BOOK´S TITLE: La mente humana (The human mind)
AUTHOR: José Luís Pinillos
University professor and psychologist, is considered the father of Spanish contemporary psychology. He was distinguished with the Prince of Asturias Award on Social Sciences, 1986.
PUBLISHERS: EDICIONES TEMAS DE HOY, SA. 2003
ABSTRACT by: Jesús de la Peña Hernández (June 2007)
This is the book that every businessman should read (or review). It is not merely a book on psychology (though it's too). It is so well written and is so attractive, that along its pages discloses all that one needs in his relations with humans. It serves to interpret them, and most important, to interpret those consultants that manipulate people by means of magic formulas to get quick benefits (or, as Jeeves would say nowadays to put in value the psychology of the individual; incidentally, most in fashion today in England that Woodhouse´s creature).
The book is divided in two parts, one related to the origin and the other to the organization of the mind. The former occupies one fourth of the volume.
There are very well known authors with a lot of bibliography behind them but scarce of ideas. This is not the case of José Luis Pinillos. Besides handling a very extensive and reliable bibliography he has clear ideas of his own, which is what the reader is most grateful for.
The first part treats the evolution and how it explains cerebration (the cranial capacity), conscience, language and culture. I underline this paragraph: “Current men do not come directly from our contemporary apes or primates. These, as well as we men, are part of five great families of anthropoids that part away out of a common trunk about forty or fifty million years ago”.
The author questions himself from the beginning whether the phylogenies, that uninterrupted physical construction of humans will have a replica of irreversible and progressive development of humankind.
Our author deploys copious examples of wise definitions. I shall keep two of them because of their importance:
“Culture is the style and way of living that can be ascribed to any human society. It has to do with art, ideas, and scientifical, moral or religious values: It points out to the scope of freedom and spirit”.
“Civilisation is related to work, techniques, praxis, the material support of culture, the satisfaction of inferior needs”. I should add that nowadays culture is like software and civilisation would be hardware.
When he deals with human mind evolution he comes across voodoo, witchery and magic practises that in old times could produce death to a distant person. It might be odd enough, but just the same happens today with what Lersch calls aperceptive shock which reveals homeostatique alterations that convey to death without injury, due to fear.
It's amazing to verify that when he deals with the primitive man's thought, and not pretending it, he discloses what the current BLOGS of political propaganda entail. As anybody can check, that propaganda is addressed to the utmost primitiveness lodged in the members of our society. It is the adequate material designed to be captured by the “primitive brain” of voters.
He doesn't miss to study the Intelligence Quotient's evolution as result of heritage and environment (the orteguian´s myself and my circumstance). So he does, in relation to different domains like race, social class or behavioural dysfunctions.
The second part of the book deals, first of all, with the nervous system and its three functions: as signal captor, integrator and efferent. Setting aside the question of activator and inhibitor processes, he approaches human behaviour. But not without clarifying first, that afferences are related not only to our environment, but also to the inner medium, what is essential to keep the right functional homeostasis.
When he spokes about computers he discourages those who think that it's worthwhile developing them to produce brain prosthesis due to the fact that they are faster than our own brain. Dr. A. Hernando said in a recent lecture that speed of CPUs is already so great that doesn't pay to increase it: The bottleneck is now in the computer's memory, that can't hold the amount of information delivered to it at current huge speeds. Our author will say at the end that cybernetic systems do not think; they simply boost the intellectual activity of their creators, the men.
Our nervous system is not merely a set of circuits that brings, elaborates and sends messages. We do not know how, but the fact is that within that process emerges a subjective mental experience in which the human being, possesses himself and captures in his deepest nature the outer reality: “As the summit of the different levels of subjectivation emerged along the species evolution, man's self-conscience rises, in which culminate all inferior psychic structures whose paramount sign is the intelligent experience of our ego”.
A chapter follows on reality perception illustrated with several friendly figures that emphasize the subjective (or relative) aspect of our observations. He won't forget the influence attached to it in connection with our own experience, our personality, the effect of invisible publicity, the oneiric learning, the extra sensorial perception or drug consumption.
The chapter devoted to the “Homo Sapiens” faces the animals that are determined by their instinct, to men who must invent their lives. It's not a matter of being free: the man is forced to be free. For that he relies on his intelligence, and our author studies and measures it. For an average Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of 100, for example, George Washington had 140, Leonardo da Vinci 180 and Goethe 210. One can become more intelligent by cultivating creativity, whose techniques are nowadays at hand for everybody. The reader may confront intelligence tests expressed in different types of series with their solutions.
The animals having instinct, it does not mean that they shouldn't manage themselves in a certain way to survive. But definitely not like man does. We can say that for man the only stable thing in life is variation. To confirm that it suffices to look at his history from the Neolithic till present days. Because of that, Ortega used to say that man has history rather than nature.
Wises, motivation, needs and frustration are analysed as well. The author doesn't forget Maslow´s theory on needs and his famous pyramid in addition to the defence mechanisms used to overcome our frustrations. Here he links with the world of dreams and its interpretation by Freud (sexually) and Jung (socially).
Desires are connatural with men: in the extreme we can say that they are dead who don't desire. Nevertheless, our desires are far from animals´. For these, the desires serve only to their homeostasis, i.e, to their physiologic balance. “On the contrary, men desires not only may be sometimes biologically superfluous, but even can be strictly antibioligical, i.e, desires aimed at death”. At the end, he closes the circle of desires with the action guided by freedom.
Another most interesting chapter is that dedicated to biotypes and personality, in which the author warns us over the proper use to be made on the correlation really existing between both fields. As is well known, the classic biotypes are the leptosomatic (tall and slender), the picnic (fat and round-shaped) and the intermediate, the athletic one. The first is inclined to introversion, the second, to extraversion, whereas the athletic type is situated between both extremes. The author hints at these tendencies not being determinant: they are mere trends. What is more conclusive is the relation between somatic types and mental diseases: It seems to be a strong association between schizophrenia and leptosomatics, as well as between the picnic type and the maniac-depressive ailment.
The book ends up with a chapter devoted to human mind and social order. Older people use to regret the society we leave in heritage to our descendents because of its evils. Strange enough, the author eases our conscience hinting that things are not so. On the contrary, society is not the expression of human nature, but a kind of gigantic press that configure the humans.
Group dynamic training oriented to sociability, is the finishing touch of the book. The author enjoys himself describing after his own experience, the famous sessions held by the T Groups at Bethel, Maine, led by pupils and companions of the renowned German psychologist Kurt Lewin.