Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/601

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FEELING]
585
PSYCHOLOGY


would seem to conflict with the general conditions of consciousness, inasmuch as a single simple presentation, however intense, would admit of no differentiation, and any complex presentation is in some sort a plurality. The most effective attention, then, as regards its quantitative conditions, must lie somewhere between the two zeros of complete indifference and complete absorption. If there be an excess of diffusion, effective attention will increase up to a certain point as concentration increases, but beyond that point will decrease if this intensification continues to increase; and vice versa, if there be an excess of concentration. But, inasmuch as these quantitative conditions involve a plurality of distinguishable presentations or changes in consciousness, the way is open for formal conditions as well. Since different presentations consort differently when above the threshold of consciousness together, one field may be wider and yet as intense as another, or intenser and yet as wide, owing to a more advantageous arrangement of its constituents? The doctrine here developed, viz., that feeling depends on efficiency, is in the main as old as Aristotle; all that has been done is to give it a more accurately psychological P, e m", es 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 substantially true as regards the range, at least of the higher consciousness: certain massive and agreeable organi c 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 slecpincss 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 a 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 jaded 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.

Negative

1 As it is impossible to say that any distinguishable presentation is absolutely simplef the hypothesis of subconsciousness would leave us free to assume that any pleasantness or unpleasantness that cannot be explained on the score of intensity is due to some obscure harmony or discord, compatibility or incompatibility, of elements not separately discernible. But this, though tempting, is not really a very scientific procedure. If a particular presentation is pleasurable or painful in such wise as to lead to a redistribution of attention, it is reasonable to look for an explanation primarily in its Connexion with the rest of the field of consciousness. Moreover, it is obvious since what takes place in subconsciousness can only be explained in analogy with what takes place in consciousness-that, if we have an inexplicable in the one, we must have a corresponding inexplicable in the other. If the feeling produced by what comports itself as a simple presentation cannot be explained by what is in consciousness, we should be forced to admit that some presentations are unpleasant simply because they are unpleasant-an inexplicability which the hypothesis of subconsciousness might push farther back but would not remove.-3

3. But there is still another and more serious difficulty to face. It has long been a burning question with theoretical moralists whether pleasures differ only quantita- Dopjeasufes tively or differ qualitatively as well, whether psycho- Differ 0112111ogical analysis will justify the common distinction t8"""”-V? of higher and lower pleasures or force us to recognize nothing but differences of degree, of duration, and so forth-as expounded, e.g. by Bentham, whose cynical mot, “ pushpin is as good as poetry provided it be as pleasant, ” was long a stumbling block in the way of utilitarianism. The entire issue here is confused by an ambiguity in terms that has been already noticed: pleasure and pleasures have not the same connotation. By a pleasure or pleasures we mean some assignable presentation or presentations experienced as pleasant-i.e. as affording pleasure; by pleasure simply is meant this subjective state of feeling itself. The former, like other objects of knowledge, admit of classification and comparison: we may distinguish them as coarse or as noble, or, if we will, as cheap and wholesome. But while the causes of feeling are manifold, the feeling itself is a subjective state, varying only in intensity and duration. The best evidence of this lies in the general character of the actions that ensue through feeling-the matter which has next to engage us. Whatever be the variety in the sources of pleasure, whatever be the moral or conventional estimate of their worthiness, if a given state of consciousness is pleasant we seek so far to retain it, if painful to be rid of it: we prefer greater pleasure before less, less pain before greater. This is, in fact, the whole meaning of preference as a psychological ternf. Wisdom and folly each prefer the course which the other rejects. Both courses cannot, indeed, be objectively preferable; that, however, is not a matter for psychology. But as soon as reflection begins, exceptions to this primary principle of action seem to arise continually, even though we regard the individual as a law to himself. Such exceptions, however, we may presently find to be apparent only. At any rate the principle is obviously true before reflection begins-true so long as we are dealing with actually present sources of feeling, and not with their re-presentations. But to admit this is psychologically to admit everything, at least if experience is to be genetically explained. Assuming then that we start with only quantitative variations of feeling, we have to attempt to explain the development of formal and qualitative differences in the character given to the grounds of feeling. But, if aversions and pursuits result from incommensurable states of pain and pleasure, there seems no other way of saving the unity and continuity of the subject except by speculative assumption-the doctrine known as the freedom of the will in its extremest form. The one position involves the other, and the more scientific course is to avoid both as far as we can.

The question, then, is: How, if action depends in the last resort on a merely quantitative difference, could it ever come about that what we call the higher sources of feeling should supersede the lower? If it is only quantity that turns the scales, where does quality come in, for we cannot say, ag. that the astronomer experiences a greater thrill of delight when a new planet rewards his search than the hungry savage in finding a clump of pig-nuts? T empora mutalnzfm' nos et mutamm' in 'illis contains the answer in brief. We shall understand this answer better if we look at a parallel case, or what is really our own from another point of view. We distinguish between higher and lower forms of life:we might say there ismore life in a large oyster than in a small one, other things being equal, but we should regard a crab as possessing not necessarily more lifeas measured by waste of tissue-but certainly as manifesting life in a higher form. How, in the evolution of the animal kingdom, do we suppose this advance to have been made? The tendency at any one moment is simply towards more life, simply towards growth; but this process of self-conservation imperceptibly but steadily modifies the self that is conserved. The creature is bent only on filling its skin; but in doing this as easily as may be it gets a better skin to fill, and accordingly seeks to fill it differently. Though cabbage and honey are what