Hiram M. (Hiram Miner) Stanley.

Studies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling online

. (page 30 of 32)
Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 30 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

prepare himself and get up “the proper state of white heat” by violently
shaking a ladder. Poe in one of his tales makes a detective say, when
wishing to know the thoughts of a wicked man, “I fashion the expression
of my face as accurately as possible in accordance with the expression
of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my
mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression.” This
method of acting like another, that we may have and so know his thoughts
and feelings, is a very difficult way of mind-reading.

But expression is often simulated on one or both sides with full
understanding of it as such. This enters into play, and is the essence
of the dramatic art. That the word _play_ denotes both the sportive
imitative actions of animals and men, and also a dramatic representation
is not fortuitous or arbitrary. It is noticeable that among the lower
animals the earliest and commonest play is playing at being angry or
frightened, which corroborates the view of these emotions as probably
the earliest and most fundamental in life. The correlated nature of fear
and anger is shown by the way they are played at; thus you often see one
dog with a show of anger chasing another who simulates fear, and then
the parts are exchanged.

The great relation of pursuer and pursued is constantly mimicked among
animals with interchanging of parts. So also among children the
commonest plays are those of fleeing and chasing, as tag, hare and
hound, hide and seek, etc., the fundamental elements of life being
re-enacted under the superfluous energy which tends to flow most easily
into the oldest and most habitual channels. Thus play has a high
historic psychic importance. To attack and to run away are the most
necessary and essential of life activities, and play has a certain
pedagogic and preparative value, and has thereby been sanctioned by
natural selection, for we see that in the evolution of life the tendency
has constantly been to lengthen the play period. Among the lowest
animals the individual at birth is immediately thrown into the struggle
for existence and must battle for itself; there is no play time for it,
but at once it enters upon direct life struggle; but in higher life
there is a period of spontaneous free dramatic activity.

But not only is anger and fear shammed as a prominent and primitive
play, but it is most common to stimulate to real anger or fear, and then
in glee to show the inadequacy of the occasion to the victim. Every one
has observed how frequently young animals play by teasing and scaring
each other. The tricks of boys and practical jokes of men both point to
the deep inbred power of anger and fear in life, and are at the same
time symptomatic of their decline in power as dominant life factors. All
children delight in scaring one another on pretence, in seeing the real
expression and feeling themselves the moving powers in bringing it
about. This satisfaction, which is aboriginal, which is the reflex of
the original pleasure sanction when power to scare others for one’s own
benefit was being evolved in life, makes a large part of the enjoyment
of such action. A large part of play-pleasure must, indeed, be set down
to reflex of the earliest hard-earned pleasure experience; but a large
part is also due to the thrill of excitement and the delight in activity
_per se_. Later forms of plays are largely due to pure imitative
propensity, though often helped by reversal tendencies.

We note also that this perceived groundlessness of the action becomes a
large element in later forms of play, as wit and humour, but the
pleasure is plainly based on the power and the superiority of
intelligence implied. It amuses the tyrant to throw his companions into
mortal fear by the slightest suggestion, the smaller the occasion the
more amusing the fright. And in general the slighter the real cause in
relation to the effect produced, the more acute the pleasure, by reason
of the supremacy thereby emphasized. It is always more amusing to scare
a child by a slight movement of a finger than by a vigorous act of the
whole body. It seems to me that it is by this association that
disproportion, incongruity, irrelevance, however induced, become in
themselves amusing, ludicrous, laughable. So the incongruous, in which I
have no part whatever, becomes a comic spectacle and the basis of all
comedy, yet also of the tragic and tragedy. In the tragic the
discordance between what is and what ought to be, instead of pleasing,
pains. What is comic to a coarse mind may seem tragic to the refined. A
bird, distressed by the death of its mate, offering it food, might amuse
a savage or a boy, but must be a pathetic sight to a civilized and
cultured man, though both might be amused to see a child presenting food
to its doll.

Not only may the incongruous which is comparatively unrelated to me be
amusing as well as that which I myself bring about, but even when I am
the victim I may be highly delighted by the intrinsic disproportion of
my experience to the exciting cause. With some persons, perhaps rather
few in number, the next best thing to playing a joke is having one
played on them. This amusement at oneself occurs even among savages.
When Stanley was on the Congo, he was at one time greatly annoyed by the
number of native visitors. In vain he tried to repel them, but one
morning when a crowd had assembled at the river side, at some little
distance, waiting an opportunity to board his vessel, some of his men
put on lion skins which were at hand, and acted the part so well that
the intending visitors fled in abject terror. Having retired to a safe
distance they looked back to see the men walking the deck with the lion
skins in their hands and laughing most heartily. Seeing then the
groundlessness of their alarm the whole crowd burst into roars of
laughter and shouted in merriment for a long time. Exhibitions of
fright, we may remark, seem to be especially amusing to savages, as when
an assembly of Africans of the lowest type went into ecstasies of
uproarious delight on seeing a stereopticon picture of a frightened
negro hastily climbing a tree to get out of the way of the gaping jaws
of a crocodile.

Play is then very largely either a mutual shamming of expression, or a
stimulating real expression in one by pretended expression in the other.
The pleasure in deceiving others by simulating expression points to
ancestral experience, for deceit has been one of the greatest factors in
life evolution. That an individual seems to be an entirely different
being from what he really is, has often been most advantageous in the
struggle for existence, and hence a large variety of simulated
expression has been employed. Children then, as repeating in play form
the race history, take great delight in masquerading and so deceiving
their acquaintances as to their identity, making false pleas for
charity, etc. The drama has its roots in this form of play. To make
others take us for quite different than we are gives us a high pleasure
of power, and early man was often moved, in the breathing spells of the
struggle for existence, to play at false personalities simply for the
pleasure in itself of being a successful actor. There is also the
counter pleasure of the spectators in piercing the simulated expression.
It is only in latest phases of dramatic art that simulation comes to be
appreciated for its own sake, that there is on both sides full and
complete feeling of the illusory nature of the whole transaction, and an
enjoyment of the art _per se_. Simulating expression is the actor’s art;
but when the simulation is forgotten by either actor or audience, nature
appears and art disappears.

While it is the province of the actor’s art to simulate expression, it
is in general the office of fine art to imitate and render the
expressive by image, picture, musical notes, etc. The artist is the
expresser and simulator _par excellence_, and complete and perfect
expressiveness is his constant aim, though not for utility or amusement,
but for the sake of awakening the æsthetic emotion. I cannot then agree
with Bosanquet, who, as I understand, makes æsthetic feeling the emotion
of expression, expression for expression’s sake. For expression by its
very nature is such only as _expressive_, that is, as going beyond
itself, as being a means, and not an end in itself, hence expression for
expression’s sake is meaningless phrase. Expression, so far as it
attempts to stand merely for itself, is an empty mannerism and a barren
technique. Expression is only such as it is backed by the emotion
expressed, as significant of some psychosis; and artistic expression or
art is the expression of the artistic or æsthetic emotion, a peculiar
feeling about things, as apple blossoms, a sunset, a child playing. This
emotion is often awakened by cognizance of an expression, as an
expression of joy or horror by a child, and may thus be an emotion of or
at expression, as also in the case where it is roused by the skill in
purposive expression of any kind, æsthetic or other, but expression is
obviously not the only way of exciting the emotion, its object may be a
mere patch of colour, a pure musical note, etc. Æsthetic emotion tends
to manifest or express itself just like all emotions, and in attaining
perfect expression it strengthens itself. Likewise language, as an
instrument of thought, a logical expression, has strengthened thought,
but a purely formal logic is as barren and void as a purely formal
æsthetic. Language as expressive of thought and as expressive of
æsthetic emotion is equally dependent upon what it expresses, and
æsthetics is thus not peculiar in its relation to expression.

The interpretation of expression in nature and art is often a hard
matter and has given rise to much variance. For instance, take the much
discussed Laokoön group; Winckelmann says the father sheds pity from his
eyes like mist upon his sons; Lessing finds grief and noble endurance
expressed; Goethe thinks the father shows pity for his youngest son,
apprehension for the older son, and terror for himself; Lübke finds only
mere pain manifested. Coming to a single feature, the mouth, we find the
most diverse interpretation. Winckelmann says that here is an heroic
soul who disdains to shriek, and gives forth only “an anxious and
suppressed sigh.” Lessing maintains also that here is a shriek softened
into a sigh, but not “because a shriek would have betrayed an ignoble
soul, but because it would have produced a hideous contortion of the
countenance.” Later critics have generally followed Lessing. It is
obvious, I think, that the expression of the mouth is not shrieking, but
is moaning, groaning, or sighing. On this quite a number of competent
witnesses, physicians and psychologists whom I consulted, are
practically agreed. However, it has occurred to me that the sighing or
moaning of Laokoön may not be a softened form at all, but the actual
expression designed by the artists. It is generally supposed that the
artist here desired to show mortal agony, and it is assumed that
shrieking is the expression of mortal agony. This assumption seems to me
correct when extreme pain is suddenly inflicted; but when, as in the
case of Laokoön, the mortal wound is received only after the most
exhausting struggle, the natural expression is moaning. The realistic
sculptor would surely not give any softened form, but, shrinking from
nothing, has expressed Laokoön in this death grasp in the very act of
giving up the ghost. Though the muscles of the limbs and trunk are still
tense, yet the closing eyes, the head falling back, and the arm thrown
toward the base of the brain indicate that the struggle is over, and the
death moment has come, expressed vocally only by a moan. We do not need
to find here then any conflict between realism and the artistic sense,
but the simplest and most obvious interpretation is what the expression
gives, sighing and moaning, which is the true one under the
circumstances, and is so meant by the artist.


In the present haste to construct psychology as a natural science
cognate to chemistry, physics, and biology, we note much that is
premature and confusing, owing to insufficient reflection upon the
quality of the phenomena. A consciousness is a natural phenomenon, but
we cannot discover and investigate it as we do phenomena of light and
electricity. Anger is a phenomenon occurring millions of times every
day, but it is a fact which must be discerned and studied by an
altogether different method from facts of crystallization, erosion, or
plant growth. Psychology is not a science of inspection, but of
introspection. If I know I am angry, I know it by a direct
self-awareness; if I see a man strike another, and regard this as
expressive of a psychosis, and that of a certain kind, anger, this
supposed knowledge is analogical realization. One who never was or could
be angry could no more investigate anger than a blind man light, and,
other things being equal, the more irascible a man is, the better
observer of anger he would be. We are not, however, conscious of all our
mental processes, and we may be often blinded to the real nature of such
we think we have; and as to the psychoses of other beings, especially of
the more unlike and remote, we need to be extremely cautious in forming
conclusions. It is likely that the mental constitution of organisms
differ as widely as the physical, that the mentality of a fish is as
diverse from our own as its physical structure is unlike our own. The
fish may have peculiar psychoses of which we may never gain the least
inkling, because we cannot examine its consciousness objectively as we
do its fins, its air bladder, and its gills. The psychologist must then
be myriad-minded; his fitness is the ductility and range of his psychic
capacity. The richness and receptivity of his own mental life must be
infinite if he is to come to full knowledge of the whole course of
psychism. Thus psychology is marked off from all other science as
distinct in subject and method. Its being so individual and subjective
is the greatest hindrance to its progress, for science is verifiable
knowledge, but how shall we have a method of consciousness verification?
A man tells me he has a scar on his left knee, and this I can verify by
personal examination if I like, but if he says he is angry, I have no
such means of verification, I can only guess by expression. A biologist
announces the discovery of a pineal eye in a certain embryo, and
straightway the fact may be verified by a host of observers; but if a
psychologist announces that he has discovered a new mode of
consciousness, the verification is by no means so easy. May not the
consciousness be entirely peculiar to him? The psychologist who attempts
to verify cannot disclaim the fact simply because he cannot find this
act of mind in himself. But an introspective _consensus_, though
extremely difficult as compared with the objective _consensus_ required
by objective science, is not impossible, but it requires exceptional
gifts and training in introspection. Before psychology can reach any
standing a method of subjective verification must be formulated and
adhered to as rigidly as corresponding verification is required by
objective science. The backwardness of psychology is in this most
significant, that while a half-dozen recognised biologists may announce
a certain fact, and it is immediately accepted as scientific knowledge,
no such action can occur in psychology. The uncertainty of subjective
verification is the trouble, and the most important step that can be
made to-day is a clearly defined basis for an exact verification. That
one party should claim there is a feeling of relation, and another that
there is no such feeling, marks a crudeness in the most general matters,
and points to psychology being about where physiology was when the
circulation of the blood was in debate.

But, say the experimental psychologists, subjective verification is
impossible; psychology, if it is to become a science, must, like the
other sciences, resort to the laboratory, and by definite and exact
experiments produce the facts to order, study them by the most approved
instruments, and obtain with certainty a knowledge of their laws. Now it
is sufficiently easy to experiment on light, sound, and on plant growth
in a laboratory, but how can we make consciousness to order with the
same certainty? how can we know when we have got a consciousness, what
kind it is, etc., except by subjective verification? You certainly
cannot see the consciousness or touch it; but you must wholly rely on
the subjective report of the individual experimented on as verified by
your own consciousness. We have no impassive agent entirely under our
control, except in hypnosis, and we cannot secure conditions with the
same exactness in testing the intensity of some form of consciousness,
as anger, as in testing the tensile strength of iron.

In the physical laboratory we produce certain conditions and we get
invariably certain observable and measurable results, but in a
psychological laboratory how shall I get with certainty a definite
consciousness in a large number of cases and formulate its law? How
shall I know at a given moment that the mental act of the agent is what
my experiment requires? Moreover, does not experimental psychology by
beginning with human consciousness enter rashly upon a very complex
field? If it would get results, let it start with the simpler mental
life, just as biology has founded itself in a study of simplest
elements. But how shall psychology get at the consciousness of a clam
with the same exactness as biology investigates the circulation of blood
in the clam? It is plain, in short, that if we are to have a fruitful
experimental psychology, some very important questions of method must
first be settled. A method of getting psychoses to order, to obtain the
exact reaction required, and knowing and realizing what it is when got,
this is a _desideratum_ not yet attained. Further, we must remark that
experimentation is itself a psychic act, and sense of experimentation is
a disturbing factor in results; that is, a consciousness which is
conscious of being experimented on is thereby complicated over mere
observation method. This is markedly the case in self-experimentation.
Consciousness is not, like an electric current or a sound wave, an
objective fact, readily reproducible in the laboratory. And again ethics
may interfere with psychical experiment. How far have we a right to
incite psychosis for experiment’s sake? How far may psychical
vivisection be carried in the name of science? A scientist who should
for his own study make an animal or person angry, would be reprobated as
would the artist who should incite anger in his model in order to catch
artistic effect. However, that there is a vast scope for experimental
psychology cannot be denied, and we may expect an indefinite
multiplication of artificial psychoses and combinations comparable to
the artificial syntheses and new compounds of the chemical laboratory.
Mind may develop and act merely on the scientific motive, and accomplish
by _tour de force_ a complex field of artificial consciousness quite
distinct in origin and nature from natural consciousness. But for the
present, at least, we regard not experiment but observation as the main
method. Not laboratory, but field work, is most needed. The psychical
scientist must go psychologizing, as the botanist goes botanizing. But
there is no simple objective method as in botany. In order to have
insight and interpretative power, there must be constant
self-observation. He can know the real nature, conditions, and laws of
other minds only so far as he realizes them in himself. If he has never
feared, he will never know fear, and if he has never analyzed his own
fear, he will not know its factors as occurring in others. All external
consciousness is but a projection from the observer’s own consciousness.

But it may be said that mind is but a kind of neural function, and that
physiological psychology will give us the true key to consciousness. But
if one has never known any psychosis, as fear, directly in himself and
indirectly in others, how will he find it in any nerve activities?
Nervous activities are significant of psychosis only so far as psychosis
is already known. In fact, the sciences of neurosis and psychosis are
radically distinct. I stick a pin in my finger, the facts of pain,
volition, anger, etc., are of one order knowable only by introspection,
the nerve excitation, current and reaction are of another order,
constitute a complete circle, and are known only by inspection.
Neurology in its own field can afford to ignore psychosis, for it does
not find it: it finds only neural changes, and psychology likewise can
afford to ignore physiology. These sciences stand self-sufficient, and
may develop indefinitely each in its own way without meeting. Divide and
conquer. The present mingling of the two is greatly to be deplored. Thus
in current books we often find such sentences as this: “The prevalent
view hitherto has probably been that the same nervous apparatus which on
moderate excitement produces sensations of pressure or temperature,
produces feelings of pain when irritated with increased intensity.”
(Ladd, _Outlines Physiological Psychology_, p. 387.)

This confusing of objective and subjective terms, sensation and
irritation, is but too frequent in recent treatises. There is no way yet
found of discovering psychic facts in neural, or neural in psychic,
whatever may be their connection and interdependence. If we must have a
cross-interpretation, the psychologist has the vantage-ground on the
basis of evolution by struggle. _Nisus_ has developed all sense and
motor organs and all nervous organs. It is the effort at seeing that has
produced the optic nerve and the physiological function of sight. The
vision and visual organ of the eagle came by incessant looking for prey
during thousands of years. Hence mind is not reflex or concomitant of
nerve, but nerve is outgrowth of mind in the struggle of existence, and
a psychological physiology is better than a physiological psychology.

The psychological field is then first, self; second, other selves or
individuals. In this latter phase of human psychology we have the
psychology of adults, then adolescent, senile, infantile, sexual, and
racial psychology. In sub-human or comparative psychology we include
animals, wild and tame, also all discussion on plant psychism, mind
stuff (_e.g._ Clifford’s), etc. In superhuman psychology we include all
doctrine of cosmic intelligence, teleology (_vide_ _Mind_, x. 420).

We have limited ourselves to evolutionary psychology and that of the
feelings, and our data are mostly from adult human consciousness.
Evolutionary psychology bases itself on the idea that mental development
originates and is continued through struggle or will effort. Such
evidence as we can gather points to feeling, impelled exertion as the
essence of psychic evolution, and it proves fruitful when assumed as a
guiding principle. And the principle of struggle is final. We cannot
admit with Bain a principle of spontaneity. The activities of a new-born
lamb are seemingly spontaneous only because they are the results of
energies stored in ages of psychic effort. This doctrine of struggle
does away with all impressionism and all passivity theories. Mind is not
a receptivity, an association of impressions, a reflex or concomitant of
physiological activities, but it is dynamic determining vital fact, an
active response to the conditions of self-existence. This impetus of
struggle and striving seems to feed all life and make life, and has its
place, perhaps the highest in the dynamic whole we term the universe.
While the significance of struggle is a question for philosophy, yet, as
matter of fact, it is the only method of realization we know; and the
office of humanity is the providing a wider and higher scope for
struggle, the making new and independent life regions. Science and art,
ethics and religion, which are at bottom only phases of emotionalism,
are with utmost toil developed for themselves, and new emotions now
arising and yet to arise will be cherished for their own sakes. Mind
begins and continues long as the servant of the body, it ends by making
the body its servant, the instrument of the spiritual life, the temple

Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 30 of 32)