5.1. Stages of a scientific biography

Jean Piaget belongs to those rare scientists who at the very beginning of the research work succeeded in posing the central problem and outlining the main way for this solution, to whom time and extraordinary capacity for work made it possible to construct a theory that embraced many problems connected with the basic line of research on general laws of development intelligence. His main theme was the study of the sources of scientific knowledge. According to the number of questions posed, books and articles written, erudition in various fields of knowledge, influence on research in different countries and, finally, but the number of followers and opponents of his ideas among the most outstanding psychologists of Piaget, perhaps, there are no equal. Truly, he was the first among equals.

Piaget's teaching, in our opinion, is the highest achievement of psychology of the 20th century. A paradox is known, according to which the authority of a scientist is best determined by the extent to which he slowed down the development of science in his field. The modern foreign psychology of children's thinking is literally blocked by the ideas of Piaget. A lot of research concerns the refinement of empirical facts, and there are almost no works devoted to the analysis of his theory. There are many interpreters of Piaget known, but none of them can escape from the system developed by him. Using the appropriate method, the facts obtained by Piaget can be reproduced by any researcher. Therefore, according to the American psychologist D. Elkind, these are the most reliable facts in child psychology.

There is a huge gap between what was in child psychology in the early XX century. before Piaget's works, and the level of development of the theory that exists now thanks to his work. Piaget is a psychologist who has paved new paths in science. He created new methods, discovered the laws of the child's psychic life unknown before him.

Piaget came to psychology because his biological, philosophical and logical interests met in it. In his youth, under the influence of A. Bergson, a new aspect of the problem of cognition opened up for him - the possibility of his biological explanation. Piaget believed that this task can not be solved directly by reasoning, since there is a gap between biology and the theory of knowledge, which can be filled by psychology, rather than philosophy, as Bergson thought. Proceeding from the perspective of the creation of genetic epistemology - the science of the origin and development of scientific knowledge, Piaget translated the traditional questions of the theory of knowledge into the field of child psychology and proceeded to their experimental solution.

Piaget's work as a psychologist began in 1920 in Paris in collaboration with G. Lips and E. Bleyer. Since 1921, at the invitation of E. Klapared, he began to conduct scientific and teaching work at the Institute of J.-J. Rousseau in Geneva and a few years later became a professor at the University of Geneva. In Paris, he worked a lot in the clinic, he studied logic, philosophy, psychology, conducted experimental studies on children, started, however, without much enthusiasm. However, soon Piaget found his own field of study. This was the end of the theoretical and the beginning of the experimental period in the work of Piaget as a psychologist.

Philosophical reflections led Piaget to the idea that logic is not inherent in the beginning, but develops gradually and that it is psychology that opens the possibility of studying the ontogenetic development of logic. Already the first facts from the field of psychology obtained by Piaget in experiments with children on the standardization of the so-called "reasoning tests" Bertha, confirmed this idea. The obtained facts showed the possibility of studying the mental processes underlying the logical operations. Since then, Piaget's central task has been to study the psychological mechanisms of logical operations, to establish the gradual emergence of stable logical integral structures of the intellect. The possibility of a direct investigation of the problems of logic corresponded to the first philosophical interests of Piaget. The study of the "embryology of the intellect" coincided also with his biological interests.

The period of 1921-1925. - the beginning of Piaget's work on a systematic study of the genesis of the intellect. It was on the basis of this common goal that he first identified and explored a particular problem-he studied hidden mental tendencies, which gave a qualitative originality to children's thinking, and outlined the mechanisms for their emergence and change. With the help of the clinical method Piaget established new facts in the field of child development. The most important of these are the discovery of the egocentric nature of children's speech, the qualitative features of children's logic, and the child's original ideas about the world. However, Piaget's main achievement, which made him a world-famous scientist, is the discovery of the child's egocentrism. Egocentrism, for Piaget, this is the main feature of thinking, the child's hidden mental position. The originality of children's logic, children's speech, children's ideas about the world is only the consequence of this egocentric mental position.

Piaget's results of this period are contained in the first five of his books on child psychology. They were perceived by the scientific community as the last word in this field, although Piaget considered them only as a starting material for subsequent work. He saw the shortage of these books in that the research set forth in them was limited only to the study of speech and the thought expressed in speech. It turned out that speech directly reflected the action. Piaget well understood that thought is formed on the basis of action, but Piaget sought the source of integral logical structures of intelligence in the socialization of the individual, which he, following the traditions of the French sociological school, understood then as the communication of individual consciousnesses among themselves. This, according to Piaget, also refers to the shortcomings of these studies.

In the years 1925-1929. Piaget will study the history of science, tracing and comparing the development of the main scientific categories and ideas in science and in the intellectual development of the child. This period of Piaget's scientific creativity is characterized by the emergence of a new direction in the study of the evolution of the intellect. It begins with a study of the development of the child in the first two years of life, when behavior (child's actions, not verbal reasoning) acts as an indicator of mental development. In this regard, the technique of research has changed: Piaget gave the child objects that he could manipulate. The central point of the study was the structure of actions and reasoning about the manipulation of the child by these objects. And although the technique of experiments has changed, the method of investigation has remained the same. The problem has been preserved, only the aspect of its study has become different. Now Piaget has set himself the task of getting rid of the verbal side of the action in order to understand the real functioning of the intellect.

The results of studies of this period were published in three volumes. They reflect the genesis of intellectual behavior, the picture of the world (the child's ideas about the permanent volume, space, causality), the emergence of symbolic behavior (imitation, play). In these studies it is shown that the intellect arises in the child before mastering speech. Intellectual operations of a higher level are prepared by sensorimotor action. The task of psychologist Piaget was to trace step by step the transformation of congenital inherited reflexes into various forms of complex behavior. Then he faced the following task: to trace the path from the appearance of the idea of ​​the constancy of the object to the notion of preserving its physical properties (weight, mass, etc.). These studies, carried out in collaboration with B. Inelder and A. Sheminskaya, confirmed the basic law of child development, formulated by Piaget in his early works, the law of transition from general egocentricity to intellectual decentration, to a more objective mental position.

1929-1939 years. were years of fruitful scientific research. Together with Inelder and Sheminsky Piaget, he carried out research on the genesis of number, quantity, space, time, motion, etc. These studies made it possible to study the stage of concrete operations and, most importantly, to see in them the desired operational integral logical structures of the intellect. To accurately interpret the facts Piaget decided to use the achievements of operator logic in psychology. At the same time he did not confine himself to the apparatus of formal logic, but used mathematical logic, modernized logic, taking into account the requirements put forward by psychological facts. Piaget introduced the concept of groupings into psychology.

Before the child is set up logical operations, he performs groupings - combines actions and objects, but their similarity and difference, which in turn generate arithmetic, geometric and elementary physical groups. The true unit of thought, according to Piaget, is not only a concept or an isolated judgment, a class or a separately discernible relation, but each classification in its entirety, each series of objects located according to their relation, each system of genealogical relationships, each scale of values, in other words - each grouping. Therefore, as a unit of thought, Piaget chose the group and began to explore it.

The difficulty of this psychological research was that it is impossible to directly trace how the groupings form in the mind of the thinking subject, so the psychologist needed to build a model, turn to the deductive theory of groupings.

From a formal point of view, the grouping is a closed reversible system in which all operations are integrated into one and obey the five formal laws, grouping criteria. Grouping is an axiomatic model that a psychologist can use to interpret his facts.

Since the promotion of this hypothesis, Piaget's interests have been divided. On the one hand, the diversity and richness of psychological facts opened before him, on the other hand, the need for their rigorous interpretation with the help of axiomatic models taken from logic, and the further development of these models, has become urgent. This is also the subject of several works by Piaget.

In the years 1939- 1950, Piaget continued his research in the field of the psychology of thinking. He studied the formation of concepts of motion, speed, time, the child's concept of space and geometry. Together with M. Lambersieu, the study of perception, which Piaget was interested in the development of intelligence, was initiated. The main problem that occupied Piaget in those years was the ratio of intellect and perception. This problem concerns the difference and similarity between these two structures of cognition, the relationship between perception and concept. Piaget raises the question of the meaning of perception in cognitive activity as a whole. One of the tasks was to check the conclusions of Gestalt theory. which did not satisfy Piaget in connection with the understanding of the problem of the intellect. On the basis of an experimental study of perceptual processes, he showed the probabilistic nature of perception.

In the same period, together with B. Ineler Piaget, an experimental study was made of the transition from the child's thinking to the thinking of the adolescent, a characteristic of the formal-operational thinking was given, and a general theoretic-cognitive concept of genetic epistemology was formulated. The major publications of this time are the "Introduction to genetic epistemology" in three volumes.

Thus, after thirty years, having written more than twenty volumes of psychological research, Piaget again returned to his central philosophical idea - genetic epistemology, based on psychology.

Since 1955 a new period of Piaget's activity has begun. In the same year, the International Center for Genetic Epistemology was established in Geneva, in which specialists from many fields of knowledge from different countries began to cooperate. Piaget became the head of this center. The annual discussions on the problems of psychology, logic, biology, epistemology and their generalization enabled Piaget and his collaborators to publish more than thirty volumes of materials from the center.

In the same year, Piaget developed a hypothesis about the stages of the intellectual development of the child and adolescent. According to this hypothesis, three major periods can be distinguished in intellectual development: sensorimotor, the period of preparation and implementation of specific operations, the period of formal operations. These periods, in turn, are divided into subperiods of preparation and implementation of the structures of intelligence characteristic of the period as a whole. In each sub-period, Piaget described the age stages of development, allowing step by step to trace the achievement of intellectual operations. Piaget's further works, published in the next 25 years of his life, were devoted to the development of memory, the formation of the child's mental image, the general problems of biology and psychology, the theory of cognition (epistemology) and philosophy, and the analysis of the development of consciousness in the child. Like the perception, processes of memory and imagination, Piaget also considered in their relation to the intellect, therefore the stages of intellectual development that he has planned can be interpreted as stages of mental development as a whole, since the development of all mental functions at all stages is subordinate to intellect and determined by it.

The basic idea developed in all Piaget's works is that intellectual operations are carried out in the form of integral structures. These three structures are formed due to the equilibrium to which evolution is striving. The study of intellectual structures, analysis of their relationship to nervous structures, on the one hand, and to mathematical, logical and linguistic structures, on the other, serves as a preparation for the creation of a general theory of structures. This is the subject of one of the general works of Piaget - "Structuralism".

Over sixty years of his scientific work, Piaget wrote separately and co-authored 52 books and 458 articles!

Piaget's work as a scientist is struck by breadth and versatility. He studied the genesis of child's representations in the field of logic, the development of elementary physical and mathematical representations (space, time, causality, motion, speed, number, probability, order); explored the development in the child of morality, play, imitation, speech, consciousness; in the field of his attention was a wide range of mental processes (thinking, perception, memory, will). Truly titanic work! Piaget raised psychology to such a height that its facts were treated with interest by outstanding scientists of the 20th century. In relation to the early works of the young author, his peer and opponent, L.S. Vygotsky emphasized that Piaget's works are marked by historical significance. Much later, getting acquainted with the facts of Piaget, A. Einstein noted that psychology is much more complicated than physics.

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