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subject, the individual shapes, to be represented, bring definite
requisitions. Their forms must be recognisable and their situations

' T'ecliner, t'orsc/titU dtr j'Esthctik ("'Preliminary .Studies in /Esthetics"), Lcipzic,
1876, chs. 9 — 13.


intelligible. So that here combinations of ideas and historical
memories are necessary to true immediate apprehension. Poetry,
finally, operates chiefly through the ideas and feelings excited ; the
direct factor is a means only. It gives what music may not give —
the definite feeling with its full content of thought and of imagina-
tion ; and it gives what the pictorial and plastic arts cannot give —
the historical development of characters and actions. In music
the sensations, in the plastic arts the percepts, in poetry the free
ideas are the forms of cognition which essentially determine the
character of the feeling. In all its various forms art affords an
opportunity of exercising and utilizing powers which were originally
asserted in the struggle for existence. There remains consequently
the closest interaction between art and real life ; the ideal and the
practical activity of the mental powers pass one into the other,
mutually prepare for one another. Art grows out of the natural
exercise of the powers, and in its turn modifies these. With this
relation the ethical import of art is closely connected ; for the
powers exercised in artistic play are, if not in the same individual
yet in the race, ever utilized afresh in the ever-continued struggle
for existence.

It accords very well with the theory of the origin of art out of
the struggle for existence, that the sense for artistic beauty pre-
cedes the sense for natural beauty. Art is closer to man than
nature ; the one is his own work which he cannot disclaim, while
the other may for a long time appear to him a foreign, inimical, or
indifferent power. Children and savages have as a rule no sense
for the beauty of nature. All that is connected with man and his
achievements affords interest, but nature interests only so far as it
is serviceable to human ends. From the primitive, practical stand-
point a beautiful country is the same as a fruitful one, fruitful, that
is, in corn and grass. Peasants marvel at the pleasure taken by
tourists in visiting waste heaths, sandy downs, and m.ountains.
A distinguished American traveller said to an Englishman : " Your
country is very beautiful ; in many parts one can travel for miles
without seeing a single tree not enclosed." The feeling for what
is wild, sublime, and romantic in nature has arisen through effect
of contrast : it was inevitable that the progress of civilization and
the increasing contrast between town and country should arouse
a longing for free and undisturbed nature, especially where it is
bold and reckless. This sense and this longing are especially
found, therefore, in periods of hyper-refinement (the close of

VI] THE rsvrnnT.of.V OF FKF.LIN'G 267

antiquity, the i8th century). It presupposes, however, not only
weariness of town life and civilized society, but also a rich life
of thought and feeling, which fmdsin the character of the land-
scape, in its shades of light and colour and form, a mood in
harmony with its own. Rousseau was the first to really arouse the
feeling for nature in the great mass of people, especially for wild
undisturbed nature, and this is closely connected with his energetic
defence of the independence and importance of the life of feeling
generally. He discovered the mountain landscape, which had
previously excited in the minds of most men only horror and
dread. He taught us to turn our backs on human life and to
listen to the language of nature. Delight in nature appears as at
once the highest stage of development of the aesthetic feeling and
one of the best examples of disinterested sympathy.^

Two special aesthetic feelings, the sense of the sublvnc and the
sense of the ludicrous, will be presently treated of more closel}-,
since they will serve as good examples to illustrate the general
psychological laws of the life of feeling. This work aims at no
description and classification of all feelings, but at an inquiry into
the general psychology of feeling. If an account of the individual
feelings is desired, it is to be found in Bain's Emotions and Will,
in Nahlovvksy's Gcfiihislebcn (" Life of Feeling"), in A. Horwicz's
Psycholoi^isc/ie Analyscn ("Psychological Analyses"), and in Sib-
bern's Psykologisk Patologi {"Vsyc\io\ogicdi\ Pathology").

D. — T/ic PItysiology and the Biology of Feeling.

I. If it is true that we can distinguish between cognition and
feeling only by means of abstraction, and that every concrete state
of consciousness is composed both of cognitive elements and
of feeling elements, there is no reason to expect cognition and
feeling to be linked with the activity of different cerebral organs.
The case was necessarily different as long as the procedure was from
the notion of different j5arts or faculties of the mind. Thus Plato

iwit of tho Feeling for


placed thought in the head, the feeling of courage and honour in
the breast, and the sensuous impulses in the lower part of the
body. Aristotle attributed all feeling of pleasure and pain (as also
all sensation) to the heart, -while the activity of pure reason was,
in his view, united to no corporeal function. In later times
Descartes and his disciples (Willis and Malebranchc) placed feeling,
together with all other phenomena of consciousness, in the brain,
and in this, as in so many other points, anticipated modern
physiology. The ancient theory of the opposition between brain
and heart, as running parallel with the opposition between under-
standing and feeling, was not, however, so easy to suppress. It
was grounded in what seems to be the teaching of immediate
experience. Every violent movement of feeling is accompanied
by sensations in the chest and lower part of the body, the heart
beats louder, breathing stops or is accelerated, the digestion is
affected ; in short, emotion strongly interferes with the vegetative
functions. Even at the present day Bichat says : " Everything
seems to prove that the organic life is the goal at which the
passions end, and the centre from which they start." In his
opinion the brain is the seat of cognition, and " is never affected by
the passions, whose sole seat is in the viscera" (namely, at one
time the liver, at another the lungs, the heart, the spleen, or the
stomach).^ Charles Bell and Gall appear to have been the first in
the present century to give the brain as the seat of feeling as well
as of the understanding and the other phenomena of consciousness.
Gall's notion that the different parts of the brain could be exhibited
as organs of different special feelings (self-love, reverence, hope,
benevolence, etc.) lacked all physiological probability. As has
been seen in an earlier chapter (II. 4), it has not yet been possible
to prove any localization of higher functions in the cerebrum, and
the advocates of the theory of localization (as H. Munk) expressly
declare that sensuous perception only, not intelligence (the syn-
thesizing ideational activity), is localized. Since the development
of feeling is so closely linked with cognition, there is just as little
reason to expect a special localization of it as of cognition. In the
different forms of feeling, as in the different forms of cognition, the
same cerebral cells may be conceived as acting in conjunction,
only in different degrees and under different forms of combina-
tion. y\nd as feeling seems to arise and to develop more slowly
than cognition, it must be supposed that it is physiologically

1 Rechtrches Physiologiques sur ta \'ie et la Mori, Paris, part viii. p. 71.


represented by greater extension of the nerve-process in the

An elementary feeHng may, however, arise, even when the higher
cerebral organs are wanting. A rat, which has lost its cerebrum,
its optic thalami, and corpus striatum, takes alarm when the cry ot
a cat is imitated, precisely as it does in an uninjured condition.
The elementary, instinctive feeling of fear {cf. A. 3, e), may also,
like elementary sensation, arise without function of the cerebrum.
This is perhaps also true of certain pathological manifestations of
feeling, which do not stand in connection with mental activity,^ as
also of the elementary feeling of pain.

But this much is at any rate correct in the older idea of the con-
nection of feeling with the vegetative organs, that these latter really
play an important part in every feeling, even if they are not its
physiological seat. Feeling makes greater demands on the nerve
centres than cognition, and the consequent tension finds a vent by
distributing itself over a larger or smaller number of the remaining
parts of the organism. ^Yhile the preponderance of the cognitive
elements announces itself by all possible energy being concen-
trated in the brain, so that the rest of the organism is kept as
quiet and passive as possible, the state determined by feeling has,
on the contrary, the tendency to distribute itself. From the brain
the effect is transmitted to the heart, which may on violent emotion
even quite cease to beat, so that death ensues. Violent and sudden
fright, anger, sorrow, or joy, may be in this way deadly. If the
effect of joy is identical with that of sorrow or of anger, it is
because in all these cases what really takes effect is the surprise,
the overwhelming astonishment, which is closely related in its
symptoms to dread. If the excitement is less violent, the heart
begins after a short pause to beat more quickly than before, and
so despatches a more powerful stream of blood to the brain, which
in this way feels the reaction of its own movement. In warm-
blooded animals this reaction of the heart on the brain is stronger
than in cold-blooded, and in higher animals stronger than in lower.
In man the reaction is noticeable for a second or two. Not only
the heart, but other internal organs also, are affected in consequence
of the violent movement of the brain. The violent beating of the
heart in trouble and fright is explained by some as due to the sudden
contraction of the arteries, which thus cause greater obstruction to

■* (.'f. Vulpiaii, J'hyshlogie Jit Systfiiie .Veneu.r. Paris. iS66, p. 549 ; where sucl»
elementary feelings are ascribed to l\\e/i>»i V'uroliHj>rotiibirance annulairt).


the flow of blood, so that the heart must work harder. The sudden
turning pale in fright shows, at any rate, that such contraction does
take place. In other cases the vascular muscles are expanded, so
that a richer stream of blood is despatched (blushing). The emotion
may also affect the lachrymal glands (sorrow), the bowels (fear),
the liver (anger), the respiratory organs (terror), etc. Emotion may
effect further the augmentation or diminution of the excitability of
the motor-centres (tetanus, paralysis, St. Vitus's dance), but, con-
versely, may sometimes lead to recovery.^ Even on the voluntary
muscles emotion acts immediately. The feeling of pleasure is
accompanied by tension and firmness of the muscular system, an
upright bearing, a frank and free glance ; the feeling of pain by a
loose and sunken bearing, bent head and downcast eyes. The
one opens the mind to the external world, the other shuts it up
within itself. The instinctive character of emotion and its close
relation to the expressions of the will are here clearly exhibited
{cf. IV. 7, d).

The discharge may thus proceed in different directions. It
occurs the more readily in a given direction, the nearer the motor-
centres of the organ or part of the body concerned lie to the
centres which play a part in the rise of the feeling, and the more
frequently that organ is called into activity. — In the first of these
respects, the discovery of the vasomotor centres in the cerebrum
proper throws a light on the close connection between emotion and
contraction or relaxation of the vascular muscles. It is further
connected with this, that the muscles of the eye and face can
express emotion even when the rest of the body expresses calm.
Very violent emotion may affect the whole body. — In the organs
mentioned, the second point is also of importance. The centres
of vegetative life situated in the medulla oblongata are in un-
interrupted activity so long as life endures. They possess in
consequence the highest degree of excitability, and are affected by
the slightest changes either in the brain or in the other organs. In
a similar way is to be explained the fact that emotion chiefly affects
organs which are in a diseased or highly strained condition.'-'

1 Claude Bernard, "Etude sur la Physiologie du Cceur" (Revue des Deux Mondes,
1865; reprinted in La Science Kxperimentale); Wundt, Physiol. Psychol., i\., p. 330
(3rd ed., ii., p. 506); Rankc, Physiologie des Alenschen, 3rd ed., p. 339; C. Lange,
Hygmarvens -J'atoh^ie (" Pathology of the Spinal Cord "), pp. 255, 391, seq. ;■ Darwin,
Expression of Emotions, passim. „, ■ ,

" Domrich, Die psychischen ZnsUinde, Jena, 1849, pp. 212-217 ; Spencer, Physiology
of Laughter {Essays, vol. i.) ; Landois, Physiol, des Menschen, 2nd ed., p. 773;
Freusberg, Vber die Erregung und Hemmnng der Thlitigkeit der noviisen Zentral-
organe {f'Jliiger s Archiv, 1875), p. 185.


The movement of feeling strengthens itself, since it takes a
circiilar^course from the brain to the peripheral organs and back
again to the brain. It has sometimes been desired, especially from a
spiritualistic standpoint, that the feeling proper should be sharply
distinguished from the reaction from the internal organs. This latter
" moment" comes, indeed, as a special case, under the head of the
general vital feeling, and, as already observed (A. 3, a), the condition
of the vegetative organs may excite a feeling similar in character
to that excited by external experiences and mental influences.
But, although the two stages in the development of a feeling are
separated by a small interval of time, there is no reason, in a
psychological connection, for drawing a sharp line between them.
They fuse at once, and only the two in conjunction form the
feeling in its full character. In a medicinal, didactic, and moral
connection, it may on the other hand be useful to keep the two
stages apart. In different individuals they appear in different
strength. In some the effect upon the internal organs is rela-
tively weak, even with violent emotion ; in others inordinately

If the feeling can be very strong and deep, even violent, while
the effect upon the internal organs is very weak — and this is
especially the case with the higher (intellectual, itsthetic, ethical,
and religious) feelings — it is not possible to regard feeling as consist-
ing merely of the sensations which arise in consequence of the effect
upon the internal organs. This conception, which would lead back
in a measure to Bichat's theory, and which forms the extreme
opposite to the spiritualistic conception of feeling, was recently
expounded in an interesting paper by William James {Miftd, April,
1884), and carried to the extreme proposition that we do not cry
because we are sad, but are sad because we cry.^ If, however,
feeling is thiis conceived as a sort of sensation, the special character
of the feeling elements {cf. IV. 2, and \'I. A. 2) as opposed to the
other elements of consciousness fails to assert itself.

2. Difficulties even greater than the physiological localization of
feeling are presented by the question as to which property of the
organic process it is to which the feeling corresponds. Since the
nature of the nerve-process is not known, only a general hypothesis

1 Ina very interesting and clever work Om Sindsberiigtlser ("On Emotions of the
Mind"), Copenhagen, 1885, the I).-inish nerve p.-ithologist, C. I.ange, has laid down a
theory similar to that of James. 'I'he writer attempts to trare back the whole (>hysiolog>'
of feeling to the excitations of the v.-isomotor centre, conceiving all other orgaiiii- retlexes
as dependent on the VRsomotor.


can be reached. There is, however, an interest in raising the
question, since it throws a light on the importance of feehng in the
economy of Hfe.

Aristotle conceived the feeling of pleasure as linked with every
natural and normal activity of life, and this conception is still the
most general and most probable.^ In feeling we have the inner-
most state of the conscious individual as determined by the
influences received from without and by the activity exercised by the
individual himself It is but a step to perceive in the contrast
between pleasure and pain— the original contrast in the world of
feeling— an expression of the contrast between progression and
retrogression of the vital process. As a general rule it may be
laid down that pleasure indicates increased activity of life, higher
and freer employment of energy. The feeling of pleasure is thus
attendant on the normal functioning of the several organs, of the
brain and the nervous system, as well as of the muscles and the
vegetative organs. If, on the contrary, greater demands are made
than an organ can satisfy, or if, on the other hand, an organ has not
sufficient scope for its energy, then pain is felt. Since all function
is connected with the setting free of tension, of the accumulated
organic capital, one and the same degree of activity will be asso-
ciated at different times with pleasure and with pain, according
to the energy which stands at our disposal.

A slightly different view has been recently propounded by
Fechner. Since pleasure and pain are not only quantitatively, but
also qualitatively, different from one another, they must, according
to Fechner, correspond to processes which are different, not only in
degree, but also in form. He therefore supposes pleasure to depend
on the agreement, pain on the want of agreement (incommensur-
ability) of the vibrations of the nerves, with which, in his opinion,
conscious life is linked.- As has been said, it is impossible to
decide this either v/ay. Fechner's theory leads practically to the
same results as that founded by Aristotle, for it must be pre-
supposed that the agreement named indicates organic progres-
sion, want of agreement retrogression. If discord wholly prevails,
life will be dissolved, just as it will be when overpowered by stimuli,
when its powers are overstrained or shut off from all activity.
Pleasure thus appears in any case as the expression of heightened

1 In Leon Dumont, Theorie Scientifique de la Semibilite, Paris, 1875, pp. 26-63, a
general view of the different theories is to be found.

■- VorschiiU der /Esthetik (" Preliminary Studies in j^Lsthetics"), i-. PP- 12, 79 ; 11.,
p. 266.


life, pain as the expression of retrogression and as the forerunner
of death.

It is, of course, not meant that there is in pleasure and pain an
actual reflection or comparison of how far we are advancing or
retrogressing. .Such reflection is impossible, at any rate, in the
Nimpiest forms of feeling. Originally pleasure and pain announce
themselves ; and only afterwards, under the presupposition of
sufficient intellectual development, is it possible to speculate as to ,
their import.

3. The theory referred to is borne out by the fact that excitations
which cause dissatisfaction and pain are, as a rule, also injurious.
Of pain from blows and wounds, where the organism is directly
mutilated, this is self-evident. Similarly as regards fatigue and over-
powering sensuous stimuli. Bitter substances have a tendency
to decompose the organic tissue ; the satisfaction in a sweet taste
finds an explanation in the fact that sugar is contained in most
of the vegetable constituents of human nutriment.^

It might, on theother hand, appear to be a serious argument against
theAristotelian thcory,that pleasure does sometimes accompany what
is injurious, pain what is useful. But this argument only leads to
a more precise statement of the theory. In the feeling of pleasure
or pain, only the partial and momentary effect of the excitation or
of the activity finds expression. A palatable poison eftects momen-
tary advance in one part of our organic nature. Later, when it is
diffused in the organism, it unhappily exhibits other properties
which threaten life. But this does not make the feeling of pleasure
in the taste a deception ; a thermometer does not show the degree
of warmth of some hours hence, but only of the present moment.-

This considerably narrows the general rule that pleasure is a
token of progression, pain of retrogression. Front Aristippus
we are referred to Epicurus ; life is no longer to be judged
according to the pleasure or pain of the moment, but according to
the duration and final \ictory of pleasure. It must, however, be
required of the theory that it shall be able to explain why the
pleasure or pain of the moment is no sure criterion. It is not a
sufficient answer to say, with Lot/.c, that purposiveness (teleology)
in nature does not necessarily, but only in individual favourable
cases, extend to absolutely unaccustomed events, or to pathologicallv
altered circumstances. The question is : What is, then, the reason

I Orant .'Mien, I'liysiologkal .■Ksthetics, London, 1S77, p. 69, sti/.
- Cf. Lotze, Mtiiizinis(he 1'syi.hotogie, p. 237, stq.


that purposiveness does not extend farther? It cannot be from
pure caprice. And this naturally leads to the question, why the
purposiveness is there at all.

This is one of the points on which the evolution hypothesis
throws a clear light, where formerly obscurity reigned.^ Feeling is
not understood, so long as it is kept completely isolated from the
will ; in the foregoing it was shown also that feeling, instinct, and
impulse could not be separated. The feeling of pleasure leads to
an endeavour to retain and appropriate that which excites the
pleasure ; pain leads to an endeavour to remove and to defend
ourselves against what has caused it. This rule applies to instinct
as well as to conscious will ; the difference is only in the nature
and the cause of the pleasure and of the pain. If, now, a being
were so organized as to feel pleasure in everything injurious to him
and pain in everything useful, he would not be able to live. Natural
selection already therefore brings about a certain harmony of feeling
with the conditions of life. Obviously, however, this harmony is not
perfect. To absolutely strange or very rare circumstances the organ-
ism cannot adapt itself Pleasure in what is injurious is thus the
sign of an imperfect development, which may perhaps be gradually
remedied. Such imperfections arise in the nature of things when
the relations of life are suddenly changed, especially when there is a
transition to very complex and many-sided relations. Thus it may be
said of men, that even yet their life of feeling is not adapted to the
problems and demands of social life. Civilization is only some
thousands of years old, even where it has existed longest, and it
was preceded perhaps by myriads of years in which animal and
barbaric impulses prevailed. It is, then, little wonder that pleasure
and pain will not serve straight away as safe guides, and even that
a general rule the exact contrary to that quoted has been formulated,
and pleasure regarded as a danger and a misfortune, and pain as
useful. Even the single individual often experiences that pain has
a " secretly educating power " ; in education pain is regarded as a
good, in so far as it affords a timely warning and restraint. In the
evolution of the race, similarly, pain serves as a warning voice,
though only the ascetic line of thought attributes to it a virtue in
itself. As feeling is brought, through the struggle for existence,
into a certain harmony with the conditions of life, so the struggle
for existence also teaches us not to trust the feeling of the moment,
l)ut to seek a higher standard.

1 Cf. Spenter, I' r'nuipUs of Psychology, part ii., chap. 9.


The general rule that ])leasure indicates the progression, pain
the retrogression, of life, is as applicable to the higher ideal feelings
as to the lower. In sympathy and in the ethico-rcligious feelings, the

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 30 of 41)