Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/597

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
FEELING]
581
PSYCHOLOGY


method of telling, there may then quite well be an equivalent set-off in more developed assimilation. As a seed germinates it has less latent energy, but this is replaced by growth in root and stem: similar relations may obtain when an old association is said merely to lose “ strength.” On the other hand-within the range of the primary memory-image-we can often reproduce what after a longer interval we should fail to recognize. We seem warranted, then, in concluding that this conception of “ association-strength, ” so freely used by G. E. Müller and his co-workers, requires more analysis than it has yet received. The two factors which their methods disclose in it appear to confirm the distinction we have already made between impressions and free ideas. They help us also to understand, further, the superiority of distributed over cumulated repetition, of “inwardly digesting ” over “ cram.”

Feeling.

31. Such summary survey as these limits allow 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 the 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 predominantly receptive and predominantly reactive consciousness. In its earliest form experience is simply an interplay 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 and ideational accompaniments may be regarded as pertaining to the receptive side of consciousness. With these provisos, then, the, broad 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 shall 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 interests 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 a purely subjective state, at once the effect of a change in receptive consciousness and the cause of a change in motor consciousness; hence its 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. 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 C I causes of feeling on the one hand, and on the other If;';;f; ° 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 sources 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-conservation, as it has been called, probably all admit of explanation in conformity with it, so as to leave its substantial truth unimpeached.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 not 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 again, 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 describe 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 concepts 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 for investigation. Feeling may arise mainly from (a) single sensations or movements, including in these what recent psychologists call their tone; or it may be chiefly determined by (b) some combination or arrangement of these primary presentations hence what might 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 Spencer 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. (c) the egoistic, sympathetic, and religious feelings; this class will probably require but brief notice. The second, consisting of (rl) the intellectual and (e) the higher aesthetic feelings, is psychologically more important. There is a special class of 1See Spencer, Data of Ethics, chs. i.-iv.; G. H. Schneider, Freud und Leid des Mefzschengeschlechts, ch. i.