Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/65
By ALEXANDER BAIN, LL.D.,
PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN.
VI.—THE EMOTIONS IN EDUCATION (continued).
I NOW proceed with the review of the Emotions as motives in education.
Play of the Emotions of Activity.—Nothing is more frequently prescribed in education than to foster the pupils' own activity, to put them in the way of discovering facts and principles for themselves. This position needs to be carefully surveyed.
There is, in the human system, a certain spontaneity of action, the result of central energy, independent of any feelings that may accompany the exercise. It is great in children; and it marks special individuals, who are said to possess the active temperament. It distinguishes races and nationalities of human beings, and is illustrated in the differences among the animal tribes; it also varies with general bodily vigor. This activity would burst out and discharge itself in some form of exertion, whether useful or useless, even if the result were perfectly indifferent as regards pleasure or pain. We usually endeavor to turn it to account by giving it a profitable direction, instead of letting it run to waste or something worse. It expends itself in a longer or shorter time, but while any portion remains, exertion is not burdensome.
Although the spontaneous flow of activity is best displayed and most intelligible in the department of muscular exercise, it applies also to the senses and the nerves, and comprises mental action as well as bodily. The intellectual strain of attention, of volition, of memory, and of thought, proceeds to a certain length by mere fullness of power, after rest and renovation; and may be counted on to this extent as involving nothing essentially toilsome. Here, too, a good direction is all that is wanted to make a profitable result.
The activity thus assumed as independent of feeling is nevertheless accompanied with feeling, and that feeling is essentially pleasurable: the pleasure being greatest at first. The presence of pleasure is the standing motive to action; and all the natural activity of the system—whether muscular or nervous—brings an effluence of pleasure, until a certain point of depletion is arrived at.
If, further, our activity is employed productively, or in yielding any gratification beyond the mere exercise, this is so much added to the pleasures of action. If, besides the delight of intellectual exercise, we obtain for ourselves the gratification of fresh knowledge, we seem to attain the full pleasure due to the employment of the intellect.