Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII.: THE FEELINGS. - The Principles of Psychology
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CHAPTER VIII.: THE FEELINGS. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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§ 198. The assertion that those psychical states which we class as feelings, are involved with, and inseparable from, those which we class as purely intellectual processes—that they form but another aspect of the mental phenomena already described; is an assertion that will appear untenable. Habitually contemplating the contrast between the cognitive and emotive faculties from a subjective point of view, we conclude that it is a strongly marked contrast; and to say that there is really no line of demarcation between reason, and sentiment or passion, will, by most, be thought a contradiction of direct internal perceptions. Nevertheless, if the general doctrines that have been enunciated are true—if all mental phenomena are incidents of the correspondence between the organism and its environment; and if this correspondence is a thing of degree, which passes insensibly from its lowest to its highest forms; then, we may be certain, à priori, that the Feelings are not, scientifically considered, divisible from other phenomena of consciousness. We may infer that they must arise gradually out of the lower forms of psychical action, by steps such as those leading to the higher forms of psychical action already traced out; and that they must constitute another aspect of these. This is just what we shall find. We shall find that Feeling becomes nascent at the same time that Memory and Reason do. We shall find that as, when more complex and less frequent correspondences come to be effected, the internal actions effecting them become less automatic; as, in ceasing to be automatic, they necessitate a previous representation of the motions about to be performed and the impressions about to be experienced, and thus involve at once both Memory and Reason; so, in this same previous representation, they simultaneously involve the germ of what we call the Feelings. And we shall find, that as, in the beginning, Memory, Reason, and Feeling, are different sides of the same psychical phenomenon; so, though by the continuous differentiation which accompanies development, they become more distinguishable, yet they never cease to stand in this same fundamental relation.
Before proceeding to show this synthetically, it may be well to remark, that even from the ordinary point of view, the impossibility of dissociating the psychical states which we class as intellectual from those which we class as emotional, may be clearly discerned. While we continue to compare such extreme forms of the two as an inference and a fit of anger, we may fancy that they are entirely distinct. But if we compare a variety of modes of consciousness, we shall quickly find some which are clearly both cognitive and emotive. Take, as an example, the state of mind produced by seeing a beautiful statue. Primarily, this is a continuous perception—a co-ordination of the various visual impressions which the statue gives, and a consciousness of what they mean; and this is what we class as a purely intellectual act. But it is impossible to perform this act without a greater or less feeling of pleasure—without some emotion. Should it be said that this emotion results from the many ideas associated with the human form; the rejoinder is, that though these may aid in producing it, it cannot be altogether so accounted for: seeing that we feel a similar pleasure on contemplating a fine building. If it be urged that, even in this case, collateral states of consciousness are induced which suffice to explain the emotion; then, what will be said of the gratification given on looking at a simple curve—an ellipse or parabola? And if, in these instances, there is manifest difficulty in disentangling the cognitive from the emotive; in others, there is an absolute impossibility of doing it. Not only is it, that in the states of consciousness produced by music the two are inseparably united; but it is, that the state of consciousness produced by a single beautiful tone, presents cognition and emotion fused into one. Not only is it, that a combination of colours, as in a landscape, cannot be perceived without pleasure; but it is, that there is pleasure accompanying the perception of even one colour, when of great purity or brilliance. Nay, even a perfectly smooth or soft surface cannot be presented or represented to consciousness without a certain agreeable feeling resulting. In brief;—seeing that in all cases, the materials dealt with in every cognitive process, are either sensations, or the representations of them; and seeing that these sensations, and by implication the representations of them, are always in some degree agreeable or disagreeable; it follows, of necessity, that no act of cognition can be absolutely free from emotion, but that the emotion accompanying it will be strong or weak, according as the materials co-ordinated in the cognition are great or small in quantity or intensity. While, conversely, seeing that every emotion involves the presentation or representation of objects and actions; and seeing that the perceptions, and by implication the recollections, of objects and actions, all imply cognitions; it follows, of necessity, that no emotion can be absolutely free from cognition, but that the quantity of cognition involved in it, will vary according to the complexity of co-ordination subsisting among the elements of the emotion.
But the facts that all cognition implies emotion, and all emotion implies cognition, are most clearly discerned on studying the relation between perception and sensation, which are the simplest forms of the two. As was shown in a previous part of this work (§ 79), while perception and sensation can neither of them exist without the other—while every sensation, to be known as one, must be perceived, and must so be in one respect a perception; and while every perception must be made up of combined sensations, and must so be in one respect sensational—the two differ in this; that whereas in sensation, consciousness is occupied with certain affections of the organism, in perception, consciousness is occupied with the relations subsisting among those affections. In other words;—sensations are the primary undecomposable states of consciousness, while perceptions are those secondary decomposable states consisting of the changes from one primary state to another; and as the continuance of the primary states is inconsistent with the occurrence of changes, it follows that consciousness of the changes is in antagonism with consciousness of the states between which they occur: whence it results, that perception and sensation are, as it were, ever tending to exclude each other, but never succeeding. Indeed, consciousness continues only in virtue of this conflict. Without the primary affections of consciousness, there can be no changes from one primary affection to another: and without changes from one to another, there can be no primary affections; seeing that in the absence of changes consciousness ceases. But, while neither consciousness of the changes, nor of the affections between which they occur, can exist by itself; yet, either may so predominate as completely to subordinate the other. When the changes are very rapid, and the states forming their antecedents and consequents do not last for any appreciable time, consciousness is almost wholly occupied with changes; that is, with the relations among the sensations: the sensations are only so far present as is needful for the establishment of relations among them; and we have that condition of consciousness known as perception. Conversely, when the states forming the antecedents and consequents of the changes, have considerable persistence—when the changes are comparatively slow, or more probably, when the affections of consciousness are not permanently destroyed by the changes, but continually return, and are thus only broken by the changes so far as is needful to maintain consciousness—when therefore, some one state of consciousness by its continuous recurrence, greatly predominates over others; then there arises what we distinguish as a sensation. Now, this is just the relationship which exists throughout between knowing and feeling. Though differing from Sir William Hamilton respecting the interpretation of the antagonism between perception and sensation, I quite agree with him in the doctrine, that the same antagonism holds between cognition and emotion in general. Indeed, our ordinary forms of speech may be quoted in support of such a generalization. The word feeling, which we apply to every species of emotion, primarily expresses sensation; and we use the word perceive, not only in respect to cognitions gained through the senses, but in respect to all orders of cognitions. The differences are simply differences that arise from successive complications. As, out of those simplest perceptions forming the lowest class of cognitions, the higher cognitions result by the compounding of perceptions—by an advance from single relations, to relations of relations, and to relations of relations of relations; so, out of those simplest sensations forming the lowest class of feelings, the higher feelings arise by the compounding of sensations—by an advance from single sensations, to those produced by groups of sensations and the relations among them, and to those produced by groups of such groups. And just as, by the complication of cognitions, the elements involved become too numerous to be all present together, and so become partly representative, and afterwards sometimes wholly representative; so, by the complication of the emotive states of consciousness, the elements involved become too numerous to be all present together, and so become partly representative and afterwards sometimes wholly representative. But these positions call for some elucidation.
It has been from time to time pointed out, and is indeed familiar to all acquainted with the rudiments of the subject, that in the development of intelligence, there is a progressive consolidation of states of consciousness. States of consciousness once separate, become indissociable. Other states that were originally united with difficulty, become so coherent as to follow one another without effort. And thus it results that there arise large aggregations of states, answering to complex external things—animals, men, buildings—which are so fused together as to be practically single; and which thus enable us to recognize such complex external things by the briefest glance. Indeed, that these aggregations should be formed, should become ever more consolidated, should by coalescing with each other produce still larger aggregations, and so on without limit, is an unavoidable corollary from the experience-hypothesis, as interpreted in the foregoing chapters. But one of these compound states of consciousness, by uniting, as it does, a large number of sensations and the relations among them into one state, does not by so doing destroy them. Though subordinated as parts of a whole, they still severally exist as states of consciousness. And being severally in their original forms, feelings, it results that this state which is composed of them is a feeling—a feeling produced by the fusing of a number of minor feelings. Hence results the gratification given to the child by every new object it sees. Hence the pleasure accompanying all kinds of perceptions, so long as they are not carried to the extent of satiety. Not only, however, does this hold with unions of the simple sensations into those groups constituting the perceptions of objects; but it holds with unions of these groups into still larger groups. When such composite states of consciousness as those answering to single complex objects, become sufficiently consolidated; then, if there happen to be within the range of the daily experiences, any constant assemblage of such objects, as those distinguishing a particular locality, there results a consolidation of these composite states into a still larger aggregation of states: the feelings severally constituted by these composite states, are, in their turn, merged into a more complex feeling—a feeling which is produced by being in that locality, and so constitutes a liking for that locality. And then from the union of this complicated state of consciousness with certain other complicated ones, such as those implied in the domestic relations, there results a state of consciousness even still more complicated, which answers to the idea, home; and the feeling constituted by this state of consciousness, we call a love of home. But now let it be remarked, that as fast as these compound states of consciousness in their ascending grades, severally become, by the close combination of their elements, practically single; so fast do they begin to play the same part in the mental processes as single states do. And hence results the fact, that the above described law of antagonism between perception and sensation, holds between cognition and feeling in general. As we saw that the continuance of a sensation is inconsistent with the occurrence of a change, and that hence consciousness of changes, or relations among sensations, is ever at variance with consciousness of the sensations; so, it must happen, that in proportion as a complex consciousness including many sensations and relations, becomes fused into one, its continuance must similarly be at variance with the occurrence of a change to some other such state; that is—must be at variance with the establishment of a relation between the thing causing such composite state, and anything else; that is—must be at variance with cognition. And hence arises the fact which all persons analytically inclined will have remarked, that in proportion as they think about any gratification they are receiving—speculate upon the cause of it, or criticise the object of it—in the same proportion does the gratification cease.
These several expositions having, as I think, pretty clearly shown the inseparableness of the intellectual and emotional elements of mind; having shown that they are but different aspects of the same development, and may so be expected to arise from the same root by the same process; we may now go on to consider the feelings synthetically.
§ 199. So long as the actions are perfectly automatic, feeling does not exist. Of this we have several proofs. We have the proof that in the creatures most markedly exhibiting them, automatic actions go on equally well when the chief nervous centre has been removed. We have the proof that the actions which in ourselves are entirely automatic—which are in no degree subject to voluntary control, are unaccompanied by feeling; as witness the actions of the viscera in their normal state. And we have the further proof that the actions which in ourselves are partly voluntary, partly reflex—as that by which the foot is withdrawn from scalding water—and which, so long as they are accompanied by feeling, are accompanied by will, show a much stronger automatic character when feeling disappears: when, from injury of the sentient nerves, there is an entire loss of sensibility in a limb, the slightest stimulus, as even the touch of a feather, produces reflex movements that are far more vehement than those produced in a limb retaining its sensibility.
This general fact, that automatic action and feeling are antagonistic, will be better understood on observing that feeling necessarily involves a certain continuity of some psychical state. To be conscious of any feeling, is to have the state of consciousness signified by the name of that feeling. But to have a state of consciousness, appreciable as such, implies some duration of that state. In proportion as a state is greatly elongated—in proportion as it occupies consciousness for a long time, in the same proportion does it become a distinct feeling; and in proportion as it is greatly abbreviated—in proportion as it makes a smaller and smaller figure in the chain of states of consciousness, in the same proportion does it lapse out of consciousness, in the same proportion does it cease to be felt. The statement is in fact a truism. To say that a state of consciousness has considerable continuity, is to say that it is a distinct element of consciousness; which is the same thing as being known or felt. To say that it has scarcely any continuity, is to say that it forms a scarcely perceivable element in consciousness; which is the same thing as being scarcely at all known or felt. And to say that it is a state of consciousness having no appreciable length, is to say that it forms no element in consciousness; which is the same thing as saying that it is not known or felt. Should it be needed, confirmation for this view will be found in the ordinary experience that every species of sensation or emotion involves time. Nothing can be tasted or smelt instantaneously. A momentary glance at a fine colour does not suffice to give us the pleasurable sensation produced by such colour, but merely to give us a knowledge of what colour it was. For the beauty of a tone to be appreciated it must have some persistency. And with all the more complex emotions produced by music, or landscape, or poetry, or the arts, it is needful that the things producing them should be dwelt upon. It follows, therefore, that when a set of psychical changes occurs instantaneously, the several psychical states forming the antecedents and consequents of the changes, are not felt; and the further the consolidation of any set of psychical changes is carried, the more complete must be the absence of feeling. Now the completely consolidated sets of changes are the automatic changes. The automatic changes are those whose elements are absolutely coherent—are practically fused into one change: so fused that as soon as one component of the group occurs, the rest instantaneously occur. And thus it results, that while all the psychical actions are perfectly automatic, there is no feeling.
An entire absence of Memory and Reason, then, is accompanied by an entire absence of Feeling. And the same progress which gives origin to Memory and Reason, simultaneously gives origin to Feeling. For what did we find to be the circumstances under which Memory and Reason become nascent? We found that when, in the course of the general evolution of Life, the correspondence has attained to a considerable degree of complexity; when the adjustment of inner to outer relations begins to take in comparatively involved and infrequent groups of outer relations; when, by consequence, the answering groups of inner relations are made up of many elements, some of which are not often repeated in experience; when, therefore, there arise groups of inner relations whose components are imperfectly coherent; when conflicting tendencies among some of the psychical changes arise, and they severally become nascent before certain of them occur; when thus there come to be hesitating and imperfect automatic actions; then, Memory and Reason simultaneously become nascent. The ceasing to be automatic and the becoming rational, are, as we saw, the same thing. We have just seen, however, that when psychical changes are perfectly automatic, they are without feeling. The existence of feeling we have seen to imply psychical states having some persistency—states that do not succeed one another instantaneously. And states that do not succeed one another instantaneously, are the states which result on the cessation of automatic action: the cessation of automatic action is the occurrence in the nervous centres of certain states that are not immediately followed by the appropriate motor changes—states that have some persistency. Thus then, as the psychical changes become too complicated to be perfectly automatic, they become incipiently sensational. Memory, Reason, and Feeling take their rise at the same time. And it is not simply that they all commence as automatic action ceases; but it is that the commencement of them and the cessation of automatic action are one and the same thing—are different aspects of the same progress.
A strong confirmation of this view, parallel to confirmations given in the two preceding chapters, is supplied by the fact, that in ourselves, psychical processes which were once slow, and were then accompanied by feeling, are by much repetition not only rendered automatic, but by the same process are rendered indifferent or feelingless. This is equally the case whether the accompanying feelings are painful or pleasurable. In spelling out its reading-lessons, the child experiences a more or less disagreeable sense of effort; but in the adult, the identification of words is a totally unemotional process. The learning of a new language requires labour that is more or less unpleasant, and the first attempts to speak it soon produce weariness; after due practice, however, it is spoken with entire indifference. And without multiplying illustrations, I may quote the general truth that habit renders easy the actions that once were hard, as showing that this law holds throughout: seeing that by calling actions hard, we mean, to some extent painful; and that becoming easy, is ceasing to be painful. Conversely, in the equally general truth that custom produces satiety—that the keenness of any species of gratification diminishes in proportion as it becomes familiar, we have the law similarly illustrated. So long as the combinations of properties they present are new to it, the commonest objects give pleasure to the infant: but as fast as, by constant repetition, the compound impressions produced become consolidated into perfect cognitions of the objects—become so automatically connected that the briefest glance suffices instantly to bring before the mind all the conjoined attributes and relations—so fast do the objects become indifferent. Throughout childhood, youth, and manhood, the same fact is daily manifested. The often repeated groups of psychical changes become indifferent; and there arises a constant demand for those that have not been experienced, or have been little experienced. And we may even trace the law in the fact, that things to which we have become indifferent re-acquire their attractions after an interval of disuse—that music, friends, home, are enjoyed with increased zest after absence: seeing that as, by daily repetition, any group of psychical changes approximates more and more to the automatic; so, by an entire cessation of the daily repetitions, they begin to lose somewhat of the automatic character they have acquired.
Thus, as we found that not only do Memory and Reason arise when the psychical changes cease to be automatic, but that where they have existed they disappear when, by perpetual repetition, the psychical changes become automatic; so, we find that not only does Feeling arise under the same conditions, but that it ceases under the same conditions.
Let us now, however, consider the genesis of the Feelings somewhat more closely.
§ 200. When, as before explained in describing nascent Memory and Reason, there results from their growing complexity a certain hesitation in the automatic actions—when there come to be cases in which two involved groups of external relations that are much alike, have been followed in experience by different motor changes; and when there consequently arises on the presentation of one of these groups, a conflict among the two sets of motor changes, which severally become nascent but are prevented by their mutual antagonism from at once taking place; then, while one of these nascent sets of motor changes and the impressions habitually accompanying it, constitutes a memory of such motor changes as before performed and impressions as before received, and while it also constitutes a prevision of the action appropriate to the new occasion—a rational foresight of consequences, it further constitutes the desire to perform the action—the impulse prompting to it. To continue the illustration before used:—Suppose the subject of the psychical phenomena we are considering, to have occasional experience of two animals somewhat similar in colour, size, and general contour, one of which serves for prey, and the other of which is a dangerous enemy. The complex impression produced by the enemy, has been followed in experience by injury, by certain defensive actions, perhaps by certain cries, and eventually by flight. That produced by the prey has been followed in experience by the actions of pursuit and attack, by the use of the teeth and claws, by processes of tearing to pieces and swallowing. But these two complex impressions having, as premised, many elements in common, tend, in so far as there is a confusion between them, to arouse either of these two sets of psychical changes; and when one of these animals is seen, each set becomes nascent according as the impression produced varies. At one moment the defensive actions, the cries, and the movements of escape, which have before followed some such impression as that received, tend to arise; and the next moment a change in the position of the animal so alters the impression, as partially to excite the psychical states involved in pursuit, attack, destroying, and devouring. But what is either of these partial excitations? It is nothing else than an impulse, an emotion, a feeling, a desire. To have in a slight degree those psychical states accompanying the reception of wounds, those which express themselves in cries, those which are experienced during flight, is to be in a state of what we call fear. And to have in a slight degree those psychical states involved in the processes of catching, killing, and eating, is to have the desires to catch, kill, and eat. That the propensities to the acts are nothing else than nascent excitations of the psychical states involved in the acts, is clearly proved by the natural language of the propensities. Fear, when strong, expresses itself in cries, in efforts to hide or escape, in palpitations and tremblings; and these are just the manifestations that would accompany an actual experience of the evil feared. The destructive passions are shown in a general tension of the muscular system, in gnashing of the teeth and protrusion of the claws, in dilated eyes and nostrils, in growls; and these are weaker forms of the actions that accompany the killing of prey. To such objective evidences, every one can add subjective ones from his own experience. Every one can testify that the psychical state which we call fear, consists of mental representations of certain painful results; and that the one we call anger, consists of mental representations of the actions and impressions which would occur while inflicting some kind of pain upon another: or, in other words, that these passions are partial excitations of those states involved in the reception or infliction of injury. And so with the passions in general.
Possibly it may be objected, that to describe the nascent group of psychical changes produced by some complex impression, as constituting at the same time a memory of the the psychical changes which had before followed this impression and a desire again to go through those changes, is absurd; seeing that the subject-matter of memory is retrospective, while that of desire is prospective. The reply is, that though, when a high degree of intelligence has been attained to, these nascent changes are accompanied by a consciousness of time past and time future, and so come to have different aspects; yet, at the stage in which automatic action merges into the higher forms of action, no such abstract conception as that of Time can exist, and no such duality of aspect in these groups of nascent psychical changes can arise. And a further reply is, that even in ourselves, any group of nascent psychical changes, however much they may be represented in consciousness as prospective, are nevertheless, at the same time retrospective: seeing that they cannot be represented at all unless they have been previously presented in experience; and the representation of them is the same thing as a memory of them.
§ 201. The progress from the initial forms of feeling to those complicated forms of it seen in human beings, equally harmonizes with the general principles of evolution that have been laid down. Arising, as it does, when the automatic actions, from increasing complexity and decreasing frequency, become hesitating; and consisting, as it then does, of nothing more than the group of sensations received and the nascent motor changes aroused by them; feeling, step by step developes into larger and more varied aggregations of psychical states—sometimes purely impressional, sometimes nascently impressional or ideal; sometimes purely motor, sometimes nascently motor; but very frequently including in one combination, immediate impressions and the ideas of other impressions, with immediate actions and the ideas of other actions. And this formation of larger and more varied aggregations of psychical states, necessarily results from the accumulating cohesions of psychical states that are connected in experience. Just as we saw that the advance from the simplest to the most complex forms of cognition, was explicable on the principle that the outer relations produce the inner relations; so, we shall see that this same principle supplies an explanation of the advance from the simplest to the most complex feelings.
For when the development of Life reaches this repeatedly described stage, in which the automatic actions merge into the actions that are at once conscious, rational, and emotive; what must be the effect of further experiences? The effect must be that if, in connection with a group of impressions and the nascent motor changes resulting from it, there is habitually experienced some other impression or motor change; this will, in process of time, become so coherent to the group, that it too will become nascent where the group becomes nascent, or will render the group nascent if it is itself induced. If, along with the running down and laying hold of certain prey, there has always been experienced a certain scent; then, the presentation of that scent will render nascent the motor changes and impressions that accompany the running down and laying hold of the prey. If the motor changes and impressions that accompany the catching of prey, have been habitually followed by those bitings, and strugglings, and growlings, accompanying the destruction of prey; then, when they are rendered nascent, they will in their turn render nascent the psychical states implied in bitings, strugglings, and growlings. And if these have similarly been followed by those involved in eating; then those involved in eating will also be made nascent. Thus, the simple olfactory sensation will make nascent those numerous and varied states of consciousness that accompany the running down, catching, killing, and eating of prey: the sensations, visual, aural, tactual, olfactory, gustatory, muscular, constantly accompanying the successive phases of these actions, will be all partially aroused at the same time—will be present to consciousness as what we call ideas—will, in their aggregate, constitute the desires to catch, kill, and devour—and will, in conjunction with that olfactory sensation which aroused them all, form the motor impulse which sets going the limbs in pursuit. Evidently the entire genesis of these complex feelings, results from successive complications in the groups of psychical states that are co-ordinated; and is just as much determined by experience, as is the union of any two simple sensations that constantly occur together.
Not only are those emotions which form the immediate stimuli to actions, thus explicable; but the like explanation applies to the emotions that leave the subject of them comparatively passive: as, for instance, the emotion produced by beautiful scenery. The gradually increasing complexity in the groups of sensations and ideas co-ordinated, ends in the coordination of those vast aggregations of them which a grand landscape excites and suggests. The infant taken into the midst of mountains, is totally unaffected by them; but is delighted with the small group of attributes and relations presented in a toy. The child can appreciate, and be pleased with, the more complicated relations of household objects and localities, the garden, the field, and the street. But it is only in youth and mature age, when individual things and small assemblages of them have become familiar and automatically cognizable, that those immense assemblages which landscapes present can be adequately grasped, and the highly aggregated states of consciousness produced by them, experienced. Then, however, the various minor groups of states that have been in earlier days severally produced by trees, by fields, by streams, by cascades, by rocks, by precipices, by mountains, by clouds, are aroused together. Along with the sensations immediately received, there are partially excited the myriads of sensations that have been in times past received from objects such as those presented; further, there are partially excited the various incidental feelings that were experienced on all these countless past occasions; and there are probably also excited certain deeper, but now vague combinations of states, that were organized in the race during barbarous times, when its pleasurable activities were chiefly among the woods and waters. And out of all these excitations, some of them actual, but most of them nascent, is composed the emotion which a fine landscape produces in us.
§ 202. One of the several corollaries following from the foregoing doctrines, is, that other things equal, the emotions are strong in proportion as they include a large number of actual sensations, or nascent sensations, or both. As every one of the elementary states of consciousness aggregated together in the way described, is originally a feeling of some kind or other; as the progressive consolidation of groups of such states, though it tends more and more to abbreviate the elementary states, yet never wholly obliterates them; and as each of the elementary states therefore remains to the last a feeling, however infinitesimal in amount; it follows that the greater the accumulation of such infinitesimal amounts of feeling, the greater must be the sum total of feeling experienced. And this is just what we find to be the fact. Strength of feeling is of two kinds: that which results from intense excitation of few nerves; and that which arises from slight excitation of many nerves. Thus, on the one hand, the tip of a finger cannot be held in boiling water without an unbearable sensation being produced; and, on the other hand, though there is no difficulty in holding the tip of a finger in water above 100° of Fahrenheit, yet an unbearable sensation is produced if the whole body be plunged into water of that temperature: whence it is manifest, that the moderate excitation of all the nerves distributed over the surface of the body, is equivalent in effect to the extreme excitation of a few of them. Again, though a very faint colour cannot be discerned when it extends over a very minute surface; yet, the same colour extended over a great surface is discerned with ease. And that the truth which thus holds with actual sensations, holds also with those nascent sensations which, as aggregated in the form of groups of ideas, constitute the emotions, will be manifest on calling to mind how actions are continually determined by the accumulation of motives; that is, by the accumulation of such nascent excitations.
From this corollary it is a second corollary, that, with a certain qualification to be hereafter made, the further the development is carried the stronger do the emotions become: seeing that as the increasingly complex emotions successively developed, arise by the aggregation of previous groups of actual and nascent sensations into yet larger groups, the resulting totals must become continually larger. As supplying a marked illustration of this truth, I may cite the passion which unites the sexes. This is habitually, but very erroneously, spoken of as though it were a simple feeling; whereas it is in fact the most compound, and therefore the most powerful, of all the feelings. Added to the purely physical elements of it, are first to be noticed those highly complex impressions produced by personal beauty; around which are aggregated a variety of pleasurable ideas, not in themselves amatory, but which have an organized relation to the amatory feeling. With this there is united the complex sentiment which we term affection—a sentiment which, as it can exist between those of the same sex, must be regarded as in itself an independent sentiment; but which assumes its highest activity between lovers. Then there is the sentiment of admiration, respect, or reverence; in itself one of considerable power, and which in this relation becomes in a high degree active. Next there must be added the feeling which phrenologists have named love of approbation. To be preferred above all the world, and that by one admired beyond all others, is to have the love of approbation gratified in a degree passing every previous experience: especially as, to this direct gratification of it, there must be added that reflex gratification of it which results from the preference being witnessed by unconcerned persons. Further, there is the allied emotion of self-esteem. To have succeeded in gaining such attachment from, and sway over, another, is a practical proof of power, of superiority, which cannot fail agreeably to excite the amour propre. Yet again, the proprietary feeling has its share in the general activity: there is the pleasure of possession; the two belong to each other—claim each other as a species of property. Once more, there is involved an extended liberty of action. Towards other persons a restrained behaviour is requisite: round each there is a certain subtle boundary which may not be crossed—an individuality on which none may trespass. But in this case the barriers are thrown down; the freedom of another's individuality is conceded; and thus the love of unrestrained activity is gratified. Finally, there is an exaltation of the sympathies: purely personal pleasures are doubled by being shared with another; and the pleasures of another are added to the purely personal pleasures. Thus, round the physical feeling forming the nucleus of the whole, there are gathered the feelings produced by personal beauty, that constituting simple attachment, those of reverence, of love of approbation, of self-esteem, of property, of love of freedom, of sympathy. All these, each excited in the highest degree, and severally tending to reflect their excitement on each other, form the composite psychical state which we call love. And as each of these feelings is in itself highly complicated, uniting a wide range of states of consciousness, we may say that this passion fuses into one immense aggregation, nearly all the elementary excitations of which we are capable; and that from this results its irresistible power.
But the progressive evolution of emotions of higher complexity and greater power, produces other emotions than those which arise by the simple aggregation of large groups of psychical states into still larger groups; in correspondence with those connections which in the environment unite into still larger groups of phenomena, the large groups of phenomena which occur in habitual coexistence or sequence. There is, at the same time, and as a result of the same cause, an evolution of emotions that are not only more complex, but also more abstract. Of this, the love of property supplies an example. When the intelligence is so far developed that time and locality are in some degree cognizable; and when, by consequence, a portion of food beyond what can be eaten at one time, can, when hunger next makes nascent the psychical states that accompany eating, be remembered as having been left in a particular place; there will, by a repetition of these experiences of a satiated hunger, and a subsequently recurring hunger that prompts a return to the remaining food, be established an organized connection between the consciousness of such remaining food and the various states of consciousness produced by a return to it: and there will thus be constituted an anticipation of a return to it—a tendency to perform all such actions accompanying return to it as are not negatived by the present satiety—a tendency, therefore, to take possession of it. By an analogous process there will be established a tendency to take possession of some habitual place of shelter; and afterwards to take possession of things serving for artificial shelter and for clothing. By a gradual transition, things indirectly connected with personal welfare must come to be included: as, for example, the club used for a weapon; the impressions produced by which will make nascent the various impressions that have accompanied its use, and the conception of further use. And by a carrying of the same process to still higher complications, there will arise a propensity to take possession not only of various weapons and appliances of daily life, but also of the tools and materials required to make such weapons and appliances; afterwards of the materials required to make such tools; and so on to all degrees of remoteness: until the things accumulated for one purpose or other become extremely numerous and varied. But now observe that in proportion as these things become extremely numerous and varied; and in proportion as the acts of acquiring them and preserving them become frequent; there will, in conformity with the general law, be established a great variety of different excitements in connection with the act of taking possession or holding possession: and hence this act will itself become a source of excitement. And as the excitement thus caused, must be more habitual than that caused by any particular order of object; as, further, the special excitements attaching to special objects possessed, must, in virtue of their variety, prevent the excitement of possession from being connected with any one of them in particular; it results that the excitement of possession becomes one of a new kind, holding a great variety of excitements to which it ministers, in an accumulated but vague aggregation. And when, in the course of civilization, money comes to be the representative of value in general—value as abstracted from special objects—we see, in the miser, how the desire of possession in the abstract, may become almost independent of those from which it arose; and may become stronger than any one of them individually.
As still further illustrating the origin and nature of the more abstract emotions, I may instance one still in process of evolution among civilized men; and as yet but very imperfectly developed: I refer to the love of liberty, the sentiment of personal rights. Just the same relation which the love of property bears to the various gratifications it provides for, the love of unrestricted action bears to the gratifications derivable from property and from all other things. As the one secures the material objects directly or indirectly ministering to life, the other secures those non-material conditions without which the material objects can neither be obtained, nor preserved, nor used. While the possession of certain kinds and combinations of matter is a very general pre-requisite to the fulfilment of the desires; a still more general, and indeed universal, pre-requisite, is, that freedom of motion without which it is not only impossible to obtain and use such matter, but is impossible to perform any action whatever. This sentiment of personal rights, answering to certain highly complex relations in which men living in a society stand to each other—being a gratification in the maintenance of such relations with other men as admit of an unrestricted activity—is manifestly far more abstract and more general in its scope than any other. It is manifestly one which could not begin to be organized until mankind grew into definite and permanent social relations. As uniting in one general sentiment, the desire for liberty of person, liberty of acquisition and possession, liberty of movement from place to place, liberty of speech, liberty of trade, and so on, it supposes an extremely extensive aggregation of psychical states. And it manifestly has long been in process of development.
It only remains to add here the qualification, which, as above said, must be made to the assertion that the feelings grow in power as they increase in complexity. For though, other things equal, the power of a feeling is proportionate to the number of elementary states of consciousness united in it; yet, other things are not always equal. Along with greatness of number there may be lowness of intensity. Where, as in the above case, the connexions established in experience are extremely intricate, comparatively infrequent, and very varied, the co-ordination of the states is so weak that they do not render one another nascent with much vividness; and hence, the total effect is in many cases less than that produced by a smaller aggregation more strongly excited. Nevertheless, the slow organization of experiences will, in process of time, compensate for this; and ultimately the sentiment of personal rights will yield to none in strength.
§ 203. After what was said at the close of the last chapter, I need hardly say that this evolution of the feelings, through the progressive aggregation of psychical states that are connected in experience, is to be understood as taking place in countless successive generations. The law of development of the mental activities as regarded under their cognitive aspect, equally applies to them as regarded under their emotional aspect. That gradual organization of forms of thought which we saw must result from the experience of uniform external relations, must be accompanied by the organization of forms of feeling similarly resulting. These, in their more complex phases, differ simply in this, that the aggregations of external attributes and relations to which they answer, are immensely more extensive, far more concrete, and known but empirically. Given a race of organisms placed in habitual contact with any complex set of circumstances, and, if its members are already able to cognize the various minor groups of phenomena composing this set of circumstances, there will slowly be established in them a co-ordination of psychical states corresponding to this set of circumstances. By the accumulation of small increments, arising from the constant experiences of successive generations, the tendency of all the component psychical states to make each other nascent, will become gradually stronger. And when ultimately it becomes organic, it will constitute what we call a sentiment, or propensity, or feeling, having this set of circumstances for its object.
That the experience-hypothesis, as ordinarily understood, is inadequate to account for emotional phenomena, will be sufficiently manifest. If possible, it is even more at fault in respect to the emotions than in respect to the cognitions. The doctrine maintained by some philosophers, that all the desires, all the sentiments, are generated by the experiences of the individual, is so glaringly at variance with hosts of facts, that I cannot but wonder how any one should ever have entertained it. Not to dwell on the multiform passions displayed by the infant, before yet there has been such an amount of experience as could by any possibility suffice for the elaboration of them; I will simply point to the most powerful of all passions—the amatory passion—as one which, when it first occurs, is absolutely antecedent to all relative experience whatever.
§ 204. And here this doctrine of the hereditary transmission of tendencies towards certain complex aggregations of psychical states corresponding to complex aggregations of external phenomena, and the consequent organization of such tendencies in the race, suggests a few remarks on the tenets of the phrenologists.
That an organized tendency towards certain complex aggregations of psychical states, supposes a structural modification of the nervous system—a special set of complex nervous connections whereby the numerous excitations constituting the emotion may be co-ordinated—no one having even a superficial knowledge of Physiology can doubt. As every student of the nervous system knows, the combination of any set of impressions, or motions, or both, implies a ganglion in which the various nerve-fibres concerned are put in connection. To combine the actions of any set of ganglia, implies some ganglion in connection with them all. And so on in ever-ascending stages of complication: the nervous masses concerned, becoming larger in proportion to the complexity of the co-ordinations they have to effect. The induction that the same thing holds throughout, is, I think, irresistible. And if so, it follows that every emotion implies some portion of nervous structure by which its various elements are united—a portion which is large in proportion as these elements are many and varied; and which, in virtue of its co-ordinating function, is more especially the seat of the emotion.
That, in their antagonism to the unscientific reasonings of the phrenologists, the physiologists should have gone to the extent of denying or ignoring any localization of function in the cerebrum, is, perhaps, not to be wondered at: it is in harmony with the course of controversies in general. But no physiologist who calmly considers the question in connection with the general truths of his science, can long resist the conviction that different parts of the cerebrum subserve different kinds of mental action. Localization of function is the law of all organization whatever: separateness of duty is universally accompanied with separateness of structure: and it would be marvellous were an exception to exist in the cerebral hemispheres. Let it be granted that the cerebral hemispheres are the seat of the higher psychical activities; let it be granted that among these higher psychical activities there are distinctions of kind, which, though not definite, are yet practically recognizable; and it cannot be denied, without going in direct opposition to established physiological principles, that these more or less distinct kinds of psychical activity must be carried on in more or less distinct parts of the cerebral hemispheres. To question this, is not only to ignore the truths of physiology as a whole; but especially those of the physiology of the nervous system. It is proved experimentally, that every bundle of nerve-fibres and every ganglion, has a special duty; and that each part of every such bundle and every such ganglion, has a duty still more special. Can it be, then, that in the great hemispherical ganglia alone, this specialization of duty does not hold? If it be urged that there are no marked divisions among the fibres of the cerebrum, I reply—neither are there among those contained in one of the bundles proceeding from the spinal chord to any part of the body; yet each of the fibres in such bundle has a function more or less special; though a function included in that of the bundle considered as a whole. And this is just the kind of specialization which may be presumed to exist in different parts of the cerebrum. Just as there are aggregated together in a sciatic nerve, a great number of nerve-fibres, each of which has a particular office referring to some one part of the leg, but all of which have for their joint duty the management of the leg as a whole; so, in any one region of the cerebrum, each nerve-fibre may be concluded to have some particular office, which, in common with the particular offices of thousands of neighbouring fibres, is merged in some general office which that region of the cerebrum fulfils. Indeed, any other hypothesis seems to me, on the face of it, untenable. Either there is some arrangement, some organization, in the cerebrum, or there is none. If there is no organization, the cerebrum is a chaotic mass of fibres, incapable of performing any orderly action. If there is some organization, it must consist in that same “physiological division of labour” in which all organization consists; and there is no division of labour, physiological or other, of which we have any example, or can form any conception, but what involves the concentration of special kinds of activity in special places.
But to coincide with the doctrine of the phrenologists in its most abstract shape, is by no means to coincide with their concrete embodiments of it. Indeed the crudity of their philosophy is such, as may well make many who to some extent agree with them, refrain from any avowal of their agreement: more especially when they are met by so great an unwillingness to listen to any criticisms on the detailed scheme rashly promulgated as finally settled.
Among other objections to the phrenologists' teachings, it may be noted that they put forth their body of doctrines as in itself a complete system of Psychology. To one who has read thus far, it is needless to point out the absurdity of this position. At best, Phrenology can be but an appendix to Psychology proper; and one of but comparative unimportance, scientifically considered.
Again they are unwarranted in their idea of a precise demarcation of the faculties. Were there anything like that definite distinction in the functions of the different parts of the cerebrum, which is indicated by the lines on their busts, and apparently supposed by them really to exist, there would be some signs of it in the cerebrum itself. In other parts of the nervous system, where there is decisive difference of function, there is decisively marked separation of structure. The only localization which we may presume to exist, and which the necessities of the case imply, is one of a comparatively vague kind—one which does not suppose specific limits, but an insensible shading-off. And this is just the conclusion to which all the preceding investigations point. For as we have seen that even mental faculty, rightly understood, is an internal plexus of nervous relations, corresponding to some plexus of relations among external phenomena that are habitually experienced; and as the different plexuses of external relations, in proportion as they become complicated, also become less definite in their distinctions, so that when we reach those extremely involved, extensive, and variable plexuses of relations to which the higher faculties respond, there comes to be a great overlapping and entanglement of the different plexuses; it follows that the answering internal plexuses must be fused together—it must be as impossible to demarcate the internal nervous aggregations, as it is to demarcate the aggregations of external relations.
Moreover, I conceive that the phrenologists are wrong in assuming that there is something specific and unalterable in the natures of the various faculties. Responding, as these do, to the particular assemblages of phenomena habitually surrounding any race of organisms, they are only so far fixed and specific as these are fixed and specific. A permanent alteration in one of these assemblages, would in time establish a special feeling responding to the modified assemblage. A habit—say of sitting in a particular place in a particular room, and of being uncomfortable elsewhere—is nothing but an incipient feeling answering to that particular group of outer relations; and were all the successors of the person having this habit, to be constantly placed in the same relations, this incipient feeling would become an established one. So little specific are the faculties, that no one of them is quite the same in different persons: they severally differ as the several features differ.
Yet further, the current impression of phrenologists seems to be, that the different portions of the cerebrum in which they locate different faculties, are of themselves competent to produce the manifestations assigned to them. The portion of brain marked “acquisitiveness,” is supposed to be alone concerned in producing the desire of possession. But it is a corollary from the general argument of this chapter, that the desire includes a great number of minor desires elsewhere located. As every more complex aggregation of psychical states, is evolved by the union of minor aggregations previously established—results from the consolidation or co-ordination of these; it follows that that which becomes more especially the seat of this more complex aggregation, or higher feeling, is simply the centre of co-ordination by which all the minor aggregations are brought into relation. Hence, that particular portion of the cerebrum in which a particular faculty is said to be located, must be regarded as an agency by which the various actions going on in other parts of the cerebrum are combined in a particular way.
Saying nothing of the many minor objections that may be made to the phrenological doctrine, in respect of its localizations, and more especially in respect of its very faulty, unanalytical nomenclature of the faculties; it is thus sufficiently clear, that defensible as it is in its fundamental proposition, it is in many other points quite indefensible.