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Boris Sidis, Ph.D.
Simon P. Goodhart, M.D.
MOMENTS of the same type form aggregations in an ascending series of complexity, groups, systems, communities, clusters and constellations. Isolated moments are organized into groups, groups into systems, systems into communities and communities into constellations. Groups are the most simple, while constellations are the highest and most complex of the aggregates. The firmness, the stability of organization, stands in direct relation to the complexity; the more complex an aggregation the less stable it is. The order of complexity also represents the order of development, so that the more complex is also the latest to appear in the course of evolution. Evolution and stability stand thus in inverse relation. What appears early in the course of development is more firmly organized than what appears later on. The whole tendency of evolution is from stability to instability. The order of growth and instability is in the ascending scale—from groups, through systems, communities, to clusters and constellations. The simpler sensori-motor reactions are both ontogenetically and phylogenetically first to appear in the course of evolution and they are also more stable than the more complex sensori-motor reactions. We can possibly best realize the relation of instability to complexity of structure if we regard life, including both physiological and psychic processes, as an ascending organization of sensori-motor reactions to the influences of external environment.
The sensori-motor reactions represent a hierarchy of organized aggregations, beginning in the lowest reflexes and organic autornatisms and culminating in the highest activity.
As illustrations of the lower processes we may take the knee-jerk, the action of the bladder, peristaltic movement of the intestines, respiratory movements, heart-beats and other organic activities. Associations among these various processes form higher aggregates. The complex co-ordination of orientation and space adjustments, such as the maintenance of equilibrium, walking, running, jumping, flying, swimming, and so on, represent more complex activities. A still higher aggregate is to be found in the association of groups and systems of sensori-motor reactions of a sense-organ with the complex co-ordination of motor adjustments of the whole body. The highest aggregates are to be found in the association of all the motor reactions organized within the different spheres of sense-organs with the complex motor co-ordinations of body adjustments. Simple sensori-motor reflexes, complex reflexes, sensori-motor co-ordinations, instinctive adaptations and intelligent adaptations and intelligent adjustments, statically regarded, correspond to the classification of psychomotor aggregates into groups, systems, communities, clusters and constellations. In other words, the analysis of the sensori-motor constitution of the higher organized beings in their adult stages, reveals the presence and interrelation of those various sensori-motor aggregates.
Genetically regarded, we find that the history of the use and growth of the aggregates is in the order of their complexity. In ontogenesis we find that the simple reflexes appear first, then the more complex sensori-motor co-ordinations; later on the so-called instinctive adaptations begin to appear, while the intelligent and controlling adaptations are the latest to appear. The child at its birth is a purely reflex being; the different reflexes are not even associated, it is the medulla and the spinal cord that are principally active; the pupils react to light, the legs and hands react to more or less intense sensory stimuli, such as tickling, and sensori-motor reflexes to taste stimuli are present. All of these reactions are isolated; they are so many simple groups of sensori-motor reflexes; even the sucking activity of the infant is largely of the reflex type; in short, the child at its birth is a spinal being, and its moment consciousness is desultory, consisting of the desultory activities of isolated functioning sensori-motor groups. Later on, the reflex activities become associated through the development of sight and kinesthetic sensations. The eyes can follow an object, the hands become adapted to the seizing movements. Movements of body-co-ordination then begin to appear, such as turning the body to right or left, then sitting up, then creeping, standing, walking, talking, all involving greater and greater co-ordination of muscles and kinaesthetic sensations, aided by the association of sensations and sensori-motor reactions from different sense-organs. It is only very late in its history of development that the child begins to gain full control of its actions and adjustments to the stimuli coming from the external environment.
The history of phylogenesis runs a parallel course. The lower organisms are purely reflex in their sensori-motor reactions, and as such they belong to the type of the desultory moment consciousness. Instances may be found in the lower forms of the Mollusca. In the higher forms of Mullusca associations of sensori-motor reflexes begin to appear. These associations become more and more complex with the rise and growth of differentiation of sense-organs in the higher forms of Mollusca and the lower Arthropodes, giving rise to groups, systems, communities, reaching the cluster stage in the higher Arthropodes and the lower Mammalia finally culminating in the high complex functions characteristic of the constellation stage, such as found in the sensori-motor reactions of man in his adaptations to physical and social surroundings.
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