1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > CAUSES OF FEELING

(Part 53)

(H) Feeling (cont.)


Pure feeling, then, ranging solely between the opposite extremes of pleasure and pain, we are naturally led to inquire whether there is any corresponding contrast in the cause of feeling on the one hand, and on the other in its manifestations and effects/ To begin with the first question, which we may thus formulate: What, if any, are the invariable differences characteristic of the presentations or states of mind we respectively like and dislike; or, taking account of the diverse source of feeling –sensuous, aesthetic, intellectual, active – is there anything that we can predicate alike of all that are pleasurable and deny of all that are painful, and vice versa? It is at once evident that at least in presentations objectively regarded no such common characters will be found; if we find them anywhere it must be in some relation to the conscious subject, i.e., in the fact of presentation itself. There is one important truth concerning pleasures and pains that may occur at once as an answer to our inquiry, and that is often advanced as such, viz., that whatever is pleasurable tends to further and perfect life, and whatever is painful to disturb or destroy it. The many seeming exceptions to this law of self-conversation, as it has been called, probably all admit of explanation, as it has called, probably all admits of explanation truth unimpeached. [Footnote 67-1] But this law, however stated, is too teleological to serve as a purely psychological principle, and, as generally formulated and illustrated, it takes account of matters quite outside the psychologist’s ken. We are now concerned to know why a bitter taste, e.g., is painful or the gratification of an appetite pleasant, but what marks distinctive of all painful presentations the one has and the other lacks. From a biological standpoint it may be true enough that the final cause of sexual and parental feelings is the perpetuation of the species; but this does not help us to ascertain what common character they have as actual sources of feeling for the individual. From the biological standpoint even the senile decadence and death of the individual may be shown to be advantageous to the race; but it would certainly be odd to described this as advantageous to the individual, so different are the two points of view. What we are in search of, although a generalization, has reference to something much more concrete than conceptions like race or life, and does not require us to go beyond the consciousness of the moment to such ulterior facts as they imply.

Were it possible it would be quite unnecessary to examine in detail every variety of pleasurable and painful consciousness in connexion with a general inquiry of this sort. It will be best to enumerate at the outset the only cases that specially call investigation. Feeling may arise mainly from (1) single sensations or movements, including in these what recent psychologists call their tone; or it may be chiefly determined by (2) some combination or arrangement of these primary presentations, -- hence what mnight be styled the lower aesthetic feelings. We have thus among primary presentations a more material and a more formal cause or ground of feeling. The mere representation of these sources of feeling involves nothing of moment: the idea of a bright colour or a bitter taste has not definiteness or intensity enough to produce feeling; and the ideal presentation of a harmonious arrangement of sounds or colours does not in itself differ essentially as regards the feeling it occasions from the actual presentation. When we advance to the level at which there occur ideas more complex and more highly representative – or re-representative, as Mr Spence would say- than any we have yet considered we can again distinguish between material and formal grounds of feeling. To the first we might refer, e.g., (3) the egoistic, sympathetic, and religious feelings; this class will probably require but brief notice. The second, consisting of (4) the intellectual and (5) the higher aesthetic feelings, is more important. There is a special class of feelings, which might be distinguished from all the preceding as reflex, since they arise from the memory or expectation of feelings; but in fact these are largely involved in all the higher feelings, and this brief reference to them will suffice; of such hope, fear, regret, are examples.


67-1 See Spencer, Data of Ethics, chaps. i.-iv.; G.H. Schneider, Freud und Leid des Menschengeschlechts, chap. i

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