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much more careful for himself and others. To be sure we sorrow deeply
because we place a high estimate upon the life rather than place high
estimate because we sorrow greatly; but if there were no sorrow
reaction, there would be no emotion basis for the future caution and
care, and it affects our general estimate of life. Thus there is ever a
cumulative emotional development.

Perhaps the latest developed form of sorrow is the feeling of sadness
which comes over one in reflecting upon pain as a universal fact of
existence. The pessimistic mood, with its converse, the optimistic, as
based on philosophic generalization, is certainly extremely late. Pain
at pain in general, pleasure at pleasure as a purely general fact, are
equally remote from primitive modes, and mark culminating phases. While,
perhaps, there is a certain justification and value in being saddened by
the spectacle of universal pain, yet a gravity rather than a despondency
is its proper measure. Pain, punitive and premonitory, plays, as we have
already noted more than once in our discussions, a most beneficent and
essential part in the struggle for existence and in all the higher
struggle. It is a necessary and salutary phenomenon, involved in the
very nature of evolution by struggle; hence he who impugns pain and is
offended at it, really impugns the psychic nature of things and desires
with Schopenhauer the annihilation of will. As a matter of fact the
extreme pessimistic spirit is more destructive to progress than even the
most buoyant optimism, in that it nips all earnest and forceful activity
in the bud. A foolishly happy-go-lucky activity is better than a
paralysis of effort through conviction of its inherent painfulness and
ultimate inutility. The scientific evidence, so far as we can now read
it, points decisively to the belief that pain-will activity, an intense
struggle, is the earliest mind, and the condition of its birth has been
the law of its development, and for aught that we can see, ever will be.
Into this we are born, and it is as foolish to run counter to it as to
the law of gravitation. A philosophy which runs counter to reality must
either build a new reality or subside; but it is most certainly to be
doubted whether the philosophic spirit ever has or ever will determine a
general innovation in psychic evolution. But we cannot do more than
merely advert to these large questions here.

With reference to the development of sorrow it is an obvious remark that
much which causes grief in the earlier stages of mental growth ceases to
have that effect with maturer experience. Thus the man may not notice,
or may laugh at, or may feel irritation at occasions which in his early
life would have wakened grief. On the contrary, much that seems grievous
to the old is not so regarded by the young. In general, grief tends to
become less frequent and paroxysmal, but more profound and lasting with
the growth of mind.

As to the kinds of retrospective emotion the largest division is, of
course, into the painful and pleasurable. We have touched only on some
of the painful, but each painful emotion has its analogous pleasurable
emotion. We have used the terms sorrow and grief as synonyms. If we
should make a distinction, it would be to put sadness or sorrow in
antithesis to happiness, and grief to joy; that is, sorrow proceeds from
outward circumstances, grief from subjective conditions. However,
popular usage is not firm on this point. Regret is a mild sorrow.
Remorse is the ethical side of sorrow. Resignation is a very late phase
of emotion related to sorrow. A person says, My child was crushed in the
accident, yet I do not grieve, but am quite resigned. Here certainly is
a new mode of feeling about past harm, and it is a mode as far above
sorrow proper as sorrow is above anger in the evolutionary scale. We do
not lament or weep over the past, but there is self-conscious,
self-constrained sinking of the will, and a composure which is not
apathy, but a gentle emotion wave. Nor is there a callousness; one is
not hardened, but softened, and made the more sensitive. The emotion of
resignation is thus cultivated and to be cultivated, and is yet in the
volition stage which marks the early form of all emotions. Even in the
highest human types resignation does not come, it must be brought; the
instinctive impulse upon contemplating past personal evil is toward
sorrow or anger and revenge, which must be checked, and resignation
directly willed and assumed as the proper emotion. Resignation, then, as
a growing point in psychic evolution, a distinct attainment as frame of
mind, is generally and rightly accounted a virtue. At present, then, it
seems the culmination of retrospective emotion with regard to past
personal injuries, and it exercises and will more and more exercise a
most important function in human psychic development.


The lowest organisms come in contact with things, have objective
relations of contact, but it is quite unlikely that the earliest psychic
life feels contacts, really touches things. From the objective commerce
with things pleasures and pains are realized, but object is unsensed and
unknown. The simplest marine forms are incessantly feeding at hazard at
the prompting of a subjective lack-pain. That the lowest life is born
into a nutritive medium and that at birth many later organisms are
incased or in direct connection with nutritive material, shows that at
the very beginning psychic life is not needed as discriminatory, but as
simple subjective pain and pleasure moving to undirected activities.
However, such perfect environment being rare and temporary, in its blind
and senseless activity the organism is often trying to assimilate the
unassimilable, or the harmful, and is often appropriating when there is
no substance present. It would obviously be of great advantage if it
could touch its food, have sensation as guide to activity. Thus
realization of a very limited world of things arises in touch achieved
during the feeding act. That which satisfies and gives pleasure is by
touch discriminated from that which does not give these results.
Discrimination of soft and hard is probably the earliest touch
impression. The soft thing is manipulated in the feeding act as edible.
But a great step is made when psychical effect of the edible is not only
comprehended through touch in direct connection with the assimilatory
act, but antecedently thereto. The animal establishes a connection
between the feeling the soft thing and pleasure experience in its
struggling activities. It touches more and more readily what it is
assimilating, and thence rejects more easily and promptly the injurious.
In appropriative effort with pleasure experience it feels the thing,
cognizes in most general way its physical quality. As sensitiveness
increases through struggle and natural selection the assimilatory
attempt will be more and more quickly met by the touch sensation, until
touch ultimately becomes precedent and actually directive to food.
Recognition, in a far more emphatic way than before, becomes added to
cognition; the thing is not merely known in its bare objectivity, but is
recognised, identified, and has a meaning. Touch must give, not only the
thing, but the thing as potent for some quality not now being
appreciated, though formerly appreciated _pari passu_ with the touching.
The interpretative act comes through the association gradually
established in past experiences, so that the edible is no longer
fortuitously hit upon, but touch precedes active effort at
appropriation, and suggests by itself edibility or non-edibility. Thus
is action greatly economized and made certain. Definite feelers,
extending from the body, and sometimes quite long, are evolved, and the
first period in the history of knowledge, the age of touch, is

It is here when touch involves representation and becomes a sign of
something, _e.g._, edible thing, that desire and other simple emotions
originate. A possibility of pleasurable experience being recognised, it
is necessary, if useful action would follow, that emotion springs up as
incentive, and this emotion we term desire. Hunger drives, but desire
draws, and as reinforcement and guide to the blind hunger impulse desire
has a large function. A mere indifferent recognition, the pleasurable
foreseen but not felt about, would be entirely unserviceable. If we do
not desire the pleasurable and beneficial, we do not act for it. And
originally, at least, perception of the good always stirred desire; and
desire was awakened in no other way; for in the course of natural
evolution, knowledge and emotions have alike to be interpreted in their
origin and meaning with reference to advantageous action, this alone
being the arena of natural selection. A meaningless knowledge and a
self-contained emotion or feeling, are entirely contrary to the trend of
evolution on the basis we have assumed. Moreover, through ages of
activity the tendency to desire the good and the good only becomes so
ingrained that I think it hardly fails, even in the highest and latest
minds. The most hyper-conscious man, once convinced that something will
give him pleasant experience, _so long_ and _so far_ as this feeling is
_dominant_ in mind will have incipient desire.

On this long disputed question of the relation of desire to the good or
pleasurable, evolutionary psychology, which views mind as serving life,
as interpreting things with reference to their serviceability and so
implied pleasurability, always bases desire in its origin and growth on
pleasure. But is this general point of view borne out by the facts of
mind? A typical example of common desire is this: At a fair I observe a
toboggan chute and say to my companion, “That must be sport, how would
you like to try it?” The appeal to “sport” awakens desire in my comrade
and he says, “Let’s try it.” We test its pleasurability, and, enjoying
it, desire to go again. It is evident that desire arises not on the mere
image of actualization as such, the idea of sliding, but on conception
of its pleasure quality. Whenever by our own experience or by the
testimony of others we are assured of a good thing to be experienced we
straightway desire it.

This, it may be said, is all very true for a certain class of desires,
but the principle does not apply in the higher desires like the desire
for knowledge. But knowledge originates only as serviceable, and
primarily only serviceable knowledges are desired. We desire knowledge
only so far as it is worth having, and it may be that I esteem all
knowledge as worth something and so desirable. However, some knowledges
are worth nothing and are never desired. Who wants to know the exact
measurements of the pebbles on the road, or how many hairs are on the
mane of his neighbour’s pony, or the names of all the inhabitants of
Pekin? But if one thinks it would be any satisfaction to know such
facts, he may desire to know them. The insatiable curiosity of children
which seeks to know all such irrelevant facts hardly comes under the
category of desire, but is rather instinctive hereditary impulse. It has
no clear idea of a thing to be known and a desire to know it, but is
only a spontaneous outburst of knowing activity which is inbred and
comes from ancestral integration. There is a sensing and perceiving
activity which is very intense at the questioning age, but which hardly
implies the desire to know. The incessant “What’s this?” “What’s that?”
is merely outcome of an instinctive impulsion to interpret environment;
it is not significant of full-formed desire, there is no idea of thing
to be known, of an actualization to be accomplished.

If a man desires knowledge, not for his own sake, but for its own sake,
desire as such really ceases, it merges into love and devotion, which
are disinterested and clearly distinct as mental modes from desire.
Desire is not a sentiment; and it does not properly include all impulse
to actualization. For instance, the feeling for actualization merely as
such, for achievement of ideal _per se_, is beyond the biologic stage of
consciousness wherein desire has its chief function. The attainment of
end merely for the sake of the end must be distinguished from
actualizing an image for the pleasure of actualization, which thus has
desire element. We know that the image of realization may act as end by
compulsion, as in feeling of duty, which is thus marked off from desire
as impulsion. Thus desire is but one mode of teleological emotion. But
desire is emotion at unrealized good and not at unrealization in

Spinoza’s _dictum_, followed by Volkmann, that we do not desire a thing
because we deem it good, but we deem it good because we desire it, is
not borne out by the commonest facts. A peddler shows me an apple, but I
do not desire it and then deem it good, but I examine it, and if it
seems good I may desire and buy it, but if bad, I have aversion, and
return it. My desire thus depends altogether upon whether or not I deem
the apple good, and not my deeming it good upon my desire. If I see any
one desiring anything I at once judge that he first thought it good or
he would not have desired it. All the excitation of desire is by
representation of the good. The merchant tempts you by exhibiting his
_goods_, the child with candy offers it to you crying, “good! good!” the
moralist proclaims, “do this and thou shalt live.” The cause of desire,
which for weal or woe plays such a large part in almost all psychism, is
always by imaging the good. The bait and the reward as excitants of
desire are most common; a mere suggestion of a representation without
implication of its goodliness in realization does not excite desire.
Thus some one, speaking of a totally unknown town, asks, “How would you
like to live in Perry?” and we answer, “Is it a pleasant town?” A mere
suggestion of change of abode starts desire only when there is already
displeasure with present residence, and so desire for release as a good;
but image of actualization considered solely by itself is desireless.
And if to excite desire we offer the good or pleasurable, to extinguish
desire we offer the bad and painful. I desire a fair looking apple, but
cutting it and finding it wormy and rotten, desire flees. I extinguish
the desire of a child for eating some noxious substance by assuring it
of the bad taste and nauseating effect. Both positively and negatively
then, common sense finds the basis, not of the good in desire, but of
desire in the good. The facts in both exciting and extinguishing desire
point to this conclusion.

Spinoza (_Ethics_ iii., Prop ix.) defines desire as “appetite with
consciousness thereof.” But to be aware of being hungry is but the first
step toward desire. In the midst of my daily occupations I become aware
of pain, then of uneasiness, then of hunger, whereupon I may desire
food, which desire includes as distinct elements: (1) idea of eating as
act or movement; (2) idea of the thing eaten as _food_, a something
satisfying; affording relief, and so a good; (3) thereupon the emotion
wave of longing, the essential point in desire. This is, of course,
followed by volition, I act to realize, I go to a restaurant. When
Höffding (_Psychology_, p. 323) says that the impulse in hunger “has
reference primarily to the food, not to the feeling of pleasure in its
consumption,” he forgets that “food” is a something satisfying, and only
thus is desired. Object is not desired as object, but for its value in

We must also touch upon a certain class of experiences which have been
adduced as showing a desire not based upon the idea of the pleasure.
Take the example of a man in _ennui_ who takes to playing tennis as a
relief, but with no desire of being victorious. Engaging in the game he
finds that “this desire which does not exist at first is stimulated to
considerable intensity by the competition itself; and in proportion as
it is thus stimulated both the mere contest becomes more pleasurable,
and the victory, which was originally indifferent, comes to afford a
keen enjoyment.” (Sidgwick, _Methods of Ethics_, p. 46.) But does the
desire really come from some idea of pleasure? The player volleys a ball
successfully against his opponent, and thereby receiving a thrill of
pleasure desire awakes to beat. “Wouldn’t I like to beat him? I would
enjoy nothing better.” This desire foresees the pleasure of triumph. If
he gets no pleasure from returning the ball successfully he does not
desire success; but if unanticipated pleasure comes up in beating his
opponent, as soon as he recognises this pleasure he desires to continue
and complete it. This pleasure in succeeding in competitive activity,
extremely old and integrated from all the struggle of existence, springs
up spontaneously. There may also be added pleasure from activity and
pleasure from skill which will make the game very interesting, _i.e._,
full of desire and other emotions.

Professor Sidgwick allows that pleasure may be the cause of desire, but
not its object. But surely if I cognize pleasure coming from an act, I
attach this pleasure to it in representation; if I take pleasure from
returning a tennis ball and then represent a coming opportunity to
return the ball I also represent its pleasurability. Pleasure or pain
connected with acts is connected by association with representation of
the acts, the pleasure-pain tone penetrates the representation, and only
thus does actualization of an image become object of desire. If it is
possible to conceive an activity indifferent—which may be doubted—we
should have no emotion about it. But we have already sufficiently
emphasized how the perceived experience quality of things determines
desire and all emotion.

Professor Sidgwick’s remark that the pleasurableness of the contest is
“in proportion” (_Ibid_., p. 46) to the desire, _i.e._, that the
pleasure results from the desire rather than desire from the pleasure,
also shows defective analysis. If I desire intensely to beat, and am on
the losing side, I am greatly pained, for desire is always in itself
painful. In any case desire is pleasurable only so far as it is being
satisfied, which, of course, means only so far as desire is being
extinguished. It is not the increasing desire intensity, but the
decreasing, that gives pleasure, _i.e._, desire is negatively related to
pleasure. Intense desire may act as excitement-pleasure, but this does
not bear on the nature of desire.

Another objection that has been brought up against pleasure as desire
basis is that “pleasures are diminished by repetition, whilst habits are
strengthened by it; if the intensity of desire therefore were
proportioned to the ‘pleasure value’ of its gratification, the desire
for renewed gratification should diminish as this pleasure grows less,
but if the present pain of restraint from action determines the
intensity of desire, this should increase as the action becomes
habitual.” (James Ward in _Encyclopædia Britannica_, vol. xx., p. 79.)

But pleasure and so also desire often increases with repetition. One who
tastes champagne for the first time may receive slight pleasure. The
next time he dines out he will, with image of his previous experience,
have slight desire for champagne. As experience is repeated his pleasure
and desire may increase to ecstasy and passion. But habits not obviously
pleasure-yielding, as the morning chore to the country lad, will be
desired after intermittance; the country boy homesick in the city longs
in the morning for the familiar scene and familiar task which was a
source of aversion at home. We painfully miss the customary, even the
painful customary, for thereby the conservative tendency of nature and
organic activity is broken up. Desire arises for relief from this pain,
and the habitual is so far regarded as pleasurable. Thus desire is in
proportion to the “restraint” only so far as the restraint is painful,
and thus relief appears pleasurable. Thus the desire for the habitual
has, like other desire, its basis in prospective pleasure.

That the analysis of desire as regards representation of pleasure is
still an open question certainly marks the psychology of feeling as very
backward; that here is a most common and prominent psychosis, whose
simplest analysis is not yet agreed upon, shows how far we yet are from
a standard of subjective verification. I have expressed my own opinion
that both the evolutionary standpoint and special analysis indicate a
distinct emotion at prospective good which is best denominated by the
term desire. This is a purely psychological result, and has absolutely
no reference to ethics. “Pleasure” has such an inevitable ethical tinge
that a purely scientific denotation would be useful. The “good” is a
better, but also objectionable term. That then the organism should
foresee and image the good and should have a feeling about it which
should stimulate will to its appropriation and realization is a
psychosis of utmost value, and one which is in all psychism above the
lowest an extremely common phenomenon. This does not assert that desire
in all its lower range is a seeking for pleasure, an extremely late
conception and endeavour; but it means that as perception is of things
in their experience values, so representation also, as giving the basis
of desire; but a conscious hedonism is still afar off.

The general function which desire subserves in stimulating advantageous
action is obvious. As anger and fear are primarily useful emotions in
view of potential pain and harm, so desire in view of potential pleasure
and benefit.

The function of desire in stimulating advantageous action is obvious.
Desire answers to potential pleasure and benefit just as anger does to
potential pain and harm. It is a correlative and supplement of fear, and
in general the more one fears a thing the more one desires the opposite.
When sailing I desire fair weather in proportion as I fear a squall.
Desire is the very spring of life and progress, and when desire is
extinguished the will to live ceases, and psychic life declines and
dies. Fulness of desire is fulness of life, and the largest mental life
is that in which desire, constant, multiplex, and far-reaching, is
strong and dominant. Desire seems thus to be a permanent factor, and,
though there is a pre-desire period, no post-desire age seems to be
indicated in psychic history so far.

Somewhat as to the analysis of desire has already been intimated in
touching upon its origin and function, but we are now to study its
elements more in detail. The very young infant certainly experiences
hunger pains in almost its initial consciousness; but it is only
gradually that the need felt leads up to presentation and representation
of the needed thing, and so to desire. Hunger with it, as with all
organisms, sharpens the wits, and leads to knowing things, interpreting
them, and acting definitely toward them. Through touch it first comes to
appreciate object, and object as food, a representative–inductive act.
The earliest meaning attached to object is edibility, and this, indeed,
indiscriminately to all objects, as we see that infants mouth
everything. Gradually from this, or by dint of a good deal of unpleasant
experience, objects are divided into edible and non-edible, the
primitive classification of things.

From the consideration of any such simple example as the desire for food
we determine that the first element toward and in desire is a lack-pain
generating felt want, and so—and such common use of words is
significant—we want, _i.e._, desire what we are in want of. A feeling of
need or lack is fundamental. Now sense of lack is more than pain from
restriction or intermission, for it implies a measure of in-ground
integrated experience with objects, a constant connecting of object with
purely subjective experience. For instance, hunger and feeling the need
of food, the craving for food, are not the same, for it is evident that
to feel lack of anything with such a central pain as hunger-pain means
that this something has often been conjoined with the pain experience.
Hunger is primarily an organic uneasiness and gnawing pain which does
not include any sense of object as of a food or reference thereto. Our
subjective and objective experience have been so completely integrated,
and feeling of lack and that for a very definite thing has become so

Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 16 of 32)