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

whims.



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

experience.



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

us.



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.





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