The concept of zone of proximal development of personality in the context of possible/impossible dichotomy.


Moskow, Russia

It is difficult to find on area in psychology where the concept of zone of proximal development would not be use today. This concept has been proposed by L.S.Vygotsky in his work "Thinking and speech" (I934) to characterize child's intellectual development and training success. Yet even in the contemporary concept of zone of proximal development "the essential role of the subject of mental development in the process of education,self- education etc. is not sufficiently taken into account" [A.Brushlinsky, 1994,26]. We concentrate on the activity most vividly expressing the essence of an individual as an active subject, the activity in which human being cannot be replaced and can't deny it, - namely,arranging one's life, choosing one's basic values and motives for one's existence.

1.Limitedness as a fundamental trait of personality development.
One point what seems most clearly established in the context of personality development and self-determination,is the existence of some limit, restricting human life. It is difficult to reach and still more difficult to transcend. At the some time it is just the limit which give a distinctive meaning to the human Life-world,"just as the boards define the sea" [F.Braudel,1992,18].The finitness of human existence itselfas an impermeable boundary gives a specific value to the human temporal being, puting it into the frame of eternity. Structuring, destructuring, restructuring individual Life-world may be considered as getting acquainted with one's sphere of possibilities, as the motion to the boundaries dividing the possible and impossible.

We define the sphere of the possible as relatively stable system of interconnected target values that can be achieved through changes of the subject's actual situation due to either its own immanent dynamics or the subject's activity. The result of the subject's activity under the most beneficial conditions and maximal efficiency of the subject would correspond to the above mentioned limit, the boundary of the possible. The sphere of the impossible lies "beyond" the limit of the possible and defines an individual negatively (as what he/she is not,was not,has not become,will not be). Although in general,personality development may be conceived as the expansion of the sphere of the possible,the increase of the achieved entails the enhancement of uncompleted versions of one's development and the enlargement of the sphere of the impossible. In the broad sense,any development process consists not only of grouth and complication but of losses and declines as well.

The sphere of the possible manifests itself with regard to Life-world as its ideal, anticipated image. Hence,the personality zone of proximal development can be treated as a part of the sphere of the possible, that could be reached through transformations of the actual situation due to its own dynamics and/or thanks to the subject's activity. The situation will be treated here in the context of its significant psychological peculiarities, which can be exactly defined only in terms of personal meanings or personal senses that do really exist for the subject [H.Heckhausen,1986].

The sense integration of actual situation elements imparted them the system quality - "to be a condition for realization of the goal activity".Transcending the demands of the actual situation, in course of goal setting process, the subject tries to evaluate the boundaries of one's possibilities. But still before he/she possesses "conceptions of the possible", shared within different social communities and groups and making together individual's general "space of the possibilities", the so- called "social space" as "the set of possibilities for action" [Yu.Levada,1993,41].

As long as the subject's alternatives are included in his/her motivation and value system, and as long as personal sense of "a goal","a value", or "an obstacle" is not yet attributed to them, they form just "the space of possibilities". The "mark" of personal sense converts the elements of the space of possibilities into the sphere of the possible. The segments of this sphere are personality dynamic sense systems, structuring the individual-world relations [D.Leontiev,1988].

Person's attitudes to one's possibilities are expressed in the form of experiencing. The experiencing of the possible/impossible is actualized in situations of impossibility [F.Vasilyuk,1988]. Paradoxically, it is just these situations that create the possibility of self-determination. As M.Gefter noted,"the possibilities don't always exist, in general they are secondary with regard to the impossibility,that is most profound source of human humanization"[1993,8].

2.Strategies of appropriation of the sphere of the possible.
It is not just the problem of coping with the situation of the impossibility, but also the task of appropriation of the sphere of the possible appeals for the mobilization,optimization and coordination of temporal,material and other resources. The complexity of these problems is connected with two circumstances. First, the contemporary society gives the citizens more and more possibilities,and at the same time more stringent rule of social games [G.Mermet,1991].Secondly,the civilization- wide process of the "reduction of the present" [H.Lubbe,1994].

Such characteristics of personality zone of proximal development as rigidity/flexibility,hierarhy/lack of structure,coordination/incompatibility of goals are widely determinated by the strategies used by the individual in order to bring together the social demands with one's own aspirations and resources.Various relations, in which human being is involved,are inherently contradictory, and give rise to motivational conflicts [K.Lewin,1935;l.Festinger,1962].To explain motivational conflict, K.Lewin[1951] proposed a "model of environment". In this model the development was depicted as increasing differentiation of personality life space and as the extension of time perspective [L.Frank,1939]. The main criterium of the optimal life strategy seems to be the complication and enrichment of the Life-world and extension of the boundaries of the possible. To describe typical life strategies, the Aristotle's concept of "doxa" would be most heuristic. R.Barthes[1977] used this term in his analysis of the contemporary literature language, that includes the "endoxal" discource, corresponding to "doxa", and oppositional "para-doxal" discourses. The "endoxal" life strategies tend to get quickly stereotyped.These stereotypical ideas seem "natural" and "sufficient" until a "para- doxal" person appears,breaking the stereotypes. The standard strategies, as K.A.Abulkhanova-Slavskaya[1991,285] noted, are easy-going,but they don't allow to coordinate the life as a whole.

3.Life as a whole: some aesthetic aspects of self-determination in the sphere of the possible.
Just as the most intensive sense- formation takes plase close to the boundaries of semiosphere (Yu.Lotman),so a form of life obtains its meaning, when the way of life brings an individual to the boundaries of the possible. How great the his/her perspectives and horizonts could be,his/her inner readiness is necessary. The dynamics of transformation of external possibilities into internal ones may be considered in such terms as "the way of life" and "life style". Integrating the life conditions and the typical life-activities of the subject, the way of life sets the boundaries of the sphere of the possible. A person creates its own life style through self-determination in this space.

The space of the way of life appears as an aggressive environment for life styles. Only those styles can preserve themselves as such that possess a higher "inner pressure" than that of the aggressive environment. The subject's guest to conserve his/her life style as a "life form", as a unique structural unity, is closely connected with the use of aesthetic criteria in organisation of one's life as a work of art [M.Rozin,1992]. L.Ionin proposed that the culture of individuals, groups, societies transformed into "staging culture". Reflexed by an individual,"life form" becomes a "cultural style". "A style is a "life form", which has lost the spontaneity of pure existence, and turned to a staging" [L.Ionin,1991,25]. It is unlikely that awareness was a necessary and sufficient condition for the aesthetic perfection of life, but the consciousness enlarges the space of alternatives. And the role of art is unchangeable for construing new forms of human relations to the world, the one more flexible, more sensable and more future- oriented [D.Leontiev,1991]. the purpose of art and, more widely, of culture, is to produce "ideal forms",that guide the development of personality.

In conclusion we dwell on the semantics of the notion "the sphere of the possible". This notion presumes the integrity of outer conditions and inner factors, but does not sufficiently reflect the drama of human existence and self-determination. The interpretation of destiny, its signs and manifestations as a sea-space seems to be closer to the "drama of personality" (L.S.Vygotsky) than the notion of " sphere". This "marine" methaphore is heuristic not only for ancient men's understanding of destiny (as it was demonstrated in V.N.Toporov's work "Aeneas - a man of destiny") but for the contemporary usual perception of changes in Life-world. The logic of this perception,undoubtedly different from the rational one,imposes the limits for the attempts of the theoretical reconstruction of personality self- determination in the spheres of the possible and the impossible.

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