1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Negative Pleasures

Psychology
(Part 60)




(H) Feeling (cont.)

Negative Pleasures

The doctrine here developed, viz., that feelings depends on efficiency, is in the main as old as Aristotle; all that has been done is to give it a more accurately psychological expression, and to free it from the implications of the faculty theory, in which form it was expounded by Hamilton. Of possible objections there are at least two that we must anticipate, and the consideration of which will help to make the general view clearer. First, it may be urged that, according to this view, it ought to be one continuous pain to fall asleep, since in this state consciousness is rapidly restricted both as to intensity and range. This statement is entirely true as regards the intensity and range. This statement is entirely true as regards the intensity and substantially true as regards the range, at least of the higher consciousness: certain massive and agreeable organic sensations pertain to falling asleep, but the variety of presentations at all events grows less. But then the capacity to attend is also rapidly declining; even a slight intruding sensation entails an acute sense of strain in one sense, in place of the massive pleasure of repose throughout; and any voluntary concentration either in order to move or to think involves a like organic conflict, futile effort, and arrest of balmy ease. There is as regards the more definite constituents of the field of consciousness a close resemblance between natural sleepiness and the state of monotonous humdrum we call tedium or ennui; and yet the very same excitement that would relieve the one by dissipating the weariness of inaction would disturb the other by renewing the weariness of action ; the one is commensurate with the resources of the moment, the other is not. Thus the maximum of effective attention in question is, as Aristotle would say, a maximum "relative to us." It is possible, therefore, that a change from a wider to a narrower field of consciousness may be a pleasurable change, if attention is more effectively engaged. Strictly speaking, however, the so-called negative pleasures of rest do not consist in mere narrowing of the field of consciousness so much as in a change in the amount of concentration. Massive organic sensations connected with restoration take the place of the comparatively acute sensations of jades powers forced to work. We have, then, in all cases to bear in mind this subjective relativity of all pleasurable or painful states of consciousness.





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