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Conclusion The problem of functional systems

We have completed the tedious way of considering the main points in the evolution of the practical intelligence of the child and in the development of his symbolic activity. It remains for us to put together and summarize the conclusions we have arrived at, to summarize our consideration of the problem of developing practical intelligence and to point to those important theoretical and methodological conclusions that can be drawn from a number of similar studies when each is devoted to a particular particular problem.

If you try to cover with a single glance all that has been said about the evolution of the practical intelligence of the child, you can see the following: the main content of this evolution is reduced to the fact that in place of a single and, moreover, simple function of practical intelligence, which is observed in the child before mastering the speech, a complex composition appears in the development process , a multiple form of behavior interwoven from various functions. In the process of the child’s mental development, as the study shows, not only does the internal reorganization and improvement of individual functions occur, but interfunctional connections and relationships also fundamentally change. As a result, new psychological systems arise that combine in a complex collaboration a number of separate elementary functions. These psychological systems, these higher-order unities that take the place of homogeneous, single, elementary functions, we conventionally call higher mental functions. All of the above still compels us to admit: that real psychological education, which in the process of development of a child takes the place of its elementary practical and intellectual operations, cannot be designated otherwise than a psychological system. This concept includes both the complex combination of symbolic and practical activity that we have been insisting on all the time, and the new ratio of a number of unit functions that is characteristic of human practical intelligence, and the new unity into which this heterogeneous in its course has been brought the composition of the whole.

Thus, we come to a conclusion directly opposite to that established by E. Thorndike (1925) in the study of intelligence. As you know, Thorndike proceeds from the assumption that higher mental functions are nothing more than further development, a quantitative growth of associative connections of the same order as the connections that underlie elementary processes. In his opinion, both phylogenesis and ontogenesis reveal a fundamental identity of the psychological nature of the relationships that underlie the lower and higher processes.

Our study is against this assumption. Our study makes us recognize that connections of a different order are characteristic of those specific neoplasms that we call psychological systems, or higher mental functions. Since the position of Thorndike, by his own admission, is directed against traditional dualism in the teaching of lower and higher forms of behavior, and since the question of overcoming traditional dualism is one of the main methodological and theoretical tasks of all modern scientific psychology, we will certainly analyze what answer to this problem (dualism or the unity of higher and lower functions) we must give in the light of our experimental studies.

But first, one possible misunderstanding needs to be clarified. Objections to Thorndike's theory can primarily be directed not along the line that interests us in this case, but along the line of elucidating the general bankruptcy of associationism and the whole mechanistic concept of intellectual development, which is affirmed on the basis of this point of view. We leave aside the question of the failure of the associative principle. We are interested in something else. Anyway, whether we recognize the associative or structural nature of mental functions, the main question remains in full force: can higher mental functions be reduced in essential, defining laws to lower ones? Are they only a more complex and confusing expression of the same laws that prevail in the lower forms, or in their essence, structure, mode of activity, do they owe their origin to the action of new laws unknown in terms of elementary forms of behavior?

We think that the resolution of this issue is connected with the change in the basic point of view that K. insists on in modern psychology.
Levin, and which he refers to as a transition from a “phenotypic to conditionally genetic” point of view. We think, further, that psychological analysis, penetrating the external appearance of phenomena and revealing the internal structure of mental processes, and in particular the analysis of the development of higher forms, makes us recognize the unity, but not the identity of higher and lower mental functions.

The question of the dualism of lower and higher functions is not removed during the transition from an associative to a structural point of view. We see this from the fact that even within structural psychology there is an ongoing debate between representatives of the two indicated views on the nature of higher processes. Some insist on recognizing the difference between the two types of mental processes and come to a strict distinction between the two main forms of activity, one of which is usually designated as a reactive type of activity, the other, the decisive moment of which is that it, as it were, arises primarily from the personality, as a spontaneous type activities. Representatives of this direction defend the position that we are forced in psychology to proceed from a fundamentally dualistic understanding of those and other processes. A living being, they say, is not only a system that meets annoyance, but also a system that pursues goals.

Opponents of a sharp differentiation of higher processes as spontaneous activity and lower ones as reactive activity defend the opposite point of view. They strive to show that that sharp dualism, that metaphysical opposition between the two types of activity that are usually put forward, does not really exist. They try to uncover the reactive nature of many moments, intraspontaneous forms of behavior and the active nature of moments, depending on the internal structure of the system itself, in reactive processes. They show that in the so-called spontaneous processes, the behavior of the body also depends on the nature of the stimulus, and vice versa: in reactive processes, the behavior also depends on the internal structure and state of the system itself. Others, like Levin, in the concept of needs see a solution to this issue, which lies for them in that the objects of the outside world can have a certain relation to needs. They may have a positive or negative “command character.”

Thus, we see that the rejection of the associative theory and the structural point of view alone do not solve problems without special research, but they remove or bypass the question that interests us. True, the new point of view helps to overcome the metaphysical nature of traditional psychological dualism and recognizes the fundamental unity of higher and lower functions in relation to internal and external moments acting in one and other processes. But here inevitably arise by themselves two new questions, to which we do not find a fundamental answer in the usually proposed solution.

The first is that the external and internal moments, which are necessary in the processes of one and the other type, can have different specific gravity and, therefore, determine the whole process of behavior in qualitatively different ways in both cases. Not metaphysically, but empirically, do we still have to single out higher processes compared to lower ones or not? And the second one is that the separation between spontaneous and reactive forms of behavior may not coincide with the distinction between actions directed mainly by internal needs and actions directed by external stimuli.
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Conclusion The problem of functional systems

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