Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/604

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588
[EMOTIONAL ACTION
PSYCHOLOGY


their pleasurable or -painful character. The turning-point here implied may, of course, gradually change too-as a result, in fact, of the law of accommodation. Thus a long run of pleasure would raise “the hedonistic zero, ” while-to the small extent to which accommodation do pain is possible-a continuance of pain would lower it, Butfsuch admission makes no material difference where the actual feeling of the moment is alone concerned and retrospect out of the question. On the whole it seems, therefore, most reasonable to regard pleasure and pain as emerging out of a neutral state, which is prior to and distinct from both-not a state of absolute indifference, but of simple contentment, marked by no special active display. But it is by reference to such state of equilibrium or dn-a0lu. that we see most clearly the superior volitional efficacy of gain upon which pessimists love to descant. “ Nobody, " says on Hartmann, “ who had to choose between no taste at all for ten minutes or five minutes of a pleasant taste and then live minutes of an unpleasant taste, would prefer the last " Most men and all the lower animals are content “ to let well alone." To ascertain the origin and progress of purposive action it seems, then, that we must look to the effects of pain rather than to those of pleasure. It is true that psy-Purpasive

Acuom chologists not infrequently describe the earliest purposive movements as appetitive, or at least they

treat appetitive and aversive movements as co-ordinate and equally primitive, pleasures being supposed to lead to actions for their continuance as much as pains to actions for their removal. No doubt, as soon as the connexion between a pleasurable sensation and the appropriate action is completely established, as in the case of imbibing food, the whole process is then self-sustaining till satiety begins. But the point is that such facility was first acquired under the teaching of pain-the pain of unsatisfied hunger. The term “appetite ” is apt both by its etymology and its later associations to be misleading. What are properly called the “instinctive ” appetites are-when regarded from their active side-movements determined by some existing uneasy sensation. So far as their earliest manifestation in a particular individual is concerned, this urgency seems almost entirely of the nature of a via* a tergo; and the movements are only more definite than those simply expressive of pain because of inherited pre-adaptation, on, which account, of course, they are called “ instinctive.” But what one inherits another must have acquired, and we have agreed here to leave heredity on one side and consider only the original evolution. But if none but psychological causes were at work this evolution would be very long and in its early stages very uncertain. At first, when only random movements ensue, we may fairly suppose both that the chance of at once making a happy hit would be small and that the number of chances, the space for repentance, would also be small. Under such circumstances natural selection would have to do almost everything and subjective selection almost nothing. So far as natural selection worked, we should have, not the individual subject making a series of tries and perfecting itself by practice, as in learning to dance or swim, but we should have those individuals whose structure happened to vary for the better surviving, increasing and displacing the rest. How much natural selection, apparently unaided, can accomplish in the way of complicated adjustment we see in the adaptation of the form and colour of plants and animals to their environment. Both factors, in reality, operate at once-, and it would be hard to fix a limit to either, though to our minds natural selection seems to lose in comparative importance as we advance towards the higher stages of life.

But psychologically we have primarily to consider subjective selection, i.e. first of all, the association of particular movements with particular sensations through the mediation of feeling. The sensations here concerned are mainly painful excitations from the environment, the recurring pains of in nutrition, W6ariI1€SS, &C., and pleasurable sensations due to the satisfaction of these organic wants-pleasures which, although not a mere “ filling-up, ” as Plato at one time contended, are still preceded by pain, but imply over and above the removal of this a certain surplus of positive good. There seem only a few points to notice. (a) When the movements that ensue through pleasure are themselves pleasurable there is ordinarily no ground for singling out any one; such movements simply enhance the general enjoyment, which is complete in itself and so far contains no hint of anything beyond. (b) Shouldone of these spontaneous movements of pleasure chance to cause pain, no doubt such movement is speedily arrested. Probably the most immediate Connexion possible between feeling and purposive action is that in which a painful movement leads through pain to its own suppression. But such connexion is not very fruitful of consequences, inasmuch as it only secures what we may call internal training and does little to extend the relation of the individual to its environment. (0) Out of the irregular, often conflicting movements which indirectly relieve pain some one may chance to remove the cause of it altogether. Upon this movement, the last of a tentative series, attention, released from the pain, is concentrated; and in this way the evil and the remedy become so far associated that on a recurrence of the former the many diffused movements become less, and the one purposive movement more, pronounced; the one effectual way is atlength established and the others, which were but palliatives, disappear. (d) When things have advanced so far that some one definite movement is definitely represented along with the painful sensation it remedies, it is not long before a still further advance is possible and we have preventive movements. Thanks to the orderliness of things, dangers have their premonitions. After a time, therefore, the occurrence of some signal sensation revives the image of the harm that has previously followed in its wake, and a movement-either like the first, or another that has to be selected from the random tries of fear-occurs in time to avert the impending ill. (e) In like manner, provided the cravings of appetite are felt, any signs of the presence of pleasurable objects- prompt to movements for their enjoyment or appropriation. In these last cases we have action determined by percepts. The cases in which the subject is incited to action by ideas as distinct from percept require a more detailed consideration; such are the facts mainly covered by the term “ desire.”,

By the time that ideas are sufficiently self-sustaining to form trains that are not wholly shaped by the circumstances of the present, entirely new possibilities of action are opened up. We can desire to live again through experiences of which there is nothing actually present to remind us, and we can desire a new experience which as yet we only imagine. We often, no doubt, apply the term to the simpler states mentioned under (e) in the last paragraph: the fox in the fable is said to have desired the grapes he vilified because out of his reach. Again, at the other extreme it is usual to speak of a desire for honour, or for wealth, and the like; but such are not so much single states of mind as inclinations or habitual desires. Moreover, abstractions of this kind belong to a more advanced stage of development than that at which desire begins, and of necessity imply more complicated grounds of action than we can at present examine. The essential characteristics of desire will be more apparent if we suppose a case somewhere between these extremes. A busy man reads a novel at the close of the day, and finds himself led 05 by a reference to angling or tropical scenery to picture himself with his rods packed en route for Scotland, or booked by the next steamer for the fairyland of the West Indies. Presently, while the ideas of Jamaica or fishing are at least as vividly imagined as before, the fancied preparations receive a rude shock as the thought of his work recurs. Some such case we may take as typical and attempt to analyse it.

First of all it is obviously true, at least of such more concrete desires, that what awakens desire at one time fails to do so at another, and that we are often so absorbed or content with the present as not to be amenable to (new) desires at all. A given x or y cannot, then, be called desirable per se, it is only desirable by relation to the contents of consciousness at the moment. Of what nature is this relation? (1) At the level of psychical life that we have now reached very close and complete connexions have been formed between ideas and the movements necessary for their realization, so that when the idea is vividly Desire.