Theory of Psychology: The Laws of Psyche (complete text)

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Alberto E. Fresina

CHAPTER 4 -(pages 47 to 50 of the book of 410)

Index of the chapter:

1. The levels of the psyche



1. The levels of psyche

The performance of the general law, as the essence of intention, would have four qualitative levels in, where the level of impulses is one of them. In order to explain what it should be understood as “qualitative levels" in the organization of the subject, and particularly in the one which refers to the human motivational structure, we will take as example, physiology and organization in levels of the organism’s anatomical components.

The first level we find is the cellular one. Cells fill the whole organism. If we want to see the strict composition of an organism, without considering certain accessory substances, we will only find cells. But, although "everything" is cell, "not everything" is cell. Everything is cell because we can go through the entirety of the organisms with microscopes and we won't find any other thing but cells. At the same time, not everything is cell because organs are also present.

The organ is just the organization of the cells that composes it, it is the organized group of cells. In the same way, each cell is the organized group of the cellular organs, and these ones of molecules that form them, and so on.

What it is important at this point, is to bear in mind that the organ keeps on being cells, and that the same atoms that form the cells are the ones that form the organ. Thus, there are two qualitative levels: the cellular one and the organs one.

If we pretend to explain the organism’s operation and we only focus on it from the cellular level, we may have the explanation to many phenomena. But a time will come, and we will not be able to say anything else. Then, a barrier will appear that will not enable us to explain the organism’s operation. That barrier is the one that separates the level of the cellular laws from the level of the organs and their laws. Once we go through the organs level, we will be in front of a new world. Many phenomena and relationships that were banned to the cytological focus will appear, for example: mechanisms of the global functioning of the liver, of the pancreas, of the kidneys, etc. that are impossible to understand, if we only focus on the activity of each isolated cell.

In psyche, the equivalent level to the cellular one is the reflex level. In essence everything is a reflex. There can not be psychic phenomenon not based on the reflexes activity of the nervous system. Then, impulses are the "psychic organs"; that is to say, reflexes are organized in their sequences and relationships, shaping a global configuration as for example: the nutritious impulse. The operation of that impulse is not more than the result of the organized and coherent operation of reflexes that sustains it.

Then, reflexes integrate the base of the impulses movement, when they fall under the order of the general law. At the reflexes level, the performance of the general law would be supported by facility mechanisms and selective hindrances of nervous tracts, that would guide reflexes in a coherent way, arising out the D.T. (directed tendency) of an impulse.

Reflexes of the nervous system, from the point of view we are analyzing, can be divided into two classes: 1- those that underlie the intentional activity, which we will be called directed reflexes. 2- those different from intention or autonomous reflexes. Directed ones are within the scope of the general law. This would work at the reflexes level, employing a selective mechanism that makes the activation or excitement of reflexes easy or difficult, according to the pleasure-displeasure which each nervous tract is associated with. In that way, the consistent reflexes sequence would take place, it appears in the global psychological aspect as the D.T. of an equally coherent behavior.

Nobody has ever seen that “selective mechanism”. But as all psychological act, it is a product of the reflexes of the nervous system, and since reflexes only move in their own contradiction: excitement-inhibition, and as we also know that the general law exists, there can not be doubts on the existence of that selective mechanism, that determines the course of the reflexes tracts.

These problems of the reflexes level will be developed later on (chap. 5). In this moment, the intention is only to transmit the notion of levels or "stages" of the psychic operation. In this case, we have to emphasize that impulses are the result of the organization of the reflexes activity. They can not exist floating in nothing, the same as organs regarding cells.

Continuing with the physiologic analogy, we had gone through the cellular level to the organs one, accompanying the qualitative passage from one to another level of the organic subject. Thus, we started explaining the physiology of the organism, from the organs level, but without forgetting what we have analyzed at cellular level. Once we know everything regarding organs, and when we believed that everything had been said, we find a new barrier that forces us to go through another more complex qualitative level: the systems one, example: the digestive, breathing, reproducer system, etc. Information offered by the treatment of the level of systems, is something that we could not achieve, taking into consideration each organ in particular.

In psyche, we will also go through the level of impulses or "psychic organs" to the "systems" one. As well as physiologic systems are not more than groups of consistently integrated organs in one or more global functions, the psyche "systems" arise of the organization and combination of impulses. As an example, we can mention the moral function; this is, the double tendency to make good things and to avoid  bad things. Such mechanism is made up of several impulses, but the two “top” ones, are the approval and conservation impulses. The first one encourages the subject to do good things to be able to achieve social approval (and/or self-approval). On the other hand, as bad behavior provokes the social rejection displeasure (and/or self-rejection),  the fear of doing something wrong, appears. Then, approval impulse pushes to achieve what it is good, and the one of conservation (fear - D.T. - easiness) encourages to avoid bad things.  The merger of those impulses shapes the moral mechanism. Although this mechanism is not more than organized impulses, it has functional autonomy as well as laws autonomy. For that reason, it is of a superior qualitative  level in relation to impulses.

In this case, the reference of “superior” is not a subjective appraisal. It is something genuinely superior regarding the level of complexity in the organization of the subject. When it is said that superior tendencies do not exist, stating that "in fact" there are only primary tendencies, this is wrong, since in the same way the primary tendencies would not exist as they are just reflexes, and the latter ones neither as they are only atoms in motion. As well as we can not say that the respiratory system does not exist with the argument that "in fact" it is a group of organs, we can not make that either, with the superior functions of the human psyche. Each qualitative level resulting from the organization of the subject, has its own objective existence and its exclusive laws.

Another example of superior mechanisms is the esthetic function: beautiful-ugly. Such values gather, among other elements, the orientation pleasures and displeasures. The intellectual function is also present: to understand - not to understand.  We will analyze these functions or mechanisms in detail, later (chapter 8).

 Up to now, we have discussed three out of the four levels of the structure and of the psychic operation: 1 – reflexes. 2 - impulses. 3 - superior mechanisms. Each level, in which the general law acts, has its fundamental contradiction or its opponents counterparts that are the organizers. At reflexes level, opponent aspects are: excitement-inhibition; in the one of impulses: nec. - satisfaction; and in the following one: positive value - negative value or sub-value. The fourth and last level of the motivational human structure would be, in the analogy, the equivalent one to the most important physiologic systems, as for example: the nervous, endocrinal, immune system, etc. The contrary organizers elements are the positive and negative virtual values. This is the level of the ideals and of the highest interests. Virtual values refer to stable situations as time passes by. They are conditions looking for or avoiding to be, to possess, or "there is", example: to have personal virtues or faults, conditions of welfare or social uneasiness, etc. This level of the intentional operation and of the general law, which is the highest one, is made up of complex but specific and defined organization of impulses and third level mechanisms.

From a general point of view,  detailed levels would be sub-levels,  whose group forms the psychological level. Because when we focus on a group of "psychological" individuals in their functional interrelations, we are in presence of a superior order of phenomena that is the social or sociological level.

This analogy with physiology is neither something merely metaphoric, nor "one physiologic pattern" of the psyche. They are the same universal laws of the relationship among qualitative levels of the subject organization. Such relationships are common in all steps of the phenomena.

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© Author: Alberto E. Fresina
Title: "The Laws of Psyche"
Title of the original Spanish Version:
"Las Leyes del Psiquismo"
Fundar Editorial
Printed in Mendoza, Argentina
I.S.B.N. 987-97020-9-3
Mendoza, 14th July, 1999
Copyright registered at the National Copyright Bureau in 1988, and at the Argentine Book Camera in 1999, year of its publication.
Translated by Ana El kassir with the collaboration of Marcela Berenguer
Characteristic of the original copy in Spanish: Number of pages: 426; measures: 5.9 x 8.27 x 1 inch; weight: 1.2lb.

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