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Chapter II: Motor-Affective Psychology

Chapter II: Motor-Affective Psychology1

In employing the concept of interest the present theory enters into the domain of psychology. But unhappily the science of psychology does not provide a ready-made consensus on this matter, and the result is that the philosopher finds himself compelled in some measure to do his own psychologizing, in the hope that the experts will eventually correct his lack of precision, and fill in the gaps. The philosopher is not the only foolish amateur who rushes in where the professional psychologist has not yet trod. Historians, critics, men of letters, religious thinkers, economists, politicians, sociologists, teachers, physicians, and parents, are compelled to deal with human nature, and would like to be able to draw upon certified conclusions similar to those provided by physics, chemistry, and biology. But the psychologist has an accumulation of unfilled orders and his customers cannot wait.

The concept of interest overlaps the very part of psychology on which the experts are most divided and inconclusive, that part, namely, which deals with the “motor-affective” aspect of man. ‘Motor-affective’ is a loose expression designed to cover instinct, desire, purpose, will, feeling, emotion, motivation, etc.; whatever, in other words, constitutes man as a being who acts in behalf of what concerns him. Perhaps the best thing about the expression ‘motor-affective’ is the hyphen, which suggests, if it does not reveal, the unity of concern and action. But this historic and dramatic unit, this man in the concrete, this active pursuer of interests in a natural and social environment, tends in modern psychology to be lost to view, owing in part to a hold-over from the past, and in part to an urge to be scientifically modern.

From the past, psychology has inherited a dualistic view of man, which has assumed several forms. There is the duality of esteem, in which the “higher” man is distinguished from, and set over against, the “lower”: the human in man against the animal in man; the ennobling faculties, such as reason and conscience, against the baser appetites; the immortal soul against its perishable incarnation; “spirit” against “body.”

With this distinction between exalting and debasing views of man is linked a difference of method. Spirit, when opposed to body, is known “internally,” or in self-consciousness; while body is known “externally” through the sense-perception of a second observer. When body is conceived in Newtonian terms, this same duality comes to be expressed in terms of the antithesis of teleology and mechanism. There is the man governed by purpose and choice; and the man composed of material particles governed by the laws of motion.

Since the purposively choosing man is a comparatively late and complex product of nature, the duality of teleology and mechanism can also be expressed by a duality of approach. One approach, following in reverse the line of evolution, reduces man, or levels him down, to his natural origins. “All are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” The opposing approach levels man up to the plane of his distinctive prerogatives, which are taken as signs of his supernatural origin and destiny.

Thus, man has been split in two, and presented in terms of opposites: higher vs. lower; spirit vs. body; internal vs. external; teleology vs. mechanism; upgrading vs. downgrading.

Desirous of being admitted with physics, chemistry, and biology to the select circle of the natural sciences, modern psychology has gravitated to the second term of each of these pairs of opposites and rejected the first, regardless of the apparent facts. For psychology was not compelled to choose. The most indisputable fact about man is that he is a union, and not a disjunction, of these contrasted aspects; which are complementaries and not mutually exclusive alternatives. Man is both lower and higher, both body and spirit, both outer and inner, both mechanical and purposive; to describe him it is necessary to grade him both down and up.

Dualistic views of man end in one or another of three forms of futility. The two terms of the antithesis may be left standing — disjoined and irrelevant (“parallelism”); or one of the terms may be chosen and affirmed to the exclusion of the other (“materialism,” “spiritualism,” “idealism”). In each case there is an object of study which is neglected and which is left to literature and history, and to the man in the street — namely, the man in the street himself: man in the round; the man who lives and moves among his neighbors in a space-time environment, and yet can contemplate eternity; the man who is familiar both to himself and to others of his kind; who ascends to heights considerably above the brutes, and falls to depths considerably lower than the angels.


Both in philosophy and in psychology there is evidence of increased attention to the integral man. Philosophers speak in terms of “emergence,” “continuity,” and “neutralism.”2 ‘Emergence’ means that while the “higher” processes develop from the “lower,” they nevertheless possess, once developed, characters and functions of their own, which can properly be formulated in their own terms. ‘Continuity’ means that between any two levels of complexity it is ordinarily possible to discover an intermediate zone which it is equally legitimate to characterize in terms of the lower or in terms of the upper. The term ‘neutralism’ is used to mean that the physical and the mental are homogeneous and overlapping, being composed of terms which in themselves are neither physical nor mental, but acquire this difference by the forms of organization into which they enter.

At the same time that philosophy has shown signs of undercutting traditional dualisms, psychology has moved in the same direction. The term ‘functional’ is the most widely accepted name for this tendency, meaning that man is conceived neither in terms of self-consciousness and inner states, nor in terms of the minute physiology of bodily movements, nor in terms of a double entry system embracing both; but in terms of types of activity in which an agent engages its environment, or action systems of ascending complexity, the more complex being superimposed on the less.3

Applied to psychology the principle of emergence implies that the higher levels of human nature do not annul the lower, but embrace them and stand upon them. The nature of the higher complexes is obliged to conform to the nature of the lower, but this is a reciprocal obligation.

Because man achieves the level of reason, purpose, and choice, he does not cease to be determined by drives, reflexes, and habits. On the contrary, these lower or more elementary processes must be so conceived as to enable them to continue to operate in the more complex organizations and unities which give to human nature its distinctively human character.

The principle of continuity does not forbid that there shall be critical regions within which specific types of process, such as reason, purpose, and choice, arise for the first time; but only that these arise gradually, rather than precipitately; and that in all probability there are intermediate types of process still to be discovered. The sharp boundaries of concepts must not be allowed to falsify the blurred boundaries of nature.

When the principle of neutralism is adopted the physical is no longer non-mental, nor the mental non-physical. Physical and mental are drawn together not only through a sameness of elementary constituents, but even through a partial similarity of form. It becomes intelligible that minds should dwell in bodies, and bodies in minds, and that they should both exist in a common natural world.

The first conclusion to be derived from these broad generalizations is that each science may examine its own subject matter without awaiting the final conclusions of other sciences. There is an order of complexity, and inquiry may address itself to any point in that order. Chemistry did not wait until physics had advanced from the atom to the electron; biology did not wait until chemistry and physics had been extended to organisms; psychology need not wait until chemistry has caught up with mind; nor need theory of value wait until the more elaborate functions of mind have been approached from the standpoint of vegetable tropism. Indeed, if theory of value is clear and consistent in its concepts, and scrupulously faithful to the facts within the domain of human interests, it is entitled to demand that other knowledge shall conform to its findings.


The integrating trend in psychology appears also in the reduction of the number of “schools of psychology” and in the building of bridges between them. In a recent survey of psychological theories of feeling and emotion, the number of schools is reduced to four: “introspective,” “dynamic,” “behavioristic,” and “physiological.”4

The introspective theory, now more commonly known as “phenomenology” or the “cognitive” theory, presents subjects with stimuli and compiles their reports. Applied to feeling and emotion, this means that the primary data are confined to the individual subject. He is supposed to recognize within the enclosed and private domain of his own consciousness specific elements or characters denoted by the current affective vocabulary.

The “dynamic” or “depth” psychology, notably represented by psycho-analysis, concerns itself with the interplay of motivating forces from which arise tensions and alterations of personality, most notably manifested in the field of mental pathology, but then extended from the abnormal to the normal. Feeling and emotion, conceived (by Freud) in terms of the pursuit of pleasure, the adjustment to reality, and the inverse will to die, become underlying and hidden or “unconscious” compulsions which explain the personal life and provide therapeutic keys to the cure of its derangements.

The behavioristic theory, absorbed into the “stimulus-response” psychology, or into the broader tendencies of “operationalism” and “positivism,” extends inquiry from the human adult laboratory to the cage and the nursery, where the unselfconscious and inarticulate organism is observed — no questions asked. Psychology is what the animal or infant does, or learns to do, under such and such conditions, or when subjected to such and such stimuli. Feeling and emotion become specific modes of performance such as grimaces and twitches; or movements toward and away from stimuli; or the complex operations of fighting, food-grasping, sexuality, or escaping.

The physiological theory has continued to deal with the old problem of “localization,” employing greatly improved surgical techniques. For obvious reasons it has found the rat, the guinea pig, the dog, and the cat, more convenient laboratory materials than the human adult. Its refinements have extended to the minute physiology of nerve, muscle, and gland. Thus, in the area of feeling and emotion, it has adopted, though inconclusively, the hypothesis that affectivity is associated with the autonomic nervous sytem and the optic thalamus.

But despite their differences and claims of autonomy these four psychologies are not independent of one another. The introspective data of feeling and emotion — the feel of feeling, and the inner experience of fear and rage, serve as the primary data for which the physiologist seeks to find the physiological correlates. Thus when the outward manifestations of rage are supposed not to be accompanied by the feeling of rage, it is called “sham rage” or “pseudo-rage.” In other words, it is not a true emotion, or even, strictly speaking, a manifestation of emotion at all, but merely a form of behavior similar to that of emotion. The physiology of emotion tends, furthermore, to depart from specific localization, and to interpret emotion in terms of the interested behavior of the total organism in what are called “appropriate situations.” The several emotions owe their identity to their functions; and merge into a state of general arousal, of mobilization of energy, which is canalized according to the requirements of self-preservation in a specific environment.

The dynamic and clinical approach seems also to rely on introspection for the identification of affective subject matter. The motivating forces whose interplay constitutes the theme of Freudian psychology — “pleasure,” “wish,” “desire,” “libido,” “id,” etc. — derive their positive meaning from the individual's consciousness of his own states. When they operate in the “unconscious,” there is no evidence of their unconsciousness except the absence of introspective data. The only evidence of their unconscious existence is the fact that they are brought into consciousness in dreams or through “free-association” and in the fact that the subject is observed to behave in a certain manner.

Behaviorism has not replaced introspection, but has chosen to ignore it. But here too, the inner data are perpetually intruding; giving meaning to the “mental” and to its subdivisions, and increasingly inescapable as one rises from the comparatively simple animal or infantile mind to the comparatively complex mind of the human adult.

At the same time that it seems necessary to retain introspective data, introspection itself continues to prove its unreliability. Thus there is a growing doubt as to whether feelings of “pleasantness” and “unpleasantness” have any specific introspective qualities that are invariably present to the subject when his affective behavior is in evidence. When a group of subjects is instructed to judge degrees of pleasantness or unpleasantness it is assumed that they, together with the experimenter, mean the same by these terms. But what evidence is there of such community of meaning?

These considerations suggest that feeling, emotion, and other variants of the motor-affective life, whether in animals or in men, can be described only in terms of several dimensions or variables. No simple datum, no minimal end product of analysis, no narrow location within the envelope of the skin, no specific neural event, no movement of body or state of mind will in itself suffice. What is required is a concept which will embrace and fit together the certified conclusions of the introspective, dynamic, behavioristic, and physiological schools of psychology, and relate the whole, composed of these parts or aspects, to an environment of stimuli and objects. The concept of interest affords the best promise of meeting these requirements.


Contemporary psychology suffers not only from an inheritance of dualism, and from multiplicity of schools, but from a methodological fallacy. This fallacy is so frequently committed as to justify its being given a name. It may be termed the “Regressive” or “Atavistic” Fallacy.

In a temporal order of causes, conditions, or complexities, each term proceeds immediately from its next predecessor and indirectly from its remote predecessors. The fallacy here in question consists in supposing that the remote antecedent functions directly, and that it derives additional weight from its remoteness. The fallacy is analogous to the superstition of ancestor worship. It is as though one were to assume that, having produced their first effects, causes then go underground and continue to exert force. Or, to change the figure, it is equivalent to supposing that past events are present — buried, to be sure, under subsequent accretions, but buried alive, and capable of shaking the superstructure by turning in their graves.

The fallacy has its phylogenetic and its ontogenetic applications. Assuming that sensation and the motor reflex are the earliest phases in the evolution of mind, psychology has sought to reduce the “higher processes” to these terms. The conditions of the laboratory, the use of controlled stimuli, and the desire to obtain quantitative results, also conspire to emphasize the more rudimentary mental processes and to base psychology on psychophysics. In depth psychology, the Atavistic Fallacy has assumed the ontogenetic form of infantilism. The earliest influences and experiences are held not only to condition the later from next to next through youth to maturity, but to continue to haunt the scene in the subterranean quarter of the unconscious. Psychoanalysis is largely founded on this fallacy. According to Freud, “this oldest portion of the mental apparatus [the id] remains the most important throughout life.”5

The Atavistic Fallacy appears in the conception of “primary drives,” which are taken as prior both phylogenetically and ontogenetically. Fetal psychology is the ontogenetic equivalent of the phylogenetic rat psychology. The fallacy consists in supposing that despite his racial evolution and personal history man remains at heart a fetus or a rat. Drives such as hunger, thirst, sex, maternal care, etc., appear early in animal evolution and early in the life of the individual. Through the processes of conditioning and learning, the individual's behavior is varied and new motivations are engrafted, but these are held to remain on the original stem which still provides their sap. There is, however, no reason to assume a necessary correlation between originality and forcefulness. Later experiences and influences may count far more than earlier in mature behavior; “primary drives,” having been succeeded by “secondary” and “psychogenic,” may drop out and cease to count for anything. The explanation of adult human conduct by “tissue needs,” or “viscerogenic needs,” or by “toilet training” is merely the fantastic extreme to which psychology has been led by its sacrifice of subject matter to technique; or by its borrowing of its paradigms from the more “scientific” sciences.6

Physiological psychology affords a parallel case — both the tendency to substitute psychophysiology for psychology and the tendency of psychophysiology itself to exploit its limited successes, rather than to admit its limitations.7 Its atavism appears in that onesided bargain known as “parallelism.” Body belongs to the physical world, which antedates the mental and from which the mental has sprung. After the mental has sprung it still remains dependent — a second class reality, unworthy of the attention of science. “Mentalism” becomes a scientific heresy.

The Atavistic Fallacy appears not only in psychology, but in the other human sciences as well. The most notable example is afforded by anthropology, which is still mainly preoccupied with primitive social groups. Such groups resemble animals and infants in that, owing to difficulties of communication, reports of self-observation cannot be relied on. It is necessary to observe externals and gross behavior. But this is taken as an advantage rather than a disadvantage, because it is more in keeping with orthodox scientific procedure; and because when a social group is thus seen at a distance it composes a coherent and readily describable unity. A primitive society, perhaps only because it escapes intimate understanding, resembles a physical organism, preserving itself by adaptation to its habitat. The description of a static, primitive society provides only an indecent covering for an advanced, progressive, and individualistic society governed by interests and purposes; but, corrupted by the same Atavistic Fallacy, the scientific sociologist tends to assume that all societies remain, at bottom, primitive societies.8


The title of a well-known book,9 suggested to its author (no doubt ironically) by Santayana, illustrates the awkward predicament in which the habit of separating a man's mind from his body has placed the student of human nature. “Why the mind has a body” could have been matched by the inverse, and equally unanswerable, question, “Why the body has a mind.” Why, indeed? When mind is purged of all bodily characteristics and body of all mental characteristics it means nothing to say that one “has” the other. To say that the two run along “parallel” and non-intersecting routes, or that they are twin manifestations of x, is not illuminating. “Pure” mind and “pure” body can have neither possession, intercourse, companionship, nor affinity.

Observation discloses no such purities. The relation between a man's ideas, feelings, and purposes and his brain, heart, hands, and feet is, as a matter of observation, so intimate that in all the characteristic functions of human life the two are inextricably commingled. Disjunctive dualism is a confession of failure. The question, “Are a man's body and his mind related?” is not a real question. No answer to this question, after discussion, can be more certain than the fact, given in advance, that they are related.

The natural and historic human individual — known to himself as well as to others, the topic of biography and autobiography alike, the participant in affairs, public and private, the theme of literature and the arts, the author of science as well as a part of its subject matter, is a physical organism. So much is unquestionable. He may be more than, but he is at least, a physical organism. The question, then, is how to conceive the human individual so that he can be both a physical organism and also a mind. There are certain criteria of mind which psychology employs in its procedure, and which are at least consistent with the integral view which is here proposed.

Psychology accepts as evidence of mentality the fact that the organism can communicate, that is, refer, by words or otherwise, to objects common to the observer and to his interlocutor. This is also the accepted criterion of mind in everyday human relations. If an organism is addressed with the words “What a brilliant sunset!” and responds with appropriate comments of its own, it is assumed to be seeing the sunset. The organism's mind, when so identified, consists of three factors, the brilliant sunset, the seeing, and the verbal communication. None of these is necessarily, or by nature, non-physical. The sunset certainly occurs in the physical world. Its brilliancy may consist in an intensity of light; or, if it be construed to involve feeling as well as sensation, it may be partially allocated to the internal state of the organism itself. The “seeing” and the “communication” are readily identifiable as the exercise of the appropriate organs and neural apparatus of vision and speech.

What, then, becomes of mind? Its content is, or may be, bodily. What would become of physics if the physical could not obtain access to the physicist's mind? Its agency is, or may be, bodily, otherwise what would be the meaning of blindness, deafness, and anesthesia? But to suppose that mind has then disappeared because it is analyzable into parts none of which is intrinsically mental, is as though one were to suppose that there were no triangles because they are analyzable into non-triangular elements such as angles, number, and intersection. Similarly, mind appears to consist not in the intrinsic mentality and incorporeality of its constituents, but in the way in which its constituents are functionally related.

To clarify this doctrine further one may begin with a man's mind as revealed to the man himself. At what point does he distinguish his perceptual field as content of his mind from the same field as part of his physical environment? At what point does he recognize it as private? At the point, apparently, where there is a shift of attention by which a limited area is marked off within an enveloping area which succeeds it. One is looking, let us say, at a landscape spread before him, and as the disclosure spreads, the earlier disclosure emerges in its aspect of limitedness — in its containing only so much and no more, or in its angular perspective or distortion.10 Thus construed the contents of mind possess no common character except their exclusive togetherness within a selected aggregate. They are not “within” or “before” a mind otherwise defined, but they constitute mind by virtue of this togetherness. It is this which is meant by saying that they are mental.

So far as its contents are concerned, then, mind is an excerpt from the field of physical or other entities. But mind is more than its contents; it is also action. It is the act which defines the excerpt. A seen, for example, is distinguished from the unseen, or from another seen, by an act of seeing; and similarly with other contents of mind. They derive an inclusiveness and exclusiveness, and a mutual togetherness, from a selective act or orientation. It is this selective act which gives the point to a point of view. Which suggests that the conception of interest, instead of being derived from a preconceived idea of the mental as non-physical, may itself describe that physico-mental concreteness which is characteristic of human nature.

The same doctrine can be approached from the side of the body. The human organism is food for physiology, and through physiology, for chemistry and physics. Of that there can be no question. But by virtue of its nervous system the body is integrated, and raised to a functional level called “mind.”

The body rises to the level of mind when it acts on its environment in a peculiar way — when by sensing, perceiving, remembering, thinking, planning, it pursues interests. These and like activities set apart that part of the total environment on which they act, and which then, without ceasing to be physical (if such it be), assumes also the role of mental. This, then, is the answer to the question whether interest is bodily or mental. It lies upon that level of complexity in which body has become mind.


Mind then, is not to be defined in terms of an incorporeal substance, of in terms of elements which in their severalty possess a unique “mental” character. It is a peculiar process, a train of events, operating within a surrounding field called its “environment” and distinguished by its consistency and perseverance through time.

Psychology of diverse schools, and especially in its most recent developments, recognizes the existence of action systems which, when released or evoked, impel the individual to conduct himself in a certain specific manner. There are various general names for these action systems — ‘drive’ ‘driving adjustment,’ ‘need,’ ‘purpose,’ ‘motor attitude,’ ‘set,’ ‘governing propensity,’ ‘determining tendency,’ — of which ‘drive’ is here selected both because of its dynamic suggestiveness, and because of prevailing usage in the literature of the subject.11

The drive involves several factors. There is a neuro-muscular prearrangement or coördination, which is provided with stored energy. It is this motor equipment which distinguishes the drive from the skill. A drive, in other words, is not a mere apparatus, but a force, capable of motion and work. It contains, furthermore, not only a capacity and readiness to operate, but a tendency to operate. The drive is both a capacity and an impulse.

Corresponding to the prearrangement there is an exciting occasion by which the prearrangement is brought into operation. Both the prearrangement and the exciter are specific; the specific prearrangement is called into play by the specific exciter, and the exciter calls the specific prearrangement into play. The prearrangement is internal to the organism, while the exciter may be either internal or external. When the prearrangement is excited it usually takes command of the total organism, diverting its available energies from other possible uses, and thus requiring an adjustment and subordination of rival demands. The drive, as distinguished from the mere “reflex” is variable and modifiable, in respect of the intermediate phases through which it passes on its way to its more or less distant goal. Driving toward a goal, it learns how to reach it.

Social and personality psychologists recognize certain common drives by which to explain the conduct of individuals and groups. Animal psychologists, engaged in the study of learning, recognize the necessity of assuming impulsions, such as hunger and pain-avoidance, which underly the process of trial and error — without which the animal would not try, and without which success could not be distinguished from error. Freud's concern was not with the comparatively simple behavior of animals in an artificial maze, but with the complexities of human behavior in the labyrinth of life. The Freudian “wish,” with all its variants, which impels to action, which conflicts with other wishes, which, when unable to execute itself overtly, goes underground and finds indirect or disguised modes of expression in dreams, wit, and slips of the tongue, which may so far ignore “reality” as to create hallucinations and incapacitate a person to live in his physical and social environment — the wish, which plays this dramatic role, is essentially the same thing as the drive recognized by the social and animal psychologists

The current psychology of drives raises, and leaves unsettled, several questions affecting the nature of interests. There is, in the first place, both indefiniteness and disagreement as to what, and how many, drives there are. The recent history of the subject began with William McDougall's conception of “instincts” or forms of striving. His list, in which each instinct was accompanied by an emotion, comprised flight-fear, repulsion-disgust, curiosity-wonder, pugnacity-anger, self-abasement-self-assertion, parental love and tenderness, and others, major and minor.12 After McDougall, the study of “learning” had the effect of casting doubt on all such lists of innate drives. Learning was invoked to explain, and remained to explain away, until nothing was left except several dubious reflexes such as the grasping and withdrawal reflexes of the infant. But since it was evident that learning itself could not be explained without drives, the pendulum swung back again, and new lists appeared.

Thus E. C. Tolman enumerated “appetites” of thirst, hunger, sex, play, “avoidance” of cold, heat, and obstruction, and “social” drives, such as gregariousness.13 Tolman, be it noted, is primarily a student of animal behavior. Robert R. Sears, a child psychologist, named “hunger, sex, sleep and fatigue, elimination” as the “major primary drives.”14 There would appear, in other words, to be some relation between the list of drives and the special field examined by the psychologist. Thus McDougall takes his cue from the adult human; Tolman from the rat; Sears from the infant.

The second question which is left in doubt is that of innateness. Often a drive is taken to be innate by definition. But, the child psychologist quoted above speaks of “major primary drives” and “major secondary drives,” The minor drives are not enumerated, but appear to provide a sort of “et cetera” — lest otherwise the list appear too rigid. The primary drives are original, and the secondary are derived from the primary by “social interaction.” The secondary drives (aggression, dependency, independence, status striving) presumably provide their own motivation once they are created.15 E. C. Tolman, on the other hand, adopts a division into “Biological Drives” and “Social Drives,” and then goes on to state explicitly that: “The basic energy comes from the Biological Drives. The Social Drives or techniques are secondary motives which are derived from the Biological….”16

In this context the Atavistic Fallacy consists in supposing that the Biological Drives continue to provide the driving power which the Social Drives merely canalize. This would mean that the original drives are the only dependent drives; meaning that if they ceased to operate the wheels of action would cease to turn. This is plainly contrary to the fact of development. Or it would mean that a present drive can be explained only as the repetition of a past success.

This last interpretation is, on the face of it, paradoxical, since it seems to say that doing something new consists only in doing something old, but doing it as well or better; which does not account for the genesis of new drives or of ways of meeting new situations. The principle of the conditioned reflex helps to explain some new drives, but there is no reason to suppose that it is the only explanation or a sufficient explanation. Imitation, random activity, imagination, and, above all, the total personality (whether internally unified or conflicting) constitute drives and generate them. As to ways of meeting new situations, surely thought, and learning by example or precept to avoid error, play a role not less important than trial and error.

Fortunately theory of value need not await a final verdict on these controversial topics. It is important for theory of value, and for the art of control in the sphere of human institutions, to know what drives can be assumed to be comparatively universal. But universality does depend on origin. It is important, for example, to recognize that all men are impelled by the drives of hunger and pain avoidance; but if these were learned by all men in infancy as a result of conditions common to all living organism, they would for all practical purposes be as universal as if they were innate.

It is also important to know what drives are the most powerful and deep-seated; but this, again, does not depend on innateness. Indeed it is characteristic of man that many of his most powerful drives, such as patriotism, ambition, and love of money, are clearly acquired. Drives may become deep-seated, in the sense of perseverance and mastery. Hence it is not in the least prejudicial to man's higher or more idealistic purposes that they should have been developed rather than original. Human interests can rise above their source. Indeed it might be said to be the very essence of man that both phylogenetically and ontogenetically he does rise above his source.


The tendency to deal with human conduct in terms of what is observable by vision, hearing, or touch at the periphery of the body has proceeded so far as to make it necessary to affirm what was once thought to be self-evident, namely, that there is an affective content observable at the center. The statements “I feel a liking,” “I feel pleased,” or “disgusted,” or “angry,” or “happy,” are just as reliable reports of observations as the statements “he shows a liking,” “he acts pleased,” or “disgusted,” or “angry,” or “happy.” Furthermore, the terms ‘liking,’ ‘pleased,’ ‘disgusted,’ ‘angry,’ and ‘happy’ must be supposed to refer to the same conditions or activities in these two sets of statements. The problem is to fit them together; and the concept of interest affords the best promise of its solution.

The topic of pleasure and pain, which figures so prominently in discussions of value, lies at the heart of this problem. These terms may denote qualitatively different somatic sensations, as when ‘pleasure’ refers to peculiar titillations of the sort occasioned by the scratching of an itching surface, and ‘pain’ refers to the sharp pang or the dull ache. The sensory interpretation of pain has been universally accepted by psychologists since the discovery of pain receptors embedded in bodily tissues; and a similar interpretation is widely conceded in the case of pleasure, despite doubts as to the locus of the stimulus.

What, then, becomes of pleasure and pain in the sense of a pair of opposites — positive and negative? Does their opposition lie only in the opposed attitudes taken toward them, pleasure being pursued and pain avoided? They would then be like smells, some of which are attractive and some of which are repulsive. There would be nothing intrinsic to their natures which implied the correlative attitudes: it might have happened that man was impelled to pursue pain and avoid pleasure.

Such an external connection of pleasure with pursuit and of pain with avoidance would suffice to explain the place of pleasure and pain sensations in the economy of biological survival. It is useful to the organism that the sensation of pain should be avoided, when, as is frequently the case, it is a sign of bodily injury or malfunctioning. It is useful to the reproduction of the race that the sensations of pleasure associated with sexual intercourse should be pursued. The same external connection of pleasure with pursuit and pain with avoidance serves likewise to explain control by rewards and punishments. Assuming that pleasure is always pursued and pain avoided, pleasure becomes the carrot and pain the stick, which can be counted upon as an incentive or deterrent to whatever act may be conjoined with them. This interpretation also accounts for the fact that it is possible (though not usual) to pursue pain and to avoid pleasure.

But while this analysis is acceptable so far as it goes, it yields no meaning of pleasure and pain which would provide for the peculiar affinity between pleasure and pursuit, and between pain and avoidance — as when ‘taking pleasure in’ is synonymous with ‘inclination’ or ‘liking,’ and ‘finding painful’ is synonymous with ‘disinclination’ or ‘disliking.’ And there would be no explanation of the connection of pleasure and pain with all drives, and not merely with these drives of which they are the stimuli or objects.

When it became apparent that pain must be regarded as a somatic sensation, and when pleasure seemed to be following suit, so that feeling would drop out altogether, psychologists substituted a new duality, namely, ‘pleasantness’ and ‘unpleasantness.’ These were supposed to be “attributes” or “hedonic tones,” present in all sensation, but not themselves sensations. It was at first assumed that these attributes were recognizable and irreducible data which needed only to be named. But once this assumption was challenged it grew more and more questionable. All that remained unquestionable was the subject's reply given in response to the question, “Is it pleasant or unpleasant?” Hence the inquiry took a new direction, and addressed itself to the subject's interpretation of the question. When does a subject, being questioned, call a stimulus or object ‘pleasant’ or ‘unpleasant’? The answer given by the so-called “judgmental theory” is that his use of these words reflects the subject's knowledge of his own normal “reaction tendency.” The following is a representative statement of this view:

Pleasantness and unpleasantness “are attributes which we ascribe to any stimulating situation in virtue of our normal reaction tendency toward it.” If the individual normally makes a positive reaction to an object, he labels it pleasant; if he normally makes a negative reaction to it, he calls it unpleasant. The sine qua non of affection is the judgment, pleasant or unpleasant, which the individual makes of objects in the light of his knowledge of his own reaction tendency toward them.17

There remains a serious doubt as to the precise meaning of the theory. Although the relation between the subject's judgment and his reaction tendency is variously described by such expressions as ‘sine qua non,’ and ‘in the light of,’ it is supposed to be the knowledge relation. Inasmuch as the object known is a “reaction tendency,” or a “normal reaction,” the judgment is no doubt a generalization which may be affirmed independently of the subject's particular reaction at the moment. But on what is the generalization founded if not on such particular instances? How can a man know whether his normal reaction or his reaction tendency is positive or negative if he does not know his reactions when they are taking place? In other words, there is an event which the judgmental theory implies but does not make clear, namely, the subject's immediate knowledge of his own present reaction. And this provides a place for introspective affective content; which differs from the externally observed reactions only as proprioception differs from exteroception of the same thing. The common entity is the reaction itself, reaction for or against.18

‘Pleasure’ and ‘pain’ will then be ambiguous terms. Taken as the names of feelings they denote awareness of the positive and negative reactions respectively — awareness of the subject's own response tinged with positivity or negativity. Taken in their non-affective meaning, they will refer to specific somatic sensations (rubbing, stretching, pressing, tingling, tickling, thrilling, sharp, dull, etc.). When there is a pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, pleasure and pain will be present in both senses. Otherwise they will be present only in the first sense. In either case the sensation may be so fused with feeling as to beget new qualities such as hopefulness, delightfulness, charm or their opposites.


Recent discussion of the topic of emotion has been focused on three doctrines, bold and persuasive in their day, already traditional, and all persistent despite the criticisms to which they have been subjected. These three doctrines are historically associated with the names of Darwin, James, and Cannon.19

The Darwinian theory correlated certain major emotions (fear, rage, etc.) with instincts, and explained their outer bodily manifestations by their usefulness in earlier stages of animal evolution. The so-called James-Lange theory of the emotions identified the content of the emotional state with the organic sensations, such as contracted muscles or accelerated respiration, induced by emotional behavior. The criticism of the James-Lange theory by Cannon and others charged the exponents of that theory with neglecting the feeling component of emotion; finding this to be associated with the thalamus and hypothalamus, and to be prior to the muscular and visceral reactions.

Whatever be the conclusions reached in this as yet inconclusive controversy, the James-Lange theory appears to be modified and amplified, but not excluded. The way is left open to distinguish “feeling” as awareness of the attitude immediately provoked by the object or stimulus, from emotion as the more complex and prolonged sense of a more diffused and massive response. This would account for degrees of passion, from a relatively cool attitude of favor or disfavor to the frenzies of rage or terror, from liking and disliking to ecstasy or deep antipathy, reflecting the extent to which the total organism was involved. The difference between feeling and emotion becomes a difference of depth and spread, represented by a fan-shaped area, in which the apex is “pure feeling,” and the outer perimeter the more violent or intense emotion.

It is a corollary of this view that emotionality replaces a specified number of emotions. Emotion becomes commotion. The several emotions differ not so much emotionally, as in their modes of external behavior, and in their appropriateness to given situations. Emotionality itself is an auxiliary engine or supercharger which can be linked with any activity, when as we say one “gets excited” or “worked up” about it. The standard emotions, such as rage and fear, are distinguished by their relation to the primitive animal needs for food-getting, reproduction, care of the young, safety, and conquest of rivals. They will appear, as Cannon pointed out, when violence or other unusual physical exertion is required. Emotionality, however, will not be limited to such situations, but may, in human conduct, be linked with acquired purposes. It will be reminiscent of these more primitive forms, and may still bear their names, as when we speak of “hungering and thirsting after righteousness,” or of “moral courage,” or of “fearing God.”

This conception also provides for the fact that emotionality instead of acting as a reinforcement may usurp control, as when the individual is said to “lose his temper,” or to be “carried away,” or “swept” by emotion. The emotion then loses its direction, as when a train, through excess of speed in rounding a curve, jumps the rails, tears up the roadbed, and works general havoc. The difference here lies not in the degree of emotionality itself, but in the degree to which it has become disassociated from any guiding idea, or from the lessons of the past.

It is a quite gratuitous violation of observable facts to deny the existence of introspective emotion. Felt emotion, that is, emotion in the sense in which the subject has to have it in order to know it, is as good a fact of life as any other. Any musical connoisseur knows the difference between comparatively emotional music, such as that of Brahms, and comparatively “intellectual” music, such as Bach. Every man knows what it is to feel angry or afraid in a manner that cannot be shared immediately by one knower with another. Each knower is the accepted, as he is the privileged and unique, observer.

The rejection of introspective emotion is peculiarly wanton in the case of moods Words such as ‘sadness,’ ‘cheerfulness,’ ‘loneliness,’ ‘hopefulness,’ ‘discouragement’ are on every man's lips every day of his life. When he uses them he is understood by his fellow men. They signify something — otherwise a great part of literature would be nonsense. They are states, activities, qualities, or events, and they have the character of being known only to one who is sad, cheerful, lonely, hopeful, or discouraged.

There is nothing in recent psychology which casts doubt on such privately known emotional facts. Thus an accepted authority in this field tells us that emotion is “an acute disturbance or upset which is revealed in behavior or in conscious experience, as well as through widespread changes in the functioning of viscera (smooth muscles, glands, heart, lungs), and which is initiated by factors within a psychological situation.”20 Thus anger, for example, in the substantive sense of being angry, includes both the look of it, and the feel of it — its outward combative movements, its massive and diffused organic involvements together with the immediate awareness of them, and the attitudes of favor and disfavor which distinguish interest as here defined.

Thus far a survey of the findings of psychology confirms the conception of interest as an activity or attitude having the characteristic of favor or disfavor. It exhibits interest as prior to the abstractions and dualities which have handicapped psychology in its dealing with the integral man. It not only verifies the conception of interest, positive and negative, as descriptive of human nature, but suggests that man is essentially an interested animal, a natural being having interests, and being governed by interests. Interest appears as a unifying concept, which gives a common meaning to instinct, drive, feeling, pleasure and pain, emotion, and other divisions of the motor-affective life which are otherwise left to stand as miscellaneous items.

But thus far there is a signal omission in the account. The definition of value in terms of interest requires that interest shall have an object; for it is its object which is judged to possess value. To clarify this aspect of the matter, it is necessary to bring to light and explore the role of cognition in interest.

  • 1.

    For an earlier, but more detailed, presentation of the topics contained in the immediately following chapters, cf. the Author's General Theory of Value, 1926, 1950, chs. vi-x.

  • 2.

    This tendency is exemplified by H. Bergson (Matter and Memory, 1911); W. James (Essays in Radical Empiricism, 1912); S. Alexander (Space, Time and Deity, 1920); L. Morgan (Emergent Evolution, 1923); J. Dewey (Experience and Nature, 1925); A. N. Whitehead (Process and Reality, 1929); and many others.

  • 3.

    “The genius of American psychology lies in its stress upon action”; G. W. Allport, “The Psychology of Participation,” Psychological Review, 53 (1945), pp. 117–8. This tendency was foreshadowed by James (Principles of Psychology, 1890) and more completely developed, with differences of emphasis, by J. R. Angell (Psychology, 1904, “The Province of Functional Psychology,” Psychological Review, 14, 1907); by E. B. Holt (The Concept of Consciousness, 1914; The Freudian Wish, 1915); by E. C. Tolman (Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men, 1932); and by many others. The trend is the convergent effect of a number of causes — including the “behavioristic” emphasis on bodily action; the Gestalt school with its emphasis on the total field; the Freudian and other schools of psychiatry; social psychologies, with their emphasis on personality; and the organismic emphasis of modern physiology and biology.

  • 4.

    J. G. Beebe-Center, “Feeling and Emotion,” in H. Helson (ed.), Theoretical Foundations of Psychology, 1951, ch. vi. For a general consideration of the present predicament of psychology, cf. G. Murphy, op. cit., ch. 41.

  • 5.

    Outline of Psychoanalysis, tr. by J. Strachey, 1949, p. 14 (note).

  • 6.

    Cf. R. R. Sears, “Personality Development in Contemporary Culture,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 92 (1948), pp. 368–9. The child psychologist, like every other species of psychologist or social scientist, naturally thinks that his methods provide the key to human nature. When geriatric psychology is more fully developed it will perhaps make a similar claim.

  • 7.

    K. S. Lashley, a distinguished representative of the physiological school, concedes that “physiological studies have as yet made no progress toward analysis of the less primitive motives of human behavior”; but this did not shake his firm adherence to the school; cf. his “Coalescence of Neurology and Psychology,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 84 (1941), p. 467 (italics mine).

  • 8.

    The emancipation of psychology from the restraints of an atavistic methodology has been impressively advocated by G. W. Allport in a Presidential Address to the Division of Personality and Social Psychology of the American Psychological Association in 1946; and published under the title of “Scientific Models and Human Morals,” Psychological Review, 54 (1947). Cf. also this writer's “The Trend in Motivational Theory,” in American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 23 (1953).

  • 9.

    C. A. Strong, Why the Mind Has a Body, 1903.

  • 10.

    For a fuller statement of this view, cf. the Author's “Conceptions and Misconceptions of Consciousness,” Psychological Review, 11 (1904).

  • 11.

    The differences of terminology are in large part due to emphasis on different aspects of what is a complex affair. As the term ‘drive’ calls attention to its force-fulness, and treats it as a vis a tergo, the expression ‘governing propensity’ refers to its continuing control of the intermediate stages of the process (subordinate acts, stages, etc.). The term ‘purpose’ emphasizes the peculiar role of the terminal or culminating phase as determining its antecedents — in short, the teleological character of the process; while the term ‘need’ refers to the impulsions created by a deficiency in the existing situation — which may be an urgency or “pressing need.” These aspects are complementary and not mutually exclusive.

  • 12.

    Social Psychology, 1910.

  • 13.

    Motivation, Learning and Adjustment,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 84 (1941). In 1943 this writer's “appetites” had increased to twelve; “A Drive-Conversion Diagram,” Psychological Review, 50 (1943), p. 504. For another complete (?) list, cf. H. A. Murray, “Proposals for a Theory of Personality,” Explorations in Personality, 1938, ch. ii.

  • 14.

    Personality and Culture,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 92 (1948), p. 368.

  • 15.

    R. R. Sears, op. cit., pp. 363, 364, 368.

  • 16.

    Op. cit., p. 510.

  • 17.

    H. N. Peters, “The Judgmental Theory of Pleasantness and Unpleasantness,” Psychological Review, 42 (1935), copyright American Psychological Association, pp. 356–7. The included quotation is from H. A. Carr, Psychology, 1925, p. 290. Cf. also the following: “Situations that normally arouse a positive reaction, i.e., one tending to enhance, maintain, or repeat the situation, are judged pleasant. Situations which arouse negative reactions, i.e., ones which minimize or rid the organism of the situation, are judged unpleasant. Situations which normally arouse neither positive nor negative reactions are regarded as lacking in affective tone”; J. G. Beebe-Center, “Feeling and Emotion,” in Theoretical Foundations of Psychology, H. Helson, Editor, copyright 1951, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., p. 258.

  • 18.

    Provided one is permitted to substitute ‘revealing’ for ‘resulting from,’ this seems to be the view held by W. A. Hunt — in “The Meaning of Pleasantness and Unpleasantness,” American Journal of Psychology, 45 (1933) — who identifies pleasant and unpleasant with “the bright or dull pressures which are organic sensations resulting from bodily adjustments of approach and withdrawal.” It is substantially the view held by P. T. Young, in his “Studies in Affective Psychology,” American Journal of Psychology, 42 (1930), and other papers. Cf. also the view stated in a standard textbook: “All the theories depend on the correlation of pleasantness with seeking, approach, acquisition; and the correlation of unpleasantness with avoidance, withdrawal, rejection.” E. G. Boring, and others, Psychology, 1935, pp. 391, 392, 395.

  • 19.

    C. Darwin, Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, 1899; W. James, Principles of Psychology, 1890, and The Physical Basis of Emotion, 1894; W. B. Cannon, Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage, 1929.

  • 20.

    Reprinted with permission from P. T. Young, Emotion in Man and Animal, 1943, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., p. 51. (Italics mine.)

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