Can Change the World Again.
A SYSTEM OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY. 1882.
REV. ASA MAHAN, D. D. LL.D.
Emotions have been defined, as those states of the sensibility which directly and immediately succeed the presence of any thought in the mind. Emotions sustain the same relations to thought, that sensations do to impressions made upon the physical organization.
EMOTIONS CLASSIFIED, AND ELUCIDATED.
All emotions are, in their nature, pleasant or unpleasant, joyful or saddening, happifying or painful, ecstatic or agonizing, and may be classified accordingly. An emotion which simply excites, without agitating the mind, is called pleasant or unpleasant, according to its nature. Those which are attended with certain degrees of agitation, are called joyful or saddening. Those which are attended with still higher degrees of excitement are denominated happifying or painful, while those which are attended with the highest degrees of agitation, are denominated triumphant, ecstatic or agonizing. Those emotions which attend the apprehension of good or ill to come, are represented by such terms as hope or fear. Those emotions which are induced by the apprehension of positive excellences, natural or moral, or their opposites, are represented by such terms as, favor or disfavor, approbation or reprobation, delight or abhorrence, love or hate, according to the character of the qualities referred to. When any form of good, once possessed or hoped for, has been lost, the painful emotions attending the apprehension of such a fact, is represented by such terms as regret, mourning, or grief. When objects of thought, present and future wear the prevailing aspect of unhopefulness, the emotions induced take on the form of gloom, or despondency. When the element of hope becomes wholly extinct, the emotions of agony then induced, are represented by such terms as misery and despair. The consciousness of personal excellences or defects, is attended with emotions represented by such terms as self-congratulation and self-esteem, or self depreciation and mortification. If such excellences and defects are of a moral nature, taking on the form of conscious virtue or vice, good or ill desert, the joyful or agonizing emotions then induced are represented by such words as self-approval, and self-commendation, or self-reprobation and remorse. When joyful or regretful emotions are induced by the contemplation of good or ill enjoyed or endured by others, such emotions are denominated sympathetic. When emotions of regret are induced by the contemplation of good enjoyed, or of gratification in view of suffering endured, by others, such emotions are called malign.
CAUSES OF OUR EMOTIONS CLASSIFIED.
The objects of those thoughts which induce these diverse classes of emotions, are classed as agreeable or disagreeable, pleasant or unpleasant, beautiful or deformed, desirable or undesirable, lovely or hateful, excellent or execrable, perfect or imperfect, according to the nature and character of the feelings which they induce.
EMOTIONS AS DISTINGUISHED FROM DESIRES.
Emotions and desires have already been defined. We desire the presence or absence of objects which have previously excited in us pleasurable or painful sensations or emotions. The pleasure or pain must have pre-existed, or the existence of desire would be impossible. Desires are to sensations and emotions, what effects are to causes.
Emotions, as well as sensations, as distinguished from desires, are denominated passive impressions. Desire, on the other hand, is, in a certain sense, an active state, a state in which the mind is impelled to or from some object.
HAPPINESS OR MISERY CONDITIONED ON OUR SENSATIONAL AND EMOTIVE STATES.
Upon the nature and character of our sensations and emotions, our happiness or misery is conditioned. We are happy, when our passive impressions are of a pleasant, and unhappy or miserable, when they are of a painful, character. Happiness has been defined by some individuals, as gratified desire. This is a mistake. We have many desires of great strength,desires the gratification of which affords little or no happiness. A man for example, may very strongly desire to witness the death of a friend, while the gratification of that desire, will, as he well knows, give pain instead of pleasure. The desire for revenge very strongly impels the will, while the gratification of the impulse is painful rather than otherwise. The happiness derived from gratified desire depends wholly upon the passive impressions, the sensations or emotions with which such gratification is attended.
IDEAS REPRESENTED BY THE TERMS,
HAPPINESS, BLESSEDNESS, MISERY, ETC.
When the mind is in a condition in which its sensitive and emotive states, in continued succession, are pleasant or unpleasant, pleasurable or painful, it is then in that state represented by the terms happiness or blessedness, unhappiness or misery, and its happiness or misery is perfect or imperfect, when one class of feelings exists without the presence of the other, or in the degree in which the two are intermingled with each other. The terms heaven and hell, as employed in the Scriptures and in common life, represent the idea of two distinct and opposite conditions of existence, the one in which all sensitive and emotive states are of an exclusively, happifying, and the other in which they are of an equally painful character. Our present condition of living is a mingled one. None are perfectly happy, and few are absolutely miserable.
TRANSIENT AND PERMANENT EMOTIONS.
In regard to our emotions, this principle generally holds true, that the same identical feeling is seldom reproduced by the reappearance of the same thought; and the repetition of that appearance is generally attended with a diminution of the vividness of the emotion. This, by no means holds true of the objects of the domestic affections, of moral and eternal truth, or of any objects having in them the elements of real, and especially of absolute, perfection. Familiarity with such objects, even when nothing new is developed, increases rather than diminishes their power over the sensibilities. Forms of perfect symmetry and beauty in nature, and in art, are, to all who have once attained to a proper appreciation of their excellences, objects of undying interest. This holds especially true of all real forms of mental and moral beauty and perfection. The main reason why other and common objects, after our first knowledge of them, lose their power over our emotions, is that familiarity renders us conscious of their defects, and therefore destroys our interest in them.
Emotions which depend upon the original principles and propensities of our nature are permanent in their characteristics, while those which depend upon accidental circumstances, on the other hand, are of transitory continuance. Those emotions, for example, which arise in connection with the domestic affections, the love of right and duty, and the hatred of wrong, etc., have permanent characteristics; while those of surprise at the appearance of objects new or strange, or in unexpected circumstances, after a short continuance, disappear forever.
GROWTH AND DECAY OF EMOTIONS.
Some emotions come to full maturity almost instantly. Of this character, for the most part, are emotions of surprise, wonder, fear, and terror; and the decay of such emotions is commonly as rapid as their growth. Other emotions come to maturity gradually, such, for example, as those awakened by the contemplation of objects intrinsically beautiful, sublime, or excellent. Emotions of this character are of slow and gradual decay, if they decay at all, while many of them are of permanent continuance, and are attended with increase rather than diminution of strength, from the lapse of time.
CONCORDANT AND DISCORDANT, SIMILAR AND DISSIMILAR.
As two or more distinct objects of thought may be before the mind at the same time, so two or more emotions may co-exist in the consciousness. Of co-existent emotions, some blend in unison, mutually inducing a new state of mind concordant with each of the blended emotions. Thus excellence of speech associated with personal charms, may blend into a common feeling of admiration for the individual in whom such excellences meet. Other emotions, while they do not thus blend, increase and intensify each other's characteristics. Of this class are love for a friend, and sorrow for his misfortunes. Such emotions do not blend, yet each intensifies the other. Emotions of the two kinds under consideration are said to be concordant.
Other co-existing emotions refuse to blend, as admiration for personal charms, and reprobation for crimes. Some are so incompatible with each other, that one will extinguish the other. Thus parental love often extinguishes wholly the resentment awakened by the misconduct of a child. Emotions of this class are called discordant emotions. The effect upon the mind induced by concordant emotions is, for the most part, pleasing, while that induced by discordant ones is commonly of a painful character.
Emotions, in their nature wholly unlike, may tend to induce the same tone of mind. Cheerful or melancholy emotions, however unlike their causes may be, are of this character, and are hence called similar emotions. Other emotions, such as those of pride and humility, gayety and gloominess, as they tend to induce opposite tones of mind, are called dissimilar emotions.
SYMPATHETIC AND REPELLANT EMOTIONS.
All are aware, that the contemplation of certain emotions as existing in other minds, tends to induce similar feelings in our own. We contemplate, for example, signal acts of gratitude, courage, heroism, or benevolence; as a result, emotions are induced in our minds prompting the desire to perform similar acts ourselves. The contemplation of joy or sorrow in others induces similar emotions in ourselves. Emotions thus "tending to induce similar feelings in other minds are called emotions of sympathy, or sympathetic emotions.
There are other emotions the contemplation of which tends to induce in our minds, feelings wholly unlike themselves. Acts of cruelty, for example, not only induce feelings of reprobation for the acts themselves, but emotions of compassion for the individuals injured. Emotions, the contemplation of which induces such effects, are called repellant, or unsympathetic emotions.
CONGRUOUS AND INCONGRUOUS EMOTIONS.
Emotions are often compared with their objects, or causes, and are deemed congruous when they do, and incongruous, when in kind they do not correspond, with the character of said objects. Emotions of admiration, for example, for objects really beautiful, sublime, or excellent; courage in the midst of peril, or compassion for the afflicted, we approve as suitable, fit, and proper; while feelings such as high esteem for objects low, mean, or trifling in their nature; of terror in the absence of real danger, or indifference in the presence of real suffering and want, we disapprove: as out of place, and improper. The same holds true, when the degree and intensity of the feelings do, or, do not, accord with the real merits or demerits of their objects. Emotions harmless in their nature, but, in kind or degree, the opposite of what would naturally be expected in the circumstances, excite in the spectator, the sense of the ludicrous, or ridiculous; such manifestations for example, as emotions of fear or terror when there is hardly the appearance of danger, or of pride or vanity on account of trivial excellences, or of wonder or surprise at things not new or strange. Emotions of delight in things odious or trivial move our disgust, contempt, or reprobation. Emotions of pleasure or indifference, at misfortune or suffering, and of hate of what is truly excellent and praiseworthy, as objects of thought, excite in us feelings of horror or indignation. All emotions, in short, of every kind whether of love or hate, delight or disgust, admiration or reprobation, of courage or terror, hope or despair, are to the spectator, congruous, when they are in harmony with their objects. They are incongruous when in kind or degree, this compatibility is wanting.
AGREEABLE AND DISAGREEABLE EMOTIONS.
The mind not unfrequently makes its own emotive states, as well as those of others, the objects of thought and contemplation. When thus contemplated, they become the causes of pleasant or unpleasant, pleasurable or painful emotions. Hence, as causes of agreeable, or disagreeable feelings, emotions are classed, like other objects, as agreeable or disagreeable. Almost, if not quite universally, congruous emotions, as objects of thought, are agreeable, and all of the incongruous ones are disagreeable to the mind; and that whether said emotions are, in themselves, pleasurable or painful. The mind is universally pleased with fitness, propriety, and congruity, and nowhere more intensely than when those ideas are fully realized in the relations between its own conscious mental states and their respective objects. In circumstances in which painful emotions, and those only, are fit and proper, the mind is pleased with their presence, and would be grieved at their conscious absence. Here we have the explanation of what is called "pleasure in tragic scenes." The emotions immediately excited by such scenes are exclusively painful; as objects of thought, however, such emotions are agreeable, being to the mind conscious indications of the right state of the sensibilities.