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himself into a protozoön.

Further, would not attention as introspective alertness to discover such
a fact of consciousness as pure pleasure-pain denote that consciousness
is thereby raised far above the level at which such a phenomenon can
occur? In general also constant introspective attention tends to defeat
itself. A continual intentness and watching for a given psychic
phenomenon is a state which, the more intense and persistent it is,
tends to bar out the particular state watched for, and, indeed, all
other states than itself. If attention as act engrosses, it defeats

If, however, undifferentiated pleasure-pain should at any time occur in
human consciousness, might we become immediately and spontaneously aware
of it? By its very nature it may escape conscious attentive
investigation, but may there not be a direct and simple awareness or
apperception of it? We might suppose that one man tells another, “I was
very sick, and in state of coma I had pain, merely pain, not any kind of
pain or pain anywhere, but just pain, that was all the consciousness I
had.” Such an expression is intelligible, and may be a fact. However, it
is in the phenomena of lapse and rise of consciousness that we see
evidences that undifferentiated feeling probably occurs, and that
sometimes in high psychisms. In the following chapter we discuss then
this point as a matter of judgment of tendencies, rather than on basis
of direct evidence of introspection, though this is not barred out.


Science views the world as an assemblage of objects having mutual
relations. In this cosmos of interacting elements certain objects become
endowed with mental powers by which they accomplish self-conservation.
Just what these objects are and how they attain mental quality is beyond
our direct investigation. However, assuming consciousness as a purely
biological function, as a mode for securing favourable reactions, we can
discuss the probable course of its evolution under the law of
self-conservation. Mind, like all other vital function, must originate
in some very simple and elementary form as demanded at some critical
moment for the preservation of the organism. It is tolerably obvious
that this could not be any objective consciousness, any cognitive act,
like pure sensation, for this has no immediate value for life. It was
not as awareness of object or in any discriminating activity that mind
originated, for mere apprehension would not serve the being more than
the property of reflection the mirror. The demand of the organism is for
that which will accomplish immediate movement to the place of safety.
The stone pressed upon by a heavy weight does not react at once to
secure itself, but is crushed out of its identity; but the organism
reacts at once through pain. It is certainly more consonant with the
general law of evolution that mind start thus in pure subjective act
rather than in mere objective acts, like bits of presentation or a
manifold of sense. We shall now endeavour to elucidate this conception
of pure pain as primitive mind, first from the general point of view of
the law of self-conservation, and secondly from particular inductive

It is very difficult to conceive what this bare undifferentiated pain as
original conscious act was, it being so foreign to our own mental acts.
Our psychoses have a certain connection one with the other, and a
connection which is cognized as such, so that the whole of mental life
is pervaded by an ego-sense. But primitive consciousness must have been
by intermittent and isolated flashes. The primitive pain, moreover, was
not a pain in any particular kind, but wholly undifferentiated or bare
pain. There was no sense of the painful, but only pure pain. Nor was
there any consciousness of the pain, any knowledge or apperception of
it. The pain stands alone and entirely by itself, and constituting by
itself a genus.

Now to assert that this general pain exists, is not, of course, realism.
The pain is a particular act, though it is wholly without particular
quality. It is not a pain as one of a kind distinct from other kinds,
but it is comparable to a formless, unorganized mass of protoplasm which
has in it potency of future development. Pain may exist as such, but not
a consciousness or a feeling. It is meaningless to say that the first
psychosis may have been a consciousness in general form which was
neither a feeling, a will, or a cognition, but the undifferentiated
basis of these, nor can a feeling _per se_ exist. The expressions,
painful consciousness, and painful feeling are deceptive; there is no
consciousness which pains, but consciousness is the pain, and the
feeling is not pleasurable or painful, but is the pleasure or pain.
“Feeling,” as I have said (_Mind_, vol. xiii., p. 244), “has no
independent being apart from the attributes which in common usage are
attached to it, nor is there any general act of consciousness with which
these properties are to be connected.”

Further, the law of conservation requires us to associate with this
primitive act of blind, formless pain the will act of struggle and
effort which is as simple and undifferentiated as the feeling. And these
two we must mark as the original elements of all mental life.
Strenuousness through and by pain is primal and is simplest force which
can conduce to self-preservation. It is thus that active beings with a
value in and for themselves are constituted. The earliest conscious
response to outward things is purely central and has no cognitive value.
The first consciousness was a flash of pain, of small intensity, yet
sufficient to awaken struggle and preserve life.

Pleasure, then, we have excluded from playing any _rôle_ in absolutely
primitive consciousness. Pleasure and pain could not both be primitive
functions, and of the two pain is fundamental in that the earliest
function of consciousness must be purely monitory. Pain alone fulfils
primitive demands, and secures struggle which ends in the abatement of
pain through change of environment or otherwise. Pain lessens, but
pleasure does not come, but unconsciousness instead, for no continuous
organic psychic life is yet evolved. As long as pain continues there is
effort and self-conserving action; when pain ceases, consciousness
ceases, because the need for it is gone. Each fit of pain subsides into
unconsciousness as struggle succeeds, and there is no room for even the
pleasure of relief, which, indeed, must be accounted a tolerably late
feeling. As far as the lowest organisms have a conscious life it is a
pain life, but they have a Nirvana in a real unconsciousness. The
evolution of pleasure must be accounted a distinct problem.

The law of evolution is, that origin of function and all progressive
modification arise at critical stages. Thus it is in painful
circumstances that the origin of mind is to be traced, and the important
steps in its development have been achieved in severest struggle and
acutest pain at critical periods. Pleasure is not then the original
stimulant of will, but is a secondary form. Pleasure has an obvious
utility which is far from the absolutely primitive. The pleasure-mode
early enters, however, to sharpen by contrast the pain-mode, and it is
only by their interaction that any high grade of psychic life could be
built up. The development of pleasure cannot be from pain, but as a
polar opposite to it. We cannot bring the development of mind into a
perfectly continuous evolution from a single germ, as is the case in
biological evolution. In a sense we may say that pleasure and pain are
complementary, like positive and negative electricity, but the
comparison cannot be pressed. We cannot, indeed, carry it so far as to
believe either absolutely essential to the other. We mention, then, the
evolution of pleasure as a problem which is yet to be dealt with in
full. However, that it is not original element in mind is easily seen
from this. As we ascend the grades of psychic life the pleasure-pain
gamut lengthens, and as we descend, it shortens, with pleasure always as
the intermediate factor. Thus, if we can represent it by a line,


any single element which can affect psychic life, as temperature, moves
through a highest pain intensity, an intermediate region, then to pain
again as effects in a range from a very high temperature to very low, or
_vice versâ_. Now, this gamut in a human being, from the intensest agony
from heat to the greatest suffering from cold, consists of very many
notes, but the step to unconsciousness is always at one end of the
scale. In lower psychic life it shortens, but always at the intermediate
points where pain merges into pleasure and pleasure into pain, and thus
in the lowest form the original element of consciousness as feeling is
seen when only the two extremes remain, namely, primitive consciousness
as pain reaction. As the step from feeling—consciousness to
unconsciousness is through a pain, this certainly points to pain as the
original feeling, and the first element of consciousness. We must
suppose then that the first organism which attained consciousness felt
pain, that if this came from temperature, for example, that intense heat
and intense cold would both produce a pain one and the same in nature,
bare pain, not sensation of heat or cold. And this pain-consciousness
response came at first only at the application of these critical
temperatures, all other degrees not bringing any response. If
consciousness like other functions originated as an infinitesimal germ
at some crisis in life, it must have been with pain. The pleasure
function, unlike the pain, does not originate in life and death crises.

That pleasure is secondary is also suggested by this, that pleasure is
mainly connected with such late formations as the special senses,
whereas pain is prominent with earlier functions. Thus we have pleasures
of taste, but visceral pleasure is scarcely noticeable, though visceral
pain, as colic, may be very acute. Wild animals, which feed often under
fear of interruption or in extreme hunger, bolt their food without
tasting, and so miss taste pleasure, and this seems to be the type of
primitive feeding.

The origin of pleasure is then, I think, to be traced as an intermediary
feeling between pain as produced by excess, and pain from lack as
differentiated form. Pain as original and undifferentiated is the same
whether resulting from excess or lack, but it is only after it has
differentiated so far as to be in two modes that pleasure can enter as a
mediate form of feeling and become a directing force to advantageous
action. The primitive pleasure-pain gamut was this:


A general survey from the point of view of self-conservation leads us
then to regard the original psychic state as a pain-effort form. There
is first a purely undifferentiated sense of pain and closely consequent
a purely undifferentiated _nisus_. There is neither sense of objectivity
in general, nor in any special mode, nor is there feeling of pleasure.
And the study of what seem to be the earliest forms of mental life in
the child and in the lower animals points toward this conclusion.
Preyer, in his studies on the mind of the child, expresses his
conviction that the feelings “are the first of all psychical events to
appear with definiteness,” and that at first in no manifold forms. He
adds, “The first period of human life belongs to the least agreeable,
inasmuch as not only the number of enjoyments is small, but the capacity
for enjoyment is small likewise, and the unpleasant feelings predominate
until sleep interrupts them” (_Mind of the Child_, Part I., New York,
1888, p. 143, _cf._ p. 185). Since in the embryology of the mind as in
that of the body the individual repeats in condensed manner the
evolution of life, we judge that these observations point toward the
genesis of consciousness in a single feeling state, pure
undifferentiated pain. The earliest consciousness we can discover seems
to approach this type. The close observer of very young infants must
feel that the meagre psychic life they may have consists mainly of
intermittent pains interrupted by comparatively long periods of
unconsciousness in sleep. Of course, the earliest psychic life of the
infant is not absolutely primitive both on account of heredity and on
account of pre-natal experience; but in its general form it, no doubt,
reverts toward the original _status_ of mind. This original state, to
which that of a very young infant is akin, was merely pain, which knew
not itself nor its relation to other states, nor its relation to the
external world, but was a wholly central subjective fact, and so was
expressed only in wild and blind general movements. The very lowest
types of psychic life which we can interpret seems to feel and nothing
more. They do not feel _at_ anything, and do not feel because they know,
nor do they have definite kinds of feeling.

Pure feeling as bare pain and as undifferentiated pleasure is certainly
far removed from our ordinary conscious experience, yet it may sometimes
appear in a survival form, especially in sluggish states, in waking from
sleep, and in recovering from anæsthetics. We are sometimes awakened by
a dull pain which was evidently in its inception mere bare pain without
differentiation. But in all such cases the pure pain or pure pleasure is
but momentary, and is quickly swallowed up in a flood of manifold
sensations. Many objects by many modes of sense at once invade and
possess consciousness, and the early indefinite mode vanishes so quickly
that we very rarely have time to note it by reflective consciousness.

But it is not merely in exceptional states of developed consciousness
that we may trace the elementary form of feeling, but we may believe it
to be fundamental to consciousness in general. It is natural for us who
are so pervaded and dominated by sense of objectivity to see in it the
causal element in mentality; feeling and will seem consequent to it, and
we apprehend and feel accordingly. But the order of evolution was not
from knowledge in any form to feeling, but the reverse, and we may
suspect that in the completest analysis consciousness will still be
found to obey its original law. If the rise of knowledge was at the
instance of feeling, it is certainly unlikely that a fundamental order
should be more than apparently reversed.

The order of consciousness is really the reverse of the order conceived
by the objectifying consciousness, and this is a point where cognition
by its very nature as objective may be said to obscure itself. To
apprehend is to bring into relation, and the relation is very easily
attributed to what is purely unrelated, to pure subjectivity. Thus here
in the interpretation of merely subjective facts knowledge tends to
stand in its own way. It is only objectively that the objectifying can
appear causative of feeling; subjectively sense of object must always be
taken as subsequent to a pleasure-pain psychosis. The object
communicates or causes the feeling, but the subjective order is as such
of necessity the opposite; the object does not come in view; there is no
relating, until feeling has incited to it, and gradually the mind
reaches out to an objective order from the purely central fact. In every
psychical reaction there must be the purely central disturbance before
the rebound to the actuality occasioning the disturbance. I must feel
before I can discriminate or have any sense of the communication of the
feeling. This means that when external objects are brought into relation
with a wholly unanticipating consciousness, the first element in
psychosis is always pure pleasure or pure pain. Thus, on a cold, dark
day a sudden rush of sunlight on a blindfold man causes pleasure, then
feeling warm, and then sense of warming object. The glow of pleasure and
the pang of pain merely as such is in all cases precedent to any
objective reference. Pure centrality of response, I thus take to be the
initial element of all psychosis, primitive or developed. The first
tendency in every consciousness is pure pain-pleasure, complete
subjectivity which, however, in higher consciousness is so quickly lost
through practically consentaneous differentiation that all traces of it
seem wholly extinguished. Pure subjectivity must be pronounced the most
evanescent of all characters in developed minds and yet the most
constant. It is the inevitable precedent in every sensation and in every
perception. We always experience pleasure or pain before the pleasurable
or painful. A bright colour gives pleasure before we see it, and this
pleasure incites to the seeing it. But so fully has the objective order
been wrought into consciousness as a mode of interpretation that the
great majority on reading the preceding sentence will mentally at first
attribute sense of objectivity from the expression “bright colour gives
pleasure,” as if there were pleasure at colour, a colour-pleasure,
whereas is meant pleasure and nothing more,—bare, undifferentiated

The objective statement, however true, is no measure of subjective fact,
but this twisting of subjective fact to correspond with objective order
is so embedded in language and common thought that it will perhaps
always remain the form of ordinary thinking, like common-sense realism
and geocentric appearance. The expressions, it pleased me, it pained me,
and the common modes of speech in general, are fundamentally misleading.
Pleasure and pain bring their objects, not objects pleasures and pains.
Pleasure _per se_ does not come for and in consciousness from the
object,—though this is objective order—but the object for and in
consciousness comes from the pleasure. Pleasure and pain always precede
any cognizance of the thing, and it is only the combination of the two
elements that constitutes pleasure or pain of or at a thing. The
primitive element, the original feeling movement, also excludes subject
as real object; both the “it” and “me” are not yet apparent; there is
not yet identification of experience with subject or object, and in fact
no sense of experience at all. The psychologist must retain common
expressions, however, but, like the astronomer who retains such phrases
as the sun rises, the sun sets, he must reverse common interpretation
and correct natural error.

Guided by this principle we note an obvious error in the interpretation
of child consciousness. If a bright-coloured object is passed before the
eyes of a young infant we may conclude from its expression that a
pleasure-consciousness is awakened, but we are probably quite at fault
if we conceive it to have a consciousness of bright, and that this
consciousness preceded and gave rise to pleasure and gave it a _quale_
as pleasure-brightness. Sense of pleasure-object is manifested by
appropriative activities, but in the very young, where these activities
are lacking, the response to object is best regarded not as in any wise
sense of object, nor even any kind of sensation, but as a pure
subjectivity of pleasure. Of course the same remarks apply to the pain
side of the child’s experience.

The purely subjective experience, while it becomes more and more
evanescent factor as mind develops, yet always maintains its place as
the initial point and vanishing-point of every psychosis. Every
psychosis beyond the most primitive must be accounted a
feeling-will-knowing group. These psychic forces exist in a correlated
union generally comparable with the correlated activity of physical
forces like electricity and heat. Each psychosis repeats in itself, in
tendency form at least, the essential stages in the evolution of
consciousness. Every psychosis rises from the pure pleasure-pain as the
lowest level of mentality like a wave, and like a wave falls back into
it again. Every wave of consciousness, whether it rises slowly or
rapidly, whether it subsides gradually or violently, rises from pure
subjectivity and comes back to it again. This absolutely simple feeling
phase is accomplished so rapidly in ordinary human consciousness as to
be rarely perceptible, but in lower consciousness it often exists as
mood, as more or less permanent psychosis. The Brahmans attain
artificially a subjectivity akin to this through their expertness in
mental control and manipulation. They succeed in reducing and keeping
consciousness in some very simple type, and their Nirvana may be
considered as a state of pure subjectivity on the pleasure side. They,
of course, cannot really attain this state or, at least, keep it, for
pleasure is at bottom relative, yet they come to something approaching
it. Pain at its height just before unconsciousness is reached, is always
of the pure subjective type. In slow torture pain increases to a maximum
intensity in pure pain, beyond which there is a gradual loss of
intensity and consciousness in general, till ultimate failure of all
consciousness. From the maximum intensity on to the end, consciousness
is entirely subjective. Pleasure at its maximum attains only comparative
subjectivity. Such facts tend toward a theory of mind which makes its
original and fundamental act purely central; mind starts as in a germ
which pushes outward till it penetrates space and time, but not in any
reverse motion a pushing inward of a series of presentation forms.

We shall now notice certain of Mr. James Ward’s statements on primordial
mind—in the article Psychology, _Encyclopædia Britannica_—in which he
controverts feeling as original and simplest unit in mentality. Mr. Ward
regards “_the simplest form of psychical life_” as involving
“_qualitatively distinguishable presentations which are the occasions of
the feeling_.” Presentation is primitive and initial in all
consciousness, and cognition—feeling—will is the order for all mind. We
always act as we are pleased or pained with the “changes in our
sensations, thoughts, or circumstances” of which we are aware. Some
presentation form is, throughout all our experience, the precursor and
cause of feeling, and feeling can never be said to exist in a pure state
as bare pleasure and pain totally without cognitive value.

On the contrary, I conclude from general considerations and from special
indications in our own minds that pure pain is the original element, and
that pure pleasure and pain are fundamental in all mind. Pure feeling
arises from objects, indeed, but is still wholly unknowing of object and
without qualitative aspect. Pure feeling is the constant incentive to
all knowing and will activity. To say that I am pleased with a thing is
to transform objective order into subjective fact. Pleasures and pains
certainly come from things but this does not invariably rouse cognition
of them as so coming, or of object as causative agent. The governing and
essential fact of mind is always pure feeling, which, by reason of its
perfect centrality, necessarily and naturally tends to elude
observation. Every act of consciousness begins and ends with pure
feeling, but mind, as far as it minds itself, is most apt to see only
culminating phases rather than the obscure and inner forces which
constituted long outgrown stages. The prominent facts of late
consciousness are always very complex. Cognition as revealer unites with
the known and inevitably, but strongly tends to regard itself as the
determining and causative agent, whereas by its essence and function it
is secondary. Cognition does not create its object, except in the view
of a transcendental philosophy.

Mr. Ward asserts that phenomena of pleasure and pain involve change in
consciousness with consciousness of change whereby we are pleased or
pained. A changing presentation _continuum_ is impressed upon mind, and
it is by awareness of these changes that feelings are caused. This is
certainly a complex mode to be assigned to all consciousness. This
asserts that primarily consciousness merely happens in presentation form
as determined from without, but I take it that the evolution of faculty
is always acquirement, not mind determined, but mind determining,

Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 2 of 32)