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THE FOUNDATIONS OF NORMAL AND ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY

Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

1914

 

PART II

CHAPTER II

TYPES OF MOMENTS AND MOMENT-THRESHOLD

         We may discriminate the following types of moment-consciousness:

I. The Desultory Moment.
    (a) The Absolute,
    (b) The Relative, or Reflex Moment.
II. The Synthetic Moment.
    (a) The Simple Accumulative,
    (b) The Compound Accumulative.
III. The Recognitive Moment.
    (a) The Synthetic, or Generic Recognitive,
   (b) The Specific, the Reflective, or the Synthetic Moment of Self-consciousness.

        The chief characteristic of the desultory moment is the lack of interconnection of the links of the psychic series. Each pulse of psychosis stands out as an isolated fact without "before" and "after." A moment of such a character has no reproduction, no recognition, no memory, and certainly no personality. The lower stages of this moment, the absolute desultory moment-consciousness are mere moment-content devoid of all organization and substance. The higher forms of the desultory moment, those of the reflex moment-consciousness, have an elementary organization, but of such a fixed character that the series of manifestations, or of functioning remain completely isolated. Reproductions appear here for the first time in an elementary form, inasmuch as the recurrences of the moment leave the latter unmodified; it is reproduction only on account of the modifications produced in a higher observing moment.

         This moment has the germs of reproduction, but no recognition and hence no memory, no self-consciousness. The moment of the absolute desultory type may possibly be found in unorganized protoplasm and in the lowest forms of the protozoa. The higher forms of moment of the desultory type, the reflex moment, may be found in the lower forms of lowly organized life and in the lower structures of the higher metazoa.

         The moment-consciousness of the synthetic type has its series of links interconnected. In each link the preceding ones are synthetized. The recurrence of this type of moment, unlike the moment of relative desultory consciousness, is embodied in the structure and function of the moment. It is in this type of moment that reproduction is for the first time clearly and fully manifested. The moment is modified with each reproduction; it accumulates more content with each recurrence and, as such, the synthetic moment may also be characterized as accumulative.

         This type of moment has reproduction, and the reproduction is not only for the external observer, but is present and inherent through changes in the organization, structure and function of the moment itself. Memory first appears in this type, but it is rather organic, not recognitive in nature.

         The more elementary form of this type of moment shows accumulations only along single lines of development. The lines remain disconnected. Sensory nuclei surrounded by secondary sensory elements do not occur, and perceptual psychosis characteristic of the higher fonns is absent in this stage of the synthetic moment, which is therefore termed the simple accumulative moment of synthetic consciousness. It is only in the higher forms of synthetic consciousness, in the compound synthetic moment that perceptual life may be said to arise.

         In the compound synthetic moment, series along diverse lines become severally compounded and sensory nuclei with secondary sensory elements make their appearance. But even here recognition is not present and hence memory may from a subjective standpoint be regarded as absent. The synthetic moment even in its highest phase of development lacks ideational life and is entirely devoid of self-consciousness. The higher invertebrates and the lower vertebrates probably do not rise in their psychological development above the higher form of synthetic consciousness, the compound synthetic moment.

         In the recognitive moment the series of reproductions are intimately connected as we find the case to be in the synthetic moment. The moment becomes modified with each occurring reproduction, containing in an abridged form the history of previous modifications. The mode of reproduction of the recognitive moment, however, differs widely from that of the synthetic moment. The content of the previous occurrence need not be actually reproduced, but only represented and any psychic element may fulfill this function of representation. It is through such representation that the reproduction of this type of moment is effected. Through representation the moment reproduces form and content, and cognizes over again immediately what it has just experienced, in short, it re-cognizes.

         Recognition is the function of representation and is the essential characteristic of this type of moment-consciousness. Ideational psychosis germinates and develops with the growth of the recognitive moment. For the very function of the idea is the cognition over again of what has been cognized in perception, in short, recognition is the essence of the idea.

         In generic recognition the time element is absent or but vaguely present. In perceiving the table yonder we also recognize it as table by classing the percept table with representations derived from previously perceived tables, but hardly does any time-element enter into this form of recognition, the idea of having generic recognition does not refer to any percept experienced at some definite point of time. The recognitive moment uses the idea as a means to reproduce its former experience without actually having them over again. The representation in the lower form of moment is so bound up with the percept that the function of recognition is but implicit, and becomes explicit in the higher forms, when the ideational or representative elements become completely free and appear in mental trains, or in series of associated ideas.

         In its specific form, however, the recognitive moment also includes the time element. The moment-content or object generically recognized is classed or combined with a definite representation generically referring to perceptual experience; specifically recognized, the content or object is placed in a definite point of the objective schema of the flowing time series. The particular rose thought of now is the particular rose seen before, say yesterday. The idea of the rose substitutes and represents the percept and has the function of the percept as reproduced, thus referring to the same object. That is why the qualitatively different representation is identified with the actual perception. What is common to the two is their reference to the same object, in all else they really differ widely. The recognitive moment that lacks the time-element is termed generic, while the moment that has the time element included in the process of its recognition is termed specific recognitive moment-consciousness.

        In the lower and simpler stages of the recognitive moment the generic form predominates, in the higher and more complex stages the specific form of recognition arises and attains its full development. From a biological standpoint one can understand the importance and immense advantage in the struggle for existence of those organisms whose moment-consciousness has varied in the direction of representation and has begun to reproduce after the mode of the recognitive type. To effect a modification and new adaptation to changes in the environment the moments of the desultory type have no other mode of modification but by the slowly working factors of spontaneous variations and natural selection, a process of adaptation and useful modification prolonged throughout the course of generations. The adaptations of the different forms of the synthetic type are greatly facilitated, and the course of the process is so much foreshortened that it becomes reduced to the life-existence of the given individual organisms. The adaptations are brought about by the slow process of chance success and error, and the whole series of modifications must be fully and directly undergone by the organism.

        The recognitive moments have reduced the time-elements of adaptations to changes of conditions in the external environment almost to a minimum, the series of reactions in the growth to most perfect adaptations is effected in representation, saving itself the necessity of actually undergoing a series of intervening modifications. Representative elements, being free, can enter into different modes of combinations, and thus form adjustments and adaptations with an ease of which the primary and secondary sensory elements of the lower moments do not admit. This freedom of movement in the formation of new representative combinations is an important factor in organic life, as it gives the organism that possesses this variation an ad- vantage in the struggle for existence. Adaptation can be made for the future from the experiences of the past.

         In those forms of the recognitive moment in which the time-element plays a part in the determination of the whole there is always present a specific time-localization of the given psychic or moment content. Where the form of recognition is specific the representation or idea is regarded as actual and localized in some definite point in the stream of past time, where the recognition is generic the representation or idea is referred to no definite point in the stream of objective time, and when present in the highest types of moments, is regarded as belonging to what is termed imagination. Recognition determines the place of the given experience in the series of events.

         In the lower stages of the recognitive moment no time element is present, in the higher stages some vague reference to time may be present in the forms of specific recognition, but definite localization appears only with the rise of the recognitive moment of self-consciousness. With the appearance of the conceptual schema of objective time the specific form of recognition refers not only to a definite point on the scale of objective time, but to a definite mental synthesis localized on that objective time-schema; in other words, the self-concept is involved in specific recognition, which therefore belongs to the highest form of the recognitive moment, namely, the moment of self-consciousness or of personality.

         In specific recognition the present self projects the bit of representative experience into the past self which is felt to be identical with the former in the series of selves to which the reproduction of the moment gives rise. The highest recognitive moment, or moment of self-consciousness may be represented as a series of selves projected in the time schema the preceding selves being synthetized by each succeeding self. From this standpoint we may regard such a moment as synthetic and term it the synthetic moment of self-consciousness.

         Should this series of reproductions constituting the history of the moment become dissociated and isolated through mental degradation and degeneration, then the form of consciousness becomes analogous to the desultory consciousness and may therefore be termed the desultory moment of self-consciousness.

         The functioning moments of a highly organized psychic being, at any point of time, present a hierarchy of moments differing not only in degree of consciousness, but also in the type of structure and function. Moments-consciousness from the lowest to the highest, from the simplest to the most complex, from the desultory type to the recognitive type of self-consciousness all are present in the adult stage of the most highly organized psychic life. Now in the series of moments going to form such a highly complex being, those that are of the recognitive type can become focal, while those that belong to the lower types can never enter the focus. The lower types of moment-consciousness, belonging to the groups and systems of reflex and instinctive activity, cannot, from their very nature, reach that level of consciousness and that degree of psychosis as to become qualified to enter into the focus of the moment of self-consciousness.

         From this standpoint, then, the subconscious may be divided into two regions, the one including all the moments belonging to that of the recognitive type, the other comprising all the moments belonging to the lower types. Within the subconscious, then, there is a threshold which the lower types of moments cannot pass. This threshold may be termed the threshold of recognitive consciousness.

         The moments lying above the threshold of recognitive consciousness may change in psychic intensity, may pass through all degrees of sensory intensity and representative vividness ranging from minimum to maximum; they may sink and rise gradually or suddenly, but they do not and cannot fall, without becoming degenerated, below the recognitive threshold. Those moments that lie below the recognitive threshold cannot rise above it, they are condemned to remain in the obscure regions of the subconscious; their fate is never to enter the strong light of the upper world of consciousness. At the same time their psychic intensity does not suffer any change, they do not shift forwards and backwards in the field of consciousness like the moments of the recognitive type lying above the threshold, they remain unalterable, they are fixed.

         In a certain sense the moments lying below the threshold of recognitive consciousness may be considered as dissociated from the upper regions, inasmuch as they lie outside the field of the upper consciousness. From the standpoint of activity, however, they stand in intimate relation to the upper level of consciousness. The highly organized moment uses the lower ones as instruments to carry out its purpose, and through them it also enters into relation with the external environment. Stimuli are received by the lower moments, and motor responses are once more given by these moments. In other words, the lower types of moments are in service of the higher moments.

         From a teleological standpoint one can understand the importance of it for the life-existence of the individual. In order to save time and energy any activity that can be carried out by the lower aggregates is directly responded to by the less complex and more fixed moments. The lowermost moments are the easiest to gain access to by the external stimuli, and in case the adaptation is simple the response immediately follows without any reference to higher aggregates. Should, however, the stimulus be under conditions where more complex adaptations are requisite then the next higher aggregate is set into activity. The ascending degree of complexity of aggregates set into activity grows in accordance with the need of complexity of adaptation, until the most complex of all aggregates is reached, the one representing the complete organization of sensori-motor adaptations of the organism as a whole.

         At the same time it must be pointed out that there is a series of moments almost independent of this organized hierarchy of moments, never falling under the sway, or but indirectly and casually being affected by the principal complex moment-consciousness; such are the moments that go along with functions, directly subservient to the internal needs of the organism. This complex aggregate of moments from its very nature is withdrawn from the general control of the other aggregates, inasmuch as it need not adapt itself to the varying conditions and different stimulations of the external environment. The set of stimuli this aggregate responds to remains almost unchanged, hence their activity is of a low order, belonging to the character of the reflex moments.

 

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