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Psychology
(Part 5)




(B) General Analysis of Mind. Its Ultimate Constituents. (cont.)

Feeling

We might now proceed to inquire more closely into the character and relations of the three states, modes, or acts [Footnote 20-1] of this subject, which are commonly held to be the invariable constituents of psychical life and broadly distinguished as cognitions, feelings, and conations. But we should be at once confronted by a doctrine much in vogue at present, which, strictly taken, amounts, almost to a denial of this tripartite classification of the facts of mind—the doctrine, viz, that feeling alone is primordial, and invariably present wherever there is consciousness at all. Every living creature, it is said, feels though it may never do any more; only the higher animals, and these only after a time, learn to discriminate and identify and to act with a purpose. This doctrine, as might be expected, derives its plausibility partly from the vagueness of psychological terminology, and partly from the intimate connexion that undoubtedly exists between feeling and cognition on the one hand and feeling and volition on the other. As to the meaning of the term, it is plain that further definition is requisite for a word that may mean (a) a touch, as feeling of roughness ; (b) an organic sensation, as feeling of hunger ;(c) an emotion, as feeling of anger ; (d) feeling proper, as pleasure or pain. But, even taking feeling in the last, its strict sense, it has been maintained that all the more complex forms of consciousness are resolvable into, or at least have been developed from, feelings of pleasure and pain. The only proof of such position, since we cannot directly observe the beginnings of conscious life, must consist of considerations such as the following. So far as we can judge, we find feeling everywhere ; but, we word downwards from higher to lower forms of life, the possible variety and the definiteness of sense-impressions both steadily diminish. Moreover, we can directly observe in our own organic sensations, which seem to come nearest to the whole content of infantile and molluscous experience, an almost entire absence of any assignable quale. Finally, in our sense experience generally, we find the element of feeling at a maximum in the lower senses and the intellectual element at a maximum in the higher. But the so-called intellectual senses are the most used, and use we know blunts feeling and favours intellection, as we see in chemists, who sort the most filthy mixtures by smell and taste without discomfort. If, then, feeling predominates more and more as we approach the beginning of consciousness, may we not say that it is the only sine qua non of consciousness? Considerations of this kind, however impressive when exhibited at length, are always liable to be overturned by some apparently un important fact which may easily be overlooked. Two lines, e.g., may get nearer and nearer and yet will never meet, if the rate of approach is simply proportional to the distance. A triangle may be diminished indefinitely and yet we can not infer that it becomes eventually all angles, though the angles get no less and the sides do. Now, before we decide that pleasure or pain alone may constitute a complete state of mind, it may be well to inquire : What is the connexion between feelings of pleasure and pain and the two remaining possible constituents of consciousness, as we can observe them now? And this is an inquiry which will help us towards an answer to our main question, namely, that concerning the nature and connexion of what are commonly regarded as the three ultimate facts of mind.





Footnotes

[40-1] It is useless at this point attempting to decide on the comparative appropriateness of these and similar terms, such as "faculties," "capacities." "functions," &c.



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