Hiram M. (Hiram Miner) Stanley.

Studies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling online

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point is greatly accentuated by refluent waves of organic sensation set
up from the physical basis of the psychic disturbance.

How, we may now ask, did despair ever evolve and become a well-defined
psychic form? in what way in the course of natural selection could such
an apparently disadvantageous variation have arisen and been developed?
The serviceability of fear is plain to every one, but of what possible
value could despair be in the struggle of life? The one who gives up in
despair is but very rarely doing the best thing. If we cannot look to
the general principle of evolution, serviceability, how can we account
for the appearance and growth of such a phase as despair, except as
abnormal variation, a disease, profitable to the enemies of the
individual, and so developed by and for external organisms. As there is
an abnormal pathological variation of fear, which we have previously
noticed, and which is forced in its development by enemies who profit by
it, so despair is a psychic disease, entirely hurtful to the individual,
and, so far, only advantageous for its enemies. Despair is, without
doubt, one of those altruistic variations which serve, not the
individual, but some antagonist in the struggle of existence. To bring
one to despair is to make him entirely helpless and wholly at our mercy
for our own ends. The possibility that active-reflective natures may
prey upon themselves is thus stimulated into an actual phenomenon whose
growth is continually fostered by those whose advantage it is to reduce
the individual to a helpless condition. Despair is hardly an hypertrophy
or atrophy of any normal tendency, it is rather a pathological _genus_
by itself. The capacity for despair being inherent in the general
formation of mind as subject to collapse, it arose solely in response to
the needs of organisms warring upon the organism afflicted. The whole
field of physical and psychical altruistic variation under the general
law of natural selection, decadent and self-injurious characteristics
being stimulated and maintained in a kind of artificial selection, is an
interesting but unexplored field, attention so far having been turned to
the individually advantageous as determining element in evolution.

Despair is a disease of advanced and mature psychic life. Children are,
in general, incapable of despair. It implies a well-developed sense of
self and a general experience of the world. High and strong emotional
natures, but rather weak-willed and narrow of intelligence, are
predisposed to it. Occasions which would lead to despair will with lower
natures be unnoticed or lead merely to stolidity; while with the highest
natures, there comes heroic endeavour and wide searching for means and


In studying any state of consciousness we first inquire what constitutes
its dominant factor; if this is sense of object, we call it a cognition;
if effortful action, it is a volition; if the marked feature is
pleasure-pain, we term it a feeling. Finding that the consciousness is a
feeling, we would next inquire whether the pleasure-pain is mainly
determined in its colouring by direct presentation, and so is a
sensation, or whether this dominant colouring comes indirectly through
representation, and is thus what we term an emotion. For example, the
distinction between “I feel a pain in my shoulder,” and “I feel pained
at your conduct” illustrates the most radical division of feeling. If
emotion is founded on an appreciation of the experienceable, which has
developed under natural selection, we must look upon the emotional power
in general and upon the various emotions in particular as merely
advantageous psychoses which are as clearly determined by general
evolutionary laws as the merely physical organs like heart, lungs,
wings, horns, etc. It is clearly desirable that the organism should look
before, should anticipate experience and so direct its way; but bare
anticipation has no value in itself unless it powerfully stimulates will
through emotion. All conscious life above the most primitive is
eminently and increasingly anticipatory, and so becomes more and more
infused with emotional powers. Among the earliest developed of these in
the struggle for existence are fear and anger. The fear group, embracing
large numbers of allied forms, simple and complex, has been discussed in
a general way in the preceding pages, and we now come to some
consideration of the correlative anger group.

The _rationale_ of the evolution of anger is not far to seek. We have
seen that fear is the spring of defensive action, and it is obvious that
anger is the stimulant to offensive action. Fear is regressive, anger
aggressive. Fear is contractile, anger expansive. Fear is the emotion of
the pursued, of the prey; anger the emotion of the pursuer, of the
predacious. Emotion in the service of life evidently has two great
psychic ramifications from this point, and the whole world of
emotion-beings, which compose the greater mass of organisms, is hence
divided in two great divisions, a fear class and an anger class.
Likewise in relation to opposing natural forces as to neighbouring
competing and destroying organisms, the same distinction is to be made
according as the animal either combats or flees. Shyness or fierceness,
timidity or irascibility, these are characters which divide the animate
world into two grand antagonistic groups. Zoology has recognised this
psychic differentiation as a marked and essential feature in its
nomenclature, thus _lepus timidus_. In fact, the most important part of
evolution is the psychical; in this, indeed, lies the whole significance
and value of the organism. The attainment of more and more advantageous
psychic qualities is the main trend of evolution, for psychic power as
distinct from main force, like that of the elements, is far and away of
the most value in the struggle for existence, and ultimately, as in man,
it achieves the subduing all lower powers, natural, vegetable and brute,
to its own ends. It is psychical quality, moreover, which determines
physical, and not _vice versâ_. Thus it is not the possession of claws,
fangs, etc., that makes an animal fierce, but it is fierceness which
develops and maintains these weapons of offence. Thus it is, though thus
far practically overlooked by scientists, that psychic development,
especially on the emotional side, is of the utmost importance as the
prime factor and motive in organic processes. The central core of life
is emotional capacity, and this in its evolution determines the whole
external morphological trend of evolution of organisms which is so
closely followed by the science of to-day. But the science of the future
is comparative psychology, which, when once placed on a secure basis of
interpretation, will determine the real and inner law of evolution as a
psychic movement incarnating itself in a succession of animate forms.
But a sure method of knowing a psychic fact as such when it occurs, and
what, how, and why it is, is yet to be discovered and applied, and
extra-human and even extra-ego consciousness is a field, so far, for
little else than hypothesis. If this remark be turned against us, we say
that our work is mainly a deductive interpretation of the course of
psychic evolution from the general standpoint of natural selection,
reinforced and illustrated by introspective investigation, and merely
using the most obvious facts of comparative psychology in a very general
and provisional way. We do not profess to show where, how, and when mind
originated, or what particular powers any certain organisms possess, but
we do endeavour to show how the principle of utility may be made a key
to the study of a very perplexing region of mental life—the emotions. We
proffer then merely a very general sketch of the history of emotion as a
life factor, hoping that it may, at least in its general scope, be of
service to future explorers. In taking up this subject of anger we do
then thus reiterate the position we occupy and the method we follow.

Anger like fear certainly originated at some critical point in some
individuals life as an advantageous variation of essential value. A
vital issue at some early point in the history of life determined the
genesis of this new psychic mode and function as a stimulant of
aggressive will action. Very likely it was in competition of organisms
for food that some favoured individual first attained the power of
getting mad and violently attacking its fellows, and so obtaining
sustenance. However this may be, certain it is that a direct attack is
often more self-conservative than attempts at escape when injury
threatens; it is a greater advantage to destroy pain-giver than to shun
it. Fear enables organisms to avoid loss, but it does not accomplish
positive gain, as anger does through overcoming hindrance. Anger is
often also more economical for the forces of the organism, and thus, in
general, predacious animals are longer-lived than even those of their
prey who may attain a full length of life. Even in the face of great
odds a direct attack is often more serviceable than attempt at escape.
Anger is certainly the primitive motive force of all offensive action,
though of course we cannot say that the animal got mad because it saw
the serviceability. Psychic evolution, at least as far as new powers are
concerned, never comes by teleologic foresight, and, indeed, cannot by
the nature of the case. The animal did not definitely set out to get
angry because it foresaw the value, yet in the earliest angers there
must have been effort, a certain _nisus_ which marked the new form as a
real attainment, a marked achievement. That the provoking occasion gives
rise now to anger inevitably and naturally, that anger comes upon us and
overcomes us is true enough, but in its earliest phases anger must have
been, like other just evolving factors, supported only by powerful will
effort. The oftener the early psychism got mad, the easier it got mad.
Facility came only by practice, and a large variety of occasions,
besides the simple critical and original one, were gradually utilized by
the anger faculty. But in its original form and occasion anger was, no
doubt, akin to that we see when an extremely timid animal at the last
extremity will turn in anger and fiercely fight for its life. Such an
attempt, sometimes successful, marks an origin of a new mode of
conscious emotion which may never return to the individual again during
all its future life for lack of occasion. If often returning and often
improved, a definite new habit of emotion is established, and from being
a fearful animal it may at length become dominantly irascible, and so
belong to a totally distinct psychic genus.

By the evolution of anger then, as in contradistinction to fear, two
grand divisions of animate existence were set apart, two great psychical
orders as fundamentally distinct and important for evolutionary
psychics, as invertebrate and vertebrate for biology. The rise of the
back-boned animal is not more important for physiological morphology
than the evolution of anger for psychical morphology, and, indeed, as we
have before remarked, the psychical growth is ever the broadest and
deepest fact in evolution. By the acquirement and predominance of the
anger stimulus certain animals became differentiated as a distinct class
from their fearful neighbours, and they then by this new impulse
gradually attained instruments of offence, and also by increase of size
became physically distinct forms. Henceforth the animate world becomes
divided in a more and more marked way into pursuers and pursued. By
mutual interaction fear is increased on one side as anger increases on
the other, and the division into timid and fierce, predacious and prey,
becomes more and more established and marked.

We take it then that it was a most momentous day in the progress of mind
when anger was first achieved, and some individual actually got mad. If
the exact date and the particular individual were ascertainable a
memorial day set apart for all time would not be too great an honour. In
the struggle of existence, other things being equal, the most irascible
is the most successful, faring the best, securing the best mate, and
having the best and most numerous progeny. Susceptibility to anger
becomes a necessity to a large class of organisms, and those who will
not get angry and fight for their interests are surely trampled on or
pushed aside to become starveling or outcast.

Is now this primitive anger an absolutely new power, a _de novo_
evolution, or is it possible to study its rise as a gradual
differentiation from some other factor? Must we not view psychical
evolution like all evolution as coming under the law of continuity? How
then explain the sudden rise of apparently new and distinct forms like
anger or fear? Anger as a response to the demands of life seems from the
very first to be as distinctly and peculiarly anger as at any time in
its development. The peculiar quality which makes anger anger, does not
seem to appear as a gradual differentiation from other elements as
slowly emerging from previous modes, but we can only judge that it
bursts suddenly upon the field as a new and unique creation, which does
not find its explanation in pre-existent forms and cannot be traced as a
gradual evolution from them. On the other hand, while it does not at
first sight seem possible to regard anger as being from the first other
than a radically new power and activity determined, indeed, by the
struggle for existence, but wholly unexplained in its essence and
formation as a consciousness related to and differentiated from other
consciousnesses, yet we must acknowledge our profound ignorance of the
real morphology of mind and what is the real nature of mental
differentiation. Here the problem is altogether more difficult than in
biology, where the appearance of new forms like wings can be readily
traced as slow modifications of previous members, the physical
possibility and _rationale_ of which is easily seen to be inherent in
the physical constitution of the body and its circumambient matter, the
air. However, in the present state of our psychical knowledge it is
quite impossible to attain any similarly clear conception as to the
formation of new psychical forms. We may see why they should be called
into being by the necessities of animate life, we can perceive their
functional importance from the first, but to trace their morphological
development as gradually assuming their peculiar qualities as
modifications of already existing activities, and as inherently possible
in the psychical constitution of things, this is clearly beyond us at
present. We can conceive that the earliest anger was weak and rather
ineffective as compared with the fully developed anger of later life,
but we cannot see that it was any the less anger, any the less purely
and wholly _sui generis_ than the very latest and strongest form. Has it
ever in its earlier stages that hybrid and mixed character which marks
it as a modification of existent factors? It is certainly not a modified
fear, to which it is, indeed, a polar opposite.

But we may perhaps regard anger, and fear as well, as modified from
previous general emotion. We may, indeed, consider it likely that some
general emotional phase preceded the special emotions, just as a general
indefinite pain and pleasure preceded definite pains and pleasures. It
may be considered as probable that emotion first appeared as a purely
undifferentiated disturbance sequent on sense of the experienceable
pain, this general emotion being neither fear nor anger, but the basis
from which both develop. The psychic agitation we term emotional very
likely began in a purely general form, yet it is hard to understand how
peculiar forms develop therefrom. We are too far from such inchoate
experience to readily come to any appreciation of its method or mode. We
may be disturbed as to something imminent and know not whether to fear
or be angry, but this in general means only a rapid alternation of fear
and anger according as the mind runs back and forth between fear and
anger-provoking elements. It is unlikely that we can trace in any such a
purely undifferentiated emotion.

At the best we but throw the difficulty farther back, for emotion _per
se_ is then the _de novo_ form to which the principle of continuity does
not seem to apply. If anger is a traceable modification of some more
general emotion as combined with definite representation and volition
modes, yet how the peculiar anger quality is achieved is still
unexplained. On the whole it seems simplest and truest to assume the
first impulse of anger as a perfectly new and diverse wave of emotion
suddenly generated in answer to some extreme urgency in the struggle of

The analogy of organic and psychic evolution may be pressed to a certain
extent. It is plainly possible to set in order an evolutionary series of
light—sensing organs, eyes—from most elementary to most complex, and it
is quite as possible, though yet to be done, to set forth in similar
genetic order a series of psychic states as offence-sense, _i.e._,
angers, in their increasing differentiation. But previous to any eye, to
local visualization, there is a period of common sensation when an
absolutely simple organism is in every part equally responsive to light;
in a crude way the whole organism reacts to light, from which stage by
traceable specialization the eye as a light-sensing organ is gradually
developed. Here analogy would seem to fail, unless we consider it to be
the stage when any psychosis, _e.g._, anger, requires the whole
consciousness capacity, mind being merely a capacity for the recurrent
but isolated single-activities. Mind certainly but slowly grows into
that sum of organic coincident interdependent yet distinct
consciousnesses which we commonly think of under the term, mind. Anger
in its very earliest and lowest form is no doubt an absorbing naïve
isolated wave, as common to mind as a whole, that is, as making up the
whole of mind for the time being, is perhaps in its measure an analogy
to common sensation. Anger may then be but a common emotion, answering
in a certain aspect to light-sense, sound-sense, etc., as purely common
sensations. But we must remark that general sensation is not to be
confounded with common sensation, or general emotion with common
emotion. Common sensations are, indeed, usually very general in form,
and a sensation _per se_, a purely general sensation, is probably very
rarely anything else, yet when we close the eyes and direct them toward
the sun, the general sensation of light we receive—very like the
original primitive common sensation—is general, yet by a special organ.
The word common refers, not to the special nature of the function
itself, but the fact that the function, whether special or general, is
performed indifferently, or practically so, by the common whole. A
sensation of coloured light is more special than a mere sensation of
light, and this than mere general sensation of force, but all may be
accomplished either by common sensation or special sensation. General
emotion may similarly be either common or in organic co-activity. There
was certainly a time when consciousness existed which was not and could
not be anger or fear or even an emotion _per se_. Pre-emotional and
pre-representative consciousness was so absolutely primitive, general,
and common, that psychology as a necessarily automorphic science will be
very long in coming to any understanding of this field, but yet we must
set it off as something which must always receive some consideration.
Anger is not a property of all consciousness by the nature of
consciousness itself, but is merely a possible mode dependent on
circumstances for its development at a certain psychic stage.

What now is the inner nature and what the constituent elements of the
anger state? Comparatively few reflect upon their emotions save from an
ethical standpoint, and very few indeed attempt any analysis of them. To
determine the process and exact psychical constituents of getting mad
and being mad, may seem to many a quite useless and foolish
introspective endeavour. If a person is angry, he is angry, and that is
all there is of it, will be the general verdict of common sense. You can
dissect flowers into their parts, you can analyse rocks and soils, but
any emotion such as anger is wholly unanalyzable. No one can know what
it is to be mad until he has once been mad, and, thereafter, he can only
reflect upon it as a peculiar excitement, a powerful agitation, whose
occasions and results may be fully traced, but which in itself is _sui
generis_ and irresolvable. The form of consciousness we know as being
angry, is really a simple wave of emotion which stands by itself as an
elementary and ultimate form.

Suppose we acknowledge these remarks as true, we may yet maintain that
anger, like all emotions, is a highly complex state of manifold factors
whose sum total, whose grand resultant, is a seemingly simple and
peculiar _status_. Why should one arrangement of atoms produce a
peculiar perfume, another a peculiar stench? Anger may likewise be
merely an unexplainable _ensemble_ of early ascertainable elements.

Certain it is, in the first place, that sense of object is necessary to
anger. One cannot be mad without being mad _at_ something. The attitude
of mind is objective, and even rage in its blindest moment preserves
this attitude. Blind with rage, means no more than that various definite
qualities of the object are lost in the intense emotional reaction at
pain-giver. At its height, anger preserves, indeed, only the barest
apprehension of object; but this is intense and overpowering in
connection with the sense of it as infringing and injuring. In the
transports of rage and fury, the movements are wild and reckless enough,
but always antagonistic, implying outward destructive activity. Anger is
the fixation of the mind upon some object in its quality of personal
hurtfulness, and is revulsion, not _from_ it, as fear, but _against_ it.
With early psychisms, all perceptions of objects end in either anger or
fear, and a large part of early education consists in learning what
objects to be fearful of, and what to be angry at. The alertness of wild
animals is determined mainly by either nascent fear or anger. When a dog
is suddenly wakened from sleep he generally shows either fear or anger.
This is merely an illustration of how the dimmest sense of object
immediately connects itself with emotion as primitive and fundamental
tendency. The organism perceives the object, and representing its
imminent hurtfulness, feels fear and dashes away from it, or feels anger
and dashes against it. These are the two simplest possible reactions
with sense of the experienceable injurious. In fear there is elimination
of oneself from the injury, and in anger the elimination of the injury
from oneself. With later anger and fear these processes of elimination
themselves become matters of representation, and make a large part in
highly-developed forms.

A knowledge which very generally enters into anger is the comparative
estimate of power. A cat scratches us, we are angry; a lion threatens
us, we are afraid. The progress of the lower psychic life is largely in
learning what is best to fear and what should excite anger. That which
at first angers will often, when better understood, produce fear, and
_vice versâ_. Wild animals at first often show merely anger when
molested by man, but soon manifest fear as they learn to appreciate his
superior power. The African elephant learns to distinguish between the
savage with his spear, and the white hunter with his rifle, and is
merely irritated or angry with the one, while he manifests genuine fear
of the other. The young of animals and of man continually show
irrelevant fear and anger. They are generally either over fearful or
over irritable. Our own feelings are powerfully modified by varying
estimates of opposing force and injury. If, in passing through a dark
street, I am tripped by what I take to be a child’s snare, I am angered,
but upon noticing that it is a fuse to a dynamite bomb, I am thrown into
intense fear. In general, any sensation, as of sound or light, in its
lower grades of intensity produces anger, in higher occasions fear. As a
rule when reactions induced by either fear or anger are uniformly

Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 11 of 32)