Vygotskian implications:

On the meaning and its brain

A keynote paper

by Prof. Dr. Laszlo Garai

Institute for Psychology,

Hungarian Academy of Sciences






Presented at the International Conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Lev Vygotsky (The Cultural-Historical Approach: Progress in Human Sciences and education; Moscow, 21-24 October, 1996)







Vygotskian implications:

On the meaning and its brain


Prof. Dr. Laszlo Garai

Institute for Psychology,

Hungarian Academy of Sciences *


Abstract: About a basic dilemma of Vygotsky's theory: How superior mental phenomena may be treated as functionning of both brain structures and meaning structures at the same time while latters are of an inter-individual character as opposed to the intra-individual character of the formers. Arguments are derived from various sources (Vygotsky school's theory of functional organs, Gibson's ecological theory of perception, ethology's empirical data about territorial behaviour of populations and Szentágothai's model of organizing neuronal modules) for transcending mainstream considerations based exclusively on individual organism both by going beyond the individual (toward a supra-individual structure) and beyond the organism (toward an extra-organismic one). The paper presents for the K. Popper's "World 3’ a possible monistic interpretation that derives not merely meanings but their logical structures as well from the functioning of supra-individual economic structures instead of that of the individual's brain structures. A keynote paper I had originally presented at the International Conference dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Lev Vygotsky ("The Cultural-Historical Approach: Progress in Human Sciences and education"; Moscow, 21–24 October, 1996) and subseqently adapted for a publication.

key words: Vygotsky; brain; meaning; functional organs; brain models: Szentagothai vs Eccles; transcending individual organism; K. Popper's "World 3’


Once Vygotsky said that "psychoanalysis has no conscious theoretical system, but, the same manner as that character of Moliere, without suspecting the thing in all his life spoke in prose, Freud the scientist did produce a system: by introducing a new term, making it consistent with his other terms, describing a new fact, reaching a new conclusion – he went on building at the same time, inch by inch his system" [1].

The same has to be said on Vygotsky himself with this difference that he has not, like Freud, 83 but 38 years for adjusting the elements of his theory into a system. This fact, together with that other that since his death the psychological science had almost twice as many years for "describing new facts, reaching new conclusions", must motivate us for examining against the background of these facts and conclusions how different constituents of his theory and implications of such constituents may be brought into harmony.

Vygotsky in his writings of 1930s time and again argues, in particular, for the most important role of meaning (znachenie), sense field (smyslovoie polie) in transformation of the perception and the activity into a specifically human dealing with objects and, consequently, in producing superior performances as compared with inferior ones. [2]

Another thesis of Vygotsky postulates that the localization of superior functions in brain structures must be as important a scientific question as that of inferior functions. Therefore he considers worth praising brain researchers for introducing meaning-like concepts into the brain research. [3]

Now, on one hand, the brain is an intraindividual extrapsychic mechanism that may well be linked with the intraindividual psychic phenomena the general psychology normally studies, but, on the other hand, meaning must be considered an interindividual phenomenon.

Vygotsky was completely aware of this interindividual character of meaning that he linked to the speach and interpreted as being at the same time obobshchenie and obshchenie [4]. However, the question is, how this interindividual psychic phenomenon can be linked to that intraindividual extrapsychic mechanism.

Philosophical considerations and brain models

To what extent is it difficult to put these two points together is to be seen on the instance of Karl Popper's philosophical theory as applied in John Eccles' brain research. [5]

In the Karl Popper's ontology the world of meanings and of the logic structure of their interrelations has been considered as an intersubjective, interindividual world that is completely detached from the subjective world of our individual conscious experiences. This latter has been conceived by Popper as equally detached from the complete material world. The material world (including the human brain and man-made objects) is considered in that ontology as a World 1, paralleled with the World 2 of conscious phenomena (including in addition to direct environmental and intraorganizational experiences memories, thoughts, and even the self, as the subject of all these experiences) and the World 3 of meanings interacting with those other worlds.

When investigating about the ontological status of the "World 3", Karl Popper pointed out that it includes together with contents of meanings also the forms of their interrelations. This latters are considered by Popper to be pre-eminently "World 3" entities. He conceded that meanings may be embodied in such "World 1" objects that come to exist as objectivations of human activity; but as regards logical, mathematical or other interrelations he precludes such a possibility, insisting that they exist nowhere but in the "World 3".

Not even in the "World 2", contrary to a rather widespread error in psychological thought: such relations cannot be reduced to processes of individual consciousness or to their products stored in individual memory. It is why the subjective consciousness of an individual may investigate upon them, find contradictions and look for their solution, i.e., have the same activity with them as with "World 1" objects that are self-evidently detached from that consciously subjective world.

The brain model of John Eccles

Now, at the Sixteenth World Congress of Philosophy [6], at a specially organized by philosophers, brain researchers, and psychologists symposium on interrelation between brain and experiences, whether conscious or unconscious, Eccles had the opportunity of presenting his brain model correlated with Popper's philosophical model of those three interacting worlds. And Popper's co-author labelled his theory dualist interactionalism: the "World 3" had been completely missing from it. It is worth seeing his arguing in some details: Eccles (and in their jointly written book Popper as well) rejects the theory of epiphenomenalism, according to which there is nothing but a reciprocal influence between the brain and the external world and if in the meantime some phenomena of awareness and self-awareness happen to arise, this would allegedly be nothing but an epiphenomenon that would have no effect whatever on the reciprocating process. On the contrary, Eccles claimes that the self-reliant "World 2" of awareness and self-awareness itself establishes a reciprocating relationship with the "World 1" of the brain (for its part, interacting with the external reality) – hence the designation "dualist interactionalism." Now, if in the meantime some phenomena of a "World 3" of interraleted to each other meanings happen to arise, this would, Eccles suggests, be nothing but an epiphenomenon that would have no effect whatever on that reciprocating process between "World 2" and "World 1". Epiphenomenalism survived; it merely moved up one level within the system of interconnections.

From the point of view of this "World 3" epiphenomenalism, it is worthwhile to look at the arguments that prompted Eccles to reject a "World 2"-related epiphenomenalism. The argument originated with Popper, who, in his chapters of the book they jointly wrote, pointed out that:

"From a Darwinian point of view, we must consider the survival value of mental processes... Darwinists must look at "soul" – i.e., mental processes and our ability to form mental actions and reactions as a bodily organ that developed under the pressure of natural selection... The Darwinist point of view must be this: consciousness and, in general, mental processes must be viewed (and, if possible, explained) as the results of development in the course of natural selection. [7]

"World 2"'s phenomena develop in tandem with the increase in the brain's complexity, Eccles speculated at the World Congress of Philosophy; and yet, according to the theory of evolution only those structures and processes develop in the course of natural selection that contribute significantly to survival. If "World 2" is impotent, then the theory of evolution cannot explain its development.

As a matter of fact, we must consider exactly the same logic as applicable also to the "World 3" of interindividual phenomena.

In his presentation, Eccles (staying within the first two "Worlds") summarized what was known of the brain's fine-grained mechanisms at the time of the World Congress of Philosophy: what we know of the location of nerve cells, and of their connection with each other. He pointed out that the mechanism revealed by brain research is not adapted for transforming physical stimuli put in from the environment into mental phenomena manifesting themselves at the output of the system (in purposeful behavior, speech). Consequently, we must assume either that conscious phenomena do not exist even at the output of the central nervous system; or that they already exist at its input. And the first assumption is rejected by Eccles on the basis of the above Darwinian considerations.

Therefore, Eccles's final conclusion at the World Congress of Philosophy was that "the self conscious mind" a priori exists as a "World 2", and that a part of the cortex's operating units (of the 2 million modules, each one respectively constructed of some 5,000 nerve cells [8]) form a "liaison brain" [9] that serves as a window from the "World 1" to the "World 2".

The logic of natural sciences

Theoretical conclusions of Eccles (and of most other brain researchers) are supported by a logic that all natural sciences inherited from classic mechanics. "From earlier theories we have taken over the idea of corpuscles, together with the scientific vocabulary based on it" – pointed out the Nobel-prize winner Schrödinger, adding: "This concept is not correct. It constantly prompts our thinking to seek explanations that obviously make no sense at all. Its thought structure contains elements that do not exist in real corpuscles." Of all natural sciences, it was physics that first deviated from this logic, when, following its series of crises around the turn of the century, it presented the concept that "everything – absolutely everyting – is corpuscle and field at the same time. All matter has its continuous structure, represented by a field, as well as its discrete structure, represented by a corpuscle." [10]

Returning to our problem, here the "explanations that obviously make no sense at all", search for which is prompted by the corpuscle-oriented logic of our thinking, are related to the question: How does the state of a spatially delimited individual body influences the states of other bodies that are detached from the former – a neuron other nerve cells, a module of neurons other modules, a precise part of the nervous system its other parts, or the integer nervous system other bodily organs? Now, the answer made out by a "corpuscular logic" is that spatially defined bodies only interact to the extent that they enter into spatial contact along their circumferences.

It was this very logic that has always been applied, in particular, for understanding meaning although for such a logic this latter has always remained enigmatic. Since the controversy between Platon and Antisthenis it has been hard to settle whether meaning is located within the spatially delimited bodies of individual things, or it exists as an idea detached from every one at them. It is still more hard to say whether, while an individual organism gets into contact with an external individual object, meaning will or will not be transferred into the organism from the thing (where, as it has just been pointed out, one was unable to say whether meaning was inherent).

Finally, it is the least possible at all to decide whether meaning has a mental impact only when it finds its way into an individual organism. "Corpuscular logic" tries to cope with meaning by transforming it into familiarity: as if meaning would have been transferred from the thing into the organism and by now fixed in one of its parts that is, in principle, identifiable as responsable for the memory of this organism. On the other hand, one may not a priori discard the possibility that meaning may have a mental impact even when detached from all individual organisms being located in a supraindividual system of language, culture etc. (just the same way as it "in itself" is perhaps detached from all individual things).

If "corpuscular logic" does take into consideration this latter possibility, nevertheless it imposes its own terms upon the facts. First of all, it represents language as a store of particular corpuscules (i. e. a priori given labels), that would carry meanings (also supposed to be given a priori) the way real things would be expected by the "corpuscular logic" to do. Again, such a logic may only conceive the way meaning carried by a linguistic label becomes a psychic factor if that linguistic label, being contacted by an individual, turns from external into internal factor: finds, through some coding process, a corpuscular vehicle located in a theoretically well identifiable locus in the individual body. According such a logic, without getting into an, at least, indirect connection with the individual body the fact that language includes meanings would be psychologically just as irrelevant as is that other fact of things being given in this individual body's environmentbefore setting up their contact.

The reason for which Eccles has not dealt with such (and any other) kind of "World 3" problems and the one for which he made the above statement about the brain's structure being not adapted for transforming physical stimuli put in from the environment into mental phenomena manifesting themselves at the output of the brain, relies on the same "corpuscular logic".

The brain model of John Szentagothai

While this logic forced Eccles to search after answers to questions which, according to Schrödinger's reasoning, are incorrectly put, J. Szentagothai reached entirely different theoretical conclusions when starting from the same facts (discovered in part by Eccles' research). Although the model he proposed for the structure and operation of the cerebral cortex acknowledges the cortex to be "a wonderfully precise neurological machine with a genetically defined "set of wires"," he admits that "superimposed on this is an... intermittent and mutually symmetrical (quasi-random) system of connections." [11] According to the first part of this description, therefore, the cortex has a corpuscle-type structure; the second part, however, reveals a structure similar to one of a field: states are defined in it, but the constellation of corpuscles realizing each of these states gets organized only afterwards, as a "dynamic pattern" of a quasi-random system of connections.

What Szentagothai suggests is this: Even though we cannot consider the brain's precisely wired structure as a mechanism whose operation would yield a mental phenomenon, such a result can indeed be produced by a brain that we view as a dynamic pattern emerging in the course of its operation.

The functional system

In order to explain the formation of dynamic patterns, we should explain how pieces, none of which in themselves produce a dynamic pattern, can create an organ whose function leads to the appearance of that pattern, even though the connection of those pieces cannot be ensured by a "precise and genetically determined system of wiring". Szentagothai provides an impressive description which deals, however, with phenoma alone, without really explaining the formation itself of superstructures. He illustrates his point with the stereoscopic perception of paired images used by B. Julesz [12]. Respectively, before the right and left eyes of his experimental subjects, Julesz placed scatterings of dots. One of these was randomly generated by computer; another was derived from the first set, now assumed to be a collection of points belonging to a three-dimensional configuration, visible to the left eye; and yet another was composed of dots belonging to the same configuration visible to the right eye. When viewing with both eyes, it took about 8 seconds to transform the random scatterings into an orderly three-dimensional image. Szentagothai considers it the fact of a dynamic pattern' emerging that "anyone who formed if only once (!!) such a pattern, i.e., envisioned their three-dimensional form, may revisualize these shapes within a fraction of a second even after months, without knowing which of the once-seen patterns he will be shown. In other words, if one's brain even once arranged two entirely meaningless scatterings into the sole possible orderly pattern, [...] then it may re-create this within a few moments." [13]

At the opposite end from describing the phenomenon, we find cybernetic speculations on the mechanism. These indicate formal preconditions for organizing a functional system. It is about the organization of such a superstructure that not only performs a new functionning that would represent by its integrity something more than just a sum of functionning of partial structures: the new organization imposes even to these very partial structures a deviation from their original functionning. According to Anokhin's formal analysis [14], any functional system must be made up of constructs whose operation fits the following sequence: afferent synthesis of stimuli entering the system; making a decision on the basis of this synthesis; storing the decision thus made; instruction to act; reporting back on the outcome of action; pairing the report with the already stored decision; and, if necessary, correction in accordance with the result of the comparison.

By Anokhin's analysis and other similar cybernetic arguments, such functions' are posited as developing their own organs which target some external factor in the system's environment in such a way as to synchronize its own state with the state of that target.

In the course of synchronization, changes occur in the system's state, too, and one of those changes, possibly the most important may well be the development of that very integer superstructure, made up of partial structures whose operation, even when summed up, could not alter the factor of environment to the extent required for synchronization. In other words, altering the factor of environmental factor at issue will be achieved by the newly organized functional system.

On the other hand, organizing the functional system will be the performance of that environmental factor: untill this latter emerges, requiring the operation of a superstructure that existes at that moment only in its partial structures, the components of this future superstructure has remained in their unintegrated arrangements, ready for various uses, but unsuitable for functioning in a critical manner.

If we consider the organization and the operation of a functional system as the sequences of the same performance, then we can say about this performance that its organ is an integer superstructure to which both the system that is actually operating and the enviromental factors that formerly organized the system out of its partial structures do belong.

From taking into consideration a superstructure that contains both a system and certain factors of its environment we may be inhibited by "the idea of corpuscles that we have taken over from earlier theories and the scientifc vocabulary based on it," concerning which I have already cited Schrödinger's criticism. The "thought structure containing elements that do not exist in real corpuscles" suggests for a system that its parts are made a priori operational by their spatial connection, and for a factor of environment that it can perform any operation relevant to the system only after having established with it a spatial connection.

This evidence is contradicted by the revelation that the structures' spatial connection ("their precise wiring") does not in itself turn them into an operational unit, but this functional system (as the Szentagothai's model suggests it and shows by the Julesz' demonstration) must first emerge as a "dynamic pattern" from random connections built on that precise wiring. If this is the case, however, then it would not be absurd to suppose that a functional system can be organized from random relationships that are built only partly on spatial connection.

Such a random relationship exists between all levels of biological organizations and their respective environment. If we do follow Schrödinger in rejecting the logic that would distinguish between a corpuscle considered relevant to a precise function and others that would be considered as being merely its conditions if a connection gets established with them, then we may conceive those structures of allegedly different kind as one superstructure. Thus, for example, when a cell group for its functionning needs a precise tone distribution between cells, then a second cell group that would regulate that tone distribution would not be considered by such a logic to be an external circumstance, but describes the whole functionning as a function of a superstructure that includes both the cell group whose tone is regulated and the cell group performing the regulation.

Such a logic, however, must face the contingency that for the superstructure that is now described as the very organ of the function at issue similar observations can be made. Szentagothai points out for moduls constructed from neurons, "we cannot exclude the possibility that these "superstructures" of neighboring, or conventionally connected, neuron networks gives rise to newer "super-superstructures" of a higher hierarchy." [15] The same interrelation must be established for all levels of biological organizations.

However, what actually has always happened untill now was that at one point or another this logic yielded, in further interpretation, to the logic that does distinguish a corpuscle allegedly relevant to the function at issue and those supposed to influence the process according to whether or not they get in connection with the "appropriate" body. Already the interrelations of the central nervous system and the periphery were often interpreted according to the traditional thinking: according to it, the functionning of the central nervous system would be influenced by the periphery as far as stimuli from the latter would be put in by a "precise wiring", and then this central system (even if it is conceived according to the new logic) would influence the periphery by stimuli put out. In other cases, the logical shift occurs in the interpretation of the interaction between the nervous system as a whole and the organs it regulates. But anyhow it takes place not later then at the moment of focusing scientific interest on the interaction between the individual organism and its environment.

It occurred that for the psychology the basic system of reference in scientific observation has been fixed on the level of individual organism. For biology such a stage has been but transitory which once replaced description in terms of cells only to yield (or share), just in the present period, its position to a molecular biology, on the one hand, and to a population biology, on the other.

Psychology's fixation to the individual organism as reference must be due to its philosophical heritage. It was psychology enframed by philosophy that stated that consciousness refers, on one hand, to an object reflected by it and, on the other, to the individual subject of that consciousness. This philosophical legacy was combined with the new orientation of a psychology emancipating itself from the philosophy by means of turning to the biology, which, at the time just happened to be engaged in describing phenomena at the organism level.

Thus, the Self, the individual subject of consciousness has assumed a material substratum in the individual organism. At the same time, another potential heritage from the philosophy, the one given in doctrine about a supraindividual Spirit, was lost for the psychology, because of a lack of appropriate biological frame of reference.

Yet, if meaning is indeed an interindividual mental phenomenon, as it has been observed above, it must have something to do with issues of a supraindividual Spirit. Thus, conclusions of Popper about a "World 3" might be avoided only in such a way that would be similar to that of Szentagothai's reasoning about "World 2" issues referred to functional "super-superstructures".

Only this time the functional "super-superstructures" have to transcend the individual organism.

Conceptions about organizations transcending individual organism

Now I am going to present scientific essays at conceiving functional organizations that transcend individual organism and may be referred to mental phenomena.

The Anokhin's description of the functional system relies, after all, exclusively on structures within the body; environmental structures are considered only as sources of afferentation and reafferentation.

The theory of an object-directed activity

The activity theory of Leont'iev, Luria, Zaporozhets and others transcends this model. It considers functions whose organ is composed not only of the sections of the central nervous system but also of the most various (nervous, somatic, vegetative) structures of the entire individual body; and inasmuch as psychic functions are concerned the individual's object-oriented activity is considered that must be organized by its tools. Since this theory (as a Vygotskian one) has claimed that those tools are, at the same time, signs, i.e. entities historically produced by a culture, this conception enables the theory to refer the human mind to two frames simultaneously: by considering it as one produced by the functionning of both individual brain structures and inter-individual cultural structures.

But if we have a theory about the same functionning of, on one hand, internal and, on the other, external structures, it implies a theory about a functionning of the same superstructure composed of both structures inside of an individual organism and the ones outside of it, inside of its environment. According to such a theory when the function organizing its organ is an object-oriented activity, the structure thus produced does transcend the individual organism. [16]

Gibson's ecological perception theory

When comparing this theory with his earlier position, Gibson describes the change in his view this way: "[...] at the time, I based my explanation of vision on the retinal image; now, on the other hand, my starting point is what I call an ambient optic array. My present conviction is that we must approach the problem of perception in an ecological way." [17] This change was brought about because he realized that vision could not be explained by the manner in which proximate stimuli affect the retina, since perception could remain constant even if the stimuli change. Gibson analyzes four instances in which perception remains unchanged in spite of varying stimuli: (1) change in lighting, (2) relocation on the part of observer, (3) changes in the sampling of the ambient optic array, and (4) a permanence prevailing in the face of local changes." [18]

The Gibson school do not accept either the explanation offered by the Gestalt psychology, since that theory holds out (as an alternative to the retinal image changing in response to the environment's proximate stimuli) a form appearing on a frontal flat surface (a wallboard, screen, or sheet of paper placed opposite the observer), which an individual corrects in accordance with innate pregnant patterns. Gibson does make the difference between such an abstract geometric space in which alone do such forms exist and a natural environment in which representatives of a given species find themselves nestled.

Gibson's conclusion is that one is not able to explain the meaningful perception by an animal of its environment if considering only how (e.g., nervous system) structures given within that animal's individual body effect that psychic performance without taking into consideration how the structures of the environment afford that performance. Any psychic performance is determined by the mutual compatibility between affordances and effectivities. According to the definition by Gibson, "the affordance of anything is a specific combination of the properties of its substance and its surfaces taken with reference to an animal" [19]. This definition got completed with the one given by Turvey & Shaw to what they consider as a twin concept within the Gibsonian theory: "The effectivity of any living thing is a specific combination of the functions of its tissues and organs taken with reference to an environment" [20].

The authors add to these twin definitions that animal with its effectivity structure and environment with its affordance structure are totally symmetrical factors of psychic performances: "By this conception an [...] environment is defined as a set of affordances or an affordance structure [... and] an animal is defined as a set of effectivities or an effectivity structure [...]. An econiche is an affordance description of Environment in reference to a particular species; a species is an effectivity description of Life in reference to a particular econiche. And we may schematize the affordance and effectivity conceptions in the following way, in accordance with the compatibility logic:

An environmental event or situation X affords an activity Y to an animal Z if and only if certain mutual compatibility relations between X and Z obtain [...].

An animal Z can effect an activity Y on an environmental event or situation X if and only if certain mutual compatibility relations between X and Z obtain [...]." [21]

The therritorial behavior

Ethology use this term to describe a series of events by which a part of an animal or human population demarcates a part of its environment and gets, reciprocally, demarcated by it. This behavior by marking with some sign the part in question of the environment turns it into a territory, while those performing this behavior expose themselves to some marking that turns the part in question of the population a well-identified group. From that moment on that demarcated territory and this demarcated group are ordered to each other by the territorial behavior: the individuals thus marked cannot leave the territory they marked for more than a well defined distance and/or time period, and outsiders cannot approach it closer than a critical distance. If the latter do so, they provoke a fighting activity in those defending their territory.

As far as the territory is already demarcated by the group and the group by the territory, staying inside or outside the borderline of a territory and, similarly, belonging or not to a given group elicits categorically different disposition in an individual for a precise (e.g., fighting or mating) activity.

Such a change in being disposed or indisposed to perform a precise activity in accordance with the actual state of territorial organization is well demonstrated by the fighting behavior of the stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) preparing to mate. The power relations of fighting change according to whether the individual fish is inside or outside its own territory when involved in fighting. According to Konrad Lorenz's observations, the combativeness of a stickleback is in inverse relationship with the given distance between him and his nest; in his own nest, he is a fierce fighter, but the farther he swims away from his headquarter, the less he is motivated to attack. When two male stickleback meets, we can qite accurately predict the outcome of their fight: the fish that is farther from his nest is the one that will take flight, Lorenz claims, addig that near to his own nest even the smalest can dispose of the largest enemy.

One could (though traditionally does not) put it in Gibsonian terms and say that the territorial behavior intervenes in the distribution of affordances to the environment and in that of effectivities to the animal population. The key factor of such a redistribution is a marking activity, an imposition of signs upon a part of the environment transformed by this means into a territory and, parallelly, upon a part of the animal population transformed by this means into a group.

Signs when attached not to a part of an environment but to that of a population may the same way change the disposition of performing a precise activity as territorial signs do. E.g., male individuals of certain species mark by a particular biochemical substance the female during mating so as to indispose other males from mating with that female, even if impregnation was not effective. Likewise, the issue of a fighting may impose postural signs upon winners and loosers and the display of such a posture may determine a rather lasting hierarchical organization without being challenged by newer behavioral trials.

Thus, neither the group which effects the demarcation of a territory nor this territory which affords the demarcation of that group is prefabricated, both are produced by the territorial behavior. In my conception the direct product of affordances and effectivities would not be, as Gibsonians claim, activities but functional "super-superstructures" that do transcend individual organism.

Toward a theory of structures producing meanings

Such kind of combining the above three theoretical discoveries – about an object-oriented functionning, the mutually coordinated affordance and effectivity structures, and territorial organization of groups – would enable us to discern a structure that could be the organ of dealing with meanings. Yet, such a synthesis would be by no means an easy theoretical performance, considering that

1. territorial behavior as conceived by ethology has nothing to do with a historico-cultural dimension;

2. object-oriented activity as conceived by Leont'iev's activity theory has not either much to do with a territorial and group dimension [22];

3. for the ecological framework of perception neither a historical nor a social dimension is conceived by the Gibsonians.

However, such a synthesis cannot be spared if we are to deal with meanings because this latter's historico-cultural dimension and socio-territorial dimension are equally essential.

Vygotsky emphasised the necessity to reckon with the social aspect of meaning because he considered meaning to be (to put it in terms of his above cited juxtaposition) not only obobshchenie (generalization) but obshchenie (communication) as well. It was ment that this latter represents the interindividual dimension against that earlier supposed to be an intraindividual performance.

We do know the argument of Vygotsky for intraindividual performances being developped from interindividual ones. In this sense (in terms referred to the ZPD) generalization, too, would have to have its psychosocial origin.

However, at the present time it is known that the social dimension of this performance is still more essential:

Recent observations about the ontogenesis of human consciousness support the assumption on semantic values being originated from social categorization [23]. It turned out that a child can earlier elaborate some shades of similarities and differences into categorical similarity between certain factors and their categorical difference from others if he himself is one of these factors than in case all those factors are but objects given in the child's environment. Early social categorization does not take place as a conscious act of thinking: it is mediated by an unconscious process of semiosis in which the child's diffuse vocal, motor, postural, vaso-motor or other somatic manifestations get shaped as signifiers that are attached to parallelly shaped social categories as their signified factors so that similar factors should be symbolized by similar, and different ones by different signifiers.

The social categories thus created represent similarities or differences not simply between individuals as such. The individuals are dealt with as occupying definite positions in one or another of social structures transcending individual organism; those structures are organized along objects that get assigned to certain individuals while detached from others in a kind of territorial behavior. With reference to this territorial behavior, the child identifies him/herself with some individuals and, at the same time, categorically distinguishes from others. Based on social categories thus created and on the mental operations with them there emerges the logical apparatus that enables the child to structure the same way the external topological space of objects correlated with that social space and, hence, to perform operations with the meanings of those objects. [24]

The more organic role an atribute of an object plays in acts of social categorization, the earlier a child will learn to logically deal with their attribute.

Thus for instance, an 18-20 month old child is capable of distributing similar objects among him/her and others, and then distinguishing each of them on the attribute of their belonging to one person or to another. The same child is unable to differentiate or identify objects on the attribute of their colours before the age of three (or even, according to some authors, 4 or 5).

Piaget's classic investigations have resulted that it is not until a child has spent some years in school that s/he acquires the skill to handle abstract quantitative relations like equal, greater or smaller length, capacity etc., undisturbed by corolary attributes. However, Doise, Mugny and Perret-Clermont [25] have recorded similar performances at pre-school ages, having modified the original conditions of the experiment by connecting the quantitative relations in question to the organization of social relations among children. For example, the children were led to discover the constantly equal quantity of liquids in differently shaped receptacles by having the task to distribute the liquid – that happened to be very appreciated by children – among themselves in equal portions. [26]

In a field experiment with my own daughter she presented at 4;8 a rather complicated performance of projection of a three-dimensional geometrical structure onto a plane and then transforming that projection. The child was sitting in a bus that passed on the embankment under a bridge through a tunnel made to avoid level-crossing of the bridge and the embankment. Her three-year-old sister exclaimed: "Hey, what a long tunnel!", upon which the elder girl declared with a contempt that "it would have been long if we hade gone like this" (she used her hand to mark the direction perpendicular to the way the bus was running, that actually was not the direction of the tunnel but that of the bridge), "but then", she went on, "we should have destroyed the tunnel". The mother of the children were staying that time abroad and, a couple of day later, the elder girl was "writing a letter" to her, i.e., informing her in various drawings about what happened in the family during the mother's absance. So I asked the girl to "draw how we passed through that tunnel" and, thus, she made a drawing of the vertical cross-section of the tunnel and represented the path of our bus in it by a point. Then, following another instruction of the same style, she drew once more the same cross-section with an imaginary path through which the bus would have destroyed the tunnel. The high achievement in this experiment was due to the fact that the girl was transforming the structure of a space in which she herself was included in a certain position.

These considerations may give a new look at a feature at which Karl Popper pointed out. When investigating about the ontological status of a "World 3" Popper, though conceded the existence of such "World 1" objects that come to existe as objectivations of human activity and, as such, embody entities belonging to "World 3", he considered, however, these factors by no means exhausting the "World 3" that includes with contents of meanings their form, too. Logical and, among them, for instance mathematical relations do not exist embodied in "World 1" things and processes, nor can their existence be traced back, consequently, to (e.g., brain) structures and their functioning within individual organisms. What is more important, contradicting a rather widespread error in psychological thought: neither can such relations be reduced to processes of individual consciousness nor to their products stored in individual memory.

What is, then, the ontological status of these forms, that makes it possible, e. g., for the subjective consciousness of an individual to make discoveries upon them like finding contradictions that must have existed there (where? – that is a crucial question for Popper) proceeding any awareness of them and, after identifying them as problems, to find out their solutions.

Now, in this paper two assumptions has been advanced that would enable us to accept Popper's question without accepting his answer to it: the first, about links between operations with logical categories, meanings, on one hand, and formation of social categories, social identities, on the other; and the second, about this psychic performance being based on an extra-psychic super-structure transcending individual organism (by shifting both from the organism to a structure incorporating also environmental factors and from the individual to a supraindividual formation).

As far as these two assumptions do stand we may derive logical structures and operations from real social structures and operations [27] inside that organization transcending individual organism.

The interindividual character at issue of these structures and operations might by no means be reduced to those referred in Vygotsky’s texts to the ZPD. These structures and operations must not be established with (e.g., adult) persons who would necesserily be more advanced in their development in order to get the child developped: interaction between children may as well develop each of them as the one which an adult does. On the other hand, the interindividual structures and operations do not necesserily disappear after the intraindividual faculty has developped.

We started from a contradiction between various ideas of Lev Vygotsky’s theory and by solving that we arrived to another contradiction.

Yet, contradictions are considered within the philosophical framework of Vygotsky’s theory the main motive of further development of a system, are not they?






















* Mailing: P.O.B. 398, H-1394 Budapest, Hungary. Phone: (36-1) 209-77-03       Fax: (36-1) 239-67-27           E-mail: garai@eco.u-szeged.hu





















[1] Vygotsky: Istoricheskii smysl psikhologicheskogo krizisa (1927). Sobranie sochinenii, t. 1. Moscow: Pedagogika, 1982; p. 333.






















[2] Controversial points of this conception (see P. Gal'perin: Stages in the development of mental acts. In: Michael Cole and Irving Maltzman [eds]: A handbook of contemporary soviet psychology. New-York-London: Basic Books, 1969; pp. 249-273) being indifferent for the context of this paper, this does not deal with them.






















[3] "[...] reasearchers have been compelled by force of facts [...] to introduce new psychologic concepts (the doctrine of Goldstein on categorial thinking, that of H. Head on symbolic function, of O. Poetzl on categorization of the perception etc.)" Vygotsky: Psikhologia i uchenie o lokalizatsii psikhicheskikh funktsii (1934). Op. cit., p. 169.






















[4] Generalization and communication (or, to put it in terms цof Vygotsky's paronomasia: having something in common and making something common).






















[5] Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles: The Self and its Brain. Springer International, 1977.























[6] See Section papers from the Sixteenth World Congress of Philosophy (27 August — 2 September 1978. Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany.






















[7] Popper & Eccles: Op. cit., p. 72. This is in spite of the fact that the Darwinian Huxley wrote: "Mind would relate to the machinery of the body as a simple by-product of the latter's operation, which is no more capable of modifying said operation than the sound of steam-whistle, accompanying the operation of a locomotive is able to influence the engine's operation." T.H. Huxley, Method and results. Collected essays. Vol. 1. Macmillan, 1898.






















[8] Cf. J. Szentagothai & M. A. Arbib: Conceptual Models of Neuronal Organization. Yvonne M. Homsy Editor, 1974.






















[9] According to Eccles, the most important parts of the "liaison brain" are the Brodmann regions No. 39 and 40, and the lobus praefrontalis in the dominant hemisphere.




















[10] E. Schrödinger: Was ist ein Naturgesetz? München—Wien: R. Oldenbourg. 1962.





















[11] Szentagothai: An integral brain theory: Utopia or reality? [in Hungarian]. Magyar Tudomany (New Series), 1979, 24.; p. 601





















[12] B. Julesz, The foundation of Cyclopean perception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.




















[13] Szentagothai: Op. cit; p. 614.




















[14] P. K. Anokhin, Fiziologiia i kibernetika [Physiology and cybernernetics — in Russian]. In Filosofskie voprosy kibernetiki [Philosophical problems of cybernetics]. Moscow, 1961.





















[15] Szentagothai: Op. cit; p. 615.




















[16] For the practical application of such an implied theory see A. R. Luria: Restoration of brain functions after war trauma. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1964.





















[17] J. J. Gibson: The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston etc.: Houghton Mifflin Co; 1979





















[18] Ibid., pp. 310—311.





















[19] Gibson, J. J., 1977: The theory of Affordances. In: R. E. Shaw and J. Bransford (eds), Perceiving, Acting and Knowing - Toward an Ecological Psychology. Hillsdale N. J., Lawrence Erlbaum Associatrs; pp. 67.






















[20] M. T. Turvey and R. Shaw: The Primacy of Perceiving: An Ecological Reformulation of Perception for Understanding Memory. In: Lars-Göran Nielsson, Perspectives on Memory Research. Essays in Honour of Uppsala University's 500th Anniversary; 1977. Pp. 205—206.






















[21] Ibidem.





















[22] About the necessity and modalities of complementing the activity theory of Leont'iev with a theory representing this psychosocial dimension, see:

L. Garai, 1969: Social relationship: A self-evident feature or a problem? A chapter of the monograph Personality dynamics and social existence [in Hungarian]. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó [Academic Press], pp. 142—159

L. Garai, F. Eros, K. Jaro, M. Kocski and S. Veres, 1979: Towards a Social Psychology of Personality: Development and Current Perspectives of a School of Social Psychology in Hungary. Social Sciences Information. 18/1. pp. 137-166.

L. Garai and M. Kocski, l989: The principle of social relations and the principle of activity. Soviet Psychology. 4. pp. 50-69. (A substantially enlarged Russian version: O psikhologicheskom statyse dieiatel'nosti i sotsial'nogo otnoseniia. K voprosu o preiemstvennosti mezhdu teoriami Leont'ieva i Vygotskogo. [On the mental status of activity an social relation: To the question of continuity between the theories of Vygotsky and Leont'iev]. Psikhologicheskii Zhurnal, 11:5. [1990] pp. 17-26.

L. Garai and M. Kocski, 1991.: Positivist and hermeneutic principles in Psychology: Activity and social categorisation Studies in Soviet Thought. 42. 123-135. (A German version: Positivistische und hermeneutische Prinzipien in der Psychologie: Tätigkeit und gesellschaftliche Kategorisierung (Über die Frage von Kontinuität und Diskontinuität zwischen Vygotskij und Leont'iev. Europäische Zeitschrift für Semiotische Studien. 1991. Vol. 3 [1-2]. 1-15.)

L. Garai and M. Kocski, l997: Ieshchio odin krizis v psikhologii! Vozmozhnaia prichina shumnogo uspiekha idei L. S. Vygotskogo [Another crisis in the psychology: A possible motive for the Vygotsky-boom] Voprosy filosofii. 4. 86–96.



















[23] For this issue see especially:

L. Garai: A psychosocial essay on identity [in Hungarian]. T-Twins Editor. Budapest, 1993. 231 p.

L. Garai and M. Kocski: About the link between social categorization and identity formation [in Hungarian]. In.: F. Eros (ed.): Identity and difference: Essays on the identity and the prejudice. Budapest: Scientia Humana. 1996. 72-95;

M. Kocski: About the genesis of individuality [in Hungarian]. In: F. Eros (ed): Ibidem; pp. 129-161.                         

Köcski, Margit, 1981: Position in the Social Situation and Child's Mental Development. A longitudinal study (non-published academic thesis; in Russian). Moscow State University.


















[24] On these elaboration processes see some more detalis in

M. Kocski and L. Garai, 1978: Les débuts de la catégorisation sociale et les manifestations verbales. Une étude longitudinale. Langage et Société. 4. 3-30.

Köcski, Margit, 1981: Pozitsiia v sotsial’noi situatsii I psikhicheskoie razvitie rebionka [Position in the Social Situation and Child's Mental Development. A longitudinal study] (non-published academic thesis). Moscow State University.






















[25] Social interaction and the development of cognitive operations, European Journal of Social Psychology, 1975, 5, pp. 367-383.






















[26] For more details see Doise and Mugny: Le développement social de l'intelligence. InterÉditions, Paris, 1981.






















[27] On the XIII. International Congress of the History of Science (Moscow, 1971) I made an attempt in an invited lecture to analize how the social structure of Europe of late XVIII. century made the greatest mathematicians of that age (such as d'Alembert, Carnot, Fourier, Gauss, Lagrange, Lambert, Laplace, Monge, Saccheri, Schweikart, Taurinus and, last but not least, Bolyai senior) discover at the same time that something was wrong about the logical structure of Euclidean geometry; and how the social operating in the most undeveloped Hungary and Russia made Bolyai junior and Lobatchevsky discover at the same time (historically speaking: it was the 3rd November, 1823 for the Hungarian, and the 24th February, 1826 for the Russian geometer) what was wrong about the logical operation of all those exalted precursors spending almost a century to try to deduce the Postulate V from four other Postulates, instead of, what Bolyai junior and Lobatchevsky did, going without the Postulate V at all (cf. L. Garai: Hypothesis on the Motivation of Scientific Creativity. XIII International Congress of the History of Science. USSR, Moscow, August 18-24, 1971. "Nauka" Publishing House. M., 224-233.).

In another investigation I applied the same method of paralleled structural analysis to the oeuvre of the greatest Hungerian poet Attila Jozsef (The case of Attila Jozsef: A reply to Gustav Jahoda. New Ideas in Psychology. 6:2. [1988], pp. 213-217)