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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, r

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.