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Visiting Fellows 2011-2012



Andrey Maidansky, Taganrog Institute of Economics and Management, Russia

“The Philosophical Origins of L.S. Vygotsky’s Theory of Mind”
Fellowship period: May 1-31, 2012

Andrey Maidansky is professor of philosophy at Taganrog Institute of Economics and Management. He studied at Rostov and Moscow State Universities and received a PhD at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2000. He is a member of the editorial board of Σν Αρχη journal and a guest editor of the special issues of the Logos journal, which are devoted to Spinoza, Marx and Ilyenkov. Maidansky edited a volume on Spinoza’s logic, including the Russian translation of Spinoza’s treatise De intellectus emendatione (Rostov-on-Don: Phoenix, 2007), and also edited the anthology entitled “Spinoza: pro et contra” (St Petersburg: RHGA, 2012, in print).

At the Aleksanteri Institute, Maidansky intends to elucidate the origins and methodology of L.S. Vygotsky’s theory of mind. He argues that Spinoza’s ideas, especially his theory of reason and affect, and their relationship within human activity, provided the guidelines for the research program of Vygotsky, the founder of the cultural-historical school of modern psychology.

Abstract of current research:
The philosophical rhizome of Lev Vygotsky’s theory largely remains in the shade, notwithstanding that Vygotsky himself underlined his devotion to Spinoza in every way possible and consistently applied Spinoza’s method of researching the human mind and behaviour. Vygotsky compared this method with a diamond, “cutting like glass all the main problems of psychology”. Shortly before his death, Vygotsky called for psychological science to “revive Spinozism”. But neither his nearest pupils nor the modern adherents of cultural-historical theory could carry out this wish. None of them expressly explored Spinoza’s doctrine of mind and used his method, to which, as Vygotsky confessed, he was due by his most important discoveries.

I have attempted to fill up this lacuna through the series of articles in the philosophical journals Logos and Voprosy filosofii (reprinted in German and English translations). During my forthcoming visit to Aleksanteri Institute, I plan to write the next article, mainly based on Vygotsky’s foreword to the Russian translation of Intelligenzenprüfungen an Anthropoiden by Wolfgang Köhler. My investigation focuses on the collision of reason and imagination, the correlation of ideas to affects within human activity in comparison to the intellectual behaviour of animals. Following Vygotsky, I consider these matters through the prism of Spinoza’s theory of cognition.

Outlined generally, the core problem is how reason and affect could unite together to form a single coherent whole in the process of human activity, whereas in the animal world, as well as in early childhood they remained totally hostile to each other. I argue that the unity of intellectual and affective activities becomes possible due to the mediation of special tools, cultural artefacts, by means of which human beings communicate and regulate their own behaviour.

Email: amaid [at]
Personal website:

Academic host at the Aleksanteri Institute: Vesa Oittinen