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Vygotskii, Lev Semënovich (1896–1934)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E040-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

Vygotskii was a Soviet psychologist, the most comprehensive in creative reach and the most influential. Trained in literary studies and originally active as a critic, he took a post in a pedagogical institute and came thus to psychological science, with a special interest in child development. That was the period of foundational debates between rival schools of psychology, intensified in the Russian case by the Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent campaign for a Marxist school. Vygotskii became the major theorist at the central Institute of Psychology. While dying of tuberculosis he worked his intensive way through contested claims to know what mind is and how it acts. His profuse reflections on that large contest remained largely unpublished for decades, while disciples echoed his call for a ’cultural-historical’ approach to a unified science of the mind, and actually worked on the mental development of children and the neuropsychology of brain damage. The concept of ’activity’, which was supposed to resolve philosophical issues, served largely to evade them, while harmonizing with Marxist-Leninist slogans on ‘practice’. Among Western cognitive psychologists Vygotskii acquired a tardy reputation as a pioneer who emphasized social interaction in the mental development of children. The publication of his major works in the 1970s and 1980s revealed a much broader theorist. His central theme was the obvious truth at the basis of each artistic and psychological school, the lure of an effort to unify all of them, and the present impossibility of achieving such unification within science, outside philosophical speculation.

Citing this article:
Joravsky, David. Vygotskii, Lev Semënovich (1896–1934), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E040-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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