Vygotsky says that in order to analyze the problem of volition and its effects on the behavior of the child and the adult, one should follow two main directions: autonomy and heteronomy. The former refers to a group of theoretical and experimental investigations that try to explain the intentional acts of a human being, reducing them to some complex psychical processes of unintentional nature, to associative and intellectual processes, trying to find an explanation for willful actions in unintentional ones. Autonomy, on the other hand, considers that volition is based on the unity and irreducibility of the willful processes and sensations.
In a work about the development of volition in children, he mentions that in respect to the different existing theories, the points of view are the following: first of all, recognizing volition as a primary function, as something that remains oblivious to the conscious aspect of human personality, that constitutes a determined initial force. In the other extreme we find the spiritualist theory, whose representatives based their beliefs on Descartes’s philosophy and whose fundament was the spiritual principle. According to this approach, all human spirit, and consequently all human behavior, is influenced by this principle. What these theories (the spiritualist and the physical) have in common is that both admit that volition is a primary aspect, not a result of other psychological processes, and that it represents a rare exception among all the other processes of the human mind – therefore, it doesn’t stand either a determinist or a causal explanation.
In the same essay, Vygotsky states that certain investigations of psychological pathology, interpreted in the field of neurologic and genetic psychology, get to similar conclusions and raise the possibility to focus, in a different way, on the solving of the most important questions of psychology. Once again, we notice how important it was for Vygotsky to study how the natural phenomena of the mind interact with mental mechanisms, created through the influence of the cultural models to which all human beings are exposed.