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Goldstein, K. (1990). Excerpts from "The Organism". Contemp. Psychoanal., 26:581-599.

(1990). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26:581-599

Excerpts from "The Organism"

Kurt Goldstein, M.D.


IF I AM CORRECT IN MY VIEWS, all previous attempts to understand life have followed the method of working from the lower to the higher. Under the conviction that the phyla of living beings represent a scale, at the bottom of which are organisms of relatively simple structure and function, distinguished from the "higher" ones only in that the latter show progressively greater differentiation in their development, the approach has been to explore functions in the "lower" ("simpler") animals and from there to ascend to the analysis of the "higher" (more "complex") beings. This procedure was not discarded, even by those who were rationally compelled to abandon the concept of evolution. The approach remained essentially the same whether the performances of the organism were thought to be of the reflex type, or whether regulative and directive factors were introduced to explain phenomena in "higher" organisms. In the latter case, the investigator hoped to find these directive factors in their simplest form in the lower organisms. In fact, the change in biological views in recent years, the increasing movement away from the reflex concept, brought no essential change in this general attitude of the biologists. Fundamentally, the determining view has remained that the lower organisms are "simpler" and can be investigated more readily. Therefore, the method of procedure from the "lower" to the "higher" has persisted.

Departure from Experiences with Man. The following discussion of the phenomena of life is an attempt to proceed in the diametrically


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Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 26, No. 4 (1990)

1 These excerpts from K. Goldstein's (1939) The Organism, originally published by the American Book Co., and the essays that follow, represent a continuation of our plan to present classics in psychoanalysis and related disciplines with commentary by contemporary writers.— Ed.

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