§ 1. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING. For several hundred years, and especially since the time of Immanuel Karat, it has been a tradition to limit the major aspects of mental life to three:—the intellectual or cognitive, volitional or conative, and emotional or affective. Psychologists, meanwhile, have asserted that all cognitive processes, such as perceiving and thinking, were composed of elements largely concerned with the distance-senses of sight and hearing. The conative processes, including willing, choosing, determining and assenting, were chiefly composed, it was thought, of conative elements, the sensations of movement and strain. The affective processes were supposedly composed of systemic or organic sensations induced by stimulation from the internal organs. Feelings and volitions were said to lack entirely any feature of knowledge; only cognitive processes informed us about things.

§ 2. ARTIFICIALITY OF DISTINCTION. Because of such traditions as these our psychology of feeling has become more and more artificial and atomistic throughout the history of the science. In order to straighten out the tangle, one must attack the problem genetically and infer the character of conscious behaviour in the infant. The evidence, as we have seen (p. 127), points to the undifferentiated status of mental activity in its beginnings. There is at that time no feeling versus cognition, versus volition. Primitive experiences are at once perceptions, wants and feelings; they are equally cognitive, volitional and affective. From an undifferentiated ground there emerge patterns or figures of experience, all differentiating with respect to space, time and quality.

When stimulus-situations, external to the organism, dominate the formation of the perceptual field, figures emerge of definite size, location and form; but if the stimulus-situation is within the organism, the perceptual field does not undergo so definite a spatial structurisation. For example, one is able to perceive a chair of distinct outline, form, size and position; but strains, pains, pressures, organic experiences, tastes and smells, are less differentiated in all their spatial characteristics. The so-called feelings of pleasure and unpleasure, and the emotional experiences of joy, fear, love and anger have, in most cases, only a diffuse body reference with undifferentiated spatial features. Similarly, experiences that are called desires, wishes, determinations, hopes and beliefs, all having a certain body reference, exhibit spatial characteristics that are extremely vague. When a person desires something, he can, if he will introspect carefully enough, discover a ground of muscular strain upon which an ideational anticipation of the desired goal is figured. In exerting voluntary effort, this body reference may become quite definite for the reason that muscles are always involved, whether the effort is “physical” or “mental.”

Experiences dominated by body reference are no more and no less cognitive than the auditory or visual in whose terms we apprehend events at a distance. The latter involve knowledge about external things; the former involve knowledge about internal conditions, which are quite as much things as external objects are, except that they are less definite in their space relations and qualitative differentiation. Conversely, visual and auditory perceptions are not to be contrasted with feelings, because the meaningfulness of these perceptions does not accrue alone to visual and auditory factors. Perceiving a chair involves a body reference; it is by no means exclusively visual. One may feel incipient movements of sitting down, or he may feel the delicate changes in muscular tonus about the face or in the chest, or diffuse organic changes in the region of the diaphragm, all having to do with the appreciation of the object as beautiful or rare. There are also the strains of fixation and of eye movement, and verbal processes such as “chair”, “ordinary”, “pretty”, “cheap”. At any rate, the process that we call perceiving the chair is, in all circumstances, a response of the total organism; and without the bodily processes, the chair would not perceptually be a chair. Thus the perception involves feeling and volition.

§ 3. OREXIS INVOLVES PERCEPTION. Conversely, feelings and volition involve processes that are ordinarily regarded as perceptual. In looking at a painting, the feeling of pleasure is after all inseparable from the perception of the painting. It is an aspect of the total, unified experience. More than that, if one were to abstract the pleasure, as the introspectionist can do if he likes, he will find that its body reference involves visual processes, even if he is adventitiously blind. The visual processes make possible the localisation and even the apprehension of the pleasure; for the pleasure will not apprehend itself. It must be part of a larger unit; and there are no experiences pertaining to the larger unit that are not reducible to sensory processes of some kind. There is no differentiated psychic element or quality reuniting the other differentiated experiences into a whole. Rather, the undifferentiated, or unanalysed experience possesses the phenomenal property of a certain meaning, pleasure, which is, as such, non-sensory. The pleasure does not do the uniting; the unity is the experience apprehended in its totality, before that totality is destroyed by analysis. In other words, the feeling is a cognition; it must be perceived, like any object; and the perceived feeling involves the same types of processes as a perceived object such as a chair does, only of a less differentiated character. If one wishes, therefore, he may regard feelings as undifferentiated intellectual processes, and perceptions or ideas as differentiated feelings. Only confusion will result from the atomistic interpretation that perceptions involve a feeling aspect and feelings involve a perceptual aspect; for the experience is not feeling plus perception in either case. It is all one; and it is much better to base the classification upon the degree of differentiation that the experience exhibits.

§ 4. BORDER-LINE CASES. If we accept such a classification, there is a border-line of experiences which may be called either the one or the other. They are the events of mental life commonly known as intuitions, “hunches” and guesses. In these cases to say that one “feels that such and such a thing is so” is quite as legitimate as to say that he “thinks it is so”. Here, by definition, feeling and undifferentiated ideas are synonymous. To illustrate:—When a learner first approaches a problem, such as was given on p. 173, were he to look for a hidden scheme in the arrangement of the numbers, his first prolonged glance at the column as a whole will very likely end in a vague notion of the plan; he obtains this idea from the general arrangement of the figures which are seen to progress in a more or less orderly fashion; he senses the fact that the progression occurs through addition. These experiences are sudden, inarticulate and undifferentiated, but extremely meaningful. Later, upon a more detailed inspection of the column, the undifferentiated plan takes specific form. The numbers added each time are perceived in their relationships. Similarly, one may be engaged in a game of bridge, and just before selecting a card to play, he feels, in an inarticulate fashion, that a particular card is the best one to lay down. In fact this is the history of all specific ideas; they appear first in an undifferentiated form. How often has one been in an argument with a friend and felt that the assertion he just heard was wrong but could not tell exactly why? Somehow it did not “fit”.

It may be shown, likewise, how volition must be as cognitive as it is conative; for every voluntary act is a goal-activity, involving not only the apprehension of a goal, immediate or remote, vague or definite, but a self-consciousness, with a body reference, differentiated to one degree or another.

§ 5. FEELING. As we proceed, therefore, to our discussion of feeling, it must be with the same assumptions with which any psychological problem is attacked. The process in question is an abstraction. It is not a particular kind of behaviour, because all behaviour partakes of the process under consideration. All forms of behaviour exhibit their undifferentiated aspects. Every performance is cognitive, feelingful and in some respect conative. Discussing any one of these properties, apart from the total experience, is fraught with danger and is likely to be misleading. In any event feelings in themselves are cognitive. That they are also volitional is demonstrated not only by individual experience but by history; for the majority of historic theories of the will have based the will upon feeling or emotion. The fact, however, that those experiences we call feelings are dominated by a body reference makes it legitimate to consider them in that light. They have more of a personal or “subjective” reference than perceptions having to do with environment.

Feelings, then, are undifferentiated, but cognitive, experiences, dominated by a reference to the body of the experiencing person. Like all other experiences they are responses to total situations, and involve, in an undifferentiated way, the apprehension of relations. Through feeling, a definite relationship is perceived between the experiencing person and some aspect of his environment. It is a highly evaluative experience, having to do with situations that hinder or help, build or destroy; that are good or bad, right or wrong, true or false. Thus, feelings deal with conflicts and the release from conflicts; always with tensions and the manner in which circumstances permit their resolution. It matters not whether the goal-activity is a search for food, body comfort, a mate, a safe place in which to be stationed temporarily or permanently; whether it is the search for the solution of a mechanical puzzle or of a problem in science or philosophy, or whether it is perfection of some activity like golf or piano playing. In any case feelings evaluate the organism’s relation to some goal and to subsidiary ends which, in turn, are means to the major goals.

Behaviour is always an organised process of resolving these tensions. The human energy system, therefore, is always being disequilibrated and is always in process of returning to equilibrium. It may be said, for the sake of convenience, that there are, roughly, three classes of feeling. First, there are disagreeable feelings and emotions which are the phenomenological properties of the system in its totality, returning to a balance in the face of resistance; or better, they represent expenditure of energy in the process of resisting interference. Second, there are pleasurable feelings and emotions which are the phenomenological properties of the system, gaining its balance upon the removal of resistance. They represent the final approach to a given state of balance. The third class consists of feelings in the form of undifferentiated ideas, the phenomenological properties of the system in the first phases of confronting resistance. They involve the vague recognition of a problem. More specifically, they represent the first organisation of a behaviour pattern with respect to a new situation.

§ 6. THE DYNAMICS OF FEELING AND EMOTION. All three classes of feeling are to be explained in terms of dynamics. Consider the movement of a body from an initial position to its remote end. In the initial position its energy is exclusively potential. The nearer it approaches to the remote end the less its potential energy and the more its kinetic. In proportion to its kinetic energy it is capable of performing work, or resisting a force in its path. Let a steel ball the size of an apple strike a person on the head after it has fallen only a centimetre. It will deliver a smart tap but will do little if any damage. Let it strike one’s head after a fall of a thousand metres. The result need not be described.

§ 7. FEELINGS AND GOALS. Let a human being be engaged in some goal-activity. He may return home in a hurry for lunch and find that it is unprepared. He becomes irritable. He may be seeking the love of a certain young woman and discover a rival. Forthwith he finds himself in a jealous rage. Let the goal of being alive be threatened by accident, danger, disease, injury, or by the assault of a murderer, and immediately one defends himself through vigorous flight or combat. Let any situation stand in the way of protecting, feeding or educating one’s children and it is met with the utmost resistance. The feeling and emotional reaction is a resistance that the human energy system, as a whole, offers to the thwarting situation. The resistance is proportional to the nearness of the goal, and to the amount of potential or degree of tension under which a person starts toward it. If he is extremely hungry, delay makes him all the more angry; or if a caller rings the bell just as he is being seated at the table, the more keenly he resents the interference. The lover, forsaken on the eve of his wedding, suffers more intensely than if his acquaintance with the hoped-for bride had been only casual. The death of an infant brings intense distress to the parents, a grief proportional to the delight with which the birth is anticipated; but let death select a youth brought successfully to the achievement of young manhood or young womanhood, and grief is the more paralysing, reconciliation all the harder.

The same law of proportionate action and reaction holds for the pleasurable emotions, when the goal is reached. The gratification of desires brings pleasure in proportion to the intensity of the desire. A football crowd, held in suspense by a series of plays that have worked to the disadvantage of their team, grows mad with excitement and joy when sudden progress is made or a touchdown achieved. One is listening to a witty story, waiting, with anticipation, for the point to be sprung. The meaning suddenly grasped, with a release from the strain, there comes a spontaneous burst of enjoyment and laughter. A joke is funny in proportion to the tension which its preliminary steps set up, and in proportion to the quickness and comprehensiveness with which the point is perceived.

§ 8. FEELING AND PHYSICAL LAWS. Feeling and emotion may also be envisaged in terms of the laws of maximum work and least action. Of course in principle these laws apply to emotional activities no more than to all others; for all the basic laws of dynamics apply to all forms of behaviour. An energy system, as we have implied in the preceding discussion, offers resistance to any disturbance, and the effect of any disturbance is that of threatening the organisation or integrity of the system. Potential energy in the human system, therefore, untapped in ordinary circumstances, becomes available when the organisation of the organism’s forces is in jeopardy. This “reserve” energy is not expended in response to a need, but under the universal principle of action and reaction. The situations that disturb the system most are those that supply the greatest amount of stimulation; and the response is proportionately vigorous.

The picture is not complete, however, until the structurisation of an organic system, like a human being, is contrasted with that of a less structurised system like a magnetic field or a gravitational system. Where there is more specialisation of structure within a system of a given mass there is more energy available for performing work—in fact, more “free” energy involved at all times in the maintenance of unity within the system. This fact may be stated in a different way. The more the system is specialised in structure the less the force from outside required to threaten its unity. An injury requiring little force to apply will completely destroy the living organism, or permanently cripple it. Moreover, the energy expended by a system, in resisting disintegration, adds that much to the depletion of the system; and without the growth potential the depletion would be permanent. A scratch becomes infected and blood poisoning sets in. The organism must supply the energy for the growth of the infection and at the same time the energy that resists that growth. If we think of the infection as foreign energy and the defence reaction as the energy of the system itself, action and reaction are equal.

Thus we see an energy system performing work in the maintenance of unity, suffering depletion in proportion, and acquiring energy from its environment to make up the loss (some of it, not all). This situation is supposed to distinguish between the organic and inorganic, but the difference is not one of principle; it is, once more, merely a phenomenological difference. The organism and its environment are, in the end, one system. Within proportionate limits, any part of an energy system, having its own unity, will recover a loss through a process equivalent to growth by “acquiring” energy from its surroundings. This is likewise the principle involved in oxidation—in fact, in any chemical “interaction”; again because the subsidiary and the larger wholes are, in the end, one unified system. The molecular constitution of iron, for example, is a subsidiary whole. As it gives up energy to its surroundings, it will, to some degree, acquire energy in turn. The form of the whole, however, changes; and there is some permanent loss with respect to the subsidiary system in question. In biological growth the same is true. Eventually the organism dies, just as, eventually, the pattern of energy, iron, through a rusting process, changes form, becomes something else, and eventually is dissipated.

§ 9. CAVEAT. In this entire connection it is necessary to repeat a warning. It is atomistic and illogical to regard growth and chemical union as syntheses. Every time we admit growth into a system, a larger whole is presupposed in which growth is a process of differentiation. Rather than to fall into the error of atomism it is preferable to regard the amount of energy available for growth as relative; in which case it is legitimate to presuppose a whole as extensive as the problem demands. Then the question arises:—With respect to what is this larger whole relative? The answer is:—Still another; for there is no largest, no absolute whole, only that Unknown Realm to which all knowledge and thought, all known existences, are relative. Since the unknown must be relative, also, to the known, there is no inconsistency yet appreciable in the relativity conception.

The loss of energy to which we have just referred is an empirical fact; but all empirical facts are relative to a finite system as a point of reference. The energy is not lost with respect to the larger whole. Since it is the second law of thermo-dynamics that deals with losses of energy from given systems, and since the law does not cover the system to which the energy is lost, the law is not universal; it is only part of the picture, and the reverse side of the canvas is the Unknown. There is nothing final, then, about the law, except with respect to a given part of a system.

§ 10. PHYSIOLOGICAL PHENOMENA. It now remains for us to describe the releasing of the “free energy” available in the living organism in the process of maintaining unity. Suppose that a terrier is chasing a rat. The stimulus-pattern that, to the rat, means the equivalent of “enemy after me”, has set up high potentials in the nervous system that resolve themselves, through nerve conduction, into the rat’s muscles. The first perception of danger is the form of the preliminary discharge, regarded in its totality. The same stimulus-pattern, however, has set up potentials in the sympathetic nervous system which, in turn, induces an increased discharge of adrenin into the blood stream. The result of this secretion and the innervating effects of the sympathetic nervous system are profound. Energy stored in the liver as animal starch is released into the blood stream in the form of glycogen, an animal sugar. The energy of the glycogen, passing through the musculature, is converted into motion; that is, the muscles contract more vigorously. Processes of digestion stop through the inhibition of peristalsis and of secretions from the digestive glands, thus making available the energy otherwise expended in that direction. The arteries around the digestive and other internal organs contract and those in the brain and muscles dilate, thus redistributing blood where it happens to be needed most. Blood pressure increases; heart action and breathing are faster, thus supplying the muscles and nervous system with blood that is fresh with energy and carrying away more rapidly the waste products of increased metabolism. The kidneys increase their activity also. The composition of the blood is changed in such a way that clotting is more rapid. The organism perspires, reducing the temperature of the body and balancing the over-production of heat that increased action produces. The total picture is that of a system-as-a-whole conditioning the activities of its parts, in a most complicated fashion, to the end of maintaining integrity. Integrity in this case means life. All the resources of the organism, in this case the rat, are directed to that end. And the nearer the dog to the rat, the faster and more vigorously both the physiological and voluntary reactions take place. Indeed, they are one unit, obeying one set of laws. The rat will fight to the utmost to escape. This is the law of maximum work, which holds quite as well at the physiological as at the voluntary level.

§ 11. PHYSIOLOGICAL PHENOMENA AND FEELING. The widespread organic changes that the human being reports during exciting emotion as a sinking feeling in the stomach or about the diaphragm, a hollow feeling in the chest, dry mouth, cold chill and boiling of blood—these are in part the phenomenological aspects of this widespread change of pattern in the total energy system when under intense stimulation. These changes occur when any intensive goal-activity is thwarted. They are part of the picture of resistance, and occur in all emotional reactions that are vigorous, such as fear, anger, rage, jealousy, grief, desperation, extreme determination and even hysterical joy. To protect oneself against danger, to struggle determinedly for the solution of a perplexing mathematical problem, and to exert oneself to the utmost in physical competition with a sack of sugar, are examples of the same fundamental type of process. The whole system is thrown into action in accordance with the same set of laws. The type of goal makes no difference; the reaching of any goal is necessary for the maintenance of integrity.

§ 12. MENTAL AND PHYSICAL “INTEGRITY”. There is no difference in principle between “mental” and “physical” integrity. They are not mutually exclusive; the one always involves the other. The demand for life is both, and is one rather than the other only as we shift our reference point from one phenomenological level to the other. In reality the levels do not exist. To illustrate:—a person, raised as a strict fundamentalist in religion, believing that to question the Virgin Birth is a heresy to be paid for by eternal damnation, suffers untold “physical” torture when the literal truth of his belief seems doubtful to him. His whole body is affected. His digestion is upset; he is fatigued with the bodily waste products of anxiety; he may, if he fails to justify his more liberal ideas, develop hyperthyroidism, functional heart trouble, diabetes; his system may become depleted and disintegrated to the extent that he lacks the strength to overcome an infection or to sustain a needed operation. He may become weakened nervously, become depressed, develop hysteria, or dementia præcox. In desperate search for relief he may become an alcoholic or a drug addict; he may develop anti-social traits and become a thief. He may commit suicide. At any rate, he suffers as a total individual, physically and mentally; and the least that will happen is the development of an unbalanced, overemotional personality. Whatever does occur, the efforts are those of a most elaborate and highly specialised system, physiologically and psychologically involving nicely balanced parts, to preserve its integrity under the laws of dynamics. If there is no escape from the lack of balance, the system will of its own accord disintegrate. If the heart is the weakest aspect in the system, it will give out with the consequence of death; if the weakest part of the total system pertains to its mental aspect, insanity is the consequence. In any case the death process is self-initiated, with reference to environmental forces. Suicide is only one variety, a variety conditioned by the dynamic relation of the victim to the pattern of humanity around him; while death by disease is a variety of disintegration conditioned by other aspects of environment. In either case the human organism resists the outcome until the limits of energy, available for the purpose, are exhausted. That death by disease is involuntary and death by suicide is voluntary will not distinguish the two except with respect to social values. Again the principles are the same.

§ 13. THE ORGANISM AS A “WHOLE”. If we look at the human organism-as-a-whole from a physiological standpoint, we find a system that shifts its energies to any occasion in the course of retaining organisation. This fact is observable not only in emotional situations but in every type of situation, and at the physiological level where no reference to mental activity is pertinent. A person living at sea level has a certain blood pressure that is generally lower than if he resided at higher altitudes. His acid-base balance is different, in fact, his whole physiology exhibits a different functional pattern. Similarly, a person living in a cold climate differs in this pattern from the person living in the tropics. If he changes from one of these abodes to another, his whole physiology must undergo a change, popularly known as acclimatisation; and until this change takes place health difficulties are almost certain to arise. Furthermore, the unity of the organism rests upon a balanced system of glands whose secretions are normal or abnormal in accordance with the chemical stress among the glands themselves and between their secretions and the chemical composition of the blood.

§ 14. THE ORGANISM AS MENTAL. If we look at the same human being from the mental standpoint, we find a unified whole that, in accordance with the same laws, changes to any occasion, within the limits of its energies, in the course of maintaining internal harmony. We have shown in a general way that feelings and emotions obey the laws of dynamics; and that particularly useful, in understanding these phenomena, are the laws of least action and maximum work, together with the corollary that, in its goal-activity, a body offers resistance to an obstacle in proportion to the nearness of the goal.

§ 15. THE PROBLEM OF THE WILL. The problem of the will has arisen several times in the course of our discussion. It follows from the position we have taken that human needs are, as desires, no more than as forces, the demands of an energy system to retain its status quo against interference, and to resist a change that is not as much self-controlled as it is induced. The system will obey none but its own injunctions; albeit it must have an excuse.

Nor does the fact that human beings will voluntarily search for the things they need presuppose a principle not found in the behaviour of inorganic systems. The searching is to be explained in terms of dynamics. In human beings the process is more varied, complicated and obvious. In terms of dynamics, searching for food and “absorbing” it is no different from “attracting energy” from a given position. The fact of locomotion in the one case and the lack of it in another does not alter the principle; nor does an application of dynamics deny the human will. The mechanist, in attempting to explain human behaviour, logically destroyed it in carrying it over to dynamics; the organismist carries the laws of dynamics over to human behaviour without making his conceptions vitalistic. Vitalism was a mechanistic dynamism, and mechanistic thought was a materialistic dynamism.

We have said that the human energy system, with its highly specialised structures, possesses quantities of energy so instable as to be available for expenditure in the maintenance of unity, and that maintenance of unity takes the form of resolving tensions toward remote ends. Movement of the living organism from one place to another is merely an aspect of the resolving process going on within the organism; just as the falling body resolves its potential by going from a higher to a lower level with respect to the centre of the earth. The difference between the two, expressed crudely, is the greater obviousness of several “gravitational” dimensions in the total system of which the organism is a part, so that the organism has several goals rather than one. Thus he may go first in one direction and then in another. The falling apple does the same thing in principle, too, as a matter of fact; for at the same time that it is “attracted” toward the centre of the earth, it is “attracted” by surrounding objects. Actually it, like the human being, has a multitude of goals, but one of them dominates the others. Again the difference accrues to phenomenological discreteness of goals and of resolutions of potential. It is a difference in the degree to which the system in question is differentiated.

§ 16. LAW IN RELATION TO WILL. As regards the specific organismic laws in their relation to the will problem, we can only hint at their general applicability. The third law is particularly relevant, namely, that the whole conditions the activities of its parts, for is not the will the organism-as-a-whole conditioning the activities of its parts? No system of psychology has made intelligible, in the past, just how a person by his own intent can move a hand or recollect a thought. In short, volition was a mystery, so much of a mystery that the mechanist ruled out the will as a degenerate psychological concept. The vitalist made of it a deus ex machina. The organismic position raises will to the level of dignity that field properties of energy systems enjoy in physics and physiology; it becomes one of the most important concepts in the new psychology without implying vitalism or mechanism.

§ 17. DETERMINISM VERSUS FREEDOM. Not only this, but it straightens out the tangle of determinism versus freedom. The only type of causation that is intelligible is the genus which comes under the law that determinism obtains only between the whole and its parts. The human will is a phenomenological species of this genus. In other words, the will is the phenomenological aspect of that configuration of potentials in the organism-as-a-whole by which each thought and act is directed. Effort, as a phenomenon, falls conveniently under the law of maximum work. Choice is a matter of growth in a problem situation. By the time, therefore, that each principle of dynamics is applied in detail to the problem of will, it becomes as intelligible and necessary a psychological concept as perception or learning.

§ 18. THE SELF. The same logic can be applied to the problem of the self and to an entire epistemological psychology on the phenomenological level of self-consciousness. If a gravitational system can condition the fall of an apple and a human organism can contract a muscle, a self as subject can know an object by the same general means. There is, most certainly, a dynamics of the self, where epistemological terms describe dynamic relations obtaining between energy patterns of a very high order of differentiation.

The Laws of Human Nature
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