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revival then cannot in itself constitute æsthetic pleasure or explain
it. A savage race transferred to a civilized land for a few generations
and then returned to their native haunts have acute pleasures of
revival, but these are not of the æsthetic quality. An outcropping
survival tendency may serve as itself an object for emotion and æsthetic
emotion to the mind experiencing it, but thereby the survival is like
any other object, physical or psychical, which excites æsthetic
sensibility, and it no more explains the emotion for beauty than any
other object.

It is evident thus far that the psychological basis of stylistic effect
is very complex, and in this essay we certainly lay no claim to making
an exhaustive enumeration of its factors. However, we have still to
consider one more element, and perhaps, at least for cultivated minds,
the most important psychic element of literary art. Read now the
following extract, and analyze the impression it makes:—

“The natural thirst that ne’er is satisfied
Excepting with the water for whose grace
The woman of Samaria besought,
Put me in travail, and haste goaded me
Along the encumbered path behind my Leader,
And I was pitying that righteous vengeance;
And lo! in the same manner as Luke writeth
That Christ appeared to two upon the way
From the sepulchral cave already risen,
A shade appeared to us, and came behind us,
Down gazing on the prostrate multitude,
Nor were we 'ware of it, until it spake,
Saying, 'My brothers, may God give you peace.'”

Here, surely, is neither facility, nor beauty of expression, nor deft
and subtle art to please the mind, yet it attracts and interests. The
main secret of the effect of Dante’s style is as revelation of
personality. Art with Dante is the child of life, the product of long
and deep-felt experience; and because he is an original reality he
achieves in his writings that distinctiveness and distinction which is
the truest and highest mark of style. Again, it is not the lucidity of
Sam Weller’s remarks that pleases us, but rather their characteristic
flavour. We delight to come in contact with originals, and we relish the
characteristic for its own sake, even when ugly or when most unlike
ourselves in tendency, and so the modernest of the moderns enjoys Dante,
the typical mediævalist. Style is the man. This is the best definition
of style and the best explanation of its peculiar effect. Style is
expression of subjective quality. While scientist and philosopher aim to
be objective, to justly reflect and interpret outward reality the
literary artist aims merely to give a perfect exposition of himself.
Style is the literary expression of self-realization. Hence the greatest
stylists write to please themselves, and are their own severest critics.
Style is _timbre_, and the best style is that in which this peculiar
tone of the individual mind is most perfectly revealed. A great style
is, then, the expression of a great man, and the consummation of style
occurs when the genius has grown to the highest point of his
individuality—and individuality is genius—with corresponding power of
expression. Among Tennyson’s poems the most Tennysonian has the greatest
style. When we quote from Wordsworth such lines as,—

“The world is too much with us: late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers”—

and say of them that they are eminently Wordsworthian, that no one else
could have written them, we have said the highest word for the style.

In the very largest sense style is the evolution of the characteristic;
development physical and psychical is but a movement toward style. The
progress from homogeneity to heterogeneity in matter; the morphological
development of animate things from indefinite formless beings to
definite, complex types; biological integration and specialization—all
this is progress of style. Thus the most lion-like lion and the most
elephantine elephant respectively achieve the highest style of animal in
their kind. The development in the human race is mainly psychic, and
includes psychic classes, orders, genera and species, not as yet so
clearly tabulated as in general natural history. A genius is the
inauguration of a new _genus_, style, or type of man; he is a psychic
“sport,” to borrow a botanical term. A new mode of personality is
achieved and may manifest itself in various ways of action, thought and
emotion. If the expression is through literature a great style is
generated, and this style grows with the growing individuality—the
productions of youth have little style—and culminates with its
culmination.

To discover style is almost as rare a gift as to achieve it. The
critical sense is about as uncommon as the creative power; hence the
greatest masters of style have had often to wait long for recognition,
which would hardly be the case if the main value of style was in
economising attention. According to this theory, we should expect the
stylist to be welcomed with instant and universal appreciation, a
phenomenon which rarely or never occurs. With very many writers, as with
Wordsworth, recognition is very tardy, and with some only posthumous.
Many readers fail even with the utmost attention to appreciate the
greatest artists, and can make nothing out of them; a few rise at length
to some understanding; but only rare and select spirits find themselves
at once _en rapport_. The true _connoisseur_ and critic must introduce
and interpret to us the characteristic quality or style of the
_littérateur_, else we may never know and feel it. Recognition and
appreciation of style as the characteristic is, then, for the vast
majority an acquired taste; it is slowly and painfully learned, and so
the emotion for style as specific mode of expression must be pronounced
a very late psychic development.

The taste and emotion for the characteristic as such, whenever and
however acquired, is certainly a peculiar and definite mode of emotion.
It is far from being the feeling of discipleship, and is often excited
by that which is most remote and opposite to ourselves. We say of a
certain person, “He is a _character_,” and he interests and pleases us
as such, though entirely foreign to us in either sympathy or antipathy.
As an entirely disinterested emotion, the æsthetic is beyond the range
of common naïve consciousness. The enjoyment of the characteristic _per
se_ is specially for the analytically super-conscious cosmopolite and
for the cultured critic. The pleasure comes partly from the novelty and
the contrast reflectively understood, partly from admiration for the
forcefulness of creative personality, its plastic power in forming its
material of expression, and largely a teleologic pleasure in perceiving
fulness and purity of type. The emotion for style as characteristic
expression is plainly one of those which is not due to the utility in
the struggle for existence, but has arisen when experience comes to be
cultivated for its own sake.

When, as in eras like our own, personality weakens, and the inner
plastic and creative force of conviction and emotion decreases, the
writer is driven to technical treatment. The _littérateur_, as he has
little or nothing to say, contents himself with playing tricks on
language, and elaborating rhythms and cadences. Style becomes finicky; a
race of prinking poetasters and priggish prosaists arise, punctiliously
formal, and superlatively dainty, who attain the art of saying nothing
very elegantly, elaborately, and brilliantly. An over-conscious,
over-subtle technique destroys the grand style as transmitter of
characteristic quality.

* * * * *

I trust I have, in this brief study, made it clear that the psychology
of literary style is far from simple, and that a number of factors are
involved, which are slighted by Herbert Spencer and others of that
school. I believe that any one at all conversant with literature who
will reflect upon the pleasures he receives from reading, will perceive
that the pleasure of smoothness and facility, of moving along rapidly
and easily, is but one, and that generally a minor factor in literary
enjoyment. Beside this, he often has the pleasure of difficulties
overcome, of ideas grasped, and delicate emotional touches appreciated
by triumphant attentive effort. Again, he receives pleasure in
perceiving literary skill, the adaptation of artistic means to the
artistic end. But, as I have maintained, the chief mode of pleasure is
through style as transmitter of æsthetic emotion and as expression of
the characteristic, achieving its acme when both these functions are
simultaneously performed most fully and perfectly.




CHAPTER XIX
_ETHICAL EMOTION_


The need of a closer psychological definition and interpretation of
ethical emotion must be apparent to any reader of the current
psychology, where we find the utmost confusion and looseness of usage.
One of the most glaring instances which I have come across is this from
Perez (_First Three Years of Childhood_, p. 286): “As soon as the child
begins to obey, from fear or from habit, he enters on the possession of
the moral sense; as soon as he obeys in order to be rewarded or praised
or to give pleasure, he has advanced further in this possession.” A boy
at table reaches out for the last piece of cake, but withdraws his hand
out of love for his mother’s approbation, and fear of her
disapprobation. Does this imply moral sense and emotion? We say, indeed,
that these were very proper and moral emotions for the child to have;
objectively moral, but we do not describe the psychical state of the
child correctly by saying that it has the moral sense and emotion. In
fact, just so far as he acts out of love or fear, just so far he is not
acting out of ethical emotion; that is, simply because he feels he
ought.

Only the slightest introspection, then, is needed to recognise the
distinction of objective and subjective morality, of a moral emotion and
the emotion of morality. So we must disallow even dread of “moral
discomfort” as psychically moral, Spencer notwithstanding (_Essays_ I.,
p. 348). The fear of remorse may restrain from objectively immoral acts,
but the ethical emotion is not a fear constraint, as every one knows
when doing a thing simply because he feels he ought to. Because I judge
my feeling or act a right one, does not constitute this the feeling of
rightness as psychic fact. In short, we must always distinguish between
the socially right action, the morally right action, and the
psychologically moral action. He who erects a model tenement, even
though he do it to advertise himself, is doing the right thing by
society, though his action is neither prompted by a moral emotion nor
the moral emotion. If philanthropy incites him, both the act and feeling
objectively are moral, but psychically he is immoral, and only becomes
psychically moral when he acts out of the ethical emotion as feeling of
duty. One who acts out of sympathy, pity, mercy, affection, feeling of
honour, love of approbation, and similar emotions, often confounded with
the moral emotion, is objectively moral. We pronounce these to be right
emotions, yet they are not the emotion of right, and so not psychically
moral; and it is evident, also, that they may not be socially right, for
often actions from these motives result in social wrongs. However, in
later phases of psychic evolution, when emotions themselves are
reflected upon as psychic acts, the emotion of the moral “ought” may be
felt as stimulus to them, and so we may at once feel that we ought to
sympathise, and so sympathise, and so act, and may thus at the same time
be psychically, morally and socially right.

But while the nature and rise of ethical emotion is often untruly
connected with some one kind of act, as obedience, or with some one kind
of motive, as love of reward, a far more likely field of investigation
is opened by those who connect feeling of duty with conflict of motives.
Yet it is obvious at first sight that mere opposition of any two psychic
factors is not a distinct feeling. I have seen my dog run away from me
to follow some canine friend, and then back to follow, and so on, till
one affection became dominant force; but such simple interference of
emotions does not constitute any third and new or higher emotion.
Conflicts of this sort in higher natures have sometimes a reflex
psychosis in painful feeling of distraction and bewilderment, but this
is the end of the natural course of feeling conflicts.

There are, however, higher phases of conflict of motives which may bring
us nearer to ethical emotion. A burglar, the evening he is to crack a
safe, is inclined to indulge in several glasses of wine, but his
companion remarks that he ought not to drink if he expects to do the
job. Here is something to be done, a duty, and under the compulsive
force of the feeling of this duty the burglar lays down his glass
untouched. Is not the psychic phenomenon really a case of the ethical
emotion as involved in the thwarting of present inclination for the
right carrying out of the thing to be done? A feeling for that which is
laid upon us to be done, whether we lay it upon ourselves, or it is laid
upon us by others, has certainly the compulsory quality which we
commonly attribute to the ethical emotion. When we have set out to do
something, this pre-determination exercises a peculiar pressure when
some diverse inclination enters, but it is the force of firmly-formed
purpose and of tenacious will. Its compulsiveness is not ethical, but
volitional. A very little reflection convinces me that something to be
done, and something which ought to be done, incite distinct emotions. I
feel differently when I go to church, because I have planned to go, or
have been told to go, and when I go simply because I feel I ought. There
is also superadded, the purely impulsive force of the emotion for the
larger good; and this may, indeed, play the whole part in the contest
with present inclination, which contest then becomes of the simple
alternating order. Thus the burglar has avaricious visions of gold, and
relaxes his cup; he looks at the tempting wine, and grasps it again, and
so on.

It is true, however, that the feeling for the larger and future good
against a present inclination may be a feeling of oughtness, a feeling
of duty, a constraining to do a set something. Providence and prudential
action are enforced not merely by, “I wish to get the larger good,” but,
“I ought to reach it.” The most permanent, the greatest and completest
pleasure and benefit not only incites us, but constrains us.
Constraining emotion, a feeling of oughtness, may then arise both from a
preview of bare accomplishment of plan or purpose set by ourselves or
others, and also from sense of larger over lesser advantage. Here is the
region of utilitarian duty, of the Ethics of calculation of personal
pleasure and happiness. Psychically here is a true feeling of ought, and
here is the ethical emotion, if we make the term denominate all feeling
of oughtness. But if this is the region of Ethics, it may be said to be
the region of the lower Ethics, and we may indeed deny the term ethical
to all this kind of emotion of oughtness. The emotion arises about
personal and particular ends, and not about principles. The ambitious
man feels an ought as well as the conscientious, but they are diverse in
nature. Alike merely in the general quality of compulsive force, they
may differ in tone and special qualities. The constraining emotion which
comes with viewing a universal law of right may be claimed as distinct
from the constraint exercised by personal ends. But it is not our
purpose to discuss this matter here.

The psychic conflict which is specially connected with moral emotion is
the conflict of the egoistic and altruistic impulses. When in such a
struggle sympathy prevails, we approve as objectively moral and right,
but the existence of ethical emotion in determining the dominance of the
altruism is not assured. Pity originally overcame hatred without the
compulsion of duty. Altruistic impulses contest with egoistic in naïve
and simple natures without any appearance of feeling for duty. The
origin and nature of morality does not thus seem bound up with the
earliest forms of egoistic-altruistic contests, though in later
evolution it may come in as reinforcement of the altruistic. We may feel
then, not merely like helping a man in distress at the expense of our
own comfort, but we feel we ought to help him; the force of a general
principle of conduct is felt in the form we term the ethical emotion,
yet it is obvious that such a recognition of a general and universal law
and such a feeling therefor is far later than the rise of altruism
itself. Darwin alludes to the baulking of the social instinct as having
special ethical significance. With the social instinct baulked, as with
any other, there certainly results distress, but it is by no means made
clear that this necessarily involves moral quality. When a savage in a
fit of anger slays his pet child, the misery of baulked parental
instinct may soon be felt, and he may bitterly regret the deed, but this
does not involve moral feeling, a feeling of repentance for the
essential wrongfulness of the act. He would regret in the same spirit
the destroying his dinner by his own hand. If we say that he is stricken
with remorse, we assert conscience violated. Remorse cannot explain
conscience, but must be explained by it. Still, morality is not bound up
necessarily with sociality. Sociality certainly arises and progresses to
a considerable evolution before moral compulsion and the emotion of bare
rightness arises to sanction and to stimulate social activities. And if
moral emotion is not implied positively in altruism as an outgoing
towards others, neither is it implied in the incoming of others upon the
individual, either in respect of approbation or disapprobation, or in
the more direct and essential way of rewards and penalties. Penalty is
at bottom but a species of disadvantage brought to bear on the
individual through fear of consequences. The desire to get even—an eye
for an eye and a tooth for a tooth—and all exacting justice as an
equivalence, whether as exacted by the individual or by persons
delegated, the officers of justice, is plainly not in its origin and
basis the ethical emotion. A system of mutual dues and rights may or may
not have the sanction of morality, but they arise in advantage; and the
motives which originate penalties and act with reference thereto, are
far from being the pure moral emotion, a direct feeling for rightness as
rightness. The merchant in general pays his import _duty_, not as a
moral duty, but as something required by legality rather than morality.
Law and public sentiment exercise through emotion, and that of a
compulsory type, certain effects on conduct, but it is clear that the
general feeling of oughtness as self-imposed law of rightness is not
presupposed.

* * * * *

If the ethical emotion be not specially bound up with obedience or with
conflict of motives, may it not be particularly connected with science?
At the outset we note that a very natural confusion of science and
Ethics is favoured by the fact that we can apply the term Ethics both to
the science and the matter treated, and so speak of the science Ethics
as the science of Ethics, of ethical perception, emotion and action. But
yet we know that the science is by no means to be identified with its
subject matter, and also that the science of a matter and the Ethics of
it are two very diverse psychic tendencies and points of view. Science
is always an objectifying impulse whose end is merely to know, but
Ethics is subjective, whose end is merely to be. This is emphasized by
the fact that science in its ceaseless objectifying may constitute a
science of science, and science of the science of science, and so on,
but Ethics is self-contained, and there can be no Ethics of Ethics.
While we so sharply distinguish scientific and ethical activity, yet so
far as the science is prompted by ethical emotion it is ethical
activity. If I learn and know out of the feeling of duty, the act is
psychically moral, yet is always distinct in quality from the feeling
which prompts it. Thus there is an Ethics of science, or rather, to or
toward science, though most scientific activity is carried on at the
stimulus of other impulses, as love of truth, ambition, etc.
Psychologically speaking, then, science is in no wise Ethics nor Ethics
science.

But it will be said, “Is not ethical discrimination a cognitive
activity? Must not one know the right, know that he ought, before he can
feel ethically and act ethically?” But it will be found that at bottom
the rightness of an action is the appreciated accord of the action with
an end which is already felt to be right. I am asked whether I think it
was right for a certain poor man to purloin a loaf from a baker for his
starving family. In passing ethical judgment I simply fall back on some
ethical postulate. The right of the family to life, I may say, ought to
take precedence of the right of property. I therein fall back upon the
simple feeling of right as ethical emotion. The knowing activity is
concerned merely in the apprehending the situation, and ratiocination in
tracing back to moral principles, but the ethical discrimination is
neither, but an affair of direct emotion. If it be felt to be right to
save life in any wise that seems necessary, I will approve it as right.
A reason can only make an act right by being a right reason. Thus it is
that moral discrimination is at bottom no more than a peculiar feeling
about acts, towards or against the doing them, which, like all emotion,
involves the knowing its object, but is not involved or explained in its
psychic quality by the knowing act. The setting out what ought to be
done, the establishing duties and moral rules of conduct, the
development of a system of Ethics, is not then fundamentally cognitive
process, but emotive. Hence it is, psychically speaking, a misnomer to
denote any system of Ethics a science.

It is true we may denote by Ethics—always capitalizing the term—that
branch of psychology and sociology which investigates the nature and
laws of ethical phenomena. This Ethics merely gives an objective account
of ethical emotion and conduct. It is often defined as the science of
conduct, a definition quite too wide, for conduct is action consciously
self-directed to an end, be the impulse anger, fear, love, ethical
emotion, or any other emotion; but psychological Ethics studies only
conduct as moved by ethical emotion. Conduct is, indeed, the sphere for
ethical feeling, and any specimen of conduct, whatever its psychic
stimulus, may excite moral approval or disapproval and stir ethical
emotion, but this ethical survey of conduct is not properly a science,
as has just been shown. All conduct is then objectively interpretable as
moral, though it be inherently and psychologically immoral, that is,
having no element of moral feeling. The spheres of objective and
subjective morality are far from being coincident.

Further, science is not peculiarly related above common knowledge to
ethical emotion. Common sense and ordinary fear lead me to jump off the
track before an approaching train, while physiological knowledge and
ordinary fear may incite me to put on rubbers on a wet day. Scientific
knowledge opens the way for the common emotions; it shows the
consequences of acts with fulness and accuracy, and so opens a wide
range for the ordinary emotions which awake at sight of the experienced
and experienceable. If I feel I ought to put on rubbers, this feeling
arises, not directly at the consequences which science reveals, but at
the rightness of the consequences. I feel I ought not to injure my
health, a feeling which science does not generate, but it merely
establishes the fact that such and such actions will injure my health,
and so gives the opportunity of applying the moral postulate, I ought
not to injure my health. I judge the rightness of an act, not by its
consequences, but by the rightness of its consequences.

Again, science reveals most clearly the necessary means to ends; it says



Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 27 of 32)