Harald Høffding.

Outlines of psychology online

. (page 25 of 41)
Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 25 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

itself dogmatic when it maintains that our consciousness produces
its whole picture of the universe from itself.

Such an absolute production would in fact be contrary to the
law of relativity {cf. b). There must be something given, which
determines, or serves as a motive for, consciousness in the pro-
duction of the definite picture of the universe. This picture finds
reason and explanation only when we postulate an x outside the
subject, whose influence on the subject stirs up and determines its
cognitive activity. What this x is, no experience can tell ; every
answer to this question is a metaphysical hypothesis.'— That our
cognition presupposes in this way something which can never be
subjected to its manipulation is closely connected with the fact, that
it must always have something as given, — that at every point it is
not only active but also passive, although on the other hand an
absolute passivity is only an extreme case, which cannot be pointed
to in experience {cf. p. 117). —

If, then, it proves impossible to apply the popular definition of
truth as agreement of knowledge with reality, since reality itself
exists for us only through our knowledge, we must seek the
criterion within, and not without, the world of consciousness. It
can, then, be nothing else than the inner harmony and consistency of
all thoughts and experiences {cf. 2). If we cannot escape from
the dream, we can at least (as Calderon desires in IJfe a Drcatn)
"live well in the dream," which in this connection means,
that we can always extend the sphere of our experiences and
thoughts and can establish a deeper and firmer connection between
them. It is only the single and immediate phenomena of our own
consciousness of which we have a direct and immediate certainty.
As soon as we have to do with complex phenomena, the only
possible criterion of reality is in the firm causal connection. This
holds good of internal, mental reality as well as of external,

1 The subjective systems have, as a rule, asiumed an .r, and propounded, in accordance
with their other assumptions, some hypothesis as to its nature. (Cf. especially Berkeley
Fichte and Schopenhauer.)


physical reality. This practical validity of the criterion of reality
is quite independent of the question whether the subjective theory
is correct or not.^ Our knowledge must always, from the nature of
the case, bear both in form and content the impress of our mind
and be confined by its limitations. But this does not deprive
knowledge of either its validity or its value. If there be a truth
higher than that attainable by human knowledge, the truth known
by us is a part of it. In availing ourselves of the means and the
standard which are given us by the nature and the organization
of our mind, we can therefore really advance in the knowledge of
objective truth.

1 Cf. the treatise of Leibniz : " De modo distinguendi phaenomena realia ab ima^in-
ariis" {Opera Philosophica, ed. Erdmann, p. 442, seq.).

The Psychology of Feeling

A. — Feelini^ and Sensation

I. In opposing feeling to cognition, we do not, as already
explained, postulate any opposition between different faculties or
powers of mind. The psychological distinctions concern only the
elements out of which the psychical states, as appears on closer
observation, are compounded, and it has been already shown with
what right we distinguish in every psychical state between elements
of feeling and elements of cognition. It was seen to be impossible
to derive all forms of conscious life from a state of pure feeling (IV.
7, c.) : although elements of feeling greatly preponderate at the
primitive stage, yet close observation revealed the presence of
cognitive elements. — It now remains to exhibit the laws and ways
by which the higher forms of the life of feeling develop out of
the elementary feelings accompanying the immediate sensations.

The attempt has been made to deny absolutely that any such
development takes place. As in the province of cognition there
has been a disposition to draw a sharp contrast between sensuous
perception and thought, so it has been conceived a degradation of
the higher, ideal feelings, that they should be related with the
primitive feelings. Hence an ethical valuation was unjustifiably
made to determine the psychological conception. As an instance
of this tendency we may cite Nahlowsky's work, so admirable in
other respects. Das Gclifiihlslcben (1862). This psychologist, of
the llerbartian school, distinguishes between the way in which
sensations determine our general organic state, and the way
in which internal movements and stirrings of our ideas affect



The latter affection only will he consent to call feeling.
Sensations, he says, have indeed their pecuHar "tone," but
this concerns only the bodily state, not the mind. It is here
seen how a spiritualistic theory of the relation between mind and
body may prejudice a special psychological question. According
to Nahlowsky, physical pain is a "sensation" which is conveyed
to the mind from the body, while mental pain, on the contrary, is a
real " feeling," an expression for the actual internal condition of
the mind during the interaction of ideas. The sensations are
consequently explained through the relation between the mind and
body, the feelings through the relation of the ideas to one another.

In answer to this it must be remarked, that every feeling,
whether high or low, is characterized by the strong contrast between
pleasure and pain. These two poles make themselves felt as far
as the life of feeling extends, and the first mark, by which to
indicate the nature of a feeling, is its pleasurableness or painful-
ness. The fact of this contrast determines the special character of
the element of feeling as compared with the other elements of
consciousness. Here, then, is something which is common to all
feeling. — And all feeling must be 7ne?ital, since a mental life
only is immediately experienced by us as conscious life. The
differences among feelings we must try to explain through the
different cognitive elements which may be combined with them.
The so-called physical pain, i.e. the pain which arises from im-
mediate sensations, is less complex, and contains fewer and simpler
cognitive elements than the so-called mental pain. Toothache
is a simple, elementary feeling, while sorrow and repentance are
feelings which involve ideas and memories. On the other hand,
there is no reason to doubt that the higher feelings have their cor-
responding physiological process just as much as the lower. The
difference can only consist in this, that the central processes,
passing in the brain, play a greater part in the higher than in the
lower feelings, these latter being mainly determined by the effect
of the individual impression.

It is consequently possible that the " tone '' of the sensation, or
the way in which it immediately affects our frame of mind, may
psychologically be a germ, out of which the higher feelings are
developed. Before treating of this development, let us examine
somewhat more closely the relation between the sensations and the
feelings of pleasure and pain accompanying them.

2. Feeling stands out plainly, as an element different from the


actual sensation, in certain experiences, which prove that the pain
caused by an excitation takes longer to be produced than the actual
sensation, and that sensation may arise without corresponding
feeling, and vice versd.

According to Beau, from one to two seconds elapse between the
sensation of touch and the feeling of pain, when a corn is hit with
a stick. E. H. Weber found that if the hand is dipped in very
cold or in very hot water, there is first of all a very strong
sensation ; this then decreases, but only at once to increase again
and to become painful. He finds something similar in the fact
that when we arc startled by a sudden clamour {e.g. by the sudden
blast of kettledrums and trumpets after a pause in the music), an
appreciable time elapses between the stimulus and the startled
movement, and since the transmission of the excitation along the
sensory and motor nerves occupies no appreciable time, he explains
the phenomenon by supposing that cerebral activity is a condition
of the rise of feeling. This slowness in production of the feeling
of pain as compared with the sensation, is evinced in electric
stimulation, in the pinching of the skin with forceps, and also
under certain pathological conditions.^

In a discussion as to the relation between feeling and cognition,
which was carried on by Horwicz and Wundt in the VierteljaJirs-
schrift fiir Wissciischaftliche Philosophie (3rd and 4th vols.), the
first of these writers took as examples sudden blows and shocks,
where the feeling of pain arises before the sensation. With very
strong excitations, this may perhaps be the case ; but with ex-
citations of moderate strength, it may easily be seen that Beau
and Weber are right. I experienced this very plainly on one
occasion, when, with my hand behind me, I took a couple of steps
backwards and came in contact with a hot stove, which I had not
imagined so close ; I then felt quite distinctly the sensation of
touch before the feeling of pain.

In order to be noticed, a pain must both spread and have a
certain duration. Richet says even, that pain without memory and
without radiation would be no pain at all {cf. p. 96). It is thus
not of so simple a nature as the sensation ; probably it presupposes
the subduing of a great resistance in the central nerve-organs.

In certain cases the feeling of pain is arrested, while the sensa-

1 E. H. Weber, in Wagner's Physiol. IfandwCirleriuch, iii., 2, pp. 565-571. — Richet,
Recherches E.xpfrimentaUs et Clhiiquei sur la Sensibilite, Paris, 1887, pp. 290-293.—
Funke, Tastsinn iinJ GcineingefiihU^ (Hermann's Hantibuch. iii., 2, pp. 298-300.)


tion remains intact. After section of the grey substance of the
spinal-cord, the part of the body situated below the section may
be in any way ill-treated, cut, crushed, or burnt, without any
evidence of pain. Stupefying drugs, cold, intoxication, and hypnotic
sleep have the same effect. A patient who, while under chloro-
form, had his leg amputated, was conscious of the operation indeed,
but felt as though it were being performed on a wooden leg. After
the battle of Eylau the operations performed were almost painless,
because the cold was lo degrees. Hypnotised persons feel no pain
when their teeth are extracted. And just as there is analgesia
(absence of pain) without anaesthesia (failure of the sensation of
touch), so there may be anossthesia without analgesia {ancesthesia
dolorosa). By section of the posterior columns of the spinal-cord
the sense of touch in the back is lost, while the sense of pain

The feeling of pain may be various in character. It may pass
through a whole scale from mere irritation or numbness, pricking,
itching {foitrmilletnent), up to genuine pain. The pains themselves,
as immediately presented, are different. The feeling of weariness
is different from the painful feeling of exhaustion and faintness.
There are burning, cutting, pressing, pinching, and boring pains.
According to some, these differences are not to be conceived as
differences of kind, but depend on the different strength, extent,
and duration of the pain. The differences mentioned, in the im-
mediate appearance of the pain, afford, however, at once a proof,
that in every state of feeling there are also cognitive elements.
Regarded as feeling element, pain is simple and manifests no
difference ; if differences are manifested, they must arise out of the
sensations which accompany feeling.

On account of its practical importance, the feeling of pain has
been much more closely studied than the feeling of pleasure. In
this latter there are no motives for keenly tracking its conditions
and causes, while the feeling of pain at once sets us to work in this
way. Perhaps the feeling of pain is also more plain and distinct
than the feeling of pleasure. — It seems to be true of pleasure as
of pain, that in itself it exhibits no differences of kind, but that the
differences in the pleasurable feelings spring out of the sensations
or ideas accompanying them.

1 C. Lange, Rygmarvevs PaiologH," The Pathology of the Spinal Cord"), pp. ii, y2.
i??., III.— Richet, p. ii8 seq., 258 seq.—VreytLT, Die EnUieckiin^ des Hypnottsmvs,
p. 44.


3. In the so-called physical pleasure and physical pain we un-
doubtedly, then, have already cognitive elements besides feeling-
elements, although the latter greatly preponderate. We will now
cast a brief glance at the relation between these two kinds of
elements in the province of the different senses. It will be seen
that the senses may be arranged in a series, in which at the one
end the feeling-elements have a decided preponderance over the
cognitive, while at the other end there appears a more equal
development of both kinds.

{a) General sensation is marked by the absence in the individual
sensations of definite and local character. They are lost in a
general feeling of comfort or discomfort, which as it were con-
stitutes the result in the brain of the excitations received from
diflerent parts of the organism. We have here a feeling of our
existence in general, of the general course of the vital processes ;
this feeling, which accompanies the general sensations, we call
therefore the vital feeling. The property and quantity of the blood,
the vigour of the circulation, the tension of the fibres (the tonicity),
the abundant or scanty secretions of the glands, the relaxation or
tension of the muscles (voluntary and involuntary), the quick or
laboured respiration, the normal or abnormal process of digestion
— these all help to determine it, without any one of them having
occasion to stand out alone. The general sensations constitute
a chaos, which receives its stamp through the contrast between
comfort and discomfort, and the special variations in which are,
from the nature of the case, determined by some one organ play-
ing an especially prominent part, without however being always
expressly known to consciousness as the source of the sensation.
On the contrary, it is characteristic of the general sensations, that
they often " radiate," or are projected, to points quite away from
the real seat of the cause. The state of the organ which is most
prominent at the moment decides the general fundamental mood.

This fundamental mood can be described only by certain general
features, which stand in close connection with the easy and free,
or checked and difficult, course of the vital process. Thus the
feeling of freedom, security, and power, comes in contrast with the
feeling of internal constraint, disquiet, anxiety, and feebleness. In
the contrast between the feeling of power and the feeling of feeble-
ness, the sensation of power and muscular sensations play plainly
enough an important part. Even when we do not voluntarily
expand our muscles, they are always in a certain degree of tension ;


even quiescent muscles (in sitting, lying, etc.) are not absolutely-
slack, but partially contracted ; the masticator muscles always
draw up involuntarily the lower to the upper jaw ; the upper eye-
lid is always raised, etc. During sleep this "reflex-tonicity " or
"the latent innervation," as it has been called, is diminished. The
position of the body is then adjusted more according to the laws of
gravity ; and yet there is a difference between the posture of the
living and of the dead. How well we are able at any time to
hold the body erect, depends naturally on the energy at our
disposal at the moment ; and, quite apart from all ideas, there
is an immediate feeling of pleasure or pain, according as we
are or are not equal at the moment to the said task. — The
feeling of ease and freedom is principally connected with the
functions of respiration and alimentation. Difficulty in breathing
causes a feeling of painful disquiet and anguish. If the infant's first
cry is called forth by urgent want of air, consequent on the inter-
rupted placenta-circulation, life begins with anguish. A patient has
often awakened with terror and in convulsions, because the breath-
ing had almost stopped as soon as he fell asleep ; and the heart
at the same time ceased to beat. Nightmare or the oppression
which it causes, appears (according to Laycock) to be caused by
the relaxation of the respiratory centres. Many disorders in the
bowels induce the same feeling. It seems to the patient "as
though in him Nature had suspended her activity." With nervous
pains in the pit of the heart (cardialgy) may be combined — perhaps
on account of disturbances of the circulation — a terrible feeling of
anguish and weakness, which ranks these pains with the most
terrible of all suffering.

In this contrast between the feeling of power and freedom on
the one side, and the feeling of weakness and anguish on the
other, appears in its simplest and most elementary form the
contrast, so important for all conscious life, between hope and
fear. In mere vital feeling, no definite sensations or ideas as
yet make themselves felt ; hope and anxiety as vital feelings are
therefore still quite indefinite ; but their very indefiniteness and
apparent lack of motive give them great power over con-

In their first stages, the feelings of hunger and thirst have the

1 C. Lange, Rygmarz'ens Patologi {^* The Pathology of the Spinal Cord "), p. 152, seg.,
344, seg. — Panum, Nerz>evavets J^ysiohgi ("The Physiology of the Nerve Tissue")
p. 106, seg. — Laycock, On the Rejlex Functions of the Brain (British and Foreign
Medical Review, 1845, vol. 19, p. 306).


same vague character as the general feehng, manifest themselves
as dissatisfaction, as disquiet. To this, however, are soon added
definite local sensations, of oppression and gnawing in the stomach
in hunger, of dryness and burning in the tongue and throat in
thirst. We must here abstract from the appearance presented by
these feelings, when definite ideas of their significance are linked
with them, and when the habit has been formed of taking food at
settled periods.^

{b) Sensations of touch and movement come so close to the
general feelings, that they often enter into these without being
independently presented, and, as in these, the strength of the
excitation plays a greater part than its quality. If the strength,
however, does not exceed a certain degree, these sensations are
still fine enough to be associated with feelings of pleasure or pain,
which, in comparison with the general feeling of organic well-being
or discomfort, have a certain independence. In active movement
a special satisfaction may be felt, and 'one kind or form of
activity will be preferred to another, as one colour to another.
There is a similar satisfaction in contact with soft and smooth
surfaces, and a displeasure in contact with rough and hard
surfaces, to which a certain lesthetic character may already be
ascribed. A feeling of pleasure or pain may be called cesthetic^
if it is not (at any rate not immediately) produced by something
that sets practical instincts and impulses to work.

(t) Taste, again, comes close to general feeling. It is intimately
connected with the function of alimentation, as a sort of test and
measure of what is to be taken in and consumed. The feeling
of satisfaction or of disgust, which, according to some, comes
from that portion of the organ of taste which is situated on the
back third of the tongue, has quite the character of a vital feeling
determined by general sensation.- But for all this, differences of
quality have here a definite impoitance. Even new-born infants
seem able to distinguish between the diticrent qualities of taste.
With each of these qualities (sweet, sour, bitter, salt,) are connected
certain shades of feeling. These are indescribable in spite of all
their simplicity ; but that they are present is evident from the fact

1 This " psychical moment" (Ranke, Physiol, des Mcnschen, 3rd ed., p. 220) certainly
plays a part also in the sensation of cold, for which reason the adult undoubtedly suffers
more from cold than the child, who as yet associates with it no further idea. Perez, Les
Trois Frtmieres A Htt^is de r En/ant, Va.ns, ii7i,V-^y i"!- , ,. , ,.

2 In disgust, again, we here abstract from the "psychical moment." For this feehng
may arise by means of association of ideas from e.xcitations which would not in themselves
excite it.


that we employ expressions from the province of taste to de-
signate higher states of feehng.

{d) Se?isations of smell exhibit in Hke manner quahtative differ-
ences, but these have not sufficiently attracted the attention for
language to find for them special words. With animals smell
plays an all-important part among the senses : by its aid the prey
is scented, danger avoided and the sexes brought together. Nor
has smell cjuite lost its deep significance among human beings. It
is to the process of respiration what taste is to that of alimentation,
and acts in immediate conjunction with the sensation of taste as the
guardian of the alimentary canal. Like taste, it can immediately
and instinctively excite pleasure and disgust, as a rule in the case
of substances which are useful or injurious to the organism. But
it can, in a much higher degree than taste, be freed from instinct
and vital feeling, and become the source of aesthetic satisfaction.

{e) The higher senses, stgJit and liearing, seem to be almost
wholly emancipated from immediate connection with the vital
feeling. And yet these also are originally only its vanguard. As
smell and taste facilitate a pre-examination, which prevents any-
thing injurious to life from being received into the alimentary canal,
and as smell gives notice of the approach of the enemy or of the prey,
so too sight and hearing are from the first in the service of instinct.
As the sensation of taste is followed by the need of swallowing, so
the sight of corn or of an insect arouses the impulse to pick it up
in a chicken just hatched, or the clucking of the hen causes it to
run hastily after the source of the sound. It is possible to feed and
relish with the eyes. It is similarly due to instinct that all conscious
beings, from the lowest to the highest, start with fear or with sur-
prise at a sudden excitation of light or noise (as also at sudden
contact). The phenomena here mentioned exhibit hope and fear
in a somewhat more definite form than they have as con-
stituents of the vital feeling. Here the sensations which excite
the feeling are more definite and distinct, and do not so closely
fuse with it as in the forms previously mentioned {a).

What gives to the higher senses a freer attitude in respect of the
vital feeling is, in the first place, their defitiitely ^narked scale of
quality. So long as the strength of the excitation plays the chief
part, the sensations fuse absolutely with the vital feeling proper.
This is especially apparent at the extremes of pleasure and of pain,
even when it is a question of purely intellectual and aesthetic feel-
ings. The special forms of sound and shades of colour excite a


finer play of feeling than the excitations which affect by their
strength the processes concerned in the preservation of life. In
the next place it is of importance, that excitations of light and
sound in general are not among those which exercise a strong
effect upon our body, and that there are in the sense-organs
contrivances to subdue too violent excitations.

In a developed consciousness so many secondary' ideas are linked
with colours and sounds that it isdifficult to discover what effect upon
feeling the elementary sensations have in themselves. In practice
we avail ourselves of colours and sounds as a means of taking the
bearings of things, we think not so much of them as of that which
they signify. Their immediate eftect is, as a rule, unconscious,
and we pay attention to it only when the mood excited enters into
a certain opposition to other moods.' In order to feel these effects
in their full speciality, Goethe used to look through coloured glasses,
and in this way to make himself at home with the colour, to see

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 25 of 41)