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

© 1914




        Recognition is one of the essential attributes of representative life. The faintest and most obscure representation requires the presence of recognition in the background. We may say that without recognition representation becomes an impossibility. Recognition is the function of representative elements. Just as cognition is the function of sensory, presentative elements so recognition, or secondary cognition is the function of representative elements. Now that moment consciousness which has representative elements among the constituents of its content may be termed recognitive moment-consciousness.

        The recognitive moment is of a higher type than the synthetic moment. Like the synthetic moment, material or psychic content of the recognitive moment is assimilated in a synthetized form; like the synthetic moment, it goes on reproducing not on the desultory, but on the accumulative type; and moreover, it approaches more the compound, accumulative type. Unlike the synthetic moment, the recognitive moment is possessed of representative elements having recognition as their function. Representative elements with their function of recognition, present in the recognitive moment, but absent in the other lower moments, make a fundamental difference in the 

        The reproduction of the recognitive moment is totally different in character from that of the desultory and synthetic moments. In the desultory and synthetic moments reproduction is effected by means of presentative elements, and actual recurrence of former experience is indispensable; in the recognitive moment nothing of the kind is required. The reproduction of the recognitive moment is effected only in representation. The moment with its sensory elements is not reproduced as recurrence, but only symbolized, or truer to say substituted in meaning or in function by the representative elements. The representative element, the image, the idea is recognized as functioning as a substitute, as standing for the presence of the actual experience of the original moment with its nuclear primary and secondary sensory elements. In the higher stages of the moment this recognition may become detached, and the act of recognition may become duplicated and emphasized in another subsequent representation. In reality, however, both in the lower and higher forms of the recognitive moment, the fact of recognition belongs directly to the representation itself; for as we have pointed out recognition is an essential function of representation.

        Just as sensory elements express, or present the qualities of the external object, so do representative elements mirror the psychic objects as presented to sense-experience. This relation may be expressed in a proportional form: as presentation is to the external object so is representation to the presented object. In the higher forms of the recognitive moment the representation can be once more represented and this latter is represented in its turn, each subsequent reproduction representing, substituting and mirroring the preceding one. Thus I may see the child yonder playing with its ball, I may represent to myself the whole scene, and may further represent to myself the fact of representation itself which in its turn may be once more represented, and so on. The content of the recognitive moment in this mode of reproduction, becomes more and more modified, more and more different as it proceeds along this line, becomes further and further removed from the original experienced moment with its sensory elements.

        In the more prevalent forms of the recognitive moment the process of reproduction does not proceed in this way; reproduction keeps nearer to the lower types, to the content of the types of the synthetic moments, or, in other words, it keeps nearer to sense-experience. The representation has a direct reference to the object as presented in sense-experience, and in its reproduction this direct reference is more or less preserved throughout.

        The recognitive moment is every time reproduced in representation, and although having different representative elements with each successive reproduction, it still refers to the same object as presented. The modifications that occur in the moment take place only in the representative elements. Adaptations, instead of taking place by means of changes in the sensory elements due to successive modification effected by the direct influence of stimuli from external environment, are now freed from the direct influence of external conditions, and may be effected within the representative elements of the moment itself, without having recourse to the modifying influence of stimuli.

        We have already shown that the characteristic trait of representative elements is their freedom from the bondage in accumulations or compounds in which sensory elements are kept; representative elements can be easily transposed, they can enter into new free associations without requiring special external stimuli to break the stable compound. The free associations of representative elements may be dissolved by other representations. The stick lying near by may be kicked away by my foot, but may also be represented as a support; it may be imaged as a means of defense and attack, and finally the representation may be changed in another direction, the stick may be used as an instrument for bringing down apples from a tree. Adaptation is effected within the process of representation before any changes are introduced into actual, presentative life.

        From a teleological standpoint one can realize the great gain in the economy of life reactions by a mode of reproduction independent of and free from the direct influence of external stimuli with their consequent sensory responses and motor reactions, resulting in further and further modifications of the original moment. The recognitive moment in its growth and development by a series of internal representative modifications spares itself ill adapted sensory responses and motor reactions. This is an immense gain to life, a great aid and powerful weapon in the struggle for existence.

        Regarded from this standpoint of modification the moment-consciousness may be said to pass through important stages in the course of its development. The stage of non-modifiability of content, then the stage of modifiability of the sensori-motor content, and finally modifiability in representation. The special importance of the recognitive moment for the being possessing it is the greater freedom from the dominion of the external environment. External conditions are not so literally, so slavishly reflected in the moment. Changes may occur in sensori-motor reactions and adaptations due to representations alone, without any previous material changes in the external conditions. The recognitive moment carries its external world in itself, in its representation, and by affecting changes there, may bring about changes in the environment, thus controlling external conditions, instead of being controlled by them. Instead of being driven by external forces into blind obedience, into unintelligent adaptations, the moment is on the point, even in its lowest forms, to acquire some intelligent character in seeing ahead, by living over its former experiences in the states of representation, the sensori-motor reactions being accordingly modified.

        The reproduction of the recognitive moment is not induced by external stimuli only, but mainly by the course of other representations. Without actually being confronted with the object the representation of it may any time arise in the mind and call forth new adaptations to the external environment.

        The representation by which the recognitive moment effects its reproduction is not at all a mode of reinstatement, partial or complete, a mode characteristic of the lower types of moments. What the moment reproduces is altogether different in nature and content from what has been experienced, or directly presented. What is presented is sensory material, what is reproduced is imagery, ideal "stuff." Imagery, ideal stuff as it is, it still mirrors, substitutes, represents the "material" certainty of sensory experience.

        From the very nature of the moment and mode of its reproduction the original emotional tone of the experience is not reproduced by the recognitive moment. The emotional tone like the rest of the psychic content is represented in recognitive reproduction, but not actually reproduced. The great gain of it from a biological standpoint is momentous, since the moment's reaction can be better adapted to the changing conditions of its environment. The representative elements entering into the idea or image of an object change from reproduction to reproduction but they always mirror, refer to the same sensory elements and compounds; they recognize their object.

        The recognition of an object or an event, however vague, means some experience that has been lived through before. In other words, the representation, although experienced, as a present psychic element, must have a glow of pastness about it. Representation is a present experience referring to a past life, to an event that is passing or that has passed away. Representation with its function of recognition is a reference to the past.

        This reference to the past may range from the indefinite to the highly definite localization of experience referred to the time past. This depends on the development of the moment, of its place in the scale of evolution. The higher the moment the more definite, the lower the less definite the localization is. The dog in recognizing his master, Ulysses, hardly knew the length of time the hero had been away in his battles and wanderings, although the dog possibly had a dim feeling of pastness, revealing it by the great joy manifested at seeing his master, as if his long delayed expectations have been finally fulfilled. If dogs are capable of recognition at all, some vague feeling of pastness is present in the recognitive moment, however low it may it and in the scale of development.
        In the child we find that the time localization is quite indefinite. In very young children the future and the past such as yesterday and to-morrow have no definite meaning. Thus in children of three years that have come under my observation the apprehension of the past and future, such as yesterday and to-morrow is still wanting. When the child is told that something took place, he referred it to a "yesterday" indefinitely localized in the past. The day before, a week ago, a month ago, years past are equally projected into the vague past. The same holds true of the child-sense of the future. "When is to-morrow?" is a question I have been often asked by intelligent children of three, four and even five years old. The child recognizes his old friend after a departure of several months, but he localizes this event far off in time, say "yesterday."

        The reference to the past becomes more and more definitely localized in time, the higher the recognitive moment rises in the scale of evolution. This process of localization of the recognized event in the past depends entirely on the time-sense becoming fully definite with the more or less greater perfection of the conceptual time scheme. Thus savages and the ignorant classes of even civilized societies have an imperfect form of time localization. The definiteness of localization, however, is not of material consequence as far as our point of view is concerned. For all we know Ulysses' dog, the ape and the infant have no time-localization at all, what is enough to state from our psychological standpoint is the fact that recognition involves some form of pastness belonging to the implicated representative element, a pastness which in a higher stage becomes time-localization.

        Under the influence of toxic matter, of narcotics, and in some forms of mental diseases, this time-sense may swell, thus giving rise to the projection of experience on a larger scale of objective time. Such states are to be found under the influence of opium or cannabis, also in some mental diseases when the patient claims that he is many centuries old. This function of recognition with its aspect of pastness is certainly present in the passing recognitive moment. The process becomes more complicated and also more objectified in the higher types of moment-consciousness. In short, the recognitive moment-consciousness in addition to its reproduction involves some form of awareness of its being a reproduction by its reference to a past experience. Being freed from its bondage to the present circumstances, living in the by-gone past the recognitive moment gets a glimpse of the not yet born future into which the free representative elements are projected.


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