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— sadness, fear, sorrow, result in depression of organic life,
.and in the general diminution of motor activity. This
generalization embraces a considerable number of facts, but
it is subject to so many limitations that its claims to be styled
a law are very doubtful. As a principle, too, it is so vague
that it helps us very little in accounting for particular forms
of emotional expression.

Evolutionist theory. — Attempts have been made by Darwin
and Herbert Spencer to account for emotional expression on
the hypothesis of Evolution. Darwin's theory is embodied in
three laws :

1. The principle of the preservation of serviceable associated
habits. — Movements which at an earlier period in the history
of the race were instrumental in the relief or gratification of
particular mental states, tend to survive when no longer of
use. The phenomena of frowning and weeping are thus
explained as being effects on the eyebrows and lachrymal
glands of the contraction of certain ocular muscles. This
contraction was the result of prolonged fits of screaming,
very frequent during infancy in the early history of the race.
At present though the scream be voluntarily suppressed, and
the cause removed, painful mental states will still produce
the frown or the tears. Scratching the head was serviceable
for the relief of cutaneous irritation during long years of
pre-human existence, and still persists as a gesture aroused
by intellectual distress. Similarly, grinding the teeth and
clenching the fists, formerly useful actions in conflict, now
accompany angry feelings when apparently purposeless.

2. The principle of antithesis. — Opposite impulses of will
tend to urge us in opposite directions. In the same wa}',
given certain states of mind leading to habitual actions under
the previous principle, opposite states of mind will tend to
set up movements of a directly contrary nature, though they
be of no particular use. The fJexuons movements of a joyful
affectionate dog are thus accounted for as the antithesis of
the rigid attitude of angry dislike.

3. The principle of actions due to the constitution of the
nervous system independently from the first of the zcill, and
independently to a certain extent of habit. — To this class are
assigned all expressive movements not accounted for by the


other two laws. Such are the trembHng of the muscles,
modifications of the secretions, and other changes effected
by particular emotions.

Criticism. — As regards the first law, if the doctrine of
descent were already established, the explanation thus given
of a few instinctive gestures, such as clenching the fists and
grinding the teeth, would certainly be plausible. Still, the
application of the law in a large majority of cases would be,
to say the least of it, very improbable. To take the example
of weeping, cited by Darwin, there is no real evidence to
show that screaming of itself is productive of tears, for the
screams of both infants and adults are often strongest when
tearless ; and, on the other hand, tears may flow from joy
or pity, although these states cannot have been associated
with infantile screaming. Similarly the connexion between
irritation of the scalp and intellectual anxiety is very faint.

A most important point, however, usually overlooked by
advocates of Evolution, is the fact that emotional expression
must have often been disadvantageous, not beneficial, to the
individual. If Talleyrand's saying, " Speech is given man to
conceal his thoughts," possesses an element of truth in any
condition of human society, assuredly the manifestation of
his feelings and desires must have been detrimental to the
agent in the earlier stages of animal existence. The pre-
monitory disclosure of hatred or fear, for instance, would
have been invariably unprofitable. It would in fact seem
that many instinctive modes of expression ought, as a rule,
to have been extinguished almost as soon as they appeared.

Darwin's second principle has met with but little accept-
ance even amongst his disciples. When we endeavour to
realize precisely what is meant by contrary feelings tending
to produce movements of an opposite nature, we discover that
the conception of contrariety involved s extremely vague.
" What is meant, it may be asked, by opposition between the
impulses of the will to turn to the right and to the left, over
and above the contrariety of direction in the resulting move-
ment ? And even supposing there were such mysterious
contrast in our volitions, with which contrariety of move-
ment had become instinctively associated, one might still
inquire how we should be able to determine the proper
antithesis in the case of any given emotion. Why, for
example, should the movements of a dog during an outburst
of affection be regarded as the antithesis of movements
which accompany anger, rather than of those which charac-
terize terror ? As states of feeling, one suspects terror
before a threatening look and the pleasurable elation at
friendly symptoms, have quite as many elements of contrast



as the feelings said to be in antithesis by Mr. Darwin ; and
so far from the movements of these opposite feeUngs being
unhke, they very closely resemble one another in many
respects, as may be seen in the fawning and crouching
attitudes." ^^

Darwin's third principle is sufBciently comprehensive, but
it suffers from the disadvantage of explaining virtually
nothing. It merely tells us that the character of certain
expressive movements resulting from the excessive generation
of nerve force by strong feeling is determined by the consti-
tution of the nervous system. This is undoubtedly the case,
and Darwin's whole theory would, we believe, have approxi-
mated more to actual truth, though thereby losing the charm
of ingenuity and originality, if it had assigned a considerably
larger share of the phenomena to this cause.

Herbert Spencer accounts for emotional expression thus :
Nervous energy is aroused by feeling, and tends to express
itself in the discharge of motor activity. This discharge
exhibits itself partly in a general effect diffused throughout
the entire system y partly in special excitement within a restricted
field. An attack of coughing exempHfies both. The disturb-
ance produced will be directly as the intensity of the
feeling, and inversely as the size of the muscles acted upon.
Thus, a faintly pleasurable feeling may excite a slight lateral
oscillation in a dog's tail, whilst stronger em.otion sets him
barking and capering around. Movement first takes hold
of the smaller and more easily moved muscles, afterwards of
the heavier parts, and finally of the whole body. This may
be seen by tracing the external manifestations of a fit of
anger or merriment. In the incipient stages slight feelings
act upon the lips and eyebrows, but as the passion grows in
strength, the lungs, head, limbs, and finally the entire organism
may be set in violent motion. The particular movements
within the restricted field, however, are those which specifi-
cally express the several qualities of emotion. These
movements are, in Mr. Spencer's view, inherited ancestral
actions by which feehngs similar in kind to those now aroused
were formerly satisfied.^*

Spencer's law of restricted discharges is substantially
identical with Darwin's principle of associated serviceable
actions ; and the remarks we have made above are again
applicable here. Spencer, too, illustrates his law by an

^^ Sully, Sensation and Intuition, p. 29.

14 Darwin's theory is expounded in his book, The Expression of
the Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872. Spencer's treatment of the
subject is given in his Essay on the Physiology of Laughter, and in
his Principles of Psychology, Ft. VIII. c iv.


account of the genesis of that important emotional expression
— the frown ; and the divergence between his explanation
and that of Darwin, affords an instructive comment on the
worth of the doctrine common to both. The corrugation ol
the eyebrows, Spencer tells us, is useful in protecting the
eyes from the rays of the vertical sun. This act would there-
fore have afforded an advantage in tropical regions during
the combats of the animals from whom we are more imme-
diately descended. Accordingly, those individuals in whom
the nervous discharge accompanying the excitement of
combat chanced to cause an unusual contraction of the
corrugating muscles of the forehead " would be more likely
to conquer and leave posterity — survival of the fittest
tending in their posterity to establish and increase this
peculiarity."^^ The recurrence of angry feelings or non-
pleasurable states of any kind would, therefore, after a time,
by association tend to excite the frown, where its utility as
a sunshade has ceased. Darwin, as we have already men-
tioned, showed in an equally conclusive manner that frowning
is an inheritance from the distortion of the facial muscles
during long ages of infantile screaming. Both hypotheses
exhibit the fertile imagination possessed alike by the philo-
sopher and the naturalist, but the conflict in their conclusions
ought to warn us of the exceedingly precarious character of
their theory. ^'^

Spencer's law of general diffusion corresponds to Darwin's
third principle, but is a far more definite and satisfactory
description of the course of neural disturbance. It appears
to us to contain much truth. It gives a natural account of
the gradual development ot the external manifestation of
feeling, and embraces many curious facts. Unfortunately,
however, the author at times does not seem to distinguish

15 Principles oj Psychology, % 498. For Darwin's account of the
gesture, cf. op. cit. pp. 225, 226.

1^ The distension of the nostrils by indignation, Mr. Spencer
similarly traces to the accidental advantage gained by those of our
ancestors in whom the diffused discharge chanced to dilate the
nostrils during conflict, especially when influenced by non-pleasur-
able feelings their mouths were occupied in holding on to part of an
antagonist's body! The force of this ingenious explanation is some-
what seriously shaken by the fact, that the nostrils are also dilated
in certain pleasant states ; and we find Wundt classing this gesture
under the general tendency to extend the mouth, eyes, nostrils, &c.,
in order to increase agreeable sensations. The act of blushing and
several other phenomena are also differently accounted for by these
three writers. The simple truth is that once we get into the regions
of pare imagination, there is no limit to fanciful hypotheses.


clearly between the mental state and its physical concomitant.
He frequently appears, especially in his article on Laughter^
to speak as if the emotion were itself identical with, or trans-
formable into, the accompanying discharge of nervous energy;
although he elsewhere recognizes the transcendent difference
which separates them.

Wundt also formulates a theory in three general laws:
I. The principle of the direct alteration of innervation. This
signifies that intense emotions generate their external expres-
sion by exerting an immediate reaction on centres of motor
innervation, paralyzing or stimulating the action of many
groups of muscles — e.g., in the trembling of limbs and con-
traction or enlargement of blood-vessels, 2. The principle
of the association of analogous sensations. This means that
different species of sensations in which there is a certain
community of tone or quality tend more easily to combine
and strengthen each other. The muscles of the jaws thus
assume an attitude of tension under energetic feelings ; ol
agreeable ease in quiet satisfaction ; and of unpleasant dis-
tortion under contrary emotions. The movements of the
mouth and tongue under the action of sweet, bitter, sour, or
disgusting tastes, are also excited by the idea of such sensa-
tions, and then transferred to analogous feelings or emotions.
3. The principle of the relation of movement to the perceptions of
sense. This law embraces all gestures and expressive motions
not included under the other two. Movements of the eyes,
head, and limbs accompany our thoughts and words. As our
language or feelings become excited we point towards distant
objects, clench our fists, raise our arms, erect our head, and
the like. We smilingly nod assent, or deprecatingly draw
back our head from the imagined object. This theory, though
less imaginative than either of those just mentioned, deter-
mines more accurately the relations between many classes ol
feelings and their expression.^''

The Origin of Language. — Rational language
may be described as, a system of conventional signs vepve-
sentative of thought: or we may define oval language in
more precise fashion as, a system of articulated ivords repve-
sentative of thought. The primary object of language is
the communication of ideas ; but it serves in addition
as a record or register of past intellectual acquisitions,
and also as a mechanical aid to thinking. (See p. 302.)
The origin of language thus understood, has formed a

" For a synopsis of Wundt's theory, of. Ladd, op. cit. p. 531.


prolific subject of speculation. It is the function of
Theology, not Philosophy, to interpret the passages of
Scripture bearing on this matter, and to explain in
what manner and to what extent this gift was communi-
cated to the first human beings. Apart, however, from
the decision of these points there remains for Philosophy
the question : Could language have been invented by
man, and, if so, by what agencies and laws would its
development be governed ? The latter investigation,
moreover, is not purely hypothetical in character.
Whatever interpretation of Scripture be adopted, the
subsequent history of language will, in accordance with
God's usual providence, have been governed by natural
laws. Abstracting then from Revelation, could language
have arisen in a natural manner ? and, however origi-
nated, what are the principles which have determined
its evolution ?

Its Nature. — For rational speech the name must be used
consciously with a meaning ; that is, as a sign of an object of
thought. The parrot articulates words, and the dog un-
mistakably manifests feelings of joy or anger ; but neither of
these animals is capable of language in the proper sense of
the term. Even the most pronounced advocates of Material-
ism are constrained to admit that no other creature but man
has ever attached a name to an object.^^ For such an
operation, a supra-sensuous power of abstraction and reflexion
is absolutely necessary. Accordingly, language could not
have preceded the existence of intellect or reason. Manifesting
thought, if must be subsequent to thought. It presupposes the
formation of general concepts, and in its simplest employment
of a word as a sign, language involves that apprehension of
universal relations which is the characteristic feature of
supra-sensuous intelligence. Still, the invention of language
does not require a previous fund of elaborate notions.
Looking on human nature as we find it at present, the
accumulation of a considerable collection of intellectual
products, and any but the most meagre cultivation of the
rational faculties seems naturally impossible without the
assistance of words. But given men created with both
the reflexive activity of thought and the physical power of
making signs, and they will inevitably soon learn to com-
municate their ideas to each other.

^8 Cf. Maudsley, op. cit. p. 502. On the other hand, no tribe of
men has yet been discovered devoid of the attribute of speech.


Development. — Starting with the social mbtinct, men tend
to congregate together. In the next place, their nature is
such that lively emotions are expressed not merely in facial
changes, but in cries and movements. There is also exhi-
bited in man, especially in early life, a curious mimetic
impulse, which leads him to reproduce in his actions and
utterance the phenomena of external nature, whether animate
or inanimate, that most interest him. Cries thus elicited in
sympathy or fright, having been both felt and heard by the
individual in the presence of the external object, will be
associated with it, and tend to be reproduced on other
occasions, according to the laws of suggestion. Moreover,
living in community and being of like nature and disposition,
men would be impelled to similar manifestations, and would
soon grow to associate their neighbour's utterances as well
as their own with the appropriate external event. We have
not, how'ever, yet reached rational language ; we are still in
the plane of sense and instinct. These are preliminary
steps ; still, gregarious brutes would get thus far. But in
addition to these aptitudes, man is endowed with the faculty
of abstraction and reflexion, and this power would now
inevitably lead him to conceive and employ these expressions
as signs of the corresponding objects — to mean things by
words ; and at once we have rational speech.

Agencies. — To the iirst query, then, we must answer : Yes.
Apart from any special Divine intervention, man, with his
present nature, by use of the faculties which God has given
him, would have invented a language. The materials
employed for signs will be in part the exclamations emitted
as interjections, in part mimetic utterances by which he seeks
to suggest to the hearer the object imitated. ^'-^ The indirect
action of the onomatopoeic tendency is, however, probably
far more influential than its immediate results. Not only
are analogies observed between the sensuous impressions
and the sounds or feelings of efl"ort put forth in the responsive
vocal expression, but kindred utterances involving a like

^9 The hypotheses which lay chief stress on the interjectional
and onomatopoeic impulses have been respectively styled by Max
Miiller the ''Pooh-pooh and Bow-ivow theories." {Lectures on the
Science of Language, First Series, p. 344.) He holds that the
efficiency of these principles is extremely limited, many apparent
instances of onomatopoeia not being really so, e.g., thunder from the
same root as the Latin tenuis, tender and thin. Squirrel not from the
rustling whirling of the little animal, but from the Greek Skioiiros=
shade, tail ; the French siicre from the Indian sarkhara, &c. He does
not however seem to have considered sufficiently the mediate or
indirect agency of onomatopoeia.


tone of consciousness are used to designate analogous,
though very unlike experiences. Still, by far the most
impo'rtant part of all languages, it has been forcibly argued,
is reducible by the science of Comparative Philology to a
small collection of generic roots representative of universal
ideas though applied to particular objects. These root-
sounds, it is asserted, cannot be onomatopoeic; they are
indicative of characteristic actions or attributes of the object,
and so are expressive not of particular impressions, but of
general notions. For this reason they are fruitful and capable
of forming part of the names of many things possessing this
feature in common. These four hundred or five hundred
ultimate roots, which remain as the generic constituent
elements in the different families of languages, are neither
interjectional nor mimetic sounds, but phonetic types produced
by a power inherent in human nature. There is, in fact, a
species of natural harmony between the rudimentary oral
expression and the corresponding thought, just as there is
between the latter and the external reality.^'-

Very little original capital would have been required, and
however this was obtained, whether in the form of casual
sounds accompanying appropriate gestures, or as a spon-
taneous product of human nature, or as a collection of
suitable utterances elicited by Divine intervention, the start
once effected, progress was comparatively easy. New sur-
roundings, new wants, the inventive energy of intellect, the

20 Cf. Max Miiller, op. cit. Lect. ix. Apart from the question of
the original fund of root-sounds — which is equally a difficulty to all
purely rational theories— Miiller's general doctrine seems plausible.
The fierce conflict, however, which still prevails on most funda-
mental questions of the science of Comparative Philology makes
one feel that beyond the limited region of common agreement even
the most attractive hypotheses are extremely hazardous. Schleicher,
for instance, the leading Darwinian in this field, whose confidence
in his views is always in direct proportion to the obscurity of the
subject-matter, asserts that language is a natural organism, the
growth and decay of which is governed by fixed and immutable
laws. Language is as independent of the will of the individual as
the song of the nightingale. Opposed equally to both Max Miiller
and Schleicher is the chief American philologist. Professor Whitney.
With him language, which separates man from the brute, is
essentially a voluntary invention, an " institution " hke government,
and "is in all its parts arbitrary and conventional." {Life and Groivth
of Langxiage, p. 282.) Steinthal's teaching increases the novelty ;
and Heyse, who stands to Hegel as Schleicher to Darwin, evolved
a mystical creed on the subject, in unison with the spirit of his
master's philosophy. An account of the various theories is given
in Sayce's Introduction to the Science of Language, Vol. I. c. i.


force of analogy, multiplied and perfected the materials in
use. Diversities of climate, food, and exercise, acting on the
organism, modify the vocal machinery. Special occupations
develop particular groups of words earlier in one district
than in another. Variety of classes, trades, and professions
within the same nation fosters the simultaneous growth of a
multiplicity of terms. The onomatopoeic and interjectional
tendencies continue to make small contributions from time to
time, but the great force which enriches our vocabulary is
analogy. The old roots representing generic attributes merely
require recombination to express a novel object. Growth of
language and intellectual power will proceed concomitantly,
for they act and react upon each other.

Readings. — On Emotional Activity, see Das Gemidh tend das Gefuhls-
vermogen der neuren Psychologie, von J. Jungmann, S.J. Dr. Gutberlet
handles the matter from a different point of view, op. cit. pp. igg —
229; On Language and Emotional Expression, ibid. 116 — 128;
J. Gardair's, Les Passions et la Volonte, pp. 6 — 250, contains a good
exposition of the scholastic doctrine. Portions of Dr. M'Cosh's
Emotions are useful.


Book II.
Rational Psychology.



Scope of Rational Psychology. — We have
hitherto been chiefly studying the character of our
several mental activities, and the modes of their
exercise ; we now pass on to inquire into the nature
of the principle from which they proceed. The
aim of Rational, Metaphysical, or Philosophical
Psychology, is to penetrate to the source of the
phenomena of consciousness. It endeavours to
ascertain the inner constitution of the subject ot
our psychical states, and to discover the relations
subsisting between this subject and the body. In
a word, Philosophical Psychology seeks to learn
what may be gathered by the light of reason
regarding the nature, origin, and destiny of the
human soul.


Its Importance. — The importance of such a study
is evident. What are we ? Whence come we ? How
ought we to hve ? What is there to hope for ? These
have ever been questions of transcendent interest to man-
kind ; and never more so than at the present day. Beside
these problems, unless in so far as they may throw
light on them, the discussions of Empirical Ps3^chology
sink into comparative insignificance. Yet the great
majority of recent English text-books on Psychology
affect to ignore these matters altogether. Or, if they
allude to them, the}^ do so \vith a shame-faced profuse-
ness of apology which is not a little amusing. The
naturalist, the physiologist, the ph3^sicist, ma}^ speculate
at length about the nature and future destiny of man's
soul ; but if a writer on the Science of the Human
Mind ventures to touch on topics so alien to his subject
and so unbecoming his character, unless, indeed, in
order to show that there is no soul and no future, his

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 46 of 63)