Harvard Educational Review
  1. The Essential Piaget

    An Interpretive Reference and Guide

    Edited by Howard E. Gruber and J. Jacques Vonëche

    Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995, 2nd ed. 912 pp. $50.00 (paper)

    This second edition of "the best and most complete of all the anthologies" of Jean Piaget's work, published in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth, will be valued by all scholars interested in his work, and in cognitive psychology in general. The first hardcover and paperback editions, published in 1977 and 1982, respectively, have been out of print for several years. Thus, this new paperback edition should be welcomed by many. The editors, professors Howard E. Gruber and J. Jacques Vonëche, provide an illuminating introduction to the book as a whole, along with topical introductions to the different sections and explanatory notes. They also include a chronology of Piaget's life, a bibliography, and name and subject indexes.

    The Essential Piaget
    spans some seventy years of Piaget's writings, thematically organized by the editors in sections: Biology; Philosophy; Education; Egocentric Thought in the Child; The Mind of the Baby; Logico--Mathematical Operations; The Representation of Reality; Figurative Aspects of Thought; and Factors of Development. In each section, the editors include extensive selections from Piaget's writings, ranging from excerpts from his most influential books to some of his most important articles, along with several texts published in English for the first time in translations by the editors. These include his first paper, An Albino Sparrow (1907), his prose poem The Mission of the Idea (1915), and a summary of his novel Recherche (1918).

    Gruber and Vonëche argue that Piaget began his career as a biologist, and that he only turned to psychology in order to address certain problems in philosophy and biology. The editors highlight this idea by providing the reader with psychological, philosophical, and biological texts, as well as selections in which Piaget established different connections and relationships between these fields.

    In this second edition, the editors add a brief preface, as well as a last section, Retrospection, in which they "look back at the essential" in an attempt to "show the continuities and discontinuities in Piaget's oeuvre from his early writings to the last ones" (p. 863). They highlight the commonalities, as well as the sense of repetitiveness that is reached when analyzing his diverse writings. As Gruber and Vonëche point out, "when old themes recur, there is always some way in which the new developments reincorporate the past" (p. xiii). One such recurrent theme that "pervades the entire oeuvre" (p. 865) is that of equilibrium, which the editors argue took both personal and abstract theoretical forms for Piaget.

    Gruber and Vonëche point out that the discontinuities in Piaget's work highlight his shift from a focus on tracking and describing developmental change through stage--theoretical terms, to a focus on explaining change through specific principles and mechanisms. Other discontinuities in his work are described in the areas of reflective abstraction and generalization, causality, and contradiction, and in Piaget's shift from possibilities to necessities and from formal, content--free logic to a logic of meaning.

    This new edition of The Essential Piaget is a "must," an essential read for students and experts of psychology in general, and of Piaget's theory in particular. It also brings up questions regarding the place that Piaget's work and theory have within the scope of psychology at a time when much attention has been paid to it at the many conferences, seminars, and colloquia organized around the world in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. Gruber and Vonëche help to highlight the fact that there is still amazing wealth to be explored in Piaget's work.
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    Book Notes

    We Can't Eat Prestige
    By John Hoerr

    The Seed Is Mine
    By Charles van Onselen

    The Essential Piaget
    Edited by Howard E. Gruber and J. Jacques Vonëche

    Journey With Children
    By Frances P. Lothrop Hawkins

    Guided Reading
    By Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell

    One Child, Two Languages
    By Patton O. Tabors

    Taking Note
    By Brenda Miller Power