Hiram M. (Hiram Miner) Stanley.

Studies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling online

. (page 5 of 32)
Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 5 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

typical will is incited by pleasure and pain, but he maintains that
sometimes, as notably in imitation, will is stimulated by purely neutral
excitement or feeling. In the discussion of this subject much has been
said about excitement, and, as Mr. Sully has suggested, this requires
careful definition.

Reflection assures us that every mental activity has a certain
intensity, and the word Excitement may, in the most general sense,
denote this intensity. The intensity may be so slight as to be unnoticed
by the subject, and remain wholly unindicated to the keenest observer;
or it may be so strong as to be perfectly evident to both; or it may be
evident to the subject and not to the observer, or _vice versâ_. Thus
the obvious division of Excitement from this point of view is into
subjective, where it is immediately recognised and felt in the
consciousness of the subject, and objective, where it is unnoticed, or
noticed only by observer. Classifying by another principle, we may
distinguish Cognition-intensity, Feeling-intensity and Will-intensity,
and the natural subdivisions under these according to the accepted
subdivisions of mental activities. Excitement is not, however, generally
used in the large sense we have just mentioned, but as denoting
intensity of a high degree so as to be very noticeable to the subject,
or observer, or both.

It is plain that Excitement, as subjective intensity, is the only kind
which bears on the question under discussion. It is with excitement as a
feeling, _viz._, the feeling of intensity, and not with excitement as
quality of feeling, that is, intensity, that we have to deal, and it is
necessary that this distinction be clearly borne in mind. One may be
excited but not feel excited, may have intensity of feeling but not
feeling of intensity. Using the term, then, as equivalent to feeling of
intensity, it is to be noted that it is a reflex or secondary mental
state. It is the feeling resulting from consciousness of intensity of
consciousness. The intensity of any consciousness may increase to such a
point that it pushes itself into consciousness, first as mere
recognition of intensity, but immediately and most manifestly as feeling
of intensity. In rapid alternations of contrasted states, as of hope and
fear, intensity soon rises to such a degree that it forces its way into
consciousness as feeling of intensity. This feeling of intensity may be
itself either weak or intense. In very reflective natures, the cognition
and feeling of intensity may be reflex at any power: there may be
cognition of the intensity of cognition-of-intensity, etc., in
indefinite regression. Most persons stop with the single step in the

It is evident that as far as excitement is regarded merely as intensity,
as a fundamental element in all feeling and mental action, it is a
confusion of terms to apply quality to it, to speak of it as either
pleasurable, or painful, or neutral. Intensity of mental action has
degrees but not quality, just as pitch in sound has degree, but not
timbre or quality. Regarding excitement as feeling-of-intensity, it has
the general characteristics of all feelings, and is not more likely to
be neutral than any other feeling.

Taking the case of surprise, which is so frequently instanced as a
neutral feeling, let us analyse it with special reference to the
excitement as feeling of intensity of cognition. A typical case would be
the surprise from hearing thunder in January. The presentation is
quickly compared with a representation of observed order of facts, and
the disagreement of the two marked. This is so far purely cognitive
activity; but immediately connected with the perception of disagreement
is the forcible recognition of the breaking up of a more or less rigid
order. There is a disturbance in cognitive activity and the tension
breaks into consciousness as excitement, the feeling of intensity. The
conflict of a settled conviction with recent presentation intensifies
consciousness, and this intensity with the abrupt change in quantity and
quality of mental activity breaks into consciousness as intellectual
sense of shock accompanied and closely followed by feeling of
unpleasantness and pain. It is to be noted that when we come upon the
feeling-element in surprise we find pain. Surprise in the strict sense
is then the reflex act of consciousness in which the mind becomes aware
of and feels the sudden disturbance and tension set up in itself by the
sudden weakening of an established belief. The painful shock has some
relation to the force of the disturbing factor, but is more closely
connected with the strength of the belief assailed. The feeling of the
disagreement as pain is due to the fact that this disagreement impinges
on subjectivity, personal opinion and conviction, and the disturbance
will be more or less disagreeable according to the degree of personal
interest. Note that by exact statement the feeling is not painful, but
is the pain concomitant or resultant upon the mental perception. The
surprise for a person of rather weak habit of mind and of little
generalising power will be almost wholly intellectual. Disagreement will
be noted, but not felt. For one of strong intellectual interest, the
surprise will mean definite and acute pain. For a meteorologist who has
written a book stating that in this latitude thunder does not occur in
January the surprise might be very grievous. The intellectual element in
surprise is emphasized in the statement “I am surprised,” the
feeling-element in “I feel surprised.” If antecedent states of
representation, comparison and inner perception are placed under the
term feeling-of-surprise, we may expect consequent states to be likewise
easily confused. When one speaks of being agreeably or disagreeably
surprised, the pleasure or pain is not really, however, a part of the
surprise. The sense and feeling of intellectual destruction, which
constitutes surprise, is so quickly and thoroughly swallowed up in
pleasure in having hope realized, or in pain in having fear realized, as
the event may prove, that the term is naturally applied to what
engrosses attention. Thus, “It was a very pleasant surprise” means “The
surprise was followed by very pleasant consequences.” When I am
surprised by the arrival of an intimate friend whom I supposed a
thousand miles away, the mental disagreement, and the pain from conflict
of conception and perception, are quickly eliminated by the event
according with desire, and by the mind anticipating joys. We see, then,
how easily the antecedents and consequents of surprise are confounded
with surprise itself, which is the reflex act of consciousness
recognising and feeling sudden disturbance in intensity, quality and
quantity in cognitive activity. I conclude that surprise, as feeling, is
pain coloured by cognition of shock and by volition to avoid disturbing

Absorption in thought may be attended by what seems to be neutral
excitement, but is not really so. The intensity of thought may press
into consciousness as a knowledge and feeling of intensity, but so far
as it is a feeling it is indubitably pleasure or pain. This pleasure or
pain may remain as continuous undertone with frequently repeated
intrusion into full consciousness. Careful analysis in this case shows
that apparent neutrality results from a strong attendant recognition, or
from the natural volitions being quickly overruled by feelings
consequent upon other considerations. Intellectual men are not apt to be
guided by excitement. Professor Bain says that imitation is a test-case,
that this is a volition which is obviously stimulated by neutral
feeling. In some cases imitation seems clearly a mechanical, ideo-motor
affair, an instinctive action without either conscious feeling or
willing. In all other cases of imitation analysis will show excitant
pleasure or pain. As Preyer and others have shown in the case of young
children, mimicry arises mainly from pleasure in activity as such, and
not from its peculiar quality as imitation. For children, and often for
adults, imitation is simply a method of joyous and novel activity. The
stimulant in higher grades of imitation is pleasure in attainment. As
far as excitement is stimulant, it is, on the general principle before
stated, either pleasure or pain. The pleasant feeling of intensity will
tend toward continuance of imitative action, the unpleasant toward
discontinuance. The pleasurable sense of activity, as inciting and
continuing will in imitation, is a good example of excitement as feeling
of volition-intensity.

If volitional excitement as instanced in imitation, and cognitive
excitement, as exemplified in surprise and absorption of thought, cannot
be termed neutral, it is quite unlikely that we shall find any neutral
feeling-excitement. A person at a horse-race may at first have so small
a degree of pleasurable hope and painful fear aroused that the intensity
does not force itself into consciousness. The increasingly rapid
pendulum-swing of consciousness from hope to fear and back again becomes
soon so intense that this objective intensity of feeling forces its way
into conscious life as feeling of intensity. This excitement may be
mainly regarded as accompaniment, or it may be valued in itself as
excitement for excitement’s sake. This absorption in the feeling of
intensity is eagerly sought for by the _ennuyé_. The devoted
theatre-goer often induces both pleasures and pains simply for this
resultant feeling of tension which he regards as enjoyable for its own
sake. Feeling-excitement in the simpler and earlier form and in this
later artificial form is plainly pleasure or pain coloured by slight
element of cognition as recognition of intensity, and by volition in
continuing or in stopping the causative activity.

Bearing in mind the analysis of excitement just made, the true
interpretation of several matters which have been suggested is obvious
and clear. Mr. Johnson (_Mind_, xiii. 82) remarks that very intense
mental pleasure and pain tends to run into a state of neutral
excitement. This I interpret as the mental law that intensity of any
mental activity, of any pleasure or pain, tends to displace this
activity by feeling of intensity. This feeling of intensity is indeed
neutral as regards previous states—that is, it is not, of course, the
feeling whose intensity it feels; but, as I have sought to show, it is
nevertheless always pleasure or pain. Again, as to the question whether
states of mind equally pleasurable or painful may have different degrees
of excitement. If excitement means here subjective excitement, then I
answer that they do not have any degree of excitement, for feeling of
intensity can never be a quality of the feeling whose intensity is felt.
If excitement is the objective form, and refers to the intensity in
general, then, as has been before said, it is a confusion in terms to
apply the terms pleasure and pain to it. The anticipation suggested by
Mr. Johnson as a case of neutral excitement is precisely analogous to
the case of excitement at a horse-race, which has been analysed. Mr.
Johnson concludes that feeling is not only more or less pleasure or
pain, but also more or less excitement. The proper way of stating this
is: all feelings, including the feeling of excitement, consist of
pleasure or pain and have degrees of intensity.

Again, let me note the relation of intensity, and consequently feeling
of intensity, to quantity of consciousness—a subject suggested by Mr.
Sully (_Mind_, xiii. 252). The fundamental properties of
consciousness—quality, quantity, intensity—and also their
inter-relations, would be a fruitful theme for extended discussion. I
think that the clearing-up of many problems would result from thorough
investigation and careful definition in these points; but at present I
can only offer a remark or two upon the subject. It is plain that
intensity varies with different qualities, that certain kinds of mental
action are more generally characterised by high degrees of intensity
than others. Presentations tend to higher intensities than
representations, and pains than pleasures. It is noticeable that our
psychological nomenclature, both popular and scientific, is mostly
concerned with qualities, which shows that quantities and intensities
have not received the attention they deserve, and have not been
carefully discriminated. A representation of the same house comes up in
the minds of two persons, one of whom has lived in it, the other merely
seen it several times. Each psychosis is as representative as the other:
they have the same quality, but in quantity and intensity they vary
greatly. In a single multiplex act of consciousness, the former embraces
a wide reach of detail and association and a high degree of intensity
which is lacking in the meagre and faint image of the latter.
Physiologically, quantity is as the mass of co-ordinate coincident
activities of brain in highest centres, and intensity is as the arterial
and nervous tension in the highest centres. Intensities may be equal,
and quantities very unequal; as compare one greatly interested in a game
of cards with a person watching a near relative at a critical moment of
illness. Intensity of pleasurable hope alternating with painful fear may
be equal in both cases, but in quantity the latter would tend to exceed.
Very quiet natures are often characterised by largeness of quantity of
consciousness. Other things being equal, intensity tends to reduce
quantity and obscure quality of consciousness. Quantity, like intensity,
may cause a reflex act of consciousness when it becomes so great as to
push into consciousness as recognition and feeling of quantity; and as a
feeling of largeness, elevation and mental power it is clearly
distinguishable from excitement as feeling of intensity. Intensity is
dependent on the force or strength by which a mental state tends to
persist against other states which may be crowding in, and it is also
closely connected with rapidity of mental movement; but it is primarily
tension, consciousness at its highest stretch, specially as touching
upon interest, an element more or less involved in all consciousness.

It would seem highly desirable, in order to keep clear the distinction
between intensity and feeling-of-intensity, to restrict the term
Excitement to the latter meaning, and substitute the general term
Intensity for all objective excitement so-called. It is also greatly to
be desired that the reflex states which arise from sudden or great
changes in quality, quantity and intensity of consciousness, and which
are commonly termed feelings, should receive more general attention from
psychologists than heretofore. I have in this paper essayed something in
this direction, but it is a very large field, and comparatively

However, so far as the problem of feeling as indifference is concerned,
enough has been said on Excitement and Intensity, and I shall now
consider Neutralisation as giving neutral feeling, a method suggested by
Mr. Johnson (_Mind_, xiii. 82), and developed by Miss Mason (xiii. 253).
Does a feeling, neutral as regards pleasure and pain, result from the
union in one consciousness of a pleasure and pain of equal intensities?
Is there a composition of equal pleasure-pain forces so that resultant
equals zero? Such a question implies a clear apprehension of what is
meant by being in consciousness, and as to the possibility of perfect
coincidence and equality in mental activities. It is plain that so far
as consciousness is linear, neutralisation cannot occur. Where there is
but one track, and but one train at a time, collision is impossible.
Mental states often appear coexistent while they are really consecutive.
It is doubtful whether pain from toothache and pleasure from music ever
appear in absolute synchronism in consciousness, but they may alternate
so rapidly sometimes as to appear synchronous to uncritical analysis. To
a man drowning, a lifetime of conscious experience seems condensed into
a few seconds. This means a consciousness made very sensitive and very
rapid in its movement, and which acts like a camera taking pictures with
a lightning-shutter. Even if a pleasure and pain did coincide, it is
probable that in no case would they be exactly equal. In mental life as
in organic life every product has an individuality: as every leaf
differs from every other leaf, so every mental state is on completest
observation _sui generis_. This is evidently a most delicate
investigation, but I doubt whether it can ever be shown that two equal
pleasures and pains ever appear in the same sense in consciousness at
the same time. Practically equal pleasures and pains in consecutive
consciousness lead to vacillation, and the secondary pain of alternation
and excitement drives intelligent agents to new activity, or in stupid
agents the alternation may be carried to exhaustion.

It is undoubtedly true that consciousness, in all the higher forms at
least, is a complex; yet full and complete consciousness is probably of
one element only, and the remaining portion of the nexus grades off into
subconsciousness and unconsciousness. There is a network of coexistent
states of consciousness in different degrees in mutual reaction, each
striving for dominance but only one at a time reaching it. Some portions
of the nexus, as Ego-tone, are quite permanent elements. The light of a
large and brilliant consciousness may illumine a considerable area, but
brightness most certainly diminishes in rapid ratio as the distance
increases from attention, the single point of greatest illumination. A
highly developed brain may sustain a highly complex consciousness, but
it is only at the point of highest functional activity that we find the
physiological basis of a full consciousness. While high grades of mental
life are so complex, we do not find anywhere a mental compound. Two
diverse or opposite elements never combine into a compound which is
totally unlike either. Close analysis will fail to reveal any process of
neutralisation or combination whereby we experience neutral states of

I have endeavoured to set forth the real nature of certain so-called
neutral feelings; but at the bottom the question is, as was at first
intimated, a matter of definition. Is it best to restrict the term
Feeling to pleasurable and painful states of consciousness, or is it
advisable for clearness and definiteness to widen the use of the
term so as to include certain neutral states? From such analysis as
has been made, I doubt the advisability. Appeal in such matters must
always be made to analysis, and the advantage must be shown for a
concrete example. The _a priori_ idea or general impression that
pleasure and pain is too small a basis for all feeling has no real
weight. Moreover, it must always be borne in mind that psychology,
like all other sciences, deals only with phenomena and not with
essences, not with mind but with mental manifestations, not with
feeling as mental entity having properties, being pleasurable,
painful, etc., but with these qualities in and for themselves. Thus
the metaphysical fallacy hidden in such common expressions as
“pleasurable and painful feelings” is to be constantly guarded
against. The feeling is not pleasurable or painful, but is the
pleasure or the pain. The feeling 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. As indicated at the beginning of this paper,
this common tendency has its psychological basis in the bringing
under the term Feeling some of the more permanent elements of
consciousness—especially the Ego-sense—which stand for metaphysics
as beings and entities having properties. Knowledge, Feeling, Will,
are for nominalistic science simply general terms denoting the three
groups of mental phenomena which seem to stand off most clearly and
fundamentally from each other, and Pleasure and Pain are most
clearly and fundamentally set over against Knowing and Willing. It
does not seem that Professor Bain and others have made plain to us
any better differentia.

If this definition of Feeling seems the best that descriptive
classification can give us, it is certainly enforced by genetic
considerations. The key to a really scientific classification lies in
the history of mind in the individual and race. The greatest progress in
psychology is not to be attained by the psychologist continually
reverting to his own highly developed consciousness, but, as in all
sciences, the study of the simple must be made to throw light upon the
complex. Mentality like life is a body of phenomena whose forms cannot
be separated by hard and fast lines into orders, genera, species; but
there is a continuous development of radical factors. In the earliest
forms of mind we find the most radical distinctions most clearly and
simply set forth, and what Feeling is at first, it is by continuity of
development the same for ever after. The earliest indications of
conscious life show merest trace of apprehension of object, some organic
pleasure and pain, considerable striving and effort. Mental evolution,
like all evolution, is not by the elimination but by the expansion of
its primal factors; and by the continuous amplification and
intensification of these the highest development is reached. Pleasure
and pain remain then for all consciousness as constant factors; and if
the term Feeling is to indicate one element in tripartite mind, it must
be held to this meaning of pleasure and pain. Pleasure and pain in their
most complicated colourings from developed knowledge and will, and in
their most subtle interactions, remain true to the primal type; and when
we find a state of consciousness in which neither is a dominant factor,
we had best denote it by some other term than Feeling. This evolutionary
reason seems to me the strongest one for making the term Feeling signify
states of pleasure or pain, and, as I have suggested (_Mind_, xi. 74-5),
a genetic classification of the feelings must proceed upon this basis.


A blind psychic life of pure feeling cannot long avail in the sharp
struggle of existence, for to all stimulations it secures only two crude
reactions, a spasmodic, defensive activity from pain, and an
appropriative motion from pleasure. This perfectly subjective
consciousness can serve only the earliest and crudest demands of life;
but as the struggle for existence becomes fiercer, the more delicate and
definite reactions, which can only come through cognition, are required.
All that we can say as to the origin of knowledge in general is that it
arose, or rather was achieved, like other conscious and extra-conscious
functions, in answer to the pressing demands of the organism; and so far
as we can see, it does not seem to be evolved from any pre-existing
consciousness or any common basis of mind. It is a distinct type of
consciousness, and so utterly diverse that we cannot trace any psychical
continuity. However, we can remark this,—that perfect objectifying is
not at once achieved, but cognition must be regarded as beginning in a
very minute and obscure germ in some intense feeling state. Yet this
germ does not seem to have a direct psychical connection with the pure
feeling by which it is excited into existence, but it is a reaction to
an opposite mode more diverse from pleasure and pain than these are from
each other. Moreover, according to the law of evolution by struggle,
this first cognition does not _come_ to mind, but is _achieved_ only in
most intense will act, comparable for relative intensity to the
knowledge originated by severest effort of a man in danger of his life
listening to a barely audible sound, or watching a barely visible object
on a distant horizon. The evolution point for all life is in stress and
strain, and this is the law of the development of sensation at all times
in psychic history.[A]

- - -

Footnote A:

Cf. my remarks in _Psychological Review_, vol. ii. pp. 53 ff.

- - -

Cognition undoubtedly began as a very crude sensation, as the barest
movement towards objectifying sense, as a pure sensation without any
image form, any direct perception of an object. In the order of
disappearance of elements from consciousness, we note that sensation
maintains itself through a long series, and is the last stage before

Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 5 of 32)