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individual feels himself a part of a greater whole, a member of an
organism whose pulsations he experiences within himself. He no
longer separates his interest from that of the larger organism.
What promotes the life of the latter promotes also the life of the

/f. — T/ie ValiJity of Ihe Laiv of Rclaii-.'ity for the Feeli)i(^s.

I. If the distinction which we make between cognition and feel-
ing is just, there must be certain laws which apply only to the one
species of mental elements and not to the other. It has, indeed,
been shown that this is so, for in the province of the feelings
nothing is found corresponding to the laws of association of ideas.
A feeling may enter into association with one or with several ideas ;
but there is scarcely a direct association between feelings. On the
other hand, both cognition and feeling are elements in every state of
consciousness ; it is therefore to be expected that there are laws
which arc common to both sjiecies of elements, because they are
ilerived from the general nature of consciousness. This too we find
confirmed, the law of relativity proving itself, Oy its validity also in
the province of feeling, to be a fundamental psychological law. It
makes its apj^earance here even more plainly than in the province
()f cognition.

The law of relativity, which was declared a universal psycho-
logical principle by Hobbes (see II. 5), was even earlier propounded
with respect to the feelings of pleasure and pain by Cardanus.- .Some-
what later .Spinoiia developed the same application in a clear way.
As he expresses it, pleasure is felt in progress of perfection or of
energy, pain in its retrogression ; but perfection in itself doesnot excite
pleasure ; for, if man were born perfect, he would feel no pleasure in
it. Similarly with imperfection ; only one who is acquainted with
perfection is troubled by it. This, as will be seen, is Fechner's law
applied to feeling.^ As his precursors in this connection, Fechner

1 Cf. Die Gnindlage der hitmanen Ethik ("The I^asis of Huin.-i;ie F.tliics ,")
p. 19. seq.

- Duinoiit, Theorie Scientijlfjue lie la Sensil<ilitf,\<. i-j, seq.

^ Some of ilio examples given in V. . /. 3, might he equally well employed to illustrate
the law of lelaiisiiy in the province of fcclinij. 1 liis i- not surprising, as there is a very
close connection between sensation and feeling.

T 2


himself names Bernouilli and Laplace. These mathematicians
taught that the value of a thing could not be determined purely ob-
jectively, but varied according to the relation of the thing to the
interest of each several individual. The fortune pJiysiqiie must be
distinguished from \\\q. fortune vioralc. In physical fortune, the con-
ditions of life of the individual on whom it is bestowed are left
out of sight. A sum of ^50 denotes a physical fortune equally
great for all. But for the possessor of ;/^5o,ooo, the mental good
fortune (that really felt) in this increase is very small as compared with
what it is for one who possesses nothing, or who perhaps has debts
which are driving him to despair. Psychologically, we have to do
only with this " moral fortune " ; for fortune to be purely " physical "
can mean only that it will excite no real feeling of pleasure.

2. Just as we distinguish between a colour and its different shades,
which arc partially determined by the relation to other colours, so
pleasure and pain present themselves to us as fixed forms, although
they are what they are only through contrast to one anovher. In
his disposition each individual has a practical regulator, a level
above which his feelings rise only in single instants, and below
which it is the exception for them to sink. This disposition or
fundamental frame of mind, in which we found earlier the basis of
the real unity of consciousness (V. B. 5), is due partly to inherited
tendencies, partly to experiences and circumstances. It is not
necessary that it should be absolutely unchangeable throughout
the whole life ; great transformations in it are possible, but if
the continuity is not preserved, if the transition to another disposi-
tion is quite sudden and groundless, the individual feels a stranger
to himself, having lost his accustomed regulator.

The feeling, then, is only given in its full strength, when it is
contrasted with another feeling. That we do not always notice the
part which contrast plays in the feelings — a part far greater than in
sensations and ideas, because the life of feeling is stamped through-
out by the contrast between pleasure and pain — is without doubt
to be explained by the fact that we turn as a rule with all our
attention to the new feeling, which acquires its strength by con-
trast with the fading feeling. The vanquished is forgotten in the
victor. Precisely because a preceding pain lends greater vitality
to present joy, is it easily passed by without a thought ; ' this is also

\ St. John, xvi., 21 : '"A woman wlien she is in travail hatli sorrow, because her liour is
come : but as soon as slie is delivered of the cliilil, she reiaeiiiljtreth no more tlic auguiah,
fof joy that a man is born into the world."


the case wlicn not actual pain, but only a smaller degree of satisfac-
tion, forms the background of the new emotion.

Just as complementary colours not only enhance one another,
but also pass easily one into the other, so one feeling often pre-
pares the way for the contrary feeling. The transition from a strong
feeling into its opposite is effected more easily than the transition
from indifference into a strong feeling. In the first case the source,
so to speak, is already opened, and it is merely a question of turn-
ing the current into another direction ; in the latter case the vital
force has first to be set going.— Often a feeling can be cultivated
only indirectly ; thus piety and obedience to authority usually
precede the true ethical feeling in its integrity and indepen-
dence. Even the strong contrasts of feeling (pleasure— pain,
love— hate, hope— fear, veneration— contempt) prepare the way for
one another. Weariness of the one side of the contrast creates the
desire to experience the other, especially at a stage of development
where the suggestions of the moment are immediately obeyed, or
in a state of strong nervous exaltation (t/ the German saying,
" Himmelhoch jaiichzetid -ziim Tode bciriibt;' or " Who laughs
before breakfast will cry before night.") Similarly in the course of
a mental illness, there is often a point at which extreme feelings of
unhappiness, delusion and suspicion are suddenly converted into
excessive joy at imaginary power and glory.^ That "extremes
meet" is nowhere better exemplified than in the life of feeling,
where the sharpest and most important contrasts are indigenous.
There are natures which cannot attain to peace of mind until their
passion has been expended. To many the voice of conscience
becomes audible only in contrast to a strong stirring of wild
impulses ; the temptation, strange as it sounds, must therefore be
very great in order to be overcome. Often conscience awakes only
after a crime has been committed, and then leads instantaneously
to self-accusation. -

The physiological basis of this property of feeling is to be found
in the vital conditions of the nervous system. The energy of the
nerve-organs is limited ; if exhausted by a continuing influence, the
organs demand either rest or a different kind of stimulation. Con-
sequently pains are intermittent ; even though their cause persists,
there comes a point where the capacity for suffering is for the time

1 K.xamplf^ given by Ideler, Diosfaphittn Geisteskranker (" Biographies of Mental
Patients"), Uerlin, 1841. . .

- Bischoff, Merk-.vurdige KriminalrechtsfdlU (" Remarkable Casca of Criminal
Law") vol. I, Hanover, 1S35, p. 43, scq.


exhausted, and then a pericxl of rest begins, during which force is
gathered for renewed suffering.^ Even mental suffering and joy
are manifested thus rhythmically ; to violent outbursts succeed
quieter moods, which again give way to momentary passion.
Herbert Spencer has drawn attention to the fact, that expressions
of emotion by dancing, poetry and music, bear a rhythmical

The feelings of pleasure and pain connected with the most in-
termittent organic functions are the most violent. The feelings
linked with the preservation of the individual and of the race
may be in the highest degree violent, because the deep-seated
organic conditions on which they depend are subject to a natural
rhythm. The functions of the special senses (in particular of sight
and of hearing) are carried on more continuously, and are con-
sequently subject to no such great contrasts [cf. A. 3^). — It must,
howe\cr, be remembered that a feeling can be very strong without
being violent (IV. 7a).

As finite beings we have only a limited capacity for pleasure as
well as for pain. The profound idea of the ancients as to the envy
of the gods has thus a real basis. Happiness leads through its
own excess to unhappiness, when it consumes the elasticity of our
nature. But against this idea must, by force of the same law of
contrast, be set that of the compassion of the gods, since pain also
exhausts itself.

This changing play, which enhances the pleasurable feelings,
but also threatens their existence, and seems, indeed, capable of
dividing mental life into contending forces, has often being regarded
as an imperfection, and the human mind has framed in contrast
to it the image of an ideal state, in which the perfect feeling of
blissfulness is broken by no contrasts or changes. Even Spinoza,
who, so long as he speaks as a psychologist, shows so full and
correct a comprehension of the law of relativity, describes at the
conclusion of his Ethics a state of perfection, where all contrast,
all change, and all transition are to be done away. But no one has
ever been able to give a definite positive content to this ideal state.
Such a thought and its influence are psychologically intelligible
only through the contrast to the suffering of this present life. So
that the fact that it should ever have arisen, is itself a corroboration
of the law of relativity.

1 Ch. Richet, Recherches Experimentales et Cliniques sur la Sensibih'te, Paris, 1877,
pp. 303-307.

i! MiKit PrincipUs, part ii., chap. 10. The Rhythm of Motion, § 36.

VI] THE rsvrH()i,or;v of feeling 279

3. It has already been observed (VI. yl. 2 and B, 2 d) that feeling
is slower in its ori.c^in than cognition. Only with very strong and
sudden stimuli is this temporal difference annulled. But the state
which these induce, is characterized by an analyzable merging of
cognitive and feeling elements. Simple shocks similar to the
elementary sensations, out of which according to an hypothesis
already mentioned (V. A. 2) all special sensations arise, may be
attributed with as much justice to feeling as to cognition. Some-
thing similar holds good, at a higher stage, of all wonder 2S\A. sur-
prise, of every impression of the new and extraordinary. From its
strong contrast to the preceding state or to the remaining
conscious content, our own new state of mind plays at least as
great a part as the content of the new percept or idea. This,
in a psychological connection, is the distinguishing feature of all
mental excitement. By means of the fresh current of feeling, the
new cognition is presented with extraordinary clearness, and in
an especially attractive light. Therefore the ancients taught that
wonder is the beginning of all wisdom. But it is the beginning
only. For from this introductory phenomenon many roads may be
entered upon. Either the feeling element so gains the upper hand
that restlessness and enthusiasm make clear appropriation and
deep penetration impossible, or it acts as an inspiriting force and
leads to comprehensive and persevering work in the service of
the new idea.

In some cases wonder turns to fear, disappointment and con-
tempt, or to joy, love and veneration, according to the nature of that
which has excited wonder. It therefore appears as an introduction
to very different psychological processes, and it was so far with a
correct notion at bottom, that Descartes and Malebranche, in their
exposition of the feelings, permitted wonder to head the series as
presupposition for every one of them. It is, however, more natural
to form, with Bain, a special class of feelings, comprising wonder
and other "emotions of relativity," in which the "moment" of
relativity and of contrast, which takes effect in all our conscious
states, absolutely determines, not only the strength and quality of
the feeling, but also its nature and content. Of this class are the
feelings of novelty or repetition, change or uniformity, liberty as
opposed to restraint, health as opposed to illness (the feeling of
convalescence), power as opposed to impotence.

4. It is a necessary consequence of the law of relativity, that
frequent repetition weakens the freshness and strength of the


feeling. The background against which it stood out originally so
vividly and forcibly, becomes of necessity ever less distinct ; the
light and shade come to be distributed, so that the contrast
gradually fails. This process is only one form of the general
process of accommodation, which is proper to all life. Under all
circumstances, a living creature endeavours to come into harmony
with its surroundings. The effect of this upon feeling is, that
enthusiasm is often succeeded b> indifferenceor carelessness, and is
ultimately remembered as inexplicable. Accommodation, which
provides for the execution of functions with a smaller expenditure
of energy, has a subduing effect. While this is an economy and
consequently a gain, when it turns on practical action, it is a loss
when feeling is in question. The element of wonder present in
every living feeling, seems to be absolutely lost on repetition. —
That there must be repetition is involved in the fact that the
experiences of a finite being are always limited ; the changes must
necessarily form a circle. As previously shown, without repetition
of experiences, conscious life would never develop beyond the
stage of sensation {cf. V. B.\. ^. \\ ; D. 3). But not all sides of
conscious life seem to be promoted by it.

S. Kierkegaard has taken this physical law as the point from
which to draw the line between aesthetic and ethical conduct of life.
All excitement and all enthusiasm are aesthetic in character ; our
attitude is that of enjoyment, when laid hold of by a strong
influence. The self lets itself be carried away by the involuntary
flood of feeling. But in the course of daily work, under the deaden-
ing and subduing influence of repetition, it must be shown whether
the feeling possesses any strength beyond that momentary flare up.
Consequently for Kierkegaard the possibility of repetition is the
fundamental ethical problem.^

While Kierkegaard treats the problem in a way which betrays a
genius for psychological insight, it is striking to see with what zeal
he turns his back on psychology. The problem cannot in his
opinion be solved by means of psychology. " Repetition " he says
(p. 92), " is something transcendental," by which he must mean that

1 " He who wishes only to hope, is a coward ; only to remember, is voluptuous ; but he
who desires repetition, is a man. . . . When existence has been explored to its depths, it
will be seen whether there is courage to understand, and inclination to rejoice in, the fact
that life is a repetition." — Gjciitagehen. Jit Forsiii; i den Ex/>eriiitentcreu(ie I'sykologi,
("Repetition. A Study in Experimental Psychology"), by Constantin Constantius.
Copenhagen, 1843, p. 5. — The problem of repetition is re-introduced from another side by
S. Kierkegaard, in his polemic, namely, against established Christianity as "a present,
which has forgotten its origin." See Indiivehe i Kristcndom (" Practice of Christen-
dom "), and the newspaper article Ojeblikkct (" The Moment ").


only an inexplicable act of volition can overcome the difficulty. He
has overlooked the fact that there is a psychological law of nature,
on which the ethical requisition can be based— even as ethics in
f^eneral, if it is neither to beat the air nor to make constant appeal
to the supernatural, must build upon what is psychologically possible.

It is only, indeed, in so far as feeling is a purely passive state that
it can be deadened by repetition and custom. Active movements
and dexterities, on the other hand, are perfected by repetition ;
custom in these becomes practice. And to the active side of our
nature belong, not only the power of moving the muscles, but also
perception and thought, attention and will. Feeling is deadened
by repetition precisely because the movement practised can
gradually be executed unconsciously.^ So far, therefore, a decisive
contrast between the conditions for feeling and for ideation would
be maintained. Previous inquiries {B and C) have, however, taught
us how the development of cognition is to the advantage of feeling.
The purely elementary feelings, i.e. those produced by simple,
definite sense-stimuli, cannot gain by repetition (any more than
the simplest, immediate sensations). The ideal feelings, on the
other hand, i.e. those linked with and determined by a larger or
smaller set of ideas, may not only retain their full strength
(though not perhaps their violence), but even gain in force by re-
petition. The same sum of energy that is freed in the moment of
excitement, may be freed later, only, so to speak, divided into
several currents, no longer in a state of concentration. Feeling
gains by repetition therefore in breadth and depth what it loses in
freshness. During accommodation, the object of feeling discloses its
nature, is seen from difterent points of view, while from the other
side the various elements in the nature of the individual are brought
into interaction with the object. Thus within the main relation
there may be a variety of changing relations. Hence the feeling
spreads over an ever larger part of life, and may be fed by many
more sources than at first. This is the case, e.g., in the relation of
people who live together. The inner growth of feeling is often
apparent only when the relation is put to the test ; it may then
sustain a reconversion from the distributed to the concentrated form,
in which it will appear that the capital laid out has borne interest.

The question comes to be, how rich and comprehensive is the con-

• The difference in the effect of repetition on the intellect and will, on the one hand>
.Tud on feeling, on the other, was insisted on by Hume (Treatise, ii., 3, j), and Bichat
( La Vie et la ^fort, pp. 47-56). — Among later writers, Krios (Xciie Kritik Jer I 'emunft
( " New Critique of Reason "), p. 36) treats this question very skilfully.


tent with which feeling is linked. The narrower the self, z>. everything
which commands our interest, the more speedily are the possibilities
of new and fresh feeling exhausted. In this the sympathetic feel-
ings show their superiority over the egoistic. Comprehensive
sympathy, interest directed to great and important objects, retain
freshness in spite of the deadening influence of repetition and of
rhythm. A feeling of this kind is a resuscitation of the natural
sanguineness (V. B. 4), which begins by attributing worth and
reality to each idea as it emerges, but which easily passes, under
the influence partly of repetitions, partly of disappointments, into
indifference or discouragement.

A pretty example may be taken from Goethe's Briefe aus der
Schiveia (" Letters from Switzerland"), to make clear the effect of
repetition on feeling. — He is speaking of the sublime? impressions
on a journey in the Swiss mountains. — "A youth who journeyed
with us from Basle observed he had not the same feeling as on the
first occasion, and thought the first impressions the best. I was dis-
posed, however, to say : when we have such a sight for the first time,
the unaccustomed soul expands, and there is a painful happiness, an
excess of delight, which stirs the soul and draws out blissful tears.
Through this process the soul becomes greater without knowing it,
and is no longer capable of that first sensation. Man thinks he
has lost, but he has gained ; what he loses in pleasure, he gains in
inner growth."

Infallibly, much is lost that cannot be reproduced. The budding
feeling is like the first breath of an infant, in which the lungs
expand so as never again to be empty ; no later breath can, then,
be like the first. To this extent repetition is impossible. Pes-
simism is, however, quite unwarranted in treating this as pure loss ;
looked at from another side, it is a great gain. It depends upon the
view of life taken by each individual from which side he will choose
to view the matter.

5. This opposition between the effect of repetition and of accom-
modation on the passive and on the active sides of feeling, leads us
to recall the opposition which the older psychology (especially
since Kant's admirable exposition in the Anthropologic, § 71J
postulated between emotion {Affekt) and passion {Leidenschafl).
By emotion is understood a sudden boiling up of feeling, which for
a time overwhelms the mind and prevents the free and natural
combination of the cognitive elements. Passion (sentiment, dis-
position), on the other hand, is the movement of feeling become


second nnturc, deeply rooted by custom. In passion the impulsive
clement of feeling is especially prominent, and it stands con-
sequently intermediate between fcelinj^ and will. What the
emotion, with powerful expansive movement, is in one single
instant, the passion is in the depths of the mind as a collected
sum of force, which lies ready for employment. But quiet reflec-
tion is not therefore excluded from passion ; on the contrary,
tlie latter finds its expression in a thought which controls all the
ideas. " Emotion," says Kant, " takes effect as a flood which
bursts its dam ; passion as a stream which wears for itself an ever
deepening channel . . . emotion is like a fit of intoxication, which
is slept off; passion as a madness, brooding over one idea, which
sinks in ever deeper." Often what in emotion was the means,
becomes in passion the end. This is connected with the fact that the
passion is often only a mechanical repetition or continuation of that
which, in the moment of emotion, took possession of the mind with
sudden and concentrated power.

Feeling begins as emotion, and passes — if it finds sufficient food
— into passion. Anger and sorrow are emotions, revengefulness
and melancholy are passions. The deepest and most central
current in human nature is the ruling passion, first determined and
set going by the inherited disposition, and nourished, developed,
and refined by all stir of feeling 'and by experiences. — Repeti-
tion has a difterent effect upon emotion and upon passion ; it
weakens the one and feeds the other. This is connected with the
fact that passion is of a more active nature, and more closely
linked with definite and distinct ideas than is emotion.

As emotion may prepare the way for passion, so may the latter
take vent as emotion, although it may also gratify itself in a quiet
and duly considered way. — IJy the way in which it finds satisfac-
tion, passion may excite emotions of a different class. Thus
the love of country will in a time of danger arouse the warlike
spirit and love of battle. Or in the execution of a murder from
cold-blooded self-interest, ferocious instincts may be excited and
kad the murderer to ill-treat his victim in a way that is useless for
his purpose.*

1 Cf. Anselm von Feucrbacli, Aktenvutssigf Darstelliotg Merkwiirdit^er Verbrechen
("Ofliciai Account of Remarkable Crimes"), Giesscn, i8j8, i., p. 93: " It is, therefore,
not to be rei^arded as a mere lying evasion and poor subterfuge, when murderers tell in
their confession that they were mastered by a fury or frenzy, w liich deprived them of the
power of thinking, and carried them away with ungovernable power, so that they did nut
kriow at the time what they intended, and were afterwards unconscious of what they had

done Not everything that occurs in the commission of a crime, can be explained

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 31 of 41)