1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Egoistic and Socialistic Feelings

(Part 58)

(H) Feeling (cont.)

Egoistic and Socialistic Feelings

5. When we reach the level at which there is distinct self-consciousness (comp. p. 84), we have an important class of feelings determined by the relation of the presentation of self to the other contents of consciousness. And as the knowledge of other selves advances pari passu with that of one’s own self, so along with the egoistic feelings appear certain social or altruistic feelings. The two have much in common; in pride and shame, for example, account is taken of the estimate other persons form of us and of our regard for them; while, on the other hand, when we admire or despise, congratulate or pity another, we have always present to our mind a more or less definite conception of self in like circumstances. It will therefore amply serve all the ends of our present inquiry if we briefly survey the leading characteristics of some contrasted egoistic feelings, such as self-complacency and disappointment. When a man is pleased with himself, his achievements, possessions, or circumstances, such pleasure is the result of a comparison of his position in this respect with some former position or with the position of some one else. Without descending to details, we may say that two prospects are before him, and the larger and fairer is recognized as his own. Under disappointment or reverse the same two pictures may be present to his mind, but accompanied by the certainty that the better is not his or is his no more. So far, then, it might be said that the contents of his consciousness are in each case the same, the whole difference lying in the different relationship to self. But this makes all the difference even to the contents of his consciousness, as we shall at once see if we consider its active side. Even the idlest and most thoughtless mind teems with intentions and expectations, and in its prosperity, like the fool in the parable, thinks to pull down its barns and build greater, to take its ease, eat, drink, and be merry. The support of all this pleasing show and these far-reaching aims is, not the bare knowledge of what abundance will do, but the reflexion – These many goods are mine. In mind alone final causes have a place, and the end can produce the beginning; the prospect of a summer makes the present into spring. But action is paralysed or impossible when the means evade us –

"Now drops at once the price of awful state,
The golden canopy, the glittering plate,"

and a bleak and wintry barrenness is filled with the emptiness of despair. In so far as a man’s life consists in the abundance of the things he possesseth , we see then why it dwindles with these. The like holds where self-complacency or displicency rests on a sense of personal worth or on the honour or affection of others.

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