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preceding organisms, and that the separation into independent
organisms is the result only of a process of evolution. The origin
of the individual is consequently brought under a general physio-
logical point of view. Growth, as Baer- says, is nourishment with
formation of new elements, consequently a continued generation,
and generation in its turn is nothing more than the commencement
of a new growth.

The fact that self-preservation and propagation, as even Plato
taught in the Symposium, pass into one another, supplies a
physiological basis for the transition between pleasure in what
affects the individual himself, and pleasure in what lies beyond his

1 Xi'xiX^lit-a, Metuuskcts // Is f a/op ("Hnmna Hlsrolo^ "), p. 244. Clatlde Bernard,
Lffons suf les Fh^Hotnhiis dt la Vie, p. 311.
'i EHtwickelun^gcschichte der TkiereV History of .Animal Evolution"), ii-. p. 4.


own vital process. Sympathy, then, appears as literally growing
out of self-preservation. Even after the physical union of the
maternal with the young organism has been interrupted by birth,
a close union is kept up by instinct. The most marvellous of all
instincts are those which impel one generation to prepare the
way for the next. Many insects secure nourishment and protec-
tion for the larvae which come out of their eggs, but which they
will never see. In none of its forms does maternal love know a
" reason why ; " but it is especially obscure and instinctive where
the mother does not have the child before her as an indepe'ident
organism. It is only in the latter case, that the general
psychological laws can come into operation, and maternal instinct
become actual maternal feeling. All instinctive care for beings of
whom the individual can himself have no conception, must be
guided in detail by special sensations. Instinct consists of the
union of a strong feeling with certain sensations and involuntary
motor-impulses. When, instead of the mere sensation, a percept
and an idea of the child are possible, feeling takes a higher form.
The child's smiles and caresses, its helplessness, the feeling of
community which constant services produce in the donor, develop
the originally blind and instinctive feeling into clearness and
intensity. The feeling is then definitely differentiated from the
general vital feeling, and may come into emphatic opposition to
it. — The strength of the maternal feeling as compared with the
instinct of self-preservation may be seen from the courage with
which animals defend their young, and from the sorrow they feel
on losing them. Swallows will fly into burning houses to save
their young. When a young whale is harpooned, the mother will
not desert it while it still lives. If polar bears are compelled,
when chased, to leave their young, they presently return to look for
them, and shed (according to Brehm) great tears and swim round
the coast for several days in their distress. Many animals try to
draw the attention of the pursuer from their young to themselves.
These traits are the more remarkable from the fact that the
struggle for existence tends to cultivate quite contrary qualities,
for weak and wounded companions are a burden and a danger,
which is Avhy many animals {e.g. doves, stags, elephants) ill-treat
and drive away their sick and wounded comrades.^

In animals and in the lower races of men, maternal love is lost

1 C/. Darwin's posthumous treatise on instinct, published in Romanes's Mental
E^'olution in Antnvils, p. 381.


when the helpless age of the child is passed. In this connection
it is psychologically of great importance that the higher organisms
develop more slowly, and the period during which mother and
child arc united through instinct is consequently prolonged. This
gives a firmer basis for the psychological evolution of the
feeling. Where the relation between mother and child is per-
manent, the feeling will attain to a yet higher form, embracing not
only the physical, b\it also the mental, individuality of the child.
When a vivid conception of the child's independent conscious life
has been formed, the psychological duality, in which sympathy
consists, is quite complete. Pleasure and pain are felt, because
another being feels pleasure and pain, just as the vibrations of one
string set up corresponding vibrations in another.

In the above only maternal, not paternal, love has been spoken
of, because the latter shows itself strongly only at higher stages.
Maternal love is not only the strongest sympathetic feeling ; it is
also — if we regard the scale of living beings as the expression of a
long process of evolution — the sympathetic feeling which is earliest
manifested, and that which, by establishment of the most primitive
social relations, lays at the same time the basis of all the means
and forms of the further and higher development of sympathy.
The relation between mother and child gives the most primitive
family and the most primitive human society. It makes' a pure
" state of nature," an absolute individualism impossible. In the
animal kingdom, the male seldom shares in the care of the
young. The father is often a danger and a foe to his own
young. Darwin relates in his Voya<^e Roiuid the World, a strik-
ing instance of the egoism of the male and self-sacrifice of the
female. The wild horses on Falkland's Island roam constantly
from place to place, and compel the marcs to accompany them,
whether the young foals are old enough to follow or not. A man
saw a horse violently kick and bite a mare for a whole hour, and so
compel her to leave the foal to its fate. Masculine egoism shows
itself also in the human race, where the care of the children at the
lower stages is left to the mother. Only where marriage takes a
permanent form — and this happens, as already taught by Lucretius
(v, 1008), especially when permanent dwellings are provided — may
the paternal relation become a source of sympathetic feeling. The
paternal feeling then ranks with the maternal.

1 Cf. Die Grundla^e dcr HnmaneK Ethik{"1\\c Basis of Humane Kthics"), Donn
iSSo, pp. 16, 40, scij.


One sign that, in the evolution of human sympathy, half-un-
conscious instinct precedes ^ the properly psychological evolu-
tion determined by the laws of combination of ideas, is that
sympathy is aroused earlier in those who gi\c than in those who
receive benefit. The love of parents to children is, as a rule,
stronger than that of children to parents. During the proscriptions
of Sulla sons sometimes betrayed their fathers, but never vice

Under the shelter of the defence provided by the paternal and
maternal sympathy, may grow up the fraternal and friendly
sympathy. And this may extend, by means of the psychological
process described above (2), even beyond the family. It reaches
perfection in the feeling that all men are brothers, of like nature
and subject to like conditions.

4. There is yet another powerful feeling which grows out of a
natural instinct, and forms an important basis for the development
of sympathy. The feelifig of love in its primitive form is, like
maternal love, a "moment" of the general vital feeling. Its
first stirrings also are connected with revolutions within the
organism, which give to the vital feeling a previously unknown
character. There arise new and inexplicable longings and sen-
sations. Something stirs in the individual which impels him
beyond himself. But at the primitive stages the individual still re-
gards the object, with which instinct unites him, merely as a means.
Love is at first only an extension of egoism. Aristophanes, in
Plato's Sytnposhem, consequently explains it, by the gods having
cut men in half, so that the two halves wander about with longing,
and search for one another. The comparative physiology of pro-
pagation in a measure bears out this humorous explanation.
It shows us various forms of transition from nonsexual to sexual
propagation. In the lowest forms of sexual propagation the cor-
related organs are found in one and the same individual ; one such
hermaphrodite represents the whole species, while in higher beings
two different individuals are required to represent the species. In
this dual representation — as in the contrast between mother and
child— it is as though one self were divided in two parts.

Here, again, this duality becomes of importance only when the

1 There is a detailed account of this course of development in Herbert Spencer's
Psychology (Part II.), Sociology (Part I.), and in his Data of Ethics. In Danish literature
there is a description of the primitive family and social relations in the work Saiiifunds-
legciiteti Grundlorje ("The Fundamental Laws of Human Society"), by Claudius
Wilkens, Copenhagen, '1881, iv., pp. 3-4.


idea of the object determines the feelin<T. At the lowest stage the
object is not presented as a second self. But even in the animal
kingdom we find an approach to this. The courtship of animals
is, as Darwin has proved in his celebrated work on sexual selection,
by no means so simple a matter as is ordinarily supposed. An
individual preference is often met with ; beauty and other attrac-
tive qualities are taken into account, and a touching fidelity is often
shown. Here are already given the motives, which in the human
race effect the development of love from an undisciplined sensual
desire, in which the individual seeks his own pleasure only, to a
tender self-abandonment and to delight in another individual.
Looked at purely egoistically, the sexual instinct is a deception ; it
looks as though it were for the gratification of the individual, and
yet only assures the preservation of the race. Schopenhauer, who
thought the nature of love exhausted in mere sexual instinct,
preached in consequence revolt against it, from indignation at the
deception practised by " der Wille zum Lebcn." This instinct, which
in its lowest forms does not require to know the object gratifying
it, becomes, however, refined and ennobled, the more it is linked
with, and determined by, the image of another independent in-
dividual — an image which can excite delight and admiration, and
not merely immediate desire. The feeling then acquires the
character of sympathy, being determined and conditioned by the
feeling of another individual, who is no longer sought out as a
means of self-gratification. Instead of entering with a demand and a
dictatorial request, the feeling can now be satisfied only by free
yielding. " Pleasure he (the powerful) may steal, but love must be
a gift " (Schiller).^ And that the means has become the end may
be seen from the fact that resignation is possible, that the desire
may be abandoned without the feeling ceasing. While the elemen-
tary sexual instinct serves only for the physical maintenance of the
race, in ideal (such as maternal) love the race is realized as a
spiritual union of individuals.

5. In the instincts named above we have the helping hands
which, from the first, lead men to something beyond them-
selves, and bring them into relations where the educative laws of
association may operate. This has already been brought out by
Shaftesbury, in opposition to the individualistic account of
sympathy. In later times this point of view has been especially

1 In McLiiprat, Gtorge Sand has dcicribcd how brute instinct may sustain a meta-
morphosis into ideal human fueling.


applied by Spencer and Darwin. This doctrine might be called
the gaicral theory of evoluiioti, since it explains the origin of
sympathy through the progressive evolution of the whole race.
Once the feeling is linked with an idea, and this with another idea,
then (according to B. 3) the way is opened for the extension and
modification of the feeling. Natural selection constantly operates
more or less in the same direction, for strong and deep sympathy
strengthens individuals in their struggle for existence, and makes
life itself of more value to them. And since the metamorphosis
of feeling takes place slowly during the life of the race, the organ-
ization inherited by the new individuals may take advantage of
its results. The laws of heredity make it possible for the ex-
perience of earlier generations to become a capital, with which
later generations may begin. Besides heredity, tradition and
education operate, for the forms in which earlier generations have
given expression to their sympathetic feelings take effect in later
generations by sympathetically exciting and educating feeling. The
sympathetic instinct unfolds in a Christian otherwise than in an
Hellenic atmosphere, amid modern humanitarianism otherwise than
in the mixture of asceticism and barbarism of the Middle Ages. The
amount that depends on tradition, the amount on heredity, and the
amount that, on the basis of the constantly operating instincts,
must be acquired and evolved in the course of the individual life,
are different in every individual, in either se.x, in every race and
every age.

Taking the instinct of self-preservation as the original basis,
which gets modified by the influence of experiences operating ac-
cordfng to the laws of association, then, as already indicated, a
ruling feeling of hatred, of envy, and of malice, can be as well con-
structed as a ruling feeling of sympathy. Spinoza has already
called attention to this.^ If, then, it is asked why psychology does
not trace the growth of a disinterested ill-will, but rather dwells upon
the growth of disinterested love, the answer must be, first, that the
formal laws are the same for both processes of development ; all
that is required is a change of sign. But the chief reason is, that
disinterested malice (malevolent sympathy) does not find the same
food in the conditions of life as the contrary feeling. It may arise
under certain individual and unhappy circumstances {cf. Shake-
speare's Richard the Third, and Miss Wade in Little Dorrit) ; but

1 Eth., iii., 32, Schol. "We see, then, that, from that same property of human nature
which leads men to be compassionate, it also results that they are envious and ambitious."


it cannot strike root in nature, becanse it is ininiiral to life instead
of tending to its preservation and promotion. Even though it may
find favouring conditions in the conllicting interests of individuals,
families, races, and creeds, yet in the long run historical develop-
ment tends to smooth down and do away wiili such want of
harmony, to conduct the conflicting interests into a common cur-
rent. This is often finally accomplished by the sympathetic
feelings grounded in organic instincts (as in the tale of the rape of
the Sabines ; of the union between patrician and plebeian ; of
Romeo and Juliet).

The parallel named, between the psychological development
of disinterested love and that of disinterested malice, accounts for
the ease with which they sometimes pass into one another. In
both, ideal forces are set in motion ; lukewarmness and indiffer-
ence have disappeared. It is merely a cjuestion of shunting the
train, already on its journey, so as to send it in another direction.

If the question is raised, which of the two forms of sympathy is
the more primitive, the sharing of joy or the sharing of sorrow, a
distinction must certainly be drawn between sympathy as elementary
instinct and as a definite feeling determined by experiences and
ideas. The elementary sympathetic instinct (as manifested in the
attitude to posterity and to the opposite sex) aims as much at the
augmentation of the object's pleasure as at the removal and diminu-
tion of its pain ; it is directed to the maintenance and promotion of
the general existence of the object. On the other hand, it is
certainly the case, that compassion at the sight of the suffering of
others, more easily arises than satisfaction at the sight of their
pleasure. Pain and suffering (both of ourselves and others) make,
at any rate at the moment, a stronger impression than pleasure
and joy, a circumstance which is perhaps connected with the fact
that pain always affords a motive to activity ; there is something
to be done, something which may perhaps be at once relieved,
while the feeling of pleasure is an actual indication that for the
present all is as it should be. In the struggle for existence it is
the wounded who need help ; the others can take care of them-

6. Even where the instinct does not find direct gratification, it
may still exercise a powerful influence. The movement which it
causes in the vital feeling must find an outlet, and if there is none
for it in reality, it will be sought in an ideal. To the ascetic and
mystic " the heavenly virgin'' is the ideal which takes the place of


an earthly woman. Already, Plato, in the Symposium, has with
genius described Eros as the instinct for the ideal, which may be
gratified either by love or by the striving after honour, power, or
knowledge. Eros is the great teacher, who persuades men to fix
their hearts on something beyond their own selves. As a parallel
to this ideal effect of instinct, instances are not wanting of an un-
pleasant admixture of sensuality and mysticism. In the actual
instinct nothing more is implied than that the need of self-devotion
y's excited ; it then becomes a question of how this need is gratified.
For this reason the period of transition from childhood to youth is
,so important and eventful in the life of every human being. The
pov.-er of obscure but strong feelings leads the individual out beyond
the limits of his own personality, sets in movement thought and
imagination, and arouses an idealizing impulse. This is a time
when everyone has a touch of genius, whatever they may be at other
times. Goethe, in his poem Der Schiifer (" The Shepherd "), has
described with inimitable humour this ideal breaking into flame, too
often of brief duration, which " drives men far afield," but gives way
to the normal prosaic frame of mind when once the physical need of
the instinct has been satisfied.^

The most important crisis in the development of a feeling is when
its object is removed out of the sphere of sensation and perception
into that of ideation and memory. The source of all poetry, all
morality, and all religion, springs where the sympathetic feeling no
longer has its object immediately present. The immediate union
with the object then gives place to a certain distance, and it
becomes a question whether the feeling can bridge over this
distance, so that " in der Feme fiihlt sich die Macht " (in the distance
the power is felt) (Goethe, Das Bliimlein IViinderscJwn).

Bain lays great stress on the importance of contact and caresses
in all forms of tender feeling, whether love for children and those
dependent on us, or friendship or love for the opposite sex. " As
anger is consummated, reaches a satisfying term, by knocking
some one down, love is completed and satisfied with an embrace.
.... In a word, our love pleasures begin and end in sensual
contact." The strength of this impulse finds its explanation in
the fact that touch is the fundamental sense, that out of which,

1 Cabanis observes {Rapports dit Physique et du Moral de V Homme, v., lo) :— "J'ai
vu nombre de fois la plus grande f^condit<5 d'idecs, la plus brillante imagination, une
aptitude singuliire a tous les arts, se de'velopper tout a coup chez des filles de cet Sge,
mais s'eteindre bientot par degres, et faire place au bout de quelque temps a. la medio-
crite d'esprit la plus absolue. La mcnie cause u'a souvent pas moins de puissance chez
les jeunes gargons ; souvent aussi les heureux effets n'en sont pas plus durables."


according to the evolution hypothesis, the other senses are
evolved. Only this fundamental sensation can afford the im-
pulse of love its highest gratification.^ So much the greater is the
pain caused by separation, which prevents the gratification of the
deep organic impulse. It is then a question, whether an ideal union
is able to take the place of the physical, whether a mental tie can
become as strong as a bodily. The transition from physical to ideal
union is, as a rule, only effected through resignation. This resigna-
tion may, however, completely vanish in the deep and full union
with the object, which enters in the place of the immediate and
instantaneous union. Where the object of feeling is great and com-
plex, sensuous perception is even impossible. Even with the feeling
for a single personality this is so. A personality is never fully
given in any single moment, or in any single situation ; it is to
be had as a whole only in the sum total of its life, of its history.
If we love some one, we do indeed picture him in some one definite
situation ; but this serves only as an example or type {cf. the
theory of individual ideas, V. B. 9). The feeling thus acquires an
ideal character so soon as it seeks to embrace the personality in
its totality and unity, which is as soon as it gets beyond the stage
at which the object is only a means of personal gratification.
Since, however, an individual life is never self-contained and
complete, but subject always to growth and alteration, the ideal
feeling acquires at the same time the character of a faith, a faith
that the inner essence of the personality to which we are united by
sympathy, will remain self-consistent throughout all changes.

Feeling becomes yet more ideal, when it is directed towards a
large, comprehensive whole (the family, the state, humanity), or is
concerned with that which from its nature cannot be conceived as
limited (God, nature). If a definite idea is here to be associated
with the feeling, it can be only by way of symbolism. The
history of religion shows how deep in the nature of feeling lies
the tendency to symbolize. Hence the impulse to secure the ideal
and infinite in definite forms, that feeling may have a point to
gather round. On the other hand, we see also how fixed symbols
may check and narrow feeling, which is the reason why it con-
stantly breaks them and seeks satisfaction in new forms (the conflict
between mysticism and dogmatism).

The development of thought and imagination is always a
necessary presupposition of the higher development of sympathy.

1 Emotions and lyUl, 3rd eel., p. 126.


In order to feel for others, an individual must have had his
own experiences, must be acquainted with pleasure and pain,
and know what causes these feelings. The range of sympathy
is determined therefore by the experiences of the several in-
dividuals, nations, and ages. When circumstances lead, as in
savage races, to stoicism and disregard of suffering, no fellow-
feeling with the pains of others will be developed. Philanthropy
presupposes therefore a certain degree of civilization. As stoicism,
so too asceticism, may be a check to sympathy, for which reason
the principle of universal love to mankind introduced by Chris-
tianity could be properly unfolded only after the ascetic tendency
of the Church had been repressed. Next to actual experience of
pleasure and pain, it is important to be able to preserve them. in
memory and to apply them to the understanding of the state of
others. It is a question of being open to vivid impressions and of
possessing sufficient versatility to put ourselves in imagination in the
place of others. It has been justly observed, that want of sympathy
is often want of imagination and mental quickness, and does not
arise from actual want of feeling. It is especially difficult to enter
into the feelings of others, when their conditions of life (internal
or external) are very different from our own. Difference of
language (as between Greeks and barbarians), of colour (as with
the negroes),^ of rank, and of faith have afforded long and
stubborn resistance to the growth of sympathy in the human
race. Formal logical consistency may be here of great import-
ance. As it can be said with some reason that egoism is unwise,
because a man may often work for himself by working for others,
so — and certainly with more reason — it may be said that egoism is
illogical, when it narrows the sympathies; it makes exceptions which
do not accord with the nature of the case. In historical development
a relentless logic is at work, leading sympathy to conquer, not only
personal egoism, but also the egoism of family and of nation and

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 28 of 41)