SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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340
VI. ON PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY
tic reactions of higher order, which, through oo-valued semantics, would help adjustment under the most complex social and economic conditions for man. The maximum of conditionality would be reached, let us repeat, through the consciousness of abstracting, which is fundamental for sanity, and is the main object of the present work, explained in Part VII.
It seems that the aggregate of inborn, almost unconditional and acquired or conditional reactions of different orders and types constitute the foundation of the nervous activities of humans and animals. The mechanism is not an additive one. A little bit of cortex 'added' involves most far-reaching differences of behaviour in life; in fact, the number of possibilities probably follow the combinations of higher order.
Higher order combinations are constructed from groups which themselves are groups. Thus, out of twenty-six letters of the English alphabet, there are probably trillions of pronounceable combinations of letters. Sentences are groups of words which are groups of letters, and their number, therefore, exceeds enormously the original trillions. Books are combinations of sentences, and, finally, libraries are combinations of books. Thus, a library is a combination of fifth order, and the number of possible different libraries is inconceivably large. As a rule, we pay little attention to combinations of higher order, disregarding the fact that even materials and the possible variety of them have some such structure.
To give an intuitive feel how combinations of higher order increase, let me quote Jevons on the simplest case, starting with 2. 'At the first step w6 have 2; at the next 22, or 4; at the third, 222, or 16, numbers of very moderate amount. Let the reader calculate the next term, 2i2', and he will be surprised to find it leap up to 65,536. But at the next step he has to calculate the value of 65,536 twtfs multiplied together, and it is so great that we could not possibly compute it, the mere expression of the result requiring 19,729 places of figures. But go one step more and we pass the bounds of all reason. The sixth order of the powers of two becomes so great, that we could not even express the number of figures required in writing it down, without using about 19,729 figures for the purpose.'8
In actual life, the number of possibilities of higher order combinations are limited by structural and environmental conditions; nevertheless, the numbers of possibilities which follow such a rule increase surprisingly fast.