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Permanent Feeling Attitudes Or Sentiments

Besides the more or less transitory feeling states which we have called
moods, there exists also a class of feeling attitudes, which contain
more of the complex intellectual element, are withal of rather a higher
nature, and much more permanent than our moods. We may call these our
sentiments, or attitudes. Our sentiments comprise the somewhat
constant level of feeling combined with cognition, which we name
sympathy, friendship, love, patriotism, religious faith,
selfishness, pride, vanity, etc. Like our dispositions, our
sentiments are a growth of months and years. Unlike our dispositions,
however, our sentiments are relatively independent of the physiological
undertone, and depend more largely upon long-continued experience and
intellectual elements as a basis. A sluggish liver might throw us into
an irritable mood and, if the condition were long continued, might
result in a surly disposition; but it would hardly permanently destroy
one's patriotism and make him turn traitor to his country. One's feeling
attitude on such matters is too deep seated to be modified by changing

HOW SENTIMENTS DEVELOP.--Sentiments have their beginning in concrete
experiences in which feeling is a predominant element, and grow through
the multiplication of these experiences much as the concept is
developed through many percepts. There is a residual element left
behind each separate experience in both cases. In the case of the
concept the residual element is intellectual, and in the case of the
sentiment it is a complex in which the feeling element is predominant.

How this comes about is easily seen by means of an illustration or two.
The mother feeds her child when he is hungry, and an agreeable feeling
is produced; she puts him into the bath and snuggles him in her arms,
and the experiences are pleasant. The child comes to look upon the
mother as one whose especial function is to make things pleasant for
him, so he comes to be happy in her presence, and long for her in her
absence. He finally grows to love his mother not alone for the countless
times she has given him pleasure, but for what she herself is. The
feelings connected at first wholly with pleasant experiences coming
through the ministrations of the mother, strengthened no doubt by
instinctive tendencies toward affection, and later enhanced by a fuller
realization of what a mother's care and sacrifice mean, grow at last
into a deep, forceful, abiding sentiment of love for the mother.

THE EFFECT OF EXPERIENCE.--Likewise with the sentiment of patriotism. In
so far as our patriotism is a true patriotism and not a noisy clamor, it
had its rise in feelings of gratitude and love when we contemplated the
deeds of heroism and sacrifice for the flag, and the blessings which
come to us from our relations as citizens to our country. If we have had
concrete cases brought to our experience, as, for example, our property
saved from destruction at the hands of a mob or our lives saved from a
hostile foreign foe, the patriotic sentiment will be all the stronger.

So we may carry the illustration into all the sentiments. Our religious
sentiments of adoration, love, and faith have their origin in our belief
in the care, love, and support from a higher Being typified to us as
children by the care, love, and support of our parents. Pride arises
from the appreciation or over-appreciation of oneself, his attainments,
or his belongings. Selfishness has its genesis in the many instances in
which pleasure results from ministering to self. In all these cases it
is seen that our sentiments develop out of our experiences: they are the
permanent but ever-growing results which we have to show for experiences
which are somewhat long continued, and in which a certain feeling
quality is a strong accompaniment of the cognitive part of the

THE INFLUENCE OF SENTIMENT.--Our sentiments, like our dispositions, are
not only a natural growth from the experiences upon which they are fed,
but they in turn have large influence in determining the direction of
our further development. Our sentiments furnish the soil which is either
favorable or hostile to the growth of new experiences. One in whom the
sentiment of true patriotism is deep-rooted will find it much harder to
respond to a suggestion to betray his country's honor on battlefield, in
legislative hall, or in private life, than one lacking in this
sentiment. The boy who has a strong sentiment of love for his mother
will find this a restraining influence in the face of temptation to
commit deeds which would wound her feelings. A deep and abiding faith in
God is fatal to the growth of pessimism, distrust, and a self-centered
life. One's sentiments are a safe gauge of his character. Let us know a
man's attitude or sentiments on religion, morality, friendship, honesty,
and the other great questions of life, and little remains to be known.
If he is right on these, he may well be trusted in other things; if he
is wrong on these, there is little to build upon.

Literature has drawn its best inspiration and choicest themes from the
field of our sentiments. The sentiment of friendship has given us our
David and Jonathan, our Damon and Pythias, and our Tennyson and Hallam.
The sentiment of love has inspired countless masterpieces; without its
aid most of our fiction would lose its plot, and most of our poetry its
charm. Religious sentiment inspired Milton to write the world's greatest
epic, Paradise Lost. The sentiment of patriotism has furnished an
inexhaustible theme for the writer and the orator. Likewise if we go
into the field of music and art, we find that the best efforts of the
masters are clustered around some human sentiment which has appealed to
them, and which they have immortalized by expressing it on canvas or in
marble, that it may appeal to others and cause the sentiment to grow in

SENTIMENTS AS MOTIVES.--The sentiments furnish the deepest, the most
constant, and the most powerful motives which control our lives. Such
sentiments as patriotism, liberty, and religion have called a thousand
armies to struggle and die on ten thousand battlefields, and have given
martyrs courage to suffer in the fires of persecution. Sentiments of
friendship and love have prompted countless deeds of self-sacrifice and
loving devotion. Sentiments of envy, pride, and jealousy have changed
the boundary lines of nations, and have prompted the committing of ten
thousand unnamable crimes. Slowly day by day from the cradle to the
grave we are weaving into our lives the threads of sentiment, which at
last become so many cables to bind us to good or evil.

Next: Problems In Observation And Introspection

Previous: Mood And Disposition

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