Conceptual Sketch of the Remainder of This Book

The remainder of this book is divided into three parts, each coming with its own introduction. Over the course of the five chapters that appear in part I, we articulate some of the foundational issues for a cultural psychology of education grounded in a Marxist re-reading of Spinoza by re-visiting existing Cartesian dichotomies that plague past and current educational psychology. Most important is a consideration of the historical constitution of the unity/identity of biology and culture, which lies at the heart of Vygotsky’s project that was designed to address the psychophysical (i.e. body-mind) problem. His own work started with the assumption of the primacy of the social, which is associated with the necessity of a sociogenetic method (Chap. 4). That assumption, in turn, needs to be grounded in a Marxist anthropology, which has to show that the societal really provided a new function to the human species and constituted an evolutionary advantage that was selected in the course of its natural history (Chap. 2) . Other topics from the group of psychophysical problems include the unity/identity of {communicating I thinking} (Chap. 3), {intersubjectivity I intrasubjectivity} (Chap. 4), and {learning I development} (Chap. 6).

In part II, we present five case studies that focus on fundamental phenomena that historically have been of interest to educational psychologists. One such phenomenon concerns the emergence of reading as a social practice. In our analysis, we exhibit how and why we have to think of reading as something social rather than individual; and we show how this social nature—simultaneously grounded in biology and culture—has its genetic origin in and as societal relation (Chap. 7). The other four topics also have been among those of interest to Vygotsky, including: (a) the genesis of intention (Chap. 8); (b) the nature and origin of scientific conceptions (Chap. 9); (c) the nature and functioning of the sign from a Spinozist perspective, which radically revises Vygotsky’s own (subsequently rejected) theories that still dominate scholarly discussions (Chap. 10); and (d) a more symmetric approach to the genesis of the zone of proximal development anchored in the notion of {teaching I learning} that allows for teaching and learning on the part of all participants in social relations (Chap. 11).In each chapter of parts I and II, and by means of a coda, we revisit core notions present in current educational psychology research and respecify them in light of the emerging theory.

In the third and final part of this book, we present some implications and conclusions. In chapter 12, as a means of summarizing the range of issues raised throughout the previous two parts, we present an extensive investigation that focuses on and exhibits the thinking body. This thinking body is not materialist in the vulgar interpretation,[1] does not harbor the specters of Cartesianism that are present in enactivist and embodiment theories, and does not harbor the contradiction between the tndividual and society. Instead, we offer up an investigation that exemplifies what a take on learning might look like when it is inspired by a Marxist re-reading of Spinoza and designed to build on and further elaborate Vygotsky’s legacy. We then develop some implications for research, measurement, and educational practice that arise from the perspective developed in the earlier parts of the book. Ethics and freedom, two aspects central to Spinoza and which were present throughout Vygotsky’s entire career, become aspects in our consideration of educational practice and of our place as educators and researchers in society.

  • [1] The vulgar interpretation merely identifies consciousness with matter.
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