, "No science provides for such a variety and plenitude of methodological problems, for such tightly tied knots and insoluble contradictions as our science does. That is why no step here should be taken without a thousand prior calculations and precautions" (Vygotsky, 1982, p. 418). As far as the second question is concerned, I will provide my answer later, once the essence of the reply to the first one is clarified.

General Psychology as Dialectics of Psychology (L.S. Vygotsky)

It is known that in his methodological work referred above Lev Vygotsky sequentially advanced the idea that the scientific psychology should be totally restructured to create a general science, general psychology that is going to be the "dialectics of psychology" (ref. L. Vygotsky, 1982, pp. 419, 420). During the past few decades the word "dialectics" became in Russia a kind of dirty word, which is easy to understand if we consider that many of methodologists link it (without being wrong) to the detested Marxism. But it should be pointed out that Lev Vygotsky treated the task of creating a Marxist psychology as a historical task of psychological science. To him, the notion of Marxist psychology is identical to the notion of scientific psychology in general (Ibid., p. 435). To Lev Vygotsky, "the Marxist psychology includes every genuine scientific trait of psychology; the notion of Marxist psychology is wider than a school or a trend (Ibid.). Vygotsky repudiated the quotational use of Marxism but he insisted that the Karl Marx's method should be used in psychology and that is why he constantly repeated in his polemical work that "psychology needs its own Capital to be written" (Ibid., p. 420). I would not comment here on allegations stating that Lev Vygotsky didn't have the choice and just had to write this way due to the certain historic conditions. Those statements are nothing but naïve.

This was not, however, Karl Marx who had invented the dialectical method he applied while writing his Capital. This method appeared as result of development of dialectical thought since the Ancient Greek times. During the Modern Age this dialectical method was further developed by Benedictus de Spinoza[1], favorite author of Lev Vygostky, and, of course, by Georg Hegel whose dialectical system is so complicated that it takes much effort even to understand it, not to mention mastering it. Thus, for example, Victor Allakhverdov, who I deeply respect, wrote in one of his recent works on the actual crisis in psychology and possible ways out of it: "The time has really come to put a stopper to the phrase-mongering practiced by Hegel and announcing the existence of a very special dialectical logic with contradiction being a norm thereof." (Allakhverdov, 2009, p. 83).

The limited framework of this article does not allow me to make a prolonged digression to the field of dialectical logic mastered by both Lev Vygotsky and Alexei Leontiev. However, I feel that I should say a few words on it since as far as it can be seen from the contemporary works modern authors who write on methods in psychology misunderstand it to some extent. …

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