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The Nature Of Feeling

It will be our purpose in the next few chapters to study the affective
content of consciousness--the feelings and emotions. The present chapter
will be devoted to the feelings and the one that follows to the

THE DIFFERENT FEELING QUALITIES.--At least six (some writers say even
more) distinct and qualitatively different feeling states are easily
distinguished. These are: pleasure, pain; desire, repugnance;
interest, apathy. Pleasure and pain, and desire and repugnance, are
directly opposite or antagonistic feelings. Interest and apathy are not
opposites in a similar way, since apathy is but the absence of interest,
and not its antagonist. In place of the terms pleasure and pain, the
pleasant and the unpleasant, or the agreeable and the
disagreeable, are often used. Aversion is frequently employed as a
synonym for repugnance.

It is somewhat hard to believe on first thought that feeling comprises
but the classes given. For have we not often felt the pain from a
toothache, from not being able to take a long-planned trip, from the
loss of a dear friend? Surely these are very different classes of
feelings! Likewise we have been happy from the very joy of living, from
being praised for some well-doing, or from the presence of friend or
lover. And here again we seem to have widely different classes of

We must remember, however, that feeling is always based on something
known. It never appears alone in consciousness as mere pleasures or
pains. The mind must have something about which to feel. The what must
precede the how. What we commonly call a feeling is a complex state
of consciousness in which feeling predominates, but which has,
nevertheless, a basis of sensation, or memory, or some other cognitive
process. And what so greatly varies in the different cases of the
illustrations just given is precisely this knowledge element, and not
the feeling element. A feeling of unpleasantness is a feeling of
unpleasantness whether it comes from an aching tooth or from the loss of
a friend. It may differ in degree, and the entire mental states of which
the feeling is a part may differ vastly, but the simple feeling itself
is of the same quality.

is without the feeling element. We look at the rainbow with its
beautiful and harmonious blending of colors, and a feeling of pleasure
accompanies the sensation; then we turn and gaze at the glaring sun, and
a disagreeable feeling is the result. A strong feeling of pleasantness
accompanies the experience of the voluptuous warmth of a cozy bed on a
cold morning, but the plunge between the icy sheets on the preceding
evening was accompanied by the opposite feeling. The touch of a hand may
occasion a thrill of ecstatic pleasure, or it may be accompanied by a
feeling equally disagreeable. And so on through the whole range of
sensation; we not only know the various objects about us through
sensation and perception, but we also feel while we know. Cognition,
or the knowing processes, gives us our whats; and feeling, or the
affective processes, gives us our hows. What is yonder object? A
bouquet. How does it affect you? Pleasurably.

If, instead of the simpler sensory processes which we have just
considered, we take the more complex processes, such as memory,
imagination, and thinking, the case is no different. Who has not reveled
in the pleasure accompanying the memories of past joys? On the other
hand, who is free from all unpleasant memories--from regrets, from pangs
of remorse? Who has not dreamed away an hour in pleasant anticipation of
some desired object, or spent a miserable hour in dreading some calamity
which imagination pictured to him? Feeling also accompanies our thought
processes. Everyone has experienced the feeling of the pleasure of
intellectual victory over some difficult problem which had baffled the
reason, or over some doubtful case in which our judgment proved correct.
And likewise none has escaped the feeling of unpleasantness which
accompanies intellectual defeat. Whatever the contents of our mental
stream, we find in them, everywhere present, a certain color of passing
estimate, an immediate sense that they are worth something to us at any
given moment, or that they then have an interest to us.

THE SEEMING NEUTRAL FEELING ZONE.--It is probable that there is so
little feeling connected with many of the humdrum and habitual
experiences of our everyday lives, that we are but slightly, if at all,
aware of a feeling state in connection with them. Yet a state of
consciousness with absolutely no feeling side to it is as unthinkable as
the obverse side of a coin without the reverse. Some sort of feeling
tone or mood is always present. The width of the affective neutral
zone--that is, of a feeling state so little marked as not to be
discriminated as either pleasure or pain, desire or aversion--varies
with different persons, and with the same person at different times. It
is conditioned largely by the amount of attention given in the direction
of feeling, and also on the fineness of the power of feeling
discrimination. It is safe to say that the zero range is usually so
small as to be negligible.

Next: Mood And Disposition

Previous: Problems In Observation And Introspection

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