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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Revisiting the dialectical relationship of nature and culture in cultural-historical psychology : an interdisciplinary perspective Nath, Swiya


Vygotsky (1896-1934) was an eminent Soviet scholar who saw the fragmentation between Behaviourism, Gestalt Psychology, and Introspectionism as a “crisis in psychology,” (Wertsch, 1985) and aimed to construct a research methodology that applied Marx’s historical materialism to the psychological plane (Vygotsky, 1997c). To be able to both describe and explain the development of psychological processes unique to humans, the developmental history of the human species (phylogenesis), social practices and cultural tools and signs (sociocultural history), lifespan development (ontogenesis), and the development of psychological processes themselves (microgenesis) needed to be analyzed. Each developmental history, or genetic domain (Wertsch, 1985), has its own explanatory principle since the very mode of development changes. For phylogenesis, the explanatory principle is Darwin’s theory of natural and sexual selection. For sociocultural history, it is the decontextualization of mediational means. For ontogenesis, it is the dialectical relationship between the natural and cultural lines of development. For microgenesis, it is the interfunctional relationships between psychological processes (Wertsch, 1985). The purpose of this conceptual thesis was to apply the dialectical relationship Vygotsky explicated in ontogenesis—the dialectical relation between nature and culture—across the four genetic domains given current interdisciplinary research on the neurological underpinnings of development. The methodology of philosophical inquiry was used, consisting of an in-depth literature review, integration, and application. The conceptual thesis modified Vygotsky’s genetic method of analysis in two primary ways. First, the research gathered showed that the dialectical relationship between nature and culture could be grounded by research based on technologies not available to Vygotsky and applied across all four genetic domains. Second, there is a continuation of the natural and cultural lines from phylogenesis into sociocultural history given that the field of psychology no longer subscribes to the Critical Point Theory of the origin of culture (Geertz, 1973), which was popular during Vygotsky’s time. The conceptual analysis is followed by an application using the mathematical development of the concept of abstract number as an example. A visual figure provides a research framework for future research on psychological processes, emphasizing the dialectical relationship between nature and culture across all four developmental histories.

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