Vygotsky and his critics : philosophy and rationality
This thesis is concerned with the philosophi~ background of Vygotsky's work.
Vygotsky himself made clear that it was not only Marx who influenced him, but
also Spinoza and Hegel. Most commentaries on Vygotsky have failed to
consider the influence of Spinoza and Hegel on his work.
Recent commentators interpret aspects ofVygotsky's work as being based upon
Enlightenment philosophy and attribute to him a position of abstract rationality.
In taking issue with these interpretations the thesis not only reacts to the
criticism made of Vygotsky but also suggests that much of value in his
education theory is lost if it is taken out of its original philosophic context and
set in an alien framework. Vygotsky was absolutely steeped in the philosophy
of Spinoza and Hegel and it was this which allowed him to develop original
ideas on thought, language and mind.
Vygotsky's tum to Spinoza and to Hegel would seem to put him outside the
mainstream of modem Anglo-American thought, yet it is precisely this field of
thought which in the last few years has raised questions that are bringing Hegel
back into the mainstream. A study of Vygotsky's philosophy helps bring to
light and to question the philosophic presuppositions of much contemporary
work on educational theory and policy.
This thesis addresses critical questions in Vygotsky theory and post-Vygotskian
research. Its starting point is the question of sociogenesis of mind and chapters
2 and 3 consider recent writings on this issue and the related questions of
constructivism and situated cognition. Chapter 4 reconsiders the opposition
between Vygotsky and Piaget to carry the question of constructivism a step
forward and to introduce the philosophic influences on Vygotsky's work which
are then considered more fully in chapters 5, 6 and 7.