1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Feeling - Introduction

(Part 52)

(H) Feeling

Feeling - Introduction

Such summary surveys as these limits allows of the more elementary facts of cognition is here at an end; so far the most conspicuous factors at work have been those of what might be termed our ideational mechanism. In the higher processes of thought we have to take more account of mental activity and of the part played by language. But it seems preferable, before entering upon this, to explore also the emotional and active constituents of mind in their more elementary phases.

In our preliminary survey we have seen that psychical life consists in the main of a continuous alternation of receptive and reactive consciousness, i.e., in its earliest form, of alternations of sensation and movement. At a later stage we find that in the receptive phase ideation is added to sensation, and that in the active phase thought and fancy, or the voluntary manipulation and control of the ideational trains, are added to the voluntary manipulation and control of the muscles. At this higher level also it is possible that either form of receptive consciousness may lead to either form of active: sensations may lead to thought rather than to action in the restricted sense. And ideas apart from sensations may prompt to muscular exertion. There is a further complication still: not only may either sensations or ideas lead to either muscular or mental movements, but movements themselves, whether of mind or limb, may as mere presentations determine other movements of either kind. In this respect, however, movements and thoughts either in themselves or through their sensational ideational accompaniments may be regarded as pertaining to the receptive of consciousness. With these provisions, them the board generalization may hold that receptive states lead through feeling to active states, and that presentations that give neither pleasure nor pain meet with no responsive action. But first the objection must be met that presentations that are in themselves purely indifferent lead continually to very energetic action, often the promptest and most definite action. To this there are two answers. First, on the higher levels of psychical life presentations in themselves indifferent are often indirectly interesting as signs of , or as means to, other presentations that are more directly interesting. It is enough for the present, therefore, if it be admitted that all such indifferent presentations are without effect as often as they are not instrumental in furthering the realization of some desirable end. Secondly, a large class of movements, such as those called sensori-motor and ideo-motor, are initiated by presentations that are frequently, it must be allowed neither pleasurable nor painful. In all such cases, however, there is probably only an apparent exception to the principle of subjective selection. They may all be regarded as instances of another important psychological principle which we have to deal with more fully by and by, viz,., that voluntary actions, and especially those that either only avert pain or are merely subsidiary to pleasure-giving actions, tend at length, as the effect of habit in the individual and of heredity in the race, to become "secondarily automatic," as it has been called. Such mechanical or instinctive dexterities make possible a more efficient use of present energies in securing pleasurable and interesting experiences, and, like the rings of former growths in a tree, afford a basis for further advance, as old interest pall and new ones present themselves. Here, again, it suffices for our present purpose if it be granted that there is a fair presumption in favour of supposing all such movements to have been originally initiated by feeling, as certainly very many of them were.

Of the feeling itself that intervenes between these sensory and motor presentations there is but little to be said. The chief points have been already insisted upon, viz, that it is not itself a presentation, but purely subjective state, at once the effect of a change in receptive consciousness and the cause of a change in motor consciousness; hence it continual confusion either with the movements, whether ideational or muscular, that are its expression, or with the sensations or ideas that are its cause. For feeling as such is, so to put it, matter of being rather than of direct knowledge; and all that we know about it we know from its antecedents or consequents in presentation.

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