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An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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36
1. PRELIMINARIES
Section C. On 'copying' in our nervous reactions.
The selection of the term 'copying' was forced upon me after much meditation. Its standard meaning implies 'reproduction after a model', applicable even to mechanical processes, and although it does not exclude, it does not necessarily include conscious copying. It is not generally realized to what an important extent copying plays its role in higher animals and man.
Some characteristics are inborn, some are acquired. Long ago, Spalding made experiments with birds. Newly hatched birds were enclosed in small boxes which did not allow them to stretch their wings or to see other birds fly. At the period when usually flying begins, they were released and began to fly at once with great skill, showing that flying in birds is an inborn function. Other experiments were made by Scott to find out if the characteristic song of the oriole was inborn or acquired. When orioles, after being hatched, were kept away from their parents, at a given period they began to sing; but the peculiar melody of their songs was different from the songs of their parents. Thus, singing is an inborn characteristic, but the special melody is due to copying parents, and so is acquired.3
In our human reactions, speech in general is an inborn characteristic, but what special language or what special structure of language we acquire is due to environment and copying - much too often to unconscious and, therefore, uncritical copying. As to the copying of animals in our nervous reactions, this is quite a simple problem. Self-analysis, which is rather a difficult affair, necessitating a serious and efficient 'mentality', was impossible in the primitive stage. Copying parents in many respects began long before the appearance of man, who has naturally continued this practice until the present day. The results, therefore, are intimately connected with reactions of a pre-human stage, transmitted from generation to generation. But for our present purpose, the most important form of the copying of animals was, and is, the copying of the comparative unconditionality of their conditional reflexes, or lower order conditionality; the animalistic identification or confusion of orders of abstractions, and the lack of consciousness of abstracting, which, while natural, normal, and necessary with animals, becomes a source of endless semantic disturbances for humans. More about copying Will be explained as we proceed.
It should be noticed also that because of the structure of the nervous system and the history of its development, the more an organism became 'conscious', the more this copying became a neurological necessity, as