A Broader Basis for Psychology Necessary

E.A. Kirkpatrick

PSYCHOLOGY developed before any of the objective sciences; hence it was inevitable that it should be the ‘science of consciousness,' entirely distinct from any of the objective sciences. The wonderful development of the natural sciences in the last half

( 543) century has resulted in profound changes of method in psychology and some changes in psychological classifications, but the earlier view of psychology as a science that seeks to classify and explain conscious phenomena, only, has persisted and still dominates all psychological thought. The work of physiologists has been extensively used in explaining conscious phenomena and has caused new analyses and classifications of the facts of consciousness, but the psychologist has still considered that lie was dealing with an entirely distinct order of facts, hence lie has not rendered much assistance to the physiologist by analyses of mental activity. He has generally insisted upon the use of separate terms for psychological and physiological facts, although great confusion frequently results from trying to describe processes exclusively in one, or more fully in both sets of terms, especially when there is often no means of knowing whether the process described is or is not conscious. A few terms, however, such as behavior, function, etc., that do not imply either presence or absence of consciousness, have come into use because of their great convenience in discussing organic phenomena.

With the progress of psychology into the genetic field the difficulties of studying behavior or function from the subjective or conscious side have been greatly multiplied, until psychologists generally recognize that the terms and definitions based on the introspections of highly developed states of consciousness are totally unsuited to describe the mental states of animals, children, and the lower races.

The invention of a number of new terms will only multiply difficulties and errors unless a common conception is found for all forms and grades of behavior of organisms and organs. The ternis seed, plant, blossom, fruit, in botany, have only a formal value for purposes of classification until they are conceived as different forms or stages of what is essentially the sane. In a similar way psychology and other sciences can get no relief from the rapidly increasing difficulties of naming and explaining the great; variety of phenomena now being studied until a common conception is found for the facts of physiology, biology, psychology, and I may also add sociology. The addition of 'subconsciousness' to our vocabulary where separate consciousness of any kind is implied, emphasizes the old point of view, solves no difficulties, and multiplies the chances of error.

A helpful common conception is, I believe, to be found by regarding physiology, biology, and psychology as all being concerned in the study of the behavior or the functioning of organisms and organs, whether conscious or unconscious. In other words, our ideas of a functional psychology must be developed and broadened to include unconscious functioning.

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All organisms, though subject to physical and chemical laws, are distinguished from non-living bodies by the exhibition of what we know as life phenomena, which we may think of as the new phenomena that appear with the organization of matter, just as new phenomena appear when two chemical substances unite. When organization and functioning reach a certain degree (whether it be supposed to be in the simplest form, the ameba, or the highest, man), then another new phenomenon, that of consciousness, appears. This conception places before us a distinct field of scientific research in which the problem to be investigated is the behavior of organisms. In this broad field a number of sciences are now concerned, each seeking to understand the behavior of organisms by studying their anatomy, or structure, and their physiology, or modes of functioning.

Psychology is concerned with one portion of this larger field. Its more specific task is to determine what kind of organization and functioning is accompanied by consciousness, to classify the various phenomena of consciousness, and to determine the interrelationships between structure, functioning, and consciousness.

So far as intellectual activities are concerned, conscious phenomena are easily brought' under the same standards as the unconscious. The end of the functioning of all organisms is the preservation and perpetuation of the organism, and all behavior adapted to secure that end may (if we think of intelligence as the adaptation of means to ends) be regarded as intelligent, whether or not it is con-scious. To use the word in this sense involves a considerable change in the meaning of the term, not so much because the idea is different as because the term `intelligence' has usually carried with it the implication of consciousness. It is, however, absolutely necessary to modify the meaning of the word so as to include unconscious as well as conscious adaptation of means to ends, or to find some other word to describe this fundamental characteristic of all organs and organisms. The general terms `neurosis' and `psychosis' have been found very useful, but we need a. more general tern to include the essentials of both these terms. I therefore suggest the term 'organosis' to signify the adaptive functioning of any organism or organ without reference to whether the activity involved is conscious or unconscious, and without reference to whether the organ is nervous or non-nervous, or the organism vegetable or animal.

Such a general term and conception are necessary because certain fundamental characteristics of the behavior of all living organisms, from the plant and the ameba to man, are the same (nervous tissue having them only in a greater degree), because there are no means of knowing whether some of these are conscious or not, and because

( 545) there is good reason to believe that an organ may at one time function with consciousness and at another time without. We need therefore to recognize a science of behavior of organisms and organs, or organosis.

Many corresponding general terms, such as a term to indicate the retention of the effects of previous experience, whether conscious or unconscious, will also be needed to express the broadest meaning that may be attached to memory, and another term to mean perception, whether conscious or unconscious. In sociology we shall conceive of society as functioning and surviving by means of its material appliances, its language, customs, laws, and institutions, while the psychologist will no longer regard man as a separate existence, but as a portion of a larger organism upon which the development of individual mental life is peculiarly dependent.

It will, of course, also be necessary, after getting this common point of view, to classify under general heads the different forms of the same general phenomena. Thus, under the term organosis (or intelligence in a. broad meaning), we shall have (1) vegetative or physiological organosis or intelligence, which carries on the life processes within the organism, (2) sensory-motor organosis, or intelligence manifested in the functioning of reflex and instinctive mechanisms that promote survival in a given environment, (3) representative organosis, or intelligence which is manifested in the functioning of organs by which past and possible future stimulations are reacted to as well as present stimulation,(4) abstract or thinking organosis, or intelligence manifested in the functioning of organs (presumably the frontal lobes of the human cerebrum) by which the possibilities of various modes of reaction are symbolized and realized without their taking place.

The several forms of organosis or intelligence differ not so much in degree as in the kind of mechanism and functioning by which means are adapted to the great end of preserving life. The building and keeping alive of a tree or the body of a man is not less wonderful than the planning of a. building by an architect, and the, regulation of the heat of the different rooms by means of a furnace, engineer and thermostat is very simple compared with the functioning by means of which the physiological apparatus regulates the beat of the body under various conditions. The analyses performed by the stomach are more complex than the formulae of the chemist. Furthermore, the physiological organosis may be modified by repeated and even by single stimuli, as well as conscious functioning. Again, the sensory-motor intelligence of the bee in building its comb, of the swallow in watching insects, and of the baseball pitcher in

( 546) throwing the ball, is different, but not less in degree, than are the mathematical calculations by which the engineer constructs a bridge or determines the course of projectiles.

The experimental psychologist has been greatly handicapped in his tests, especially those directed towards the measurement of general intelligence, by the fact that psychological analysis has not pointed out these different forms of intelligence that are the result of the functioning of different organs in different ways.

The study of functioning, organosis or intelligence from the conscious side only is much like trying to understand the movements of an engine, an electric car, or a printing press by watching the operator. The human mechanism is a million-fold more complex than any of these machines, and the details and success of its functioning are known and controlled by consciousness to as slight an extent as are the detailed mechanisms and working of a great railroad system by its president, and yet there is no more reason to doubt that consciousness influences behavior than there is to doubt the influence of the railroad president.

When the genetic point of view is more fully worked out psychology will be transformed not so much by having its accepted facts invalidated as by having them illuminated, explained, and placed in their proper perspective in relation to other sciences and to the theory of evolution that has so rapidly transformed all of scientific thought.

The above is a very brief statement of the point of view reached by the writer in his study of genetic psychology, presented, while some of the details are being worked out, for the criticism of psychologists.

Suggestions are desired, not only as to the point of view, but as to terms. Is it best to extend the meaning of old terms and recognize unconscious as well as conscious intelligence, memory, perception, etc., or is it best to invent new terms that shall imply neither consciousness nor unconsciousness while the facts of behavior are being studied ?




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