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Unity may refer to a specific relationship between two otherwise-independent processes, or an original existence from which distinct aspects may be abstracted. Or both.


In “Thinking and Speech,” Vygotsky says:

“word meaning [is] not only a unity of thinking and speech [but] a unity of generalization and social interaction, a unity of thinking and communication.” (LSVCW, v. 1, p. 49)

In this case, each of the two processes which are united in word meaning are independent processes, having their own roots in human life. For example, in relation to thinking and speech, he says:

“1. Thought and speech have different genetic roots.
“2. The two functions develop along different lines and independently of each other. ...
“6. In the phylogeny of thought and speech, a pre-linguistic phase in the development of thought and a pre-intellectual phase in the development of speech are clearly discernible.” (LSVCW, v. 1, p. 109)

That is, meaningful speech arises through the intersection or unity of two processes having independent roots. Once meaningful speech arises thinking and speech develop inseparably (but not identically) from one another.

The “social situation of development” is often described as a unity of the personal and the social, which Vygotsky defines as “a completely original, exclusive, single, and unique relation, specific to the given age, between the child and reality, mainly the social reality, that surrounds him” ‒ a relation. But while one and the same child may be in different situations, the child’s personality cannot exist other than in some social situation, it cannot exist separately from a situation. Further, this “unity” is not an addition of the entire social reality plus the child – only specific characteristics of the world and of the child are entailed in this unity.

Likewise, when Vygotsky defines perezhivanie in “The problem of the environment,” he says:

“in a perezhivanie we are always dealing with an indivisible unity of personal characteristics and situational characteristics, which are represented in the perezhivanie.”

And again, “unity” here specifies a relation.

However, when we say that “action” is a unity of consciousness and behaviour, we do not mean to imply that behaviour and consciousness have an independent existence; rather, behaviour and consciousness are processes which can be abstracted from action (or activity) which is a prior unity of two, because consciousness is not an independent process which develops independently of action, but rather only gradually and relatively separates itself from behaviour in the course of development. Likewise, when it is said that a perezhivanie is a unity of cognition and affect, while it is true that the emotions and the intellect have their own paths of development, a perezhivanie is not an “intersection” or “relationship” between affect and cognition, but a prior unity from which emotional and intellectual development both arise; both the cognitive development and the emotional development of the subject are realized from perezhivanija, but perezhivanija are essentially psychological processes involving the entire personality.

Very often both aspects of unity are present in a relation; the independent existence of the two processes united in the unity may have been sublated into a unity which is thenceforward an indissoluble, prior unity.

-- AndyBlunden - 08 Oct 2014


Topic revision: r1 - 08 Oct 2014, AndyBlunden

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