Marxist Writers: A. N. Leont'ev

Activity and Personality

5.4. Motives, Emotions, and Personality

In contemporary psychology the term motive (motivation, motivating factors) can represent completely different phenomena. Those instinctive impulses, biological inclinations, and appetites, as well as experiencing emotion, interests, and wishes, are all called motives; in this mixed enumeration of motives may be found such things as life goals and ideals, but also such things as an electric shock. There is no need to investigate all of these confused concepts and terms that characterize the present condition of the problem of motives. The problem of psychological analysis of personality requires consideration of only the major questions.

Primarily this is a question of the relationships of motives and needs. I have already said that actual need is always a need of something, that at the psychological level needs are mediated by psychic reflection and in two ways. On the one hand, objects answering the needs of the subject appear before him in their objective signal characteristics. On the other hand, the conditions of need in simpler cases signal themselves and are sensorily reflected by the subject as a result of the actions of internal receptor stimuli. Here the most important change characterizing the transition to the psychological level consists in the beginning of the active connection of needs with the objects that satisfy them.

The fact is that in the subject’s needy condition itself the object that is capable of satisfying the need is not sharply delineated. Up to the time of its first satisfaction the need “does not know” its object; it must still be disclosed. Only as a result of such disclosure does need acquire its objectivity and the perceived (represented, imagined) object, its arousing and directing activity of function; that is, it becomes a motive.

This kind of understanding of motives seems to some extent to be one sided, and needs seem to be eliminated from psychology. But this is not so. It is not needs that disappear from psychology but only their abstractions “naked” not objectively satisfied needs of the subject. These abstracts appear on the stage as a result of isolating needs from the objective activity of the subject in which alone they acquire their psychological concreteness.

It is understood that the subject as an individual is born with an allotment of needs. But let me repeat once more, needs as an internal force may be realized only in activity. In other words, need appears in the first place only as a condition, as a prerequisite for activity, but as soon as the subject begins to act, there immediately occurs its transformation, and need stops being that which it was virtually, “in itself.” The further the development of activity proceeds, the more this prerequisite is converted into its result.

The transformation of needs appears distinctly even at the level of evolution of animals: As a result of change taking place and a broadening of the circle of objects that answer needs and methods of their satisfaction, the needs themselves develop. This happens because needs are capable of being concretized in a potentially very wide range of objects, which become stimuli of activity for an animal, giving the activity a determined direction. For example, when new types of food appear in the environment and old types are eliminated, the need for food continues to be satisfied, and, in addition, it has incorporated into itself a new content, that is, it has become different. Thus development of needs of animals occurs by means of the development of their activities in relation to an ever-widening circle of objects; it is understood that changing the concrete-objective content of needs leads to a change in methods of their satisfaction as well.

Of course, this general position requires many stipulations and many explanations, particularly in connection with questions about the so-called functional needs. But now we are not speaking of this. The main thing here is the isolation of the fact of transformation of needs through objects into the process of their consumption. And this has a key significance for the understanding of the nature of human needs.

As distinct from the development of needs in animals, which depends on a widening circle of natural objects that they consume, human needs are generated by the development of production. After all, production is directly also consumption, which creates need. In other words, consumption is mediated by a need of an object, its perception or its mental presentation. In this, its reflected form, the object appears as the ideal, internally generated motive. 

In psychology, however, needs are most often considered abstracted from the main thing, which is the duality of consumer production that generates them; this leads to the one-sided explanation of human actions based directly on human needs. Here very frequently the saying of Engels is quoted as a substantiation, but it is abstracted from the general context, which deals only with the role of work in the formation of man, including also his needs, of course. Marxist understanding is far from considering needs as the initial and principal point. Here is what Marx writes in this connection: “As a necessity, as a need, the need itself is the internal moment of the productive activity. But productive activity (author’s emphasis) is the initial point of realization and therefore also its dominant moment, the act in which the whole process recurs again. The individual produces an object and through its consumption returns it again to himself... .”

Thus we have before us two major schemes expressing the connection between need and activity. The first produces the idea that the initial point is need and for this reason the process as a whole is expressed in the cycle: need → activity → need. In it, as L. Sève notes, is realized the “materialism of needs,” which corresponds to the pre-Marxist representation of the sphere of consumption as basic. The other scheme which contradicts the first is a cyclic scheme: activity → need → activity. This scheme, which corresponds to the Marxist concept of needs, is also fundamental for psychology, in which “no conception based on the idea of a single mover, in essence preceding activity itself, can play an initiating role capable of serving as an adequate basis for the scientific theory of human personality.”

The position that human needs are produced has, of course, a historical materialistic sense. In addition, it is extremely important for psychology. This must be emphasized because sometimes, especially for psychology, the approach to the problem is just considered in explanations originating from needs themselves, more precisely emotional experiences that needs evoke, which seem to explain why man places goals before himself and creates new objects. Of course there is some truth in this, and it would be possible to agree with it if not for one condition: After all, as determinants of concrete activity, needs may appear only in their objective content, and this content is not directly incorporated in them, and consequently cannot be isolated from them.

Another major difficulty arises as the result of a partial acceptance of the social-historical nature of human needs, which is expressed in some of the needs being considered as social in their origins and others as being purely biological and common to man and animals. It does not, of course, require any. particular coarseness of thought to notice the commonality of certain needs in man and animals. After all man, like animals, has a stomach and experiences hunger – a need he must satisfy in order to support his existence. But man has other needs as well, which are determined not biologically, but socially. They are “functionally automatic” or “anastatic.” The sphere of human needs thus appears to be split in two. This is an unavoidable result of considering “needs themselves” in their isolation from objective conditions and means of their being satisfied, and correspondingly in isolation from activity in which their transformation occurs. But transforming needs at the human level involves also (and most of all) needs that appear in man to be homologues of animal needs. “hunger,” notes Marx, “is hunger, but hunger which is appeased by cooked meat eaten with a knife and fork is a different hunger from that in which raw meat is eaten with the hands, nails, and teeth

Positivist thought, of course, sees nothing more in this than a superficial difference. After all, a starving man is a sufficient example to disclose “deep” commonality of need of food in man and in animal. But this is nothing more than a sophism. For a starving man, food in reality stops existing in its human form and correspondingly the need for food is “dehumanized”; but if this shows anything, then it is only that man can be reduced by starvation to an animal condition, and it says exactly nothing about the nature of his human needs.

Although the human needs, the satisfaction of which constitutes a necessary condition for maintaining physical existence, differ from man’s needs, which do not have a homologue in animals, this development does not appear absolute, and historical transformation encompasses the whole sphere of needs.

In addition to the change and enrichment of objective content of human needs, there also occurs a change in the form of their psychic reflection as a result of which they are capable of acquiring an ideational character, and owing to this they become psychologically invariant; thus food remains food for the person who is hungry as well as for him who is not. In addition, the development of mental production generates such needs as can exist only in the presence of a “plane of consciousness.” Finally, there is formed a special type of needs – needs that are objective-functional, such as the need to work, artistic creation, etc. The main thing is that in man needs enter into new relationships one with another. Although satisfaction of vital needs remains a matter of “first importance” for man and an undeniable condition of his life, higher, specifically human needs do not at all form only superficial formations layered on top of these vital needs. For this reason it may happen that when on one pan of the scales are placed the fundamental vital needs of man and on the other, his higher needs, then the higher needs may well outweigh the vital needs. This is generally known and does not require evidence.

It is true, or course, that the general course that the development of human needs takes begins from man’s acting to satisfy his elementary vital needs; but later this changes, and man satisfies his vital needs in order to act. This is the principal way of development of human needs. This way, however, cannot be directly deduced from the movement of needs themselves because behind this movement hides the development of their object content, that is, concrete motives for the activity of man.

Thus psychological analysis of needs necessarily becomes an analysis of motives. For this, however, it is necessary to overcome the traditional subjective understanding of motives that leads to a confusion of completely different phenomena and completely different levels of the regulation of activity. Here we meet with a genuine contradiction: Is it not clear, they say, that man acts because he wants to? But subjective experiences, wishes, desires, etc., do not constitute motives because in themselves they are not capable of generating directed activity and, consequently, the principal psychological problem is to understand what the object of the given desire, wish, or passion is.

Still less, of course, is there a basis for calling such factors as tendencies to produce behavior stereotypes, the tendency to conclude a started action, etc., motives for action. In the course of realizing activity there arise, of course, a multitude of “dynamic forces.” These forces, however, may be relegated to the category of motives with no greater a basis than, for example, the inertia of movement of the human body, the action of which makes itself known immediately when, for example, a rapidly running man comes upon an unexpectedly appearing obstacle.

A special place in theory of motives of activity belongs to the openly hedonistic conceptions, the essence of which is that all activity of man is in some way subordinated to the principle of maximizing positive and minimizing negative emotions. From this the achievement of satisfaction and freedom from suffering comprise underlying motives that move man. Specifically, in the hedonistic conception, as in the focus of a lens, are collected all ideologically perverted representations about the sense of existence of man and about his personality. Like all great lies, these conceptions are based on truth that they have falsified. This truth is that man actually strives to be happy. But psychological hedonism at once enters into a contradiction with this real great truth, exchanging it for the small currency of “reinforcement” and “self- reinforcement” in the spirit of Skinner behaviorism.

Human activity is in no way generated and is not directed, like the behavior of laboratory rats, with electrodes implanted in the “centers of satisfaction” in the brain. When rats have been trained to turn on the power and stimulate these centers, they continue endlessly in this activity. It is possible, of course, to cite similar phenomena in man also, such as the need for narcotics or hyperbolization of sex, for example; however, these phenomena say absolutely nothing about the real nature of motives, about human life confirming itself. On the contrary, these actions ruin life.

The insupportability of hedonistic conceptions of motivation lies, it is understood, not in that they exaggerate the role of emotional experiences in regulating activity but in that they reduce and pervert real relationships. Emotions are not subordinated to activity but appear to be its result and the “mechanism” of its movement.

In his time John Stuart Mill wrote: “I understood that in order to be happy man must place before himself some kind of goal; then striving toward it, he will experience happiness without worrying about it.” Such is the “cunning” strategy of happiness. That, he said, is the psychological law.

Emotions fulfill the functions of internal signals, internal in the sense that they do not appear directly as psychic reflection of objective activity itself. The special feature of emotions is that they reflect relationships between motives (needs) and success, or the possibility of success, of realizing the action of the subject that responds to these motives. Here we are speaking not about the reflection of those relationships but about a direct sensory reflection of them, about experiencing. Thus they appear as a result of actualization of a motive (need), and before a rational evaluation by the subject of his activity.

I cannot stop here for an analysis of the various hypotheses that in one way or another express the fact of dependence of emotions on interrelationships between “objective reality and that which must be.” I will note only that the fact to be considered first of all is that emotions are relevant to activity and not to actions or operations that realize it. For this reason one and the same processes accomplishing various activities may acquire, various and even contradictory emotional coloring. In other words, the role of a positive or negative “sanctioning” is carried out by emotions in relation to affects ascribed to motives. Even a successful accomplishment of one action or another does not always lead to positive emotions; it may1 engender sharply negative experience signalizing that as far as the principal1 motive is concerned, the success attained is psychologically a defeat for the personality. This is true also of the level of simpler adaptive reactions. The act of sneezing in itself, that is, aside from any kind of relationship that: might exist, evokes satisfaction, they tell us; however, an entirely different feeling is the experience of one of Chekov’s heroes, who sneezed in the theater: This evoked in him emotion of horror and he carried out a series of actions that resulted in his death.

The variety and complexity of emotional states is the result of the breaking down of the primary sensitivity in which cognitive and affective moments merge. This breaking down must not, of course, be thought of in such a way that emotional states acquire an existence independent of the objective world. Arising in objective conditions, they "mark" in their own ascribing emotional marks to things themselves or to individual people to form so-called affective complexes, etc. Here we are speaking about something else, specifically, about the differentiation that results in the form of objective content and emotional coloring. The conditions of complex mediation of human activity and the affectiveness of objects is capable of changing (an unexpected meeting with a bear usually evokes fright, but if a special motive obtains, for example in a situation of hunting, the meeting may evoke joy). The main thing is that emotional processes and states have their own special positive development in man. This must be especially emphasized in as much as the classical conceptions of human emotions as "rudiments" coming from Darwin, consider their transformation in man as their involution, which generates a false ideal of education, leading to the requirement to "subordinate feelings to cold reason."

The emotions have their own history and their own development. This leads to a change of levels and classes. These are affects that take place suddenly and involuntarily (we say, "anger overcame me, but I was glad"); further emotions are properly those states – predominantly ideational and situational and the objective feelings connected with them, that is, firm and "crystallized", according to the figurative expression of Stendahl, in the object of emotional experience; finally, they are attitudes – very important subject phenomena in their "personality" function. Not going into an analysis of these various classes of emotional states, I will note only that they enter into complex relationships among themselves: The younger Rostov is afraid before the battle (and this is an emotion) that he will be overcome by fright (affect); a mother may be really angry with her mischievous child without for a minute failing to love him (feeling).

The variety of emotional phenomena and the complexity of their interrelations and sources is well enough understood subjectively. However, as soon as psychology leaves the plane of phenomenology, then it seems that it is allowed to investigate only the most obvious states. This is the way the matter stood in the peripheral theories (James said directly that his theory did not concern the higher emotions); this is the way the matter remains also in contemporary psychophysiological conceptions.

Another approach to the problem of emotion is to investigate the “intermotivational” relationships that taken together characterize the structure of personality and, together with it, the sphere of emotional experiences that reflect and mediate its functioning.

Genetically, the point of departure for human activity is the noncoincidence of motives and goals. Their coincidence is a secondary phenomenon: either the result of acquiring a goal of independent stimulating force or the result of recognizing motives and converting them into motive-goals. As distinct from goals, motives actually are not recognized by the subject: When we carry out one action or another, at the moment we usually do not give ourselves an accounting of motives that evoke the action. It is true that it is not difficult for us to ascribe motivation to them, but motivation does not always contain in itself an indication of their actual motive.

Motives, however, are not separated from consciousness. Even when motives are not recognized, that is, when man does not account to himself for what makes him carry out one action or another, they still find their psychic reflection, but in a special from – in the form of the emotional coloring of the action. This emotional coloring (its intensity, its mark, and its qualitative character) fulfills a specific function, which also requires distinguishing the concept of emotion from the concept of personal sense. Their non coincidence is not, however, indigenous; evidently at lower levels the objects of need are exactly and directly “marked” by emotion. The nonconformity appears only as a result of the breaking down of the function of motives that takes place in the course of the development of human activity.

Such breaking down is the result of the fact that activity necessarily becomes multi-motivational, that is, it responds simultaneously to two or more motives. After all, the actions of man objectively always realize a certain collectiveness of relationships: toward society, and toward the person himself. Thus work activity is socially motivated but is directed also toward such motives as, let us say, material reward. Both of these motives, although they coexist, lie as if on different planes. Under conditions of socialist relationships the sense of work is engendered for the worker by social motives; as far as material reward is concerned, this motive, of course, also exists for him, but only as a function of stimulating activity, although it also induces it, making it “dynamic,” but material reward as a motive is deprived of its principal function, the function of sense formation.

Thus certain motives inducing activity also give it personal sense; we will call these sense-forming motives. Others, coexisting with them, fulfilling a role of stimulating factors (positive or negative), sometimes sharply emotional and affective, have no sense-forming function; we will call these motives literally motives-stimuli. Characteristically, when an activity, important in its own personal sense for man, encounters in the course of its realization a negative stimulus eliciting even a strong emotional experience, then its personal sense is not changed because of this; most often something else happens; specifically, a unique, rapidly growing psychological discreditation of the elicited emotion occurs. This well-known phenomenon makes us think once again of the problem of the relationships of emotional experiences [perezhivanie] and the personal sense. 

A division of the function of sense formation and simple stimulation between motives of one and the same activity makes it possible to understand the principal relationships characterizing the motivational sphere of personality: the relationships of the hierarchy of motives. This hierarchy is not in the least constructed on a scale of their proximity to the vital (biological) needs in a way similar to that which Maslow, for example, imagines: The necessity for maintaining physiological homeostasis is the basis for the hierarchy; the motives for self-preservation are higher, next, confidence and prestige; finally, at the top of the hierarchy, motives of cognition and aesthetics. The principal problem that arises here is not to what extent the given scale (or another similar to it) is right but how proper the principle of such scaling is in itself. The fact is that neither the degree of proximity to biological needs nor the degree of capacity to stimulate nor the affectiveness of one motive or another determines the hierarchical relationship between them. These relationships are determined by the connections that the activity of the subject brings about, by their mediations, and for this reason, they are relative. This refers also to the principal correlation – to the correlation between sense-forming motives and motive-stimuli. In the structure of one activity a given motive may fulfill the function of sense formation, in another, the function of supplementary stimulation. Sense-forming motives, however, always occupy a higher hierarchical place even if they do not govern direct affectogenesis. Appearing to be dominant in the life of personality, for the subject himself they may remain “in the wings” with respect to both consciousness and direct affectiveness.

The fact of the existence of actually unconscious motives does not in itself express a special beginning hidden in the depths of the psyche. Unconscious motives have the same determination as all psychic reflection: a real existence, activity of man in an objective world. Unconscious and conscious do not oppose one another; they are only different forms and levels of psychic reflection found in strict relation to the place that that which is reflected occupies in the structure of activity, in the movement of its system. If the goals and actions responding to them are of necessity recognized, then the matter is something else with respect to recognizing their motives, that to which the selection and achievement of given goals is due. Objective content of motives always, of course, in one way or another, presents itself and is perceived. In this respect the object that stimulates action and the object that acts as an implement or obstacle are, so to speak, equivalent. It is a different matter if the object is recognized as a motive. The paradox lies in that motives are revealed to consciousness only objectively by means of analysis of activity and its dynamics. Subjectively, they appear only in their oblique expression, in the form of experiencing wishes, desires, or striving toward a goal. When one or another goal appears before me, then I not only recognize it, present its objective conditionality to myself, the means of its achievement and the eventual results to which it leads, but I want to achieve it (or on the contrary, it may repel me). These direct experiences fulfill the role of internal signals by means of which processes are regulated in the course of being realized. Subjectively, expressing itself in these internal signals, the motive is not directly contained in them. This creates the impression that they arise endogenously and that they are the forces that move behavior.

Recognition of motives is a secondary phenomenon arising only at the level of personality and continuously being produced during the course of its development. For very small children this problem simply does not exist. Even at the stage of transition to school age when a desire to go to school appears in the child, the underlying motive behind this desire is hidden from him, although he has no difficulty with motivations that usually bring out something familiar to him. It is possible to explain this underlying motive only objectively (obliquely) studying, for example, games of children playing at “going to school,” so that in the role play it is easy to see the personal sense of the play actions and, correspondingly, their motive. To recognize : the real motives of his activity, the subject must also proceed along a “round about way,” with this difference, however, that along this way he will be oriented by signals-experiences, emotional “marks” of living.

A day filled with a multitude of actions, seemingly completely successful, may nonetheless spoil a person’s mood, leaving him with some kind of unpleasant emotional residue. Against the background of the concerns of the day this residue is hardly noticed. But then comes a minute when the person looks back and mentally sorts out the day he has lived through; at this moment there surfaces in his memory a given experience, and his mood acquires the objective reference: There arises an affective signal indicating that specifically this experience left him with the emotional residue. It may happen, for example, that this is his negative reaction to somebody’s success in achieving a common goal solely because it seemed to him to be his alone; and here it seems that this was not exactly so, and that really the principal motive for him was achieving the success for himself. He is confronted with a “problem of personal sense” but it is not resolved of itself because now it has become a problem of correlating motives that characterize him as a personality.

Specific internal work is necessary to resolve such a problem and perhaps to eradicate what has become exposed. After all, it is too bad, said Pirogov, if you do not notice this in time and do not stop it. Herzen also wrote about this, and Tolstoy’s whole life is a great example of such internal work.

The process of penetrating into the personality appears here from the side of the subject, phenomenally. But even in this, its phenomenal appearance, it is apparent that it consists in a clarification of hierarchical relations of motives. Subjectively, they seem to express a psychological “valency” belonging to the motives themselves. Scientific analysis, however, must go further because the formation of these relations necessarily presupposes a transformation of the motives themselves, which takes place in the movement of this whole system of activity of the subject in which his personality is formed.

5.5. Formation of Personality 

The situation of the development of the human individual discloses its special features even at the very first stages. The principle of these is the mediated character of the connections of the child with the surrounding world. At the beginning direct biological connections, child-mother, are very soon mediated by objects: Mother feeds the child from a cup, dresses him in clothing, and, amusing him, manipulates toys. In addition, the connections of the child with things are mediated by the people surrounding him: Mother places the child close to things that are attractive to him, brings them close to him, or perhaps removes them from him. In a word, the activity of the child appears more and more as realizing his connections with man through things and connections with things through man.

The result of this development is that things appear to the child not only in their physical properties but also in that special quality that they acquire in human activity – in their functional meaning (a cup is something from which one drinks, a stool is something on which one sits, a watch is something that people wear on their wrists, etc.) – and people appear to be “in charge” of the things on which his relationships with people depend. Objective activity of the child acquires an implemented structure and communication becomes oral, mediated by language. 

In this initial situation of the child’s development there is also the kernel of those relationships, the further unfolding of which constitutes a chain of experiences leading to his formation as a personality. In the first place, the relationships to the world of things and to surrounding people merge for the child, but later they separate and form various, although interconnected, lines of development merging one with another.

In ontogenesis these transitions are expressed in alternating phases: the phase of predominance of the development of objective (practical and cognitive) activity with phases of the development of interrelationships with people, with society.  The same kind of transitions characterize the movement of motives within each phase. As a result, there appear those hierarchical connections of motives that form the “knots” of personality.

The tying of these knots represents a hidden process that is expressed in different ways at different stages of development. I have described above one of the phenomena that characterize the mechanism of this process at the stage when combining the objective action of a child and his relation to an adult who is absent at the given moment; although it changes the sense of the result achieved, yet it leaves the action itself still completely a “field” action. How do further changes occur? Facts obtained in the investigation of preschool children of various ages indicate that these changes are subject to definite rules.

One of these is that in a situation where motivation in various directions obtains, there is first a subordination of action to the requirements of the man and then an objective subordination of interobject connections. Another rule discovered in the course of experiments appears somewhat paradoxical: It seems that under conditions of doubly motivated activity the object-material motive can fulfill a function, having earlier subordinated another motive, when it is given to a child in the form of only a representation, mentally, and only later appears in the actual field of perception.

Although these rules express genetic heredity, they also have a general significance. The fact is that in making a situation such as that described more precise, the phenomenon of displacement (decalage) appears as a result of which these more simple directing relationships are disclosed; it is known, for example, that it is easier to attack after a direct command from the commander than when one is self-directed. As far as the form in which the motives appear is concerned, in complex circumstances of voluntary activity it is very clearly disclosed that only an ideal motive, that is, a motive lying within the vectors of the internal field, is capable of subordinating to itself actions from external motives directed in the opposite direction. Speaking figuratively, the psychological mechanism of life feats must be found in the human imagination.

From the point of view of changes about which we are speaking, the process of formation of personality may be represented as a development of will, and this is not incidental. Involuntary impulsive action is action that is impersonal, although one may speak about the loss of will only with relation to personality (after all it isn’t possible to lose what one doesn’t have). For this reason authors who consider will as a most important trait of personality from the empirical point of view are right. 

Will, however, does not appear to be either the beginning or even the “pivot” of personality, it is only one of its expressions. The real basis of personality is that special structure of the entire activity of the subject that occurs at a given stage of the development of his human connections with the world.

Man lives as if in an ever-widening circle of activity for him. In the beginning it is a small circle of people and objects that directly surround him, interaction with them, a sensory perception of them, and a learning of what can be known about them, a learning of their significance. But further, before him there begins to open activity that lies far beyond the limits of his practical activity and direct contact: the widening limits of what he can know presented to him by the world. The real “field” that now determines his actions is not that which is simply present but that which exists for him, exists objectively or sometimes only as an illusion.

Knowledge of the subject of that which exists always outstrips his converting it into something that determines his activity. Such knowledge fulfills a very important role in the formation of motives. At a known level of development motives at first appear as only “known,” as possible, but not yet really stimulating any kind of action. To understand the process of formation of personality, it is necessary to consider this without fail, although in itself the extension of knowledge does not appear as determining for personality; for this reason, incidentally, the cultivation of personality cannot be reduced to training, to accumulating knowledge.

The formation of personality presupposes a development of the process of goal formation and, correspondingly, the development of actions of the subject. Actions, becoming ever richer, outgrow that circle of activity that they realize, and enter into a contradiction with the motives that engender them. The phenomena of such an outgrowing are very well known and repeatedly described in literature on the psychology of growth, although in different terms; these phenomena form the so-called crises of development, the crises of three years, seven years, adolescence, and the much less frequently studied crises of maturity. As a result there occurs a displacement of motives to goals, a change in their hierarchy, and the engendering of new motives, new kinds of activity; former goals are psychologically discredited and the actions that responded to them either completely cease to exist or are converted into impersonal operations.

Internally moving forces of this process lie in the original dual connection of subject with the world and in their dual mediation, object activity, and social contact. Its development engenders not only a duality of motivation of actions but, owing to this, also their subordination depending on the objective relationships opening up before the subject into which he enters. The development and multiplication of these subordinations, which are special in their nature, appearing only in life conditions of man in society, occupies a long period that may be called the spontaneous stage of development of personality, not directed by self-consciousness. At this stage, which continues almost up to the beginning of adolescence, .the process of forming personality, however, is not concluded; it is only a preparation for the coming of the self-conscious personality.

In pedagogical and psychological literature either the early preschool or the preadolescent period is indicated as a turning point in this respect. The personality actually is born twice; the first time when there appear in a child in clear forms poly-motivation and subordination of his actions (we will remember the phenomenon of the “bitter sweets” and others similar to that) and a second time when his conscious personality appears. In the latter case we have in mind some kind of a special reconstruction of consciousness. The problem arises with respect to understanding the necessity for this reconstruction and of what it specifically consists. 

This necessity is created by the circumstance that the wider the connections of the subject with the world, the more they are intertwined with each other. His actions, realizing one of his activities, one relationship, objectively seem to realize also some other kind of relationship of his also. A possible nonconformity or contradiction of these does not, however, create alternatives that are simply resolved through an “arithmetic of motives.” A real psychological situation engendered by a crossing of ties of the subject with the world into which, independently of him, each of his actions and each of his acts of contact with other people are drawn, requires from him an orientation in the system of these connections. In other words, psychic reflection or consciousness cannot at this point become orienting for only some actions of a subject; it must also actively reflect the hierarchy of their connections, the process of developing subordination and cross-subordination of their motives. And this requires a special internal movement of consciousness.

In the movements of individual consciousness, described earlier as a process of mutual transition of directly sensory content and meanings acquiring one sense or another, depending on the motives of activity, there is now disclosed also a movement in one dimension. If the movement described earlier is presented figuratively as a movement in the horizontal plane, then the new movement takes place as if vertically. It consists of correlating motives one with another: Some occupy a place subordinating others to themselves and, as if elevating themselves, others, on the contrary, drop to a position of subordination or even completely lose their sense-forming function. The making of this movement expresses in itself the making of a connective system of personal senses, the making of personality.

Of course, the formation of personality represents in itself a continuous process consisting of a series of sequentially changing stages, the qualitative features of which depend on the concrete conditions and circumstances. For this reason, observing its sequential course, we note only separate displacements. But if we were to look at it from a certain distance, then the transition marking the genuine birth of personality would appear as an event changing the course of the whole subsequent psychic development. 

Many phenomena exist that mark this passage. Primarily it is a reconstruction of the sphere of relations with other people and with society. If at earlier stages society is discovered in widening contacts with those around the person and for this reason predominantly in its personified forms, then at this time this situation reverses: The people around begin evermore to act through objective social relations. The transition about which we are speaking also initiates changes that determine the main thing in the development of personality, in its fate.

The necessity for the subject to orient himself in the widening system of his connections with the world is now disclosed in its new meaning: as that which gives rise to the process of the unfolding of the social essence of the subject. In all its fullness this unfolding constitutes a perspective of historical process. In conformity with the formation of personality at one or another stage of the development of society and depending on the place the individual occupies in the system of present social relations, this perspective appears only as eventually containing within itself the ideal “terminal point.”

One of the changes behind which the new reconstruction of the hierarchy of motives hides shows itself in a loss of the intrinsic value for the adolescent of relations in the intimate circle of his contacts. Thus requests coming from even the very closest adults now preserve their sense-forming functions only if they are included in a wider social motivational sphere; in other circumstances they evoke “psychological rebellion.” This entrance of the adolescent into a wider circle of contacts does not at all mean, however, that the intimate and the personal now are relegated to a second plane. On the contrary, it is in just this period and for just this reason that there occurs an intensive development of internal life: Side-by-side with casual friendship there develops true friendship nurtured by mutual confidence; the content of letters changes, they lose their stereotypic and descriptive character, and accounts of experiences appear in them; attempts are made to keep intimate journals and first love appears.

Still deeper changes mark the subsequent levels of development up to the level at which the system of objective social relations and its expression acquires a personal sense itself. Of course, phenomena occurring at this level are still more complex and may be truly tragic, but even here the same thing takes place: The more society discloses itself to the personality, the fuller becomes its internal world.

The process of development of personality always remains deeply individual, unique. It produces major displacements along the abscissa of growth and sometimes evokes social degradation of the personality. The main thing is that it proceeds completely individually and depends on the concrete-historical conditions, on the belonging of the individual to one or another social environment. It is particularly dramatic under conditions of a class society with its unavoidable alienation and partialization of personality, with its alternatives between labor and management. It is understood that concrete life circumstances leave their mark on the process of development of personality even in a socialistic society. Eliminating the objective conditions that form a barrier for returning his true essence to man, for a well-rounded and harmonious development of his personality, makes this a real prospect for the first time but does not automatically reconstruct a personality. Fundamental change lies in something else, in the appearance of a new movement: a struggle of society for human personality. When we say, “In the name of man, for man,” this means not simply for his use but for his personality, although here it is understood, of course, that man must be assured material good and mental nourishment.

If we return once more to the phenomena marking the transition from the period of preparation of personality to the period of its development, then we must indicate yet another transitional transformation. This is the transformation of expression of class characteristics of personality and, speaking more broadly, characteristics depending on the social differentiation of society. The subject’s belonging to a class conditions even at the outset the development of his connections with the surrounding world, a greater or smaller segment of his practical activity, his contacts, his knowledge, and his acquiring norms of behavior. All of these are acquisitions from which personality is made up at the stage of its initial formation. Is it possible and is it necessary according to this to speak about the class character of personality? Yes, if we keep in mind that which the child assimilates from the environment; no, because at this stage he is only an object, if it may be expressed in this way, of his class, of his social group. Later the situation is turned around and he becomes the subject of class and group. Then and only then does his personality begin to be formed as a class personality in a different, true meaning of the word: At the beginning perhaps unconsciously, then consciously, but sooner or later he will take his position – more or less active, decisive or vacillating. For this reason, under conditions of class confrontation he does not simply “show himself” but takes his place on one side or the other of the barricade. Something else becomes evident, specifically, that at every turn of his life’s way he must free himself of something, confirm something in himself, and he must do all this and not simply “submit to the effect of the environment.”

Finally, along this line there takes place still another change, which also changes the very “mechanism” that forms personality. Earlier I spoke about the ever-widening activity that actually exists for the subject. But it exists also within time – in the form of his past and in the form of the future he sees before him. Of course, primarily we have in mind the first thing – the subject’s individual experience, the function of which appears to be, as it were, his personality. And this again resurrects the formula about personality as a product of innate properties and acquisition of experience. At earlier stages of development this formula can still seem credible, especially if it is not simplified and if all the complexity of the mechanisms that go into forming experience are considered. Under conditions of the hierarchization of motives, however, it continuously loses its meaning and at the level of personality it seems to topple.

The fact is that at this level past impressions, experiences, and actual actions of the subject do not in any way appear to him as dormant layers of his experience. They are the subject of his relations and his actions and for that reason their contribution is changed into personality. One thing in the past dies, loses its sense, and is converted into a simple condition and means of his activity: the developed aptitudes, skills, and stereotypes of behavior; everything else appears to the subject in a completely new light and acquires a new meaning, which he had not perceived before; finally, something from the past may be actively rejected by the subject and psychologically ceases to exist for him although it remains in the compendium of his memory. These changes take place gradually, but they may be concentrated and may comprise moral breaks. The resulting reevaluation of the past that is established in life leads to man’s casting off from himself the burden of his biography. Does this not in itself indicate that the contributions of past experience to personality were dependent on personality itself and became its function?

This seems to be possible because of the new internal movement that has arisen in the system of individual consciousness, which I have figuratively called a movement “along the vertical.” But one must not think that major changes in personality in the past were produced by consciousness; consciousness does not produce them but simply mediates them; they are produced by the actions of the subject, sometimes even external actions breaks of former contacts, a change in profession, a practical entering into new circumstances. This was beautifully described by Makarenko: Old clothing worn by orphans in an orphanage is publicly burned by them on a bonfire.

Despite its prevalence, the consideration of personality as a product of the biography of man is unsatisfactory, confirming as it does the fatalistic understanding of his fate (A citizen thinks thus: The child stole; therefore he will be a thief!). This view, of course, allows the possibility of changing something in man, but only at the price of external interference, the force of which outweighs the accumulation of his experience. This is a conception of the primacy of punishment and not repentance, reward and not action that it rewards. The main psychological fact is overlooked, specifically, that man enters into relations with his past, which enters variously into his present – into the memory of his personality. Tolstoy advised: Notice what you remember and what you do not remember; by these signs you will recognize yourself. 

This view is incorrect also because an expansion of activity for man takes place not only in the direction of the past but also in the direction of the future. Just like the past, the future is also present in the personality. The life perspective opening before man is not simply a product of a “reflection left behind” but also its property. In this lies the strength and the truth of what Makarenko wrote about the developmental nurturing significance of close perspectives and of more distant perspectives. This is true also for adults. The following is a parable that I heard at one time from an old stableman in the Urals: When a horse on a difficult road begins to stumble, then it is necessary not to whip it but to raise its head higher so that it might see farther ahead.

A personality is created by objective circumstances but in no other way than through the whole aggregate of the activity that realizes its relations with the world. The features of the activity also form that which determines the type of personality. Although questions of differential psychology are not a part of the problem here, the analysis of forming a personality nonetheless leads to the problem of a general approach to investigating these questions.

The first basis of personality that no differential- psychological conception can ignore is the riches of the connections of the individual with the world. These riches also distinguish a man whose life encompasses a wide circle of various activities from that Berlin teacher whose “world stretches from Moabit to Köpenick and who is locked fast behind the Hamburg Gate, his relationships to that world being reduced to a minimum by his pitiable position in life.“ It is understood that we are speaking about real relationships and not about relationships alienated from man, which resist him or subordinate him to themselves. Psychologically, we express these real relationships through an understanding of activity, its sense-forming motives, and not in the language of stimuli and completed operations. It must be added here that activities forming the basis of personality include in themselves theoretical activities also, and that in the course of development their circle can not only expand but also contract; in empirical psychology this is called “a contraction of interests.” Some people do not notice this contraction; others, like Darwin, complain about it as a misfortune. 

The differences that exist here are not just quantitative, expressing the measure of the extent to which the world opens before man in space and time, in his future. Behind them lie the differences in content of these objective and social relationships that are mandated by the objective conditions of the epoch, nation, and class. For this reason the approach to the typology of personalities, even if it considers only one such parameter, in current terminology, cannot but be concrete-historical. But psychological analysis does not stop at this, for the connections of personality with the world either may be poorer than those that set the objective conditions or may substantially surpass them.

A second and more important parameter of personality is the degree to which activities and their motives are arranged hierarchically. This degree may be very different regardless of whether the personality base forming the subject’s connections with the environment is narrow or broad. The hierarchies of motives exist always at all levels of development. It is these motives that form relatively independent units of the life of the personality, and they may be smaller or larger, split one from another or within a single motivational sphere. Splitting of these units of life that are hierarchically arranged within themselves creates the psychological makeup of a person living fragmentarily, first in one “field,” then in another. On the other hand, a higher degree of hierarchization of motives is expressed in the fact that man seems to measure his actions against his main motives, goals and then finds that some of these are in direct contradiction to a given motive, and others directly respond to it, and still others lead away from it.

When the principal motive that stimulates man is under consideration, then usually we are speaking about life goal. Is this motive, however, always adequately disclosed to consciousness? This question cannot be answered lightly because its perception in the form of understanding the idea occurs not of itself but in that movement of individual perception through which alone the subject is capable of interpreting what is internal to him through a system of assimilated meanings or concepts. We have already talked about this and about the struggle that is waged in society for the consciousness of man.

Units of meaning of life may gather as if into one stream, but this is a figurative characterization. The question that remains most important is which place is occupied by that point in extensive space that constitutes the real, although not always apparent to the individual, genuine reality. The whole life of the Covetous Knight was directed to one goal: acquiring the “power of gold.” This purpose was attained (“ Who knows how many bitter abstentions, restrained passions, heavy thoughts, days of worry, sleepless nights all of this cost?“), but life ended in nothing and the goal seemed senseless. Pushkin ends the tragedy of the Covetous Knight with the words, “A dreadful age ! dreadful hearts!”

A different personality with a different fate is created when the principal motive-goal is elevated to a truly human level and does not weaken man but merges his life with the life of people, with their good. Depending on the circumstances that are the fate of man, such life motives may acquire very different content and different objective significance, but only they are capable of creating an internal psychological justification for his existence, which comprises the sense and happiness of life. The summit on this road is man having become, in the words of Gorki, a man of Man.

Here we approach the most complex parameter of personality: the general type of its structure. The motivational sphere of man, even in its highest development, never resembles a stiff pyramid. It may be displaced, eccentric with respect to the actual space of historical reality, and then we describe it as a one-sided personality. It may, on the other hand, develop as a many sided personality including a wide circle of relationships. But in the one case as well as in the other it necessarily reflects objective nonconformity of these relationships, the contradictions between them, and the shift of the place they occupy in it.

The structure of personality represents in itself a relatively stable configuration of principal motivational lines arranged hierarchically within itself. We are speaking here about the fact that “direction of personality” is incompletely described, incompletely because even in the presence of a distinct predominant line of life in a man, it still cannot be the only line. Serving the select goal or ideal does not at all exclude nor extinguish other life relationships of man, which in their turn form sense-forming motives. Figuratively speaking, the motivational sphere of personality always appears multistoried, just like that objective system of axiological concepts that characterizes the ideology of a given society, a given class or social stratum that is communized and assimilated (or rejected) by man.

Internal relationships of main motivational lines in the aggregate activity of man form as if a general “psychological profile” of personality. Sometimes it takes on the configuration of a flatness devoid of real summits; then what is small in life man takes for something large, and the large things he does not see at all. Such poverty of personality may under certain social conditions be combined with a satisfaction of a fairly wide circle of everyday needs. In this, incidentally, lies that psychological threat that modern consumer society poses to the personality of man.

A different structure of psychological profile of personality is created by parallelism of life motives, often combined with the rise of imaginary peaks formed only by “familiar motives” - stereotypes of ideals, devoid of personal sense. Such a structure, however, is transient: From the beginning the parallelism of lines of various life relationships enters subsequently into internal connections. This occurs inevitably, but not of itself; it is a result of the internal work about which I spoke earlier and which appears in the form of a specific movement of consciousness.

Multifaceted relationships into which man enters with reality are objectively contradictory. Their contradictions engender conflicts that under certain circumstances are fixed and enter into the structure of personality. Thus a historically arising separation of internal theoretical activity not only gives rise to a one-sided development of personality but may lead to psychological disorders, to splitting of personality into two spheres strange to each other – the sphere of its appearance in real life and the sphere of its appearance in the life that exists only as an illusion, only in autistic thought. It is impossible to describe such a psychological disturbance more penetratingly than did Dostoyevsky; from a wretched existence filled with senseless matters, his hero escapes into a life of the imagination, into dreams; before us there are as if two personalities, one, the personality of a man who is humiliatingly cowardly, an eccentric who shuts himself off in his den, the other, a romantic and even a heroic personality open to all the joys of life. And this is the life of one and the same man; for that reason inevitably there comes a moment when the dreams are dissipated and years of gloomy solitude, melancholy, and despondency follow.

The personality of the hero of “White Nights” is also a special, even unique phenomenon. But through this uniqueness there is evident a general psychological truth. This truth is that the structure of personality devolves neither to the riches of connections between man and the world nor to the degree to which they are arranged in hierarchies, that their characterization lies rather in the correlation of the various systems developed by the life relationships that engender conflict among them. Sometimes this conflict takes place in externally imperceptible, ordinarily dramatic forms so to speak, and does not disturb the harmony of the personality or its development; after all, a harmonious personality is not at all a personality that does not know any kind of an internal struggle. Sometimes, however, this internal struggle becomes the main thing that determines the whole makeup of the man; such is the structure of the tragic personality.

Thus theoretical analysis allows an isolation of at least three basic parameters of personality: the extent of the connections of man with the world, the degree to which they are arranged in hierarchies, and their general structure. Of course, these parameters do not give the differential psychological typology; they can only serve as a skeletal plan, which must still be filled with a living concrete-historical content. But this is a problem for special investigation. Will there not occur, however, under these circumstances a substitution of sociological psychology, will not the “psychological” in personality be lost?

This question arises because the approach about which we are speaking differs from the usual anthropologist (or cultural- anthropologistic) approach to the psychology of personality, which considers personality as an individual having psychophysiological and psychological traits that are changed in the process of his adaptation to the social environment. Our analysis, on the contrary, requires consideration of personality as a new quality engendered by the movement of the systems of objective social relations into which his activity is drawn. Personality thus no longer seems to be the result of a direct layering of external influences; it appears as something that man makes of himself, confirming his human life. He confirms it in everyday affairs and contacts, as well as in people to whom he gives some part of himself on the barricades of class struggles, as well as on the fields of battle for his country, and at times he consciously confirms it even at the price of his physical life.

As far as such psychological “substructures of personality” as temperament, needs and inclinations, emotional experiences and interests, aims,habits and customs, moral traits, etc., are concerned, it is understood that they do not in the least disappear. They are only evident in different ways: either as conditions or in their origins and transformations, in changes of their place in personality, which take place in the process of their development.

Thus the characteristics of the nervous system undoubtedly represent individual and at the same time quite stable traits; these traits, however, do not in any way form human personality. In his actions man consciously or unconsciously deals with the traits of his constitution just as he deals with external conditions of his actions and with the means he has for accomplishing them. Characterizing man as a natural being, the traits, however, cannot play the role of forces that determine the motivation of activity and goal formation that are forming in him. The only real problem – although it arises secondarily here - the problem of the psychology of personality, is a problem of the formation of actions of the subject directed toward his own innate or acquired characteristics, which do not directly enter into the psychological characterization of his personality sphere.

Even less can the factors or “modes” of personality such as needs and purposes be considered as substructures. They appear only as abstracted from the activity of the subject in which their metamorphoses take place; but it is not these metamorphoses that create personality; on the contrary, they themselves are engendered by the movement of the development of personality. This movement is subject to the same formula that describes the transformation of human needs. It begins from the subject’s acting in order to sustain his existence; it leads to the subject’s sustaining his existence in order to act, to carry out the business of his life, to accomplish his human purpose. This reversal, concluding the stage of establishing of personality, also discloses the unlimited perspectives for its development.

Object-material “needs for oneself’ having been satisfied, their satisfaction leads to their being reduced to the level of conditions of life, which are noticed the less by man the more habitual they become. For this reason personality cannot develop within the framework of need; its development necessarily presupposes a displacement of needs by creation, which alone does not know limits.

Must this be emphasized? Of course it must, because the naive and, in essence, vestigial sense sometimes represents a transition to the principle, “according to need,” almost as a transition to the superprosperous consumer society. Lost from view here is the fact that it is necessary also to go through a transformation of material consumption, that the possibility for everyone to satisfy these needs does away with the intrinsic value of things that satisfy them and eliminates that unnatural function that they fulfill in private ownership society – a function of confirming through them man himself, his own “prestige.”

The last theoretical question I will consider is the question of perceiving oneself as a personality. In psychology it is posed as a question of self-consciousness, a question of the process of its development. There are a great number of works dedicated to an investigation of this process. They contain detailed data characterizing the stages of formation in the ontogenesis of representations about oneself. We are speaking about the formation of the so-called body plan, the potentials for localizing one’s interior receptive sensations, about the development of cognition of one’s external aspect recognizing oneself in a mirror or in a photograph. Carefully observed is the process of the development in children of the evaluation of others and of themselves in which physical characteristics are isolated first and then psychological and moral characteristics are added to these. A change that proceeds parallel to this is that partial characterization of others and oneself yields to characterization that is more complete, one that encompasses man as a whole and his essential distinguishing traits. Such is the empirical picture of the development of self-recognition, of the recognition of one’s own individual traits, properties, and potentials. Does this picture, however, answer the question about the development of self-consciousness, of the perception of the “I?” 

Yes, if we understand self-perception only as knowing about oneself. Like all cognition, self-cognition begins with isolating external superficial properties and is the result of comparison, analysis, and generalization, of isolating the essential. But individual consciousness is not only knowing, it is not only a system of acquired knowledge or concepts. Its property is an internal movement that reflects the movement of the real life of the subject itself, which it mediates; we have already seen that only in this movement does knowledge find its relevance to the objective world and its efficacy. The matter is also the same when the object of consciousness is the traits, features, and actions or conditions of the subject himself; in this case it is also necessary to distinguish between knowledge about oneself and knowing oneself.

Knowledge, representations about oneself, begins to accumulate even in early childhood; in imperceptible forms it evidently exists also in higher animals. Self-knowledge, perception of one’s “I,” is another matter. It is the result, the product, of the formation of man as a personality. Representing in itself the phenomenological conversion of forms of actual relationships of the personality and its directness, it appears as their cause and subject.

The psychological problem of the “I” arises as soon as we pose the question: To what kind of reality is everything that we know about ourselves related, and does everything that we know about ourselves relate to this reality.? How is it that in one reality I find my “I” and in another I lose it (we even say, “I am not myself...”)? The non-correspondence of “I” and that which the subject represents as an object of his own knowledge of himself is psychologically evident. In addition, psychology originating from an organistic position cannot give a scientific explanation of this non-coincidence. If the problem of “I” is proposed in it, then it is only in the form of a statement of existence of a special instance within personality – a small man within the heart who at the proper moment “pulls on the strings.” It is understood that rejecting the possibility of ascribing substantially to this special instance, psychology ends in evading the problem, in dissipating the “I” in the structure of personality, and its interactions with the surrounding world. Nevertheless, it still remains, showing itself now in the form of a drive to penetrate into the world, into the need to “actualize oneself’ that is within the individual.

Thus the problem of self-consciousness of the personality, perception of the “I,” remains unresolved in psychology. And this is not in any way an imaginary problem; on the contrary, it is a problem of great vital significance crowning the psychology of personality.

V. I. Lenin wrote about what distinguishes “simply a slave” from a slave who is reconciled to his position and from a slave who has rebelled.  This difference lies not in knowing one’s own individual traits but in perceiving oneself in a system of social relations. Perceiving one’s “I” does not mean anything else.

We have become accustomed to thinking that man represents a center in which are focused external influences and from which spread lines of his connections, his interactions with the external world, that this center, given consciousness, is really this “I.” But this is not at all the way the matter stands. We have seen that multifaceted activities of the subject are intertwined one with another and connected in knots by objective relationships, social in their nature, into which he necessarily enters. These knots, their hierarchies, also form that secret “center of personality,” which we call the “I”; in other words, this center lies not in the individual, not under the surface of his skin, but in his being.

Thus the analysis of activity and consciousness unavoidably leads to a rejection of the traditional, for empirical psychology, egocentric, “Ptolemaic” understanding of man in favor of the “Copernican,” which considers the human “I” as incorporated into a general system of interconnections of people in society. It is only necessary to emphasize here that inclusion in the system does not at all mean being dissolved in it but, on the contrary, means finding and disclosing in it the force of one’s action.

In our psychological literature the words of Marx are often quoted: “Man is not born a Fichtean philosopher, man looks at another man as if into a mirror and only by behaving toward him as he would behave toward himself does he begin to behave toward himself as to a man.” These words are often understood only in the sense that man forms his image according to the image of another man. But in these words is expressed a much deeper meaning. In order to understand this, it is sufficient to reestablish their context.

“In certain relations,” begins Marx in the comment cited, “man resembles a commodity.” What are these relationships? Evidently they are those relationships discussed in the text that accompanies the quoted comment. These are the cost relations of commodities. These relationships are based on the fact that the natural body of one commodity becomes the form and reflects the cost of another commodity, i. e., they are the relationships of such superficial quality that the body of the commodity is never penetrated. Marx ends this note thus: “In addition even Paul as such, in all of his Pauline physicality, becomes for him a form of disclosure of the genus ‘man’.” But, for Marx, man as a generic being is not the biological species Homo sapiens but a human society. In him, in his personified forms, man also sees himself as a man.

The problem of the human “I” belongs to a number of problems that have been overlooked by scientific psychological analysis. Access to it is closed by many false representations compiled in psychology at the empirical level of the investigation of personality. At this level personality inevitably appears as an individual complicated but not transformed by society, that is, finding in it new systemic properties. But exactly in these, his “pretersensual” properties, he embodies a subject for psychological science.



Although I call these pages the conclusion, the task here is not to sum up the work but rather to note future perspectives. In my view they appear as an investigation of those transitions that may be called inter-level transitions.

With no difficulty we isolate various levels of the study of man: the biological level on which he appears as a physical, natural being, the psychological level on which he appears as a subject of life activity, and finally, the social level on which he appears as realizing objective social relations, the social-historical process. The existence of these levels poses a problem about internal relationships that connect the psychological level with the biological and the social.

Although this problem has confronted psychology for a long time, even now it cannot be considered resolved. The difficulty is that for a scientific solution a preliminary abstraction is required of those specific interactions and connections of the subject that engender the psychic reflection of reality in the human brain. The category of activity actually contains this abstraction, and this, it is understood, not only does not destroy the wholeness of the concrete subject as we see him at work, in his family, or even in our laboratories, but, on the contrary, returns him to psychology.

Returning the whole man to psychology, however, may be accomplished only on the basis of a special investigation of the intertransitions of certain levels into others, which occurs in the course of development. Such investigation must reject the idea of considering these levels as superimposed one on another, and even more strongly that of reducing one level to another. The obviousness of this is particularly evident in the study of ontogenesis. If, in the initial steps of the child’s psychological development, his biological adaptations (which make a decisive contribution to establishing his perceptions and emotions) appear at the first plane, then subsequently these adaptations are transformed. This of course does not mean that they simply stop functioning; it means something else, specifically that they begin to realize another higher level of activity on which the amount they contribute at each given stage of development depends. Our dual task consists, therefore, of investigating the possibility (or limitation) that they embody. In ontogenetic development this problem recurs constantly, sometimes in a very sharp form as it does, let us say, in the puberty period when biological changes occur, which from the very beginning have an already transformed expression psychologically, and when the whole question is what kind of expressions these will be.

But let us put aside the question of development psychology. The whole principle on which interlevel relations depend consists of the fact that the available higher level always becomes dominant, but it cannot be realized except with the help of lower-lying levels and is thus dependent on them.

The problem of interlevel investigations, then, is studying the multifaceted forms of these realizations due to which the processes of the higher level are not only concretized but also individualized.

The main thing that must not be lost from view is that in inter-level investigations we have to do not with something that is only one-sided but with something that is two-sided and that has a movement with a spiral form: with the formation of higher levels and the “weaving” or alternation of lower levels, which in their turn serve the possibility of the further development of the system as a whole. Thus inter-level investigations, being interdisciplinary, also exclude understanding them as reducing one level to another or attempting to find their correlative connections and coordinations. I especially emphasize this because if in his time N. N. Lange spoke about psychophysiological parallelism as about a “terrible” thought, then at this time reductionism has become a truly terrible thought for psychology. A recognition of this is penetrating ever more into western science. The general conclusion from an analysis of reductionism was most sharply formulated by English authors in the latest (1974) issue of the international journal Cognition: The only alternative to reductionism is dialectic materialism (S. Rose and H. Rose, Vol. 2, No. 4). This is actually so. Scientific resolution of the problem, biological and psychological, psychological and social, is simply impossible outside the Marxist system of analysis. For this reason even the positivist program “United Science” (with capital letters!), pretending to unite knowledge by means of universal cybernetics and multi-mathematical (model) schemes, suffered a clear failure.

Although these schemes are actually capable of comparing the different phenomena qualitatively among themselves, yet only on a certain plane of abstraction at which the specifics of these phenomena and their intertransformations disappear. As far as psychology is concerned, there it definitively breaks with the concreteness of man. [1]

Of course, having said all this, I had in mind most of all the relations between psychological and morphophysiological levels of investigation. One must think, however, that the matter also is the same in the connection that exists between the social and psychological levels.

Unfortunately, specifically those social-psychological problems remain the least researched in our science that are the most overgrown with conceptions and methods drawn from foreign research, that is, from research subordinated to the problem of finding a psychological basis for justifying and immortalizing inter-human relations engendered by bourgeois society. But a reconstruction of social-psychological science from the Marxist point of view cannot take place independently from one or another social-psychological understanding of man, and the role in his formulation of vital connections of man with the world engendered by these social relations in which he acts.

For this reason, thinking about the perspectives of psychological science as centering in itself multifaceted approaches to man, one must not be distracted from that fact that this centering takes place on the social level – just as it is at this level that human fate is decided.


NB. This paragraph has been modified after comparison with the Russian original to represent the author’s intention more accurately.— MIA.