Commands and Collaboration in the Origin of Human Thinking: A Response to Azeri’s “On Reality of Thinking”

Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 10 (3):6-14 (2021)
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Abstract

L.S. Vygotsky’s “regulative” account of the development of human thinking hinges on the centralization of “directive” speech acts (commands or imperatives). With directives, one directs the activity of another, and in turn begins to “self-direct” (or self-regulate). It’s my claim that Vygotsky’s reliance on directives de facto keeps his account stuck at Tomasello's level of individual intentionality. Directive speech acts feature prominently in Tomasello’s developmental story as well. But Tomasello has the benefit of accounting for a functional differentiation in directive communication—i.e., in collaborative activity, the command gives way to both the request and informational assertion. Lacking such differentiation, Vygotsky’s account runs the risk of playing to a rather strident conception of the socius, one more Machiavellian than Marxist.

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Chris Drain
Dartmouth College

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