The journey from Hegel via Ilyenkov to Vygotsky: The dialectics of development and education

John Cripps Clark, Deakin & Nikolay Veresov, Monash

Hegel’s dialectics, as a method of cognition, is a system of interrelated and interconnected concepts, such as movement, contradiction, opposites, quantity, quality, metamorphosis, and sublation to grasp the objective process of development. Ilyenkov focused on bringing dialectics to the field of psychology, describing the emergence of human psychic functions not an instinctive motion but a formation that requires ontogenetic development of socially formed, culturally mediated functions.

Vygotsky sought to open the path to scientific study and reconceptualise development theoretically through the dialectical method. For him, the dialectical method was the only adequate method of disclosing psychological development: “The process of child development is subject to its own, internal laws. It proceeds as a dialectical process of self-movement” (Vygotsky, 2001, 154).

For child psychology, this means a deeper understanding is possible: Only if we radically change our representation of child development and take into account that it is a complex dialectical process that is characterized by a complex periodicity, disproportion in the development of separate functions, metamorphoses or qualitative transformation of certain forms into others, a complex merging of the processes of evolution and involution, a complex crossing of external and internal factors, a complex process of overcoming difficulties and adapting (Vygotsky 1997, pp. 98–99)

Despite Vygotsky's popularity in educational, his dialectics is unexplored in our educational research and teaching practice.


Hegel, G. (1988). Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Hegel, G. (2010). Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline, Part I: Science of Logic. Cambridge University Press.
Ilyenkov, E. (1977). Dialectical Logic: Essays on Its History and Theory. Central books Ltd.
Ilyenkov, E. (2010). Psychology. Russian Studies in Philosophy, 48(4), 13–25.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1997). The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky (Vol. 3). New York: Plenum Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1997b). The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky (Vol. 4). New York: Plenum Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (2001). Lektsii po pedologii. Izevsk: Izdatelstvo Udmurdskogo Universiteta.


J C Clark  Bio: John runs a cultural-historical & activity research reading group, AARE SIG: Sociocultural Activity Theory and four Asia-Pacific ISCAR-AARE Summer Schools. John researches: practical activities in primary teaching, online learning, school gardens, overseas professional experience, science games, Peirce, and STEM education.
Nikolay Veresov  Bio: Dr Nikolay Veresov is an Associate Professor at Monash University. His area of interest is child development in the early years, philosophical foundations of psychology, cultural-historical theory and research methodology. He published 5 books and over 140 articles/book chapters available in 9 languages.

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