CHAPTER I. SENSATION.
“I shall not at present meddle with the physical consideration of the mind, or trouble myself to examine wherein its essence consists; or by what motions of our spirits, or alterations of our bodies, we come to have any Sensation by our organs, or any Ideas in our understandings; and whether those ideas do in their formation, any or all of them, depend on matter or no. These are speculations which, however curious and entertaining, I shall decline, as lying out of my way in the design I am now upon.” Locke, i. 1, 2.
MY object, in what I shall say respecting the phenomena classed under the head of SENSATION, is, to lead such of my readers as are new to this species of inquiry to conceive the feelings distinctly. All men are familiar with them; but this very familiarity, as the mind runs easily from one well known object to another, is a reason why the boundary between them and other feelings is not always observed. It is necessary, therefore, that the learner should by practice acquire the habit of reflecting upon his Sensations, as a distinct class of feelings; and should be hence prepared to mark well the distinction between them and other states of mind, when he advances to the analysis of the more mysterious phenomena.
What we commonly mean, when we use the terms Sensation or phenomena of Sensation, are the feelings which we have by the five senses, SMELL, TASTE, HEARING, TOUCH, and SIGHT. These are the feelings from which we derive our notions of what we denominate the external world; the things by which we are surrounded: that is, the antecedents of the most interesting consequents, in the whole series of feelings, which constitute our mental train, or existence.
The feelings, however, which belong to the five external Senses are not a full enumeration of the feelings which it seems proper to rank under the head of Sensations, and which must be considered as bearing an important part in those complicated phenomena, which it is our principal business, in this inquiry, to separate into their principal elements, and explain. Of these unnamed, and generally unregarded, Sensations, two principal classes may be distinguished: -first, Those which accompany the action of the several muscles of the body; and, secondly, Those which have their place in the Alimentary Canal. (1)
[1 Important points of Psychology are raised in classifying the senses, and in assigning the order of their exposition. The author justly animadverts on the insufficiency of the common enumeration of the Five Senses, and indicates two grand omissions the Muscular Sensibilities, and the feelings associated with Digestion.
With regard to the first omission the Muscular Feelings, a further advance has been found requisite. Instead of adding these to the list, as a sixth sense, they are made a genus apart, and put in contrast to the Sensations as commonly understood. They are the feelings of our ACTIVITY, of the Active side of our nature, and are in relation to the Motor or Outcarrying nerves of the body. The Sensations proper, such as Smell and Hearing, are the feelings of our RECEPTIVITY, or Passivity, and arise in connection with the Sentient, or Incarrying nerves. In the exercise of the senses, however, a muscular element is almost always combined. This is conspicuous in Touch, which is most frequently accompanied with movements of the hand, or other parts touched; it is also the case with Sight, there being six muscles constantly engaged in moving the eye-ball. There is least muscularity in Hearing and Smell, but in neither is it wholly absent. Thus in Hearing, there are certain small muscles for adjusting the tightness of the membrane of the tympanum; apart from which, there are movements of the head in conjunction with hearing. So in Smell; the sniffing action with the breath is muscular. Nevertheless, it is easy to separate, in all the senses, the passive and proper sensibility of the sense, (called by Hamilton the idiopathic sensibility) from the active accompaniment. We can make experiments upon passive touch, or pure contact; we can isolate in our consciousness the optical sensibility of the eye; we can eliminate activity from the ear; and we can attend to the sensations of smell in their pure passivity.
The best course of proceeding is to deal with Muscularity apart, in the first instance, and to give it the priority in the order of exposition. Chronologically it is an earlier fact of our being; we move before we feel; there is an inborn energy of action in the animal system, which goes out, as it were, and meets the objects of sensation. This is one reason of priority. Another is the fact just stated that movement accompanies all the senses, or is a common factor in sensation. To discuss its peculiar sensibility is thus a preparation for treating of the senses.
The importance of drawing a broad line between the active and the passive branches of our primary sensibilities is seen in various applications, but most especially in the problem of External Perception. The great distinction that this problem requires us to draw between the external and the internal sides of our being (so described by an imperfect metaphor) has its deepest foundation in the distinction between the sense of expended muscular energy and the feelings that are neither energy in themselves, nor vary definitely according to our energies. The qualities of things admitted on all hands to be qualities of the external (or object) world called the Primary Qualities, Resistance and Extension, are modes of our muscular energies; the qualities that do not of themselves suggest externality, or objectivity, the secondary qualities, as Heat, Colour, &c. are our passive sensibilities, and do not contain muscular energy. When these secondary qualities enter into definite connections with our movements, they are then referred to the external, or object world. Light and colour, when varying definitely with our various movements, as postures and actions, are from that circumstance referred to the external, or non-ego; without such connections they would be called internal or subjective states.
The contrasted terms ‘Object’ and ‘Subject’ are the least exceptionable for expressing the fundamental antithesis of consciousness and of existence. Matter and Mind, External and Internal, are the popular synonyms, but are less free from misleading suggestions. Extension is the Object fact by pre-eminence; Pleasure and Pain are the most marked phases of pure Subjectivity. Between the consciousness of extension and the consciousness of a pleasure there is the broadest line that can be drawn within the human experience; the broadest distinction in the whole universe of being. These then are the Object and Subject extremes; and, in the final analysis, the object extreme appears to be grounded on the feeling of expended muscular energy.
The second omission alluded to is the Digestive Sensibility, which ought undoubtedly to be included among sensations, having all the constituents of a sense; an object the food; a sensitive organ the stomach; and a characteristic form of sensibility or feeling. The author farther takes notice of ‘Sensations of Disorganization, or of the approach to Disorganization, in any part of the body’ which too deserve to be reckoned among mental facts. He might farther have adverted to the acute and depressing feelings of the Lungs, in case of partial suffocation, with the exhilaration attending the relief from such a state, and the change from a close to a fresh atmosphere. Moreover, there are states of purely physical comfort, associated with a vigorous circulation, with healthy innervation, with the proper action of the skin; and feelings of discomfort and depression from the opposite states. A slight allusion to these various feelings occurs in chapter second towards the close.
These various modes of sensibility seem to be fitly grouped f together under the common head of Sensations of Organic Life: their detail being arranged according to the several organs viz. the Alimentary Canal, Lungs, Circulation, Nervous System, &c. These would make a sixth Sense properly so called, or a department of passive sensibility. B.]
SECTION I. SMELL.
It is not material to the present purpose in what order we survey the subdivisions of this elementary class of the mental phenomena. It will be convenient to take those first, which can be most easily thought of by themselves; that is, of which a conception, free from the mixture of any extraneous ingredient, can be most certainly formed. For this reason we begin with SMELL. (2)
[2 The order of exposition of the senses is not a matter of indifference. The author, like Condillac, selected Smell to begin with, as being a remarkably simple and characteristic feeling; he has found another expository advantage in it, by disturbing our routine mode of regarding the intellect as principally made up of sensations of sight. It has a startling effect on the reader, to suggest a mental life consisting wholly of smells and ideas of smell.
There are two principles of arrangement of the senses, each good for its own purpose; it being understood that the active or muscular sensibility is taken apart from, and prior to, sensation proper.
The first is to take them in the order of Intellectual development. Some of the senses are evidently intellectual in a high degree, as Sight and Hearing, others are intellectual in a much smaller degree, as Smell and Taste. The organic sensations are still less connected with the operations of the intellect. Many of the least intellectual sensations are remarkably intense, as pleasure and pain; perhaps more so than the intellectually higher class. The organic pains are more unendurable than the worst pains of hearing or of sight, unless these are assimilated to the other class, by injury of the organs.
The intellectual superiority of the higher senses shows itself in two ways, the one strictly in the domain of Intellect, the other in the domain of Feeling. As regards Intellect, it is shown in the predominance of the ideas of the higher senses. Our intellectual or ideal trains, the materials of thought and knowledge, are made up most of all of ideas of sight, next of ideas of hearing, to a less degree of ideas of touch or skin contact, and, least of all, of ideas of stomach and lung sensations or other organic states. The trains of the scientific man, of the man of business, and even of the handicraft worker, are almost entirely made up of ideas of sight and of hearing (with active or muscular ideas). Our understanding of the order of nature, our very notion of the material universe, is a vast and complex scheme of ideas of sight.
The intellectual superiority of the higher senses in the domain of Feeling is connected with the remembrance or ideal persistence of pleasures and pains. The pleasures of Digestion are weakly and ineffectively remembered, in the absence of the actuality. The pleasures of Smell are remembered better. The pleasures and pains of Hearing and Sight are remembered best of any. This gives them a higher value in life; the addition made to the actual, by the ideal, is, in their case, the greatest of all. They are said, for this among other reasons, to be more refined.
The arrangement dictated by the gradation of intellectuality would be as follows: 1. Sensations of Organic Life. 2. Taste. 3. Smell. 4. Touch. 5. Hearing. 6. Sight.
The second principle of arrangement starts with Touch, as the most simple in its mode of action, and the most diffused in its operation. Touch consists in mere mechanical pressure on a sensitive surface; this is the most simple and elementary of all stimuli. The other senses are regarded as specialised modifications of Touch.
In Hearing, the mode of action is touch or mechanical con tact. In the remaining senses, the contact is accompanied with other forces. Taste and Smell involve chemical change, as well as contact. The action of Light on the eye is probably some species of molecular disturbance involving chemical action. This mode of viewing the order and dependence of the senses belongs more especially to the theory of the development of the organic system, which is made prominent in the Psychology of Mr. Herbert Spencer. The arrangement might be variously expressed: it might be Touch, Hearing, Sight, Taste, Smell, Organic Sensibility; or Touch, Hearing, Taste, Smell, Organic Sensibility, Sight. B.]
In the Smell three things are commonly distinguished. There is the ORGAN, there is the SENSATION, and there is the antecedent of the Sensation, the external OBJECT, as it is commonly denominated,* to which the Sensation is referred as an effect to its cause.
[* It is necessary here to observe, that I use, throughout this Inquiry, the language most commonly in use. This is attended with its disadvantages; for on the subject of mind the ordinary language almost always involves more or less of theory, which may or may not appear to me to correspond with the true exposition of the phenomena. The advantages, how ever, of not departing from familiar terms still appeared to me to preponderate; and I am willing to hope, that such erroneous suggestions, as are sometimes inseparable from the language I have thought it best upon the whole to employ, will be corrected, without any particular notice, by the analysis which I shall present. (Author’s Note.)]
These three distinguishable particulars are common to all the five Senses. With regard to the ORGAN, which is a physical rather than a mental subject of inquiry, I shall have occasion to say little more than is required to make my reader distinguish, with sufficient accuracy, the part of his body to which the separate feelings of his five Senses belong. And with regard to the antecedent of the Sensation, or OBJECT of the Senses, the proper place for explaining what is capable of being known of it is at a subsequent part of this inquiry. My desire at present is, to fix the attention of the reader upon the SENSATION; that he may mark it as a mental state of a particular kind, distinct from every other feeling of his nature.
The ORGAN of Smell, as every body knows, is situated in the mouth and nostrils, or in the nerves, appropriated to smelling, which are found in the passage between the mouth and nostrils, and in the vicinity of that passage.
Though it appears to be ascertained that the nerves are necessary to sensation, it is by no means ascertained in what way they become necessary. It is a mystery how the nerves, similar in all parts of the body, afford us, in one place, the sensation of sound; in another, the sensations of light and colours; in another, those of odours, in another those of flavours, and tastes, and so on.
With respect to the external OBJECT, as it is usually denominated, of this particular sense; in other words, the antecedent, of which the Sensation Smell is the consequent; it is, in vulgar apprehension, the visible, tangible object, from which the odour proceeds. Thus, we are said to smell a rose, when we have the sensation derived from the odour of the rose. It is more correct language, however, to say, that we smell the odorous particles which proceed from the visible, tangible object, than that we smell the object itself; for, if any thing prevents the odorous particles, which the body emits, from reaching the organ of smell, the sensation is not obtained. The object of the sense of smelling then are odorous particles, which only operate, or produce the sensation, when they reach the organ of smell.
But what is meant by odorous particles we are still in ignorance. Something, neither visible nor tangible, is conveyed, through the air, to the olfactory nerves; but of this something we know no more than that it is the antecedent of that nervous change, or variety of consciousness, which we denote by the word smell.
Still farther, When we say that the odorous particles, of which we are thus ignorant, reach the nerves which constitute the organ of smell, we attach hardly any meaning to the word reach. We know not whether the particles in question produce their effect, by contact, or without contact. As the nerves in every part of the body are covered, we know not how any external particles can reach them. We know not whether such particles operate upon the nerves, by their own, or by any other influence; the galvanic, for example, or electrical, influence.
These observations, with regard to the organ of smell, and the object of smell, are of importance, chiefly as they show us how imperfect our knowledge still is of all that is merely corporeal in sensation, and enable us to fix our attention more exclusively upon that which alone is material to our subsequent inquiries that point of consciousness which we denominate the sensation of smell, the mere feeling, detached from every thing else.
When we smell a rose, there is a particular feeling, a particular consciousness, distinct from all others which we mean to denote, when we call it the smell of the rose. In like manner we speak of the smell of hay, the smell of turpentine, and the smell of a fox. We also speak of good smells, and bad smells; meaning by the one, those which are agreeable to us; by the other, those which are offensive. In all these cases what we speak of is a point of consciousness, a thing which we can describe no otherwise than by calling it a feeling; a part of that series, that succession, that flow of something, on account of which we call ourselves living or sensitive creatures.
We can distinguish this feeling, this consciousness, he sensation of smell, from every other sensation. Smell and Sound are two very different things; so are smell and sight. The smell of a rose is different from the colour of the rose; it is also different from the smoothness of the rose, or the sensation we have by touching the rose.
We not only distinguish the sensations of smell from those of the other senses, but we distinguish the sensations of smell from one another. The smell of a rose is one sensation; the smell of a violet is another. The difference we find between one smell and another is in some cases very great; between the smell of a rose, for example, and that of carrion or assafœtida.
The number of distinguishable smells is very great. Almost every object in nature has a peculiar smell; every animal, every plant, and almost every mineral. Not only have the different classes of objects different smells, but probably different individuals in the same class. The different smells of different individuals are perceptible, to a certain extent, even by the human organs, and to a much greater extent by those of the dog and other animals, whose sense of smelling is more acute.
We can conceive ourselves, as endowed with smelling, and not enjoying any other faculty. In that! case, we should have no idea of objects as seeable, as hearable, as touchable, or tasteable. We should have a train of smells; the smell at one time of the rose, at another of the violet, at another of carrion, and so on. The successive points of consciousness, composing our sentient being, would be mere smells. Our life would be a train of smells, and nothing more. Smell, and! Life, would be two names for the same thing.
The terms which our language supplies, for speaking of this sense, are exceedingly imperfect. It would obviously be desirable to have, at any rate, distinct names for the ORGAN, for the OBJECT, and for the SENSATION; and that these names should never be con founded. It happens, unfortunately, that the word SMELL is applicable to all the three. That the word smell expresses, both the quality, as we vulgarly say, of the object smelt; and also the feeling of him by whom it is smelt, every one is aware. If you ask whether the smell, when I hold a violet to my nostrils, is in me or in the violet, it would be perfectly proper to say, in both. The same thing, however, is not in both, though the two things have the same name. What is in me is the sensation, the feeling, the point of consciousness; and that can be in no thing but a sentient being. What is in the rose, is what I call a quality of the rose; in fact, the antecedent of my sensation; of which, beside its being the antecedent of my sensation, I know nothing. If I were speaking of a place in which my senses had been variously affected, and should say, that, along with other pleasures, I had enjoyed a succession of the most delightful smells, I should be understood to speak of my sensations. If I were speaking of a number of unknown objects, and should say of one, that it had a smell like that of honey; of another, that it had a smell like that of garlick; I should be understood as speaking of the object of each sensation, a quality of the thing smelt.
The word smell, beside denoting the sensation and the object, denotes also the organ, in such phrases as the following; Sight and Hearing are two of the inlets of my knowledge, and Smell is a third;” The faculty by which I become sensible of odour is my Smell.” (3)
[3 It may be questioned whether, in the phrases here cited, the word Smell stands for the olfactory organ. It would perhaps be most correct to say, that in these cases it denotes the abstract capacity of smelling, rather than the concrete physical instrument. Even when smell is said to be one of the five senses, it may fairly be doubted whether a part of the meaning intended is, that it is one of the five organs of sensation. Nothing more seems to be meant, than that it is one of five distinguishable modes of having sensations, whatever the intrinsic difference between those modes may be.
In the author’s footnote he recognises that the abstract power of smelling enters into this particular application of the word Smell; and refers to a subsequent part of the treatise for the meaning of Power. But he thinks that along with the power, or as part of the conception of Power, the material organ is also signified. It seems to me that the organ does not enter in either of these modes, into the signification of the word. We can imagine ourselves ignorant that we possess physical organs; or aware that we possess them, but not aware that our sensations of smell are connected with them. Yet on either of these suppositions the power of smelling” would be perfectly intelligible, and would have the same meaning to us which it has now. Ed.]
In the phrases in which smell is called a SENSE, as when we say, that smell is one of the five senses, there is considerable complexity. The term here imports the organ, it imports the sensation, and, in a certain way, it imports also the object. It imports the organ as existing continuously, the sensation as existing only under a certain condition, and that condition the presence of the object.*
[* It will naturally occur to some of my readers, that, in the term sense of smelling, the idea of power is also included. They will say, that when we speak of the sense of smelling, we mean not only the organ, but the function of the organ, or its power of producing a certain effect. This is undoubtedly true; but when the real meaning of the language is evolved, it only amounts to that which is delivered in the text. For what does any person mean when he says that, in the sense of smelling, he has the power of smelling? Only this, that he has an organ, and that when the object of that organ is presented to it, sensation is the consequence. In all this, there is nothing but the organ, the object, and the sensation, conceived in a certain order. This will more fully appear when the meaning of the relative terms, cause and effect, has been explained. (Author’s Note.)]
SECTION II. HEARING.
In Hearing, the same three particulars, the ORGAN, the OBJECT, and the FEELING, require to be distinguished.
The name of the organ is the Ear; and its nice and complicated structure has been described with minuteness and admiration by anatomists and physiologists.
In vulgar discourse, the object of our Sense of Hearing is a sounding body. We say that we hear the bell, the trumpet, the cannon. This language, however, is not correct. That which precedes the feeling received through the ear, is the approach of vibrating air to the ear. Certain bodies, made to vibrate in a certain way, communicate vibrations to the air, and the vibrating air, admitted into the ear, is followed by the sensation of hearing. If the air which the body makes to vibrate does not enter the ear, however the body itself may vibrate, sensation does not follow; hearing does not take place. There is, in fact, no sound. Of the circumstances in which sound is generated, part only were present. There was the organ, and there was the object, but not that juxta-position which is needed to make the antecedent of the sensation complete. Air vibrating in juxta-position to the organ, is the object of Hearing.
How air in vibration should produce the remarkable effect, called hearing, in the nerves of the ear, and no effect in those of the eye, in those of smelling, or those of taste, our knowledge does not enable us to tell.
It is not very difficult to think of the sensation of hearing, apart from the organ, and from the object, as well as from every other feeling. I hear the hum of bees. The feeling to which I give this name is a point of my own consciousness; it is an elementary part of my sensitive being; of that thread of consciousness, drawn out in succession, which I call my self. I have the hearing; it is a sensation of my own; it is my feeling, and no other man’s feeling; it is a very different feeling from taste, and a very different feeling from smell, and from all my other feelings.
I hear the song of birds, I hear the lowing of oxen, I hear the sighing of the wind, I hear the roaring of the sea. I have a feeling, in each of these cases; a consciousness, which I can distinguish not only from the feelings of my other senses, but from the other feelings of the same sense. If I am asked, what takes place in me, when a trumpet is unexpectedly sounded in the next room, I answer, a sensation, a particular feeling. I become conscious in a particular way.
The number of those feelings which we are able to distinguish is very great. In this respect, the organ of hearing in man, is much more perfect than the organ of smell. The organ of hearing can distinguish, not only the voices of different classes, but of different individuals in the same class. There never, probably, was a man whose voice was not distinguishable from that of every other man, by those who were familiarly acquainted with it.
The most simple case of sound is that perhaps of a single note on a musical instrument. This note may be sounded on an endless number of instruments, and by an endless number of human voices, from no two of which will the same sound exactly be returned.
We can think of ourselves as having the feelings of this class, and having no other. In that case, our whole being would be a series of Hearings. It would be one sensation of hearing, another sensation of hearing, and nothing more. Our thread of conscious ness would be the sensation, which we denominate sound. Life and sound would be two names for the same thing.
The language by which we speak of the “sense of hearing,” is also imperfect. We have, indeed, the term Ear, to express the ORGAN, but we have no appropriate name for the SENSATION, nor for the OBJECT. The term sound is a name both of the sensation and the object. If I were asked, when the bell rings, whether the sound is in me, or in the bell, I might answer, in both; not that the same thing is in both; the things are different; having the same name. The sensation called a sound is in me, the vibration called a sound is in the bell. Hearing is equally ambiguous; a name both of the organ and the feeling. If asked, by which of my organs I have the knowledge of sound, I should answer, my hearing. And if asked what feeling it is I have by the ear, I still should say, hearing. Hearing is rarely made use of to denote the object of hearing, and hardly at all except by figure.
Noise is a name which denotes the object, in certain cases. There is a certain class of sounds, to which we give the name noise. In those cases, however, noise is also the name of the sensation. In fact, it is the name of the sensation first, and only by transference that of the object.
In the phrase, sense of hearing, the word has the same complexity of meaning, which we found in the word smelling, in the corresponding application of that term. When I say that I have the sense of hearing, I mean to say, that I have an organ, which organ has an appropriate object; and that when the organ and the object are in the appropriate position, the sensation of hearing is the consequent. In the term, sense of hearing, then, is included, the organ, the object, and the sensation, with the idea of a synchronous order of the two first, and a successive order of the third. “Sense of hearing” is thus seen to be the name of a very complex idea, including five distinguishable ingredients, the idea of the organ of hearing, the idea of the sensation, the idea of the object of hearing, the idea of a synchronous order, and the idea of a successive order. (4)
[4 In the case of hearing, as of smell, one of the ambiguities brought to notice by the author is of questionable reality. It is doubtful if hearing” is ever used as a name of the organ. To the question supposed in the text, “by which of my organs do I have the knowledge of sound” the correct answer would surely be, not “my hearing” an expression which, so applied, could only be accepted as elliptical, but “my organ of hearing,” or (still better) “my ear.” Again, the phrase “I have the sense of hearing” signifies that I have a capacity of hearing, and that this capacity is classed as one of sense, or in other words, that the feelings to which it has reference belong to the class Sensations: but the organ, though a necessary condition of my having the sensations, does not seem to be implied in the name. Ed.]
SECTION III. SIGHT.
In SIGHT, the organ is very conspicuous, and has an appropriate name, the Eye.
In ordinary language, the object of sight is the body which is said to be seen. This is a similar error to those which we have detected in the vulgar language relating to the senses of smell and hearing. It is Light alone which enters the eye; and Light, with its numerous modifications, is the sole object on sight.
How the particles of light affect the nerves of the eye, in the peculiar manner in which they are affected in sight, without affecting the other nerves of the body, in any similar manner, we can render no account.
That the feeling we have in sight, is very different from the feeling we have in hearing, in smelling, in tasting, or touching, every man knows. It is difficult, however, to detach the feeling we have in sight from every other feeling; because there are other feelings which we are constantly in the habit of connecting with it; and the passage in the mind from the one to the other is so rapid, that they run together, and can not easily be distinguished. The different modifications of light we call colour. But we cannot think of the sensation of colour, without at the same time thinking of something coloured, of surface or extension, a notion derived from another sense.
That the feelings of sight which we are capable of distinguishing from one another, are exceedingly numerous, is obvious from this, that it is by them we distinguish the infinite variety of visible objects. We have the sensation; the sensation suggests the object; and it is only by the difference of sensation, that the difference of object can be indicated.
Some of the things suggested by the sensations of sight, as extension and figure, are suggested so instantaneously, that they appear to be objects of sight, things actually seen. But this important law of our nature, by which so many things appear to be seen, which are only suggested by the feelings of sight, it requires the knowledge of other elements of the mental phenomena to explain.
The imperfections of the language, by which we have to speak of the phenomena of sight, deserve the greatest attention.
We have an appropriate name for the organ; it is the Eye. And we have an appropriate name for the Object; it is light. But we have no appropriate name for the Sensation. From confusion of names, proceeds confusion of ideas. And from misnaming, on this one point, not a little unprofitable discourse on the subject of the human mind has been derived.
The word sight, in certain phrases, denotes the sensation. If I am asked, what is the feeling which I have by the eye? I answer, sight. But sight is also a name of the object. The light of day is said to be a beautiful sight. And sight is sometimes employed as a name of the organ. An old man informs us, that his sight is failing, meaning that his eyes are failing. (5)
[5 The example given does not seem to me to prove that sight is ever employed as a name of the organ. When an old man says that his sight is failing, he means only that he is less capable of seeing. His eyes might he failing in some other respect, when he would not say that his sight was failing. The term “sense of sight,” like sense of hearing or of smell, stands, as it seems to me, for the capability, without reference to the organ? Ed.]
Colour is a name, as well of the object, as of the sensation. It is most commonly a name of the object. Colour is, properly speaking, a modification of light, though it is never conceived but as something spread over a surface; it is, therefore, not the name of light simply, but the name, of three things united, light, surface, and a certain position of the two. In many cases, however, we have no other name for the sensation. If I am asked, what feeling I have when a red light is presented to my eyes, I can only say, the colour of red; and so of other visual feelings, the colour of green, the colour of white, and so on.
In the term sense of sight, the same complexity of meaning is involved which we have observed in the terms sense of smell, and sense of hearing. When I speak of my sense of sight, as when I speak of the attraction of the load-stone, I mean to denote an antecedent, and a consequent; the organ with its object in appropriate position, the antecedent; the sensation, the consequent. This is merely the philosophical statement of the fact, that, when light is received into the eye, the sensation of sight is the consequence.
Vision, a word expressive of the phenomena of sight, is ambiguous in the same manner. It is some times used to denote the sense of seeing; that is, the antecedent and consequent, as explained in the preceding paragraph. Thus we say, the phenomena of vision, with the same propriety as we say the phenomena of sight. It is sometimes employed to denote the sensation. If we ask what feeling a blind man is deprived of, it would be perfectly proper to say, vision is the feeling of which he is deprived. It is, also, employed to denote the object. What vision was that? would be a very intelligible question, on the sudden appearance and disappearance of something which attracted the eye.” (6)
[6 Vision, I believe, is used to denote the object of sight, only when it is supposed that this object is something unreal, i.e., that it has not any extended and resisting substance behind it: or rhetorically, to signify that the object looks more like a phantom than a reality; as when Burke calls Marie Antoinette, as once seen by him, a delightful vision. Ed.]
SECTION IV. TASTE.
The ORGAN of TASTE is in the mouth and fauces.
In ordinary language, the OBJECT of taste is any thing, which, taken into the mouth, and tasted, as it is called, produces the peculiar SENSATION of this sense. Nor has philosophy as yet enabled us to state the object of taste more correctly. There are experiments which show, that galvanism is concerned in the phenomena, but not in what way.
The SENSATION, in this case, is distinguished by every body. The taste of sugar, the taste of an apple, are words which immediately recall the ideas of distinct feelings. It is to be observed, however, that the feelings of this sense are very often united with those of the sense of smell; the two organs being often affected by the same thing, at the same time. In that case, though we have two sensations, they are so intimately blended as to seem but one; and the flavour of the apple, the flavour of the wine, appears to be a simple sensation, though compounded of taste and smell. (7)
[7 Some physiologists have been of opinion that a large pro portion of what are classed as tastes, including all flavours, as distinguished from the generic tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, &c., are really affections of the nerves of smell, and are mis taken for tastes only because they are experienced along with tastes, as a consequence of taking food into the mouth. Ed.]
It is not so easy, in the case of this, as of some of the other senses, to conceive ourselves as having this class of feelings and no other. Antecedent to the sensation of taste, there is generally some motion of the mouth, by which the object and the organ are brought into the proper position and state. The sensation can hardly be thought of without thinking of this motion, that is, of other feelings. Besides, the organ of taste is also the organ of another sense. The organ of taste has the sense of touch, and most objects of taste are objects of touch. Sensations of touch, therefore, are intimately blended with those of taste.
By a little pains, however, any one may conceive the sensations of tasting, while he conceives his other organs to remain in a perfectly inactive state, and himself as nothing but a passive recipient of one taste after another. If he conceives a mere train of those sensations, perfectly unmixed with any other feeling, he will have the conception of a being made up of tastes; a thread of consciousness, which maybe called mere taste; a life which is merely taste.
The language employed about this sense is not less faulty, than that employed about the other senses, which we have already surveyed.
There is no proper name for the organ. The word Mouth, which we are often obliged to employ for that purpose, is the name of this organ and a great deal more.
There is no proper name for the object. We are obliged to call it, that which has taste. The word flavour is used to denote that quality, which is more peculiarly the object of taste, in certain articles of food; and sometimes we borrow the word sapidity, from the Latin, to answer the same purpose more extensively.
The word taste is a name for the sensation. We generally call the feeling, which is the point of consciousness in this case, by the name taste. Thus we say one taste is pleasant, another unpleasant; and no thing is pleasant or unpleasant but a feeling.
The word taste is also a name for the object, as when we say, that any thing has taste.
It is further employed as a name of the organ. As we are said to perceive qualities by the eye, the ear, and the touch; so we are said to perceive them by the taste.
In the phrase, sense of taste, there is the same complexity of meaning as we have observed in the corresponding phrase in the case of the other senses. In this phrase, taste expresses all the leading particulars; the organ, the object, and the sensation, together with the order of position in the two first, and the order of constant sequence in the last. (8)
[8 The statement that “taste” is sometimes employed as a name of the organ, seems to me, like the similar statements respecting the names of our other senses, disputable. Ed.]
SECTION V. TOUCH.
In discoursing about the ORGAN, the SENSATIONS, and the OBJECTS, of touch, more vagueness has been admitted, than in the case of any of the other senses.
In fact, every sensation which could not properly be assigned to any other of the senses, has been allotted to the touch. The sensations classed, or rather jumbled together, under this head, form a kind of miscellany, wherein are included feelings totally unlike.
The ORGAN of TOUCH is diffused over the whole surface of the body, and reaches a certain way into the alimentary canal. Of food, as merely tangible, there is seldom a distinct sensation in the stomach, or any lower part of the channel, except towards the extremity. The stomach, however, is sensible to heat, and so is the whole of the alimentary canal, as far at least as any experiment is capable of being made. It may, indeed, be inferred, that we are insensible to the feelings of touch, throughout the intestinal canal, only from the habit of not attending to them. (9)
[9 The surface of the sense of Touch properly so called is the skin, or common integument of the body, the interior of the mouth and the tongue, and the interior of the nose. There are common anatomical peculiarities in these organs; which distinguish them from the alimentary canal and all the other interior surfaces of the body. Moreover, although, in the alimentary canal, there is solid or liquid contact with a sensitive surface, the mode of exciting the sensitive nerves, and the resulting sensibility, are peculiar and distinct. The mode of action in touch is mechanical contact or pressure, mainly of solid and resisting bodies; in digestion, the nerves are affected through chemical and other processes solution, absorption, assimilation, &c. In touch, there is the peculiar feeling known as hard contact, together with the varying discrimination of plurality of points. In digestion, when healthy, the feeling of contact is entirely absent. B.]
We have next to consider the OBJECT of TOUCH. Whatever yields resistance, and whatever is extended figured, hot, or cold, we set down, in ordinary language, as objects of touch.
I shall show, when the necessary explanations have been afforded, that the idea of resistance, the idea of extension, and the idea of figure, include more than can be referred to the touch, as the ideas of visible figure and magnitude include more than can be referred to the eye. It has been long known, that many of the things, which the feeling by the eye seems to include, it only suggests. It is not less important to know, that the same is the case with the tactual feeling; that this also suggests various particulars which it has been supposed to comprehend.
In the present stage of our investigation, it is not expedient to push very far the inquiry, what it is, or is not, proper, to class as sensations of touch, because that can be settled with much greater advantage hereafter.
The sensations of heat and cold offer this advantage, that being often felt without the accompaniment of any thing visible or extended, which can be called an object, they can be more distinctly conceived as simple feelings, than most of our other sensations. (10) They are feelings very different from the ordinary sensations of touch; and possibly the only reason for classing them with those sensations was, that the organ of them, like that of touch, is diffused over the whole body. We know not that the nerves appropriated to the sensations of heat and cold are the same with those which have the sensation of touch. If they be the same, they must at any rate be affected in a very different manner.
[10 The sensations of heat and cold are, of all sensations, the most subjective. The reason is that they are least connected with definite muscular energies. The rise and fall of the temperature of the surrounding air may induce sensations wholly independent of our own movements; and to whatever extent such independence exists, there is a corresponding absence of objectivity. This independence, however, is still only partial, even in the case of heat and cold; in a great number, perhaps a majority, of instances, they depend upon our movements; as in changing our position with reference to a fire, in our clothing, and so on. It is the possibility of conceiving them in the pure subject character, and apart from object relations, that constitutes them simple feelings, in the acceptation of the text. Although not in an equal degree, the same is true of sensations of hearing, on which the author made a similar remark. B.]
To whatever class we may refer the sensations of heat and cold, in their moderate degrees, it seems that good reasons may be given for not ranking them with the sensations of touch, when they rise to the degree of pain. All those acute feelings which attend the disorganization, or tendency toward disorganization, of the several parts of our frame, seem entirely distinct from the feelings of touch. Even in the case of cutting, or laceration, the mere touch of the knife or other instrument is one feeling, the pain of the cut, or laceration, another feeling, as much as, in the mouth, the touch of the sugar is one feeling, the sweetness of it another.
As we shall offer reasons hereafter to show, that the feelings of resistance, extension, and figure, are not feelings of touch, we should endeavour to conceive what feeling it is which remains when those feelings are taken away.
When we detach the feeling of resistance, we, of course, detach those of hardness and softness, rough ness and smoothness, which are but different modifications of resistance. And when these, and the feelings of extension and figure, are detached, a very simple sensation seems to remain, the feeling which we have when something, without being seen, comes gently in contact with our skin, in such a way, that we cannot say whether it is hard or soft, rough or smooth, of what figure it is, or of what size. A sense of something present on the skin, and perhaps also on the interior parts of the body, taken purely by itself, seems alone the feeling of touch.
The feelings of this sense are mostly moderate, partaking very little of either pain or pleasure. This is the reason why the stronger feelings, which are connected with them, those of resistance, and extension, predominate in the groupe, and prevent attention to the sensations of touch. The sensations of touch operate as signs to introduce the ideas of resistance and extension, and are no more regarded.
The imperfection of the language which we employ, in speaking of this sense, deserves not less of our regard, than that of the language we employ, in speaking of our other senses.
We need distinct and appropriate names, for the organ, for the object, and for the sensation. We have I no such name for any of them.
The word touch is made to stand for all the three. I speak of my touch, when I mean to denote my organ of touch. I speak also of my touch, when mean to denote my sensation. And in some cases, speaking of the object, I call it touch. If I were to call a piece of fine and brilliant velvet a fine sight, another person might say, it is a fine touch as well as fine sight. (11)
[11 It is more true of the word touch, than of the names of our other senses, that it is occasionally employed to denote the organ of touch; because that organ, being the whole surface of the body, has not, like the organs of the special senses, a compact distinctive name. But it may be doubted if the word touch ever stands for the object of touch. If a person made use of the phrase in the text, it is a fine touch as well as a fine sight,” he would probably be regarded as purchasing an epigrammatic turn of expression at the expense of some violence to language. Ed.]
In ordinary language, the word feeling is appropriated to this sense; though it has been found convenient, in philosophical discourse, to make the term generical, so as to include every modification of consciousness. *
[* The word feeling, though in many cases we use it as synonymous to touching, has, however, a much more extensive signification, and is frequently employed to denote our internal, as well as our external, affections. We feel hunger and thirst, we feel joy and sorrow, we feel love and hatred.” Ad. Smith, on the External Senses. (Authors Note.)]
When I say that I feel the table, there is a considerable complexity of meaning. Dr. Reid, and his followers, maintain, that I have not one point of consciousness only, but two; that I feel the sensation, and that I feel the table; that the sensation is one thing, the feeling of the table another. Expositions which will be given hereafter are necessary to the complete elucidation of what takes place. But the explanations which have been already afforded will enable us to state the facts with considerable clearness. In what is called feeling the table, my organ of touch, and an object of touch, in the appropriate position, are the antecedent; of this antecedent, sensation is the consequent. The expression, “I feel the table,” includes both the antecedent and the consequent. It does not mark the sensation alone; it marks the sensation, and, along with the sensation, its antecedent, namely, the organ, and its object in conjunction.
The phrase, sense of touch, or the word feeling, often synonymous, has the same complexity of meaning, which we have observed in the phrases, sense of hearing, sense of sight, and the rest of the senses.
When I say that I touch, or have the sense of touch, I mean to say, that I have a certain feeling, consequent upon a certain antecedent. The phrase, therefore, notes the sensation, and at the same time connotes * the following things: 1st, the organ; 2dly, the object of the organ; 3dly, the synchronous order of the organ and object; 4thly, the successive order of the sensation; the synchronous order being, as usual, the antecedent of the successive order. * 12
[* The use, which I shall make, of the term connotation, needs to be explained. There is a large class of words, which denote two things, both together; but the one perfectly distinguishable from the other. Of these two things, also, it is observable, that such words express the one, primarily, as it were; the other, in a way which may be called secondary. Thus, white, in the phrase white horse, denotes two things, the colour, and the horse; but it denotes the colour primarily, the horse secondarily. We shall find it very convenient, to say, therefore, that it notes the primary, connotes the secondary, signification. (Author’s Note.) [Reasons will be assigned further on, why the words to connote and connotation had better be employed, not as here indicated, but in a different and more special sense. ED.]
[* The terms synchronous order, and successive order, will be fully explained hereafter, when any obscurity which may now seem to rest upon them will be removed; it may be useful at present to say, that, by synchronous order, is meant order in space, by successive order, order in time; the first, or order in space, being nothing but the placing or position of the objects at any given time; the second, or order in time, being nothing but the antecedence of the one, and the consequence of the other. (Author’s Note.)]
[12 Additional Observations on the Sense of Touch. The author is right in drawing a distinction between Touch proper and the sensibility to Heat and Cold, which, though principally found in the skin, extends beyond the seat of tactile sensibility, as, for example, to the alimentary canal, and to the lungs. It is a debated point, whether the nerves of Touch are also the nerves of Heat and Cold; some persons contending for special nerves of Temperature. Such special nerves, however, have not been proved to exist.
The remark is also correct, that the feelings of temperature can be more easily attended to, as simple feelings, than the feelings of touch proper. The reason is not precisely stated. It is that radiant heat may affect the surface of the body without occasioning resistance or movement, and is thus a purely passive sensibility; a subject-state without an object-accompaniment. When the degree of the sensation varies definitely with definite movements, it is treated as an object sensibility, or as pointing to the object world. Thus when we grow warmer as we move in one direction, and colder as we move in another, we no longer think of the feeling as a purely subject fact, but as having an object, or external embodiment.
It is also justly remarked in the text, that the severe sensations of heat, and cold, as well as those from laceration of the skin, may be properly classed with feelings of disorganization generally. At the same time, these painful feelings have a character varying with the organ affected; the fact of injury of tissue may be the same, but the feeling will not be the same, in the skin, the nostrils, the ear, the eye, the alimentary canal.
The description above given of the feeling that remains, when the different modifications of resistance are deducted, is scarcely adequate to represent the reality. Frequently it is true of them, that they are mostly moderate, partaking very little of either pain or pleasure, but there are occasions when they rise into prominence and power. We may refer to the contact of the bedclothes at night, when the body is relieved from the tight and deadening embrace of the ordinary clothing. The case of greatest moment, however, is the contact of one human being or animal with another; such contact being the physical element in the tender as well as in the sexual affections. There is a combination of tactile sensibility and warmth in this instance, each counting for a part of the pleasure. The in fluence is well enough known as experienced among human beings; but the sphere of its operation in animals has been but imperfectly explored.
If we observe carefully the first movements of a new-born animal, a mammal for example, we find that the guiding and controlling sensation of its first moments, is the contact with the mother. In that contact, it finds satisfaction and repose; in separation, it is in discomfort and disquiet. Its earliest volitions are to retain and to recover the soft warm touch of the maternal body. When it commences sucking, and has the sensation of nourishment, a new interest springs up, perhaps still more powerful in its attractions, and able to supersede the first, or at least to put it into a second place; yet, during the whole period of materual dependence, the feeling of touch is a source of powerful sensibility both to the mother and to the offspring. Among animals born in litter, as pigs, kittens, &c., the embrace is equally acceptable between the fellow-progeny themselves. The sensual pleasure of this contact is the essence, the fact, of animal affection, parental and fraternal; and it is the germ, or foundation, and concomitant of tender affection in human beings. It is the experience of this agree able contact that prepares the way for a still closer conjunction after the animal reaches puberty. Independent of, and antecedent to, that still more acute sensibility, there is a pleasure in the warm embrace of two animals, and they are ready to enter upon it, at all times when the other interests, as nourishment, exercise and repose, are not engrossing. The play of animals with one another clearly involves the pleasure of the embrace, even without sexuality; and it leads to the sexual encounter at the ripe moment. B.]
SECTION VI. SENSATIONS OF DISORGANIZATION, OR OF THE APPROACH TO DISORGANIZATION, IN ANY PART OF THE BODY.
That we have sensations in parts of the body suffering, or approaching to, disorganization, does not require illustration. The disorganizations of which we speak proceed sometimes from external, sometimes from internal, causes. Lacerations, cuts, bruises, burnings, poisonings, are of the former kind; inflammation, and other diseases in the parts, are the latter.
These sensations are specifically different from those classed under the several heads of sense. The feelings themselves, if attended to, are evidence of this. In the next place, they have neither organ, nor object, in the sense in which those latter feelings have them. We do not talk of an organ of burning; an organ of pain; nor do we talk of an object of any of them; we do not say the object of a cut, the object of an ache, the object of a sore.
Most of those sensations are of the painful kind; though some are otherwise. Some slight, or locally minute inflammations, produce a sensation called itching, which is far from disagreeable, as appears from the desire to scratch, which excites it. (13)
[13 The author, in this passage, uses the word itching out of its ordinary sense; making it denote the pleasant sensation accompanying the relief by scratching, instead of the slightly painful, and sometimes highly irritating, sensation which the scratching relieves. Ed.]
The scratching, which excites the pleasure of itching, is a species of friction, and friction, in most parts of the body, excites a sensation very different from the mere sense of touching or the simple feeling of the object. The tickling of the feather in the nose, for example, is very different from the mere feeling of the feather in touch. In some parts of the body the most intense sensations are produced by friction.
There is difficulty in classing those sensations. They are not the same with those of any of the five senses: and they are not the same with those which rise from any tendency to disorganization in the parts of the body to which they are referred. Great accuracy, however, in the classification of the sensations, is not essential to that acquaintance with them, which is requisite for the subsequent parts of this inquiry. It will suffice for our purpose, if the reader so far attend to them, as to be secure from the danger of overlooking or mistaking them, where a distinct consideration of them is necessary for developing any of the complicated phenomena in which they are concerned. (14)
[14 Organic Sensibilities. The author did well to signalize these sensibilities, so powerful in their influence on human life. They are not confined to the side of pain. The same organs whose disorganization is connected with pain, are, in their healthy and vigorous working, more or less connected with pleasure. This is true not merely of the digestive functions, but of the respiration, the circulation, and others.
Nor is it difficult in their case to make up the full analogy of a sense, as having an Object, an Organ, and a characteristic Sensation. In digestion, the object is the food, the organ is the alimentary canal; in respiration, the object is the air, and the organ the lungs. If it be said that the air is an impalpable agent and not discovered to the mind by its mode of operating, so is heat, the object of an admitted sense.
The accurate classification of these feelings may not have much speculative interest, in Psychology, but it has a great practical interest in the diagnosis of disease. For want of subjective knowledge on the part of the patient, and of a well understood nomenclature of subjective symptoms, the dis crimination of disease by the feelings is usually very rough.
The best mode of arranging these sensibilities seems to be to connect them with their organs, or seats – Muscular Tissue, Bones and Ligaments, Nerves, Heart and Circulation, Lungs, Alimentary Canal. The sensations of itching and tickling are modes of skin sensibility. Tickling is an effect not well under stood, although some interesting observations have been made upon it. B.]
SECTION VII. MUSCULAR SENSATIONS, OR THOSE FEELINGS WHICH ACCOMPANY THE ACTION OF THE MUSCLES.
There is no part of our Consciousness, which de serves greater attention than this; though, till lately, it has been miserably overlooked. Hartley, Darwin, and Brown, are the only philosophical inquirers into Mind, at least in our own country, who seem to have been aware that it fell within the province of their speculations.
The muscles are bundles of fibres, which, by their contraction and relaxation, produce all the motions of the body. The nerves, with which they are supplied, seem to be the immediate instruments of the muscular action.
That these muscles have the power of acute sensation, we know, by what happens, when they are dis eased, when they suffer any external injury, or even when, the integuments being removed, they can be touched, though ever so gently.
It has been said,* that if we had but one sensation, and that uninterrupted, it would be as if we had no sensation at all; and, to the justice of this observation, some very striking facts appear to bear evidence. We know that the air is continually pressing upon our bodies. But, the sensation being continual, with out any call to attend to it, we lose, from habit, the power of doing so. The sensation is as if it did not exist. We feel the air when it is in motion, or when it is hotter or colder, to a certain degree, than our bodies; but it is because we have the habit of attending to it in those states. As the muscles are always in contact with the same things, the sensations of the muscles must be almost constantly the same. This is one reason why they are very little attended to, and, amid the crowd of other feelings, are, in general, wholly forgotten. They are of that class of feelings which occur as antecedents to other more interesting feelings. To these the attention is immediately called off, and those which preceded and introduced them are forgotten. In such cases the thought of the less interesting sensations is merged in that of the more interesting.
[* Itaque et sensioni adhseret, proprie dictaæ, ut ei aliqua insita sit perpetuo phantasmatum varietas, ita ut aliud ab alio discerni posset. Si suppoueremus, eriim, esse hominem, oculis quidem claris cseterisque videndi organis recte se habentibus compositum, nullo autem alio sensu praeditum, eumque ad eandem rem eodem semper colore et specie sine ulla vel minima varietate apparentern obversum esse, mihi certe, quicquid dicant alii, non magis videre videretur, quam ego videor mihi per tactus orgaua sentire lacertorum meorum ossa. Ea tameii perpetuoetundequaque sensibilissima membrana continguntur. Adeo sentire semper idem, et non sentire, ad idemrecidunt. Hobbes, Elem. Philos. Pars IV. c. xxv. 5. (Author’s Note.)]
If we had not direct proof, analogy would lead us to conclude, that no change could take place, in parts of so much sensibility as the muscles, without a change of feeling; in particular, that a distinguishable feeling must attend every contraction, and relaxation. We have proof that there is such a feeling, because intimation is conveyed to the mind that the relaxation or contraction is made. I will, to move my arm; and though I observe the motion by none of my senses, I know that the motion is made. The feeling that attends the motion has existed. Yet so complete is my habit of attending only to the motion, and not to the feeling, that no attention can make me distinctly sensible that I have it. Nay, there are some muscles of the body in constant and vehement action, as the heart, of the feelings attendant upon the action of which we seem to have no cognisance at all. That this is no argument against the existence of those feelings, will be made apparent, by the subsequent ex planation of other phenomena, in which the existence of certain feelings, and an acquired incapacity of at tending to them, are out of dispute. (15)
[15 The paradox, of feelings which we have no cognisance of feelings which are not felt will be discussed at large in a future note. Ed.]
In most cases of the muscular feelings, there is not only that obscurity, of which we have immediately spoken, but great complexity; as several muscles almost always act together; in many of the common actions of the body, a great number.
The result of these complex feelings is often sufficiently perceptible, though the feelings, separately, can hardly be made objects of attention. The un pleasant feeling of fatigue, in part at least a muscular feeling, is one of those results. The pleasure which almost all the more perfect animals, especially the young, appear to feel, in even violent exercise, may be regarded as another. The restlessness of a healthy child; the uneasiness in confinement, the delight in the activity of freedom, which so strongly distinguish the vigorous schoolboy; seem to indicate, both a painful state of the muscular system in rest, and a pleasurable state of it in action. Who has not re marked the playful activity of the kitten and the puppy? The delight of the dog, on being permitted to take exercise with his master, extends through the greater part of his life.
One of the cases in which the feeling of muscular action seems the most capable of being attended to, is the pleasure accompanying the act of stretching, which most animals perform in drowsiness, or after sleep.
A very slight degree of reflection is sufficient to evince, that we could not have had the idea of resistance, which forms so great a part of what we call our idea of matter, without the feelings which attend muscular action. Resistance means a force opposed to a force; the force of the object, opposed to the force which we apply to it. The force which we apply is the action of our muscles, which is only known to us by the feelings which accompany it. Our idea of resistance, then, is the idea of our own feelings in applying muscular force. It is true, that the mere feeling of the muscles in action is not the only feeling concerned in the case. The muscles move in consequence of the Will; and what the Will is, we are not as yet prepared to explain. What is necessary at present is, not to shew all the simple feelings which enter into the feeling of resistance; but to shew that the simple feeling of muscular action is one of them.
The feeling of resistance admits of great varieties. The feeling of a plate of iron is one thing, the feeling of a blown bladder is another, the feeling of quick silver is a third, the feeling of water a fourth, and so on. The feeling of weight, or attraction, is also a feeling of resistance.
SECTION VIII. SENSATIONS IN THE ALIMENTARY CANAL.
When the sensations in the alimentary canal become acutely painful, they are precise objects of attention to every body.
There is reason to believe that a perpetual train of sensations is going on in every part of it. The food stimulates the stomach. It undergoes important changes, and, mixed with some very stimulating ingredients, passes into the lower intestines; in every part of which it is still farther changed. The degree, and even the nature, of some of the changes, are different, according as the passage through the canal is slower, or quicker; they are different, according to the state of the organs, and according to the nature of the food.
Of the multitude of sensations, which must attend this process, very few become objects of attention; and, in time, an incapacity is generated, of making them objects of attention. They are not, however, as we shall afterwards perceive, feeble agents, or insignificant elements, in the trains of thought. They are of that class of feelings, to which we have already been under the necessity of alluding; a class, which serve as antecedents, to feelings more interesting than themselves; and from which the attention is so instantaneously drawn, to the more interesting feelings by which they are succeeded, that we are as little sensible of their existence, as we often are of the sound of the clock, which may strike in the room beside us, and of course affect our ear in the usual manner, and yet leave no trace of the sensations behind.
The complicated sensations in the intestinal canal, like those in the muscles, though obscure, and even unknown, as individual sensations, often constitute a general state of feeling, which is sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes depressing. The effects of opium, and of inebriating liquors, in producing exhilaration, are well known; and though much of the pleasure in these states is owing to association, as we shall after wards explain, yet the agreeable feelings in the stomach, are the origin and cause of the joyous associations. (16) The state of feeling in the stomach in sea sickness, or under the operation of an emetic, is, on the contrary, one of the most distressing within our experience; though we can neither call it a pain, nor have any more distinct conception of it, than as a state of general uneasiness.
[16 The exact mode of operation of opium and alcohol is still unknown; but the part affected is probably the nervous sub stance and not the stomach. It can hardly be said with propriety that any part of the pleasure of these stimulants is due to association. No doubt the exhilarated tone of the mind is favourable to the flow of joyful ideas, which serve to heighten the pleasure; but that pleasure could not be arrested or subdued through the absence of any supposable associations. B.]
The general effects of indigestion are well known. When the organs of digestion become disordered, and indigestion becomes habitual, a sense of wretchedness is the consequence; a general state of feeling com posed of a multitude of minor feelings, none of which individually can be made an object of attention.
In the sense of wretchedness, which accompanies indigestion, and which sometimes proceeds to the dreadful state of melancholy madness, it is difficult to say, how much is sensation, and how much association. One thing is certain; that sensations which are the origin of so much misery are of high importance to us; whether they, or the associations they introduce, are the principal ingredient in the afflicting state which they contribute to create.
The effects of indigestion in producing painful associations, is strikingly exemplified by the horrible dreams which it produces in sleep; not only in those whose organs are diseased; but in the most healthy state of the stomach, when it has received what, in ordinary language, is said, whether from quantity or quality, to have disagreed with it.
The general states of feeling composed of the multitude of obscure and unnoticed feelings in the alimentary canal, though most apt to be noticed when they are of the painful kind, are not less frequently of the pleasurable kind. That particular sorts of foods, as well as liquors, have an exhilarating effect, needs hardly to be stated. And it is only necessary to re vive the recollection of the feeling of general comfort, the elasticity, as it seems, of the whole frame, the feeling of strength, the disposition to activity and enjoyment, which every man must have experienced, when his digestion was vigorous and sound. (17)
[17 These effects pass beyond the influence of mere digestion. All the viscera contribute to the condition of high general vigour and comfort here supposed. If one were to venture upon a scale of relative importance of the different organs, one would place the nervous centres first, and the digestion second.
The present section is open to several remarks. Some qualification must be given to the author’s surmise ‘that a perpetual train of sensations is going on in every part of the alimentary canal.’ It is hardly correct to say that there are perpetual sensations in any part of it: during a great part of our time we are in a state of indifference as to stomachic changes; and not merely because we are not disposed to attend to them, but because they scarcely exist. The sensibility of the organ is shown, on anatomical grounds, to be mainly in the stomach, and in the rectum; these parts are supplied by the nervus vagus; and very few nerves, besides those of the sympathetic system, are found in the smaller, or in the larger intestine, so that the sensitiveness of those parts is manifested only in case of violent disorganization, as cramp, stoppage, or inflammation. Hence the feelings are principally attendant on the changes in the stomach, as when food has just been taken, and after long privation, when the state called hunger shows itself.
It is not correct to class the sensations of the alimentary canal, as a whole, with those that lose their hold of the attention, that become unheeded in themselves, and are valued only the antecedents of other more pleasurable feelings. The remark is inapplicable to the sensations mainly characterized as pleasure or pain; nothing can be more interesting than a pleasure, except a still greater pleasure. It applies only to those slight irritations that are in themselves nothing, but may be the symptoms or precursors of ill health, or of returning good health.
The author’s doctrine as to our acquiring artificially the habit of not attending to alimentary states, demands a fuller explanation. The usual cause of inattention to impressions is unbroken continuance; in accordance with the universal law of Relativity or Change, we are usually insensible to the contact of our clothing with the skin, except at the moments when we put on or take off any part of it. In walking, and in standing, for a length of time, we are insensible to the body’s weight; on rising from the recumbent position we are rendered in some degree conscious of it. Now as the alimentary sensations – Hunger and Repletion – are intermitted and alternated with other states, they fulfil the chief condition of wakeful consciousness.
The example of the striking of the clock, adduced in the text, brings into operation a different power of the mind, which may go far to counteract the influence of change. Under a very engrossing sensation, or occupation, we become insensible to the stimulation of the senses by other agents. The strain of the mind in some one direction causes a sort of incapacity for going out in any other direction while the strain lasts. This is the explanation of the indifference to the striking of the clock. By the farther influence of habit, inattention to a certain class of impressions may become habitual; as in the power of carrying on mental work in the midst of distracting noises.
The same effect may arise in connection with the alimentary feelings. A person very much engrossed with a subject is un conscious of hunger, and does not feel the pleasures of eating. Should any one be absorbed habitually with some occupation or pursuit, such an one may contract a settled in difference to the recurring phases of alimentary sensation; but this is an extreme and unusual case. Any ordinary degree of interest in the avocations and pursuits of business is compatible with full attention to the feelings of hunger, and of repletion, as well as to the occasional pains and discomforts of indigestion. We do not often choose to contract an indifference to pleasures, and we seldom succeed in acquiring an indifference to pains, although we may have moments of such indifference, under some special engrossment of mind by other things.
It is over-rating the influence of association to make it a chief element in the pleasure of intoxicating stimulants, or in the wretched feelings of diseased digestion. These states are direct results of physical agency, and are the same throughout all stages of life, with many or with few opportunities of being associated with other feelings. They are not the cases favourable for illustrating the power of association, in the important department of the feelings. B.]