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Call No. 7t>| / ki- 9 Accession No. \l^ O ff "/ 

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THE ORIGIN OF THE 
SENSE OF BEAUTY 

SOME SUGGESTIONS UPON THE SOURCE 

AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE 

ESTHETIC FEELINGS 



FELIX CLAY, B.A. 

ARCHITECT 



LONDON 

SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE 
1908 

[All rights reserved] 



Printed by BALLANTVNK, HANSOM &* Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh 



PREFACE 

A BOOK ot these dimensions, with a title that seems 
to suggest many and heavy volumes, needs, if not 
an apology, at least an explanation. It may, there- 
fore, be stated at once that no attempt is made 
to investigate the highly complicated question as 
to what constitutes beauty in the various forms of 
art, or to formulate any kind of laws which have 
to be satisfied in order that an object may rightly 
be described as beautiful. 

The chief object of the book is to maintain that 
our artistic likes and dislikes, however difficult to 
explain, must be based upon instinctive preferences 
originally necessary for survival, and, as in the 
case of the other instincts, in some faculty that 
can be traced in a rudimentary form among the 
lower animals. 

That is to say, that taste the feeling by which 
we discriminate the beautiful from the ugly can 
no longer be considered an ultimate inexplicable 
faculty, sufficiently explained by the statement that 
we are born with likes and dislikes, beyond which 
fact inquiry is idle. 

However little conviction the suggestions put 
forward here may carry, the object of writing the 
book will have been attained, if it helps to the 



vi PREFACE 

recognition of the fact that some reasons ought 
to be found to account for the aesthetic feeling 
as an actual and direct factor in the struggle for 
existence. 

The book begins with an introductory chapter 
discussing generally the nature of the beautiful, 
and stating the problem. This is followed by an 
account of simple sensations, feelings, and emotions 
and their origin ; after this an examination of 
instincts and their development, with special refer- 
ence to those that might be held to be the origin of 
the appreciation of beauty. Finally, a considera- 
tion of the art impulse and the higher intellectual 
faculties concerned in artistic feeling, imagination, 
and inspiration. 

An apology must be made for the introduction 
of a certain amount of elementary psychology ; but 
as the whole argument depends upon the gradual 
development of the higher intellectual pleasures 
from the rudimentary organic tendencies it is 
necessary that there should be in the mind of the 
reader a certain freshness of acquaintance with the 
method in which feelings and ideas arise, in order 
to discuss the psychological aspects of art apprecia- 
tion. Should the book fall into the hands of those 
already conversant with the facts set out, we hope 
they will pass, not too impatiently, over such 
details. 

FELIX CLAY. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER 1 

INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 

PAGE 

Need of a definition of beauty The aspect of beauty treated of 
in the book Pleasure the essence of life A world without 
feeling Appreciation of beauty a perception of immediate 
value Moral judgments and aesthetic judgments Feeling for 
beauty innate Lower and higher senses Disinterestedness 
of aesthetic emotion questioned Universality no criterion 
of beauty True and false opinions of the beautiful Many 
definitions of beauty Wide application of the word beauti- 
ful Objectification of feelings Beauty defined to be plea- 
sure considered as a quality of a thing Colour and form 
Beauty in repetition of parts themselves indifferent Taste 
and discrimination Origin of taste Naturalistic view of 
beauty Absolute beauty Beauty must be considered to be 
relative to the observer Art and utility Comparison be- 
tween art and play Music as an art useful to survival 
Origin of art forms Idealisation of primitive instincts 
Art and theories of aesthetic ....... 1-34 



CHAPTER II 

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS AND FEELING 

Growth of psychology Need for knowledge of physiology 
Physical and psychical processes The nervous system 
The muscles Development of the nervous system Brain 
of child and adult Sensations as psychical elements 
Sensations not necessarily simple Sensation and percep- 
tion Sensations and the subconscious mind The sense 
vii * 



viii CONTENTS 

PAGE 

organs Higher and lower Sensations diminish in intensity 
with age Organic sensations Sensations of the skin 
Kinsesthetic sensations Visual sensations Spatial relation- 
ships Simple forms 35~6o 

CHAPTER III 

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS AND FEELING 

* (continued) 

Colour sensations Feeling tone of sensations Organic sensa- 
tions in art appreciation Effect of physiological condition 
upon feelings Pleasure Pleasure and pain Physical and 
intellectual pleasure /Esthetic pleasure Relativity of sen- 
sations Revival of sensations Marginal sensations Per- 
ceptions Perceptual systems Instincts, their relation to 
perceptual habits 61-85 

CHAPTER IV 

EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 

Inherited nervous disposition Instinctive reactions Feelings 
and emotions Emotions in animals and in human beings 
Bodily changes accompanying emotions States of feeling 
Primitive instincts the basis of emotions Rise of the ideal 
instincts Complex nature of emotions /Esthetic emotion 
Relation to other emotions Unity in variety as a cause 
of pleasure Pleasure in the recognition of the familiar 
Curiosity Love in relation to aesthetic emotion 
Imitation Sympathy Self-assertion Innate response to 
harmony The fundamental problem of the aesthetic 
emotion 86-109 

CHAPTER V 

THE ORIGIN OF INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 

Irritability a property of all living matter Reflex action Cen- 
tral nervous system Relation between reflex action and 
the central nervous system Use and function of the gang- 
lion Instincts cannot be considered a lapsed intelligence 



CONTENTS ix 

TAGE 

Tropisms and their part in reflex and instinctive action 
Spontaneous movements Rhythmical movements Re- 
actions in plants Consciousness When first present 
Memory and reason Proof of mental action Associative 
memory Instincts and tropisms Examples of instincts 
explained by tropisms Experiments upon Amphipyra and 
Nereis Stereotropism Instinctive reaction modified by 
memory Relation between primitive reflex action and taste 
Like and dislike Pleasure in suitable environment 
Desire for the familiar as necessarily the safe . . 1 10-137 

CHAPTER VI 

COLOUR AND KltYTHM 

Colour Reason for pleasure in different colours Insects and 
colour Colour in birds Emotional effect of colour Choice 
of male bird by female Pleasure in sensations can be in- 
creased by practice and variety Appreciation previous to 
production Art differs from skill by the result Early forms 
of art instinct Modification of environment Workmanship 
in animals Artistic spirit Creative, or making, instinct 
Constructive activity useful in the struggle fur existence 
Origin of art production Pleasure felt in doing things that 
were once useful Conscious recognition of utility unneces- 
sary Utility determines form Rhythm . . . 13^-154 

CHAPTER VII 

THE ARTIST 

Double nature of the problem Impulse to create and reason for 
enjoyment M. Him and the art impulse All desires and 
needs are motives to production No one specific impulse to 
art creation Universal nature of art feelings The emotion 
of sex and art Natural desire to stimulate any emotion 
Love as an incentive to works of art The desire to attract 
by pleasing The self-exhibiting impulse The play impulse 
theory Art essentially creative Art as relieving pain and 
enhancing pleasure First beginnings of art Expectancy as 
a cause of pattern Magic and art Pictographs and ideo- 
grams and design . . 155-186 



x CONTENTS 

CHAPTER VIII 

MEANING AND EXPRESSION 

PAGE 

Feelings in man and animals /Esthetic emotion and animals 
Animals unable to perceive relations The perception of 
relations Subconscious awareness of relations Perception 
of relations makes language possible Leads also to the 
formation of abstract k*.eas And concepts Reasoning power 
in animals Are concepts possible without words ? Function 
of art to embody concepts that have not yet been embodied in 
a word Tactual concepts Trial and Error Immediate in- 
ference Intuition Sudden irruption of ideas The artist 
and logical process ArVists need not be intellectual Music 
and the imparting of ideas Form Definite and indefinite 
form Pleasure in the indeterminate Apparent profundity 
of the indefinite Importance of the pleasure felt in the in- 
definite Some of the advantages and the disadvantages 
Infinite perfection Fallacy of the idea Vague states of 
consciousness that give the impression of great meaning 
/Esthetic delight and practical advantage Beauty cannot 
get away from the useful Form and colour Appreciation 
of novelty The artist and the feeling for the beautiful . 187-223 

CHAPTER IX 

IMAGINATION 

Importance of imagination Reason and imagination Ruskin 
and the imaginative faculty Constructive imagination The 
motor element in imagination Imagination involves disso- 
ciation and recombination Imagination as a substitute for 
reason The use and value of imagination Scientific and 
artistic imagination psychologically the same Mystical 
imagination Mysticism Symbolism Mystic poetry 
Symbolism carried to absurdity Value of a sense of mystery 
Genius and the power of prolonged attention The sway 
of the idea fixed Imagination in animals Voluntary 
activity and creative imagination Will and imagination 
Cause of the creative imagination Abstraction and language 
Ideas and movements Savages and the early forms of 
imagination ........ 224-243 



CONTENTS xi 

CHAPTER X 

INSPIRATION 

PACE 

Creative imagination and the emotional crisis Inspiration con- 
sidered supernatual Inspiration and the subconscious mind 
Artists and the emotional nature Genius and de- 
generacy Moreau, Lombroso, Nordau, on the pathological 
character of genius Untenability of tSe theory States of 
mind and organic process Inspiration must be judged by 
the results produced Visions and trances Fallacy of con- 
necting art with morbid excitement The suddenness of in- 
spiration Parallel between artistic and religious inspiration 
Is the sudden appearance a proof jf value ? Inspiration 
and the subconscious mind Marginal ideas Association of 
ideas according to temperament Hypnotism Details and 
theories of hypnotism Dreams Sudden conversion The 
subconscious mind does not involve new qualities . 244-274 

CHAPTER XI 

ART AND LIFE CONCLUSIONS 

Man and his environment Emotional basis of philosophy 
Imagination in science and religion Beauty and reality 
Industry and art Art and nature Harmonies and dis- 
harmonies Art and religion Early stages of religion 
Conservation of value Mediate and immediate value 
Beauty and happiness Physical and ideal instincts Art 
and everyday life The artistic spirit Value of the arts in 
registering and handing on experience Beauty arising from 
industrial art Art and truth Self-realisation . 275-298 

INDEX 299 



LIST OF BOOKS AND PAPERS 

Referred to in the text directly or indirectly 

ALLEN, GRANT. 1877, Physiological ^Esthetics. 1879, The Colour 

Sense. 

ANGELL. 1905, Psychology (Chicago). 
ARNOLD, R. B. 1904, Scientific Fact and Metaphysical Reality. 

BAIN, A. 1875, The Emotions and the Will (3rd Edition). 1894, 

The Senses and the Intellect (4th Edition). 
BALDWIN, J. M. 1895, Mental Development in the Child and the 

Race (New York). 1902, Development and Evolution (New York). 
BALFOUR, H. 1893, Tne Evolution of Decorative Art. 
BERKNSON, B. 1896, Florentine Painters. 
BETHE, A. 1898, Pflligers Arch., Bd. 70, S. 15: DUrfen wir den 

Ameisen und Bienen psychische Qualitaten Zuschreiben ? 
BOGGS, L. P. Psychological Review, vol. xi. Nos. 4 and 5 : An 

Experimental Study of the Physiological Accompaniments of 

Feeling. 

BOSANQUET, B. 1892, A History of /Ksthetic. 
BROWN, G. B. 1902, The Fine Arts (2nd Edition). 

CARPENTER, E. 1898, Angels' Wings. 
CLAUSEN, G. 1905, Aims and Ideals in Art. 
COLLINGWOOD, W. G. 1891, The Art Teaching of Ruskin. 
CROCK, B. 1902, Estetica come scienzadell' Espressione e Linguistica 

generale (Milan). 
CUYKR, E. 1902, La Mimique (Paris). 

DARWIN, C-~i888, On the Origin of Species (6th Edition). 1890, 
The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (2nd Edition). 

DEWEY, J. Psychological Review, vol. ix. No. 3: Interpretation qf 
Savage Mind. 



xiv LIST OF BOOKS AND PAPERS 

ETTLINGEN, M. 1900, Zeitschrift flir Psychologic und Physiologic 
der Sinnesorgane, Bd. xxii. Heft 3. Zur Grundlegung einer 
^Esthetik des Rhythmus. 



FERE, CH. 1899, The Pathology of the Emotions (Trans. R. Park). 
1900, Sensation et Mouvement (2nd Edition), 

FOREL, A. 1908, The Senses of Insects (Trans.). 
FRAZER, J. G. 1890, The Golden Bough. 
FROMENTIN, .1904, Jus Matt res d'autrefois. 

GROOS, K. 1898, The Play of Animals (Trans. E. M. Baldwin). 
GROSSE, .1894, Die Anfange der Kunst. 
GURNEY, E.~i88o, The Power of Sound. 

GUYAU, J. M. 1884, Les Problemes de 1'Esthetique contemporaine. 
1889, L'Art au Point de Vue sociologique. 

H ADDON, A. C. 1896, Evolution in Art. 1898, The Study of Man. 

HAINES and DAVIES. Psychological Review, vol. xi. : The Psychology 
of /Esthetic Reaction to Rectangular Forms. 

HALDANE, R. B. 1903, The Pathway to Reality. 

HAMERTON, P. G. 1873, Thoughts about Art. 1889, Notes on 
/Esthetics. 1870, A Painter's Camp in the Highlands. 

HAMILTON, A. 1903, Maori Art. 

HAMLIN, A. J. 1897, An Attempt at a Psychology of Instinct: 
Mind (Jan.). 

HIRN, YRJO. 1900, The Origins of Art. 

HiRTH, G. 1891, Aufgaben der Kunst physiologic, vols. i. and ii. 

HiRSCH, M. 1896, Genius and Degeneration (Trans.). 

HOBHOUSE, L. T. 1901, Mind in Evolution. 

HOFFDING, II. 1904, Outlines of Psychology (Trans.) The Philo- 
sophy of Religion (Trans.). 

HOGARTH, W. 1753, The Analysis of Beauty. 

HOLMES, W. II. 1882, Origin and Development of Form and 
Ornament in Ceramic Art. 

HOLMES FORBES, A. W. 1889, The Science of Beauty. 

HOUSSAY, F. 1890, The Industries of Animals. 

JACKSON, T. G. 1903, Reason in Architecture. 
JAELL, M. 1904, L'Intelligence et le Rhythm dans les Mouvements 
Artistiques, 



LIST OF BOOKS AND PAPERS xv 

JAMES, W. 1890, The Principles of Psychology, vols. i. and ii. 

1902, The Varieties of Religious Experience. 1907, Pragmatism. 
JENNINGS, H. S. 1904, Contributions to the Study of the Behaviour 

of the Lower Organisms. Carnegie Institute Publications. 
JERUSALEM, W. 1900, Einleitung indie Philosophic. 



KID, W. 1907, The Sense of Touch in Mammals and Birds. 
KNIGHT, W. 1893, The Philosophy of the ^Beautiful. 



LANG, A. 1898, The Making of Religion. 

LECH ALAS, G. 1902, Etudes Esthetiques. 

LE DANTEC, F. 1907, The Nature and Origin of Life. 

LEE, V. 1905, Revue Philosophique de la France et de L'Etrangere. 

The Individual in the Presence of the Work of Art. 
LEE and THOMPSON. 1897, Contemporary Review, vol. Ixxvii. 

Beauty and Ugliness. 
LESSING, G. E. The Laocoon. 

LIPPS, T. 1897, Raumaesthetik und geometrische Taiischungen. 
LOCK, R. H. 1907, Recent Progress in the Study of Variation, 

Heredity, and Evolution. 
LOEB, J. 1905, Studies in General Physiology. 1900, Comparative 

Physiology of the Brain and Comparative Psychology. 
LOMBROSO, C. 1891, The Man of Genius.'j 
LUBBOCK, J. 1883, Ants, Bees, and Wasps. 



M'DouGALL. 1903, The Psychological Review, vol. ix. 5 : The 
Relation of Auditory Rhythm to Nervous Discharge. 1903, 
Mind : Some Factors in the Attention Process. 1905, Physio- 
logical Psychology. 

MARCH, C. 1896, Mind, Oct. : Evolution and Psychology in Art. 

MARSHALL, R. 1894, Pain,- ; Pleasure, and ./Esthetics. 1895, 
^Esthetic Principles. Philosophical Review, vol. xiv. I : The 
Relation of ^Esthetics to Psychology and Philosophy. 

MARTIN, J. L. The American Journal of Psychology, vol. xvi. i : 
The Psychology of Esthetic Experimental Prospecting in the 
Field of the Comic. 

MASON, O. T. 1895, The Origins of Invention. 

MAUDSLEY, H. 1902, Life in Mind and Character. 

METCHNIKOFF. 1905, The Nature of Man. 

MOLL, T. 1906, Hypnotism. 

b 



xvi LIST OF BOOKS AND PAPERS 

MOREAU, P. 1887, Des Aberrations du Sens Ge'ne'sique. 

MORGAN, C. L. 1891, Animal Life and Intelligence. 1894, Intro- 
duction to Comparative Psychology. 1896, Animal Behaviour. 
1900, Habit and Instinct. 1905, The Interpretation of Nature. 

MORGAN, T. H. 1903, Evolution and Adaptation. 

Mosso, A. 1896, Fear (Trans.). 

MULLER, M. Collected Essays (2 vols.). 

MYERS, W. H. F. 1903, Human Personality and its Survival of 
Bodily Death. 

NELSON, M. L. The Psychological Review, vol. xii. 4: The 
Difference between Men and Women in the Recognition of 
Colour, and the Perception of Sound. 

NORDAU, M. 1895, Degeneration (Trans.). 1896, Paradoxes 
(Trans.). 

PARISH, E. 1897, Hallucinations and Illusions. 

PECKHAM, G. W. and E. G. 1905, Wasps, Social and Solitary. 

PELT, J. V. VAN. 1902, A Discussion of Composition as applied to 

Art. 
PIETTE, E. 1904, L'Anthropologie : Evolution of Stone Engraving 

in the Stone Age. 

PILO, M. 1895, Psychologic du Beau et de 1'Art. 
PITT RIVERS. 1906, The Evolution of Culture, and other Essays.^' 
PLATEAU. 1907, Les Insectes et le Couleur des Fleurs. L'Anne'e 

Psychologique. 
PORENA, M. 1905, Che Cos* e il Bello? Schema d'un Estetica 

Psicoiica. 
POULTON, E. B. 1890, The Colours of Animals, their Meaning 

and Use. 
PUFFER, E. D. 1905, The Psychology of Beauty (Boston). 

REICH, .1902, Kunst und Moral. 

REID, G. A. 1905, The Principles of Heredity. 

REINACH, S. 1907, Apollo. An Illustrated Manual of the History 

of Art throughout the Ages (Trans.). 
RlBOT, T. 1890, The Psychology of Attention (Trans.). 1897, The 

Psychology of the Emotions (Trans.). 1906, Essay on the Creative 

Imagination (Trans.). 

ROMANES, G. J. 1888, Mental Evolution in Man. 
ROYCE, J. 1903, Outlines of Psychology (New York). 



LIST OF BOOKS AND PAPERS xvii 

RUSKIN, J. 1888, Modern Painters, I. -VI. 1879, The Laws of 
Fe*sole. 1890, Lectures on Art. 1880, Seven Lamps of Archi- 
tecture. 1859, The Two Paths, 1870, The Eagle's Nest. 

SANTEYANA, G. 1896, The Sense of Beauty (New York). 1900, 

Interpretations of Religion and Poetry (New York). 1905, 

The Life of Reason ; Reason in Art (New York). 
SCOTT, C. 1896, The American Journal of Psychology: Sex and 

Art. 

S^AILLES, G. 1897, Essai sur le Genie da^o i -nit. 
SERGI, G. 1901, Les Emotions (Trans, from the Italian). 
SLADEN, F. W. L. 1905, Queen Rearing in England. 
SOLLIER. 1905, Le Me'canisme des Emotions. 
SOURIAU, P. 1889, L'Esthetique du Mouvement. 1904, La Beaute 

Rationelle. 
SPENCER, H. 1891, Essays. 1890, The Principles of Psychology 

(3rd Edition). 
SPENCER and GILLOW. 1904, The Northern Tribes of Central 

Australia. 
STANLEY, H. M. The Psychological Review, vol. v. 3 : On the 

Psychology of Religion. 
STOUT, G. F. 1896, Analytic Psychology. 1899, A Manual of 

Psychology. 1 

STURT, H. 1902, Personal Idealism. 
SULLY, J. 1892, A Text Book of Psychology. 1902, An Essay on 

Laughter. 1897, Studies in Childhood. 
SYMONS, A. 1899, The Symbolist Movement in Literature. 

TAINE, H. 1867, De L'Ide'al dans L'Art. 1865, Philosophic de 

L'Art. 

THOMSON, J. A. 1908, Heredity. 
TITCHENER, E. B. 1896, An Outline of Psychology. 
TOLSTOY, L. 1899, What is Art? (Trans.) 
TUFTS. 1903, Philosophical Review, vol. xii. : The Genesis of 

the ^Esthetic Categories. 

VERNON, H. M. 1906, Variation in Plants and Animals. 
VERWORN, M. 1899, General Physiology (Trans.). 
VILLA. 1903, Contemporary Psychology. 

WALLACE, W. 1908, The Threshold of Music. 
WALLASCHEK, R. 1893, Primitive Music. 



xviii LIST OF BOOKS AND PAPERS 

WARD, J. 1902, British Encyclopaedia, Art. Psychology. 

WASHBURN, M. F. 1908, The Animal Mind. 

WASMANN, E. 1905, Comparative Studies in the Psychology of 

Ants and of the Higher Animals. 
WINCH, W. H. 1906, Mind: The Psychology and Philosophy of 

Play. 
WOOLSTON. American Journal of Psychology, vol. xiii. i: Religious 

Emotion. ' 

WUNDT, W. 1907, Outlines of Psychology (3rd Edition, Trans.). 

ZlEHEN, T. 1899, Physiological Psychology (Trans.). 



THE ORIGIN OF 
THE SENSE OF * BEAUTY 

CHAPTER .1 

INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 

" Beauty, like wit, cannot be defined, but is discerned only by a 
taste or sensation." HUME, Treatise of Human Nature. 

A DESCRIPTIVE definition of beauty that had any 
approach to completeness, would not only give us 
the conditions which an object would have to 
satisfy in order to be beautiful, but would tell us 
how, why, and when beauty came to take the 
place it occupies ; reveal the secret of the relation- 
ship between such qualities in the object and the 
excitement of the aesthetic sensibilities, and show 
the reason of the development of this sense for the 
beautiful in the struggle for existence. Definitions 
of beauty are as a rule confined to the first of the 
above requirements, taking for granted the fact that 
we are pleased by objects that satisfy the necessary 
conditions. 

Beauty, which we propose to investigate, is that 
effect of appearance in the aspect of an object 



2 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

that stimulates an immediate emotional response 
accompanied by a feeling of pleasure, which plea- 
sure is considered due to some quality in the 
particular object ; the emotional thrill with which 
a beautiful setting drives home some simple truth 
or idea, which stated baldly would pass unnoticed ; 
that indescribable physical sensation which turns 
the water of an intellectual cognition into the fiery 
wine of feeling. We may fully recognise the great 
merit, the skill and genius, shown in a work or 
performance, but if^it fails to arouse and stimulate 
the feelings, it is, however inspiring for others, a 
failure for us. Emotional consciousness, that is to 
say, pleasure and pain, whether physical or mental, 
is the essence not only of beauty but of life. We 
might imagine a highly complex, and even civi- 
lised, community, in which the persons were but 
animated automata, having sensations but no 
emotions or feelings, no sense of pleasure, or the 
reverse. Natural selection would have developed 
all the necessary actions and reactions ; danger 
would be avoided, but there would be no feeling 
of fear ; it would be avoided as it were by uncon- 
scious impulse so would food be obtained and 
eaten, mechanically. Such a society might develop 
a very high degree of organisation, and yet there 
would be no deliberately sought for end, for 
nothing would be desired. Something of the 
kind, indeed, we see in an ant's nest, a perfectly 
organised socialist community, but only made 
workable by the complete absence of individual 
desires, of personal likes and dislikes, with nothing 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 3 

apparently but an irresistible unconscious impulse 
to do what is necessary. 

We, looking at this world of mechanical human 
beings, might, and indeed probably would, imagine 
objects and desires for them, and credit them with 
pleasure in success; but the shadow of desire only 
would be there, the reality absent. They would be 
a race of pure intellectuals, in whom the changes 
and processes of nature would be mirrored without 
any feeling. Events would be noted, the relations 
observed, the appropriate actions undertaken ; but 
all would be done without desire, pleasure, or 
regret. ^ Nothing would be repulsive, nothing plea- 
surable. In such a world all value, all worth would 
be absent. For the existence of good, not merely 
consciousness but emotional consciousness is re- 
quired. We may be quite sure that there cannot 
be value apart from appreciation, and no good 
unless there is preference for that good over some 
other less good. 1 ? 

The appreciation of beauty is a perception of 
an immediate good or satisfaction that is to say, 
aesthetic judgments are judgments of value, as 
contrasted with intellectual judgments, which are 
judgments of fact ; and if the latter have any value, 
it is only in so far as they may in some way be 
brought into connection with our pleasures and 
pains. A feeling of pleasure of whatever kind 
expresses the value that an event, an object, or an 
idea has for us, while anything that has or can be 
the means of such a satisfaction, has so far value. 

1 See "The Origin of the Sense of Beauty," G. Santeyana, p. 16, 



4 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

Esthetic pleasure is intrinsic, based upon the 
immediate experience, and is not properly con- 
cerned with any conscious idea of eventual utility. 
That is to say, that no matter how large a part may 
be played by ideas or association in arousing and in- 
tensifying the emotion, beauty in the first place is a 
simple direct appe?l to feeling to instinctive taste.. 
^Esthetic theory, influenced perhaps by the popu- 
lar feeling of the unworthiness and inferiority of 
things purely emotional, has, in revolt against the 
idea of the complete subjectivity of the phenomena 
with which it deals, woven a subtle metaphysic of 
beauty, as something possessed of semi-transcen- 
dental reality, of which glimpses can at times be 
caught by man ; and to enhance its dignity has 
conceived of an objective external beauty not rela- 
tive to us, as also of an external right and wrong ; 
of which our moral and aesthetic feelings are the 
discoverers. We are still hardly ready to admit 
that to these disdained feelings the whole world of 
perception owes its value. Things are interesting 
only because we care about t'hem, valuable because 
we want them. If our intelligence did not work to 
provide satisfaction for our feelings, there would be 
an end to thought high or low. 

" A judgment is not trivial, because it rests on human 
feelings ; on the contrary, triviality consists in abstraction 
from human interests ; only those judgments and opinions 
are truly insignificant .which wander beyond the reach of 
verification, and have no function in the ordering and 
enriching of life." 1 

1 " The Sense oj Beauty," G. Santeyana, p. 4. 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 5 

The response to beauty in any form lies deep in 
the non-rational part of our nature fthat is to say, it 
is one of the emotions, drawing its strength from 
old, deep-seated cravings and desires, born, de- 
veloped, and firmly fixed by the long struggle for 
survival, some stronger, some weaker, some still 
necessary, some no longer needed, but surviving 
like rudimentary organs, only manifest in indefin- 
able desires and vague pleasures or discontents. 
These feelings irrational, capricious, at times un- 
controllable form the streajtn of tendency in 
character, stimulating all the activities, and help- 
ing to form those curious motives so impossible to 
analyse. The various tendencies and instinctive 
cravings sometimes neutralise each other, some- 
times by joining increase that strength ; ramifying 
into the endless complications of mental process ; 
always a source of the value and pleasure in life. 
These manifold tendencies, working as it were sub- 
consciously, form our intuitive likes and dislikes, 
our prejudices and our preferences, making a back- 
ground unnoted as a rule by conscious perception. 
When, however, something appeals vividly to the 
emotional side of our nature, they burst into the 
conscious mind, and, if very strong, may sweep 
away the tissue of elaborately planned action, 
thought out and determined upon by the intellect, 
and carry away the person on a tide of uncontrol- 
lable feeling to actions at which no one is more 
astonished than the performer himself. 

It is because beauty appeals to this instinctive 
subconscious part of the mind that we find artistic 



6 ORIGIN OP THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

effects made use of whenever a state of emotional 
excitement is required, martial songs and music 
raise the courage of the soldier; songs and dances 
are well recognised incitements to love, which calls 
on every art to stir the feelings of its object ; 
beautiful architecture, stained glass and pictures, 

combine with music to produce emotional excite- 

j* 
ment to inhibit the calculating reason in favour 

of impulsive action. 

We spoke above of moral and aesthetic judgment, 
but we shall avoid .much misunderstanding if the 
distinction is kept clear. The relation between the 
" beautiful" and the "good" is no doubt close, so 
much so indeed, that it has at times been considered 
possible to use them as convertible terms, but there 
is an important difference, fin the perception of 
beauty i.e. of aesthetic value our judgment is 
formed by the immediate sense experience, and not 
by a conscious appreciation of some subsequent 
utility, while judgments of moral worth are based 
upon consciousness of the benefits that should 
ensue. A 

A Spinoza expresses it, we do not desire a 
thing Because it is good ; Tt Is only good be- 
(Saiise w_e ^dssks it. The value, or the good, 
of beauty is due to the reaction of innate ten- 
dency, so that in considering wherein lies the 
primitive, basic, value of beauty, we must eliminate 
intellectual judgments of facts, or relations ; how- 
ever great the part they may play in arousing all 
the other, and often stronger, emotions that so 
quickly supervene, and confine our attention to 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 7 

the first feeling of pure delight in the sensuous 
effect. 

The age of an object, its historical association, 
and other suggestive attributes are not true aesthetic 
qualities. We see, for example, this substitution of 
fact for value, when correctness of drawing, and 
truth to the thing copied, is made the sole criterion 
of beauty in some work of art. /Truth of repre- 
sentation plays no doubt a very important part, 
and may in itself give rise to pleasure of no mean 
order ; while want of truth or correctness, if of a 
degree recognisable by the spectator, may be 
sufficiently unpleasant to destroy all appreciation 
of the beauty that the object might otherwise have. 
In some of the early painters the drawing is naive 
to grotesqueness, yet there is in some of their works 
an effect of beauty that is, to those to whom it 
appeals sufficiently strong to overcome the effect of 
want of technical skill. /Comparative truth and 
correctness of representation is only one of the 
conditions favourable to the existence of beauty ; 
for a perfect, scientifically accurate representation 
of anything is not thereby necessarily beautiful; 
nor does beauty consist in imitation alone, although 
it has at times been considered to represent art. 
Leonardo da Vinci held up the mirror as the portrait 
painter's master. Aristotle's conception of art was 
a mimetic representation of the world in the shape 
that it takes for normal action, 1 stating shortly in 
the Physica, n, 2, that "Art is the imitation of 
nature/,'. We find this idea continually repeated; 

1 " History of Esthetic," B. Bosanquet, p. 28. 



8 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

from Seneca, 1 and Longinus, 2 up to the present 
day, the artist is always bidden to go to nature, to 
copy nature, to reproduce nature, to take nature as 
his guide, and so on. This view of the close de- 
pendence of art and beauty upon nature is so 
universal, and appeals to our feeling as so obviously 
right, that it seems gratuitous trouble to ask why 
this should be so. Yet why should natural forms 
and shapes have an instant appeal to the aesthetic 
sense ? Why should we look to nature for the 
satisfaction of our Aesthetic desires any more than 
for our moral, ethical, or religious ideals ? The 
operations of nature in their naked simplicity do 
not, at all events as we see them, agree with our 
moral standards, and so we form our own ideals ; 
but aesthetically we regard nature as the ideal, and 
we find that the more nearly the spirit of nature 
can be caught, the deeper the appeal to our aesthetic 
feeling and the more simply beautiful the result. 

As long as the appreciation of beauty is regarded 
as an intellectual process, such as the recognition 
of unity in variety, the ideal within the real, or any 
other form which attributes the effect to expression, 
it would appear that there should be no a^thetic 
appeal until the natural form had been altered so 
as to convey the idea, and that we should require 
the forms and spirit of nature to be transformed 
before they could be beautiful, as much as they 
have to be modified and idealised to suit the moral 

1 " Omnis ars imitatio est naturae." Epistola, Ixv. 
* " Art is consummate when it seems to be nature." De Sublimitate, 
xxii. 2. 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 9 

ideal. But it is obvious that however much greater 
the appeal that is made by the artist's rendering, 
and the way in which he can increase the total 
pleasure, by the meaning he puts into it, it is all 
the same true that- " nature unadorned" simple, 
untouched natural arrangement, beautiful landscape, 
skies, flowers, trees, the beauty of the sun and 
moon, the delight of the early dawn, and the 
mysterious charm of night and the stars, every kind 
of purely natural effect can stir deeply the aesthetic 
feeling. (We have a strong conviction that after 
all nature cannot be improved upon, and that the 
way to improve our art is to go continually back 
to the fountain-head, nature?\ Thus we demand 
from the artist whether he wishes to convey some 
message, or simply to impart his feeling to make 
the form it takes beautiful, by selecting for us those 
natural forms that have the strongest appeal to our 
aesthetic emotion. It is the very fact of this in- 
stinctive response to nature, to the forms and spirit 
of the environment, that suggests the likelihood of 
finding the/feeling for beauty based in the early and 
vitally useful instincts} 

Pleasure is of course the essence of the percep- 
tion of beauty ; and all pleasures are 8 perceptions 
of values, but all pleasures are not perceptions 
of beauty. Esthetic, like other pleasure, has its 
physical seat the mechanism of the eye and ear is 
necessary, as well as the processes, conscious and 
unconscious, of the brain. Pleasures of sense, 
except those of sight and hearing, are referred to 
the particular part of the body stimulated, but in 



10 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the case of the eye and the ear, there is no pro- 
minence given to any bodily organ. We are indeed 
hardly aware that a sense organ has been stimu- 
lated at all, as we listen to music, or hear or read 
the words of a book, or look at a picture it is 
the message, the idea conveyed, upon which the 
attention is fixed,: while in the case of the lower 
sensations it is the organ in which the stimulation 
takes place that becomes prominent. ^ It is no 
doubt due to this that the pleasure of the eye is 
so universally considered to be intellectual ; it leads 
so directly to the brain that the fact of the sensation 
being present is overlooked. Small wonder that we 
consider the eye and ear the higher senses. The 
organs of our aesthetic pleasure take us directly to 
the object without intercepting the attention ; giving 
a suggestion that the soul can, as it were, escape 
from the body, if only for the moment, and have 
direct dealings with the beautiful. This illusion is 
stimulating, and seems to lead to the higher ideals 
away from the grossness and selfishness of the 
flesh though the unselfishness is more apparent 
than real. 

It is often said that in aesthetic pleasure we are 
enjoying a good that we do not wish to possess, 
and that our pleasure is disinterested ; while in 
other pleasures we are selfishly gratifying our own 
senses and passions. The distinction, however, is 
one partly of coincidence and partly of degree. As 
it happens, the enjoyment of a beautiful picture, 
or building, does not prevent its giving a similar 
pleasure to any number of others ; but if it could 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 11 

be only enjoyed once or twice, it is certain thai 
aesthetic pleasure would be as selfishly pursued a< 
any other. We do not formulate the desire tc 
purchase any picture that causes us great enjoy- 
ment, but the desire to have it is closely related tc 
our appreciation ; and if we really like it, and hac 
the money to buy it and the space in which tc 
hang it, we should certainly get it in order that we 
might be always having the delight of seeing it 
In one sense it is true that aesthetic enjoyment is 
disinterested, in that in seeking, aesthetic pleasure 
we have, or need have, no further pleasure in mind 
that it is not sought with ulterior motives and 
calculations ; the object with the pleasurable emotion 
that is aroused is sufficient. This, however, may be 
said with equal truth of all pleasures, of all primitive 
intuitive satisfactions. 

The idea of the disinterested nature of our love 
of beauty is probably due, in part also, to the 
belief in its universality. When we say that a 
thing is beautiful we imply that it is, as it were, 
beautiful in itself, and should therefore be so to 
everybody. In the case of other pleasures we 
admit the personal equation de gustibus non esi 
disputandum -but in aesthetic pleasure, due no 
doubt to the theory of an ideal beauty, /we assert 
that the particular thing is beautiful, and support 
the statement by an appeal to the established 
canons and laws of art ; we treat the perception 
of beauty as a judgment, instead of a feeling 
There are, of course, many points in aesthetic 
matters upon which there is a general concur- 



12 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

rence of opinion, due to the similarity of origin, 
nature, training, and experience of many people, 
which tends naturally to bring about an identity 
in feeling. But this is far from saying that a par- 
ticular object or scene ought to be beautiful to 
any particular person. Of two men, one may be 
roused to ecstasy by something that is imper- 
ceptible to the other ; one may perceive a number 
of things in such a way as to form a coherent 
whole ; the other is only aware of an unmeaning 
aggregate of facts, objects, or sounds obviously 
we cannot say that a man ought to find pleasure 
in something that he cannot perceive. (The origin 
of our saying that a man ought to find a particular 
thing beautiful lies in the fact that he would do so, 
if he had the nature and training that we think he 
ought to have had/; There is, too, something dis- 
turbing to ourselves in not finding our opinion 
supported by one who has, as far as we can judge, 
similar feelings and experiences to our own, while 
we find an immense comfort in finding our own 
choice and opinion confirmed by the support of 
others. We are not able to explain the basis of 
our taste by examining our own nature and ex- 
perience, nor do we even look for it there, but 
eagerly grasp at some law, or theoretical touch- 
stone that will enable us to find some indisputable 
support for our like or dislike. When we are sure 
of our opinion, and confident of our reasons to 
support it, we tolerate easily the different views of 
other people ; just as is the case with religious 
belief when it is weak we cannot bear even to 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 13 

discuss it ; a fanatic will argue any point with any 
one. (So, people who have no strong feelings upon 
art questions cling to the taste of the many, and 
claim universal appreciation as a proof of beauty, 
in order that they may prove the Tightness of their 
view by pointing to the fact that it is held by so 
large a number. As the nature and training of 
men is on broad lines similar, s'o it is natural to 
suppose that there would be an actual unity in 
aesthetic pleasure as there is in all others ; but as 
a principle it is untenable nothing has less to 
do with the real merit of a work than the capacity 
of all men to enjoy it '< The greater the work of 
art, the wider is the appreciation likely to become ; 
it will appeal more strongly to the most deeply 
planted, and therefore most widely distributed 
feelings. ' 

It often happens that an art may appeal very 
deeply to the age or nation in which it flourishes, 
and yet have hardly any aesthetic appeal to other 
or later nations. Thus the music of the East will 
appear monotonous and dreary to a Western mind^ 
just as their philosophy of the essential undesira- 
bility of a continuance of earthly life revolts tta 
active energy of the West. In the great epocW 
of art, opinion is apt to be very intolerant of the 
efforts of other ages, owing to the very strength 
of the conviction that the present style is the only 
good one. It is one of the principal signs of a 
weakness in an art when it seeks r ? to find inspiration 
in copying, in archaeological accuracy, trying first 
one and then anpther method, able to be intellects 



14 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

ally pleased with accurate work in any style, and 
carefully appreciative of the old, only because it 
is old. When architecture was a more strongly 
felt art, there was no hesitation as to the superi- 
ority of the style of the day, and though in periods 
of great architectural activity the designers de- 
stroyed many beautiful old buildings and marred 
more, yet their very want of respect was a tribute 
to the thoroughness of their aesthetic sincerity. 
They had no doubts as to what was, and what 
was not, beautiful. 

Our much wider and more tolerant views are 
in many ways an advance, showing by a more 
catholic appreciation a wider culture and know- 
ledge ; but there is the possibility that a less 
learned and just power of criticism might lead 
to greater effectiveness. It is the enthusiast who 
cannot see that there is a second side to a ques- 
tion who gets things done. 

To return a moment to, the question of univer- 
sality of beauty, there is little doubt that much 
of the feeling that other people ought to per- 
ceive the beauty with which we are impressed, 
is due to the belief in its objective existence as 
an entity, and, so to speak, capable of isolation. 
We cannot believe that the cover of a book which 
appears red to us may be green to another person, 
and so, as beauty is felt to be an actual part of 
the object, we cannot believe that it may be 
different or invisible to another. The notion is, 
of course, untenable. Beauty is a value, it cannot 
be conceived as having a separate independent 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 15 

existence, it exists in the perception. A beauty 
that is not perceived has no more existence than 
a pleasure that is not felt, _Jt is, of course, a 
convenience for language, and the process of 
thought, to regard certain of our sensations as 
belonging to the objects with which they are con- 
nected ; it is a survival of the primitive tendency 
to make ev^ry effect of a thing upon us a part 
of its nature. 

There are as many definitions of beauty as there 
are writers upon aesthetics, but nearly all will be 
found unsatisfactory, owing to the limited field to 
which they apply. We may find by consulting 
various authorities that beauty consists in sym- 
metry ; in order ; in proportion ; in harmony ; in 
unity in variety ; in the fitness of the whole to its 
parts ; in the ideal within the real ; in the corre- 
spondence of the idea with its sensuous embodi- 
ment ; in the normal fulfilment of function ; in the 
typical form of the object; in perfection ; in imita- 
tion ; in expression ; in its power of association ; 
in the one in the manifold ; in truth ; that it is 
a characteristic of any complex form producing 
apprehensible unity ; that only that can be con- 
sidered beautiful which is permanently pleasing in 
revival ; the idealist will tell us that it lies in the 
intuitive recognition in objects of part or glimpses 
of an absolute ideal beauty ; the materialist lays 
stress on the simple imitation of nature ; and so 
on. We may consider that every one of the above 
expresses some side of beauty, but in each case 
it is only a partial description. The conclusion 



16 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

suggested is that each definition is due to the tem- 
perament of the writer, who, making the aspect of 
beauty that particularly strikes him represent the 
whole, accepts it as an adequate definition, and 
hurries on to the more congenial task of dealing 
with the philosophy and history of art. 

A definition of beauty must be wide enough to 
cover all men's Pastes, however various ; it must 
not apply only to the " fine arts/' but must suggest 
the possibility of a wider application ; for it is not 
only in work definitely undertaken from artistic 
impulse but in all products of human industry, in 
his choice of locality, in his dwelling, his clothes, 
his implements, and the objects he chooses to have 
round him, that man shows clearly how he is 
affected by appearance, by something beyond, and 
outside, immediate utility. Of two objects equally 
useful, one is preferred to the other, and if this 
preference reach a sufficient pitch of intensity, the 
preferred object is called beautiful. 

*ln common everyday use the epithet beautiful is 
applied to anything that arouses a sufficient degree 
of pleasurable feeling in the observer. Oblivious 
of definitions and aesthetic limitations, the patho- 
logist speaks of a " beautiful " specimen of dis- 
eased tissue; the mathematician of a " beautiful" 
solution of some abstract problem, and the hungry 
man of a tl beautiful " dinner. The word beauty, 
however, standing by itself, is generally con- 
nected with the fine arts and aesthetic enjoy- 
ment, and, in spite of the wide application of 
the word, there is always a tendency to anolv 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 17 

it to characteristics that cause pleasure by their 
appearance. This is a natural result of the tend- 
ency to think of beauty as a quality inherent in 
the object, since such objectification of a sensa- 
tion is particularly marked in the case of the eye, 
.where the actual sensation is so slight as to be dis- 
regarded, so that the impressions gained are at once 
referred back, and considered as innate in the 
object. It is, of course, a psychological common- 
place that whenever feelings are connected with an 
object there is at once a tendency to project them 
outwards and consider them as qualities of the 
object ; unless, of course, it does too much violence 
to reason ; for example we are quite ready to con- 
sider the brightness, hardness, and colour of a 
needle as objective qualities belonging to it, in the 
particular form that our sense organs show them, 
while its further quality of painfulness, sometimes 
exhibited, we accept as subjective. 

As we examine the various elements of conscious- 
ness, we find that whenever it is possible for the 
understanding to objectify a pleasure that it per- 
ceives, as a quality of the object with which it is 
connected, we have beauty. 1 

It may seem as if this description of beauty must 
exclude music, since sound has no spatial character, 
and the pleasure of the ear, therefore, be difficult to 
consider as the quality of a thing ; but a musical 
composition, with its comparable pitches and dura- 
tions, its relation of parts, and its recognisable 
elements and their combinations, may be as truly 

G. Santeyana, " Sense of Beauty," 1905, p. 33. 



18 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

said to exist as the most solid table or chair. To the 
critical philosopher any object is but a possibility of 
sensation ; objectivity can accrue to any mental 
creation that has enough cohesion and individuality 
to be describable and recognisable, audible ideas 
are as capable of these qualities as spatial. 

This book will therefore approach the question 
of beauty by inquiring into the origin, and of the 
use or advantage to the organism in the struggle 
for existence, of this pleasurable sense response to 
certain qualities in the appearance of things that 
is to say, into the origin and value of taste; for 
primarily aesthetic appreciation is a matter of like 
and dislike.*^ Beauty exists in our power of dis- 
crimination, and if all things were equally beautiful, 
nothing would be preferable to, or affect us more 
than, another. This question of the origin of taste 
has been much neglected, and yet it is the very 
core of the problem of aesthetic judgment. In a book 
lately published, "The Essentials of ^Esthetics/' 1 
taste is curtly dismissed in a few lines at the end 
of the chapter on beauty, as 

"That within the mind enabling one to recognise an 
artistic effect, and to judge in some way of its quality." 

An explanation of this physical subconscious re- 
sponse to beauty is all that is wanted, and would 
render unnecessary the elaborate definitions that 
usually refer it to some complicated form of in- 
tellectual concept. 

Taste is generally treated as an ultimate inexplic- 

1 Bv G. L. Raymond. 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 19 

able fact, and taken as a starting-point behind 
which all inquiry is idle. Take, for instance, this 
statement from Ruskin in " Modern Painters." 

"Why we receive pleasure from some forms, and not 
from others is no more to be asked or answered, than 
why we like sugar and dislike wormwood. The utmost 
subtlety of investigation will only lead^to ultimate instincts 
and principles of human nature, for which no further 
reason can be given than the simple Will of the Deity that 
we should be so created." 



The progress of science has at least shown that 

the power of discrimination between suitable and 
unsuitable food would be quickly developed by 
natural selection ; so that we can put the explana- 
tion as to why we like the wholesome sugar and 
dislike the poisonous wormwood a good many 
stages back. /An analogous origin in utility ought 
to be found for the other organs of sense. 

As long ago as 1880, Grant Allen 1 traced clearly 
the connection between colour and sound and the 
organs of sensation, by showing that the mechanism 
in the eye and ear, by its sympathetic response to 
vibratory stimuli, falling on it with suitable intervals 
for recovery, gave rise to pleasurable feeling, and 
further, how harmonious rhythm causing enhance- 
ment of function would increase the pleasure. This 
established the fact that the pleasure or the reverse 
was directly traceable to physical structure. Why 
such a structure should be developed, and why it 
was advantageous for an animal to have a feeling 

1 *' Physiological /Esthetics." 



20 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

of pleasure in certain forms more than others, he 
did not investigate. But to-day, when we realise 
with ever increasing clearness that every function 
with the necessary structural modification is de- 
veloped in response to the need for better adapta- 
tion to environment, or for some quality that will 
confer an advantage in the life struggle for the 
individual or the race, and that pleasure is the 
concomitant of activities useful or advantageous, 
and so leading to their repetition, we are bound 
to ask how these tparticular qualities, i.e. aesthetic 
feelings, could have been useful ; what form their 
prototype could have taken, and in which of the 
early and primitive instincts we have the original 
basis of the artistic feeling ? 

The study of beauty must now start from the 
assumption that it is an object of human longing 
and desire, determined as to its actual essence by 
the qualities of human nature. Not that it is a 
semi-transcendental reality, but that it is one mani- 
festation of the instinctive feelings, tendencies, and 
impulses of the physical being, that go to make up 
enjoyment and interest in life. 

This "naturalistic" view will render possible the 
avoidance of many difficulties. Beauty considered 
as "pleasure objectified " embraces not only the 
highest forms of art, but goes back to the simplest 
and most primitive form in which the instinct can 
show itself. [*The sense of beauty is subjective, 
growing with the growth of the individual, widening 
and expanding with his increase of understanding 
and Dowers of perception, the standard rising 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 21 

always with his progress to a higher life, until what 
was once only a physical pleasure becomes trans- 
formed into an ideal delight. 

Is there, then, such a thing as an ideal beauty 
an absolute towards which our efforts and attempts 
may be considered to be tending, of which glimpses 
are at times vouchsafed to m^n ? Once the re- 
lativity of beauty is accepted, this question does not 
exist, or, to put it pragmatically, it does not matter, 
it has no practical significance. * Beauty, as we 
know and feel it, is due only to the particular 
arrangements and functions of our sense organs, 
evolved in, and developed to suit a particular en- 
vironment.. We cannot imagine anything of which 
we do not receive the suggestion in our sense ex- 
perience ; if our environment had been different, it 
is probable, or at least possible, that we should 
have developed different senses or a different re- 
sponse to things, in which case beauty would lie 
in a different direction be something different 
from what we know. 

As Mr. Balfour, in his address as President of 
the British Association at Cambridge in 1904, ex- 
pressed it : 

" Eyes, ears, and all the mechanism of perception have 
been evolved in us by the slow operation of natural 
selection, working only through immediate utility. Our 
organs of sense perception, upon which are based all our 
intellectual powers, were not given to us for the purpose of 
research ; nor was it to aid us in meting out the heavens or 
dividing the atom that our powers of calculation and analysis 
were evolved from the rudimentary instincts of the animal." 



22 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

Exactly the same line of argument applies to our 
faculty of appreciating and creating the beautiful ; 
it is a higher process derived from originally useful 
and necessary functions. We have no right and no 
need to deny an absolute beauty, but all that we 
know shows that beauty is relative to us, existing in 
our perception of k, not that it is something having 
an objective existence that we may, or may not, be 
able to see. f * 

We can see an instructive and illustrative analogy 
in the sense of the ludicrous. I may see a man 
dressed in a way that is to me irresistibly funny 
and moves me to laughter ; to himself and his 
countrymen his appearance is normal and satis- 
factory, and he may think me equally absurd to 
look at. In neither case can we consider the 
ludicrousness to be in the object, and though we 
naturally enough describe the thing or person as 
funny, we are quite ready to admit that a thing 
is only ludicrous to the person who sees it as 
ludicrous. So, exactly, has an object beauty it is 
beautiful to those in whom it arouses the responsive 
thrill, just as a thing is funny to those who feel 
amused or inclined to laugh at seeing it ; in both 
cases the effect is purely relative. , 

An object may be beautiful to one, ugly to 
another; probably anything might be beautiful .if 
the right perceiver were there. Are we then at 
liberty to say that all things are equally beautiful, 
or would be, if we had enough knowledge, because 
any one thing may in appropriate circumstances 
be attractive ? Obviously not ; it is, as we have 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 23 

already pointed out, only by the faculties that 
enable Us to discriminate, that beauty exists at 
all. We can sweep away with a feeling of relief, 
only to be appreciated by those who have gone 
through the discouraging experience of trying to 
read works on aesthetics, all the cumbrous and com- 
plicated definitions of beauty. ^ thing is beautiful 
to me because I like it, and it moves me emotionally 
in a particular way. I do not like it because it is 
" beautiful/' because it conforms to some abstract 
laws of composition to be discovered by research. 
Laws of composition are after all only the sum of 
what is found successful, and theory lags but slowly 
after practice. We may take a parallel from 
another sense, one which has not been able to 
rise and serve the higher intellectual functions. I 
like a certain food, and call it nice. I do not know 
that it contains suitable body-building constituents ; 
I merely like it, and, like Oliver Twist, ask for more. 
That thing is beautiful because it has, or suggests, 
qualities that, in some way, or at some time, are, or 
have been, suitable or useful. I am quite ignorant 
of the fact. I merely like it. In both cases, of 
course, knowledge of its useful character may 
affect the total feeling; in both cases we may make 
mistakes, and the more artificial the conditions, the 
more we trust to intellect and less to simple feeling. 
<* A further question arises here. Are we to, con" 
s^der art as nothing more than theToutcome of 
marTs love of and desire for the beautiful, with no 
further function than to satisfy that desire, and 
that conseauentlv art is not art when concerned 



24 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

with any utilitarian end or purpose? No small 
part of the difficulty in dealing with the problem of 
the origins of art lies in an assumption that it is 
essentially, and necessarily, something apart from 
the practical needs of life. Because at the present 
time much of the highest art has apparently no aim 
beyond the gratification of the aesthetic sensibility 
and the more idealised instincts, therefore art, we 
are to believe, has not, and never could have had or 
served, any useful function. 

The view that tke aesthetic emotion must neces- 
sarily be traced to some form of activity not directly 
useful in the struggle for existence has led those 
writers who are convinced of the intimate connec- 
tion of emotions and feelings with tendencies of an 
instinctive origin, and therefore of value in de- 
termining survival, into great difficulties, when they 
attempt to suggest a possible origin. Are we justi- 
fied in separating and grouping certain of our 
feelings and emotions, labelling them aesthetic, and 
then, upon the ground that art and the pursuit of 
beauty are purposeless activities, put them in a 
class by themselves and look for a different origin ? 
M. Ribot, for example, in his admirable and sugges- 
tive study of The Psychology of the Emotions, after 
showing most clearly and convincingly the origin 
and rise of the feelings and emotions from primitive 
instinollljrthus opens his chapter upon the aesthetic 
emotions : 

" While all the emotions hitherto enumerated have their 
and their raison d'etre in the preservation of the 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 25 

individual as an individual or as a social being, the aesthetic 
feeling as we know, differs from the rest by the fact that 
the activity which produces it, aims, not at the accomplish- 
ment of a vital or a social function, but at the mere pleasure 
of exercising itself." 

A little further on he asks the question 

T 

"Why was it evolved? In fact, by its nature, by its 
definition, it seems to have had no utility as a stimulant, 
since it springs from superfluous activity and is not bound 
to the conditions of individual existence. The persistence 
and development of the individual social, moral, and reli- 
gious emotions explain themselves through utility. The 
intellectual or scientific emotion, also, was at first entirely 
practical, and therefore useful : knowledge is power. The 
case of the aesthetic emotion stands alone.' 7 

Grosse, again, in Die Anfange der Kunst, points 
out that 

"The aesthetic faculty is not engaged in for an end lying 
outside itself, but is its own end ... it is opposed as the 
exact opposite to practical activity, which always serves an 
end outside itself." 

The same idea is stated more or less explicitly in 
Kant ; Schiller, who suggested the widely popular 
theory of its development from the play instinct ; 
Spencer, Hennequin, Grant Allen, and many others. 
It is 'hardly too much to say that this view'oart, as 
an activity that must be divorced from all connec- 
tion with a utilitarian purpose, is the one point of 
agreement among the many and astonishingly diver- 
gent theories of art and beauty. It was vigorously 



26 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OP BEAUTY 

combated by Guyau ; x and other writers, such as 
M. Hirn, 2 have demonstrated the difficulty or rather 
the impossibility of maintaining this idea of art. 
Grosse 3 himself draws attention to the "curious fact" 
that even the lowest races in the scale of civilisa- 
tion, who have hardly learnt to supply themselves 
with the necessaries of life, are found consecrating 
much time and energy to this useless pursuit. He 
gets over the difficulty by allowing that there is a 
secondary practical value over and above the direct 
aesthetic stimulus* and satisfaction ; though it is 
difficult to see how the secondary result would 
account for the primary stimulus. 

This desire to consider nothing as a true work of 
art that has any direct connection with utility is a very 
fruitful source of misunderstanding and confusion ; 
for, taking this as a test, we proceed arbitrarily to 
cut off certain forms of workmanship, some branches 
of skill, a few particular varieties of intellectual 
enjoyment, and to label them the aesthetic or fine 
arts. By a not uncommon process of reasoning, 
we have come to believe there is a real difference 
because they have different names. Psychologi- 
cally there is no difference between acts of creative 
imagination that result in one case in a work of 
art, in another in mechanical invention. If we say 
that the former is a thing apart, and must be shown 
to have developed from some such useless activity as 
the play impulse, or superfluous energy and leisure, 
while the other is skill and industry applied to 

i " fitude de TArt contemporain." 2 "The Origins of Art." 

3 " Die Anfange dcr Kunst." 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 27 

meeting human needs, and therefore the direct out- 
come of qualities useful in the struggle for existence 
even though the particular invention may be of 
no actual service we are simply creating a diffi- 
culty which need not exist. A workman may make 
some utensil or instrument concerned only, as far 
as he knows, with its use and* suitability to its 
purpose ; a subsequent generation will preserve 
it, not for its use, but for its attractive and pleasing 
beauty. In architecture, again, who is to decide 
where a nice adaptation of me?ms to end ceases 
and art proper begins ? Many a feature designed 
by the builder purely for constructional necessity 
has become an object of simple beauty to the 
spectator who knows nothing of the difficulty the 
builder had to meet : would his admiration be de- 
creased if he were aware of it ? . How are we to 
know whether an artist in any given work of art 
was inspired by an object or not, whether he aimed 
at the* creation of simple beauty, or whether he had 
some ethical or religious purpose ? The conviction 
that the essential character of art lay in its inde- 
pendence of all external motive, of course, made it 
difficult to suggest an original cause, but an obvious 
parallel soon suggested itself. It is impossible to 
find any immediate utilitarian purpose for all the 
intense activity, mental and physical, that is devoted 
to sports and games. It is a matter of common 
observation that games, where the end in itself is 
all that they have to offer, exert as strong an attrac- 
tion as other pursuits which aim at obtaining most 
substantial advantage. Can we then consider the 



28 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

art instinct is the outcome of play, considered as a 
purposeless activity ? that surplus energy seeking 
for some outlet, some means to wile away super- 
fluous leisure, gradually evolved art productions ? 
This theory of the origin of art from the play 
instinct, formulated by Schiller and elaborated by 
Herbert Spencer^ has become widely popular. It 
rests, however, upon somewhat insecure founda- 
tions first, that the early art of primitive man was 
a mere display wrought with no further purpose 
than to please thtf producer and occupy his time 
a form of play ; and secondly, that play is equally 
a useless activity whether in man or animals. There 
are strong grounds for believing that neither of 
these assumptions is correct. Gros (Die spiele der 
Thiere) has advanced excellent reasons for consider- 
ing play a highly useful activity for animals, as 
helping to strengthen the muscles and co-ordinate 
the movements that subsequently will be necessary 
to secure its prey or avoid its enemies. Recent 
research in anthropology now points definitely to 
the fact that in the great majority, if not in all cases, 
the early efforts at pantomimic dancing, the rough 
drawing, the rude ornament, so far from being an 
aimless amusement, were done with a most serious 
purpose ; they were mystic signs and spells to avert 
some dangerous influence, to bring good luck, or in 
many cases ideograms conveying useful informa- 
tion ; however intrinsically valueless their authors 
considered them useful, to the point of necessity. 

Music, that at first sight seems of all the arts to 
be furthest removed from any utilitarian flavour, 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 29 

has, at all events among primitive and savage tribes, 
an intensely practical side. As a means of insur- 
ing accuracy of concerted movement, maintaining 
discipline, rousing warlike ardour, music has an 
important part to play. As Dr. Wallaschek points 
out in his " Primitive Music" 

" It is this fact of the absolute utility of music in the 
daily life of people in primitive times that made it develop 
so late into an independent art." 

And again 

"With primitive man music, and painting and sculpture 
probably as well, are not purely aesthetic occupations in 
the modern sense ; they are most intimately bound up with 
practical life preserving and life continuing activities, and 
received only gradually their present more abstract forms." 

Granting, then, that these early efforts were useful, 
how is it that they at once begin to take on more 
or less attractive forms, so that in many cases they 
can appeal successfully to our aesthetic sense of 
to-day ? How did they come to have an artistic 
value ? 

Primitive man, as soon as he reached the point 
of conceiving gods and demons, naturally and 
inevitably imagined them as men of like passions 
as himself, and thus offered them the things that 
he found pleasing himself, never thinking that the 
gods would find a sacrifice of savoury meats less 
attractive than he himself would. The moment 
their rudimentary skill was devoted to making use 
of a chance-found colour, a sound or movement 



30 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

such as dancing with or without any conscious 
idea of expression it at once took some rhythmical 
or harmonious combination, determined by the 
emotional response that it called forth that is to 
say, a savage would by chance find that, say two 
particular bright colours in close proximity gave 
him more pleasurf than some other arrangement ; 
he would unconsciously copy that and develop it ; 
movements or sounds falling into rhythm became 
suddenly moving and effective. This would, of 
course, be simply unconscious choice, explicable 
only upon the assumption that there was some 
innate tendency or instinctive feeling that gave 
rise to a feeling of more pleasure in some forms 
that he happened to make than in others, which 
would naturally tend to their repetition, and so to 
the development of greater skill ; but the faculty 
of choice, and therefore of appreciation must have 
been in existence previously. The savage, feeling 
such things pleasing to himself, would offer them 
to his gods, and the desire of pleasing these usually 
malevolent demons would be an incentive to invent 
new devices. 

The progress which we can trace all through the 
instinctive pleasures and emotions is pure utility, 
or necessity, in the first place, a gradual decrease 
of the utilitarian aspect until the end becomes lost 
sight of in the means ; when the pleasure which 
the exercise affords is alone a sufficient inducement 
to continue it, the mind inventing new and more 
attractive forms, and carrying the process into the 
intellectual region. The sportsman cares no longer 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 31 

for the quarry which he does not need, but the 
pleasure of the hunt remains, which accounts 
indeed for the attraction of many games ; so the 
old instincts of rivalry and emulation remain and 
give a savour and a relish to many of our pursuits, 
mental as well as physical ; and there is no denying 
the strong emotional effect of these secondary or 
derived forms of an instinct. It would indeed be 
a reversal of the history of evolution to find a 
particular function growing less and less useful as 
we traced it back until it ended, in the animal in 
some perfectly useless activity. There is no need 
to deny the part that leisure and surplus energy 
would have in providing opportunity and spur to 
artistic activity, but we must clearly look elsewhere 
for its origin. No doubt there is a superficial 
resemblance between some of the forms of art and 
play ;* one important difference that we must note 
is that every manifestation of art produces some- 
thing the essence of it involves the alteration of 
matter in the creation of new forms. There is 
something left behind, something is made which 
survives. 

It seems in some way to enhance the ideal and 
imaginative function of art to give it a purely 
disinterested aspect, and it is no doubt to some 
extent a protest against the common usage of the 
word to denote a quality that would more properly 
be described as skill, but probably it is much more 
due to the attempt to base a theory of art upon a 
priori principles deducted from general philoso- 
phical considerations. No work upon metaphysics 



32 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

is complete that does not include aesthetics, conse- 
quently art is brought in, its field strictly limited, 
divorced, as far as possible from its physical and 
subjective aspect, and made to fit the rest of the 
scheme or system. At the period in which art 
philosophy was most actively engaged in forming 
and elaborating ifs theories, art practice, except 
painting, was not in a flourishing condition ; music 
had not been able to force itself upon the notice 
of philosophers, the remarkable development that 
was to come haji not yet given a sign. The 
formative arts were at a low ebb ; the crafts were 
uninspired, particularly in Germany, where resthetic 
inquiry was most active. The great periods of art 
were remote, so that they appeared simple, and the 
most salient points only emerged ; everything was 
favourable to wide generalisation. Art practically 
meant painting and sculpture, and the monotonous 
repetition and careful adherence to certain arbitrary 
laws and canons of taste, by the artists, paved the 
way to theories which seemed to fit the few facts 
with which they had to deal ; these were eagerly 
seized upon, and quickly elaborated by brilliant 
thinkers, who never considered it necessary to go 
back to facts. Psychology was still in the stage of 
metaphysics, resting upon pure deduction ; experi- 
mental and physiological aids were unknown ; evolu- 
tion, with its suggestion of development by degrees 
of the faculties, was still in the future ; so that there 
was nothing to check theoretical speculation. 1 

1 "A History of Esthetic," B. Bosanquet, 1892. " The Origins 
of Art," Y. Him, 1900. 



INTRODUCTORY AND GENERAL 33 

With the growth and spread of the arts and 
crafts in all directions, it became more and more 
difficult to reconcile theory and practice, and the 
study of aesthetics became less popular. In place 
of general speculations on art and beauty appeared 
detailed studies in the technicalities of particular 
arts or historical research, the % aesthetic emotion 
being relegated to a subdivision in works upon 
psychology. 

There is no attempt in this book to go into the 
various theories upon art and the conditions of the 
beautiful, beyond the point that seemed necessary 
to make clear the question under consideration. 
There are many admirable works upon the dif- 
ferent aspects and phases of art its technicalities, 
its history ; its social, moral, and ethical value. 
These matters are not affected by the question of 
the ultimate origin of taste, or the psychological 
process of, and the reason for, the enjoyment and 
creation of works of art." The main object in view 
is to lay stress upon the fact that there is this 
further question behind, and that our appreciation 
of the beautiful can be, and must be, traced to 
faculties that were at some time or other directly 
useful in the struggle for existence. 

The two following chapters are devoted to the 
consideration of sensations and feelings, treated 
from the psychological point of view ; in order to 
get at the elements that go to make up the aesthetic 
emotion, with a view to tracing, as far as possible, 
their origin in instinctive activities, and comparing 
them with similar tendencies in the animal king- 



34 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

dom, in order to make some suggestions between 
some of the earliest forms of instinct and the 
appreciation of the beautiful. The remainder of 
the book attempts to deal with the more compli- 
cated aspect of the appreciation of beauty when 
the association of ideas and the intellectual factors 
come into play, in^ order to show how the highest 
forms of art and the love of the beautiful grow 
continuously from the original simple sensuous 
response. 



CHAPTER II 

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS AND FEELING 

IN a greater or less degree every one is a psycho- 
logist we are always observing, calculating, and 
acting upon our estimate of the mental processes of 
other people ; the material for such analysis being 
drawn principally from our own minds by intro- 
spection. We continually watJbL-Dur own bodies 
and other bodies and objects ; we notice that we 
can remember previous impressions, and reflect 
upon their relationship. We find that these per- 
ceptions and ideas give rise to feelings of pleasure 
or pain, desire or aversion, impulses to act in some 
particular way with regard to these objects ; we 
further find that we can control or give free play 
to these impulses. We see other people acting 
much as we should under similar circumstances ; 
they describe their feelings, which correspond with 
ours ; we therefore assume without question that 
they enjoy similar experiences, perceive things in 
much the same way, have similar ideas, and are, 
generally speaking, actuated by similar tendencies 
and impulses to our own. We may further note 
that the actions of the higher animals show, by 
their actions and behaviour, that they too perceive 
similar things and are actuated bv impulses, suffer- 



36 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

ing pain and enjoying pleasure much as we do. 
Certain people, by making such things a matter of 
careful observation, analysing more fully their own 
experiences, and by attempts to systematise the 
various phenomena, laid the foundation of the 
science of psychology. Increasing knowledge of 
the nervous system, however, made a reconsidera- 
tion of the method of research into the function 
of the brain and the process of thought necessary. 
As it became clear that normal organic working 
of the brain was* an indispensable condition to 
normal thinking ; that an insufficient supply of 
blood to the brain was capable of upsetting or 
profoundly modifying the whole process ; that 
each part of the body was in close connection 
with the brain ; that one set of nerves ran to 
the brain conveying the sense impression, while 
another different set carried the impulse to the 
muscles, &c. ; it became increasingly clear that 
introspection, however acute, could not hope to 
arrive at anything like a complete understanding 
of behaviour, and that a knowledge of physiology 
was a most necessary part of the psychologist's 
equipment. 

The discovery of the phenomena of reflex action, 
by which appropriate and apparently intelligent 
responses were made to stimuli even after the de- 
struction of the brain, marked a further great 
advance. If a drop of acetic acid be placed on 
the trunk of a frog whose brain has been destroyed, 
it will be found that the foot nearest the place 
will be raised, and a movement made, to sweep off 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 37 

the acid ; and if that foot be held the other foot 
will, after a short interval, reach over and make a 
similar attempt. Although such movements may 
seem to be directed by some form of mental 
process, it is clear, since the extirpation of the seat 
of the reasoning powers does not interfere with 
their due performance, that they^must be, in reality, 
determined by processes purely physiological. This 
conclusion is strengthened by the way in which 
reflex movements of great complexity may be excited 
in our bodies while the mind, under the influence 
of sleep or anaesthetic drugs, is in a state of com- 
plete unconsciousness. 

This, however, is far from saying that if the 
nervous system of a man or an animal could be 
fully described, and a complete knowledge of the 
chemical and physical processes in it obtained, the 
conduct of the individual could therefore be ac- 
counted for, and his actions predicted. Such an 
assumption would mean that consciousness, percep- 
tion, ideas, volitions, and feelings, as such, have no 
influence upon conduct ; that they are due merely 
to certain nervous processes in the brain, and do 
not in any way modify or react upon action. The 
close connection that mind process has with physio- 
logical condition is shown very obviously in every- 
day life, by the almost humiliating effect that the 
state of the digestion, the effect of a drug, of 
fatigue or a good night's rest, has upon our mental 
outlook and general attitude of mind. 

There is so much difference of opinion upon the 
actual details of the methods by which the mental 



38 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

processes are carried on, that there cannot be said 
to be any generally accepted theory, and the follow- 
ing brief resum is only intended to give an idea 
of the direction in which opinion is tending. 

A few nerve-fibres connecting a few very simple 
sense organs with a few, also very simple, muscle- 
fibres, make up a* nervous system in its simplest 
form; such, for instance, as in the case of a jelly- 
fish or a sea-anemone. When any external change 
of sufficient*intensity takes place, as, for example, a 
solid body being brought into contact with one of 
the sense organs, a physical or physico-chemical 
change is transmitted from the sense organ along 
the nerves to one or more of the muscles, exciting 
in them chemical changes ; this causes the muscles 
to contract, and so to withdraw that part of the 
body from contact with the object. That is a 
simple reflex, and is the fundamental type of all 
nervous action. It seems that the nervous system 
of any of the higher animals, including man, consists 
essentially of a series of nervous impulses conducted 
from the sense organs to the muscles. As the 
nervous system becomes more complex, we find in 
the higher animals a great increase in the number 
and variety of the sense organs, some of which 
become specialised for the reception of particular 
forms of stimulus, with a corresponding increase in 
the number and combinations of muscles. At the 
same time the arrangements of the circuits that 
connect the muscles with the sense organs become 
rapidly of an extreme complexity ; instead of being 
simple oaths by which an impulse is conducted 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 39 

directly from each sense organ to one muscle, the 
numerous lines of conduction become connected 
together, so that an impulse originating in one sense 
organ may spread through the whole nervous system, 
or any part of it, and be transmitted to any, or all, 
of the muscles. 1 

Jn man and the higher animals there are two 
systems of muscles with their sense organs. One 
contains the set of muscles that are under the 
control of the will, the contractions of which 
produce movements of the limbs, organs of speech, 
&c. These are called the voluntary muscles, or the 
skeletal muscles, because they are for the most part 
attached to the bones of the skeleton; it is through 
them that relations are maintained with the external 
world. The muscles of the other system are placed 
in the various organs necessary to keep the body 
in a state of vital efficiency, to work the lungs, the 
digestion, &c., and are known as the visceral system, 
because they are chiefly in the thorax and abdomen ; 
or, since their contractions are not under the con- 
trol of the will, as the involuntary muscles. With 
them goes the great system of glands and secretive 
organs, also under the control of the visceral nerves. 
The two systems, one connected with the sense 
organs on the surface of the body, the other with 
sense organs in the viscera, stimulated by pressure 
and chemical changes in the inside, are intimately 
connected. The skeletal muscles are controlled not 
only by impulses from the surface organs, but by 
others initiated in sense organs embedded in the 

1 " Physiological Psychology," Professor M'Dougall, 1905. 



40 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

muscles themselves, in the surrounding tissue, the 
sheaths of the muscles, the tendons, joints, &c. ; 
these when stimulated by the various contractions 
and movements give rise to what is known as the 
muscular sense. 

We may trace roughly the sort of way in which 
this nervous sysrem probably developed. Man 
and the higher vertebrates seem to have been 
evolved from a simple segmented creature not 
unlike some of the annelid worms or the long- 
bodied arthropods. The little fish-like creature, 
Amphioxus, resembles most closely in general 
structure this hypothetical ancestor ; fish, frog, 
rabbit, dog, and ape roughly representing the 
series of increasing complexity. The ancestral 
vertebrate may be conceived as a worm made up 
of a series of segments, each of which was prac- 
tically a complete organism in itself, consisting of 
certain groups of muscles, covered by a segment 
of the skin connecting the sense organs scattered 
over each part. Within the ring of muscles of 
each segment would be a section of the alimen- 
tary canal, a pulsating artery, a kidney, and other 
viscera. The animal would naturally progress in 
the direction of its oral extremity, and thus the 
special organs taste, smell, sight, hearing would 
be developed in the neighbourhood of the mouth, 
since it is the nature of the object towards which 
it is moving that is of importance. As these special 
sense organs develop in the leading segments, the 
sensory circuits would become greatly increased 
iifthose segments ; and as the movements of the 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 41 

animal as a whole i.e. all the segments must be 
made to advance towards, or retreat from, the 
objects that have affected these organs, the nervous 
connections between the leading and remaining 
segments become multiplied. The ganglia of the 
leading sections become larger slid more complex, 
special protection is required, and special muscles 
must be developed to move these organs ; thus the 
oral extremity, containing the special sense organs, 
the rudiments of the brain and the mouth, becomes 
the head. The regular segment^! arrangement of 
the rest of the body gives way to the developing 
fore and hind limbs, with their corresponding 
muscles and nervous connections. This stage is 
represented by the fishes and simple amphibians. 
We see in the spinal cord and the basal ganglia 
of man the parts that represent the nervous system 
of the early vertebrate. These contain nerve fibres 
to connect them with the later developed or higher 
parts of the nervous system. 

In the brain of a child the various instinctive 
reactions are, from an early stage, fixed in systems 
that take form independently of individual experi- 
ence ; there is, however, present at birth a great 
mass of nervous elements which only gradually 
become organised, modifying and combining the 
congenital systems in innumerable ways, which 
constitute the acquired dispositions to modes of 
action characteristic of the individual. The greater 
relative size of the brain of man is chiefly due to 
the enormously greater development of the asso- 
ciation, in comparison with the sensory areas, 



42 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

which in the higher animals go to make up the 
greater part of the cortex. It is this great mass 
of nervous elements not congenitally fixed that 
provides the capacity for learning, and raises the 
mind of man so immeasurably beyond that of 
the highest animlls. 

The above roogh sketch 1 of the development 
of the nervous system is, of course, merely a bald 
outline of the sort of way in which the process 
of thought may be conjectured to have developed ; 
but it will perhaps help to make clear the point 
of view from which the various psychological 
questions will be approached in the following 
pages, and we can proceed to the consideration 
of the sensations through which all the material 
for thought and feeling is obtained. 

Sensations may be considered psychical ele- 
ments, which no introspection, however careful, 
will enable us to analyse further. " Hot," " cold/' 
" sweet," "bitter," "hardness," softness," are, as 
far as we can perceive, ultimate qualities of sensa- 
tion ; but we cannot be sure that they are really 
primary, for experimental physiology has in some 
instances established the fact that certain apparently 
simple psychological phenomena really involve an 
intricate and complicated physiological process. 
There is, therefore, always the possibility that the 
apparent simplicity may be the result of previous 
combination below the threshold of consciousness. 

The sensations form the basis, or starting point, 

1 From " Physiological Psychology," Prof. M'Dougall, pp. 15-40 
(1905). 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 43 

of all development, since communication with the 
external world is carried on through the peripheral 
sense organs. Sensation should be distinguished 
from perception, although it is probable that, at all 
events in adult life, a sensation is never experienced 
as a simple state of consciousriess. The senses 
commonly combine with, and strengthen each 
other we cannot taste as well in the dark ; usually 
taste and smell are closely connected ; many foods, 
such as junket or jelly, owe much of their attractive- 
ness to touch, upon the delicate skin of the palate. 
Experiments which isolate the sense artificially will 
often prove that there is a great difference between 
the true and apparent sense of taste. 

At any moment a great variety of different stimuli 
are playing on the various sense organs ; rays of 
light are entering the eyes ; waves of sound of all 
kinds upon the ears ; clothes are touching the 
skin ; other objects are touching the hands ; the 
movements of the muscles excite the muscular 
sense ; the various internal organs are subject to 
continual stimulation in some form or other. 
Some of these stimuli produce simple appropriate 
reflexes, others merely excite slight sensations ; but 
all blend into a mass, and if attention be fully 
occupied in thought, no one of them is consciously 
recognised. Nevertheless all these various stimula- 
tions, excited by objects to which no attention is 
paid, are present to the mind in a half-conscious, 
obscure sort of way, making a field of undiscrimi- 
nated sensations, which form a rich varied back- 
ground upon which the object of attention at the 



44 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

moment stands clearly out. This is a point to be 
kept prominently in view in thinking of the total 
effect felt in certain forms of artistic enjoyment a 
great number of small apparently unnoticed details, 
perhaps only to be distinguished by a vague feeling 
of want if omittefli, may greatly help, in the aggre- 
gate, to make up the massive feeling of pleasure 
caused by an object or work of beauty. 

At the theatre it is not unusual to play soft music 
during some particularly moving passage, and if 
the attention is very intently fixed upon the scene 
that is being enacted, the music may go on for 
some time without any conscious perception of 
it, although the effect may be strongly marked in 
the increase of emotional excitement. 

The fact that the threshold of admission to con- 
sciousness by any sensation is heightened during 
strong attention is a matter of common observation, 
and under such conditions comparatively strong 
stimuli may pass unregarded by the attention, but 
they are dealt with promptly and correctly by what 
we may call the subconscious mind ; this is always 
at work whether the attention be attached to any 
particular object or not, the difference being that 
with the mind unoccupied the threshold is lower, 
and a very slight stimulus is able to catch the 
attention. The subconscious' mind acts, so to 
speak, as the private secretary of the conscious 
mind with regard to sensations ; it looks after the 
unimportant details and those for which precedents 
have been thoroughly settled ; referring to its chief 
if any difficulty, or any point requiring decision, 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 45 

arises. The mind, having deputed various depart- 
ments to its private secretary, forgets the details, 
and is apt by interference to complicate matters, 
or do them less well, from ignorance of the usual 
routine ; it is always handing over new sensations, 
as soon as they recur often enough, with instruc- 
tions that any particular one is to be at once 
referred for consideration. The hunter goes to 
sleep with instructions that one particular noise of 
the hundreds that strike his ear is a dangerous one, 
or that he is to be awakened if r.ny strange noise 
occurs. The ordinary man has a standing order 
that his attention is to be drawn to any allusion 
to his favourite subjects or himself, or when much 
preoccupied gives orders that he is only to be dis- 
turbed for really important matters. The value of 
this saving of energy by deputing all the routine 
matters to an unconscious or subconscious partner, 
and so leaving the mind free to deal with new and 
important questions, is so great, that the growth 
and increase of this power would, of course, be 
greatly fostered by the struggle for existence. 

As experience progresses, the sense feelings 
undergo certain modifications : it is within the 
experience of every one that there is a falling off 
in the pristine intensity of sensuous enjoyment; 
most people can recall a deliciously intense feeling 
for colour and sound and rhythm, which experience 
seems to dull. This is obviously due to the growing 
preponderance of the intellectual or presentative 
consciousness. We grow practical ; we attend to 
sensations, as a rule, only for what they mean, as 



46 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

far as they are signs of things of importance. So 
growing experience tends to invest our sensations 
more and more with objective significance, and 
it is the thing referred to, not the sensation itself, 
that becomes of most importance. Thus, practical 
suggestions at cince intrude, and, monopolising 
the attention, prevent a full appreciation of the 
sensuous attributes of the object. "The artistic 
training, however, tends always to strip off these 
additions and to preserve the keen response to 
beauty in pure aensuous effect, which is often so 
strong in children. No doubt, too, to all people 
these effects are of importance in forming a back- 
ground, whether attended to or not stronger or 
weaker according to their temperament in making 
up their general feeling at any moment. But we 
must remember that this loss of sensuous enjoy- 
ment is perhaps more than compensated for by 
other factors that the growth of experience brings 
to bear ; for all the wealth of associative memory 
comes to enrich the feelings with agreeable sug- 
gestions. If the sky is not so blue, or the sun so 
bright, as it used to be, still we have a wider 
capacity for enjoyment in intellectual width and 
more varied knowledge. 

There is an interesting example of this quoted 
by Hoffding l from Goethe (Briefe ans der Schweiz), 
who is speaking of the sublime impressions of a 
journey in the Swiss mountains : 

" A youth who journeyed with us from Basle observed 
that he had not the same feeling as on the first occasion, 

1 " Outlines of Psychology," p. 282 (1904). 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 47 

and thought the first impression the best. I was disposed, 
however, to say, when we saw such a sight for the first 
time, the unaccustomed soul expands, and there is a pain- 
ful happiness, an excess of delight, which stirs the soul and 
draws out blissful tears. Through this process the soul 
becomes greater without knowing it, and is no longer 
capable of that first sensation. Man. J thinks he has lost, 
but he has gained ; what he loses in pleasure, he gains in 
inner growth." 

As a rule, by an effort of attention we can isolate 
any particular sensation, bring it ipto mental focus, 
and by making it the prominent object proceed to 
analyse it, thus distinguishing many features that 
were previously undiscriminated. We may, after 
selecting something say a wall-paper, having 
picked out one that we liked at first sight pro- 
ceed to consider wherein the preference lay, and find 
it in a pleasing combination of colours, the form of 
the pattern, or perhaps in a particular shade of 
green. We have split up the general appreciation 
into particular sensations which we cannot analyse 
further ; the basis of our preference is the simple 
sensation. In the same way a trained ear can upon 
hearing a note struck upon a stringed instrument 
single out each of the over-tones of the funda- 
mental in turn, and thus show to be complex that 
which if treated inattentively seems to be a simple 
sensory experience. We also find that training 
greatly increases this power of analysing sensa- 
tions ; to the eye of an artist it is an easy matter to 
distinguish various colours in what to an untrained 
eye may be a simple purple or green; the wine- 



48 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

taster and tea-taster notice and judge many flavours 
in what to the untrained palate and nose are an 
indistinguishable whole. However much we may 
be able to analyse the component parts, we still find 
that the sum of the simple sensations into which 
we have successively analysed them forms a 
distinct whole taat is quite different from the 
mere addition of the parts e.g. a chord is not a 
mere addition of the separate notes. 

All sensations come to us from definite bodily 
organs hot and.. cold from the temperature organs 
in the skin, colour from the retina in the eye, bitter 
or sweet from the sensitive cells in the tongue, &c. ; 
and since all ideas are based upon experience, the 
absence from birth of any organ makes it impos- 
sible to have ideas of the sensation belonging to 
that organ those born blind can have no visual 
imagination, and so on. 'Thus all the material for 
intellectual process is ultimately traceable to the 
particular conformation of the sense organs. Any 
sensation once experienced can, of course, be re- 
vived as an idea, sensations being the elemental 
processes of ideas. 

It is usual to divide the senses into higher and 
lower : the higher, those of sight and hearing, have 
a great range, a wide variety of qualities, and are 
of high cognitive value i.e. are the chief sources 
of information as to the properties of things in 
the external world. As long as the strength of 
the sensation is the important point, the sensa- 
tions tend to fuse completely with the general 
feeling of comfort, or the reverse ; this is particu- 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 49 

larly obvious at the extremes of pleasure and pain, 
even when it is a question of purely intellectual 
and aesthetic feelings. Forms of sound and shades 
of colour arouse a finer play of feeling than any 
stimulus which affects by its degree of strength 
the processes concerned directly in the preser- 
vation of life. It should be noted, 'too, that in the 
sense organs that are affected by light and sound, 
there are contrivances to subdue too violent ex- 
citations. 

In the case of a stimulus to *the eye and ear 
no attention, or very little, except in extreme 
cases, is directed to the sense organ itself ; they 
are almost direct passages, as it were, to the brain. 
As we get lower in the scale of senses we find 
attention more and more directed to the actual 
seat of the sensation e.g. touch, heat, and cold, 
and, in a slightly less degree, taste and smell. 
This view of higher, and lower, corresponds with 
the course of development, all the qualities of 
sensation being slowly differentiated in the course 
of evolution from some primitive obscure quality 
of sensation, probably that of touch or pressure. 
Many parts of the body are supplied with sensory 
nerves the stimulus of which hardly differs from 
this primitive form of sensibility. We may speak 
of it as common sensibility or vital feeling, and 
although we cannot voluntarily direct our atten- 
tion to any one of them or single them out, unless 
there are in some spot, owing to inflammation or 
injury, painful sensations, they form a confused, 
undiscriminated background of consciousness, con- 



So ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

tributing largely to our general sense of well-being 
or discomfort. 

This fundamental mood can be described only 
by certain general features, which stand in close 
connection with the easy and free, or checked 
and difficult, cofrse of the vital process. The 
feeling of freedom, security, and power comes in 
contrast with the feeling of internal constraint, 
anxiety, and feebleness. In the contrast between 
the feeling of power and the feeling of feebleness 
the muscular sefisations play, clearly enough, an 
important part. 

The organic sensations arise from the stimu- 
lation of sense organs in the viscera ; the sensa- 
tions from them, as a rule, only cross the threshold 
of consciousness when there is something abnormal 
in the working of the inner mechanism of a suffi- 
cient degree of intensity. When the visceral func 
tions are accelerated or retarded, or otherwise 
disturbed, we have various sensations, pleasant 
and unpleasant, hunger or thirst, nausea, breath- 
lessness, or feelings of well-being, strong vitality, 
and so on, which may reach a pitch of very dis- 
tressing acuteness on one hand, and considerable 
pleasure on the other. 

The nerves by which we appreciate the posi- 
tion and movements of the body, which enable 
us to say into what position any limb has been 
moved, give rise to what are called kinaesthetic 
sensations. These are seldom noticed as a sepa- 
rate sensation, though of very material value, and 
of great delicacy in muscular adjustment, and, as 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 51 

we shall show subsequently, play an important 
part in the appreciation of form. 

These sensations of touch and movement come 
so close to the general feelings that they often 
enter into them without being independently pre- 
sented, and if such sensations do not exceed a 
certain pitch of intensity they are capable of 
being endowed with a certain amount of inde- 
pendence, so to speak, in comparison with the 
general sense of well-being or discomfort. There 
is a certain feeling of satisfactio'h in contact with 
soft and smooth surfaces, and a displeasure in 
those rough and hard, to which a certain degree 
of aesthetic character may be ascribed that is to 
say, they do not immediately or directly set prac- 
tical instincts and impulses to work. 

The bearing of all these senses upon art appre- 
ciation may at first sight seem somewhat remote, 
but we have mentioned them here because it is 
hoped to show when considering feelings and plea- 
sure that they do play a very important, if obscure 
and unperceived, part in determining many of our 
likes and dislikes that seem purely capricious. 

The visual sensation is usually considered the 
highest of the special senses, and is, of course, the 
most important from the aesthetic point of view ; 
since art, with the exception of music, appeals 
primarily to the eye, and through it to the brain. 
Although poetry when spoken aloud does appeal 
to the ear, yet the large number of visual images 
that are suggested imply the experience of sight ; 
and, generally speaking, it is through the eye that 



52 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the beauties of nature and art make their widest 
appeal. * 

It is in colour that we get the pleasurable 
aesthetic sensation in its simplest form. Each 
colour has its specific sensation that is felt as 
different ; blue differs from red, as a high note 
from a low, or a sweet sensation from a sour 
each has its own nervous process. 

Many people are conscious of a relation between 
colour and sound, finding that certain colours 
suggest certain notes. Various theories of a some- 
what far-fetched nature have from time to time 
been founded upon this ; but the affinity is pro- 
bably explicable upon quite simple ground. The 
emotional states have very ill-defined boundaries, 
passing easily from one to another and arousing 
each other, so that there is very likely to be some 
similarity between the emotional state aroused by 
the high rate of vibration of a sharp shrill note 
and that of a colour in which the rate of wave- 
propulsion also was high ; so natural an analogy 
would be due simply to this sympathetic con- 
nection. 

Certain effects and combinations of colour are 
found by the majority of people to be pleasant, 
others again cause an unpleasant jar like that 
of a musical discord they are often described as 
setting the teeth on edge. It is possible that more 
advantage might be taken of this, and that we 
might cultivate our sense of colour by producing, 
as it were, symphonies in colour by the use of 
varied lights ; indeed this effect is made use of 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 53 

sometimes in ballets, where the emotional effect 
of simple changes of colour is very marked. A 
popular feature some years ago at certain of the 
music halls were dances which consisted chiefly 
in graceful undulating movements by the dancer 
of long lengths of light drapery, but depending 
really for effect upon the brilliant changes of 
colour thrown by lime-light ; and the effect of these 
luminous brilliant colours was very beautiful. We 
get an effect, due almost entirely to simple colour, 
in a sunset or a sunrise ; but this is, as a rule, very 
quickly complicated by ideas due to association 
and suggestion. Fine stained-glass, with its soft 
richness and large masses of colour, has a con- 
siderable emotional effect, even apart from the 
design as, for example, in the west window of 
Winchester Cathedral, where the broken glass, 
replaced without any regard to pattern or inten- 
tional form, produces a delightful colour effect. 
Generally speaking, however, the chief use of 
colour is to accentuate form, from which indeed 
it is rarely separated ; and although the form will 
at once usurp the chief place and interest in atten- 
tion, the colour will add an emotional tone which 
will greatly enhance and deepen the whole feeling, 
even though it remains more as a marginal impres- 
sion than an actually noticed fact. 
j The visual appreciation of form offers perhaps 
the most difficult, if most characteristic, problem 
in aesthetics. When we have an object composed 
of elements in themselves agreeable, and the whole, 
by its rich colour and gorgeous material, arouses 



54 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

a simple sensuous delight, the problem of our 
pleasure in it is comparatively easy ; unless and 
until we try to explain the ultimate fact as to why 
certain colours and harmonies, as such, do arouse 
a pleasurable feeling. Again, if the thing is in 
itself not particularly pleasing, but does, by the 
suggestions and associations that it calls up, 
arouse a feeling of enjoyment, we can see in what 
direction to look for an explanation. There is, 
however, another direction in which we find a 
beauty that consists in relation of parts that are 
not themselves beautiful. A number of parts that, 
taken singly, arouse nothing but indifference, such 
as lines or rectangular shapes, may, if suitably 
spaced and arranged, form a whole that is beauti- 
ful. If we take two buildings, each erected of the 
same material, each treated with vertical and hori- 
zontal straight lines, one may be beautiful the 
other not. To take a simple case, Fechner stated 
that a rectangle, isolated in space, will appear 
beautiful if the ratio of its sides is so arranged 
that the greater is to the less as the greater to the 
sum of the two ; if, for example, we take four lines, 
two eight inches and two thirteen inches long, in 
themselves of neither interest nor attractiveness, 
and unite them in the form of a rectangle, we make 
a form that is pleasing by the simple relation of 
its parts, and not due in any way to meaning or 
expression. As the pleasing effect of a line or a 
form is due in some way to the spatial relation 
of its parts, the method by which this relation- 
ship is perceived requires consideration. 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 55 

The eye, owing to the fact that it is provided 
with a system of lenses, is able to receive im- 
pressions of an external object point by point. 
The absence of this mechanism makes such re- 
presentation impossible for other organs for 
instance, the nose, which can only detect an in- 
discriminate combination of smells. Thdtee animals 
that are provided with eyes, but no lens, are only 
able to get a consciousness of diffused light, in a 
field of view without divisions or boundaries. But 
although the lens does make posible a distributed 
image, it does not explain how consciousness is 
presented with parts juxtaposed in space. There 
could well be impressions from each separate 
point, which could be compared one with another ; 
just as in the case of the ear the mechanism can 
isolate and distinguish a number of sounds of 
different degrees of rapidity of vibration ; the 
different pitches being distributed into different 
parts of the organ. 

The explanation now generally accepted as to 
the means by which the relation between various 
points is seen as one of position is that suggested 
by Lotze, and is somewhat as follows : The eye- 
ball rotates in a closely-fitting socket ; when an 
impression is received on any point of the retina, 
the eye is rotated so that the impression is brought 
on to a small part near the centre, where is the 
point of greatest sensibility; this is known as the 
yellow spot, or fovea. When such a movement is 
made, a complex of kinaesthetic sensations is excited. 
This we may imagine to be much on the lines of 



56 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

those in the hip or shoulder joints, where these 
sensations enable us to appreciate with great 
delicacy the range and direction of any movement 
or the position of the limb. If we consider the 
delicacy of perception required to adjust very 
slight movements, such as that, for example, in 
sighting, and keeping, a rifle on the bull's-eye at a 
long range, where a movement of a hundredth of 
an inch would take the bullet off the target, or the 
exact strength needed for some difficult feat of 
balancing ; it is got difficult to understand the ex- 
treme delicacy of feeling in the muscles of the eye. 
The object then, as the movement of the eye brings 
it to the centre of vision, excites sensations from a 
series of points upon the retina ; the local signs or 
sensations belonging to each of these spots is asso- 
ciated with the kinaesthetic sensations aroused by 
the movement of the eye. These sensations then 
henceforward tend to arise together and a net- 
work of associations is formed ; thus, as soon as 
any point upon the retina receives a stimulus, the 
mind feels, together with that impression, the sug- 
gestion of the line of points that lie between the 
point of stimulation and the centre of vision ; thus 
the sensation of any one point upon the retina is 
connected with all the others in a manner which is 
that of points in a plane. The sense, then, of the 
position of any point arises from the tensions in 
the eye, due to the tendency to bring that point at 
once to the centre of vision, and the feeling of all 
the other points as related to the given one. 1 

1 See " Physiological Psychology," Professor M'Dougall, 1905. 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 57 

Some explanation on the lines here briefly sug- 
gested is all that psychology is as yet able to offer 
towards explaining our perception of spatial re- 
lations. It must be confessed that it is only 
partially satisfactory. It is true that we certainly 
get a coherent group of motor-sensations, local 
signs, and sensations of light and contact, com- 
bined according to the laws of association ; but 
this would not necessarily give rise to the intuition 
of an image with its several parts placed one out- 
side the other, and it outside ourstlves. In view of 
this and other difficulties, certain writers, notably 
Stumpf, have regarded the apprehension of space 
as innate given with the first impressions ; all 
psychological explanation is therefore superfluous, 
it is to be accepted a priori. . Investigations and 
experiments, however, such as have been made 
on young children, and upon those who have only 
attained their sight for the first time in later life, 
as well as the mere fact of error and apprehension 
of space, all point to the fact that it is a growth of 
experience. 

Whether the faculty is innate, or acquired, it 
becomes at a very early age an unconscious 
process, and we seem, at all events, to see the 
relationship of parts and objects in space as an 
immediate apprehension. Thus the whole form or 
shape of an object can strike us at once, and be 
seen as beautiful or ugly. 

If a circle, a straight line, an ellipse or a curve, be 
presented to the eye successively, it is possible to 
distinguish a slightly different feeling aroused by 



58 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

each. A curve such as we describe by the term 
flowing or graceful can, we may easily imagine, be 
followed by a more natural and rhythmical move- 
ment of the optic muscles than a straight line or an 
uneven zigzag. A circle may arouse its specific 
feeling by the monotonous repetition of similar 
movements as the eye passes from the centre to 
various points upon the circumference ; it is not 
generally found attractive, nor is a straight line ; 
unless either is in a position that demands for 
strength, stability, or fitting action, perfect circu- 
larity ; or an accurate adjustment, only to be 
secured by perfectly straight surfaces. In this case 
they are borrowing some of their attraction from the 
meaning that we are consciously attaching to them. 
A straight line is not commonly found in nature, 
nor is a flat circular surface often met with, so that 
the eye would not have had the same intimacy of 
association from early times with such forms. 

It is, however, easy to see that though form may 
be indebted to convenience or suitability for its 
attractiveness, the actual recognition of this aspect 
may become so unconscious that the resulting 
feeling arises directly from the impression as a 
simple sense response, of which we may, or may 
not, be able by reflection to trace the cause. We 
have a distinct feeling of pleasure that is not 
immediately connected with the idea of utility in 
looking at a well-shaped object, such as a violin or 
a beautifully balanced and designed gun, or any- 
thing of the kind that can be handled. The person 
using any such instrument has, as he uses it, certain 



PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS 59 

kinaesthetic or muscular sensations, which would 
obviously be more pleasant, the more the balance 
and design of the object made manipulation easy 
as compared with its weight and size, and so added 
to its effectiveness. To these sensations also would 
be due the pleasure in the mere handling of a 
weapon or instrument, apart from actual use, while 
in real action they would be probably merged in 
the more attention-catching purpose for which the 
thing was being used ; but although they might not 
be consciously noted, they woukj still leave their 
impression. When a person has thus acquired 
numerous experiences of the kind, as indeed no 
one can help doing, it is easy to understand that 
as the eye falls upon any similar kind of object, 
the kinaesthetic sensations are aroused by the 
principle of simultaneous association, and with 
them the feelings that belong to them ; these are 
at once referred back again to the object, which 
then seems to have a direct appeal to the eye, 
pleasing or not, according to the sensations aroused. 
The object need not necessarily be one that has 
been actually used before, as the eye would easily 
pick out the lines that suggested sensations that 
had been previously experienced ; thus the mere 
lines themselves would come to have a pleasing 
appearance quite apart from any connection. 

Ideas are, it is now considered, always accom- 
panied by motor sensations ; the idea of a movement 
is the first step in the process of executing it, and 
even if the movement be inhibited, these motor 
sensations are present with the idea, however im- 



60 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

perceptible. There is no doubt that these motor 
sensations do play an important part, though one 
very difficult to estimate, in producing certain of 
the feelings connected with form, especially per- 
haps in those of general composition and arrange- 
ment. A writer l of wide experience upon art has 
drawn attention to the fact that in a picture, any 
suggested issue or opening should always be to 
the right, and that any large mass blocking the 
composition of the picture or design should be to 
the spectator's left. In discussing the reason for 
this, he refers to M. Delauny's researches, which 
showed that it is the habit of people to move to the 
right, due to the usual predominance of the left 
side of the brain. This feeling is of course widely 
felt ; we read and write from left to right, place 
the capitals at the left side of the word, and so on. 

Thus, in addition to the ideas aroused in con- 
sciousness by form, there are a great number of 
obscure and ill-defined feelings of which we are 
only aware perhaps by the resultant like or dislike, 
pleasure or indifference ; due to the stimulation 
through the eye of various muscular, tactual, and 
organic sensations with their feeling tones. Many of 
these may be memories, if the word can so be used, 
of sensations that even when originally received were 
only perceived marginally, but which exercised a 
certain effect upon the sum-total of feeling. These 
are in addition, of course, to the muscular sensa- 
tions which arise from the movement of the eye 
itself, to which attention has already been drawn. 

1 P. G. Hamerton, "Notes on ^Esthetics," 1889. 



CHAPTER III 

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SENSATIONS AND FEELING 
(continued) 

THE immediate effect of colours and sounds is ; as 
a rule, hardly conscious, and we p^y attention to it 
only when the mood excited enters into a certain 
opposition to other moods. It is told of a French- 
man of an unusually delicate sensibility 

" II pretendait que son ton de conversation avec Madame 
etait change 4 depuis qu'elle avait change en cramoisie le 
meuble de son cabinet que e"tait bleu." 1 

In order to feel these effects Goethe used to wear 
coloured glasses, and so to experience the change 
of feeling produced by a world of a blue, green, or 
yellow colour. These emotional effects can only 
be due to training or habit to a small extent, and 
therefore must largely spring from some innate or 
instinctive faculty of reaction to colour, quite apart 
from, and in addition to, any point of view due 
to mental action ; although there are so many 
secondary ideas linked with colours and sounds, 
that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to discover 
what effect upon feeling the elementary sensations 
have in themselves. 

1 Quoted from Goethe's Farbenlehre, " Outlines of Psychology." II. 
Hoffding. 



62 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

In the mere liking, or rather craving for light, 
which is common to all or nearly all living creatures, 
we see one of the earliest forms of the instinct of 
the preservation of life at work. The influence of 
light is a condition of the change of inorganic into 
organic matter, it promotes metabolism in animals, 
especially in respiration. The satisfaction taken in 
light and the dislike to darkness is therefore a 
fundamental feeling, even apart from the fact that 
light means security, and darkness hidden dangers, 
foes, and a general inhibition of activity. Common 
language has always connected life and light, dark- 
ness and death. In addition, therefore, to the simple 
pleasure in due performance of function that every 
healthy organ possesses, there is a clear explanation 
of the origin of pleasure in simple light. Light, 
however, is not the whole of the function of the eye ; 
it also enjoys, and therefore desires, colour. 

"Let it be remembered," says Goethe, "how our spirits 
revive when on a dull day the sun shines out over a single 
part of the landscape and makes its colours visible. The 
attribution of medicinal virtue to coloured precious stones 
may have arisen out of the deep sense of this unspeakable 
delight." 1 

Colours may be roughly divided into active or 
exciting colours, such as bright purple, red, orange, 
yellow, $ngl those such as the shades of blue and 
dull gr^y^Bat have rather a depressing and subduing 
effect. **(joethe describes the frame of mind induced 
by looking at a landscape on a dark winter's day 
through yellow glass as follows : 

1 Quoted in " Outlines of Psychology." H. Hoffding. 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 63 

"The eye rejoices; the heart expands; an immediate 
warmth seems to breathe in on us. Blue gives a feeling of 
cold, and blue glass shows objects in a mournful light. 
Green produces the impression of great repose. Red is 
distinguished from yellow by greater restlessness and force 
in its influence upon feeling." l 

It is clear that to some degree at any rate the 
feelings induced by these objects of coloured glass 
are due to association of ideas, though when Goethe 
remarked, on looking at a brightly-coloured land- 
scape through a piece of purple glass, "This must 
be the tone of colour which will encompass heaven 
and earth on the day of judgment/ 1 there was 
evidently a pure state of feeling, an eery sense 
induced by the effect of a light that never was 
on sea or land, due directly to the light sensa- 
tions. 

Broadly speaking, sound and silence may be said 
to be for the ear, what light and darkness are to 
the eye. Any sound, if not too loud or harsh, 
naturally affords pleasure, merely because it sets in 
motion the organs of hearing. The noisy music of 
children and savages is merely the gratification of 
this impulse to stronger functioning. In sound, 
again, a sense of cheerfulness, energy, and activity 
appear as elementary feelings accompanying certain 
arrangements of sounds; while others have again 
a depressing and subduing effect. So, ag^in, the 
.way in.which sounds or colours are combined such 
as relation of form, symmetry, rhythm, harmony 
and so on, all have the same power of arousing 

1 Quoted in "Outlines of Psychology." H. Hoffding. 



64 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

definite feelings with their accompaniment of plea- 
sure or the reverse. 

It is important to keep clear the distinction 
between sensations and feelings, which are not 
uncommonly confused. This confusion is shown 
by speaking of the feelings accompanying sensa- 
tions of pain, pressure, of heat and cold, &c., as 
independent sense-feelings ; sensations such as 
those of touch are called "feelings," and especially 
in the case of sensations such as those of pain 
accompanied by strong feelings, the discrimination 
is apt to be neglected. On the other hand, it is 
equally inadmissible to ascribe to a given sensation 
a definite feeling fixed in quality and intensity. 
The sensation is only one of the many factors which 
determine the feeling present at any given moment. 
Besides the sensation, there are certain processes 
which have gone before, and certain permanent 
dispositions conditions which we can, as a rule, 
only partially account for which play an impor- 
tant part. An identical sensation may be highly 
pleasurable, distinctly distasteful, or completely 
indifferent, according to the different conditions 
under which it is presented to sense. Most sensa- 
tion qualities are pleasant when of low intensity, 
becoming unpleasant when the intensity is increased 
beyond a certain point. This differs widely for 
different persons, or for the same person at different 
times ; a sweet sensation of very moderate intensity 
is distasteful after a surfeit of sugar. 

The more specialised sensations whose cognitive 
value is high have a comparatively feeble feeling 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 65 

tone ; visual sensations are not so strong in simple 
feeling as those of taste, although there is no doubt 
that there does arise an actual pleasure in following 
certain lines and movements which must be in and 
due to the movements of the eye itself. The plea- 
sure in colour, again, is of a considerable degree of 
intensity ; but with regard to the eye we are so 
accustomed to refer at once to the brain, that we 
can only with difficulty conceive the pleasure in 
the organ itself ; moreover, the pleasure caused to 
the eye is at once projected into-the object with 
which it is connected and considered as a quality 
of that object appreciated, and thus appears to be 
an intellectual pleasure. We shall return again to 
this very important point, and only mention it 
here to lay stress on the simple feeling tone of 
visual sensation that is so apt to be overlooked. 

The organic sensations from the various func- 
tions of the body the beating of the heart, 
breathing, swallowing, the various secreting organs, 
caused by modifications in the visceral system 
have a strongly-marked feeling tone, but the actual 
sensations are so vague that the feeling tone pre- 
dominates over the sensations. *The pleasure or 
discomfort due to an impression made on the 
visual or auditory organs is often due to the reflex 
changes produced in the visceral organs, and in 
the circulation and respiration, which, although 
too slight to be detected even by careful attention, 
excite organic sensation with a well-marked feeling 
tone. So slight is the actual alteration that only 
experiments with delicate instruments will reveal 



66 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the changes. Professor Mosso 1 gives interesting 
details of certain experiments, showing that even 
when the subject was asleep the slightest stimulus 
determined an increased flow of blood to the 
brain ; again, the breathing of a person asleep can 
be easily affected. In describing an experiment, 2 in 
which bellows for registering the rate of breathing 
were attached to a person asleep, he says : 

" A voice, a distant noise, a ray of light, a slight touch, 
any impression, is enough to rouse the bellows to renewed 
activity [this is of c a man whose breathing is slackened in 
sleep] to double the number of heart beats, to cause the 
vessels of the whole surface of the skin to contract." 

F^re, in " Sensation et Mouvement," describes a 
number of similar results, stating that an excitation 
imperceptible to the consciousness will produce 
effects as well as a conscious impression. *The 
point of importance to note is that bodily changes 
producing their well-marked feeling tone of pleasure, 
or the reverse, are produced by impressions which, 
although they are received through the higher 
senses the eye and ear are yet able to produce 
effects upon the general feeling without any con- 
scious recognition by or influence upon the brain. 

" Until quite recently it was thought that the brain con- 
trolled the respiratory centre, accelerating or arresting its 
movements, but it has now been shown by Christian! that 
by means of a vivid light, which must strike the eye of the 

1 "Fear." A. Mosso, translated by Lough and Kieson 
pp. 77-79. 
* Ibid, p, 123, 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 67 

animal, deep and frequent inspirations may be produced 
even after the brain has been removed." l 

These very slight modifications of function no 
doubt play an important part in feelings of plea- 
sure, which are hardly strong enough to reach the 
pitch of an emotion. They are also independent 
of any mental action ; an artistic and beautiful 
surrounding may produce a general feeling of 
pleasure that often is not, and cannot by careful 
introspection be, referred to anything in particular. 
This unconscious response, of which we are only 
aware by a vague like or dislike, a faint preference 
or distaste, which determines our choice, makes 
the value that different things have for us. It is 
always at work, in every degree of intensity, show- 
ing very clearly that, however much intellectual 
appreciation may add to and mould our tastes, 
there is this innate unconscious feeling which is 
produced by certain bodily modifications in re- 
sponse to sensations. Thus a work of art or a 
scene of beauty may, in addition to the main effects 
upon which the attention is concentrated, cause 
pleasure at the same time by. a large number of 
subsidiary harmonies of colour, form, symmetry, 
which, while contributing to the total effect, only 
become noticeable, like the bodily functions, when 
the relations between the parts are inharmonious. 
They do, however, form an essential part of the 
whole feeling, and perhaps play a large part in 
the curious sense of inexhaustibility which keeps 

1 Mosso, of), cit.i p. 128, 



68 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

drawing us again and again to works or objects of 
great beauty, under the impression that we shall 
always learn more ; and as we can never see it twice 
in identically the same physiological conditions, 
the resulting impression is always a little different, 
causing perhaps new lines of associative ideas. 
There is little doubt that the key to much that is 
curious in character and action, in pleasures and 
dislikes, may be found in the cumulative effect of a 
large number of sensations below the level of con- 
sciousness, each t)ne of which exercises an inappre- 
ciable effect. 

The feelings that arise immediately from sensa- 
tions form a continuous series from the simple 
general feeling up to the finely differentiated shades 
of feeling that accompany the qualitative sensations 
of the higher senses. It is easy to imagine that 
these stages represent the course of development. 
Before the appearance of special organs and func- 
tions, feeling could only have been a chaotic mass, 
a mere expression of impulse as to the course of 
life, but of the highest importance as a motive for 
movement. 

In general the relation between feeling and sen- 
sation is in inverse ratio to their strength ; the 
stronger the feeling element becomes, the more 
the cognitive element tends to diminish. The sense 
impressions which excite the strongest pleasure and 
pain teach us least as to external relations, although 
they may be of the highest importance as warnings 
or sources of attraction. In its most primitive form 
the strength of a feeling is mainly determined by 



PSYCHOLOGY OF PEELING 69 

the degree in which it affects the course of the 
organic life. This is especially the case with those 
sensations that call out instinctive movements ; the 
stress of feeling aroused entirely dwarfs their quali- 
tative character. When, however, the qualitative 
aspect of the sensation is able to make itself felt, 
the feeling answering to the sensation is differen- 
tiated and specified. It gains in richness and varied 
gradation what it loses in force, and becomes also 
more independent of the immediate stress of the 
struggle for existence. 

.^Esthetic sensations being principally received 
through the eye and the ear, are therefore naturally 
outweighed by their qualitative properties, since 
the actual strength of the sensation is structurally 
limited, and therefore cannot be of sufficient inten- 
sity to obliterate the cognitive faculty in favour of 
pure sensation. ^ 

It is clear enough how ideation and the connec- 
tion of ideas helps to stimulate the development of 
the feelings, but the effect of feeling upon ideation 
is of a far more fundamental character indeed, so 
profound and far-reaching is its influence that, to a 
large extent, we may say that it is feeling which not 
only settles about what we shall think, but to a 
large degree determines the conclusion to which we 
shall come. It is important to bear in mind the 
"inertia of feeling/' which is a fruitful source of 
much of the inconsistency of action in history and 
everyday life. A new thought, or new point of 
view, however logically unassailable one which, 
to those who perhaps are reading of it subsequently 



yo ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

in history, appears as a self-evident fact may 
require long periods of time for its general adop- 
tion ; a valuable safeguard doubtless, however 
foolishly it appears to act in individual instances, 
for it has, of course, its corresponding value in 
strengthening the hold upon the new truth when 
once adopted. 

We hold a theory, or an idea, with an extra- 
ordinary intensity when it is one that coincides 
with our feeling, and in our everyday experience 
only regard tht which supports our cherished 
belief, disregarding or giving but scant weight to 
adverse facts or arguments ; and ideas that do not 
harmonise with it are apt to be suppressed. Love 
is blind, it is said in some respects perhaps so 
but really it is the keenness of its sight in discover- 
ing the pleasing attributes of the loved one that 
helps the reason not to give any weight to disagree- 
able traits. We come here to the line between 
feeling and will ; for a man urged on by a pas- 
sionate longing can will to delude himself, he can 
repress his more sober reflection, and can set all 
his faculties to work to prove that what he wants 
so strongly is veritably the right and proper course ; 
he cannot stand the contradiction in himself, and 
must make inclination and duty coincide. So in a 
milder way we cling to some favourite opinion ; we 
act upon it and assert it, conscious perhaps that 
we have no adequate reason to support it, but are 
quite undisturbed by that if we have the feeling 
that it is right ; for most people are not given to 
dealing strictly with themselves, and will be found 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 71 

to make up their minds first, and then look about 
for reasons in order to justify the opinion. 

So strongly indeed may this effect of feeling be 
carried that it affects even the senses, so that in a 
moment of strained attention we seem to see the 
signal, or hear the expected sound before they 
occur. The difference between memory images or 
imaginations, and real objects of perception, is apt 
to become lost where feeling is strongly excited, so 
that ideas become actualised. This is even more 
strongly evident in the sphere >f thought, where 
feeling anticipates the result and decides the ques- 
tion at once, instead of going through the tedious 
process of logical reasoning. Feeling is apt to 
dispense very quickly with distinctions, conditions, 
limitations finding or insisting upon things being 
perfect and absolute, leaving to cognition the subse- 
quent task of the determination of conditions, or 
of the possibility of practical steps ; and if it con- 
tinually and strongly permeates the thoughts, it 
soon drives the mind further on, and so leads to 
the formation of an ideal world from which the 
imperfections and sufferings of the actual world 
are removed. 

It is, no doubt, because of the obscurity of its 
action, and the inexplicable nature of its effect, as 
well as its strength, that feeling exercises so strong 
an influence upon process of thought. It is gener- 
ally possible to trace the steps by which a reasoned 
truth or logical conclusion is reached ;but feeling 
has its source in the natural instincts, modified 
perhaps and largely affected by the sum of the 



72 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

innumerable small experiences of everyday life and 
environment ; the effect of which is only apparent 
after long intervals, so that we can at the best see 
but a very small part of its course. However 
obscure the way in which feeling is determined, its 
influence is clear and strong, and not only does it 
tend to expand and dominate consciousness, but 
it insists upon the reason finding not only an 
explanation of, but a justification for, its particular 
bent or point of view. That this should be so, 
follows naturally from the instinct of self-preserva- 
tion ; for the very fact of survival and development 
is a proof that in the long run man must have 
cared for the things that were beneficial, or he 
would have been speedily eliminated. Again some 
explanation is necessary, for whether his feeling be 
pleasurable or the reverse, it is an experience of 
the external world ; and man must interpret the 
signs, and, if he can, find the causes, in order that 
the best advantage may be gained to help him 
forward. As development proceeds, he finds his 
innermost nature seems to be revealed by feeling, 
and he at once proceeds to look for justification 
of his feeling, and his conceived meaning of the 
universe. Feeling is not, however, in any real 
sense a source of knowledge, and all discussion 
ceases when an appeal is made to simple feeling ; 
but it is the cause that starts and induces inquiry, 
and spurs the individual to every kind of active 
investigation, though it can bring no answer itself. 
As Professor Hoffding 1 points out, feeling, as purely 

1 " Outlines of Psychology.'* 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 73 

individual and incommunicable, isolates indivi- 
duals, but at the same time, from its needs of 
explanation and justification, it brings them to- 
gether, for only in union can they find a hope of 
explanation. Art, chief of all the means of expres- 
sion,i is naturally made use of to describe and 
impart to others the various feelings ; indeed, so 
strong an impulse to art lies in this, that some 
writers have found the sole cause and raison detre 
of art to lie in the need of self-expression. 1 

Feeling also affects ideas ; by what Wundt has 
called the analogy of sensations, it has as it were 
an attractive power not only over the ideas of the 
same kind as that which originally gave rise to the 
feeling, but also over other ideas which excite 
similar feelings, and thus the feeling itself becomes 
the link between different kinds of ideas. The 
common element of feeling accompanying free 
and easy respiration, light after dark, pure tones 
and rhythmical melody after noise and discordant 
sounds, comprehension and order appearing in 
an apparently tangled maze of facts all form an 
analogy of sensations. It is in music perhaps 
that this is peculiarly evident, and perhaps most 
strongly so in those persons that have least know- 
ledge of, or technical training in, the art.. Some 
events, or experience, may serve as a concrete 
image of the general mood ; and though in such 
dreaming the specific effect of the music be lost, it 
is difficult not to give way to it, at least to some 
degree, and much of the power that music has over 
1 See p. 167. 



74 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

men lies in this quality by which the memories 
that it arouses spread out to touch all the experience 
of life and all sides of our being. 

If a sensation be considered carefully, it will be at 
once noticed that in nearly all cases it has two 
elements, or aspects, which can be clearly con- 
trasted. Thus, if some substance, say a piece of 
chocolate, be placed in the mouth, there is at once 
a characteristic sensation which enables us to pro- 
nounce it chocolate ; at the same time there is 
another and distinct sensation of agreeableness or 
pleasantness, in consequence of which it is liked 
or disliked. J Of the two, the recognition of the 
characteristic taste requires memory and previous 
experience ; the liking is a natural faculty, and, 
putting aside for the moment likes and dislikes 
acquired by habit, is unaffected by any process 
except the simple pleasurable response. 

The feeling of pleasure has been referred to 
frequently, and it now becomes necessary to 
consider in more detail what pleasure is, and how 
it arises ; since in all questions of aesthetic enjoy- 
ment it is fundamental. The whole aim of art and 
the whole meaning of beauty lie in pleasure pass- 
ing from the mere pleasing of sense up to the 
highest intellectual enjoyment. Pleasure, using 
the word in its widest sense, is in some form or 
other the spur of all activity and the goal of all 
effort. At the present moment, however, it is only 
proposed to consider it in its simplest physical 
form as accompanying certain sensations. 

A feeling of pleasure determines and accom- 



PSYCHOLOGY OF PEELING 75 

panics appetition, or a tendency to seek or prolong 
the pleasant sensations, while an unpleasant one 
produces or at least accompanies an aversion, 
or tendency to withdraw from or alter the 
conditions. 

The fact is also well known that pleasure causes 
an increased energy, or enhancement of all the 
vital functions, while the unpleasant produces a 
depression of activity ; although to be on safe 
ground, and in order to avoid any conclusion as 
to which is cause and which is effect,*it would be 
more correct to say that increase of energy or 
activity is accompanied by or goes with a feeling 
that is described as pleasurable, and that an un- 
pleasant feeling is found with a depression of 
vitality. 

Is pleasure the opposite of pain ? This is a 
natural and almost universal antithesis, but a 
careful examination will show that they cannot 
be really contrasted, unless carefully defined, in 
this way. * As a matter of fact, pain is a sensation, 
pleasure is a feeling ; but as pain is invariably 
accompanied by unpleasant feelings, 1 the word has 
come to stand for both the sensation and the feel- 
ing, and so for practical purposes for the feeling 
itself. This is a point of considerable importance 
in the whole question of motives and tendencies, 
and requires a little further consideration. 

1 This statement may be allowed to stand, although there are, no 
doubt, certain kinds of pain accompanied by feelings that are in a way 
pleasurable. This phenomenon of" pleasure-pain," of course, makes 
it quite clear that pain is a sensation, which gives rise to feelings, 
according to its quality and intensity, as do the other sensations. 



76 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OP BEAUTY 

There are, as we have seen, definite nerve 
endings, which have apparently been found all 
over the body ; nothing of the same nature has 
been discovered or even suggested for pleasure. 
Frey 1 states that pleasure is the absence of pain, 
and therefore requires no special nerves. Pleasure 
is too obviously more than the absence of pain to 
make this conclusive. Pain is a vital warning, 
pleasure is as it were a luxury ; the pleasurable 
feeling is not even necessary to the appropriate 
reflex actions, tftough without it as an inducement 
human activities would soon languish. We have 
good reason to believe, and the point is elaborated 
in the chapter on primitive instincts/that pleasure 
does not arise until consciousness is developed 
that is to say, that pleasure is not existent until the 
different nerves have carried the sensation to a 
brain.\ We see arising and developing in the early 
organism various reflex actions and co-ordinated 
movements of a considerable degree of complexity 
that are produced in direct response to stimulus, 
without the necessity of any central nervous 
system, in which it would be as out of place to 
talk of pleasure as it would be in the case of a 
flower turning to the sun. 

Why, then, should pleasure have been developed 
if it is only, so to speak, an epiphenomenon of 
action or sensation ? The answer seems to be, 
that it is a necessary corollary of consciousness 
and the power of choice. If an animal of increas- 
ing intelligence is to have any power of adaptation, 

i " The Psychology of the Emotions," Ribot, p. 51 (1897). 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 77 

he must have a power of choice ; if he is to choose 
correctly, i.e. in such a way as to be of benefit to 
himself or his race, it is necessary that something 
should appeal immediately to his consciousness, 
in addition to the unconscious impulse or the 
remote advantage to be gained for the race some- 
thing which would lead, later on, to a conscious 
direction of his activities in the best direction. 
Whenever the appropriate action was performed, 
function duly exercised, suitable environment or 
food procured, we may suppose., an increase of 
general vitality, or some similar phenomenon the 
conscious mind had to be made aware of this, 
and so made aware that it should tend to its re- 
petition ; such activities would be accompanied by 
a general feeling, and this feeling would be plea- 
sure. Any animal that by chance variation found 
more pleasure in things less useful would be elimi- 
nated ; and though we can hardly follow this out 
completely, we see very clearly that the strongest 
instincts have the keenest pleasures or the strongest 
feelings of discomfort. 

Pain, being a sign of something detrimental to 
life, would be accompanied, in addition to the 
sensation, by a strong feeling tone of discomfort ; 
and pain, being the most unpleasant thing we know, 
is applied naturally to the extreme of mental dis- 
comfort in accordance with the invariable rule 
by which every physical sensation has its mental 
counterpart. Pain, too, certainly makes a stronger 
impression than any of the sensations causing 
pleasure or joy, perhaps because it is primarily 



78 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

a motive to activity to remedy something that is 
wrong, while pleasure is an indication that, at all 
events for the moment, things are as they should 
be. If a strong instinct of any kind is thwarted or 
prevented, we do not get a sensation of pain, unless 
we use the word metaphorically, but we do get 
what may be called the opposite of pleasure ; and 
this, although different in kind from pain, may 
amount to such a degree of unpleasantness as to 
make a very considerable amount of pain prefer- 
able. All forms^of pleasure are accompanied by, 
or rather perhaps accompany, the organic modi- 
fications previously described. Primarily it is 
physical, attached to a sensation, a soft warm 
contact, the satisfaction of hunger, and so on ; 
then it becomes an anticipation e.g. a dog seeing 
his food being prepared ; then ascending, the plea- 
sure becomes attached to pure representation. 
This forms the main group of pleasures, and pro- 
vides the varied and numerous joys of humanity, 
as it becomes divided into many varieties, egoistic, 
sympathetic, &c.; still rising, it reaches the highest 
and rarest manifestations attached to pure concepts, 
the pleasures of aesthetic creation, of the meta- 
physician, the scientist, and the religious thinker. 

It is interesting to note that at every stage we 
see the means devised by nature to secure her 
ends converted into the end in itself, even when 
the intellect clearly realises the ultimate aim of the 
instinctive pleasure ; and the pleasure, originally 
the criterion, becomes regarded as the end to be 
aimed at. It would be an interesting and not a 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 79 

difficult matter to trace the transition from a strictly 
physical pleasure, such as that of a cool drink to a 
thirsty man, step by step to the most intellectual 
and ideal pleasures, showing how the two qualities 
sensory and representative are always co- 
existent, and that we qualify any given pleasure 
according to the prominence of one or the other. 
In aesthetic enjoyment we find a simple sense 
feeling of pleasure in forms, colour, and sounds ; 
certain colours, certain qualities of sound, a 
certain arrangement of objects, produce at once a 
pleasurable impression. " Agreeable states," says 
Herbert Spencer, " are the correlatives of actions 
which conduce to the well-being or preservation 
of the individual/' Instinctive desires and aver- 
sions are, as we have seen, inextricably bound up 
with the action necessary to preserve the individual 
and the race in the long struggle for existence ; and 
we hope in Chapter V. to make some suggestion 
as to the possible basis of our pleasures that are 
usually classed under the head of aesthetic. 

It must always be remembered that there is no 
such thing as an absolutely independent sensation ; 
every sensation is determined by its relation to 
the one experienced immediately before it, or at 
the same time. This is, of course, a matter of com- 
mon knowledge the same water will feel hot or 
cool to the hand previously dipped in a colder or 
hotter liquid. Colours are determined very largely 
by their neighbourhood. If one colour is placed 
by the side of another which is not its comple- 
mentary colour, the one will always be affected by 



8o ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the complementary colour of the other. A grey 
strip of paper can, by being laid upon various 
coloured sheets, be made to partake of the colour 
of each in turn, the two being covered with trans- 
parent paper to soften the outline. If the eye be 
turned from a strong red to a white surface, a 
greenish gleam will appear. These effects, un- 
noticed as a rule, enter into all sensations of 
colour. We cannot regard this as due to illusion, 
or erroneous inference, since it is the rule, not an 
unusual effect appearing only in exceptional cases. 
Every sensation is determined by its relation to 
other sensation, and its existence and properties 
are thus decided. 

If any object has once been presented to any 
sense organ, it is possible subsequently to recall 
its appearance. Such a recalled image cannot 
be kept constantly in the focus of attention, but 
it can be continually summoned back again, be- 
coming more vague, uncertain, and lacking in detail 
according to the time that has elapsed since the 
original impression, and also to the intensity of 
the first sensation. This is the idea of an object, 
and differs from the original in being less intense, 
less constant, and in attracting the attention less 
forcibly. In normal conditions we are able to 
distinguish an idea, or image, of a thing, from the 
original of which it is a representation, by a pecu- 
liar vividness attached to the actual sensation. 
This is something more than a difference of in- 
tensity, for a sensation may be far less intense 
than the image or idea of a sensation, and yet 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 81 

possess the peculiar quality by which we at once 
pronounce it to have a real objective existence. 
This sensory vividness seems to be a fundamental 
character of experience. In cases of abnormal 
condition of the brain, hallucinations and imagi- 
nary images may so acquire this vividness as to 
produce a complete illusion of actuality. Most 
people, while able to call up images of all kinds 
with readiness, find that some classes of sensa- 
tions are more readily reproduced than others. 
For the majority it is the visual>imagery that is 
predominant, though there are many people who 
have a keen auditory imagination. If a person 
is lacking in any of the sense organs, or has lost 
one at an early age, probably before the third 
year of life, he loses the power of experiencing 
the corresponding imagery. If a person has en- 
joyed normal vision for the first few years of his 
life, he continues able to call up visual images 
even though the yes may have been actually 
removed. Images, therefore, do not involve the 
activity of the sense organs. If, however, one of 
the sensory areas of the brain be destroyed, the 
subject becomes incapable of experiencing not 
only the sensations normally excited by the pro- 
cesses of that area, but also the corresponding 
images. . An important point to notice is that the 
feeling tone which is produced by images or ideas 
of sensation do not differ from those produced by 
the sensation, except perhaps in intensity, although 
often indeed the feeling produced by a revived 
idea of some occurrence may be actually stronger 

F 



82 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

than that felt at the time. We shall return to this 
point in dealing with emotions. It is, of course, 
of great importance to the artist, who can, by his 
power of arousing ideas and images, cause as 
strong a feeling as the actual thing he repre- 
sents, or perhaps even stronger, by accentuating 
a particular aspect of it. 

The feelings which are linked with the sense 
of sight and hearing, and with free ideation and 
activity of thought, are more easily reproduced 
than those which we owe to the lower senses, and 
especially than those which arise from the organic 
functions. They are consequently more freely at 
our disposal, and less easily interfered with by ex- 
ternal considerations, a fact which is of the more 
importance since to this class belong the intel- 
lectual, moral, and religious feelings. 

The immense variety of our sensory experience 
is due to the complex fusions of these elementary 
qualities in different proportions. This is true 
also of the lower senses, such as those of taste. 
There are innumerable sensations always falling 
on the various sense organs which are giving rise 
to various reactions producing feeling tones. These 
are again mixed up, modified, and altered by ideas 
of previous sensations also producing feeling tones, 
all of which at any moment form in consciousness 
a unitary whole which is not, however obviously 
complex, a mere agglomeration of parts or features 
which could by sufficient introspective power be 
analysed and distinguished, but is a distinct and 
complete state of mind. 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 83 

We have so far avoided the use of the word 
" perception/' in order to keep in view as far as 
possible the assumption that sensations and the 
corresponding images, with their accompanying 
feelings, are psychical elements, and that all states 
of consciousness are syntheses of various forms 
of these elements. 

When the attention is drawn to any object, we 
are said to perceive that object, while all the other 
impressions that are exciting sensations at the same 
moment fall into the field of inattention. We may 
say of them that they are sensed, but not perceived. 
These so-called marginal sensations largely affect 
our conduct; stimulate various routine adjustments 
in our movements, e.g. as we pick our way over 
rough uneven ground ; while the attention is fully 
occupied otherwise. The object that is in the focus 
of consciousness, that is " perceived, " arouses not 
only the particular sensation proper to itself, but 
also images of sensations previously experienced ; 
and the degree to which this takes place may vary 
to an indefinite extent, depending upon the expe- 
rience, training, habit, temperament, &c., of the 
person. Perception involves the synthesis of sensa- 
tions and images of different senses and in the 
establishment of relations. 

As the greater part of the book deals with various 
forms of perception, we need not stop now to de- 
scribe the many different varieties ; we have seen 
roughly that the perception of object is, so to 
speak, the method in which the perceiver is affected 
by any sensation or combination of sensations upon 



84 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

which his attention is fixed due to his whole in- 
herited disposition, character, training, education, 
and previous experience. We have to regard the 
brain of the adult as consisting of a great number 
of circuits or sub-circuits of nervous systems ; 
organised with various degrees of completeness 
and stability, more or less closely interconnected. 
Some of these perceptual systems are congenitally 
determined ; inherited, developing naturally at some 
stage in the individual's life ; others are built up by 
the course of experience. The perceptual life of 
most of the animals must be regarded as almost 
completely controlled by congenitally organised 
perceptual systems. \Man differs from the animal 
in his power of greatly modifying his inherited 
systems by experience, and power of developing 
new systems peculiar to each individual. 

Such congenital perceptual systems are called 
instincts, and the action which the appropriate 
object calls forth we call instinctive actions ; and 
although man's capacity for learning by experi- 
ence, and modifying inherited tendencies, largely 
obscures the simple manifestations of instinct by 
acquired modes of action, nevertheless they form 
the groundwork of his nature, determine the nature 
of his activities, and settle in what directions he 
will find his pleasures in life. Even under the 
present artificial conditions the old hunting instinct 
is strong, and forces the majority of men to find in 
some form or other methods of gratification. The 
rivalry and sense of success in getting the better 
of others, the natural outcome of the struggle for 



PSYCHOLOGY OF FEELING 85 

existence, forms the basis of many of our strongest 
feelings of pleasure or the reverse. Ambition, the 
last infirmity of noble minds, is but one branch of 
the same tree. Deep down in the heart of all lie 
these old tendencies and instincts that find their 
gratification in many ways that seem so far removed 
from their original purpose. In speaking of the 
pleasures accompanying instinctive tendencies to 
action, we are really touching upon the emotions; and 
although there may be no more difference between a 
feeling and an emotion than that of a degree of 
complexity, it is useful in considering them to draw 
a distinction, if only an arbitrary one. Feeling has 
been treated simply as a state of consciousness, 
pleasurable or distasteful, directly responding to 
some peripheral stimulation, while an emotion 
always involves some perceptional or ideational 
activity. The important point to emphasise here is 
that the senses do, apart from and previously to 
any intellectual or perceptual additions, respond 
by a distinct feeling tone to form, colour, rhythm, 
and harmony, since in this response lies the innate 
pleasure in beauty. We now pass on to consider 
the question of the feeling tones associated with the 
more complicated instinctive tendencies. 



CHAPTER IV 

EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 

IT is due to the possession of an inherited nervous 
disposition that it is possible for a person to have 
a distinct attitude of perception towards, and a 
tendency to act in a particular way with reference 
to, certain objects without having had any previous 
experience of such or similar things, the action 
being adapted more or less completely to secure 
the advantage of the individual or the species. 
Such congenital perceptual tendencies are instincts. 
Whenever an appropriate object arouses in us an 
instinctive response of any kind, we notice that is, 
if it is of a sufficient degree of intensity not only 
an impulse to a certain kind of action or certain 
motor manifestations ; movements, gestures, atti- 
tude of the body, changes in the voice, blushing, 
pallor, trembling ; alteration in the secretions, re- 
spiration, circulation, and so on ; but at the same 
time are aware of an emotional state of conscious- 
ness which is either pleasant or unpleasant that 
is, it is similar to the state of consciousness that 
we have described under feeling, but more diffuse, 
and not referred, as a rule, to any particular part 
of the body, or connected with any sense organ. 

86 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 87 

An emotion may be considered to be a more com- 
plex form of feeling, standing in the same relation 
to simple feeling as the simultaneous association of 
ideas stands to simple perceptions on the mental 
plane. That is to say, that in an emotion it is the 
pleasantness or unpleasantness of a total situation 
or predicament that is felt the whole complex of 
ideas which represent a certain concurrence of pro- 
cesses or collocation of objects in the outside world. 
An emotion contains an ideational or representative 
factor. A man, let us say, is suddenly confronted 
by some one pointing a revolver : he supplements 
this by the idea of the effect of a pistol ; the fact 
that the man is an enemy ; that he is alone and 
unarmed, &c.; at the same time he feels the scene 
in its totality as dangerous, the feeling tone of his 
recognition of this fact is determined by certain 
internal adjustments that are very highly unpleasant, 
giving him the feeling he calls fear and driving him 
to every expedient to get rid of. 

An emotion, then, arises in this way ; the stream 
of consciousness is interrupted by an idea to which 
the attention is forcibly attracted ; this idea is im- 
mediately supplemented by other ideas, and a 
simultaneous association is formed, reflecting a 
scene or situation in the physical world. An 
organism thus brought face to face with a particular 
situation has to meet it by a particular set of 
movements and bodily adjustments which, with the 
corresponding visceral changes, determine the feel- 
ing tone. Feelings pass into emotions with such 
extreme rapidity that it is as impossible, practically, 



88 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OP BEAUTY 

to distinguish between an emotion and a feeling 
as between perception and sensation, but for the 
purpose of discussion, the distinction, if arbitrary, 
is convenient in order to keep the development of 
the emotion in a clear sequence; but it is as doubtful 
whether an adult ever has a pure feeling as it is 
whether he can have a pure sensation. 

Instinctive reaction and emotional expression 
shade imperceptibly into one another. " Every 
object that excites an instinct excites an emotion 
as well." l Emolions are not occasioned merely by 
the perception of certain objects ; they are occa- 
sioned only by occurrences or ideas which run 
counter to or help to further pre-existing tendencies. 
This is obvious enough in the case of the coarser 
emotions the anger of a dog at being deprived 
of a bone involves a pre-existing need or desire 
for food : we can trace the same principle through 
many of even the subtler emotions, and we can 
fairly assume it true of all emotional response, how- 
ever intellectualised the original instinct may have 
become. 

In the case of the higher animals we observe 
similar tendencies to action, bodily movements, &c. ; 
these are usually allowed to proceed unchecked, 
while in human beings governed by reason, the 
action that would naturally follow is commonly 
prevented or modified by the will, in accordance 
with previous experience or reasoned policy. Thus 
it happens that in our own case we attach the 
greater importance to the state of consciousness of 

1 W. James, " Principles of Psychology," vol. ii. p. 442. 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 89 

emotion peculiar to each instinct, and characteristic 
of it, while in the case of animals we notice chiefly 
the resulting actions and movements. The result 
of this is, that it is common to speak of the 
"instinctive actions" of animals, and of the "emo- 
tions" of man as though they were something 
different, whereas they are but two sides of one 
process, the objective and subjective effects of the 
excitement of inherited perceptual dispositions. 
Certainly it is difficult to trace the relations of the 
more subtle or derived emotions to iftstinctive modes 
of action, but even these can by a careful analysis 
and classification with reference to bodily activity 
or tendency to action be shown to have their 
basis in some originally useful instinct. In the case 
of the primary emotions, as in anger, fear, love, 
the relation to instinctive life-preserving action is 
clear enough. 

In order that the bodily system may be in the 
best possible condition for effective exercise of the 
necessary activity, certain adjustments of the 
visceral organs, circulation, respiration, &c., are 
necessary; these adjustments follow, like the bodily 
movements, immediately from the excitement of 
the instinctive conative tendency forming " ser- 
viceable associated habits " to the instinctive 
actions. Since these visceral adjustments cannot, 
or can only to a limited extent, be controlled, while 
the instinctive bodily actions can generally be pre- 
vented or modified, and as they are moreover 
peculiar to, and have a recognisably different feel- 
ing tone for, each form of instinctive impulse, they 



9 o ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OP BEAUTY 

have not unnaturally come to be regarded as 
determining the emotion. 

In the case of emotional excitement that is of a 
very high degree of intensity, there are other specific 
symptoms due to the great amount of nervous energy 
liberated, which then tends to diffuse itself through 
the system. This free nervous energy which sur- 
charges the nervous system tends to escape along 
all efferent channels, and, if too intense, may end 
in convulsions that upset all power of co-ordinated 
movement, and* so prevent the performance of even 
the instinctive actions. If of less intensity, it shows 
itself in the trembling of the muscles, ejaculations, 
cries, screams, weeping, laughter, &c. 

As already remarked, these organic sensations are 
accompanied by certain states of feeling which are 
agreeable or disagreeable, or mixed in every possible 
variety of quality and degree of intensity. Now of 
these two groups, the motor manifestations and 
visceral adjustments on the one hand, the pleasures 
and discomfort on the other, which is fundamental ? 
This has already been discussed with regard to 
simple feeling, and again it must be concluded that 
the feeling of pleasure and displeasure is superficial ; 
the deep element lies in the tendencies, appetites, 
needs, desires, which express themselves in motor 
tendencies, and it is not difficult to conceive the 
whole process passing completely through with no 
sensation of pleasure or pain. 

"These agreeable or painful states are only signs and 
indications; and just as symptoms reveal the existence of 
a disease which must be looked for deeper, so pleasure and 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 91 

its opposite are only the effects which must guide us in the 
search for causes hidden in the region of the instincts." 1 

We need not stop to discuss which of the in- 
stincts is the most primitive or the earliest to be 
developed they are all necessary, or at any rate 
useful, to preservation of life in the individual or 
the race ; butnve can accept the fact that at the 
root of each of the primitive emotions there is an 
instinct or tendency, and that these instinctive de- 
sires and emotions are developed as*life and mental 
power grows more complex, being subdivided and 
recombined in ever varying ways, rising gradually 
from mere unconscious impulses to higher and 
higher intellectual forms, until the early tendencies 
become the highest aspirations of science, art, and 
religion. 

At the base of our intellectual life, the spur to 
further action, as that which gives value to the 
result, lies in some form or other an old instinctive 
craving or tendency born of the struggle for 
existence, all of which are, or were, in some way or 
other useful in determining survival or continua- 
tion of the race some have dropped out, useful 
only in the earliest stages, but still leaving traces 
behind them in rudimentary organs, in curious 
longings and ill-defined wants, in unexpected feel- 
ings of pleasure and delight, or vague dislike and 
discomfort. 

With the development of intellectual power and 
reason, the necessity for instinctive action is replaced 

1 Th. Ribot, " Psychology of the Emotions," p. 3. 



92 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

by a higher and more effective guidance. The old 
desires and tendencies are with the growth of the 
mental power translated into the terms of the ideal, 
always in the direction of leaving the mere physical 
satisfaction as of less importance than their intel- 
lectual counterpart. *Take, for example, the com- 
monest emotion, love ; starting from a simple 
physical impulse, it becomes more and more pene- 
trated with psychical feeling, reaching in the 
average man a fair mixture of organic and psychic 
elements ; becbming again more and more intel- 
lectual, the idea appearing first, being perhaps for 
a long time free of the physiological side finally 
in the latest stage the personal concrete image is 
replaced by a vague impersonal concept, a kind of 
mystical love in which the organic stimulus is so 
slight as often to be denied altogether. 

We have now seen that any physical tendency 
or craving, and the pleasurable feeling that accom- 
panies it, always have their parallel in a corre- 
sponding intellectual process ; an emotion, as we 
have seen, is the accompaniment of an instinctive 
reaction, and can be revived as strongly, or nearly 
as strongly, by an idea of a sensation as by the 
original sensation itself. .We cannot revive an 
emotion we can only remember that we felt glad 
or sorry or pleased ; but by reviving the causes 
in memory we can reproduce a similar but new 
emotion. We found that a pleasurable emotion 
is felt upon due performance of instinctive reaction ; 
and, though originally developed to meet certain 
ends, these ends need not be fulfilled, or even 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 93 

apprehended, in order to produce the pleasurable 
feeling ; consequently the pleasurable means tend 
to become sought as an end in themselves. We see 
this in all the instinctive tendencies : the sportsman 
enjoys his hunting though he does not want the 
quarry ; it is not the thought of preserving the race 
that makes men fall in love ; this reaches an absurd 
exaggeration in the miser who hoards and loves 
the gold, no longer caring for the things which 
make gold desirable. The scientist enjoys his 
research, and pursues it with an almost passionate 
ardour, spurred on by one form of the valuable 
instinct of curiosity which in another shape leads 
a gossip to listen at keyholes. Games are played 
in which the joy and grief come from the old 
instincts of rivalry, fighting, and hunting. We need 
not pursue these illustrations ; we find everywhere 
that keen intellectual enjoyment is possible, rising to 
emotional degrees of intense pleasure or the deepest 
distress, quite apart from the end to be gained. 

In discussing the simple feelings we found that 
there was in all sensations an affective, or feeling, 
tone, that was either pleasurable or the reverse, 
which reached a considerable pitch of intensity 
accompanied by bodily changes, and broadly 
speaking only differed from a full emotion by 
being simpler and less diffuse ; that these feelings 
which determined our likes and dislikes were 
directly traceable to the absolute need for the 
discrimination, and the power to take advantage 
of the conditions surrounding the developing 
organism. It is by these sensations, actual, or 



94 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

revived in idea, and the feeling that accompanies 
them, that we place or name the total emotion, 
and call it higher or lower according to the sense 
involved. The higher are again divided into many 
branches moral, scientific, aesthetic, religious, &c. 
When the total effect due probably to its appeal 
to sensation in the eye or ear, by colour, form, 
rhythmical sound, or movement arouses a parti- 
cular and easily recognisable emotion, always con- 
nected with the beautiful in some form, we call it 
an aesthetic emotion, although the actual intellectual 
process may be similar to that in many other of 
the intellectual pleasures. Emotions, as we now 
experience them, are so complicated that it is 
never possible to say of any particular state of 
feeling that it is only a simple emotion, say of love, 
anger, jealousy, &c. -Love, according to Herbert 
Spencer, is often a compound of physical attrac- 
tion, aesthetic impressions, sympathy, tenderness, 
admiration, self-love, love of approbation, love of 
possession, and desire of liberty ; it is indeed im- 
possible to say in any case how a composite feel- 
ing is constituted. A man in love tinges all his 
feelings with a rich vein of feeling that stimulates 
all the other emotions ; and it is well known that 
the excitement of any one emotion tends to spread 
over the whole life of consciousness, and seeks to 
impart its own colouring to all the elements of 
life indifferent as to whether they are connected 
or not with the original cause, it overflows and 
enhances all the emotional life. Much misunder- 
standing and unnecessary difficulty has been 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 95 

caused in the consideration of the aesthetic emo- 
tion by an attempt to shut it off and treat it as 
though it were a separate whole, whereas it is 
compounded of many branches of the primitive 
emotions, probably, at one time or another, of all 
that the mind has succeeded in raising into the 
intellectual and ideal regions. 

For example, we find it repeatedly stated from 
Aristotle onwards that the characteristic of beauty 
is unity in variety that is to say, that there is a 
feeling of pleasure in being able tc apprehend as 
a whole a number of different objects or ideas. 
The mind or the eye, brought face to face with a 
number of disconnected and apparently different 
facts, ideas, shapes, sounds, or objects, is bothered 
and uneasy ; the moment that some central con- 
ception is offered or discovered by which they all 
fall into order, so that their due relation to one 
another can be perceived and the whole thus 
grasped, there is a sense of relief and pleasure which 
can be very intense. In an earlier stage this may 
be simply the finding of a practical way out of a 
difficult position, and, we may well imagine, need 
not be more than a half-conscious sense aware- 
ness for practical action of the general meaning of 
a particular set of circumstances. This quality of 
the brain would have in the struggle for existence a 
value hardly to be over-estimated ; but whether it is 
the metaphysician reducing the universe to one great 
conception, the man of science discovering a great 
law of nature that reduces the complicated series 
of isolated facts to a single apprehensible unity, 



96 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

an architect who by a careful ordering of parts and 
repeated detail makes a whole of which the complete 
intention can be grasped at once by the eye, or 
the musician working out his complicated series of 
sounds so that an obvious order and arrangement 
can be perceived, the intellectual process is psy- 
chologically the same, and the pleasure that results 
in part is due to this sense of comprehension and in 
part to the feeling tone of the particular sensations 
that are connected with the whole result if aesthetic, 
to sound, formi and colour. The more sensations 
that are appealed to, the richer and more intense 
the corresponding emotion. How intensely plea- 
sant the scientific discovery of a satisfactory proof 
of some theory, or, if we like to call it so, a striking 
case of unity in variety, can be, is well shown by 
stories of scientists, such as that of Sir Humphry 
Davy dancing in his laboratory for joy on making 
some successful experiment. 

If we choose to label this feeling aesthetic when 
it is brought to our notice in connection with cer- 
tain sensations, there is no objection, provided that 
we keep in mind that the fact that pleasure in re- 
cognising unity in variety, or similar qualities, is 
common to many other intellectual pleasures. We 
shall find this equally true of any of the other attri- 
butes assigned to beauty as the cause to which our 
pleasure is due. *They are intellectual pleasures 
common to all branches of mental action deter- 
mined in a particular direction by the peculiar feel- 
ing tone that accompanies pleasing sensations of 
colour, form, &c. 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 97 

Another instinctive feeling that has a far-reaching 
influence, and which plays a larger part than is 
always acknowledged in our enjoyment of works of 
art, is that which may be described as the recog- 
nition instinct, the pleasurable response with which 
we greet something that is known or familiar. In 
the next chapter we discuss this instinct in its primi- 
tive form, in which it appears as a simple life-pre- 
serving faculty. In its more advanced form it is 
shown in all kinds of ways in the desire for the 
accustomed, in home-sickness, in the love of the 
country and place of our childhood ; in any trouble 
or distress it is to the familiar that we turn instinc- 
tively. The feeling of fear or dislike of the new 
or strange is most marked in the ill-educated and 
those wanting in power of reasoning. It is par- 
ticularly noticeable in young children, who are 
afraid of a strange face, cannot sleep in a strange 
bed or in unfamiliar surroundings, dislike a new 
taste or, indeed, any novel sensation ; while the 
simple joy in recognition is very clearly shown in the 
delight with which they acclaim anything that they 
are able to recognise an animal in a picture-book, 
a horse or a cow in a field. It was of obvious im- 
portance to animals developing in a keen struggle 
for existence to have a quick discrimination be- 
tween the safe and the dangerous the environ- 
ment and objects in which they were developed, 
and to suit which they have become adapted ; to 
feel strongly the absence of such, and to have a 
keen feeling of pleasure in the familiar sensations. 

Pleasure in the familiar, of course, involves the 

G 



98 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

converse fear of, or dislike to, the unfamiliar or 
strange, which has to be regarded as, at all events 
possibly, dangerous. This requires some modifi- 
cation, because if all new objects were avoided 
and retreated from as perilous, there could be no 
advance ; so we get a further instinct of curiosity 
and interest in things that are strange. This is 
usually coupled with a considerable degree of 
fear. Watch a dog approaching a piece of news- 
paper caught on the ground and moving in the 
wind ; the cahtious steps, the frequent halts, the 
limbs braced for quick and immediate flight, well 
show the impelling curiosity to investigate over- 
coming the distrust and desire simply to run away. 
We find in ourselves that things sufficiently strange 
cause fear if we cannot in any way understand 
them, as, for example, if we think we see a ghost 
or something uncanny ; as Professor James says, 
there is no one whose heart would not stop beating 
if he suddenly found his chair moving across the 
room without visible cause. In a lesser degree we 
find simple dislike, distrust, or doubt, unless the 
difference from the familiar or the normal is suffi- 
ciently slight to be easily fitted in with previous 
knowledge. A new fashion in clothes must not 
deviate too startlingly from the prevailing habit. 
We are satisfied by the small steps by which we 
pass from one to another. Two fashionably dressed 
people of perhaps fifty years apart will each think 
the other's dress silly and ugly. Any novelty to 
be pleasing must not, as a rule, differ by too large 
a degree from what we are accustomed to. Curio- 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 99 

sity and the need for gaining increased knowledge 
and experience are as necessary for development 
as the safer instinct of avoidance of the unknown. 
This makes, as it were, a compromise a curiosity 
as to anything new, and the acceptance of it 
pleasurably if it does not do more than accen- 
tuate some feature already familiar by habit or 
pleasing by congenital tendency. 

It is to this quality of taking pleasure in the 
familiar that we grow by custom to tolerate, and 
then even to like, something that was initially un- 
pleasant. This does not refer to the formation of 
habit, which involves other considerations, such 
as power of adaptability, &c., but merely of 
the finding pleasure in and feeling the want of 
things that have, as the saying goes, grown dear 
by habit. The same holds good with regard to 
abstract ideas : a new conception of matter, of 
motion, of electricity, a new theory of anything, 
will cause us great pleasure if we can graft it on to 
our previous conceptions of the things, if we can 
accept it without doing violence to any of our pre- 
conceived notions. If, on the other hand, it runs 
counter to, or upsets some cherished belief, we 
either refuse altogether to agree, or we are much 
troubled until we have so succeeded in readjusting 
our views as to take it in. A good illustration of 
this is the position of the orthodox and the prin- 
ciple of evolution. At first the idea was scouted, 
and, as far as possible, its existence ignored ; when 
the proofs became irresistible, and it had to be 
accepted, it was somehow worked into the old 



ioo ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

religious forms, and found not to be incompatible 
with them. 

It is indisputable that this pleasure in recognition 
plays an enormous part in all questions of pleasure 
in art. Many people judge a portrait entirely by 
the degree to which it recalls the subject ; sight- 
seers at a picture gallery are delighted to recognise 
a bit of country or something they know themselves. 
Imitation is the very basis of art work, and appeals 
primarily to this strong instinct that gives such 
pleasure in si'fnple recognition. Of course this 
does not for a moment mean that imitation is the 
end of art it is only the beginning ; but the mere 
fact of the spectator recognising a slightly novel, 
and so pleasing and interpretable, aspect of a 
familiar object, touches an emotional impulse 
which puts him into a favourable and receptive 
condition, thus adding its quota to the effects of 
harmonious colour and line, and all the other 
appeals to emotion which the particular, work of 
art may have. Realism, or the literal presentment 
of the familiar, is a direct appeal to recognition, 
generally with the slight but piquant addition of 
a novel aspect, but not too novel for easy and 
satisfactory adjustment. It should be remembered 
that many a scene or object of striking novelty 
may at the first sight strike home with a wave 
of strong pleasure ; in such cases we may fairly 
assume that it has a direct appeal to some con- 
genital tendency, some inherited faculty that has 
not previously had an opportunity of exercise. 

We shall try to indicate later how this demand 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 101 

for the familiar would lead directly to pleasure in 
symmetry, in balance, proportion, when dealing 
with the simpler instinctive reactions, for an or- 
ganism would naturally crave for the conditions 
to meet which it was developed. 

The emotion of sex is one of the emotions that 
plays a highly important part in art feeling. To 
the person in love everything is beautiful, the whole 
emotional condition is unstable, and can be touched 
off by almost any object, which is then called 
beautiful ; the feelings are irradiated with a joy in 
life, in existence, in everything ; pictures are more 
beautiful, scenery more enchanting, all the feelings 
are strengthened, righteous anger blazes forth, in- 
finite tenderness every function and part of the 
body shares in the all-pervading influence. It is 
impossible to say where the emotional effect begins 
or ends. ^ Those who have renounced love, and 
devoted their lives to religion or art, have still this 
powerful instinct acting as an impelling force, 
though it may take forms in which the direct con- 
nection is difficult to trace. It is perhaps the 
strongest of all the instincts, and in some subtle 
way is probably producing some effect whenever 
any of the other emotions are touched. The in- 
fluence it exerts may be absolutely removed from 
any idea of sex, and of any conscious idea of the 
cause of the general feeling of pleasure. There is 
an exhilarating fascination in talking to, or even 
seeing, a beautiful woman, that is in a way not 
unlike the effect of a work of art. 

There is, of course, a great deal of art work, 



102 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

certainly in the primitive and early forms, that aims 
directly at exciting the sex feelings ; but quite apart 
from this there is in many works of art something 
that does appeal to the intellectual and idealised 
side of love which heightens the general emotional 
effect, the source of which is not consciously 
recognised. 

Another instinctive emotion, which in its later 
form plays a part in the aesthetic feelings, i.s that 
of sympathy. In its primitive form it is a reflex, 
automatic tendency to imitate, in its rudest form. 
According to Bain, it is a tendency to reproduce 
an attitude or bodily movement seen in another. 
We see this tendency illustrated most strongly in 
animals that are gregarious, such as a flock of 
sheep ; we see it in ourselves in a crowd ; in our 
tendency to yawn when seeing another do so ; to 
laugh when others laugh ; in our half-conscious 
movements when we watch a person jumping or 
doing something difficult. There is a story of a 
famous detective who tried to read the thoughts 
and feeling of those he was watching by closely 
imitating their movements ; to what an extent an 
unconscious imitation of frown or a laugh, or more 
elaborate movements, does give the feeling which 
those movements usually accompany, must be within 
the experience of every one. In the early stages of 
life such imitative tendency was, of course, an 
absolute necessity ; the young learnt in this way 
the acquired habits of its race ; it also made pos- 
sible the communication of information. Thus 
arose the power of feeling another person's emotions ; 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 103 

for even if the movements were not actually copied, 
the idea of the sensations that such movements 
would arouse would produce in the person looking 
on a similar if fainter emotion : an actor can rouse 
an audience to tremendous heights of emotion by 
his clever representation of an emotion which he 
can himself hardly help feeling as he goes through 
its usual manifestations. 

The artist can make a spectator feel the emotion 
he wishes by suggesting the outward signs, and the 
person looking can often by carefdl introspection 
actually feel a tendency to copy by muscular 
adjustment the position and movement suggested. 
This form of sympathetic sharing with the pain or 
joy that we see is not primarily an intellectual 
appreciation that can be controlled ; many people 
will as far as possible avoid the spectacle of pain 
and suffering by which they cannot help being 
sympathetically affected ; so that in many cases 
they are impelled by the most selfish motives to 
try and alleviate the pain of others, in order to 
save themselves. When this sense becomes raised 
into the ideal regions, it becomes the motive of 
much of the noblest and most disinterested work of 
humanity, but, like all our instincts, was developed 
simply as a help to the individual and the race. 
* An instinct that plays a very large and important 
part as a motive for actions, and as determining 
pleasure and pain, is that which may be described 
as the assertion of self ; an instinct that is a direct 
outcome of the struggle for existence." When feel- 
ing at any particular moment is determined by the 



104 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

idea of what promotes or hinders self-assertion (self- 
preservation and self-development) it will appear as 
a pleasurable feeling of power or an unpleasant 
sense of powerlessness, according to the degree 
with which we think we have, or have not, at our 
disposal sufficient means of self-assertion. Under 
self-assertion must be included not merely the 
maintenance of physical superiority, but mental 
freedom and power, the sense of making oneself 
felt by others. 1 AVe can easily see in this instinct 
the spur to a l^rge amount of artistic effort, which 
illustrates the desire for self-realisation, the wish to 
impose their own personality on others ; by its 
suggestion of power it is a valuable incentive to 
effective activity ; when exaggerated, it leads to the 
intense egoism that is not infrequently found in 
certain types of artistic genius. 

The creative instinct we deal with subsequently, and 
need not discuss further here, but there are many of 
the minor instincts that will be found adding their 
share to the total aesthetic effect. The desire for 
the approbation or applause of our fellow-men, 
that delightful proof of success in competition, 
direct outcome of the struggle for existence, is no 
mean spur to artistic effort. The sense of owner- 
ship, traceable easily to a valuable instinct, adds a 
strong and subtle charm to any work of art we may 
happen to possess, and most of us are apt to con- 
sider our geese swans. To some people their plea- 
sure in art works is certainly strengthened by the 
feeling that only a few people are really capable of 

1 See H. Hoffding's " Outlines of Psychology," p. 243 (1904). 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 105 

appreciating those particular forms, and a slight 
background of satisfaction in their own cleverness 
adds something to the total enjoyment ; others enjoy 
things, and really enjoy them, because every one 
says they are good. To many people a picture by 
a great artist, music by a great player, the poetry 
of a master, are really far more pleasing and im- 
pressive because they know of the fact. It is not 
uncommon to call this humbug, but it is really a 
perfectly natural result. When brought before a 
work of art or scenery, we, in thfs sophisticated 
age, instead of simply trusting to our feelings, and 
praising or abusing, are too careful of our reputa- 
tions as connoisseurs of art, and we hold our 
emotional feelings in check until we have ration- 
ally and intellectually examined it ; having decided 
that it complies with all the rules, and that it must 
be good, we give rein to our ecstasies, and the 
object then becomes more and more beautiful. If 
we arc approaching the work of an acknowledged 
master our critical functions are in abeyance, and 
we come ready to let the emotions have full play 
unchecked. 

Although a tinge of aesthetic feeling may very 
likely be always at work colouring and influencing 
our thoughts and judgments, it forms, as a rule, an 
indistinguishable part of our general attitude of 
mind, and only when this aspect becomes promi- 
nent do we realise an object as beautiful. The 
amount of such feeling, and the frequency of those 
moments in which it makes itself really obvious, 
vary, of course, according to the individual tern- 



106 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

perament, within very wide limits, but except in those 
of an unusually emotional nature these moments of 
strong aesthetic feeling are not numerous. It is 
at such moments when they do occur that our 
standards of taste at least those that we make our- 
selves, not those that we are merely taught are 
formed ; preferences and likings thus felt as distinct 
and massive emotions will remain, forming pre- 
judices and standards by which other beauties will 
in future be judged. A period of life in which 
there has been^u free play of the emotional faculties 
may be, for many, the time in which, as far as 
the fine arts and poetry are concerned, their stock 
of opinions and taste is formed for life; and, since 
they are probably never so deeply moved again, 
they remain convinced that no other and no later 
beauties can ever really compare with those, of 
which they still cherish the recollection, though 
these very likely only owe their supreme attraction 
to the especially propitious moment in which they 
were first seen. 

It is not necessary to discuss in further detail 
all the varieties of different emotions and feelings 
that may play a part one time or another in the 
complex total of the pleasing frame of mind pro- 
duced by some effect of beauty. -- Enough has been 
said to show that a great part of what is commonly 
described as the aesthetic emotion is made up of 
feelings that are common to all phases of life, with 
their natural basis in instincts that have, or had in 
their original form, a value in the struggle for 
existence. The feeling becomes aesthetic when, in 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 107 

addition to the intellectual delight due to associa- 
tion, suggestion, &c., there is a diffuse feeling of 
general pleasure from the direct sensuous appeal 
to the eye or ear a pleasure which we are able 
to consider as due to some quality of the object 
independent of ourselves, and detached from im- 
mediate advantage or utility ; that is, it must not be 
dependent for its effect upon the conscious recog- 
nition of its practical utility. 

^Emotion, then, is simply a state of feeling ren- 
dered more complex by the addition of numerous 
ideational factors. We have already seen that in the 
earliest stage of life there is a simple motor response 
to stimulus, that this response becomes more ela- 
borate ; at some period the adjustment to external 
stimulus is accompanied by a feeling of pleasure 
and pain, i.e. consciousness, and that presumably 
this must be at a fairly early stage ; then the re- 
action is guided by previous experience, i.e. memory, 
and this no doubt synchronises with as it makes 
possible mental action, not in the form of reason- 
ing, but by utilising the successful results of trial and 
error in sense experience. We can easily suppose 
that the gradual differentiation of organs, with their 
specific sense feelings and consequent power of dis- 
crimination, was of great survival value, and would 
consequently tend by natural selection to be in- 
creased and strengthened. From the process we 
find that certain sense organs eye and ear (chiefly) 
respond with an accompaniment of sense feeling, 
pleasurable or the reverse, to colours simple and 
in combination, to harmony in sound, to rhythm ; 



io8 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

and that in these things there is a choice, i.e. one 
is preferred as pleasant, that presumably this power 
of discrimination must have been advantageous in 
the conditions that surrounded life in an early stage. 
This feeling response is the cause of our aesthetic 
preferences, however complicated by other issues, 
and is the fundamental problem in the inquiry into 
the sense of beauty. How could such reactions 
have been of use to the primitive organisms ? The 
reasons of our likes and dislikes in the other senses 
are obvious endugh. The sense of taste grew from 
the need to discriminate between wholesome and 
unwholesome food the animal or organism that 
could not distinguish such was naturally eliminated ; 
a moderate degree of warmth, with its pleasant 
sensation, was obviously a useful thing for the 
organism to desire ; a feeling of thirst impelled a 
search for the necessary liquid, instead of waiting 
to die for the want of it ; and so on, in all our 
feelings, all our instinctive cravings and longings, 
we see clearly and easily how the all-impelling need 
of survival or perpetuation of species lies at the 
bottom of the pleasant or unpleasantness of the 
feelings aroused by an object. 

The aesthetic pleasures are deeply ingrained and 
strongly felt ; there is hardly any phase or part of 
life that is exempt from their influence, either in 
increasing our pleasure, or, on the other hand, de- 
tracting from our enjoyment; the delight of the 
eye and the charm of the ear are all pervasive. 
Can we, in the face of the obviously innate char- 
acter of this instinctive reaction, accept the view 



EMOTIONS AND INSTINCTS 109 

that it is of a secondary or derived source, and 
not an original factor in the struggle for existence ? 

We have already given reasons for the assertion 
that some explanation is required that will suggest 
in what directions such faculties could have been 
of direct utility even in the earliest stages of life, 
and that therefore we should be able to find in 
quite primitive organisms certain reactions or in- 
stinctive activities that by a process of differentia- 
tion and development could ultimately determine 
aesthetic feeling, as far as the simple'sense response 
to harmonies of colour, line, and sound are con- 
cerned. 

In the next chapter, therefore, the origin and 
growth of instincts is discussed, especially with 
regard to the earliest forms in which they show 
themselves, in order to make some suggestions upon 
this point. 



CHAPTER V 

THE ORIGIN OF INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 

IN discussing sensations and the feelings that 
accompany them, allusion was made to the fact 
that the naturfe of the feeling, pleasurable or the 
reverse, or, if we prefer to call it so, the sense of 
like or dislike, arises ultimately from the relation 
between the organism and the object causing the 
stimulus. It now becomes necessary to examine 
in more detail the origin of this instinctive re- 
sponse, in order to see how the various reflex 
actions gradually arose, and how, as they became 
more complex, they developed into various in- 
stinctive series of actions, forming the mass of 
tendencies, desires, aversions, impulses, &c., which 
form the basis of the life of feeling and emotion. 
It has already been pointed out that we ought 
to find aesthetic taste, i.e. appreciation of colour, 
form, rhythm, arising from the same sort of primi- 
tive, perhaps preconscious, affinities for favour- 
able reactions ; just as those of taste, which are a 
criterion of suitable food. 

The simplest living matter, a mass of protoplasm, 
has the quality generally described as irritability 
that is to say, it is capable of responding to a 
stimulus by contraction, and thus can withdraw, 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES in 

in whole or in part, from a hurtful object or move 
towards a suitable one. From this irritability 
or sensibility arise reflex actions. < A reflex is a 
reaction in which certain co-ordinated movements^ 
follow directly upon an external stimulus ; such as 
the involuntary closing of the eye at the approach 
of a foreign body. The most cursory examination 
of reflex actions at once brings into prominence 
the purposive and useful character of the great 
majority of them. The closing of the eye when 
an object approaches it, and the narrowing of the 
pupil in a strong light, are well adapted to pre- 
serve the delicate mechanism from harm. So well 
planned and co-ordinated are the movements, that 
it seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that they 
are guided by intelligence. This idea is, however, 
incompatible with the fact, to which attention has 
already been drawn, that the existence of the brain 
is not necessary for their due performance. It has 
been maintained that reflex actions, and, conse- 
quently, the more complicated instinctive perfor- 
mances, must be considered as the mechanical 
effects of acts of volition in previous generations. 
For any explanation of this kind it is necessary that 
there should be some place where the mechanical 
effects could be stored up, for the nerve-fibres must 
be regarded merely as conductors. Reflex actions 
have therefore been regarded as a fruitful basis for 
the analysis of the functions of the central nervous 
system, and great attention has been devoted to the 
underlying processes and mechanism. In spite of 
very divergent theories as to the actual method, 



ii2 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the ganglion cells have been widely accepted as 
the principal source and agent of the compli- 
cated movements in reflex action among the lower 
animals. 

The assumption that the possession of a central 
nervous system was essential for the production 
of reflex action has been challenged by Professor 
Loeb, who was led to doubt the correctness of 
this theory by the fact that in the case of certain 
reactions, such as that to light, the process was 
identical in aftimals and plants ; and as plants 
certainly do not have a central nervous system, it 
was obvious that such phenomena as, for example, 
the heliotropic movement towards light, had to be 
attributed to some conditions common both to 
plants and animals. Professor Loeb, by a series 
of ingenious experiments, showed that neither the 
ganglion cells nor a central nervous system were 
necessary for the production of reflex actions. 
Certain difficulties arose in the proof of this ; for 
the well-known fact had to be met that in many 
cases destruction of the ganglion cells does in- 
terrupt the reflex process. But this objection 
is not sound, because in the higher animals the 
nervous reflex arc forms the only protoplasmic 
bridge between the sensory organs of the surface 
of the body and the muscles, so that in such cases, 
if the ganglion cells or the central nervous system 
be destroyed, the continuity of the protoplasmic 
conduction between the surface of the body and 
the muscles is interrupted, and a reflex is no longer 
possible. A further objection has been raised that 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 113 

although these reflexes do occur in plants with 
no central nervous system, yet in animals the very 
existence of ganglion cells necessitates in them 
special reflex mechanism. It was therefore neces- 
sary to find out if there were not animals in which 
co-ordinated reflexes still continued to exist after 
the destruction of the central nervous system. 
Professor Loeb experimented upon certain worms 
and ascidians, in which, in addition to the trans- 
mission through the reflex arc, there is direct 
transmission of stimuli from the' skin to the 
muscles, and succeeded in demonstrating in Ciona 
intestinalis that the complicated reflexes still con- 
tinue after the removal of the central nervous 
system. 1 It is impossible here to give details, but 
the result of the various experiments brings out 
clearly the fact that irritability and conductibility 
are the only qualities essential to reflexes, and 
these are both common qualities of all protoplasm. 
But although the ganglion cells or the central 
nervous system are not the bearers of reflex 
mechanism, they are of immense help to the 
organism. Their value lies in the fact that they 
are quicker and more sensitive conductors than 
simple protoplasm. By means of these nerves 
and their qualities, an animal is better and more 
quickly able to adapt itself to changing condi- 
tions ; this adaptability is particularly necessary 
for animals that are capable of moving from one 
place to another. 

It is not uncommon to find instincts explained as 

1 " Comparative Physiology of the Brain," Professor Loeb, p. 5 (1900). 

H 



n 4 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the result of a psychical process, while leaving 
reflex actions on the simpler plane of physiological 
reaction. The instincts appear so purposeful and 
so complicated that it seems as if nothing short of 
intelligence and experience could have produced 
them that one generation must have discovered 
by skill or by chance the way of doing things, and 
that this is then perpetuated by practice and handed 
down by inheritance. This is the so-called tf lapsed 
intelligence " theory of their origin. Instinct is, ac- 
cording to Wlindt, inherited habit. 

"We may, accordingly, explain the complex instincts as 
developed forms of originally simple impulses which have 
gradually differentiated more and more in the course of 
numberless generations, through the gradual accumulation 
of habits which have been acquired by individuals and then 
transmitted. Every single habitual act is to be regarded as 
a stage in this psychical development." 1 

This theory requires for its acceptance not only 
belief in the inheritability of acquired characteristics, 
but also in a perfectly incredible degree of intel- 
ligence and foresight in animals comparatively 
low in the scale. The Sitaris muralis beetle, for 
example, lays its eggs close to the nests of the 
anthophora, a hymenopterous insect that lays up a 
store of honey in a small excavated chamber in 
the ground, in which it places its egg. The young 
sitarisj as soon as it emerges from the egg, seizes 
hold of the first male anthophora that comes near 
enough, hanging to the hairs on its thorax ; passes 
from him to the female ; and, when the latter lays 

1 Wundt, " Principles of Psychology," p. 319 (1907). 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 115 

her egg in the prepared chamber, drops exactly on 
to the egg, which floats on the honey. It must fall 
exactly at the right moment, as it would perish if 
it fell into the honey. It then eats the egg, after 
which it develops digestive powers enabling it to 
eat honey, which it could not assimilate before. It 
then occupies the cell, and turns finally into the 
perfect insect. As all these operations are only 
performed once in the life of each individual, there 
seems no possibility for the formation of habits. 
Similarly in the case of a fly, which lays its eggs 
on the right substance to provide food for its young, 
and upon that only, it cannot have formed the habit 
by noticing the success of the experiment, for no 
attention whatever is paid to the eggs after they are 
once deposited. It is inconceivable how any kind 
of intelligence could lead even to a comparatively 
simple action of this kind. 

But, however the actions were originally de- 
termined, it seems very hard to understand how 
they can be inherited and carried on without some 
central structure of a mysterious and marvellous 
nature, and that this can only be located in some 
such form as the ganglion cells. If these are only 
to be taken as more efficient conductors of stimuli, 
what explanation is there left ? Professor Loeb 
answers this question very ingeniously, pointing 
out how difficult it is to make a satisfactory theory 
of the mechanism of instincts, or explain their 
inheritance on the assumption of stored up 
memories. 

Among the elements that go to make up these 



ii6 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

complicated instincts are certain simple reactions 
of the whole organism, or tropisms (heliotropism, 
chemotropism, geotropism, stereotropism), which 
play a part of great importance. Their action 
depends upon the specific irritability of certain 
elements of the body-surface, and secondly upon 
the relations of symmetry of the body. When the 
elements at the surface of the body are symmetrical, 
they have the same degree and kind of irritability ; 
it can further be easily shown by experiment that 
those near th& oral pole (or the mouth and head) 
possess a higher degree of irritability or sensibility 
than those at the aboral pole. This will obviously 
result in an animal orienting itself towards a source 
of stimulation in such a way that the symmetrical 
points are stimulated equally. Thus the animal is 
led either to, or away from, the source of stimulus 
without any will of its own. All that the ganglion 
cells have to do is to conduct the stimulus. For 
the inheritance of these instinctive reactions, it is, 
then, only necessary that the egg should contain 
the substance for determining the different tropisms, 
i.e. particular sensibility to light, heliotropism ; re- 
action to one particular chemical stimulus, chemo- 
tropism ; and so on, as well as the conditions for 
producing bilateral symmetry. 

For example, the right substance to feed the larva 
would set up a chemical action in the fly leading to 
a series of actions ending in the deposit of the eggs ; 
only that substance would have the effect, and only 
when owing to the internal conditions the organs 
were ripe for egg deposition. 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 117 

We might quite well use the expression that the 
fly likes the particular substance and chooses it, so 
that here we have a case of apparent selection and 
preference, which would be correctly described as 
unconscious chemical affinity : we may suppose 
something of the kind as the origin of our likes 
and dislikes. 

It is not possible to draw any real distinction 
between reflexes and instincts, but in common 
language the word reflex is used when there action 
of a single part or organ of an animal is referred to, 
while instinctive is applied to the movement of the 
animal as a whole. 

The question of spontaneous movements must 
be considered, z.e. those which are apparently de- 
termined by internal conditions. These can be 
divided into rhythmically spontaneous or automatic 
processes, such as respiration and the beating of 
the heart, and a periodic spontaneous movement. 
It has been proved beyond doubt that automatic 
activity can, in the case of respiratory movements, 
arise in the ganglion cells, and from this the con- 
clusion has been drawn that all automatic move- 
ments are due to specific structures of the nervous 
centre. Recent investigations by Professor Loeb 
have, however, shown that this question is really 
one of the chemical condition of the tissue, and 
by changing these conditions the properties also 
alter. 

" If in the muscles of the skeleton the Na ions be in- 
creased and the Ca ions reduced, the muscles are able to 
contract rhythmically like the heart. It is only the pre- 



n8 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

sence of Ca ions in the blood which prevent the muscles 
of our skeleton from beating rhythmically in our body." 1 

Another character noticed in automatic move- 
ments is their high degree of co-ordination, which 
seems to require a centre, as it were, of co-ordination 
to keep them all moving in the right order. Ex- 
periments on the lower animals show clearly enough 
that the co-ordination of automatic movements is 
caused by the fact that the element that beats most 
quickly forces % the others to beat in its own rhythm. 

The problem as to the exact moment in the pro- 
cess of development at which psychic or conscious 
processes appear has given rise to endless contro- 
versy. Are we to consider obvious purposefulness 
of action a proof of presenter past psychic activity ? 
Because an animal responds, under particular cir- 
cumstances, very much as the observer would, judg- 
ing from his reason, expect it to, are we to consider 
it necessarily conscious ? Many instinctive reac- 
tions of a distinctly purposeful type occur in the 
vegetable kingdom, especially noticeable in the fly- 
catching plants and some of the climbers : shall we, 
then, attribute consciousness to them ? 

If we cannot say definitely at what moment con- 
sciousness is first present, we can at least point to 
the moment at which it first begins to be of any 
value to the organism ; and in view of the extreme 
economy of natural process, it is not unreasonable 
to assume that it is not present until the time that 
it can be of advantage to its possessor. 

As soon as an organism reaches a sufficient 

1 Professor Loeb, op. cit.^ p. 10. 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 119 

degree of development, a mechanism is produced 
by which a stimulus brings about not only the 
effects which its nature and the .specific nature 
of the sensitive organ call for, but by which the 
effects of other previous stimuli have an effect 
in modification or adaptation of the present re- 
action that is to say, when there is the possi- 
bility of memory, and with it the power of asso- 
ciation. If an animal can feel a sensation, but 
has no memory of it, the fact of feeling it is not 
of the slightest value as regards conscious direc- 
tion of future actions. All previous sensations 
are non-existent, and they can have no effect 
upon other actions of the organism. We may, 
therefore, with some plausibility infer that memory 
and consciousness arise together. If an animal, 
however low in the scale, can in the smallest 
degree be trained, if it can adapt its reaction to 
a stimulus by means of its experience, it possesses 
associative memory. We must make a careful 
distinction here, as it seems probable that effects 
of stimuli can, even in plants, be stored up and 
effect subsequent action. Professor Darwin l calls 
attention to an interesting example. The leaflets 
of the Scarlet-runner are more or less horizontal 
during the day and sink down at night, the change 
being due to the alternations of day and night. 
If the plant be kept in a dark room, it will con- 
tinue for a time to make the same movements. 
We may well imagine that in some such power 
as this of the cells to store up, by some change 

1 Address to British Association, 1908. 



120 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

in their physiological condition, and repeat sub- 
sequently a movement without the stimulus, lies 
the germ of what will afterwards become memory 
and consciousness. 

The point as to exactly at what stage organisms 
show a power of adaptation and of learning by 
experience has given rise to some difference of 
opinion. For example, Professor Albrecht Bethe 1 
maintains that psychical life begins with the verte- 
brates ; that the invertebrates are endowed with 
no sensations, accumulate no experience, and 
therefore show no modification of action ; that 
they are automata, reacting mechanically to stimuli 
which never pass the limen of sense perception. 
He goes on to describe some experiments upon 
ants as to the recognition of members of the nest, 
the conclusion come to being that each has its own 
"nest substance/ 1 a volatile chemical substance 
alike for all members of the nest, and produced by 
the individual insect. The reaction to " familiar'' 
and " unfamiliar " nest substance is connate, not 
acquired. A similar inquiry into the mechanism 
of "homing" shows that ants leave upon their 
path a volatile chemical slot, which is polarised, 
i.e. differs according to the direction of the ant 
whether to or from the nest. The slot is "re- 
ceived" through the antennae, and releases the 
"to" and "from" movements reflexly. 

1 " Durfen wir den Ameisen und Bienen psychische Qualitaten 
Zuschreiben ? " Albrecht Bethe> Pfliigers. Archiv. /. d. ges. Physio- 
logie, Ixx. I and 2, 1898. The above is taken from a review in Mind, 
July 1898. 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 121 

On the other hand, Professor H. S. Jennings 1 
tries to prove that simple reactions and tropisms 
are not sufficient to account for the actions of even 
the unicellular organisms ; that, on the contrary, 
they work by a system of trial and error ; and that 
this leads upward, offering at every point oppor- 
tunity for development, and showing even in uni- 
cellular organisms what must be considered the 
beginnings of intelligence, and of many other 
qualities found in higher animals. f He describes 
one of his experiments upon Stentor, one of the 
Infusoria : 

" Stentor docs not continue reacting strongly to a stimu- 
lus that is not injurious, but after a time, when such 
stimulus is repeated, it ceases to react, or reacts in some 
less pronounced way than at first. To an injurious stimu- 
lus, on the other hand, it does continue to react, but not 
throughout in the same manner. When such stimulus is 
repeated, Stentor tries various different ways of reacting to 
it. If the result of reacting by bending to one side is not 
successful, it tries reversing the ciliary current, then con- 
tracting into its tube, <S:c. This is clearly the method of 
trial and error passing into the method of intelligence, but 
the intelligence only lasts very short periods.'' 

It is difficult to see in the above and similar 
experiments a real proof of consciousness or the 
use of intelligence ; in the first place, it is difficult 
to be quite sure that the effect of fatigue in pro- 
ducing modification of subsequent reactions has 
been fully allowed for ; even a piece of elastic 

1 Contribution to the Study of the Behaviour of the Lower Or- 
ganisms, 1904. 



122 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

ceases to produce exactly the same response after 
frequently repeated stretching ; and also it is ob- 
vious that response to stimuli must vary if there is 
to be any sort of development ; again, it is ex- 
tremely difficult to insure that the successive 
stimuli are identical. It is not indeed difficult to 
find a parallel in the inorganic world say, for 
example, a small log of wood caught in the vortex 
of a waterfall, by which it is being repeatedly 
drawn back into the centre ; it looks as though it 
were trying to escape, it continually dives and 
reappears in different places ; at last, owing to some 
slight and imperceptible change in the volume of 
water, it just manages to catch the outgoing current, 
and sails off in triumph down stream an obvious 
case of trial and error. But we do not expect the 
log of wood to profit by the experience, and get 
away more quickly next time ; so with Stentor, he 
must be shown to be able to profit by his experi- 
ence. Professor Jennings, however, feels sure that 
the results are not due to motor fatigue, as in most 
cases he found the acclimatising process seemed to 
occur too rapidly to make fatigue of the motor 
apparatus probable. The most natural analogy to 
the phenomenon in our own experience is sensory 
adaptation, such as we find, for instance, in the fact 
that a moderate weight laid on the skin ceases after 
a time to be felt. 1 This would amount to the 
gradual disappearance of sensation in response to 
repeated stimulus, and we need not suppose this to 
be accompanied by any conscious psychical process. 

1 "The Animal Mind." M. F. Washburn (1908). 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 123 

By careful experiment to see whether an organ- 
ism is affected by previous or almost simultaneous 
stimuli, as the interval may in the early stages be 
presumed to be very short, it can be shown 1 that 
Infusoria, Ccelenterates, and worms do not possess 
a trace of associative memory, though certain in- 
sects, such as wasps 2 undoubtedly do have the 
power of recalling and making use of previous 
experience. If, then, we can regard consciousness 
merely as a name for phenomena due to the pre- 
sence of associative memory, we have a criterion 
which settles, or makes it possible to settle, the 
metaphysical problem as to whether all matter, or 
at least the whole animal kingdom, possesses con- 
sciousness. At all events, it settles it as a practical 
question. 

There is ample evidence that only certain species 
of animals possess associative memory, and there- 
fore consciousness, and that it appears in them only 
after reaching a certain degree in their advance ; 
for associative memory depends upon mechanical 
arrangements that are only present after a certain 
stage of development has been reached. This view 
is strongly supported by the fact that certain verte- 
brates lose all power of associative memory after 
the destruction of the cerebral hemispheres, and 
thus are deeply affected in all their actions by such 
an operation, while those vertebrates in which asso- 
ciative memory does not exist, or is only slightly 
developed, such as the shark or frog, do not differ 

1 Professor Loeb, op. cit., p. 13. 

4t Wasps, Social and Solitary." Peckham (1905). 



124 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

in their behaviour, or do so very slightly, after 
losing the cerebral hemispheres. 

Professor Loeb suggests that the fact that only 
certain animals possess the necessary mechanical 
arrangements for associative memory, and there- 
fore for metaphysical consciousness, is not stranger 
than the fact that only certain animals possess the 
mechanical arrangements for uniting the rays from 
a luminous point in one point on the retina, i.e. 
ability to see colour and distinguish the position 
and relation of objects. 

As has been already pointed out, we are in the 
habit of calling an action instinctive when the 
whole animal responds to a stimulus, while we 
call it a reflex action when one organ or a group 
of organs respond. This distinction is, of course, 
purely conventional. It is true that in a majority 
of cases the actions which we call instinctive, 
although unconscious, are adapted to an end, often 
a distant one. A fly acts instinctively in depositing 
its eggs on a suitable material ; we can regard this 
as a series of actions due to purely chemical 
stimulus ; the particular object that is suitable as 
food sets up a chemical change that results in the 
set of actions ending in the deposit of eggs. But 
utility or purpose is not sufficient to distinguish 
instinctive from reflex actions, for many simple 
reflex actions are obviously useful the action of 
the eye for instance while some instinctive actions, 
such as the flying of a moth into a flame, can 
hardly be said to be purposefully useful. In many 
cases a complicated instinct, such as that of the 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 125 

Sitaris beetle mentioned above, is merely a chain of 
comparatively simple reflexes, each one of which 
is the stimulus which calls forth the next. 

To explain the cause of the moth flying into the 
flame, we have only to suppose that the moth is 
positively heliotropic, a quality that is common, of 
course, in plants, which, according to common 
language, love, or grow, towards the light. If we 
suppose the stem of such a plant placed near a 
window, the light will strike it from one side ; a con- 
traction of protoplasm on that side*follows, and a 
greater resistance to increase is offered, the result 
of which is that the stem becomes concave on the 
side next the light ; as soon as the bending has 
gone a sufficient distance, the stem comes into a 
straight line with the rays of light, the stimulus is 
then even on all sides, and the growing stem con- 
tinues in this line. In the same way, if a moth be 
struck by the rays of a light from any direction, the 
increased activity of the muscles on one side turns 
the head towards the light, and as soon as the moth 
becomes directly in a straight line towards the 
source of light the stimulation is equal on both 
sides, and there is no reason why the animal should 
turn more to one side than the other ; thus it is led 
to the light, and animals that move quickly, such as 
moths, get into the flame before the heat of the 
flame has time to stop them. Slower animals are 
checked, and walk or fly slowly about the flame. 
(The heliotropism, no doubt in the usual course, 
takes the moth straight to the white flower, in 
which it will find its food.) Thus, given the 



126 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

structure and peculiar irritability of the peripheral 
organs, nothing more is required than the chemical 
influence of light. That is to say that the so-called 
instinct is really no more necessary in the case of 
the moth than in the case of the heliotropic plants. 
As plants do not possess a central nervous system, 
there is no reason to suppose that similar action in 
animals are in any way more dependent upon a 
specific structure of the central nervous system. 
The natural inference is that they are determined 
by properties 'common both to animals and plants, 
such properties being : First, the possession of a 
substance on their surface which, undergoing a 
chemical change when subjected to the influence 
of light, produces changes of tension in the con- 
tractile tissue; secondly, they must possess sym- 
metry of form, with its corresponding distribution 
of irritability. These two completely determine 
the heliotropic reaction. No doubt it may be 
shown that, in certain cases, by the destruction of 
the central nervous system this reaction ceases ; 
but this is due to the fact that the connection 
between the skin or the eyes, which are affected by 
the light and the muscles, is interrupted. 

A large number of the lower animals, especially 
among the insects, worms, &c., have the habit of 
crawling into cracks and crevices. This is generally 
interpreted as an instinct which thus drives them 
to seek safety by hiding, and so escaping the 
notice of their pursuers. That it does have the 
effect of preserving them, and that the instinct was 
therefore developed and stereotyped, is obvious 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 127 

enough; but the theory that it is done by an 
instinct of self-concealment, with a special centre 
to guide them, is clearly untenable in view of the 
following ingenious experiments by Professor Loeb. 1 
He took a number of Amphipyra, a peculiar species 
of butterfly that is a fast runner, and, if allowed to 
go, runs about until it finds a corner or a crack 
into which it can creep. These were placed in a 
box, half of which was covered with glass, the 
other with an opaque sheet ; the bottom of the box 
was covered with small glass plates resting on glass 
blocks, raised just enough to allow an Amphipyra 
to creep beneath. The Amphipyra at once col- 
lected under the little glass plates, where they 
were in close contact with the solid bodies on 
every side, not, as might be expected, in the dark 
corner, but in the fully-lighted part, and even when 
exposed to the direct sunlight, although their hiding 
places were quite transparent ; showing the same 
alacrity in getting into the small holes when the 
whole box was quite dark, in all cases they were 
only satisfied, and remained at rest, when they 
could feel the pressure or close contact of some 
solid body all round, but quite unconcerned that 
the shelter was perfectly transparent and did not 
hide them in any way self-concealment had 
clearly nothing to do with it. The same pheno- 
mena exactly occurred in the case of certain sea 
worms ; for example, if an equal number of Nereis 
and small glass tubes are placed in a dish of sea 
water, in a short time a Nereis will be found in 
1 #/.?., p. 184. 



128 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

every tube, this occurring even in direct sunlight, 
which actually kills the worms in the transparent 
tubes. Professor Loeb explains it in this way, as 
another example of a simple tropism : 

" Many plants and animals are forced to orient their 
bodies in a certain way toward solid bodies with which 
they come in contact. I have given this kind of irritability 
the name of stereotropism. Like the positive and nega- 
tive heliotropism and geotropism, there is also a positive 
and negative stereotropism, and there are also stereotropic 
curvations. I bave found, for instance, that when a Tubu- 
laria is brought in contact with a solid body, the polyp and 
the growing tip bend away from the body, while the stolon 
sticks to it. The polyp is negatively stereotropic, and the 
stolon positively stereotropic. Stereotropism plays a very 
important part in the processes of pairing and the formation 
of organs. The tendency of many animals to creep into 
cracks and crevices has nothing to do with self-conceal- 
ment, but only the necessity of bringing the body on every 
side in contact with solid bodies." l 

It is obvious that in natural condition it would 
be quite sufficient to feel something all round in 
order to provide concealment from observation 
and protection from light, the chance of finding 
transparent bodies being too remote to cause any 
important effect in the development of this life- 
preserving instinct ; similarly, in the case of the 
moth, lamps and flames not being found in nature, 
the instinct for avoiding this difficulty was not re- 
quired. It is again interesting to note the economy 
of nature, the way in which these tropisms are 
exactly fitted to the particular environment, and 

1 " The Comparative Physiology of the Brain " (1905), p. 184. 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 129 

only for that, the results being accomplished by 
the smallest possible means. 

This reaction to solid bodies or stereotropism, 
instead of a central instinct of self-concealment, 
has been further confirmed by experiments on 
worms that have been cut into pieces. 

A most interesting case of a preservative instinct 
is shown in the case of some of the caterpillars. 
The larvae of Porthesia chrysorrhea come out of 
their eggs in the autumn, and pass the winter in 
small colonies in a nest on trees of shrubs. In 
the spring, as soon as the sun is warm, they come 
out and crawl up the branches of the tree or shrubs 
to the tip where the first buds are just appearing ; 
when they have eaten them they then crawl down 
to the new buds and leaves, which by that time will 
be appearing in large numbers to crawl down at 
first would mean starvation. 

This seems at first to offer a difficulty why, if 
these caterpillars were positively heliotropic, and so 
tended to go up to the light and thus reach the 
buds, should they not be kept there, and so starve ? 
Professor Loeb made careful experiments upon 
them, and found that the larvae when first awakened 
from their winter sleep by the warmth of the sun 
are positively hellotropic, but only until they have 
taken food. The positive heliotropism must take 
them upwards, since in the diffused light out of 
doors the horizontal rays will neutralise each other, 
leaving the vertical ones to effect their full influ- 
ence. As soon as the caterpillars have eaten food, 
the chemical changes set up result in a complete 

I 



i 3 o ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

loss of positive heliotropism. Here again is appa- 
rent the extreme simplicity that underlies what at 
first sight seems a complicated instinct. 

With the appearance of associative memory we 
find the same instinctive reactions, but they are 
modified by previous experience and performed 
with more ease and accuracy from practice, the 
action becoming more and more complicated as 
intelligence slowly develops, and is able more and 
more to modify and adapt the instinctive impulses 
until in man we are left with a rich store, not of 
a series of instinctive actions, but of tendencies, 
desires, cravings, &c., which are the literal counter- 
part of the simple tropisms. Man by the use of 
reasoning power is able to conceive the end in 
view, and uses his intelligence to gratify his likes 
and dislikes, or to produce the most useful method 
of meeting a situation or difficulty. 

The reason for which this question of primitive re- 
flex action and the central nervous system has been 
treated in some detail should now be made apparent. 

From the foregoing statement it is abundantly 
clear that, from the earliest protoplasmic cell, living 
matter has the quality of sensibility, or we may 
describe it, a tendency to, or away from, any source 
of stimulation according to the object, i.e. whether 
it is suitable or the reverse. It is in this choice of 
the suitable, as opposed to the unsuitable, that pro- 
gress lies, the struggle for existence being always 
at work picking out the slight variations in struc- 
ture, or chemical constituency, and so on, that are 
pf use tp the organism, Thus we see that one of 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 131 

the earliest of all qualities to be developed is that 
of taste, the selection of suitable food, suitable posi- 
tion, &c. ; this would be, in the early stages, pro- 
bably devoid of consciousness, but at a certain 
point of development we have seen that conscious- 
ness appears, and presumably with it the sensation 
or feeling of pleasure or of discomfort. We have 
already seen that pleasure and pain are to be con- 
sidered as symptoms and not causes. *We must 
therefore accept the conclusion that l^ke and dislike 
are not originally determined by pleasure or the 
reverse, but that our likes and dislikes are the 
present forms of originally necessary reactions 
formed by physico-chemical reflexes which drew 
the organism towards the wholesome or suitable, 
or away from the dangerous or unsuitable. 

Now what is the bearing of this upon aesthetic 
sensibility ? We have already come to the con- 
clusion that, however far we analyse our feelings 
for beautiful things, and whatever explanations we 
can offer, we are finally brought down to the fact 
that at the bottom as a basis there are our simple 
likes and dislikes. Even if we are satisfied with 
an explanation that traces the rise of art and the 
aesthetic activity to social use and a secondary 
utility developed at a comparatively late stage in 
the struggle for existence, we are still left with the 
difficulty of accounting for the fact that we have 
an innate sensuous pleasure in certain combina- 
tions of colour, sound, or form ; in rhythm, balance, 
symmetry, and so on, which is previous to, and 
independent of, intellectual appreciation. Obviously 



I 3 2 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

these qualities must have been, in the early stages 
at which the basis of our likes and dislikes were 
developed, in the position of determining a tend- 
ency towards (like) or appetition for the suitable, 
favourable or necessary, and away from (dislike) 
the unsuitable or dangerous. 

Of all the factors that determined survival in 
the early stages, suitability to environment was the 
most important, and the greater part of the energies 
of the organism were devoted to finding a suitable 
surrounding, or of adapting itself to that in which 
it was placed. It would often happen that the 
conditions, temperature, direct sunlight, degree of 
dampness, and so on, or the environment itself, 
would change somewhat gradually, so that the 
organism that varied in the direction of a more 
delicate sensibility or a quicker reaction would be 
at an advantage in getting the first intimation of 
an unfavourable change ; the same sensibility would, 
if the animals were moving, give the earlier indica- 
tion of, or detect from a greater distance, suitable 
conditions, i.e. conditions which were so to speak 
in harmony with the organism. The animal with 
the more delicate sense would begin to make what- 
ever movements or exertions it was capable of, 
directly there was some adverse change in its 
surroundings, while the slower would simply prove 
the alteration for the worse by dying. 

Again, to all the animal kingdom, from the uni- 
cellular amoeba to early man, the familiar is the 
safe, and the unknown or unfamiliar dangerous. 
An organism developed in a certain environment 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 133 

is inevitably provided with certain tendencies or in- 
stincts, and with the necessary structure to suit the 
particular conditions; obviously then it is of immense 
value to have some means by which a preconscious 
animal, with no memory or intelligence by which to 
recognise the right environment, would, so to speak, 
feel its surroundings, which it would do probably 
by simply coming to, and remaining at rest in, the 
habitual and therefore suitable environment. 

The same line of reasoning applies to external 
objects, and, as the animal rising in the scale of 
development increases in activity and power of 
movement, becomes of still more importance ; the 
known, the easily recognised, is safe, while generally 
speaking the unknown or strange must be regarded 
as dangerous, or at least treated with suspicion. 
Consequently it is easy to see that at a very early 
stage in the development of feeling and conscious- 
ness there would be a sense of pleasure in the 
recognition of the familiar, and of discomfort in 
the unknown ; for it might possibly be dangerous, 
and was pretty sure to be unsuitable. The pleasure 
in simple recognition is very great, and persists with 
a strength that is often apt to be overlooked. To a 
child, a savage, or even the ordinary person, to recog- 
nise, to be able to name, and thereby to have at least 
the feeling of understanding, is a great pleasure. 

In the last chapter we have dealt with the more 
complicated aspect of this sense, as well as the 
instinctive feeling of curiosity which had to be 
developed as a necessary corrective, since simple 
avoidance and shrinking from the new or strange 



ORIGIN OP THE SENSE OP BEAUTY 

would make progress impossible. In the earliest 
stage, when the organism was small and defenceless, 
and but slightly developed as regards adaptability, 
we can well understand that the impulse to seek 
merely the environment and objects to which it 
was accustomed, and therefore adapted, was ad- 
visedly the stronger. 

As we have already shown, symmetrical develop- 
ment is necessary for any growing or moving thing; 
inanimate objects are subject to the continual pres- 
sure of the force of gravity which, to a large extent, 
determines their form and arrangement, involving 
a certain proportion of part to part which may be 
shortly described as balance. Thus the want of 
symmetry or balance or proportion, being abnormal 
and strange, would at once strike a note of alarm 
obvious and direct to the unreasoning animal de- 
pendent for its life upon instant recognition of the 
unusual; surviving in educated man and his artificial 
surroundings only perhaps in a vague dislike; though 
if it occur in the case of some very familiar object 
such, for example, as a man with one ear much 
larger than the other a considerable feeling of dis- 
gust might be aroused. 

Thus it is easy to see that there would be a 
desire for, or movement towards, suitable environ- 
ment, and the conditions to which the particular 
organism was suited, with which it would be in 
harmonious relationship ; colour, which was pro- 
tective to it ; suitable food, and so on. As soon as 
consciousness and the feeling of pleasure was de- 
veloped, we may fairly assume that such conditions 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 135 

would give rise to a feeling of pleasure, which need 
only be felt at the moment of attainment; since 
pleasure being a sign that things are as they should 
be, no further activity would be required until some 
cause such as hunger, too strong a light, a change 
of temperature, &c., caused a feeling of discomfort, 
and so an incentive to further activity. 

In order to see how this primitive instinctive 
need in the organism for its proper and suitable 
environment could give rise to the faculty of appre- 
ciating certain objects and sounds \tfith that feeling 
of pleasure that induces us to call them beautiful, 
we must completely disabuse our minds of the idea 
of abstract and immutable laws of harmony, or 
composition, or combinations of colours, the idea 
of the existence of which may often make us wonder 
why it happens that a flower or a bird comes to 
be beautiful, or nature so right aesthetically ; it must 
be stated the other way they are beautiful because 
they are natural, and our organs that perceive them 
have been evolved by one long effort to live in 
harmony with nature, and we arc therefore bound 
to perceive harmony as suitable, pleasing, beautiful. 
We do not like a thing because it is beautiful; it 
is beautiful because we like it. The law of the 
universe is balance, action and reaction, " systole 
and diastole/' An organism developing in it, and 
moulded by its conditions, must necessarily for 
itself be so formed as to correspond to this law, 
however concealed. Organisms replying to chemical 
stimulus so slight as to evade the utmost subtlety 
of our means of research, would be no less sensitive 



136 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

to physical stimulus, if indeed there is any essential 
difference. The eye would by the force of cir- 
cumstances be so evolved as to respond to balance 
and proportion, in colour, line, or movement ; the 
ear to feel the law of balance, or harmony in 
sound ; and thus, as satisfactory and pleasing, all 
the parts and organs would feel and respond to the 
rhythm or periodic law common to all living and 
moving things ; while disharmonies would as such 
cause discomfort because they would be contrary 
to all the con9itions in which, and to meet which, 
our organs were evolved since, as we have already 
pointed out, the particular form of our organs of 
perception is due simply to the particular nature 
of the environment. 

It does not, then, seem an unfair assumption to 
assert that the instinctive pleasure in harmony is 
directly sprung from the impelling need for suita- 
bility to environment, and is of the utmost advantage 
to the organism, as giving information whether it 
was in harmony with its immediate surroundings 
at the earliest possible moment, instead of having 
to prove it by merely living or dying. If now we 
take this blind craving, which we may fairly call an 
instinct for conformity with nature, or more shortly, 
for harmony, using the word in its widest possible 
sense, we see it expressed at first in unconscious 
restlessness under unsuitable conditions, driving the 
organism to unceasing effort, only relaxed if, and 
when, harmonious adjustment is again attained, 
when its normal activities can again be freely 
exercised; we see it in attempts to make or pro- 



INSTINCTIVE PREFERENCES 137 

vide suitable surroundings by instinctive activities 
devoted to modifying or altering the environment 
in the direction of making it more suitable ; then 
we see it reaching the stage in which mind and 
intellect come to the assistance in the efforts to 
gratify instinctive cravings, definitely conceiving the 
aim for which search and effort is to be made. 
The desire for conformity with environment will 
not only impel us to make our surroundings suit- 
able and beautiful, z>. pleasing, sc^ that all our 
perceptions may, as far as possible, be harmonious, 
but the intellectual side will, as always, be developed 
from the physical, and will also require satisfac- 
tion, demanding a life that shall be spiritually and 
mentally in accord with the meaning of the universe. 
For perceiving a law and order in the physical 
world, it is natural to conclude by analogy that 
there must also be an order and meaning in the 
moral world. The brain can only conceive ideas 
based upon felt experiences, but can carry these 
into an ideal world unhampered by time or space, 
or refractory material, as, for example, the abstract 
laws and ideal conditions of mathematics, which 
are based upon observed physical phenomena. So 
in art, the mind, realising the felt beauty of simple 
objects, and the power of rhythm, can combine 
portions of the external world of colour, form, or 
sound, in new and novel combinations, producing 
new and far more intense sensations of pleasure, 
but always guided and limited in form by the types 
that have been with us always, and in all directions 
by the ever present, felt, need for harmony. 



CHAPTER VI 

COLOUR AND RHYTHM 

AT the close of the last chapter, we tried to show 
how the feelings of taste are the direct outcome 
of the need for adaptation to surroundings. All 
the various reactions, necessary adjustments, and 
activities, with the desires and cravings, that un- 
performed instinctive tendencies naturally produce, 
we resumed shortly under the expression of an 
instinct for conformity with environment. Such 
an instinct would not be represented by any 
specific action, but it would describe all those 
innumerable instinctive activities and faculties that 
are particularly concerned in obtaining and pre- 
serving a harmonious and satisfactory interaction 
between the organism and its environment. It was 
further suggested that this instinct lies at the base 
of the great majority of our simpler innate physical 
likes and dislikes, more particularly in the appre- 
ciation of harmony, balance, rhythm, and colour. 
It must be obvious that the application of the 
principle to any particular like or dislike may be 
beyond even conjecture, so complicated become 
the early instincts among all the baffling impulses 
of life at the present time. 

Another point that must not be lost sight of is, 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM 139 

that many of the complex factors that go to make 
up a sense of enjoyment are more or less sub- 
conscious, and we are only aware of them by the 
total vague feeling of pleasure. For example, we 
may go into a beautiful garden, and our sum total 
of pleasant feeling be contributed to by a scent 
too faint to be consciously noticed until the atten- 
tion is actually turned to it. We may find our- 
selves unexpectedly enjoying something, or finding 
an experience disagreeable, and qujte unable to 
attach the feeling to any particular cause. We 
must also be on our guard against jumping to 
any conclusion as to the exact methods in which 
some particular instinct might or might not have 
been useful ; for under a different environment 
an instinct, useful in its proper place, may be 
actually harmful, as, for example, the cases quoted 
above of the moth and the candle, or the Nereis 
in the glass tube. We might easily conclude that 
the Nereis, which dies in direct sunlight, and the 
Amphipyra butterfly, had an instinctive desire for 
the dark and for a hiding-place, whereas experi- 
ment shows that they do procure for themselves 
the necessary concealment and absence of light, 
but only have a simple instinct to get a solid body 
on each side. 

The choice of colour is one that offers obvious 
difficulties. It is easy enough to understand, given 
the eye with its present structure, that certain com- 
binations of colour are pleasing because they give 
each set of cones or rods rest and stimulation in 
turn ; and that part of the pleasure is due to the 



I 4 o ORIGIN OP THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

simple use of an organ. Grant Allen, in his 
" Physiological ^Esthetics/' explained the feeling 
for colour on that ground (and in a similar way 
that of auditory harmony and rhythm), but this 
does not give an explanation as to why they were 
so developed as to have those qualities ; though 
it is quite clear that structure is the direct response 
to the needs for suiting the organism to deal more 
effectively with its environment, and that there- 
fore there should be a reason for the feeling of 
pleasure. 

It has been argued that differentiation of colour 
is a lately acquired sense, and that because savage 
languages, and even the early (Homeric) Greeks, 
had only names for a few colours, therefore they 
were only able to perceive a few. This evidence is 
not very convincing ; they may have only been 
affected by certain colours strongly enough to 
make them invent names for them. 

Animals are certainly sensitive to a fairly wide 
range of colour. 

The colour of flowers has often been attributed 
to their necessity for attracting insects, and that in 
this way they have developed their wide variation. 
This has been disputed, and experiments made, 
which cannot, however, be considered to be con- 
vincing, to show that it is the scent which is the 
only real attraction to insects. 1 It has been clearly 
shown by Forel 2 that bees not only have a fairly 
keen sense of colour, but a strong tendency to 

i F. Plateau, in Revue Psychologigiie> 1907. 
2 " The Senses of Insects.'* 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM 141 

come back to objects of the same colour as that 
upon which they have found food. The flowers 
that attract night insects, such as moths, do have a 
strong scent as a rule ; but the flowers are almost 
invariably white, so that they shall be as con- 
spicuous as possible in the dusk. It is, of course, 
conceivable that the colour of flowers may partly 
be due to chemical needs, i.e. the admission or 
exclusion of certain rays. Wasps have been 
found by Mr. Peckham 1 to have the capacity of 
distinguishing colour; he placed a Targe coloured 
card with a big hole in the centre over the entrance 
to a nest. It was found that the wasps, after having, 
in a few days, become accustomed to its presence 
in one colour, were confused by an exactly similar 
card of a different colour. 

Birds, of course, have a considerably developed 
colour sense, and there is in this connection the 
very interesting and highly suggestive phenomenon 
of the courting plumage. The antics and per- 
formances of the male bird are obviously under- 
taken to display the variety and brightness of his 
coloured feathers, &c., to the best advantage ; this 
display has an effect of a highly emotional nature. 
Here we find, in a form in which the objective 
results are possible of observation, the fact upon 
which so much stress has been laid, that colour 
and form, combined with movement, can arouse an 
emotion apart from any intellectual factor. The 
growth of the secondary sexual characteristics, such 
as bright feathers, appendages, &c., has for a long 

1 Wasps, Social and Solitary." 



142 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

time been considered to be the result of choice by 
the female of the brightest, strongest, and best- 
looking male. Of recent years, however, there has 
been a strong tendency to discredit the possibility 
of choice in the usual sense of the word, as in- 
volving a degree of reasoning power which we 
have no ground for attributing to animals. The 
point requires careful consideration. 

It has been assumed, with some plausibility, that 
the quality of coyness or reluctance in the female 
is of advantage to the species in helping to avoid 
crosses, and in preventing the female mating at 
once with the first male that she happened to meet, 
that was at all near her own species. Whether 
this is the true explanation or not, the fact of 
instinctive reluctance in the female is a well- 
established fact in nearly all animals. To balance 
this it becomes necessary for the male to develop 
two qualities one, a strong indication that he is 
of the right species, and secondly, some means of 
raising the emotional side of the female to a suffi- 
cient pitch of excitement to overcome the " re- 
luctance'* instinct. If several males are trying to 
attract the notice of the female, she will eventually 
mate with one, not because she selects him as the 
most beautiful, but because he alone was able, or 
at any rate more quickly able, to arouse the neces- 
sary emotion, by having some brilliant colour or 
a more striking series of antics, or in some other 
way, thus arousing a tendency towards himself as 
unconscious as that of the bee drawn first to the 
most sweetly smelling flower. This may sound 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM 143 

merely an elaborate and roundabout way of ex- 
pressing choice, but there is really a complete 
difference. By choice we mean a deliberate survey 
of the relative advantages or differences of a number 
of things, and a recognition of the balance in favour 
of one. A cold unemotional man may choose a 
wife from her social position, manners, appearance, 
money, and so on, comparing and selecting ; the 
man of a rich emotional nature suddenly finds one 
woman stand out for him above all others with a 
flush of feeling that makes the whole world a 
different place ; he may, if reasoned with, allow 
that she is not really superior to all other women, 
but for him she is the only woman in the world. 
To call that choice is to deny the richest source 
of our pleasure in life. We can always notice 
that when we really come to prefer something by 
impulsion, by some sudden warmth of feeling, that 
we are on a different plane from the intellectual 
balance of pros and cons ; though to say how far 
conclusions that seem to have been intellectually 
balanced are really free from instinctive tendency 
is an impossible task. 

We need not labour the point : we see in the case 
of certain birds that bright colours, &c., have a high 
emotional power, connected with the most emo- 
tional period, i.e. the courting and mating ; in some 
cases they are lost immediately after this, to be 
renewed each year ; those female who sit in nests 
in open places generally have for protection a dull 
inconspicuous appearance. 

Jf we knew more about the type of animal that 



144 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

was the prototype of man, we might hazard more 
fruitful guesses at the origin of the emotional effect 
of colour ; but if it can be so developed in birds and 
certain animals, we need at all events see no diffi- 
culty in agreeing to the fact in man. But it should 
be emphasised that unless the colours and rhyth- 
mical movements had in themselves an emotive 
effect, there would have been no starting point in 
their development as a means of arousing emo- 
tional excitement, though, no doubt, as soon as 
the connection with the breeding season had 
been established, there would be a strong addi- 
tional stimulus by association. 

Given the power of detecting different colours, 
training will, as in the case of all the senses, 
greatly increase the power of reaction, and make 
it possible to appreciate finer and finer shades of 
difference. 

It is, of course, easy to see that the advantage 
conferred on an animal by the higher power of 
discrimination that the colour sense would give is 
of the highest survival value ; we can further see 
that, in an organ subject to such continual stimula- 
tion as the eye, it would be necessary that the 
commonest colour would have to be as far as 
possible that of least stimulation. This is well 
borne out by the fact that green or a light neutral 
tint of brown are the most restful ; as these are 
obviously the most prevalent, the eye would then 
note most strongly the widest variation from these. 

In their early stages of development we must 
consider the eye, the nose, the ear, the tongue, as 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM 145 

simply means of discriminating the suitable from 
the unsuitable, of warning or providing an impulse 
towards something. At a certain period conscious- 
ness of pleasure, or the reverse, began to accompany 
the tendency, and this pleasure itself acted as an 
inducement to repeat such actions ; the perform- 
ance of function by an organ in a fit state of 
nutrition being in itself an action accompanied by 
a pleasurable feeling. In all such cases, however, 
we must never lose sight of the fact, that perform- 
ance of function, to be pleasing, implies a stage at 
which it was vitally necessary for the animal to 
develop the structure and the function. In the 
case of taste, we see an organ which produces a 
large degree of sensuous pleasure which in a per- 
fectly healthy condition may be said to react most 
pleasurably to the substances most suitable to the 
body, and in sickness is a rough guide as to what 
to avoid and take. It is impossible for us at this 
date to trace the steps and say by what substances 
this taste was formed, but the cause is obvious. 
Now in the case of taste in colour it may fairly be 
concluded that an analogous course gave rise to 
preference here. Restful colours would be pleasant 
after stimulation ; bright contrasted colours would 
be the first upon which the developing organ would 
be able to seize, and would always provide an 
easier task in recognition. Harmonious colours 
can be explained more or less satisfactorily by 
Hering's ingenious hypothesis, by which in turn 
each set of rods and cones rest and come into play. 
We can easily imagine that individual preference 



146 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

for different colours would arise by slight variations 
in the minute structure of the eye. To explain, or 
even conjecture, why we have an emotional feeling 
for particular colours, apart from any associative 
ideas, is perhaps at this date an impossible task ; 
although, if for many generations it had been 
necessary for man and his prototype to seek some 
special plant, or animal, or certain type of sur- 
rounding, it is conceivable that the colour of this 
might beconre the one most easily and quickly 
reacted to ; but any such explanations lead to some- 
what futile guessing. 

In the case of all the senses, artificial means can 
be, and have been, freely devised, whereby the 
pleasurable sensations can be greatly increased. 
That the organs of sensation should have this 
quality of being trained arises naturally in the 
process of development, as soon as, with the growth 
of intellectual power, instinctive action began to 
be supplemented by an increased faculty for adapt- 
ability. The possibility of increasing and improving 
the sensitiveness of particular organs would natu- 
rally be of great value, and is a necessary basis for 
any kind of training or improvement by practice. 
The different members of a race would not all 
require the same particular organ to be developed, 
and thus there would arise in the struggle for 
existence, not so much an actual structural altera- 
tion or improvement, but a greater and wider 
power of adaptability, allowing now one, now 
another, organ to be trained to a high degree of 
sensitiveness, and with this would naturally go 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM 147 

an increased sensibility, with a keener feeling of 
pleasure or the reverse. 

The strong power that rhythm has in arousing 
and intensifying feelings has been referred t 
occasionally, and requires further consideration, as 
it has an important and far-reaching influence in 
questions of aesthetic enjoyment. 

In the first place there is the simple mechanical 
effect of rhythm shown in the remarkable effects 
that can be produced by very small "forces acting 
at the right moment. This is within the experience 
of any one who has used an ordinary swing ; by 
oscillating a heavy body, and applying a small force 
at recurring intervals, properly timed, a continually 
increasing effect is produced. It was said by an 
eminent engineer of one of the large suspension 
bridges, that a boy could knock it down with a 
peashooter by producing a slow but ever increasing 
oscillation, provided that he could time his shots 
properly, and continue long enough. 

When we come to organic life we find rhythmic 
and periodic movement all pervasive. Without 
repetition, life would not be possible. In all 
organic function a rhythmic repetition is found. 
All nerve process, whatever its nature may be, is 
carried on in pulsating beats or oscillation, in 
inspiration and expiration, in the circulation of 
the blood, in sleeping and waking ; life itself con- 
sists in an alternation between absorption and waste 
of matter.^ In fact, it seems to be a general law of 
nature that all movement and all change is periodic 
or rhythmical. It is not necessary for a rhythmical 



148 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

phenomenon to have a rhythmical cause, for con- 
stant conditions can lead to rhythmical effects. If 
a small stream of water flows into a pipette it will 
pass out rhythmically in drops. Professor Loeb x 
describes an ingenious experiment devised by 
Quincke, by which it is easy to produce and show 
rhythmical contractions of air bubbles under water, 
produced by a perfectly even and constant stream 
of air. sJVhenever a body moving with a constant 
degree of force gradually acquires sufficient head 
or momentum to overcome a constant resistance, 
and then after discharge again begins to gather 
energy for another discharge, the result will show 
a rhythmical effect. It is easy, by watching care- 
fully, to notice the ebb and flow of an apparently 
smooth-running river : the waves of the sea increase 
in size in regularly recurring periods up to a maxi- 
mum ; witness the common saying that the seventh 
wave is always the largest. 

In the case of the nervous system, where a period 
of recuperation is necessary after every discharge 
of nervous energy, the phenomenon is, if anything, 
still more marked, and applies to every part and 
process of physiological and psychical activity. 
All nervous effort is carried on in a series of waves ; 
the attention has to be brought back and back to 
the subject upon which concentration is desired ; 
change or movement is necessary to cause sensa- 
tion, and is one of the essential conditions of con- 
sciousness. The tendency to turn any recurring 
sounds or movements into a rhythmical series is 

1 " Comparative Psychology of the Brain" (1900). 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM 149 

well nigh irresistible ; the ticking of a clock, if the 
attention be directed upon it, is inevitably divided 
into certain beats, the rattle of a railway train is 
organised into a rhythmical swing. v There is no 
doubt that the pleasure taken in the repetition of 
anything at regular intervals is due to the fact the 
nerves after discharge require a time for recovery, 
shorter or longer according to the strength of the 
stimulus, and that there is a pleasure in a stimulus 
occurring at the expected moment, when the nerve 
is in just the right state to function. 

There is a very strong tendency to adapt the 
rhythmical movements of the muscles and nerves 
so as to coincide or harmonise with any other 
rhythmical movement or sound that may be per- 
ceived. If we turn a wheel with one hand without 
thinking of the manner or velocity of the rotation, 
and at the same time repeal a poem to ourselves 
without moving the lips, the number of the revolu- 
tions shows a simple numerical relation to the 
number of beats in the verse. If the wheel is 
intentionally turned more quickly, and the recita- 
tion made slower, the number of revolutions will 
be found to be a multiple of the beats ; if the pro- 
cess is reversed, and the wheel turned slowly, the 
number of beats becomes a multiple of the number 
of revolutions. If we assume that, in thinking the 
poem, the respiratory innervations which follow 
the rhythm can be represented as harmonic curves, 
and that the same holds good for the innervations 
that are responsible for the turning of the wheel, 
it follows that harmonic processes of innervation, 



150 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

occurring simultaneously, affect each other in such 
a way that the periods of both processes are either 
equal or in the ratio of simple multiples of each 
other. It requires great determination to withstand 
this law. 

The same is true not only for two or more 
simultaneous processes of motor innervation, but 
also for simultaneous sensory processes and motor 
innervations, as is proved by dancing. The rhythm 
of the music and the period of the motor innerva- 
tions of the legs and body coincide. 1 

It becomes, in view of these facts, very easy to 
see the immense influence that rhythmical repeti- 
tion would have upon our sense organs and feelings 
of pleasure in keeping to a rhythm once established, 
and in discomfort in anything that interfered with 
it. ^The formative and decorative arts may, by 
compelling our eye to follow a regular arrangement 
of lines and figures, transmit an emotional feeling 
by the mediation of rhythm. % We look with plea- 
sure at the repetition of a pattern, although the 
detail that is repeated may, taken by itself, be 
neither beautiful nor interesting ; but the recurring 
stimulation at regular, and so expected, periods 
causes a feeling of pleasure, due simply to the 
natural enjoyment of functioning at the right 
moment. 

" To this quality of mere complexity of surface, pattern 
adds by its regularity the power of compelling the eye and 
breath to move at an even and unbroken pace. Even the 
simplest, therefore, of the patterns ever used have a power 

1 Professor Loeb, op. cit., p. 295. 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM 15! 

akin to that of march music, for they compel our organism 
to a regular rhythmical mode of being." l 

In the case of sound the effect is still more 
marked and striking. Dr. Wallaschek has shown 
conclusively the origin of primitive music directly 
from rhythm, clearly proving the untenability of 
the theory that traces it from the modulations of 
the voice used for speaking, and it accords well 
with this that it should have so wonderfully strong 
an emotional effect, the origin of which it would be 
hard to see were it only a development of speech : 

"We have been told, until we are tired of hearing it, 
that the one essential in primitive music was rhythm, 
melody being of secondary importance. . . . Rhythm, 
taken in a general sense to include * keeping in time ' 
in its simplest form, as well as in the most skilfully 
elaborated fugues of modern composers, is the essence 
in music. . . . Completely to understand a musical work 
ceases to be difficult when once its rhythmical arrange- 
ment is mastered ; and it is through rhythmical perform- 
ance and rhythmical susceptibility that musical effects are 
produced and perceived." 

Again he points out that 

" Men do not come to music by way of tones, but they 
come to tones and tunes by way of the rhythmical impulse." 

The power of a strong rhythm in imposing its 
period or time, and compelling others into unison 
with it, is, of course, of immense utility in en- 
abling bodies of men to work together or to act in 
concert. This is made use of largely in all kinds 
of manual labour requiring concerted action, and, 

1 Lee and Thompson, Contemporary Review, 1897. 



1 S 2 ORIGIN OP THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

of course, most particularly in military operations, 
whenever it is necessary to deal with large bodies 
of men. It is significant of this that music is, 
among primitive races, most developed among 
the most warlike tribes. Any emotional excite- 
ment is contagious, and when it can express itself 
rhythmically the effect in arousing a similar im- 
pulse in others is increased to a wonderful degree. 
Popular legend has always attributed to the taran- 
tella an irresistible power of forcing the spectator, 
however unwilling, to join in the mad dance. In 
races that are easily excitable, a rhythmical sequence 
of sounds can have a maddening effect. Burton 
relates of a race in West Africa, that the mere 
beating of a tom-tom not only raised them to a 
high pitch of excitement, but that it made some 
of the younger members actually ill, so strong 
was the effect. 

The elementary conditions of the phenomenon 
of auditory rhythm are a periodic accentuation 
of an auditory succession (i.e. a repetition of 
functionally integrated groups), under specific 
temporal relations, given with the laws of perio- 
dicity of functioning in the bodily organism. The 
mechanism involves a periodical facilitation and 
inhibition of nervous activity, arising from the re- 
lation between the periodicity of its own rhythm 
of functioning and certain intervals in the objec- 
tive series of stimulations, and also a motor accom- 
paniment in the form of sensation reflexes occurring 
in some part of the bodily organism, The rhythm 
activity represents a relatively undiff erentiated type 



COLOUR AND RHYTHM r 5 3 

of reaction. Its appearance as a spontaneous exer- 
cise and a reflex accompaniment is a manifestation 
of the primitive tendency to perpetuate a movement 
once made. It belongs to the activities of early 
stages of development and of the lower parts of 
the nervous system. 

i The emotional effect of rhythm in music, poetry, 
painting, perhaps especially in architecture, which 
makes so great a use of rhythm in the alternation 
of features and the proportion of pajrt to part in 
fact, in all branches of artistic and aesthetic enjoy- 
ment is, of course, well known, and need not be 
further insisted upon ; but the fact is one of pecu- 
liar interest in view of the foregoing suggestion 
as to the origin of our appreciation of the beau- 
tiful.;) The effect of rhythm shows in a very clear 
and obvious manner how correspondence of struc- 
ture and function to external conditions can give 
rise to a feeling of pleasure, which appears to be 
directly due to this correspondence ; and although 
in this case the phenomenon is strongly marked, 
it is not difficult to imagine that there is a similar 
or analogous process at work in the appreciation 
of colour and its combinations, in form, and in 
the innumerable effects of nature, due to the de- 
velopment of structure that shall be suitable to 
the environment, and that therefore our appre- 
ciation of the beautiful is directly dependent upon 
the connection between the conditions of nature 
and the structure and functions of the organs de 

1 " The Relation of Auditory Rhythm to Nervous Discharge." Pro- 
fessor M'Dougall, The Psychological Review, vol. Ix. p. 5. 



154 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

veloped in it and so as to be suitable to it, so that 
the sense of beauty is the outcome in the ideal 
regions of the faculty or sense by which the de- 
veloping organism was made aware of the suitable. 
The sense organs have a power of discrimination, 
and the right choice, i.e. of the useful or advan- 
tageous, is accompanied by a sense of pleasure 
since those who were pleased by harmful things 
would be quickly eliminated, so that there naturally 
arises a sense of pleasure in the appropriate stimu- 
lation of the organs. 

As soon as it was found that this pleasure could 
be increased by skilful combinations and varieties 
of sensations, any skill developed by primitive man 
would naturally be made use of for this purpose, 
andthe term art has generally been applied to any 
branch of skill when devoted to causing pleasure 
by the stimulation of the organs of sense, especially 
to those of the eye and ear. As all the senses crave 
for the means of enjoyment in common with the 
needs and desires of the body that require their 
necessary satisfaction, there has grown in man what 
may fairly be called the instinct of creation taking 
care to use this in the sense not of a simple instinct 
to create in the abstract, but the development of an 
instinctive activity devoted to providing by altera- 
tion or adaptation of the environment, objects or 
conditions suitable for or gratifying to the needs 
and desires of the organism. In the next chapter 
it is proposed to consider briefly the forms in which 
this instinct arises in the animal kingdom, develop- 
ing into the skill which forms the basis of art. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE ARTIST 

So far we have been considering in what way, and 
from which of the primitive instincts, the apprecia- 
tion of beauty might have arisen ; we must now 
turn to consider the question of art, to find the' 
source of the impulse to create, and to ascertain 
the sources from which arise the means for attain- 
ing artistic power, and the production of works of 
art and objects of beauty. 

Appreciation is necessarily previous to the effort 
to produce : it could be, and is, exercised on natural 
existing objects ; and we can imagine that a keen 
appreciation of beauty might well be developed 
and exist without the production of any works of 
art at all ; being gratified by and exercised upon 
nature alone. 

Commonly speaking, by art, using the word with- 
out any qualifying epithet, we mean effort and 
skill devoted to the expression or creation of the 
beautiful. Clearly it is only possible to separate 
art from skill by the result produced ; that is to say, 
mechanical skill or manual dexterity is required in 
the making of everything. This skill is engaged 
at one moment in the creation of the useful, at 



156 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

another of the artistic, or very often of the two 
together in such a way that it is hardly possible 
to draw any line of demarcation. The connec- 
tion between art in its early forms and utility 
has been already pointed out, and it is clear 
that the fine arts involve the exercise of a skill 
originally purely useful, meeting material needs; 
but carried on and developed to serve an ideal 
end, in the creation of that which is only in- 
tended to provide pleasure to the aesthetic senses, 
just exactly in the same way that the senses them- 
selves, which provide the material for the ideal 
feelings, were originally an immediate aid to life 
in its most material form. 

It is common to find the name of artist claimed 
by the exponents of almost any branch of skill 
from tight-rope walking to music, from hair- 
dressing to architecture ; nor is the reason far to 
seek. When a workman is spoken of as an 
"artist," it is intended to convey the idea that 
there is something more in his work than that of 
the ordinary man ; that he has some sort of ideal 
in front of him, unconscious perhaps and only 
expressed by an extra care or finish, something 
over and beyond what will just do, that gives a 
peculiar excellence to his work. Consequently, 
any one who wishes to imply that he is superior 
in his particular line of work is apt to style him- 
self artist. The title is willingly conceded to the 
workman who takes a pride and interest in his 
work, and this interest and delight, showing itself 
in the product, makes an appeal to the eye which 



THE ARTIST 157 

enhances greatly the total effect, often perhaps by 
the half - conscious recognition of the increased 
usefulness or adaptation to its purpose. The 
skilled armourer, in old days, making a sword, 
spent endless care and time in producing a per- 
fect balance and fine subtle lines, thinking whole- 
heartedly of the purpose it was to serve, but all 
the time meaning to make a better sword than 
had been made before ; at the present day per- 
haps it is hung up to be admired as a work of 
art, and the very curves and forms that now cause 
pleasure to the eye were solely designed to facili- 
tate its deadly purpose. 

So that, while it is hardly possible to draw any 
distinction between art and skill, that can be 
applied as a criterion, the word artistic may 
certainly be used of the work upon an object by 
any one to whom that object makes an appeal by 
pleasing his eye, as well as, or apart from, any 
pleasure in it as a purely useful thing. 

The reason why works of art were first pro- 
duced has given rise to endless controversies, and 
many ingenious theories have been propounded 
to account for the impulse to create. M. Hirn, 
in his " Origins of Art," points out that there are 
two things which have to be investigated the 
reason why works of art are created, and the 
reason why works of art are enjoyed. He further 
states that if creation has been satisfactorily 
accounted for, it is relatively easy to explain the 
subsequent enjoyment of art, and that by ap- 
proaching the question of the art impulse we 



158 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

approach the art problem at its very core. It is, 
however, difficult to agree with this, for even if 
we agree with M. Him that the art impulse lies 
in the need for self-expression, we are still far 
from any understanding as to the reasons that 
give the form it takes a power of appealing to and 
arousing the emotions why symmetry, rhythm, 
harmony should be in themselves capable of pro- 
ducing pleasure ; but we can see that the fact that 
they do aroqse a feeling of pleasure would be a 
strong inducement to apply skill and energy to the 
production and development of qualities that had 
this power of sense gratification. ( As we have 
just pointed out above, we must suppose a power 
of appreciation, even if latent, to which the first 
tentative steps in art production will appeal. We 
may more reasonably suppose the initial impulse 
to lie in any, and all, of our natural tendencies 
and needs, and the fact that we do find certain 
things beautiful is the reason for wanting them. 
The sense of hunger will drive us to procure food, 
but the endless varieties of dishes and sauces upon 
which the chef exhausts his ingenuity and skill 
until he claims the title of artist, are due to the 
discrimination and appreciation of the sense of 
taste. The fact that we like and enjoy a thing is 
alone a sufficient reason to insure the spending 
of a large amount of time and energy in attempts 
to gratify the liking. We may find the motive to 
production in the attempt to meet any need ; for 
houses, food ; weapons, offensive and defensive ; 
in the manufacture of gods and magic charms ; 



THE ARTIST 159 

in ceremonial ; warlike evolutions ; in the desire 
to convey information, to express and perhaps to 
relieve overwrought feelings in fact, in all activity ; 
and as soon as the bare utility is met, taste comes 
in, limiting and defining and developing the forms, 
so that they add to their primary utility more and 
more an appeal to the aesthetic sense. Just as, to 
take our analogy from the lower senses again, the 
really hungry man devours anything that is edible, 
but soon begins to alter and diversify the material 
in order to get more pleasure by variety of stimu- 
lation. It is surely a needless task to search for 
one specific impulse to art creation, though natu- 
rally some tendencies would be more fertile, in 
leading to what are now the fine arts, than 
others. 

We are all artists up to a point, and are continu- 
ally making use of the same feelings and motives in 
ordinary everyday life which have only to reach a 
certain degree of intensity to be labelled artistic. 
In arranging our houses, furniture, curtains, wall- 
papers, clothes, gardens, &c., every one is guided 
consciously or Unconsciously by what, if set out in 
detail, might well be described as art principles ; 
colours must not clash, due proportion must be 
observed, the unity of the effect must be main- 
tained, and so on ; we use what skill we have to 
gratify our aesthetic sense. Those who show 
special aptitude and love for such work devote 
their whole time and energies to it, and become 
artists. The whole story of development shows 
a gradually increasing skill in finding out ways and 



160 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

methods to meet the needs and desires of the indi- 
vidual ; all that is wanted to determine the direc- 
tion the energies shall take is the faculty of taking 
pleasure in the result ; we cannot suppose that the 
mere creation of works of art would produce a 
feeling of pleasure in them, though, of course, such 
a faculty would, like all others, be strengthened 
atfd widened by cultivation. 

Some writers find the whole source and stimulus 
of art in the sexual emotion. Herbert Spencer 1 
points out 

"that the greater part of what we call beauty in the 
organic world is in some way dependent upon the sexual 
relation. It is not only so with the colours and odours of 
flowers. It is so, too, with the plumage of birds, and with 
the songs of birds, both of which, in Mr. Darwin's view, 
are due to sexual selection, and it is probable that the 
colour of the more conspicuous insects are in part similarly 
determined. The remarkable circumstance is, that these 
characteristics, which have originated by furthering the pro- 
duction of the best offspring, while they are naturally those 
which render the organisms possessing them attractive to 
one another, directly or indirectly, should also be those 
which are so generally attractive to us those without which 
the fields and woods would lose half their charm. It is 
interesting, too, to observe how the conception of human 
beauty is in a considerable degree thus originated. And 
the trite observation, that the element of beauty which 
grows out of the sexual relation is so predominant in 
aesthetic products in music, in the drama, in fiction, in 
poetry gains a new meaning when we see how deep down 
in organic nature this connection extends." 

1 " Principles of Biology," vol. ii. p. 253. 



THE ARTIST 161 

Although Herbert Spencer thus draws attention 
to the important influence of the sexual emotion, 
he did not put it forward as the origin of art ; but 
Dr. Nordau l quotes the above passage, maintain- 
ing that in it lies the sum of a complete science of 
beauty, going on to lay it down as incontrovertible 
that ail art is due to a more or less obscure stimu- 
lation of the sex feeling, or, as he expresses it, a 
certain part of the brain, which he calls the genera- 
tive centre. There is a superficial plausibility about 
thus referring our pleasure in beauty and the art 
impulse to stimulation of the emotions of sex, but 
it will not, I think, stand a more careful examina- 
tion. In the first place, it seems fairly obvious, to 
take the much quoted case of the bird, that if the 
bright colours, &c., of the male had not in them- 
selves an emotive effect, there would hardly have 
been any possibility of the first variation in the 
direction of colour, &c., producing an exciting, and 
so a favourable, effect. It is, of course, likely 
enough that certain colour effects might become 
associated with sexual emotions, and thus, in a 
secondary sense, add that feeling to their original 
emotion, and, as is often the case, the stronger 
emotion, once aroused, would tend very quickly to 
obliterate the weaker and occupy the whole of the 
attention. We have already drawn attention to the 
way in which an emotion at once overflows and 
arouses other emotions, and the extraordinary 
depth and intensity of the emotion of love must 
exercise a marked influence over all the others. A 

1 Paradoxes," 1896. (Trans.) 

L 



162 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

work of art which not only arouses the aesthetic 
emotions directly by beautiful colours or rhythm, 
but by association or suggestion stirs, in some 
obscure way, the sex emotion, gains at once im- 
mensely in depth and power. We have a natural 
tendency to arouse as many emotions as possible 
at once in order to heighten our total enjoyment ; 
beautiful music and lovely surroundings will cer- 
tainly add to and heighten the feelings of love, just 
as, in a far greater degree, the feeling of love can so 
raise the general emotional tone that almost every- 
thing produces a sense of beauty and pleasure. No 
doubt, to a person whose temperament lies in that 
direction, almost every object that arouses pleasur- 
able feeling will very quickly suggest some relation 
to sex feeling, simply because one emotion can 
suggest another, needing only the common ground 
of emotional excitement. 

How the pleasure in some stately piece of beauti- 
fully proportioned architecture, the thrill produced 
by solemn music, or the calm sweetness of a 
summer landscape in the evening, is to be attributed 
to the feeling of sex only, it is hard to see ; they 
have in common a pleasurable emotion, and that 
is all. That a very large part of art is directly in- 
spired by erotic motives is perfectly true, and that 
various forms of art play an important part in love 
songs and courtship is obvious ; but this is so be- 
cause beauty produced by art has in itself the 
power of arousing emotion, and is therefore natu- 
rally made use of to heighten the total pleasure. 
That love has provided the opportunity and incen- 



THE ARTIST 163 

tive to innumerable works of art, that it has added 
to the pleasure and enjoyment of countless beauties, 
need not be denied ; but we cannot admit that it is 
due to sex feeling that rhythm, symmetry, harmony, 
and beautiful colour are capable of giving us a 
pleasurable feeling. And yet these lie at the very 
basis of art ; although the emotion they arouse is 
generally slight, until the associated and suggested 
ideas conveyed are aroused, and these derived ideas 
have so often so much stronger an emotion attached 
that they are apt to put the simple sense feeling 
in the background. The important part played by 
love in the emotional life of man is sufficient reason 
for the degree of attention which is paid by all arts 
to the vagaries and varieties of this emotion. 

Professor R. Marshall has evolved the idea that 
the initial spur to art work lies in the " instinctive 
desire to attract by pleasing, leading to the pro- 
duction of objects or objective conditions that will 
be pleasing/ 1 1 To those who find the origin of art 
in sexual selection, this theory is no doubt attractive 
and satisfactory, and it cannot be denied that the 
colours, &c., produced by sexual selection, provide 
material that does appeal to the aesthetic sense. 
We have, however, already pointed out that to 
attract by producing pleasing colours, &c., pre- 
supposes an already existing faculty of being thereby 
pleased. But quite apart from this, the impulse to 
art is subjective and is not determined by external 
motives, though things found to be pleasing to 
oneself are naturally exhibited or offered to any one 

1 " Esthetic Principles," p. 62. 



164 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

whom it is desired to please, and whose nature is 
naturally considered to be similar. The desire to 
attract by pleasing may, of course, be the cause of 
any particular piece of art work or production, but 
it is too partial for a general cause of art. The 
lack of universality also applies to Professor Bald- 
win's l suggestion that the source of art lies in the 
"self-exhibiting impulse/' No doubt most works 
of art, being the offspring of the emotions and 
feelings of an individual, can hardly help being to 
a certain extent self-exhibitive ; but we can hardly 
see, for much the same reasons again, in such a 
feeling the source of all art. 

The universal desire for self-realisation is not the 
spur of art alone, nor is art simply the outcome of 
it, but it is most apparent in the products of the 
arts, for in them lies the strongest and most subtle 
means of expression ; art can suggest the half-per- 
ceived truths, hint at vague fancies, and give allusive 
glimpses. The artist can thus embody in his work 
thoughts too intimate and sacred for the crude 
medium of everyday language, feeling that only 
those who can appreciate them will be able to 
discover the secret. 

The most widely spread explanation of the art 
impulse is, perhaps, that known as the " Spieltrieb " 
theory, which derives it from the play instinct. 
This has been already considered to some extent in 
the Introduction, when discussing the question of 
utility and art, and we need not perhaps consider 
it here at much length ; for, although there are no 

1 " Social and Ethical Interpretations.'* 



THE ARTIST 165 

doubt many points in which the disinterested activity 
of play compares with that of art, it is again clear 
that disinterested activity would only be devoted 
to, and continue devoted to, something that was 
pleasing, and that a piece of successful ornamenta- 
tion must have been in itself a source of pleasure, 
or else there would have been no more incentive 
to continue and develop the process than the mere 
whittling of a stick. We need not detract in any 
way from the immense value to art and its de- 
velopment that leisure and freedom from the pro- 
vision of the bare necessities of life would produce; 
in fact any progress or development of the higher 
branches of art is hardly possible without the 
opportunity given by leisure. We have already seen 
that it is highly doubtful how far either play or art 
are to be considered purely disinterested activities, 
at least in their early stages ; but we may freely 
admit that there is a great deal of art that can for 
all practical purposes be considered very closely 
connected with play. But even so, we must bear 
in mind one important distinction between art and 
play : art is essentially creative, its aim is to make 
or alter something that shall survive in the form 
into which it is moulded. 

An interesting and suggestive theory is that pro- 
posed by Berenson, 1 applicable, however, chiefly to 
the art of painting. After asking the question as to 
why it is that an object, whose recognition in nature 
may have given rise to no pleasure, becomes in a 
picture a source of aesthetic enjoyment, and that an 

1 " Florentine Painters," 1896. 



i66 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

already pleasing object acquires, when painted, a 
greatly increased power of causing delight, he finds 
the answer in the power of such representation to 
convey a feeling of enhanced vitality. 

" The answer, I believe, depends upon the fact that art 
stimulates to an unwonted activity psychical processes which 
are in themselves the source of most (if not all) of our 
pleasures, and which here, free from disturbing physical 
sensations, never tend to pass over into pain. 

" For instance : I am in the habit of realising a given 
object with an intensity that we shall value as 2. If I 
suddenly realise this familiar object with an intensity of 4, 
I receive the immediate pleasure which accompanies a 
doubling of my mental activity. The fact that the psychical 
process of recognition goes forward with the unusual in- 
tensity of 4 to 2, overwhelms them with the sense of having 
twice the capacity they had credited themselves with : their 
whole personality is enhanced, and, being aware that this 
enhancement is connected with the object in question, they 
for some time after take not only an increased interest in 
it, but continue to recognise it with the new intensity." 

The idea is that greater pleasure is taken in the 
painted object from the accelerated psychical pro- 
cess, and the consequent exhilarating sense of 
increased capacity in the observer ; again, in a re- 
presentation of movement we get a clearer, intenser, 
less fatiguing realisation of the movement which 
gives a heightened sense of capacity, life communi- 
cating, and so giving the sense of an enhanced 
vitality. 

We have drawn attention already to the fact that 
vivid visual perception is due to the conversion of 
ocular impressions into feelings of bodily and mus- 



THE ARTIST 167 

cular activity, and that this representation and sug-; 
gestion of movements and tactual sensations arouses 
feelings of pleasure. It is also the case that the 
excitement of any emotion does in itself give a 
general impetus to the whole system, and thus a 
feeling of enhanced vitality, thus a beautiful thing 
could well produce this feeling without any idea 
of increased capacity ; so that, without in any 
way denying that there may be a considerable 
amount of such a feeling in our appreciation of 
pictures and sculpture from this special manner of 
realising movement and space relationship, it is 
again only a partial explanation, and will not really 
help us to understand our pleasure in beautiful 
colour, in rhythm, sound, and in form apart from 
expression. Nor can we find in this, which requires 
a considerable degree of artistic development in 
order to produce its effect, the original cause of 
artistic effort. 

M. Him, in "The Origins of Art/' finds the im- 
pulse to art in the instinctive tendency to express 
overmastering feeling to enhance pleasure, and to 
seek relief from pain, on the ground that art is 
better able than any other kind of mental function 
to serve and satisfy the requirements that arise from 
this impulse when it occurs in its purest form. It 
is impossible here to give a fair statement of the 
reasons with which M. Hirn supports this thesis, for 
the whole of his clearly reasoned and most interest- 
ing book is devoted to setting them out. We can, 
however, I think, accept unreservedly the point of 
view as true as far as it goes ; the tendencies 



168 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OP BEAUTY 

mentioned are among the strongest impulses of 
human nature, and would in common with the 
others make use of all means that would serve their 
ends. The power that art, especially music, has in 
relieving pain and sorrow is universally acknow- 
ledged ; some seven hundred years before Christ, 
Hesiod l paid a tribute to this power of song : 

" When a man sorrows in heart, and grieves at the death of a 

loved one, 

Then if a minstrel arise, or one that delighteth in music, 
Singing the glorious deeds of men that lived aforetime, 
And of the happy gods that dwell on the mount of Olympus, 
Then he forgets his sorrow, and remembers no more his 

affliction, 
And his soul is turned aside to enjoy the gifts of the Muses." 

Once the efficacy of art to act as an outlet and 
relief had been discovered, we may easily imagine 
that grief and sorrow would be the cause of in- 
numerable particular works of art, just as love, or 
joy, or triumph have been of countless others. It 
is difficult, however, to see in this the origin of all 
art, however great its influence in subsequently 
determining the direction and development of 
certain branches of it. In ornament and archi- 
tecture, in decoration and a great deal of sculp- 
ture and painting, it is only by forcing the meaning 
of words to breaking-point, that we can consider 
the production to be due to strong feeling demand- 
ing expression ; so many objects that we consider 
works of art were really created to provide for some 
particular purpose, while the characteristics that 

1 Hesiod, Thcognis. Rendering by II. I. R., from the Westminster 
Gazette i September 3, 1908. 



THE ARTIST 169 

make them appear beautiful to us were added 
quite unconsciously and unintentionally the maker 
simply feeling that it would be better so. There is 
no doubt that a person emotionally excited has a 
strong desire to impart his feeling to others, and if 
he is able to command some means that are more 
effective than ordinary language, he would obviously 
make use of them. It is, however, probable that, 
however much the great masterpieces of art have 
been inspired by desire for utterance and by strong 
emotion, the great majority of the ordinary every- 
day works of art, and most especially those in the 
early stages of art, are not due to any specific feeling 
for self-expression or self-externalisation, conscious 
or unconscious, but are quite simply the outcome 
of the fact that certain colours, forms, shapes, or 
sounds caused a feeling of pleasure that was suffi- 
ciently strong to lead to their repetition and develop- 
ment It must always be remembered that we 
have to consider not only the exalted and inspired 
moments of art, but the commonplace ordinary 
like and dislike, which represents the average 
person's power of appreciation, and is the proxi- 
mate cause of the vast output of the things made 
to please. 

As soon as man, with his continual experiment in 
all directions, had discovered the curious and de- 
lightful power over the attention and the feelings 
possessed by rhythm, we may well imagine that he 
would continually devise means and occasions for 
enjoying this pleasure ; but we have no reason to 
think that it would only be employed when he 



170 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

wished to convey some idea or impart some feel- 
ing, though it would come with redoubled force 
when it could add to its own power some other 
emotion as well. But as words can hardly be used 
without saying something, and as music also gains 
by being expressive of some idea or some emotion, 
so any work of art is likely to be always expressive 
of something ; but it is unlikely that the feeling or 
idea expressed was so much the cause of the pro- 
duction, as was the desire to enjoy the rhythmic or 
other beautiful setting, and thus to stir the emotions. 
As the mastery of the material and the means be- 
came more certain, and as a certain degree of re- 
finement was reached, the intellectual factors would 
begin to play a larger and larger part ; the ideal 
delights of the imagination and the stir of ideas 
would assume the place of greater importance, and 
so gradually reach the complicated compound of 
feeling and intellect that is aroused by the great 
works of art. 

The arts in their earlier stages are simply skill and 
inventive ingenuity used to gratify the needs and 
desires of the individual, so that all human wants 
and tendencies are therefore to be considered the 
origin of art ; what we now call the fine arts repre- 
sent an abstraction of certain qualities that appeared, 
so to speak, incidentally in the products of skill 
only intended in the first place at all events to 
be useful. That is to say, that the appreciation of 
the beautiful is a natural faculty, pre-existent to any 
form of art ; and as that faculty was found to be 
pleased by certain aspects or qualities in things that 



THE ARTIST 171 

had been made, as well as by natural objects, it led 
to more and more differentiated forms of skill, so 
that certain kinds were developed or set aside for 
the purpose of affording gratification to this sense 
in particular. This appreciation, though of extreme 
simplicity in the first place, would, like all the other 
faculties, become of increasing complexity and of 
wider range with the growth of the mental powers, 
making in its later stages intuitive or unconscious 
responses to things that had in an earlier stage to 
be consciously perceived. 

If, then, we are to trace the creative instinct, we 
must go back again to the primitive organism. We 
have already drawn attention to the fact that the 
most important quality in survival is suitability to, or 
a harmonious interaction with, environment. This 
can be brought about in two ways ; either the animal 
can become adapted by structural modification, or 
it can by its own efforts, to a limited extent, affect 
its environment favourably to itself. It may secrete 
and extrude some material or substance that forms 
a favourable medium, or it may burrow into the sur- 
rounding substance ; it may, instead of developing 
a shell, make a covering for itself, as a caddis ; it 
may spin a cocoon, builcl a nest, or in innumerable 
ways make the immediate environment which it 
requires. The Terebella makes a tubular-shaped 
case in which to live by sticking small stones and 
other objects together ; during the process he seems 
to be, as it were, exercising selection taking some 
objects, trying and rejecting others, making as a 
result a covering that is inconspicuous with its 



172 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

surroundings. While natural selection would be 
always picking out for survival those who had a 
tendency to do it best, to imagine this done from 
conscious purpose is to assume a knowledge of the 
danger to be avoided, and implies a degree of 
reasoning power that is, on the face of it, absurd. 
We have already seen that, on good grounds, we 
may accept the view that it is not even accompanied 
by more than sense impression, an object of the 
wrong kind, too large or sharp, or inconvenient, is 
simply rejected upon contact, just as an object mis- 
takenly seized as food is thrown on one side. The 
result is a covering that is an aid to safety by its 
inconspicuousness, not of intention, but because 
it is inevitably made of the small objects among 
which the animal lives ; this can be shown by the 
fact that it has no objection to using glass or highly 
coloured stones if such be supplied it. As rising in 
the scale of life the skill in workmanship becomes 
more and more remarkable, in the ants, bees, and 
wasps very complicated pieces of construction are 
undertaken, both for the production of places in 
which to live and in the careful preparation of suit- 
able conditions in which the offspring can develop. 
Mr. Peckham, in his careful and valuable record of 
observations upon wasps, gives a delightful story of 
one of the solitary wasps (Ammophila urnaria), that 
had the germ of the artistic spirit the impulse to 
do the thing a little better than mere necessity. It is 
easy to see how such a quality would be a help to 
survival, and so be developed. After describing one 
that closed up the nest after having placed in it the 



THE ARTIST 173 

caterpillar and the egg in a careless and perfunctory 
manner, he goes on to describe a second : 

" The other, on the contrary, was an artist, an idealist. 
She worked for an hour, first filling the neck of the burrow 
with fine earth, which was jammed down with much energy, 
this part of the work being accompanied by a loud and 
cheerful humming, and next arranging the surface of the 
ground with scrupulous care, and sweeping every particle 
of dust to a distance. Even then she was not satisfied, 
but went scampering around, hunting for some fitting object 
to crown the whole. First she tried to drag a withered leaf 
to the spot, but the long stem stuck in the ground, and 
embarrassed her. . . . She then started to bring a large 
lump of earth, but this evidently did not come up to her 
ideal, for she dropped it after a moment, and, seizing another 
dry leaf, carried it successfully to the spot, and placed it 
directly over the nest." 

It is easy to see how this kind of unconscious 
effort after excellence would provide the oppor- 
tunity for improvement of the process by natural 
selection. Mr. Pcckham tells a story of another 
wasp of the same kind, who finished off her nest by 
picking up a small pebble in her mandibles, which 
she made use of as a hammer to pound down and 
level the earth over the nest, the operation being 
repeated many times. The same thing has been 
observed of this wasp by other observers. 

This activity is displayed in the direction of the 
adaptation of the environment to the wants and 
needs of the individual ; and seeing that man has 
excelled so in this direction, we may well assume 
that this instinct of making things was very strongly 



174 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

developed in the prototype of man, and indeed, 
seeing how closely the intellectual process depends 
upon the physical, we may easily imagine that it 
was the rapid improvement by selection of this 
quality that made possible the rapid growth of 
the reasoning faculty. It still remains one of our 
strongest instincts, and the source of no small part 
of the pleasure and interest of life ; from the 
youngest child to the oldest man, there is no one 
who does not feel a pleasure in having accom- 
plished something that can be shown as a result. 
The creative instinct may be shown in the making 
of anything from a toy to a steam-engine, just as 
in the work of art ; behind them all lies the deeply- 
planted "instinct of workmanship/' 1 which gives 
so keen a pleasure in the pure doing something, 
apart from, and in addition to, the result produced, 
with, of course, its invariable counterpart in the 
mental or intellectual side, where the pleasure of 
making or creating is no whit less keen. And just 
as practical life demands of the skill of workman- 
ship the production of an environment that shall 
be suitable and convenient for its physical needs, so 
the intellect demands a religious belief, or a theory 
of the universe that shall be in true spiritual accord 
with its highest aspirations. When skill in adapting 
the environment to the individual has reached a 
certain point, we find as it were a change in the 
method of development. The individual remains 
physically more or less constant, while evolution 

1 For the Instinct of Workmanship, see " Comparative Psycho- 
logy," Loeb, p. 197. 



THE ARTIST 175 

takes place in the environment. To a large extent 
we make our environment, and instead of being 
born with a complete set of ready-made instinctive 
series of actions, we are only provided with apti- 
tudes, with tendencies, desires, &c. ; but we can 
make use of the accumulated experience of past 
generations education, as has been well said, is 
the provision of environment. 

To return to the question of the origin of art 
production. We see that in the process of evolu- 
tion there naturally arises a strong instinct to deal 
with external matter, to mould or alter it, in order 
to render it more suitable to, and so more pleasing 
to, the individual, such efforts being guided by 
natural selection. In the first and earlier stages it 
would be more correctly described as natural 
selection picking out of the blind, automatic, 
purposeless activities those that happened to be 
in some way useful, and thus perpetuating them. 
When consciousness supervened, successful action 
in dealing with the external would be accompanied 
by an internal feeling of pleasure. It is thus easy 
to imagine that such actions will at some time tend 
to be repeated for the pleasure that they produce, 
although not required, or not actually useful at the 
moment. If such repetition was made at inoppor- 
tune times, or was in any way harmful, the tendency 
would soon disappear in the struggle for existence ; 
but when no actual harm resulted, or even in some 
cases an indirect advantage, such as giving practice 
in some activity subsequently useful, such pleasant 
actions would be repeated, and continue to be so 



176 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

repeated long after the cause that gave rise to such 
particular actions as necessary had disappeared, 
while new ones would be added ; so that while 
utility would in the first stage be the true and real 
cause of the pleasure, and the condition of its 
development and survival, it would in time so drop 
out of account as not only to be forgotten, and the 
reason for it impossible to conjecture, but even to 
be denied altogether the pleasure alone being 
looked upon as the cause of the particular action. 

In the fierce stress to which the whole animal 
kingdom is continually subjected, there is very 
little opportunity for any such constructive activity 
to survive beyond those that are actually useful in 
some way ; their whole energies are required for 
the provision of necessaries. But it is possible to 
find in various directions what may be considered 
the germ of such development that is to say, the 
repetition of some action no longer useful which 
seems to afford a satisfaction in its mere exercise 
apart from any utility. A dog will amuse itself by 
gnawing a stick, and finally will perhaps bury it, 
with extreme care smoothing down the ground 
with all the precautions necessary to preserve a 
secret hoard of food from predatory foes, while it 
clearly shows its recognition of make-believe by 
the complete indifference with which it will watch 
it being unearthed. The eagerness with which a 
dog or cat will run after, and play with, and try to 
catch a ball also illustrates the pleasure originally 
due to necessary activity. The Bower-bird builds 
a form of home, not a nest in any connection with 



THE ARTIST 177 

rearing its young, which it adorns with highly- 
coloured stones and stuffs, and in which it appa- 
rently takes considerable pleasure. It is not easy 
to imagine in what way this can have been of value, 
or to say whether it is now of any help to the 
birds, but it is fair to assume that at some period 
it was a valuable means of providing some form of 
protection or other assistance, and that if no longer 
helpful, it gives the birds sufficient pleasure to in- 
duce them to continue doing it. It would be well 
perhaps to point out that the foregoing is in no 
way intended to suggest play as an origin of the 
art impulse, a view we have already tried to con- 
trovert, but merely to illustrate how the pleasure 
in doing some action tends to persist, when there 
is no advantage to be got out of the performance. 
It is perfectly true that much, if not all, the pleasure 
in play is due to the exercise of activities and 
instincts that were originally useful and necessary, 
so in art production the pleasure in the work itself 
comes from an originally useful activity, while the 
result is demanded by and is an attempt to meet 
the desires and aesthetic feelings. Art is not the 
satisfaction of an aimless desire for some form of 
purposeless activity, but the attempt to provide by 
actually creating, or rather by making or moulding 
matter into a new form, an object pleasing to the 
senses. There is added to the pleasure in the 
result that of the actual workmanship. 

There is no doubt that the semi-conscious or 
the sub-conscious knowledge of the utility of a 
thing has much to do with our feeling of pleasure 

M 



178 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

in it, and those who describe beauty as "perfect 
fitness " can urge much in favour of such a defini- 
tion, provided that they do not insist upon a con- 
scious recognition of utility past, present, or future. 
Thus we find at an early stage that objects that 
were useful, or so altered as to be useful i.e. as 
helping to provide a more harmonious interaction 
between the individual and his environment, either 
by enabling him to deal more effectively with it, or 
by being in themselves more suitable were sensed 
as causing a pleasurable reaction (the previous stage 
being unconscious selection or action). As we have 
already seen, feelings aroused by an object always 
tend to be considered as qualities of the object with 
which they are connected ; thus any such objects 
would come to be considered in themselves as pleas- 
ing or beautiful. As the ideal pleasure would in 
the rise of mental development always tend to pre- 
ponderate over the material, so more and more 
attention would be paid to the qualities that caused 
pleasure to the higher faculties, until the ques- 
tion of utility would be entirely subordinated to 
an appeal to the eye ; certain aspects would be 
elaborated, the pleasing effect of which would be 
due to some utility so far removed from the present 
as to be entirely unrecognisable, leaving its trace 
only in the thrill of a pleasure now considered 
purely aesthetic. It is suitability or utility which 
has in the first place determined which forms and 
shapes shall survive in every kind of instrument, 
utensil, furniture, building, or any other form of 
artificial production, and so to become the type, 



THE ARTIST 179 

and thus the basis from which beautiful forms 
are developed just as certainly as the struggle for 
existence has determined the shape and form of 
the human body, which has for us an irresistible 
appeal to the aesthetic sense, and is perhaps the 
most typically beautiful thing that we know. 

The exact method which led to the first begin- 
nings of art, and what was actually the original 
form that it took, must of course remain very 
much a matter of conjecture. It is, however, of 
great interest to examine the earliest and most 
simple examples of art, and the forms from which 
it seems as though it must have emerged, although 
almost the first step must land us in a region where 
probability is perhaps as much as we can hope to 
reach. 

We shall find the most promising field in the 
works of the most backward and uncultivated 
savage tribes, who are, we may suppose though 
we must do so with great caution more nearly 
in the condition under which art forms first began 
to emerge. In examining their production it is of 
the greatest importance to regard them with suffi- 
cient simplicity, and not to read into them more 
than we can avoid from the advanced standpoint 
of our complicated mental attitude. The mind 
of the savage is much like that of a child ; his 
power of invention is very small, and he is, as 
it has been expressed, lt incredibly conservative." 
This is, of course, a corollary of slight mental 
development ; the power of dissociation and ab- 
straction being small, the inventive faculty is corre- 



180 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

spondingly feeble. It is owing to this strong tend- 
ency always to do things as they have been done 
before, so marked a feature among uneducated 
people, that the ethnologist is able to trace back 
many customs and methods to very remote times, 
especially in the case of the more backward tribes. 
The early forms and patterns would, as we have 
often suggested, arise, not from any deliberate in- 
tention of producing a pleasing appearance, but 
either by chance, or in response to what may be 
called the sense of expectancy, aroused by the 
want of the familiar or customary. The latter 
requires some explanation. We have already laid 
stress on the strength of the liking for that to which 
we are accustomed ; for it must be the safe, or that 
which has proved its utility by long use. This feel- 
ing of slight discomfort in the unfamiliar look of a 
thing would have many effects in small details. To 
the eye accustomed to an axe which was fastened 
on to the handle by binding, one secured in some 
different way might give a feeling of bareness, of 
something wanting, perhaps of weakness or inse- 
curity, which would very naturally be met by 
marks to suggest the old binding. The part played 
by this sense in the origin and development of 
ornament and decoration is very wide. A glance 
at the first person met in the streets will produce 
many examples in the unnecessary buttons at the 
back of a coat, in the slit lapel, and so on. The 
inclination to copy a previous method may be partly 
due to this tendency, as well as a default of inven- 
tive capacity. 



THE ARTIST 181 

As to the other method chance we may easily 
imagine a savage picking up an odd-shaped stone 
or piece of wood which has struck him by a resem- 
blance to some animal or human being ; a touch 
here or there completes the fancy, and he is de- 
lighted by the unexpectedly familiar suggestion. 
As likely as not it will be made into a fetish, placed 
perhaps in some niche an embryonic god. It 
has touched his recognition instinct, and appeals 
no doubt with redoubled strength to one in the 
stage of mental development in which everything 
is credited with animal or human feelings and 
senses. So the young child at the imaginative 
stage is delighted to recognise a suggestion of a 
living being in the most unlikely places. As 
Sully 1 relates of a boy who having by mistake 
made two F TS facing one another, said at once 
that they were talking to each other ; another, 
who made an extra stroke to an Lj, said, "Oh, 
he is sitting down." Small wonder that the 
slight shock caused by the sudden likeness to a 
human form should quickly give rise to suggestions 
of occult powers and magic influence. The man- 
dragora has always been held to have some spe- 
cially potent properties, owing to the fact that, with 
its usually bifurcated root, it seems to resemble a 
man. 

The recognition instinct, no longer acting purely 
in its life-assisting capacity, would add its quota to 
the pleasure in recognising a pattern or form ; this 
would be increased obviously if the form had, or 

1 "Studies of Childhood." 



182 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

were supposed to have, some special efficacy. We are 
not attributing any disinterested and aesthetic plea- 
sure to the savage mind apart from the purely un- 
conscious response. He will, we may imagine, feel, 
and so prefer without realising it, a highly-coloured 
model of a god, and will daub himself with colours 
juxtaposed as he feels most suitable ; will be roused 
to fury and excitement by the rhythmical dance in 
unison ; will attempt to cover with marks a surface 
that strikes him as wanting something ; and as he 
does so, the unconscious feeling for symmetry will 
tend to make the pattern balance. The patterns 
and forms will often tend to be constant, for in 
many of them the supposed magical qualities 
would prevent any intentional departure from the 
pattern ; for no one could be sure in exactly which 
line or mark lay the real secret of its power. Even 
where no attempt was made to alter or develop a 
design, the inevitable inability to copy accurately 
would lead to a gradual, and in time considerable, 
change from the original as one copy was made 
from another. 

Even a new material only gradually produces 
new forms, so strong is the demand of the eye and 
feeling for the well-known look ; stone building 
followed the constructional detail of woodwork, and 
something was felt to be wanting until the ends of 
the pegs that were required to hold the wooden 
beams together had been reproduced, though en- 
tirely unnecessary, in the stone. When the North 
American Indians discovered the use of clay the 
forms followed precisely the older basket-work, 



THE ARTIST 183 

even to the ornament ; the surface of the clay 
vessel was felt to be bare until made to suggest 
clearly the look of the old and familiar basket- 
work. 1 

A pattern or form that is continually copied, 
especially if it is not essential to the utility of the 
thing, such as that of suggesting some older but no 
longer necessary construction, becomes, as a rule, 
meaningless after a time, either by small and in- 
voluntary deviations, or by intentional modifica- 
tions that seem to make it more pleasing ; so much 
so that it is quite impossible to guess at the original 
motive. To the eye accustoming itself to each 
slight variation no discomfort or confusion is felt, 
and the pattern always appears perfectly natural 
and to be the right and proper method of orna- 
mentation, although all resemblance to the object 
that gave it its original attraction or interest is lost. 

In the production of charms and figures, such 
as are used in the practice of various kinds of 
sympathetic magic, is to be found a fertile source 
of what afterwards become art forms. It is most 
important to keep clearly in mind that it is not the 
art impulse that leads to their construction ; we 
are so accustomed to look upon any form of 
imitation of natural objects as art pure and simple, 
that it is difficult always to remember that such 
imitation can be undertaken solely with a material 
object in view, 

1 " Origin and Development of Form and Ornament in Ceramic 
Art," W. H. Holmes, Fourth Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, 
1882. 



184 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE Of BEAUTY 

It would be satisfactory if we could think that 
primitive tribes believed that the greater the likeness 
the greater the power ; that the important thing 
for its magical purpose was to make the nearest 
approach to an absolute illusion of reality, as it 
would greatly help to give us a suggestive explana- 
tion of the growth of realism in art. As a matter 
of fact there is no evidence to support any con- 
clusion of the kind. A careful examination of the 
early stages of the practice of magic seems to 
show that while a sufficient degree of imitation to 
suggest the object was necessary, it was not of 
importance to make it very close. 1 In order to 
make the magic effective, the most essential thing 
was to get something that had some material con- 
nection with the object to be bewitched some of 
his hair or clothes, or any object that had been in 
actual contact with his person. 

Although the evidence does not show that the 
belief in the efficacy of realism was widely pre- 
valent, it did, no doubt, exercise a considerable 
influence, and in some countries a too realistic 
representation of the human figure is not allowed, 
because of the magical, and so detrimental, effects 
likely to be produced. 1 In any case, the produc- 
tion of images and things, however crude and 
rough, for magical purposes must have had an 
incalculable effect in providing a starting-point, or 
rather material, upon which the art feelings would 
exercise their influence. 

Thus it is easy to imagine that all the different 

1 " The Origins of Art," Y. Him, p. 289. 



THE ARTIST 185 

activities and industries of early man and primitive 
tribes would, by providing objects of various kinds, 
form a suitable field from which the aesthetic 
faculty would select appropriate examples and 
elaborate them. We have already drawn atten- 
tion to the way in which objects once useful would 
please by a subconscious recognition of this ; such 
forms would appear to have an attractive appear- 
ance they would be copied, or form the basis of 
a design. In other cases we may imagine the 
suitability to purpose to be consciously recognised 
and deliberately appreciated. A man would be- 
come greatly attached to some implement of war 
or the chase, which by long use and much service 
had proved its utility and reliability ; this might 
well form the starting-point for artistic develop- 
ment, various marks and signs would be engraved 
upon it, probably due in the first place to some idea 
of advantage, such as the owner's sign-mark, or 
for the purpose of exerting influence upon events 
by imparting some powerful il medicine " to the 
weapon, with the signs and figures with which it 
was engraved ; also perhaps an obscure feeling 
that it was in some sort of way conscious, and that 
it would be pleased by the attention, and so do its 
work better. 

Thus we get in the early stages a number of 
representations of things, and designs, or patterns, 
which, although they might be taken for artistic 
embellishment, are in reality only pictographs, 
ideograms, or owners' marks ; models or images 
for purposes of exerting magical influence, lucky 



186 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

signs, and so on, all of which while only intended 
to be useful had incidentally certain qualities that 
appealed to the aesthetic feelings ; so that even at 
an early stage we can imagine that their repetition 
and development was due to a considerable variety 
of feelings and motives. There would be the pur- 
pose for which the object was being made, the 
pleasure in the form it was taking, or the arrange- 
ment of the pattern, which would be expressed by 
a tendency to prefer certain lines of development 
symmetry, balance, repetition and perhaps in 
a particular juxtaposition of colours, and by no 
means least the pleasure in the work itself ; no 
doubt there would also be the desire to make a 
better or more striking, and so more effective, 
object than any one else had made. Gradually 
more and more attention would be paid to the 
mere appearance, and certain features found pleas- 
ing might become accentuated at the expense of 
mere utility, until the object could hardly be of 
any practical use, and things would be made de- 
liberately for their pleasing appearance alone ; or 
made use of as a means of expressing ideas or 
imparting feelings and emotions by giving them 
a setting that would ensure a sympathetic hearing, 
by their appeal to the emotions of the hearer or 
spectator. 



CHAPTER VIII 

MEANING AND EXPRESSION 

So far we have attempted to confine ourselves 
somewhat rigidly to the consideration of the sense 
of beauty in its simplest possible form, as a direct 
sense response, and, as far as possible, to discount 
the part played by the intellectual faculties, in order 
to keep clearly in view the fact that it is this innate 
power of appreciation which is at the bottom of the 
problem of taste in regard to the beautiful ; but, as 
we have already pointed out, although we can theo- 
retically make some distinction, it is, practically, 
a matter of extreme difficulty to keep the simple, 
sftnsiioii^respQpsp Hair of^ the innumerable ideas 
that come flocking into the mind, and which are so 
apt fo be considered the source nf 
pleasure in the beautiful, owing to the 
which theyjnonopolis~e theattention. 

We propose, therefore, to examine some of what 
may be termed the higher intellectual processes 
involved in the appreciation of beauty and works of 
art that is to say, to consider how the intellectual 
factors arise out of. and are grafted on to. the simple 
feeling for beauty, and so bring about the highly 
complicated combination of feelings and ideas which 
we mean when we speak of the aesthetic emotion 

~ - 



188 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

So far as our feelings are purely instinctive we 
share them, or at least the great majority of them, 
with the higher animals. Can we then say that the 
animals have the aesthetic emotion ? This is a 
point that has been frequently discussed, but with 
somewhat unsatisfactory results. Some writers 
endowed with an anthropomorphic tendency have 
no difficulty in attributing to animals pretty much 
the same emotions and reasoning powers that we 
possess, with a difference in degree only, and find 
no objection in crediting them with aesthetic faculty 
one writer indeed goes so far as to find it in 
spiders. Certainly we can say that animals are 
affected by colours witness the birds and insects ; 
by sounds also for example, dogs and music or the 
snake-charmers ; but this is far from having what 
we usually mean by the aesthetic sense. The real 
truth of the matter probably lies in the fact that the 
animals have the elements of aesthetic; appffipjafopn 
m their sensations, just exactly as they^ have the 
elements upon which "any form ojrabstract rgason- 
ing is ultimately based. Man has no more sense 
organs than~the higher animals, and founds all the 
conceptions of science and reason on his sensations. 
Exactly as the animal is incapable of the one, it is 
incapable of the other. The whole difference lies, 
we may well believe, in the ability to perceive 
relations. Once the faculty^of appreciating the 
relationship of two things Jias^een developed, the 
wHble fieTd of thought is open. As far as careful 
etfJDerirmmt aiid~mvestigation can show, the animal 
is capable of a high degree of a kind of intelligence 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 189 

based upon sense experience and memory. The 
process of trial and error is the only means by which 
they discover a thing; the " relation*' between 
things cannot produce a sense impression, andTwe 
may believe that an animal has this power in only 
the very faintest form, if at all, and in the percep- 
tion ofrelations lies the <*erm~"of true aesthetic 
appreciation] 

The above statement requires some further ex- 
planation in order to make it intelligible ; it turns, 
too, to a large extent upon the exact meaning 
attached to words. To take a simple example 
when we see an object we locate it by its position 
in relation to other objects, but to explain in this 
way the method of locating involves the perception 
of the relation as such. But as long as we are 
dealing with simple sense impressions, the relation- 
ship need not yet have been perceived ; it has not 
yet been brought into the focus of consciousness. 
As we look round we see all the things that catch 
the eye grouping themselves in new relationships, 
and though these relationships jir. not consciously 
corisidei^d, they can at any moment become the 
object of attention. Fpf an animal or vouqg child 
they probably remain impressions, with a marginal 
consciousness of relationship, if \\ e like to call it so, 
which has never become the object of consideration, 
and which therefore does not exist as a conscious 
idea. If we consider a transference of attention 
from object A to object B, from B to C, and so 
on, we are aware, since consciousness is continuous, 
of the transition ; but it is marginal, our attention 



190 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

being concentrated on the succeeding objects. If 
a very young child, or an animal, presumed to be 
in the stage of sense impression only, be thus pre- 
sented with the two objects, first A and then B 
will successively occupy the focus of attention ; but 
the transition from one to the other, having no 
interest for sense experience, will remain marginal, 
and not until reflection is brought into play is this 
transition brought into focus and perceived. Clearly 
the transition from A to B cannot be focussed as 
a whole until B is reached in the act of passage 
it is still incomplete ; both of the related terms 
must be completed, consequently it is only by 
looking back that we can definitely perceive the 
relationship. The perception of a relation involves 
therefore reflection. 1 

As pointed out above, to perceive definitely the 
relation requires a certain amount of introspection 
and reflection, no doubt in simple cases of a very 
vague and incipient character ; but however small, it 
is of immense importance, for in this perception of 
a relation, as such, we have the first ^tp.p fofo an 
almostboundless new regionj)f thought. The pro- 
cess when carried a step further as, for example, 
passing from A to B to C enables us to perceive 
the relation of A to B and that of B to C, and thus 
observe and consider the relation between rela- 
tions, and so rapidly reach a highly complex nr^^r 
of thougfit. 

1 Sec Professor Lloyd Morgan's " Introduction to Comparative 
Psychology," where the whole question of the perception of relations 
in man and animals is fully discussed. 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 191 

It must of course be clearly noted that the per- 
ception of relations merely means a new way of 
dealing with the already existing material. Long 
before relations are perceived as such, they are 
marginally present ; subconsciously :we are aware 
of them and act upon them, but we have not learnt 
to consider them as a thing in themselves just as 
the mind worked for very long periods before it 
was able to consider and, so to speak, apprehend 
itself. Nor indeed in the early days was there any 
need to do so, since the marginal awareness was 
sufficient for practical purposes, as in the case of 
the animals^ The obvious question then arises, 
wfiat practical use and advantage was this faculty 
to man that he should have developed it, living as 
he did a wild free life differing but little from that 
of the animals ? Professor Lloyd Morgan makes a 
suggestive answer to meet the difficulty. The per- 
ceptioq of relations is a necessary factor in the 
evolution of descriptive intercommiini^mn The 
moment that we try to describe things to any one, 
relations must be brought into focus. The be- 
ginningof language required the perception of 
relations ; the perception of relations at once began 
to make a language out of a few incoherent names 
for things. 

A child, long before he can count, can sense the 
difference between one thing and two, between two 
and three, between several and many ; so can an 
animal, but by recognismgjeach as a separate sense 
experience noTthrough the perception of numeri- 
caT relationship. 



192 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

One reason of the important gain to mental 
action in the recognition of relationship as such. 
lies JIL the fact that it opens the road to abstract 
ideas- As objects presented to sense experience are 
compared, first one and then another quality is 
brought into prominence ; the objects may be com- 
pared as to weight, hardness, &c., and the particular 
quality in which comparison is wished for is 
selected and emphasised, while the others sink out 
of notice. One aspect being thus isolated and 
rendered predominant over others with which it 
may be closely connected in sense experience, is 
on its way to become the abstract idea of intellectual 
thought. This process of comparison can be carried 
a very little way without some vague and dawning 
conception of the universal validity of the relation- 
ships dealt with in particular instances, and thus 
forms the starting-point of the higher intellectual 
operations_J&aLJi&, in the region of conceptual 
thought. 

This power the comparison of relations as a 
deliberate and conscious process is, we may fairly 
believe, distinctively human. Animals and very 
young children live in a world of impressions and 
ideas set in a background^ dimly sensed relations 
which have never been perceived as such. For 
fully developed man the world is a world of per- 
cepts, set in a background of relations which have 
been consciously grasped. 1 Once this has been 
done, and the perception of relations has come to 
form part of theTmental process, its results become 

1 Professor Lloyd Morgan, op. fit., p. 237. 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 193 

so closely intermingled with all thejghases of con- 
sciousness asToHForm arfabiding background. Just 
as, at some moment in development, memory, and 
with it consciousness and the power of learning 
by experience, was added to simple reaction to 
stimulus, so we may imagine this power of seeing 
and realising relationship to intervene upon a 
certain development of intelligent sense experience. 
The enormous value of such a power needs no 
emphasis ; not only does it greatly increase the 
range and ability to draw deductions, but it makes 
description, ancj so commumcation r possible, as we 
have pointed out above. No description, still less 
any explanation of knowledge, is possible, except in 
terms of the relations which the figures and objects 
have to one another. Animals or very young 
children cannot understand an explanation, not so 
much because they cannot understand the words 
because of single concrete words they can learn 
a large number but because the words are of 
things which they have never experienced, and so 
have no possibility of comprehension. 

That an animal has not the sense of relationship 
and the reasoning power that would accompany it, 
is a matter about which there is still considerable 
divergence of opinion ; it is suggested here, follow- 
ing Professor Lloyd Morgan, that it has a consider- 
able degree of intelligence and of adaptation by 
means of sense experience, selecting appropriate 
action by the method of trial and error. As an 
example, he gives the story of a terrier of his, 
accustomed to fetch and carry a walking stick, 

N 



I 9 4 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

which the dog very soon learnt to pick up in the 
middle, since by balancing it at that point, it was 
easier to carry. One day he took out a Kaffir 
knob-kerrie, which, being weighted, balanced some 
nine inches from the heavy end. After an hour or 
two's experience, the dog, continually dropping 
it, owing to the discomfort of the want of balance 
when taken up in the middle, and picking it up 
again, discovered that it had to be seized near one 
end. This serves as a simple and good example 
of the means by which animals find out ways of 
doing things, in which no reasoning whatever is 
required. One of a number of aimless, but ener- 
getic, movements brings about a pleasing result or 
a desired object, such as getting out of a place in 
which it has been confined ; subsequent repetitions 
shorten the number of attempts, until finally the 
sight of the particular door, or other object, sets 
in train the necessary actions. These when noticed 
may easily seem to be the result of deliberate 
reasoning. It is difficult to realise fully the great 
care required to explain, or even to observe, the 
actions of animals, and the extreme watchfulness 
necessary to keep out of our interpretation the 
inevitable tendency to credit an animal with 
reasoning powers similar to our own, when we 
see it doing exactly what we should under similar 
circumstances. The high degree of apparent reason- 
ing power in ants and wasps serves as a useful 
corrective as to the need of such faculties in order 
to perform actions apparently requiring elaborate 
thought. 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 195 

It may be thought that this point has been dis- 
cussed at somewhat needless length, but it is one of 
importance. We have laid so much stress upon the 
development of the aesthetic faculties from primitive 
instincts, present even in the low forms of the animal 
kingdom, that it becomes very necessary to dis- 
tinguish clearly between the meaning, so to speak, 
that sensations convey to the human being and the 
animal. We can, as mentioned above, easily sup- 
pose the animal to have the sensations, at any rate 
in a more simple form and lower degree, which we 
ourselves feel ; the difference is in the use made of 
them. The organs themselves, as they develop, react 
to finer and finer shades of difference and to slighter 
stimuli, so that while they have the same kind of 
sensations there may be an immense difference in 
degree. If we choose^ to talk of a peahen having 
an aesthetic perception and admiration_of ^thg beauty 
of her brilliantly gleaming mate, we must be quite 
sure that we do not mean more than an emotional 
sense experience. 

As soon as we have reached the point of isolating 
the relationship between two objects or ideas, and 
of considering it in its general aspect, not merely 
with reference to the particular objects, we may say 
that, instead of /irceiving the relationship, we can 
conceive it as an abstract idea ; this being a further 
extension of perception involving the results of a 
good deal of experience, in which the permanence 
of the relation, amidst many modes of manifestation, 
begets the general conception. An interesting point, 
and one upon which there is considerable diversity 



196 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

of opinion, is that as to the possibility of keeping 
thejittention upon such generalised concept in the 
absence of a name or symbol. A^conceptioiL say 
of^sunilarity. is indefiniie^and directly_we 3tt$pit 
tomake it more precise we think of a p^rticu^ar 
example we turn the concept, so to speak f into^a 
percept, while the word alone enables us to fix the 
gieheral conception without pq.rtinii|arjging if 

It is this conceiving of relations that leads to the 
formation of general ideas. The process of com- 
parison leads to the recognition of 



to a variety of things, and a general idea is a 
sentation of a class of things. The first stage would 
lie in theTwelding together of a number of concrete 
images into a generic image by a procesir2Fit 
were, of assimilative cumulation. 



then arise by an accentuation of the features which 
the successive images say of a number of trees or 
other objects of a class had in common, and a 
weakening of the less essential points. No doubt 
the early and simple staes^jnay b< 



without any help from language, butitisextremely 
doubtful whether the orderly process of flTe ~com- 
parison of a number of percepts ancTrecognitipn of 
common attributes could ^Be carriecTon without the 
aid of a word or symbol. It is certainly clear that r 
at all events in adult life, all clear thinking takes 
place bv the help of language. The general idea 
can only be brought into qpdTield by the attention 
by the name or some symlfol. 

" It is very uncertain whether in the absence of these 
and other general signs the infant or the lower animal ever 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 197 

attains to a clear consciousness of the 'oneun the many, 
the common aspect of a number of different Objects." l 

Here we see the recognition of unity in variety 
the widgljTjLccepted criterion of beautv. turning uj 
as the very foundation-stone of the higher processe 

Of thought ; no yynndqr^haf it shrmlH gjw risp fn 
pleasure^ its power to bring order^to confused 
thought. 

This point, of the part played by the name or the 
symbol in the process of thought, is really one of 
great importance to our subject. Pr9fessor MnlW 2 
maintained that no real thought \vas possible with- 
outjanguage^: to certain schools of Oriental meta- 
plvysics, things owe their existence to the names 
that, as it were, make them possible to thought. 
There is a curious realisation of the deep function 
of language in the opening words of St. John's 
Gospel " In the beginning was the Word, and the 
Word was God." 

As we reflect upon the qualities, the differences, 
and the similarities of things, we register them by 
a name, by which we can recall, and, so to speak, 
bring into focus, certain general qualities ; and 
though, in our present stage of mental development 
and experience, we can get a kind of general idea 
of a quality without the name, or seem to feel as if 
we could, it is at least highly doubtful whether we 
could have ever reached the power without the 
process of thought only made possible by the de- 
velopment of language. The higher steps become 

1 "A Text Book of Psychology," J. Sully, 1892. 
* " Collected Essays," vol. i. pp. 590 et sea. 



198 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

possible by means of the verbally embodied results 
of the lower 

" Language is to the mind what the arch is to the tunnel. 
The power of thinking and the power of excavation are not 
dependent on the word in the one case, or the mason's 
work in the other ; but without these subsidiaries neither 
process could be carried on beyond its rudimentary com- 
nencement." l 

Now we may consider it one of the functions of 
art to embody a general conception of some subtle 
kind, and to seize and offer for consideration some- 
thing which has not yet found a word by which it 
can be expressed, but which has at the same time 
an appeal to any observer who has sufficient know- 
ledge and experience and quickness of apprehension 
to catch it : and for him the particular work of art 
is the peg upon which he hangs his conception ; 
unformulated otherwise, it only exists for him there. 
In many cases this appreciation of the idea may lead 
to a new name being found. It must often happen 
that a work of art gets part of its charm by suggest- 
ing some conception vague perhaps, but of real 
interest which is as yet nameless, and, not having 
any known symbol, cannot be fixed and so brought 
into the focus of consciousness ; to music perhaps 
this would apply particularly 

" And, as imagination bodies forth 
The forms of things unknown, the poet's power 
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothings 
A local habitation and a name." 

For example, the Capitoline Zeus conveys a 

1 Hamilton, quoted by J. Sully, op. cit., p. 262. 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 199 

very distinct impression of a quality of command, 
fatherhood, royal dignity, and steadfast inflexi- 
bility ; and there is no doubt that part of its charm 
lies in this generalised conception of a number of 
subtle qualities for which we have no definite ex- 
pression when combined, and we are pleased at the 
opportunity of thus grasping a conception of unity 
combining variety^ in the novel aspect of such 
qualities lynthesised into one. When emotionally 
aroused, the quicker beat of life leads to an enhanced 
celerity of thought ; suggestive hints are quickly 
taken up and conceptions are made, not necessarily 
intended^jhought^qf^^)yjhe_artist,^but latent, or 
rather jstruck jnto being by the excitement into 
which the mere beauty of his work has roused the 
mental qualities through the aesthetic sense. Much 
is unconsciously^ or half-consciously conveyed by 
the artisJ^fTul_l_of numerous carefully studied ex- 
amples, he tries to ervolve a conception of the type 
nof iEe mere average, but in the direction of the 
beautiful and^ his work may become the standard, 
and asltTwere a symbol, almost a word," by which 
we call up to ourselves a certain conception. The 
Venus de Milo is a conception of a certain aspect 
of female beauty that we can use as a symbol, a 
word full of emotional significance. 

Certain forms of art, such as that jof sculpture, 
may offer a generalised concept of a number of 
images of a ta'ctual or muscula^nature ^oFwhich we 
are really so little conscious that we should perhaps 
never think^oFresuming them under a name. Hegel 
suggested that a gem-cutter must have his ideas in 



200 ORIGIN OP THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the form of muscular and tactile feeling, for he 
cannot so much as see his minute work. So in all 
q,rt the well-practised artist, with his attention fully 
directed upon what he is trying to express, is almost 
unconscious of the actual details. The sculptor's 
sense of touch moulds the delicate, subtle curves ; 
the painter plays on his colours almost as a musi- 
cian on his notes; in the result, therg., ma^be 
nmnerniig subordinate, probably subconscious gene- 
ralised conceptions of line and colour that have 
a strong appeal to the Tiighly trained observer, 
who will, so to peak7 discover them, isolating and 
drawing attention to effects of this nature which in 
a "greaFn lumber o cases were not perceived defi- 
nitely, andjay injhe marginal subconsciousness of 
the artist himself. We may, however, be sure that 
one of the great attractions in art is this power of 
acting, so to speak, as a point of crystallisation for 
floaljn^djeas^^jch have never been 



from the want of a 
symbol ugqj^idiJbJQU. the attention. 

It is probably due to the inability to perceive 
and realise relations that any form of drawing 
a picture is meaningless to the most intelligent 
animal, unless, owing to the sign and colour, or 
something in the arrangement, it amounts to an 
actual illusion of the real thing. 

Conceptual thought rising into_jdeal consjruc- 
tion will be considered _ under the headjpf im.ag.i- 
natiorTand the consJr^ctweJ^uU^ 
What Is foFlfie moment of importance is to recog- 
nise the practical value of conceptual thought, in 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 201 

order to show a clear and obviously advantageous 
reason of each advance in intellectual faculty, and 
therefore of the origin of the pleasure in the exer- 
cise of it. The power of forming concepts de- 
velops and makes possible the formation of systems 
that will afford guidance in the affairs of everyday 
life that is to say, a generalised scheme, or plan, 
that will enable us to deal more promptly and more 
effectually with new situations than by the crude 
and wasteful method of discovery by trial and error, 
which is the only way possible to mere sense ex- 
perience, in the absence of rational thought. 

When a child has lost or wants something, he 
looks aimlessly about, here and there, until perhaps 
he comes upon it, this simple trial and error having 
probably proved successful as a rule. The follow- 
ing experiment, described by Professor L. Morgan, l 
will illustrate the point : A ball was dropped in a 
grass field, and a number of adults and children 
started from a stake in the middle to look for it. 
Naturally the young ones meandered about, search- 
ing one corner several times, missing others, finally 
coming on it, if at all, by chance. With adults the 
search was, as a rule, methodical. A moment's 
consideration was enough to form the idea that 
by going in an increasing spiral, or by a regular 
gridiron course, it would be easy to make sure 
of examining each part of the field. They had 
a definite reason why the particular course was 
adopted, and why it was bound to be successful. 
An animal would, of course, trust to the hap- 

1 " An Introduction to Comparative Psychology," p. 279. 



202 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

hazard style, unless trained to cover the ground 
regularly. 

The result of sense experience alone is, as a 
rule, in a simple life a sufficient basis for expecta- 
tions of a practical kind, without the need of any 
higher conceptual process. A dog seeing its master 
in a black coat and top hat will go back and lie in 
its corner, while a tweed coat and hat brings him 
barking and jumping in the expectation of a walk. 
Speaking loosely, we say the dog infers from the 
one that he will be left behind, and from the other 
that he will be taken. There is, of course, no need 
for any reasoning ; the tweed coat and cap are, as 
a matter of simple sense experience, connected with 
walk. No doubt a very large number of our own 
actions are based upon this immediate expectation, 
or, if we like to call it so, direct inference, keeping out 
of it the idea of a chain of reasoning. Inthis way 
a kind of restrjctfedLreason, or intelligent exjyrta- 
tion, exercised its function JQLjiJlcmg^ time before 
Feason,"~iri the full sense, came on the scene to 
explain the meaning and set forth the relation- 
ships. But when conceptual thought has become 
a habitual intellectual process, and systematic 
generalisations have become, as it were, a second 
nature, we find that the significance of a situa- 
tion, in relation to some general concept either 
already present or simultaneously formed in the 
mind, may arise as quickly and as completely as 
the meaning of a situation does for simple sense 
experience. It is to this circumstance that an 
object may give rise to an instantaneous feeling 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 203 

of pleasure without any conscious or apparent 
process of thought. So we have the sudden in- 
tuitions flashes of insight which suddenly light 
up some tangled maze of ideas and facts, and in 
a moment give the generalised concept that brings 
them all into order. 

Long pondering over a subject, the careful 
scrutiny of many facts relating to it, the arrang- 
ing and rearranging of ideas is suddenly illumi- 
nated by a conception that seems to come, as it 
were, from nowhere, though often some additional 
fact or a side light may be the obviously exciting 
cause. In such cases we may call the logical pro- 
cess implicit, and the logical relations must be sub- 
sequently traced out and rendered explicit. The 
logic comes after the insight. Many people see 
their conclusions, and then find the reasons to 
support them., 

But we only find these pieces of brilliant insight 
in minds fully capable of^explicit Reasoning. The 
flash of insight winch v/asaroused in JJaalon by 
the fallm^apples presupposes all the wide resources 
of his highly-trained brain. 

Omne ignotum pro 



stand it, it must be J^jiderfulj so we attach more 
importance to the sudden idea commg"T:rom rip- 
where than to the carefully thought nut qopnliisiQn 
of lojJical deducting. We find often enough that 
thejgcponent of some newjh^ory^sijhe world in a 
new jeligion^ after perhaps a long course of reading 
of Oriental metaphysics jand^ vague thinking, sud- 
denly announces scientific thought and mefKocTTb 



204 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

be delusion and a snare, and that the truth can only 
be conceived by getting half glimpses from a world 
not usually accessible to sense, which come through 
the subconscious mind when left without control, 
and that in this way they can reveal things that no 
amount of thought and scientific investigation can 
ever approach : whereas in truth the very means 
by which their own information is gained is only 
rendered possible by the method of logical thought 
that they despise,, and that if the rational mind had 
not discovered and perceived relationships, and 
built up the fabric of conceptual thought and 
abstract idea, the irrational or subconscious mind 
could not ever have had the ideas upon which they 
base so much. Tfop; whnlp^trend of progress lies 
in the conscious and rational apprehension of 
objects and ideas, that to begin with are marginal 



But while the teacher and the philosopher must 
keep to the clear light of reason if they are to help 
the world on its way, and to advance the growth of 
knowledge, to the artist we may give full_jiberty. 
We do not ask him for facts, for definite informa- 
tion, for rules of conduct or a theory of the uni- 
verse and the ultimate destiny of man. From him 
we ask for beauty, for pleasures that shall appeal to 
our highest sensibilities. The artist can search out 
and eagerly fix his attention on beauty of all kinds 
wherever he can find it ; he can let tfie sense im- 
pressions sink into Kls soul, and then, with sudden 
uprush from his unconscious or subconscious sense, 
there may spring a new conception, not of things 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 205 

he cannot know, but a new aspect or relation- 
ship of things perceived, combined in a new way, 
accentuating the features that appear beautiful. 
It is the vague imaginings, the dim suggestions, 
the stirringof the emotions to which our tempera- 
ment and training will fit the appropriate thoughts, 
that we want from the artist. Just as we go to 
nature, and feel in the woods and the hills the 
sense of mystery in things, and the grandeur of 
the universe in the stars ; so the artistic mind, feel- 
ing these mpfp Hfiftply, can show us the way to see 
them, and we are the better, and our mind the 
fuller for it. Life is the richer for the value and 
the good that we have got, and for which we can 
never be too grateful, for in such good lies the 
great part of our higher intellectual pleasure. We 
must not, however, confuse such intellectual plea- 
sure wTFh Knowledge. It is not usually the fact, 
and there is no reason why it should be, that the 
artist is necessarily of great intellectual calibre or 
of profound wisdom. The fact that he can impress 
us with the mystery of things in an intent ^pg r pp 
does not mean that he is thereby explaining them or 
taking us nearer to the real meaning. All our sense 
of life, our feeling, our joy in living is strengthened 
and intensified. The sense of vitality is enhanced 
because every excitement of a pleasurable emotion 
at once increases the pulse of life, and makes the 
whole being beat more quickly ; but it is our natural 
sympathy with nature that is being trained, not our 
intellectual comprehension of it, for beauty appeals 
primarily to feeling, not to intellect, hdweveTTmitih 



206 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the wider powers of the intellect share in the total 
pleasure and are touched through feeling. 

It isjnterestjng to note that art seems Deeper and 
more profound the more incapable it is of definite 
expression, and it is in music perhaps that we find 
this most accentuated. Music, with its matchless 
strength of appeal to emotion, is often credited with 
a deep significance. It is undoubtedly a wonder- 
ful spur to all the faculties, but can it give us any- 
thing not already there ? can it do more than drive 
home our own thoughts, in new connections per- 
haps, and with an added emphasis never before 
realised, from its extraordinary appeal to the senses ? 
In his book on "The Philosophy of the Beautiful/' 
Professor Knight says : 

" Music appeals to us more directly than either painting, 
sculpture, or architecture does ; because it dispenses with 
everything except the medium of sound. In so doing it 
takes us closer to reality than any of the other arts can. . . . 
It carries us towards the underlying essence of things the 
Ding an sich not by intellectual discernment, but by simple 
intuition; not by circuitous scientific analysis, but by a 
synthetic process of what may be called divination or 
second sight. 

" He (the musician) works not analytically, but bv a 
perpetual unconscious synthesis ; and^s^soon^aslhe begins 

formerly sUuggij3~m in- 



artistic moments, and which he now tries to express, flow 
along a subterranean channel. The * fountains of the great 
deep* are broken up, and in his creative art he 

' Sees into the life of things.' 

The musician's insight cannot be described as either wholly 
intellectual or altogether emotional. 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 207 

" Music touches many problems, and drops them again. 
It skirts the margins of others. It takes up some questions, 
and without answering them shows that they are unneces- 
sary. It throws a plank ucross the chasm which all ontology 
discloses, by which we may cross securely to the opposite 
side." 

It would be easy to fill books with similar quota- 
tions in which this wonderful insight gnd know- 
ledge of the meaning of things i^ attributed to the 
musician and music. In one sense, no doubt, it is 
true beautiful music does produce the effects de- 
scribed in a sufficiently qualified hearer. But the real 
truth of the matter seems to lie in the phenomenon 
already discussed, of the objectincatioiiToT emo- 
tion ; because we feel these things, deep thoughts, 
profound suggestions, we believe them to be in the 
musician and in the music, and because he sug- 
gests them we think he also must understand them. 
When we have these same feelings of the infinite 
and the ideal, of truth and goodness, and of the pro- 
found mysterjTof the world stimulated by watch- 
ing t fie stars on a fine clear night, in the growing 
twilight of a beautiful country, or in the sympathy 
of love we know that they are in ourselves called 
up by the emotional excitement for which the parti- 
cular circumstances are responsible. So it is with 
music ; the great musician, with his perfect sense of 
harmony, can produce by hjs beautiful creations a 
wave of emotion that stirs us to the very depth of 
our being, and under the spur jye J^eTold thoughts 
with a new significanceand depth, and we have 
a warni, emotionally realistic^ feeling ___gf truths 



208 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

perhaps till then mere intellectual concepts, so that 
they may seem, when really felt, to be actually new. 
All our ideas are so suffused with a new warmth 
and appreciation, and so many ideas are touched 
and started and seen in new combinations, that our 
very inability to take them in to do more than be 
half-consciously aware of them gives us the feeling 
of a profound vastness and depth of knowledge. 
But does this delightful vague reverie always, or 
even often, lead to a higher knowledge, or a finer 
life? do we find ourselves actually wiser or the 
world the better ? 

In all the arts we find that in exact ratio to their 
definiteness of form thejntellectual will predomi- 
nate over the emotional. The great novelis'Fwill 
Eea man of observation, a shrewd interpreter of 
character ; the poet may vary from the philosophic 
to a highly emotional temperament, but as his jjies- 
sage is more clear_andjiejinitfijhe more will he be 
intellectual ; and advance in any art is marked by a 
growing regard for an appreciation of form. 

In the appreciation of beauty of form arises the 
difference in aesthetic corresponding to the difference 
between sensation and the perception of relations. 
A simple perception of a pleasing object, or col- 
lection of objects, without consciousness of the 
distinction or relation of the parts, would be a 
sensation, not a perception of form. As we have 
seen, the aesthetic value of an object is due to the 
particular mode of stimulation upon certain sense 
organs, but if to this there be added a consider- 
able contribution from memory and training, the 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 209 

resulting pleasantness will be due, not only to the 
pleasing sensation, but also to the apperceptive reac- 
tion, and the latter will become more important as 
the object relies for its form and influence upon the 
experience and knowledge of the observer. The 
apperception of form depends just as simple ap- 
preciation of sense impression upon constitution, 
age, congenital tendency, but also, and to a larger 
degree, upon experience, training, and knowledge. 

The less definite the object, the wider the scope 
and the greater the necessity for the play of mind in 
finding some particular aspect of perception which 
will determine the form ; though it must be remem- 
bered that the form is only indefinite, as far as it is 
incapable of arousing a suggestion of something 
experienced or known. A cloud, for instance, has a 
perfectly definite outline, but remains indeterminate 
for us until its form, previously vague, turns into 
something that we can recognise, an animal, or a 
ship, or some other thing that we know. It would 
be no more and no less really definite, but as soon 
as we were able to impose a recognisable form upon 
it, there would be not only the brilliance of colour 
and the beauty of its light transparent look, but a 
new value added in the form that we had found 
for it. 

It is the exercise of the apperceptive faculty that 
gives the interest and pleasure found in indeter- 
minate objects, to the vague, the incoherent, and 
the suggestive. The more this is appealed to by 
the artist, the greater the richness presumed in the 
observer's mind, the less the power of the performer. 



o 



2io ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

A simple and poorly-equipped mind is nonplussed 
and bewildered by vague indeterminateness, and 
turns away to simpler things with a helpless feel- 
ing7 or with annoyance amounting to openly 
expressed contempt. The artist not ...artist ..enough*. 
or of natural genius without sufficient patience to 
acquire thorough technical skill, or to work out his 
ideas, is sure to delight in the region of vagueness 
sketching, hinting, suggesting, stimulating, but 
not informing or imparting ideas. There is no 
doubt that such a nature has a feeling of immense 
profundity, or mighty significance, of being always 
on the verge of a masterpiece which somehow is 
never executed. To a certain extent this is a per- 
fectly legitimate and proper feeling, for the limits 
imposed by our materials for expression, colour, 
form, sound, words, make it impossible to express 
the full reality of experience. The most perfect 
mastery of technical skill will not be exhaustive, 
and there must be always left a fringe that can 
only suggest by no means the least valuable part 
of a great work of art. So that where JhfiJfi Js 
reallj^profpund thought and master^ of-material, 
therewill still be a felt 



so that an appeal mus^ still be made to the observer 
tcTjieTp'the inipgrfection from his own^atore-of ideas 
and experience. But this is really a different thing 
to the point to which we were referring, and comes 
after all the resources of a thoroughly learnt art 
have been exhausted. It may be that thoughts can 
be too subtle for the coarse medium of words ; but 
that, if true, and not merely due to want of more 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 211 

f ul thought, is no excuse for saying that, as no words 
can really express the thought, it matters little what 
words are used, trusting simply to a vague sug- 
gestiveness. What is felt as depth is too often in- 
competence, and a very simple thing is unutterable 
if we have not learned to speak. We may be pretty 
sure that habitual indulgence in incoherence and 
vagueness is a sign of want of thought, of a poet or 
a painter who has not mastered their craft, without 
denying that there may be at the back of it a soul 
of immense but inexpressible genius. 

A public, widely educated, pluming itself on its 
ability to understand and appreciate, is a great 
snare to the artist, who is apt to be led into 
unauthorised experiment, whimsical efforts after 
originality, to throw off a sketch or an idea before 
it has matured or been really worked out, by the 
certainty that it will find admirers who are only 
too ready to take crudeness for strength and origi- 
nality, vagueness for sublimity each anxious to 
proclaim that, however meaningless it may appear 
to the vulgar, to them it is full of a subtle and 
refined beauty, and, by their asseveration of its 
greatness, force adherence from many too con- 
scious of their own inability to judge. 

The attraction of the indefinite is a point of 
great interest in the question of the emotional 
response to beauty. If we are to accept the view 
that the pleasure in form and beauty is due to 
the content or expression, to the recognition of 
unity, in variety, of the realisation of the ideal 
within the real, or any of the numerous explana- 



212 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

tiotis of beauty that refer it to an intellectual per- 
ception, it is very difficult to see any reason for 
the aesthetic pleasure in a subject that becomes 
more beautiful the less clear and defined it is 
as a photograph, for instance, which is made more 
" artistic " by the simple expedient of putting it a 
little out of focus. We have maintained that we 
must look at aesthetic emotion as made up of the 
natural response of a number of innate reactions, 
which may have in many cases lost all use, or 
even meaning, but still remain capable of arousing 
dimly-perceived states of feeling, which in turn, 
by the process previously described as the analogy 
of feeling, arouse others, and thus set in motion 
innumerable trains of ideas, the connection being 
in the similarity of feeling, all of which in their 
turn react upon and increase the total emotion. 
In this case it is not difficult to see that the very 
fact of a thing being indeterminate would allow 
a freer play of these obscure feelings, from the 
fact that the mind having no definite idea would 
not to the same extent tend to keep the feelings 
and ideas in a particular direction ; in this way 
the vague suggestive painting, and the rhythmical 
cadence of some kinds of poetry that is apparently 
almost meaningless, come very near to music, 
and share its illusive suggestion of power to impart 
knowledge and ideas. 

Although suggestive indeterminateness of form 
has this great power in arousing emotion, it has 
many disadvantages. It is by its nature ambiguous, 
and so obscure and uncertain in the effects it may 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 213 

produce. Where no definite meaning is to be 
conveyed, as in architecture, music, landscape 
painting, decorative art, and so on, the lack of 
form is perhaps less objectionable, though the 
observance of form, and the demand for it, in 
these branches of art is a sign of increasing 
appreciation. Form is not perceivable by the 
ignorant or untrained, by whom the arts are re- 
garded simply as a delightful source of emotion, 
or as a soothing or exciting influence ; but who 
would be content with this as their full and best 
function ? The need for definiteness of form irr 
literature, when the actual " sense" values of the 
parts is small, is too obvious to require elaboration, 
though even here certain effects are got by in- 
tentional formlessness, as in the writing of the 
symbolists, who try to express ideas, perhaps 
hardly possible to articulate, the suggestiveness 
of which might be lost by precision ; but meaning- 
lessness is soon reached, and the imagination of 
the reader has to supply the want. The indeter- 
minate in form requires the observer to furnish 
the completion, and the power to do this must 
vary with the capacity of the different persons. 
The object will be beautiful to him who can make 
it so, ugly to another to whom it remains unsug- 
gestive and unintelligible. To the observer who 
has a well-equipped and active mind, many works 
of art may appear beautiful from which he gets 
but little value ;. he is presented with no new 
object, and can only fit to the vague object some 
previous experience. He is not taken away from 



ORIGIN OP THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

his own stock of ideas and his imagination drawn 
into a new path ; he is not enriched by some new 
beauty. There is, however, the vague emotional 
stimulus, and a creative mind, rich with observa- 
tion, may perhaps from the excitement catch some 
new and delightful idea ; but it is his previous 
study of the definite forms which nature provides, 
or which the artist has moulded to new concep- 
tions, that has enabled him to do this. The in- 
determinate has this advantage, that it cultivates 
spontaneity of ideas and imagination, and so 
makes the mind find many a thing intelligible 
that might otherwise remain unnoticed or unin- 
teresting. Without this power of imposing order 
upon the indefinite, all would be chaos, without 
form and void. 

It often happens that some object, fluid, changing, 
indeterminate, by stimulating the perceptive activity 
of mind, will seem more beautiful and sublime, to 
have a deeper significance, to have more life and 
possibility, than one which presents a single un- 
changing form, however beautiful. And yet the 
whole object of the activity is to reach definite 
form, and we see no beauty until we have intro- 
duced it. But there is, in dealing with the incom- 
plete, the feeling that we have not yet reached the 
best that it can suggest that there is something 
still behind, if we could but see it, that seems to 
give a suggestion of infinite possibility. This in- 
stability of form can hardly be a real advantage, 
for the beauty fixed by some stroke of genius 
keeps constantly what can only be reached by the 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 215 

imagination, if at all, in some especially propitious 
moment. We may find the perfect, definite form 
become monotonous, and prefer the transient 
gleams of a beauty that is always eluding us in 
the indeterminate. This is no doubt due to the 
illusion which lends a mysterious charm to the in- 
definite and undefined by its suggestion of infinite 
perfection. And yet perfection involves finiteness, 
and nothing, in fancy or nature, can be perfect 'with- 
out realising a definite type or form, the result of 
apperception. 

There is a widely prevalent habit of mind which, 
incapable of realising any particular thought or 
idea in its perfect clearness and beauty, yet is 
aware of its haunting presence somewhere in the 
background. The brain is too full many ideals, 
innumerable tendencies of thought, and inarticu- 
late cravings teem in a confused emotion, so that 
if a single definite image be presented, it seems 
inadequate, perhaps by reason of its very perfect- 
ness. The power of concentration, of serious 
attention that would make possible real appre- 
ciation of the particular excellence, is wanting. It 
is easier to wander in the vague yearnings of half- 
thoughts and semi-visions, and the height and exal- 
tation of the mood seems somehow in proportion 
to the incapacity to think or realise anything cohe- 
rent. The total of the emotions may be imposing ; 
there is the suggestion of an infinite meaning or 
purpose, and what seems to come nearest the ideal 
craved is not any one definite form, but something 
which, with a pervasive thrill, will stimulate the 



u6 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

ndeterminate emotion with hints and haunting 
suggestiveness of an infinite beauty. Thus infinite 
perfection a contradiction in terms and incapable 
therefore of realisation is suggested, and is apt to 
be regarded as something higher, of deeper- signifi- 
:ance than any determinate beauty. 1 

We are expected very often to find the greatest 
expressiveness in the indeterminate, which, as a 
[natter of fact, expresses nothing. A confused 
jumble of promptings and feelings will give a 
sense of profundity and significance ; the awak- 
ening of many incipient thoughts and dim imagin- 
ngs will give an illusion of infinite perfection ; and 
we attribute to the object with which this emotion 
s connected a mysterious power and some deep 
neaning. The sense of being on the verge of a 
Derfect comprehension of reality and ultimate truth 
nay accompany certain vague states of conscious- 
ness that lie between sleeping and waking. Prof, 
fames 2 describes how such states may be induced 
by the gas administered for dental operations. 

" Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide when 
sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate the mystical con- 
sciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond 
depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth 
fades out, however, or escapes at the moment of coming 
to ; and if any words remain over, in which it seemed to 
:lothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Never- 
theless, the sense of a profound feeling having been there 
persists." 

1 "The Sense of Beauty," pp. 145, 146. G. Santeyana (1905). 
8 "The Varieties of Religious Experience," p. 357. 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 217 

Such feeling of significance is in itself of little 
value. It is a potentiality of imagination, and only 
when it begins to be realised in definite ideas does 
any real meaning arise in the mind. The highest 
aesthetic good does not lie in vague possibilities,. 
but inTKe number ana vafiety of fjnjte perfectipns. 
Progress does not lie in formless emotion and aim- 
less reverie, but in the direction of discrimination 
and precision, in seeing in nature the typical tprms 
of things and enshrining them in art, to train thg 
imagination to segjis many beauties as possitiTe and 
reajise them in creative adaptation to. environment. 
If we prefer so to describe it, utility organises the 
world into definite species and aggregations of 
matter^ Oniy certain forms are in harmony with 
the laws of gravity, which disintegrates some forms 
while solidifying and perpetuating others. The eye 
is instantly offended by any obvious departure from 
this law, however ingeniously contrived, and thus 
comes to recognise certain types or forms as perma- 
nent and satisfactory. We have already traced 
the natural harmony between beauty and utility, 
though it is clear that our aesthetic delight is not 
based upon a conscious recognition of practical 
advantages, else many hideous things would be 
beautiful, and Socrates' contention be true that he 
was really more beautiful than a certain handsome 
youth, because his protuberant eyes were better 
adapted for seeing, his large mouth for eating, and 
wide nostrils for breathing. This seems to reduce 
the theory to an absurdity, and yet it has much 
truth in it. If a nose, and eyes, and mouth like 



2i8 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

those of Socrates were so necessary and so advan- 
tageous to survival that such a conformation had 
been developed by natural selection, we should 
inevitably consider them beautiful ; somewhat in 
the way, perhaps, that the Hottentot admires his 
women, whom we consider repulsively ugly. Beauty 
may be constituted by the imagination with utter 
ignorance of, or indeed profound contempt for, 
practical advantage, and yet it cannot get away 
from the necessary and the useful, for the neces- 
sary must be the common and the habitual, and 
therefore the basis of the type, from which imagi- 
native variations are created by accentuating the 
attractive features. We have already shown that 
the unconscious response to the useful is one of the 
factors of our aesthetic pleasure. If this is true of 
the instinctive stage, it is perhaps as strong in the 
derivative stage, where apperception adds all sorts 
of outside influences, and brings the knowledge of 
fitness and utility into play. It does it, however, as 
a rule, in an indirect way ; we may not be con- 
sciously affected by the obvious utility or want of 
it in a beautiful thing, but we do recognise that the 
artist is limited by practical conditions, and we 
generally find our pleasure in a thing is increased 
by a knowledge that it is useful as well as beautiful 
a sense of waste roused by the useless or fictitious 
will do much to prevent enjoyment in an object, 
and so deprive it of beauty. This is an adventitious 
complication ; the intrinsic value of a form is not 
really affected by it. 

It is interesting to note that as appreciation of 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 219 

form jrequires a higher mental equipment, so it 
comes late in the progress of art. Training and 
quick powers of perception are required to grasp 
it. A child or a barbarian delights in colours, and 
decorates with rude masses of strong hues before 
he begins to formulate designs ; and appeal to 
sense is made by lavish colour, rich material, and 
profusion of ornament, long before simple beauty 
of form. So in music ; to many it never has more 
than a sensuous or sentimental value ; with educa- 
tion comes the power to distinguish form, and with 
it a keener pleasure. Even in sculpture the earlier 
work was covered with gilding and colour, until 
gradually the pure form won its way by the increas- 
ing power of discrimination and keenness of appre- 
hension. So there are two main lines of advance 
or effect ; first there is the form this is the useful 
type, developed by need for its own advantages ; 
this receives the ornament of colour or profusion 
of detail with its appeal to sense. The ornamenta- 
tion itself of the form will direct attention to it ; the 
more pleasing will be selected ; any feature that 
seemed attractive would be accentuated, and the 
ornament used to emphasise and bring out more 
clearly the delicacy of form, and finally the orna- 
ment be subordinated to the form. Thus we 
accept and make use of forms, the original direc- 
tion in which they would be shaped determined by 
utility; and by continual perception weave them 
more and more into our own feeling, making them 
more beautiful and expressive. 
We do not necessarily like a new thing at once, 



220 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

because it is useful, but if it is really necessary it 
appeals to our practical approval ; and as we admire 
its ingenuity we become accustomed to it gradu- 
ally, until we should come to miss it, and in time 
there will be formed a type which will be capable 
of being made pleasing. Chimneys at one time 
were considered an ugly excrescence to be concealed 
as far as possible; sloping roofs have so determined, 
by their practical utility, the usual finish to a house 
that we like them, however much we may at times 
think we should prefer the open balustrades against 
the sky. The ever recurring mingling of the useful 
form and the more beautiful development has so 
complicated the feelings that we cannot divest our- 
selves of the almost subconscious approval of the 
economy or fitness the sense that a form so long 
borne by some particular thing must be right, so 
that we do not ever question it. But this is often a 
slow process : first of all, the new form may take a 
long time to develop into the best shape for its 
practical use ; and then the habit that will ulti- 
mately produce the toleration, ripening into plea- 
sure, may be of long growth. It is difficult to 
judge of the question at the present day with 
regard to the introduction of new and useful 
forms ; these appear with such rapidity that we 
have not had time to assimilate them, and they 
have not had time to find their final type. It may 
be that iron and steel construction will develop 
into a form in which we shall find real beauty ; 
the motor car develop the graceful lines that will 
make it a pleasure to the eye. But we may at 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 221 

least go so far as to say that if the appearance of 
utility does not constitute effect, it at least modifies 
it glaring obvious unfitness will spoil anything ; 
while a clear, practical utility will at least insure 
toleration for the most rude and awkward-looking 
contrivance. If we think .of it, it is almost neces- 
sary that utility should keep watch, as it were, over 
beauty ; the laws of natural selection and survival 
must exclude the useless, give value to the useful ; 
to run riot in pursuit of a beauty which had no 
connection with practical advantage would run 
counter to human advance and happiness, and end 
in confusion. It is not surprising, therefore, that x 
we have, as it were, a natural dislike to mere wanton 
extravagance and lavish waste. It is this curious 
contradiction between the obvious connection join- 
ing beauty and utility, on the one hand, and the 
almost passionate denial of the artist and lover 
of beauty that utility has anything to do with it, 
on the other, that creates a great stumbling-block. 
The answer lies, as we hope to have shown, in the 
fact that all forms to have survived must have been 
at one time useful, and that our likings and tend- 
encies must have been developed to like and 
appreciate things only because they were useful in 
the first place, but that the likings and tendencies 
remain long after the disappearance, owing to 
change of environment, of the particular objects 
at all events, as useful objects upon which they 
were formed, and thus they come to form the 
tastes which seem so inexplicable, and in their 
later forms have, in a great majority of cases, no 



222 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

perceivable relation to the useful. Thus there is a 
tendency to deny the connection to which the 
faculty owes its very existence a phenomenon 
common to the other instinctive emotions when 
they reach the region of the ideal. If we realise 
this, we can keep clear <in our minds the connec- 
tion of beauty and utility without wishing to 
maintain that it is in its essence nothing but the 
expression of a moral or practical good, however 
much such a view appeals to people of a certain 
temperament. The direction in which the par- 
ticular form will be varied will not necessarily lie 
in the direction of present utility, but in the direc- 
tion in which lie our aesthetic tastes ; certain 
features or certain appearances appeal to our 
innate tendencies, and these are selected. The 
practical man, looking at an object to improve it, 
regards it entirely from the practical side, with a 
view to further utility ; the artist dwells on those 
features of it that are agreeable, and, in idealising 
it, those are the points with which he will deal. 
The artist is always, often perhaps unconsciously, 
looking for the possibilities of beauty everywhere. 

" For this reason the world is so much more beautiful to 
a poet or an artist than to an ordinary man. Each object, 
as his aesthetic sense is developed, is perhaps less beautiful 
than to the uncritical eye ; his taste becomes difficult, and 
only the very best gives him unalloyed satisfaction. But 
while each work of art and nature is thus apparently 
blighted by his greater demands and keener susceptibility, 
the world itself, and the various natures it contains, are to 
him unspeakably beautiful. The more blemishes he can 



MEANING AND EXPRESSION 223 

see in men, the more excellence he sees in man ; and the 
more bitterly he laments the fate of each particular soul, 
the more reverence and love he has for the soul in its ideal 
essence. Criticism and idealisation involve each other. 
The habit of looking for beauty in everything makes us 
notice the shortcomings of things ; our sense, hungry for 
complete satisfaction, misses 'the perfection it demands. 
But this demand for perfection becomes at the same time 
the nucleus of our observation ; .from every side a quick 
affinity draws what is beautiful together and stores it -in the 
mind, giving body there to the blind yearnings of our 
nature. Many imperfect things crystallise into a single 
perfection. The mind is thus peopled by general ideas, 
in which beauty is still the chief quality ; and these ideas 
are at the same time the types of things. The type is still 
a natural resultant of particular impressions; but the 
formation of it has been guided by a deep subjective 
bias in favour of what has delighted the eye." l 



1 " The Sense of Beauty," p. 122. G. Santeyana (1905). 



CHAPTER IX 

IMAGINATION 

THE -imaginative faculty is very generally looked 
upon as in some way peculiarly belonging to art 
and aesthetic feelings, so that by many people, who 
let their attention dwell too exclusively on its fanci- 
ful side, and its aloofness from useful and practical 
work, the imagination is apt to be regarded as a 
delightful adjunct to life, belonging rather to the 
region of unreality and make-believe, than to the 
prosaic needs of everyday life. Although its im- 
portance in the aesthetic field cannot be over-rated, 
it is not one whit less useful in every other walk 
in life. If we confine our attention merely to the 
vagaries of imagination, and choose to disregard its 
highly important intellectual functions, we fall at 
once into a complete misapprehension ; ' both of 
Us nature and use. For when duly controlled by 
reason, imaginative activity not only leads on to 
the grasp of new facts, but prepares the way for the 
higher processes of thinking. If we had not this 
power our reproductive tnemory wou|d rqgrgTy 
repeat or reproduce things, always in the. way and 
in the same connection that they had occurred, 
and progress would be slow or impossible. It is 

the disciplined imagination of the man of science 





IMAGINATION 225 

that enables him, as it were, to throw his mind in 
advance, suggesting a theory the logical support 
and proof of which may take years of investigation, 
but without this imaginative insight the investigation 
would be aimless and wanting in definite direction. 
Where reason and deduction fail, imagination steps 
in, and is often the means of suggesting a truth 
that may not become scientific fact for centuries, 
Ruskin shows how the very relativity of knowledge 
is a strong proof of the value of the imagination. 
The higher one's conceptions reach, the more spb- 
jective they are : our highest ideals, those of Ggd, 
are necessarily the woi^joiMthe imagination in its 
noblest form. 

" No man has seen God at any time ; so the same faculty 
which may be abused to create a lie must be used to discern 
a truth/' l 

In this sort of broad meaning imagination becomes 
belief, the intuitive grasp of universal truth, or at 
least truth for the person who is prepared to accept 
it and prove his belief by action. 

In religion an4 art we cannot attempt tc^proyp 
our imaginative insight by any strict process of 
reasoning, for wejirejdependent upon imagination\ 
alone__as soon as we leave the firm ground of sense 
perception, so we trust the imagination when it tells 
us things that we find ourselves ready to believe ; 
though these ideas are, of course, modified by the 
reason as far as it will go ; we test our imaginative 
creation by the analogy of "things that we know, 
and in this way to a large^xtent ^udge pf tfre value 
1 " Modern Painters," v. 9. 



226 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

of the idea. In religion, where such imagination 
carries with it theJmpljcation of absolute truth, it 
is described asi^revelatioj^ Faith and the theories 
of life of the philosopher if accepted, and of real 
influence upon their actions, are forms of imagi- 
nation believed to be true, not because they are 
capable of scientific demonstration, but because the 
man to whom they bring the sense of conviction, 
and who lives up to them, is actually aware of an 
effect upon himself, in some new moral enfi r -gyj 
some new warmth pf meaning injife^ by which 
they prove, to him at least, their divine origin, 
When some idea or conception strikes home with 
this " emotion of conviction/' as Bagehot described 
it, argument and proof are superfluous ; the notion 
carries with it testimony of truth, as the prophecy 
in "The Lady of the Lake" bore its own guarantee 
by the very vividness of the vision. 

"At length the fatal answer came, 
In characters of burning flame, 
Not writ in words, nor blazed on scroll, 
But burnt and branded on my soul." 

We have already considered the simple repro- 
duction of past impressions, experiences, ideas, in 
what are called representative images, which were, 
for the sake of simplicity, considered as mere copies 
of the previous sensations ; but by imagination in 
the ordinary sense of the word we mean more than 
this we combine parts of differenLsensatignsJto 
form new wholes. If we imagine a place about 
which we have read, or some event in the future. 
wiTgobeyond any actual experience^ and the image?' 



IMAGINATION 227 

of memory are in some way transformed, modified. 
amTrecombined in a novel aspect. This process 
is often called constructive imagination, in order to 
distinguish it from the simpler form, though it is 
obvious that no hard and fast line can be drawn 
between the two. 

In the earliest stage we find simply the passive 
imagination^ of merely fam*^ represent^fafln de- 
scribed above, which snop passes into creative 
imagination. In a simple form this may take the 
form of (jjtusio^l The experifnrfi nf th fi external 
sense is modified, or transfprmed, by the ,p- 
struction put upon it by the mind. In such cases 
belief in its reality is naturally present, since no 
distinction can be made. The imagined form is. as 
it were, directly perceived, and has the $ame qflfapt 
asTf it were reaE Perhaps the earliest stage of 
imaginative creation proper lies in animism, in 
the propensity to attribute life and personality to 
everything. This seems a stage, peculiarly strong 
in children, which has to be passed through by 
every one, and is long or short according to indi- 
vidual character. To this is due the growth of 
myth and the anthropomorphic interpretation of 
nature of early savage races. It is clearly inad- 
missible to think of early races inventing their 
mythology as a kind of allegory of the^jsffects 
thatthey observed in nature. Their interpreta- 
tion was spontaneous ; the presence of the gods 
was a literal impression. Superstition arose from 
incapacity to discriminate the objects of the imagi- 
nation from those of the understanding. Imagina- 



228 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

tion is not to be blamed for superstition. Men were 
superstitious, not because they had more imagina- 
tion in those days, but because they were not aware 
that they had any. 

The mental processes, as we have already seen, 
can always be paralleled r by a similar physical pro- 
cess. What.Jhen, is the physical parallel to the 

j|pbbabiyihe best way to 



find an answer to this question will be to inquire 
how far, or in what form, imagination can be said 
to exist in the animal kingdom. We have jilready 
emphasised the important part played in all process 
gjLtliQiigM Jry movements, and psychology at the 
present day recognises that the idea of a movement 
is, as it were, a movement begun, and that repre- 
sentations include motor elements, because all re- 
presentations are remnants of past perceptions, and 
perceptions presuppose movements to some extent. 
It is this motor element that tends to cause an image 
to be externalised, or objectified outside ourselves. 
Now all imagination is teleological ; it has an end 
in view. We want some thing, whether we are 
inventing a fairy tale, or a theory to explain the 
movement of the stars. 

Professor Ribot l draws a suggestive parallel be- 
tween voluntary activity and creative imagination, 
pointing out th^i; j|jaginafinn r in the intellectual 
order, is the^equivaletH) of will in the realnK-Q^ 
movements. This ITe^ justifies by a process of 
reasoning somewhat as follows : growth of volun- 
tary control is progressive, slow, and liable to 

1 "An Essay on the Creative Imagination," p. 9 (Trans.), 1906, 



IMAGINATION 229 

frequent check. The individual has to become 
slowly master of his muscles. Reflexes, instinc- 
tive movements, and the motor manifestations of 
emotions provide the material for voluntary move- 
ments. The will does not inherit any movements ; 
it has to co-ordinate and associate, which it can 
only do by dissociation of previously experienced 
movements which it redontbines : it has tp win 
its own right to rule. In the same way the crea- 
tive imagination does not appear complete. It 
begins with images simply repeated, becoming 
more complex as it develops. Another strong 
point of resemblance lies in their subjective char- 
acter. Imagination is personal its movement 
is^from within outwards, thus^contrasting with in- 
tellect, which is objective, impersonal, receiving 
f rom outside ; tor intellect/itis the outside world 
that directs. Fey the creative imagination and 
the will it is the inner world that Hirfaj^ss JJTP 
course_; the inner, my world of my imagination. 
as opposed to the world of others, of the under- 
standing. Imagination and will have one end or 
one purpose in view act only witfy a view to 
some end ; the und"erstanding t in . J&L. restricted 
sense, notes Tcts and is satisfied with proofs. 
We are always wanting something, and our ima- 
gination is always at work to gratify it. 

This suggestive analogy between the will and the 
creative imagination need not be pushed further, 
but it serves to emphasise the great part played by 
the motor elements. We have already, in an earlier 
chapter, tried to show the importance, or rather 



230 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the essential nature, of the motor manifestations 
as the very basis of feelings and tendenciesranS 
the part played by motor sensatiorTln~mcipient 
movements is the idea. If, then, we analyse the 
cause of the creative imagination, we shall find it 
ultimately in the needs, tendencies, desires of 
man's nature, which, in their earliest manifesta- 
tions^ are expressed ifi movements or tendency to 
movements. These are the stimuli. The possi- 
bility of creation lies in the spontaneous revival 
of images. In those animals endowed only with 
simple memory any sensation from without will 
bring into consciousness former experiences 
i.e. reproduction without new associations. But 
in human beings from about the second year, 
and, perhaps, in some of the higher animals, we 
get a further stage, in 



^ 

be called a spontaneoijs^vwa], in which ideas 
come together without any apparenf 



in^some latent form by analogy 
subconscious elaboratipn^ which, grouping with 
new associations, form the elements of the^acL-of 
creative imagination. So far we may be fairly cer- 
tain in attributing imagination to animals. The 
fact that dogs and other animals have dreams, 
and at times even appear to be subject to de- 
lusions when excited, is sufficient proof of this. 
But when it comes to attributing to them the 
power of active svnthesis f ^pf intentionally re- 
uniting images to form novel compilations from 
them 1." true creative imagination we must, I 
think, conclude that such a faculty is vefry slight, 



IMAGINATION 231 

if existent at all. As Romanes points out, abstraction 
is a necessary preliminary to creation, gnrTtha.! ^til- 
out language abstraction is very weak. 1 We have 
already seen that there is little, iTany, ground for 
attributing to animals the power to form concepts. 
Their power of creative imagination, then, is in exact 
ratio to their power to dissociate qualities. 

But while we must deny imagination in its true 
sense to animals, there is, as M. Ribot points out, 
one direction in which they do display if not 
creative imagination at least creative power, or 
invention, of a kind which we may call fancy. 
Thisis purely motor, and shows itself in play. The 
movements of animals are very numerous, they are 
often new and continually varied. Here we have 
imagination acting in an almost purely motor 
character ; it consists of ideas or images, of move- 
ments, that are perhaps hardly conscious, being 
immediately translated into movements. Nor need 
we see any difficulty in dissociating, or splitting up 
the elements or parts of the movements to form 
new combinations, for in bodily activities the mere 
wish or idea of a movement is sufficient, the neces- 
sary muscular adaptations following iin^psr.jnn.g1^. 
We see also in children how the predominance of 
the motorjystem tends to make them at once trans- 
late i^easinto movements, ^g long a^ creative 
imagination or Invention is confined to movements, 
we majMsredit the higher animals with it. As Mr. 
Hobhouse puts it, speaking of animals : 

1 * Mental Evolution in Man," chap. x. (i 388.) 



232 ORIGIN OP THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

" Imagination, if it can be said to exist, takes the form of 
immediate frolicsome action." l 

All constructive or creative imaginatipn consists 
in modify'ingjmd recombining sense e^ienence.; 
whether we^ are dreaming the wildest impossi- 
bilities of delirium, picturing the North Pole or 
the Sahara, or fancying ourselves back in the 
middle ages, we hsrve nothing from which to 
form our mental pictures but portions of sense ex- 
perience. It is, then, fairly obvious that two pro- 
cesses are necessary : in the first place, dissociation, 
or the separating up into components ; and secondly, 
a process of combination. We can take the head 
of a man, and in imagination put it on an animal, 
talk of mountains of gold, invisible men, &c., just 
as in muscular experience we can dissociate cus- 
tomary movements and form new combinations, to 
imagine ourselves flying, and so on. Of course, all 
these processes of separation and recombination are 
limited ; very closely knit associations are difficult 
to break up. Total impressions, of which the ele- 
ments have never been separately sensed, are often 
impossiblg ig dissociate it is scarcely possible to 
imagine a solid body which could be felt but 
which was completely invisible ; many things can 
be imagined with difficulty, i.e. visually realised, 
such as the fact that the dwellers in the antipodes 
are walking head downwards relatively to ourselves. 
^ft is the powpf pf HisfincfofiM that is^ of the 
greatest importance for imagination ; a too com- 
plete repetition in memory is a hindrance to creation, 

1 " Mind in Evolution," 1901. 



IMAGINATION 233 

so that too good a memory may be a disadvantage 
to creative thought. Just as ignorant and intel- 
lectually limited peoplefln giving an acc^unJLpf 
an occurrence will invariably repeat the whole story 
verbatim each time, important and unimportant 
points.__all_on a dead lvel : they camipr^select. 
Such minds are poor in inventive^ capacity. The 
useful memory holds the interesting; iFis not 
systematised in the kind of routine form th&t has 
to repeat a whole poem to get at one line ; its ideas 
are in small, readily detachable, groups, plastic and 
easily combining in new forms. 

Active-production takes place by the regrouping 
of the dissociated elements, which may be done in 
various ways : Association by contiguity repro- 
duces the order and connection of things according 
to the habits of the nervous system : Association by 
resemblance one thing may be more or less like 
another, or may be recalled in conjunction with it 
from the mere accident of having been present in 
consciousness at the same time. But the essential, 

j^^ in 



the intellectualjsphere is the capacity of thinking by 
analogy by partial, imperfect, accidental, resem- 
blances. Through its almost unlimited pliability, 
its unstable, ever varying processes, analogy can 
equally give rise to original and valuable invention 
or the most impossible absurdities. The process is 
so arbitrary, capricious, and open to all kinds_of 
, that t^irnpossibfe to formulate 



or order in the method of its working. We see it 
at work in the early myth, in at once attributing 



234 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

feelings and desires to anything, that can in any con- 
ceivable way be supposed to have any connection 
with them. The wind, the trees, the rivers all show 
movement a sufficient suggestion for the sense of 
analogy to see life. Using analogy as meaning 
some^kind of resemblance, 



Quick imagina- 
tion lies in this P^y_gj rapidly seizing 



_ 

semblances, and if thejp^son js also endowed with 
a temperament of a rati(^al_jmd exact jnature^ he 
will follow up the suggestions, tracing them out, 
establishing the fitting and the congruous ; elimina- 
ting the inconsistencies until a logical and rational 
end has been achieved. In this sort of way it often 
happens that imagination is a substitute for reason 
as well as the provider of materials. In a person of 
a different temperament the fanciful analogy will 
lead to imaginative ideas and scenes which ma^ 
form the basis of stories or works of art. 

Tfrg influence of the emotional state upon the 
imagination is patent and obvious ; it is indeed the 
very basis^ and without it no creative imagination 
would take place. However apparently cold and 
calculating intellectual imagination may appear 
to be, there is indisputable evidence that all forms 
of creative imagination involve elements of fee\iypg. 
For all invention presupposes a want^a tendency, 
an unsatisfied impulse. The work itself is, broadly 
speaking, accompanied by feelings of pleasure, and 
if thwarted, by discomfort, slight though the feel- 
ings may be. It is, of course. m Qre_obyious in 
the various forms of aesthetic creation, because iti 



IMAGINATION 235 

these the feeling produced is the important matter f 
while in ordinary invention it is so complicated 
by the meaningjatnd ultimate use of the product. 
that the feeling tonp Jfjffijj^gp; JgftSU fn hft over- 
looked*, Common experience's sufficient to prove 
that all emotional dispositions influence the crea- 
tive imagination. As we have seen, the main in- 
fluence in determining what* memory shall retain 
is (pteresD so that the very material upon which 
imagination is to work is already selected by j5ur 
disposi Naturally the 



a^am accentuate the points foa| \ye. .flare 

Another interesting way in which the emotional 
factor works is shown in^ the fact that representa- 
tions that have been accompanied by the same 
em ^^^^^J^^^ become associated simpJLy 
through tfie ^motional resemblance. We have 
already mentioned this in speaking of the analo- 
gous phenomenon of coloured hearing. 

An important point in reference to the emotional 
factor in imagination should be emphasised here, 
We have already seen how, at the bottom of the 
feelings and emotions, beyond and more funda- 
mental than the_agreeable and^disagreeable stafcs 
of consciousness, lies the motor element the 
tendency to, or away from, which is the very basis 
of development ; and it is in the gratification pi 
these innate tendencies that we find the spur tc 
thecreative instinct, and creative instinct springs 
this mctmlement We havt 



_ 

already discussed the question ^of the constructive 
or creative instinct in one more or less limited 



236 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

sense ; here we mean it in its widest significance, 
in the sense of getting or trying to get, whatever 
is desired. To_talk_of a creative instinct, as such. 
js more or less meaningless ; it must be devoted to 
creating something r and that something must be 
desirable any of our needs, tendencies, or desires, 
can cause or call out a creative act each instinct, 
for food, water, sex, has its appropriate object. 
The preservation of life may produce innumerable 
instinctive creative acts, each oT~which meets some 
need. All the available faculties wi|l be called into 
use to try and provide for the needs or tendencies ; 
{gut were men devoid of feelings th^re would be 
no creation, for there would be no pleasure in tlje 
result. JThe needs by themselves are of course 
puWiefless ; no degree of hunger will provide the 
ingenious means for satisfying it, in the absence 
of the cerebral control and reasoning faculty, if 
circumstances are sufficiently difficult. There must 
be first a need ; secondly, the combination oL 
images^ ideas, dissociated elements of experience, 
which will be recombined and objectified jp ^pprr>_ 
priate form^or action. So it is^that resourceful- 
^ 



^ 

forecasting probable events, and thus the ability 
take full advantage of th^m ; avoidance of risks 
jfti fact, all the qualities that go to make up the wise 
and clever type of man lie in a wide well-developed 

by rational dJlibera- 



tion and critical acumen. The imagination will 
suggest ^ej^ULConceivable contingency, the reason 
Svill weigh their relative likelihood and importa nee, 



IMAGINATION '37 

M. Ribot 1 divides all the work of the imagina- 
tionunder the two heads of aesthetic and practical ; 
this division depends upon the idea that art mis its 
beginmngln r superfluous activity, first shown in the 
form of play, a view which we have tried to prove 
untenable ; but in spite of this division, he shows 
clearly that there is no difference in the psycho-' 
logical mechanism. This fact is surely too obvious 
to require proof, the useful creation of one genera- 
tion is often merely an aesthetic pleasure to a later 
The work of the imagination is primarily useful 
even the creation of myths, and religious concep- 
tions, and the first efforts at explaining the world 
around arise from a pressing need. Man has to 
act in reference to the apparently higher powers 
that he finds around him, and so he imagines ways 
and means by which, if he. can not subdue, he may 
at least conciliate and turn them to his service. 
The fanciful^ answers to primitiyfi ^^rinsify. wpr* 
thought to be intensely practical. There is no 
need to draw any line of separation ; all kinds of 
invention and creation are the work oTthe imagi- 
nationonented according to the individual jchar- 
acter, leading some to mechanical, financial, and 
scientific branches, others to painting, poetrv^or 
music, and so onT" 

So wfijjn^ fhfi imaginative faulty, when allied 
with a clear, logical temperament r likely to develop 
in thft fHrpp.tif) n ftf scientific or useful invention, 
although in certain phases and periods of art the 
clear-cut, accurately defined^ imaggfr a&d ^definitely 

1 " Essay on the Creative Imagination," 1906. 



238 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

realised forms_sho3>uahighlY disciplined and con- 
trolled imagination. As the intellectual control 



V t~ , i ^. 

ay to the emotional 
ericy towards the vague, the indistinct, and the 
suggestive, until we reach a stage usually de- 
scribed as mysticism, in which everything becomes 
ambiguous, obscure, symbolic. Some aspect of 
a thing, important or not, comes into relief, not 
because we recognise its importance, but arbi- 
trarily selected, beca_use it has an instant appeal Jbv 
the pleasure it affords. Such forms have no part 
in the regions of practical life, where vague images 
and approximate suggestions have to be^rigorously 
eliminated ; but in the domain of tbe^ romantic 
and fantastic, and especially in the production of 
mythical an^lneligious ideas, if has a vast field for 
its exercise. 

The mystical imagination represents invention in 
its purest, most untrammelled form ; it rests upon 
feeling and imagination, which then represent, or 
rather replace, the intellectual faculty. The mystic, 
as aule, regards the experiences of sense as vague 
illusions, or at best as giving suggestive hints of 
fee true reality ; perception, therefore, is of little 
value^ reasoned thought and scientific deduction 
is a snare ; the truth is, as it w^re r felt, bv q. fond 
of construction in images, to many^ of which qio 
words, or at leastjo adequsitft 



given. The chief principle of the mystical imagina- 
tion is the tendency to find of locate something of 
the ideal in the sensible to discoverjijnessagg^or 
a, meaning in every occurrence; inexplicable rela- 



IMAGINATION 239 

iioiishjs_in cnrr^Qr> phe^o^ena ; to feel Jhat 
therejsjn all things a supernatural principle that 
is always expressive if the minfj can gnly penetrate 
to^ it._To put it shortly, everything is or may be 
a symbol, and mysticism is, as it were, thinking 
symbolically. 

Concrete i ma gq s _ a re transformed into symbolic 
images, and so used ; this process is extended to 
s^ so thatjmy form of nature 



or art takes_Qnj^addedjgalue aslTsTgn or_a symbol. 
To a certain degree, of course, all art is symbolic 
and we have already dealt with the questionpf 
the indefinite in relation to beauty, but we are 
now considering the somewhat exaggerated degree 
usually known as mysticism. 

We find among certain nations, certain indi- 
viduals, or even in certain periods, that both in 
literature and art vague forms and suggestive but 
indeterminate shapes have been preferred to more 
precise delineation. This form of art cares nothing 
for jclear and exact representation of the existing 
world of reality ; it aspires to record the subtle 
fleeting shades of feelings and ideas, the true 
inwardness of the soul. Consequently, in their 
works, whether in words, in plastic art, or in paint, 
everything seems to float in the dim incoherence of 
a dream things happen in no actual period of 
time, in no existing place it is. as it were f an 
attempt to get the freedom fforn particularity that 
music has. Words to the synibplist suggest an 
emotion, not a de^nik |>rfea - : thus a word must, 



as far as oossible. be deorived^oi its intellectual 



240 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

association^ of its customary meaning, and the 
significance formed by habit. This can only be 
accomplished by using it in som^mrusual way, or 
in such^cogibi^agpa>that its ordinary acceptatiQn 
is no longer possible; the sense of strangeness 
gives a vague and mysterious suggestion ; precision 
is lost_and the mind of the reader can wander free 
among any images that may be aroused. Such 
poetry is pronounced unmeaning nonsense by one^ 
to another, with a wkjg. discursive imagination, 
numerous (odd unthoughb of ideas arise, andjhe 
finds it fulPoF~deep^uggestion. This process of 
attempting to deprive words of all definite meaning. 
leaving them only an emotional 



in turning the poetry into a beautiful rhythmical 
utterance, with musical qualities, but with all mean- 
ing eliminated ; it becomes only sound, and as such, 
inferior to music. The resulting obscurity and 
unintelligibility, whether in poetry or painting, is, 
as a rule, an inseparable part of mystic work ; so 
much so that it has become, as it were, a criterion 
or essential sign. This is due, as M. Ribot 1 shows. 
firstly, to the fact that mystical imagination, bein 
guided^olely by th^Togic of feeHnjj^^gT, subjective 
isjjlsely to be full of gaps, jerks, and sudden 
transitions, difficult for another to follow; secondly, 
it makes use of the language of images, which are 
subjective symbols that is to say, he uses as signs 
or symbols words or forms that have already a 
fixed and universal meaning, bi^t in a sense entirely 
his own ; he is apparently speaking aT commoiT 

1 Of. cit., p. 224. 



IMAGINATION 241 

language really it is a tongue of his own fancy. 
It is not surprising that it is difficult to understand. 

As this mystic or symbolic view of things be- 
comes exaggerated, it leads its votaries into curious 
absurdities. Analogy and symbolism are pushed 
to extremes. Earnest students, in a kind of mad- 
ness of belief in the sacred character of the Vedas, 
the Bible, the Koran, having, lost all sense of the 
distinction between literal and figurative sens'e, set 
to work with a freedom as great as that of the early 
inventors of myth. Individual letters and words 
are endowed with mystical significance ; no extra- 
vagance is too great ; the meaning of the whole 
sentence [s one thing r the meaning of the jonits 
anglbjer. The first and last letters of the words, the 
number of the words in the sentence, the number 
that corresponds to the letter in the Hebrew 
alphabet, there is nothing that has not been 
strenuously asserted to have a mystical message. 
Sacred numbers with marvellous meanings are 
always turning up in the old oriental religions, the 
number of letters in the name, stars millions of 
miles apart in space form a system that contains 
the future of an individual to any one who can 
read it, and so on. 

MysticisiiLaiises probably given a person of the 
right temperament from a belief in the absolute, 
combinedjyith a strong feeling of the relativity of 
the data of human knowledge. For if the material 
upon which reason is to work be rejected as sub- 
jective, neither the senses, nor the understanding, 
nor all the vast superstructure raised by learning, 

Q 



242 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

reason, or imagination must be allowed to delude 
us ; the only safe path lies in abstention from all 
reasoning at all ; the thoughts must be kept con- 
stantly upon the truth that everything is nothing in 
com aijsj3n with the one. Argument with one 
who is thoroughly imbued with the real feeling of 
mysticism is obviously futile ; facts cannot arouse 
him, for he does not jdeny that we see them : reason 
cannot convince him, for reasoning is a human 
and therefore finite faculty, which is pretending to 
a validity which it cannot prove. 

"Thejdeal of mysticism is, accordingly, exas&LCOntrajy 
to the ideal of reason ; instead of perfecting human nature, 
it seeks to abolish it ; instead of building a better world, 
it would undermine the foundations even of the world we 
have built already ; instead of developing our mind to 
greater scope and precision, it would return to the con- 
dition of protoplasm to the blessed consciousness of 
Unutterable Reality." l 

While the crudity and absurdity of an exaggerated 
mysticism are patent, we can 



immense influence that it has in stimulating all 
forms of art. Jxy~ its. JEascinatijn^ juggjggon of the 
mysterious*" and the unseen, the emphasis on the 
importance of something besides the material that 
appeals to sense. It is just as absurd to condemn, 
with Dr. Nordau, every sign of mysticism as proof 
of degeneracy and incipient insanity, as to accept 
the ravings of mystics who really are insane as 
being necessarily wonderful because we are unable 
to understand them. The right touch of mystical 

1 "Interpretations of Poetry and Religion." G. Santeyana. 1900. 



IMAGINATION 243 

imagi nati on will give us that sense of something 
beyondrjyhich^ adds a feeling of depth and worth 
to the everyday world ; ^refreshing s^nse of in- 
exhaustibility to our surroundings; a wholesome 
corrective to the feeling of knowing the reason of 
everything that an incomplete knowledge of science 
is only too apt to induce. 



CHAPTER X 

INSPIRATION 

THE fact is well known that, in the case of certain 
persons, or at certain times, the act of creative 
imagination is accompanied by an emotional crisis, 
the principal characteristic of which is perhaps 
suddenness ; an idea or set of ideas arises in the 
mind, already complete, formed, as it were, without 
any conscious effort or even intention, with a sense 
of its being impersonal, a revelation from outside. 

" With Chopin creation was spontaneous, miraculous ; 
he wrought without foreseeing. It would come complete, 
sublime." 

These sudden moments of creation we call inspira- 
tion. 

It is hardly to be wondered at, that primitive 
peoples attributed such sudden, overpowering 
flashes of insight as due to a direct inspiration of 
the gods, as the Greeks to Apollo, or in the middle 
ages to supernatural agencies, spirits, angels or 
demons, even a modern poet may invoke the muse 
to inspire his song, clinging to the old tradition. 
We are still far from any complete scientific explana- 
tion of this state, and speak of it in various terms 

that still suggest abnormal, if no longer super- 

244 



INSPIRATION 245 

normal, qualities. It appears so far removed from 
the ordinary processes of reason and consciousness, 
it is not under the control of the will ; it is capri- 
cious, appearing unexpectedly, not when wanted 
we can no more summon it than we can sleep 
and dreams ; its comparatively rare appearance and 
often overmastering strength all combine to invest 
inspiration with characters th^t suggest interference 
from another world. Lately the idea has* been 
gaining ground that the phenomena of inspiration, 
sudden religious conversion and other analogous 
forms of interruption of the conscious life, are due 
to an irruption into consciousness from the sub- 
conscious mind. The relation of the subconscious 
faculty to revivalist conversion and the revelations 
of religion has been very suggestively worked out 
by Professor James. 1 

One result of this line of thought has been a 
tendency to invest the subconscious mind with a 
halo of sanctity ; it becomes elevated into a posi- 
tion of extreme importance as the channel of com- 
munication with the unseen and higher powers of 
the universe. In fact an explanation of the more 
complex higher psychical qualities is, by one class 
of thinker, satisfactorily found by postulating all 
sorts of wonderful qualities and powers in the sub- 
conscious mind. For example, Dr. Campbell, in, 
his "New Theology," explains that subconscious 
mind is the means by which the immanence of God 
is perceived by humanity. 

The spirit world was supposed by the late Mr. 

1 " Varieties of Religious Experience," 1902. f 



246 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

L. H. Myers to reveal itself to mortals through the 
same channel. Any one who accepts the view that 
the beauty we feel and know consists in glimpses 
of an absolute ideal, which we get in favoured 
moments, might similarly accept some such tran- 
scendent quality of the subconscious as the means 
by which we discovered beauty. We have already 
tried to show what a large part is played by the sub- 
conscious mind in giving the feeling of beauty by 
combining a number of impressions and memories 
below the threshold of consciousness. 

The part played by the subconscious processes 
of the mind, and the somewhat unbalanced mental 
conditions that do at times accompany imaginative 
creation are of such importance in all questions of 
artistic endeavour and enjoyment that we must 
consider them with some care. It must at first 
sight be obvious, that a life devoted exclusively to 
the stimulation of the emotional and imaginative 
functions, such as that of the artist, would lead 
naturally to a certain degree of eccentricity, because 
it would increase the tendency to give way to the 
sway of the emotions in preference to reason. The 
artistic nature is, not only by temperament, but by 
training as well, likely to be of more unstable mental 
equilibrium than those whose lives have to be com- 
pletely governed by matter of fact. In order to get 
some idea of the working of sudden inspiration, we 
shall do well to consider it in somewhat exaggerated 
examples, because we are more likely to find the 
constructive imagination in its most obvious and 
untrammelled form. The ordinary painter, working 



INSPIRATION 247 

on lines taught to him by others, or handed down 
by tradition, and keeping to fixed forms by imita- 
tion, will not help us much. Those for whom 
art is an acute fever ; the genius who makes the 
pattern, and strikes out a new path the leaders ; 
they are likely to show the well-marked signs of 
the sudden inspirations of genius for which we 
are looking the exalted emptional sensibility, the 
abnormal psychical visitations, visions, and trances, 
which often mark the sudden outbursts of creative 
imagination. 

Such peculiarities, unless they can show results of 
value, are in the ordinary person classed as patho- 
logical, and indeed are so. The fact that it is 
possible to show that in many men of genius there 
are certain abnormal qualities has been seized upon 
as a basis for a theory, and certain recent writers 
have tried to prove that genius is bordering upon 
insanity. " Genius/' according to Dr. Moreau, 4l is 
but one of the many branches of the neuropathic 
tree." Dr. Lombroso has written a book in order 
to prove that genius is a symptom of hereditary 
degeneration of the epileptical variety, and is allied 
to moral insanity. In a book published a few years 
ago, Dr. M. Nordau l tried to show that all forms 
of art were a form of degeneration, and by showing 
that men who were in some way diseased were 
capable of producing works of genius, proceeded 
thereupon to impugn the results of genius and tc 
depreciate the value of their work. 

In an earlier chapter we were at great pains to 

1 "Degeneration," 1895.' (Trans.) 



248 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

emphasise the close dependence of mental states 
upon bodily conditions, and this psycho-physical 
connection has been so far established that we are 
most of us ready enough to discount people's views 
in terms of their bodily condition ; we attribute 
the pessimism of one to 'bad digestion, the incur- 
able optimism of another to his physical health ; we 
trace the source of a passionate religious feeling to 
a life Starved of legitimate objects of emotion ; but 
although we thoroughly and completely accept this 
principle, we must take care to avoid falling into 
the vice of what Professor James 1 has happily de- 
scribed as "medical materialism," if, as he says, 
this is not too good a name for a line of thought 
whose chief fault is narrowness and the vice of 
little knowledge. 

" Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling 
his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of 
the occipital ? cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out 
Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an 
hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the 
shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it 
treats as a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of 
misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All 
such mental over-pretensions, it says, are, when you come 
to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto- 
intoxications, most probably) due to the perverted action of 
various glands which physiology will yet discover. . . . 
And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual 
authority of all such personages is successfully undermined." 

We may accept fully the assumption involved in 

1 " Varieties of Religious Experience," p. 13. 



INSPIRATION 249 

the above that there is not a single one of our states of 
mind, high or low, that is not conditioned by the state 
of the organic processes ; but does the condition 
under which the thought was evolved tell us anything 
as to its real significance ? The imaginative theories 
of science are as fully coloured by organic conditions 
as those of art or religion, but we do not ask for 
the conditions under which .they were evolved in 
order to judge of their merits. To some people 
religious conversion is worth nothing unless accom- 
panied by a sudden crisis of emotion in which the 
truth is really felt ; the poetic frenzy seems to add 
a lustre to a poet's work it seems to be a guaran- 
tee or sign of intense feeling. We do attribute 
superiority to certain states of mind or feeling as 
being higher than others, but our judgment has 
nothing to do with the organic conditions. The 
reason of the difference lies entirely in the result, 
as judged by our delight in apprehension of it, or 
our reasoned conviction of its ultimate value. The 
feverish brilliance that sometimes at night seems to 
solve many a difficult problem is praised if our 
calmer reason the next day can approve ; we do 
not put it down as necessarily valueless if we after- 
wards find that our temperature may have been 
102 or more when it burst upon us. We have 
already tried to show that the present dignity and 
value of our intuitive desires is absolutely inde- 
pendent of their origin; no matter how lowly the 
source of the tendency, the idealised conception is 
none the less sublime. So with our inspirations 
no matter the bodily condition under which they 



250 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

are produced, it is the discrimination of the feel- 
ings and the reason which ultimately decides their 
value. 

No douht we may scrutinise the origin as one of 
the factors in deciding upon their worth, and shall 
therefore be influenced 'to some degree thereby. 
But if some new idea is produced which makes a 
real living difference tp us, the idea is of that much 
value* no matter how originated. In moments of 
mental excitement we produce many glittering 
notions and conceptions, but we have to wait the 
test of reason and subsequent effect in order to 
decide whether they are gold or alloy. Thus we 
come back to the general principles which empirical 
philosophy has always shown must be the ultimate 
criterion in the search after truth, i.e. the general 
consensus of reasoned opinion. Many forms of 
religious and dogmatic philosophy, in their desire 
to find a test that shall be an immediate touch- 
stone of truth, without waiting for the future to 
decide, have found in " origin " the proof they 
desire. Revelation, visions, dreams, possession 
by the spirit in prophecy, and so on, have all 
been invoke'd as a warrant for the truth of the 
doctrine or revelation put forward by various 
founders and teachers of religion just as the 
apparent truth of the oracle at Delphi was, so to 
speak, guaranteed as genuine by the ecstatic trance 
into which the priestess was thrown. 

Among the visions, and trances, and assertions 
of supernatural revelation, however, it has often 
happened that some were too patently worthless 



INSPIRATION 251 

to be regarded as divine ; and history is full of 
elaborate attempts to find some method by which 
true and divinely-inspired raptures could be dis- 
criminated from the counterfeit presentment sent 
by the evil one. In the end it had to come back 
to judgment by results ; 'by their fruits were they 
to be known. 1 If, then, we are to place no re- 
liance upon origin as a proof of worthlessness or 
of value, we must, in either case, simply take it for 
what it is worth, considering the question of origin, 
for we cannot overlook it merely as one of the 
factors in forming our opinion. We can therefore 
proceed to consider the question of inspiration, and 
the raptures and emotional excitement of the crea- 
tive artist, undeterred by the fear that a morbid con- 
dition, or abnormal development, will be considered 
necessarily to detract in any way from the value of 
the productions. 

That Napoleon was an epileptic was of small 
comfort to the general whom he had outwitted by 
a brilliant inspiration in tactics ; nor does it matter 
if many cases of brilliant genius are accompanied 
by certain forms of emotional excitement that at 
times seem near insanity. Dr. Nordau, in a torrent 
of angry invective, classes artists except, perhaps, 
a few of a very simple kind as degenerates, patho- 
logical monsters, holding up any parts of their 
works that seem particularly marked by exaggera- 
tion to a fierce ridicule by which he tries to con- 
demn all their productions. Indeed, so far from 

1 See " Varieties of Religious Experience," pp. 18-20. Professor 
James. 



252 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

judging by results, Dr. Nordau claims that origin 
is actually the only true test : 

"Thus this book is an attempt at a really scientific 
criticism which does not base its judgment of a book 
upon the purely accidental, capricious, and variable emo- 
tions it awakens emotions depending upon the tempera- 
ment and mood of the individual reader but upon the 
psycho-physiological elements from which it sprang" * 

Also rte points out that the critic trained exclusively 
in literary and aesthetic culture is obviously the 
worst possible guide owing to his necessary ignor- 
ance of the pathological character of the works 
of degenerates. Foolish critics there may be who 
proclaim as beautiful what is only unintelligible, and 
many people there will be who persuade themselves 
that they see marvellous beauties in things that are 
either repulsive or commonplace. But to make 
these representative of all art, and then to claim 
that we are not to judge of a work of art by our 
emotions, which are the only possible criterion of 
"value" i.e. what is really a good for us in art 
is to maintain an obviously impossible position. 

But both in Dr. Nordau's " Degeneration " and 
in Professor *Lombroso's " Man of Genius " this 
exaggerated side of genius and morbid develop- 
ment of art is far too much insisted upon, and 
the examples of famous, or rather notorious, men 
are selected as much for their striking eccentri- 
cities as for the greatness of their productions. 
There is, too, no definite direction of abnormality. 

1 "Degeneration" (1895), Introductory Dedication to Professor 
Lombroso. Italics are ours. 



INSPIRATION 253 

We find in Lombroso that great creative artists are 
very tall or very short, strong or puny, deformed 
or handsome, slow and late in developing or un- 
usually precocious, morose and misanthropic or 
cheerful and too much addicted to pleasure. What 
it amounts to is that men already marked out as 
different from the general run of men, by their 
superiority in one line, are % likely also to differ in 
others. If we wish for creations that are t make 
a greater appeal to our emotions than we are 
capable of making for ourselves, we must find 
them in those of a more highly strung and emo- 
tional temperament, in those who are capable of 
seeing beautiful relations strongly enough tp record 
and show them to us, who require to be told how 
to see, and can only perceive them when thus set 
out. This may result in, or even necessitate, what 
are called pathological conditions, reaching, when 
exaggerated, to insanity, just as, in the opposite 
direction, commonplace stupidity may descend to 
imbecility. It is only reasonable to suppose that 
a great development of the brain in one direction 
must be, in many cases, at the expense of other 
qualities. If we can imagine some J despot breed- 
ing men, as we breed animals, he would breed for 
genius by selecting the emotional temperament 
and the imaginative brain in order to accentuate 
those features, while attempting to keep strength 
of reason with freedom of imagination. The most 
emotional would be likely to develop talent and 
genius in the more emotional of the arts, such as 
music and poetry, in which branches the greater 



254 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

number of the examples of exaggerated emotional 
excitement are found. 

We must also remember that appreciation of 
art requires the same qualities in a lesser degree 
that the creator possesses, so that, whether lovers 
of beautiful art or creators, there are few of us 
who will escape if we accept Dr. Nordau's dictum 
that "art is the slight beginning of a deviation 
from complete health." At all events, we may be 
glad of so good a reason for the want of complete 
health, which may be said among civilised nations to 
be universal. In any case such a statement is ridicu- 
lous when one looks back at the story of art, and its 
immense influence as a teacher and a civilising agent 
from almost prehistoric times, and the fact that, as 
a rule, art is most flourishing in the most virile and 
progressive periods of a nation, still more to those 
who believe that in taste we are appealing to old in- 
stincts developed in the struggle for existence. We 
might with equal truth say that to fall in love was 
a deviation from complete health, because some, 
or many, people commit foolish excesses and do 
foolish things from love. If we look at no works 
of art or genius except those that bear some 
taint of exaggeration in meaningless excitement, 
it is not difficult to believe that it is merely a sign 
of pathological mental conditions that should be 
promptly and effectually put an end to ; but to 
condemn the whole domain of art because there 
are in it a large contingent of melancholiacs, hypo- 
chondriacs, and persons subject to hallucinations 
and periods of undue emotional excitement, is as 



INSPIRATION 255 

unnecessary as it is to condemn all religious feel- 
ing because the passionate resolutions wrung out 
of excited converts at a revivalist meeting' are not 
always followed by consistent right living. 

There is no special connection between eccen- 
tricity and easily excitable natures and a well- 
developed intellect, for as a rule people of this 
type are apt to be intellectually feeble. There is, 
however, no doubt that such a form of psycho- 
pathic temperament does carry with it to an 
unusual degree the faculty of doing things and so 
achieving, if not glory, at least notoriety. The 
very ardour and excitability of character and the 
emotional susceptibility tend to bring ideas home 
with a force that leads to instant action. An attrac- 
tive conception becomes at once a belief and is 
acted upon, reason being held in abeyance under 
the sway of the emotions to think a thing worth 
doing is to start instantly upon it ; their ideas 
possess them ; good or bad, they must put them 
in force or die. Such a temperament, coupled 
with a fair intellect, will come before the world, 
whereas a hundred far cleverer men, lacking this 
emotional impulse, will pass unnoticed, and the 
very exuberance and intensity of this feeling, and 
its accompanying cranks and whims, will force 
public attention to them, and thus help to provide 
examples of the insanity of genius. 

Two qualities especially characteristic of inspira- 
tion are firstly, the suddenness of the effect j there 
may, or may not, have been long periods of think- 
ing over and brooding upon the question, though 



256 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

this is a very usual preliminary, then, when the 
mind is perhaps turned to something else, the 
answer or result seems to come with a flash : 
secondly, the feeling of impersonality, to which 
attention was drawn above ; there is in nearly 
all personal descriptions of inspiration a strong 
insistence upon the feeling of some other power 
superior to the individual, strange and unknown, 
using, him as a tool ;* he seems to be, as it were, 
a passive spectator of some astounding process 
performed through him from outside, and it is 
common to find the assertion on the part of the 
producer that he had nothing to do with it. We 
must notice here that it is easy to find every 
gradation of the process, from a simple good idea 
that flashes suddenly into the mind, up to the 
complete state of rapt ecstasy in which all power 
of control and reason is in abeyance. Again, 
such states are not peculiar to art creation ; in 
great inventors, great leaders, and, above all, the 
founders of new religions, and their inspired 
teachers, we find the same phases ; generally there 
is the time of doubt, of intense thought and anxious 
study, then u quiescent period of varying length, 
followed by the crisis, the flash of inspiration, in 
which the secret is revealed, and a new truth, a 
new view of life, a great creation, is suddenly laid 
before the astonished recipient. Theology, com- 
bining with these apparently supernatural mani- 
festations, the ideas of grace and election, accounts 
for the result by supposing that the spirit of God 
is particularly present at such times. 



INSPIRATION 257 

Professor James has discussed and described the 
religious aspect of inspiration in his now classic 
work, " Varieties of Religious Experience/' in 
which there can be found a copious store of 
illustrations. The parallel between the descrip- 
tion of their feelings givefi by great artists in the 
moment of creation, and those of religious leaders 
originating new doctrines, or. new aspects of old 
truths, is curiously close, and to any unprejudiced 
observer the process is psychologically identical. 
It is unnecessary to transcribe at length any ex- 
amples ; the evidence of the existence of this real, 
definite overwhelming of the conscious life by 
something that in moments of inspiration of any 
kind seems to come in and take possession of the 
whole being, is well known. 

Unless we are prepared to admit, for all these 
sort of activities and effects, a supernatural origin, 
we must accept in some form or other the theory 
that they are due to a subconscious mind process, 
or unconscious cerebration ; though it is natural 
enough that any one who has passed through 
this overmastering experience should look upon it 
rather as something miraculous than as a natural 
process. 

An interesting point arises here Are we to con- 
sider that there is some special virtue in this 
sudden complete invasion ? Is a work of art that 
is the result of slow and painful effort something 
different from, and perhaps in some way inferior 
to, the startlingly instantaneous product of inspired 
frenzy ? Are we to believe, with the revivalists, that 

R 



258 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

true regeneration must be marked by a crisis in 
which the person is completely carried away on a 
wave of emotional conviction ? that the people 
who have experienced this are for ever different 
from the rest of the world, and that the man who 
becomes good by slow degrees and severe exercise 
of will is deficient in some quality only to be 
attained by the cataclysmic conversion ? It seems 
to be generally accepted that this more or less 
irresponsible, sudden, inspiration is a kind of hall- 
mark of truth and value, in religion or art ; the 
possessor of such a faculty is indeed apt to assume 
a superiority, and to claim a certainty of Tightness ; 
he has a feeling of absolute knowledge. This atti- 
tude is apt to be accepted, more or less uncon- 
sciously, by the general public, astonished by the 
very inexplicability of the phenomena. And yet, if 
there be a difference in kind, we cannot detect it 
in the result, which after all is the real test. Are 
the most fervent and most completely converted 
sinners at a revival meeting in any way distinguish- 
able afterwards ? Are the discoveries of a Newton 
or a Helmholtz less wonderful than the cosmic 
interpretatibn of a Swedenborg ? Can we detect 
something in the writings of Coleridge that is 
wanting in Shakespeare ? Is the passionate music 
of Wagner something of a different kind to that of 
Beethoven ? In short, are we to consider the sub- 
conscious imagination the true and deep source of 
genius, and the other superficial, shallow, and of no 
real significance ? 

In a previous chapter great stress was laid upon 



INSPIRATION 259 

the marginal fringe in the field of consciousness 
on the fact that, in addition to the object or idea 
immediately in the focus of attention, there were 
always present a large number of other sensations 
and impressions ; all of which are, we must sup- 
pose, registered by the subconscious mind, for we 
find the appropriate reactions made without any 
conscious intervention. The mental fields are 
continuously succeeding one another, each wiih its 
centre of interest, fading to a margin towards which 
the objects are less and less consciously perceived. 
These fields vary enormously ; they may be very 
wide, allowing masses of truth to be seen and 
grasped together, giving glimpses of relationships 
even beyond the apparent field. At other times 
in time of pain or fatigue the field seems to 
narrow almost to a point. Different persons vary 
very greatly in this width of field. A great turn 
for organising and theorising means a very wide 
field, in which a vast array of facts and ideas are 
held in one all-embracing view. 

We have already pointed out that there seem to 
be different and partly overlapping fields for the 
conscious and subconscious mind ; numerous sen- 
sations, and the thoughts, memories, and associa- 
tions aroused by them, although extra marginal 
and unnoticed by the conscious mind, are yet 
noted, as it were, and stored up, exerting an influ- 
ence upon the sum total of feeling. This existence 
of an awareness, if the word may be used, existing 
beyond the field of direct consciousness that is, 
subliminally casts a strong light upon the various 



260 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

phenomena of the inspiration of genius, and the 
sudden new light thrown by the junction of ideas 
in a novel combination without the help of the 
conscious brain. Although, to see the working of 
this in a marked form, we have to regard and 
discuss somewhat exaggerated instances, we may 
be quite sure that what the genius has in excess the 
ordinary man has iq a less noticeable degree. If 
a man have a strongly-developed ultra-marginal 
faculty, and at the same time be of an emotional 
and impulsive nature, there will be, first of all, an 
unusual tendency to sudden incursions from the 
subconscious level, which will, in the absence of 
any idea as to their source, be simply felt as sudden 
impulses to act, or of obsessive ideas, or even of 
hallucination ; secondly, such ideas will, owing to 
his temperament, be little checked by reason, or 
will even, under certain conditions, especially if 
connected with religion, be actually encouraged by 
his reason, from the idea that there is something of 
extreme value in such manifestations. In cases of 
entire loss of control, the emotional excitement 
gains complete ascendency, and is likely to result 
in incoherent noises, speaking with tongues, groans, 
shrieks, and hysterical laughter ; in fact, all the 
usual concomitants of sudden conversion, such as 
are often to be seen at a revivalist meeting, where 
every means are taken to allow the emotional 
excitement unchecked play. 

Under such conditions we find various forms 
of abnormal mental conditions, one of the most 
frequent being hypermnesia or exaltation of memory, 



INSPIRATION 261 

which reaches a pitch of acuteness suggesting crea- 
tion, or invention, rather than actual recollection 
(but as a rule such abnormal power of memory is a 
loss rather than a help to real creation, as the more 
nearly memory comes to complete redintegration 
the less room there is for novel combination), 
Putting on one side the exaggerated cases, we can 
see all through our ordinary life the continual up- 
rush of fully formed ideas that seemed to have* been 
worked out subconsciously ; in the minor cases we 
usually term them intuitions, and are always apt to 
attach a particular value to them, one reason perhaps 
being that they are, by the very method of their 
formation, particularly apt to jump with Qur in- 
clinations, and so to be believed more readily, 
But we must remember very clearly that Tightness 
or value have nothing to do with the process ; many 
people have felt themselves truly inspired, and have 
had all the vagaries and strong eccentricities proper 
to genius, but the outcome of the periods of excite- 
ment has resulted in nothing of the slightest value, 
Such cases are naturally soon forgotten and attract 
but little notice. We have innumerable intuitions, 
i.e. sudden complete judgments not reached by any 
process of reasoning, that are utterly wrong ; these 
we disregard, and are apt to confine the term in- 
tuition to those that are found to be correct. The 
Christian distinguishes his religious ecstasy from 
that of the Mohammedan or the Hindoo pro- 
nouncing one true, the other false yet in each 
case they are psychologically identical processes, 
and accompanied by the inner sense of a fuller, more 



262 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

certain knowledge. We must, I think, accept the 
conclusion that there is no more virtue in the sudden 
blinding flash of insight accompanied by the sense 
of rapt exaltation, &c., than in the slower processes 
by which a truth or creation may be arrived at. 
We cannot find that there is any possibility of 
grouping discoveries or creative works by any such 
criterion as the method of production. It is all a 
matte* of temperament and differs probably chiefly 
in degree. One man will create nothing except in 
these sudden periods of inspiration, followed as a 
rule by an infertile time of inaction ; another will 
reach this end by a slow progress. Newman was 
able by a careful and patient study of the patristic 
literature to convince himself that the Roman 
Catholic was the true religion, which he there- 
upon accepted with implicit belief, but apparently 
with little or no emotional crisis. To one tempera- 
ment genius truly lies in the capacity to take infinite 
pains, to another in the ability to seize and make 
use of rare moments of sudden inspiration. Be- 
tween these two lies all the ingenuity and inventive 
capacity of the ordinary man, who is, as a matter of 
fact, making iise of his imagination all day long, and 
for ever jumping to conclusions, reached by no 
conscious process of reason. 

We can notice one form in which the subcon- 
scious mind helps to make, what seem at first sight 
unconnected associations by utilising, but keeping 
below the level of consciousness, some of the con- 
necting links. A recalls B, and B recalls C, but B 
being at the moment of no interest, we get in con- 



INSPIRATION 263 

sciousness A and C together, the middle term B 
acting as the unnoticed transition between two ap- 
parently unrelated things. This so-called " mediate " 
association is extremely common. The name of one 
friend of mine instantly reminds me of Napoleon 
and Lord Rosebery ; a 'certain amount of intro- 
spection revealed the connection. He had been 
sent to St. Helena when I last saw him, and I was 
continually reminded of him in reading Lord.Rose- 
bery's account of Napoleon's imprisonment there. 
We may easily imagine that a number of mediate 
terms may be in this way omitted, remaining below 
the threshold of consciousness, and thus result 
frequently in unforeseen relations ; the tgmpera- 
ment of the person determining which are of 
sufficient interest to force their way into the focus 
of attention. 

Any one idea may call up a host of associations, 
those that are considered most attentively being 
those that appeal to the particular temperament. 
For example, the word London will arouse all kinds 
of ideas and images, the majority of which will be 
in the vague marginal fringe extending outwards, 
becoming fainter and less distinct ; ho actual line 
can be drawn, and we may easily suppose them 
passing on into the subconscious region, each idea 
perhaps spreading and ramifying, touching all sorts 
of associative memories until they happen to come 
together in a relation sufficiently novel or interest- 
ing to arrest the attention. The receptive vastness of 
London, into which all lines and roads seem to run, 
suggests the simile of a great mouth, and we perhaps 



264 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

speak of the all-devouring monster ; the aptness and 
suggestiveness of the simile strikes the imagination, 
and, with the rapidity of thought, the current is set 
and we fill up the details and carry out the analogy. 
The artist is always on the look out tot these sort 
of illustrative analogies, and, as we have already seen, 
the conscious mind can give orders, as it were, to 
the unconscious to look out for and call attention 
to any view or point tnat is required. 

The trained musician, the skilful player, the clever 
workman can teach their subconscious helper to 
adapt each action to the intention and wish of the 
conscious mind without any definite instruction as 
to details, and thus so automatically adjust the 
mechanical details that the whole attention can be 
concentrated upon the main object. So the sub- 
conscious mind of the thinker, the inventor, the 
poet, the painter, is, as it were, trained to keep an 
eye upon all the innumerable associations by con- 
tiguity, resemblance, analogy, chance, &c., and draw 
attention to the suitable ones. This is, of course, a 
somewhat fanciful description, attributing a power 
unwarrantably to the subconscious mind, and yet 
it is difficult' to over-estimate the delicacy and 
accuracy of our half conscious and subconscious 
faculties. It would lead us too far from our subject 
to discuss here the phenomena of hypnotism ; but 
it throws so much light upon the working of the 
subconscious mind in connection with inspiration, 
that we must mention one or two points that seem 
of special interest. 

In the first place, it helps us to realise how delicate 



INSPIRATION 265 

sense perception can be, and how keen the faculties 
can become under certain conditions. . The great 
delicacy and sensitiveness of the different organs of 
sensation, going far beyond anything that is noted 
by ordina?y consciousness, have been frequently 
referred to and are of fundamental importance to the 
suggestions that have been made as to the origins 
and reasons of our feelings for beauty. It will, 
therefore, be of interest to illustrate this, from 
certain experiments that have been made upon 
persons in the state of hypnosis, because this con- 
dition offers peculiar facilities for such investiga- 
tion. Professor Moll draws attention to the extreme 
degree of sensitiveness that is sometimes displayed 
in hypnotised persons, and the important bearing 
that this may play in explaining phenomena that 
is apparently supernatural. After describing some 
experiments with regard to the sense of touch, he 
goes on to say : 

" The senses of pressure and temperature become some- 
times much more delicate. The hypnotic recognises things 
half-an-inch distant from the skin, and this simply by the 
increase and decrease of temperature (Braid). He walks 
about a room with bandaged eyes or in absolute darkness 
without striking against anything, because he recognises 
objects by the resistance of the air, and by the alteration 
of temperature (Braid, Poirault, Drzewiecki). D'Abundo 
produced enlargement of the field of vision by suggestion. 

" Bergson has described one of the most remarkable cases 
of increased power of vision. This particular case has been 
cited as a proof of supersensual thought-transference, but 
Bergson attributes the result to hyperaesthesia of the eye. 
In this case the hypnotic was able to read letters in a book 



266 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OP BEAUTY 

which were 3 mm. high ; the reading was made possible 
by a reflected image of these letters in the eye of the 
operator. According to calculation the reflected image 
could only have been o. i mm. The same person was able 
without using the microscope, to see and draW the cells in 
a microscopical specimen, wfcich were only 0.06 mm. in 
diameter. 

" A case of Taguet's, in which an ordinary piece of card- 
board was used as a mirror, is said to have proved quite as 
strong a hypenesthesia. All objects which were held so 
that the reflected rays from the card fell upon the subject's 
eyes, were clearly recognised. The same thing is shown 
by a great increase in the sense of smell. A visiting card is 
torn into a number of pieces, which are professedly found 
purely by the sense of smell ; pieces belonging to another 
card are rejected. The subject gives gloves, keys, and 
pieces of money to the persons whom they belong, guided 
only by smell. Hypersesthesia of smell has often been 
noticed in other cases. Braid describes one case in which 
the subject on each occasion found the owner of some 
gloves among a number of other people ; when his nose 
was stopped the experiments failed. 

" The muscular sense again requires a few words. This 
sense informs us of the position of our limbs at a given 
moment. The great dexterity of movement, which is some- 
times found in* deep hypnosis, must be ascribed to an 
increased acuteness of this sense." l 

Great accuracy of observation is shown in the 
power of recognising differences between things 
that appear to the ordinary person to be identical. 
Numerous experiments have been made in which 
the hypnotised person is deprived of the power 
of seeing some particular thing or person. For 

1 "Hypnotism," p. 114. Albert Moll (1906). 



INSPIRATION 267 

instance, he may be told that he cannot see or hear 
one of a number of people in a room, whereupon he 
will be apparently quite oblivious of that person's pre- 
sence, but, all the same if that person actually gets 
in his way he will avoid him, inventing if necessary 
some reason to account for his particular action or 
movement. An experiment on somewhat similar 
lines, made by Janet, is .related by Professor 
James, 1 who placed in the lap of a medium", upon 
whom he was experimenting, called Lucie, a num- 
ber of small squares of cardboard with numbers 
upon them, telling her that all of them which were 
a multiple of three were blank. Upon waking 
she read off the numbers, but any which con- 
tained 3 as a multiple, such as 12, 18, 24, &c., were 
apparently blank. The interesting point about 
these striking experiments lies in the fact that per- 
ception and a certain degree of calculation were 
necessary in order to select the figures that she 
could not see ; that is to say, that in such a case 
processes of ordinary thought and calculation can 
be carried on without any conscious knowledge of 
the process, while the result is correct and striking. 
We cannot describe further experiments, but we 
may briefly summarise some of the results that 
throw a certain light upon inspiration and artistic 
production. In the first place, as Dr. Moll clearly 
shows, consciousness is necessary for hypnotism 
in order to receive and appreciate the suggestion ; 
a certain degree of will and power of concentrating 
the attention make the work of the operator more 

1 " Principles of Psychology." William James (1890). 



268 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

easy. The whole process consists in making a 
suggestion to a person so that he accepts it with 
implicit belief, and acts upon it exactly as if it had 
existential reality. These ideas may be communi- 
cated by the voice in words, or by movements 
no matter how, as long aS the hypnotised person 
clearly understands what is required of him. 

Dr. Moll, 1 in discussing the theory of hypnosis, 
points out two well-known, but insufficiently-con- 
sidered, features of ordinary mental life (i) that 
men have a certain proneness to allow themselves 
to be influenced by others through their ideas, 
and in particular to believe much without making 
logical Deductions ; (2) that a psychological or 
physiological effect tends to appear in a man if 
he is expecting it. If we wish to convert a person 
by argument, the case is nearly won if we can get 
our opponent really to visualise and consider the 
idea we are trying to put before him. Every one 
is liable to be carried away by an idea, and no one 
believes only that which has been logically proved. 
An idea, if it happens to hit a person's tempera- 
ment, will be promptly accepted, and may to a 
considerable degree oust conscious and logical 
reason ; the artist who, by harmonious effects of 
beauty has raised the emotional standard, can 
often drive home an idea that would otherwise 
be disregarded, or even disliked ; this is very 
noticeable with regard to religious ideas, and their 
emotional accompaniments of music and cere- 
mony. The idea may easily become dogmatic 

1 Op. cit., p. 241. 



INSPIRATION 269 

belief. The second statement is too well known 
to require emphasising expectant attention has 
so obviously a marked influence in producing the 
result. 

Upon tfiese two very simple and patently true 
statements, a large part of the hypnotic effects 
become more easy to appreciate. Under the 
conditions of hypnosis the^ person is very easily 
accessible to ideas ; the idea once accepted, 
everything tfcat militates against it is disregarded ; 
utterly so, if the hypnotic effect be strong and 
the person well trained in it, partially so in other 
cases ; things that cannot be disregarded are 
somehow worked in to form part of ^jhe idea. 
There is a similar state in dreams, when we 
accept the ideas that come as absolute reality, 
with a complete disregard of their utter incon- 
gruity, as easily as the hypnotised person ; we 
can be young again or old ; we can dream our- 
selves a king or a hero, or even commit crimes, but 
always, as in hypnosis, with a curious thread of 
rationality running through it all, which works 
everything into the particular idea that is at the 
moment holding the field. 

If we read a number of illustrative examples of 
experiments in hypnotism we see how they pass 
through every step, beginning with suggestion of 
probable things and actions easily carried out, until 
they reach a pitch in which nothing is too impro- 
bable or outrageous to be believed ; but in them all 
we find convincing proof of the fact that processes 
of thought, memory, calculation, &c., analogous on 



270 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

all lines to our ordinary conscious mental processes, 
can go on without our being aware of it, and that 
the result of these processes can act with astonish- 
ing force, carrying all before it, leaving the will and 
the conscious reasoning faculties absolutbly power- 
less before the overpowering impulse. Professor 
James has suggested the method in which this sort 
of subconscious process could produce the various 
effects, of sudden conversion. It is equally suited 
to account for the phenomena of inspiration in 
artistic creation, and also in appreciation, which we 
can find in every degree from simple liking to 
ecstatic enjoyment. Under the sway of some over- 
mastering idea that has suddenly " swum into his 
ken/' the great artist or inventor or scientist often 
becomes blind and deaf to everything and every- 
body that does not help him in it he is, as we say, 
hynotised by it ; this is, however, really only an 
exaggerated stage of processes that are always going 
on in everybody. 

Most writers, in touching upon the question of 
genius, dwell upon usually strongly-marked charac- 
teristic of persistent, tenacious attention devoted to 
one object. Many popular sayings are also witness 
to it : " Genius is only long patience," attributed to 
Newton ; or, " Always thinking of it," and so on ; 
one of the fundamental marks being the existence 
of a firmly-fixed, ever active idea which is always 
it work consciously or unconsciously, and always 
urging them to renewed effort. There is obviously 
i close parallel between a person under the sway 
of, and entirely dominated by, some idfe fixe to 



INSPIRATION 271 

which everything is subordinated, and a subject 
under the influence of an hypnotic suggestion 
against which he is powerless to strive. Stories of 
inventors are full of illustrations of the extraor- 
dinary lengths to which an overmastering idea can 
carry its originator. But here there is an obvious 
parallel again the person who is entirely domi- 
nated by an icttefixe to which everything is subor- 
dinated, to which everything is made in sonje way 
to refer, is under a despotic sway which he cannot 
break. These obsessions, or fixed ideas, may end 
in brilliant invention or in the lunatic asylum ; for 
where they pass the point of a strong stimulus or 
incentive to research in some particular direction, 
and become a complete obsession, they exercise a 
profound influence upon the mental faculties, and 
the control of the reason is powerless to maintain 
a sense of relative importance of ideas ; but the 
very sense perceptions themselves are subordinated 
and rendered nugatory, nothing is believed that 
cannot be harmonised with the idea, the sufferer is 
hypnotised with no power of awakening. Within 
reasonable limits the strong guiding idea is an im- 
mensely powerful source of effort, but we have to 
judge of it entirely by the effect or results achieved. 
If it produces, or is trying to produce, something 
of value in the practical, aesthetic, scientific, moral, 
social, or religious field, it is good ; if, judged by 
our standards of life, the object is a worthless one, 
the ardent pursuer of it is put down as an eccentric 
or a crank. 
We have already discussed at some length the 



272 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

work of the subconscious mind with regard to 
simple reaction and automatic movements, which 
were, so to speak, relegated to it by consciousness, 
and were then by practice and habit carried out 
more certainly and more unerringly than the most 
careful attention could secure. Are we, then, to 
consider the function of the subconscious mind, in 
its power of reasoning and calculating, as some- 
thing different in kind, not in degree only, from the 
conscious mental process? We saw r that the con- 
scious mind, in handing over certain actions or 
response to the ordinary stimuli of the sense organs, 
always did so with an understanding that at any 
particular noise or any particular reference, &c., 
the conscious attention was to be invoked. We 
see the same thing happening with regard to simple 
relationships and subconsciously noted inference 
the striking, the unusual, the unexpected, being 
generally sufficient to call in the conscious mind. 
Let us apply this to the creative imagination. We 
are by the slightest introspection aware that there 
is a continual uprush into the mind of ideas and 
relations and so on, the majority of which are too 
absurd to be tfven considered ; others are discarded 
after a moment's consideration ; others may hold 
the field for a time ; of some, however, our con- 
scious mind decides that they are good. What is 
chiefly wanted is a conscious appreciation that is 
quick to see the bearings of a given idea ; how 
often, when some great discovery is made, do we 
feel that we might so easily have thought of it our- 
selves ; very likely the idea has occurred often, but 



INSPIRATION 273 

we have not been able to see its true relationship. 
As the mental equipment of men varies, so some 
will have a continual supply of ideas, strange 
and marvellous, but without a sufficiently critical 
judgment they chase will-o'-the-wisps and think 
them real ; others have 'strong reason aijd clear 
heads, but have not a sufficiently diffluent imagina- 
tion their ideas are too orderly, and repeat in 
too orderly a sequence to provide the novel and 
suggestive relation ; they are, perhaps, intensely 
alive to the discoveries of others, and help to prove 
and test them, but they are themselves barren. 
When the two unite an unending crop of sugges- 
tive ideas with a well-disciplined judgment we 
have a type capable of anything, the particular 
bent which it will take being determined by the 
tendencies of the individual. The upshot of this is 
the suggestion that in the phenomena of the sub- 
conscious there is nothing new or marvellous, but 
simply th^ development of the natural process 
which we see from the beginning of the sharing of 
work between the conscious and subconscious pro- 
cesses of thought, there being no real difference 
but simply an interchange ; the same result tnay 
be arrived at subconsciously or with full conscious^ 
ness. 

Generally speaking, it is chance, or rather our 
temperament, that decides what shall be the object 
of attention ; and it often happens that the very 
keenness of the desire will prevent the invention 
coming by thinking too hard; simply because it 
is by its action forcing the associations in a parti- 



274 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

cular direction, which happens to be a wrong one 
just as it can upset and spoil some process that 
has become automatic by practice and habit, by 
interfering with well-learnt movements. When the 
control is released, the associations run together in 
every conceivable variety of ways, and the right 
collocation comes with a sudden flash, and, as it 
were, an inspiration an idea which seizes upon 
and dominates the entire personality, forcing every- 
thing into its particular direction. IJ is, as it were, 
a return to the system of trial and error. The 
moment the right solution is found, all our atten- 
tion is concentrated on that, so that we easily over- 
look te vastly greater number of useless and 
valueless ideas. Then the conscious rational mind 
having approved the idea, comes in and fills up 
the gaps with all kinds of reasoning and logic. By 
leaving ourselves passive we give greater freedom 
to ideas of all kinds to come in ; the threshold of 
consciousness is low, and we pass freely and easily 
from idea to idea. We have 110 need to postulate 
a new method or process for subconscious associa- 
tions and ideas ; but the existence of this power 
of associatibn and suggestion, carried on below 
the level of consciousness, with its accompanying 
extreme delicacy of sense perception, does help 
us greatly to understand the way in which beautiful 
objects can have so strong an effect in arousing 
feelings and emotions in addition to, and apart 
from, any conscious intellectual process. 



CHAPTER XI 



ART AND LIFE CONCLUSIONS 

All nature is but art, unknotvn to thee ; 

All chance, direction, which thou caust not see ; 

All discord, harmony, not understood ; 

All partial evil, universal good ; 

And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite, 

One truth is clear, whatever is, is right. 

POPE, Essay on A/an, Ep. I. 289. 

MAN realises his environment, broadly speaking, 
in two ways : either by a logical or scientific 
observation of cause and effect ; or by aesthetic 
appreciation. These two methods are usually con- 
trasted, and are apt to be considered in some way 
as fundamentally opposed; and yet, if we trace 
them both back, we shall find them springing 
eventually from the same root, and often, though 
perhaps unknown to each other, working in col- 
laboration. They both start from the emotional 
craving of the human being to realise the world in 
harmony with human needs and desires. The 
emotional basis of the most apparently intellectual 
conceptions is insisted upon by Herbert Spencer, 
who points out in the preface of his autobiography, 
with reference to the synthetic philosophy : 

" One significant truth has been made clear that in 
the genesis of a system of thought, the emotional nature is 



276 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

a large factor : perhaps as large a factor as the intellectual 
nature." 

It is only as the condition of human activities that 
the facts and provisions of nature become intel- 
ligible or practically important. For the* world can 
only justify itself to the mind by the free life that it 
allows there ; observation of fact and experience 
of nature are valueless until they become, under 
the sptor of human impulse, the starting point for a 
creative movement of the imagination the basis 
for ideal construction. 

To think that the aim of man is accomplished 
when he has recorded, or perhaps in a way, and to 
some degree, explained as a chain of physical 
causes, the chance happenings of nature, and his 
contribution thereto, of impulsive instinctive ac- 
tion, is to forget the privilege of human beings 
that of using nature as food and substance for their 
own lives, spiritual as well as physical. However 
much the animal impulse may be the starting point, 
the development of reason has found a nobler form 
of gratification, and the best and highest part of it 
consists in the power of imaginative creation ; it 
is significant that man has attributed the gift of 
creation, with all the other higher functions that 
he can conceive, to God as highest ideal. 

Man has but his five senses with which to gather 
a few of the infinite vibrations of nature a 
moderate degree of intelligence, with which to 
thrash out the harvest of the senses, and many an 
irregular and passionate impulse that plays havoc 
with what interpretations he can make. Though 



ART AND LIFE 277 

the equipment be small, the task that he under- 
takes, in his moments of ambition, is immense. 
Undaunted by the poverty of his materials, he pro- 
ceeds to construct a picture of all reality, to com- 
prehend not only his own origin, but that of all the 
universe, to find the laws that govern the cause of 
both, and to forecast their ultimate destiny. All 
through the ages, as far back as any records go, 
and in the most primitive races of man, we find 
this all-powerful aspiration, due, as we have already 
suggested, to the need for conformity to environ- 
ment ; if we are to be in harmony with the universe 
we must know the path we are to tread. When 
one faculty fails him in reaching his^end, he 
summons another to his aid ; finding sense and 
reasoning unequal to the task, he makes use of 
imagination, which is brought into the service of 
his instinctive desire, and made to do the work of 
intelligence. Moreover, the men of the most pro- 
found intellect are most apt thus to use their 
imaginative faculty, for the very depth of their 
knowledge makes them most keenly aware of the 
inadequacy of their resources, whije they realise 
more fully the greatness of the problems of life, 
These are also the minds that most earnestly desire 
to find a solution that shall be noble that shall 
give an authoritative sanction to their highesl 
aspirations. This conclusion, so passionately de- 
sired, may be, or rather, by the nature of the case, 
must be, one that the understanding, demanding 
verification and proof based upon sense experience 
cannot reach. There must, then, be an ever presenl 



278 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

dissatisfaction and unfulfilled desire, unless some 
step is taken beyond the understanding. Where, 
then, can he turn for the wider view, the deeper 
harmony, for which his soul longs ? Only to 
imagination, for that is the only faculty left. It is 
the imagination which must give to religion and 
metaphysics the large ideas, the all - embracing 
survey, the great and emotionally satisfying theories 
of life, u in which alone the higher type of miifd can 
find congenial rest. 

The intuitions or inspirations which science is 
not yet able to use are the groundwork of religion, 
metaphysics, and art. Man inevitably fashions his 
percepti<5hs of the world around him into images, 
and whether they are scientific or artistic, the plea- 
sure in the result, when it is pleasing, is due to the 
same emotion at bottom ; to one the conception of 
the law of the conservation of energy comes with a 
wave of the same soul-satisfying emotion that is 
aroused in another the first time that he hears with 
real appreciation a beautiful rendering, say, of a 
symphony of Beethoven. To a certain degree we 
weigh the gre,at generalisations of science, as we 
do those of religion, by the way in which they 
strike home to us by the extent to which they 
seem to help us on our way to understand more 
fully our environment, and so to be of assistance to 
us by helping us to live in greater harmony with it. 
As Herbert Spencer has put it, in his chapter on 
Eternal Life : " Perfect correspondence of organ- 
ism to environment would be perfect Life." Such 
a life is rational happiness the attainment of what 



ART AND LIFE 279 

is really desirable, and is the aim, conscious or 
unconscious, of all effort, of all endeavour. 

A harmony that is one in appearance only, that 
lies in imaginary passions, in rhythm and declama- 
tion, with 'its roots in nothing real, is unmanly, and 
can bring no lasting joy, can offer nothing but an 
illusive and momentary delight, which is far from a 
true and rational pleasure. So religion can turn to 
mere ritualism, art to exaggerated symbolism and 
romanticism,; living in a world of visionary pleasures 
that do nothing to alleviate or render more toler- 
able the real evils of the world. As knowledge 
deepens and experience grows, the unreal becomes 
less interesting ; the child is happy in a^world of 
make-believe to the mature, the conditions of 
existence, as they become known and recognised, 
are the only conditions of a beauty that has value ; 
no architect would care to design a building if he 
were bidden to do so without regard to the laws of 
gravity and constructional necessity. That is to 
say, that in art, as in life, the best result can only be 
reached when intelligence has full play it must 
represent the whole. Just as action in practical 
affairs is doomed to failure unless thte actual condi- 
tions are understood, so is that of the imagination, 
unless it is reared upon a true appreciation of the 
world and the natural instincts of man. The great 
value of art lies in its power of bringing happiness ; 
from the rational pursuit of which people are drawn 
aside by many a foolish impulse and ignorant mis- 
interpretation. Since art, therefore, has, as we have 
pointed out, its springs in all the needs of life, the 



28o ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

closer it keeps to the elementary human desires and 
the natural means of providing satisfaction, the 
nearer it is to beauty ; but as long as art is merely 
concerned with providing material satisfaction it is 
an industry. Industry rises to art when it 1 is carried 
out to the satisfaction and delight of all human 
desires, providing not only for the needs of the 
body, but meeting the sensuous and aesthetic 
demands ; pleasing tfie eye and delighting the 
mind as it suggests some reconciliation between 
the higher aspirations of the soul and existing 
reality, touching delightfully the imagination as it 
stirs the emotions, by the beauty that it has created ; 
art will then be responsive to all human nature, 
satisfactory to reason, pleasing and beautiful to 
sense. Thus, as special attention and distinction is 
paid to the directions in which pleasure is found to 
lie, the fine arts begin to emerge from the industrial. 
The workman becoming an artist will try to 
realise an ideal in his work, something which, 
transcending the merely immediate utility, will be 
an expression unconscious perhaps of an aim 
and will touch a wider and greater value, until the 
obviously useful becomes lost sight of in a re- 
moter good, fixing in some plastic material a 
thought or feeling that may bear fruit for genera- 
tions. "Art," says G. Santeyana in his "Life of 
Reason," " is action which, transcending the body, 
renders the world a more congenial stimulus to the 
soul." If we translate this from the ideal to the 
practical, from the spiritual to the material, we see 
that the prototype of art is activity devoted to 



ART AND LIFfe 281 

making the environment more suitable to the 
organism. 

To this is added suggestive meanings and new 
ideas of nature, an appeal to the ideal instincts, 
some hint of the meaning of nature. For real and 
complete satisfaction in a work of art we must feel 
that value has been added to the world, that life has 
been in some way enriched and made fuller. In a 
sense, therefore, art is the interpretation of eAviron- 
ment by helping towards harmonious adjustment. 
This it does by its power of hinting at a meaning, 
There is no need to suppose that any particular 
message must be consciously, or deliberately, the 
intention of the artist ; as G. Eliot said, "TMie words 
of genius bear a wider meaning than the thoughts 
which prompted them." He feels a sense of the 
mystery of life, a meaning in things, a beauty or 
some suggestion of harmony which he cannot 
express or even formulate ; he tries to show us 
the thing as it appears to him, to let us see it 
through his eyes, so that at least we may shaVe his 
feelings ; and if his effort is successful he wakens the 
old instinctive cravings, and fills us with undefined 
longings, set that there grows a sense of a deeper 
meaning in life, a higher and a wider sphere 
than the mere everyday existence ; the senses are 
quickened, and under the spur we succeed in 
combining portions of experience in some ne\v 
untried way, and find a connection unthought oi 
before. So a great work of art leaves us with a 
fuller, richer sense of life ; it helps us a step upon 
the way to self-realisation as a " vehicle for intuition " 



282 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

of the world around us. Beauty gives us the best 
hint of ultimate good that we can get, and beauty, 
however defined, must be based upon harmony. 
The need for harmony in the organism, and be- 
tween the organism and its environment, is obvious 
indeed life is impossible without a modicum at 
least of such harmony, and, according to Metch- 
nikoff, 1 all our hills are due to disharmonies. So 
that it does not seem straining probability to speak, 
as we have suggested above, of ant instinct for 
harjgxony^with environment. This instinct would 
then be the basis of many emotions and the source 
of cravings and desires difficult to particularise, as 
it became complicated by the baffling impulses and 
feelings of fully developed life. Given such an 
instinct, it is not difficult to trace an imaginary 
sequence ; we see it for ever engaged in its effort 
to get at one with nature, to catch the meaning and 
the note of its surroundings. When first it takes 
outward form it appears in the animism of the 
savag in rude music, coarse and rough ornament, 
in idols and temples, strongly utilitarian ; but even 
in its rudest forms it is impressed with the feeling 
of a world not accessible to sense, hinting at its 
imagined purpose, symbolising the mystery and the 
meaning behind the simplest object ; always, whether 
in religion or art, representing the effort for the 
higher, offering the greatest good that can at the 
moment be conceived ; growing more spiritual and 
ideal with the ripe in moral and intellectual 
developm^j/1 

1 " The Nature of Man." 



ART AND LIFE 283 

This brings us to the close relation between 
religion and art, between which there are so many 
points of close similarity that it is not difficult to 
maintain that they are parallel manifestations of the 
same motive. We have already tried to show that 
art is the outcome, the* idealised, conceptualised, 
stage of activities originally necessary to survival ; 
that, in accordance with a law of universal validity, 
the simple physical pleasures gradually dtevelop 
into corresponding mental pleasures in the region 
of the ideal. We see the same process passed 
through by religion. We may, if we choose, limit 
the word religion, just as we may and do limit the 
word art to the final stages, refusing tc? apply it 
to the earlier practical forms upon which it was 
grafted. The myth, the animism, and the fetichism 
of the savage have nothing in common with the 
religious feeling in the sense with which we now 
use the word, and yet we can trace an almost un- 
broken development from the early deities endowed 
with every sort of repulsive attribute into ty>es of 
idealised humanity. Jahva, the god of the Hebrews, 
delighted in human sacrifice ; a stefj forward, and 
a priest discovered that the blood of animals would 
be equally acceptable. From the god of a tribe he 
became the ruler of the universe, a father dispensing 
universal justice. No longer protecting and fight- 
ing for the tribe only, he allowed other tribes to 
inflict loss and damage ; this was then regarded as 
a punishment, and so the growing spiritual en- 
lightenment gradually evolved a religion. 

Religion in its primitive stage was purely selfish, 



284 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

practical, and utilitarian ; it represents the con- 
scious effort of man to get on his side in the struggle 
powers believed to be stronger than human. The 
god had to be deceived by stratagem, bribed by 
sacrifice, persuaded by prayer, or overpowered by 
incantation, to work solely in the interests of the 
individual person or tribe ; the whole relation was 
one of barter ; the god.had to earn his sacrifice, and 
was imagined to demand it as a right for service 
done. The first beginning of religion %was a delibe- 
rate effort inspired by the struggle for existence. 
The men or tribe that had the most correct know- 
ledge of the meaning or purpose of the so-called 
higher powers that is, nature would feel that they 
had an advantage. In order to make an effective, 
or what would be felt as an effective, sign of their 
power and a means of communication between the 
external but unseen powers and the internal idea, 
some form that could be perceived was necessary. 
Much of the early ornament, drawings, pantomime, 
&c., Simply represent this desire ; and so we see 
art, if we like to call it so, on its imaginative side 
suggesting ideas, myths, analogies, on its construc- 
tive representing them by signs in some plastic 
form. Here we see at the very outset the beginning 
of that close and long-lasting connection between 
art and the expression of the religious feelings. 
They act and react upon one another, and it is hard, 
or rather impossible, to separate them, whether we 
try to estimate a line of demarcation in the rude 
but significant figures of the savage, or between the 
aesthetic emotion and religious enthusiasm in the 



ART AND LIFE 285 

magnificent art of the middle ages. We can, how- 
ever, safely say that they together represent and 
register man's intellectual and moral advance, his 
effort to read the meaning of the world, to find a 
moral order in the universe, and to show us how 
to live in harmony with'it. 

Professor Hoffding, in " The Philosophy of Re- 
ligion," traces the fundamental basis of religion in 
the belief in, or the desire for, the conservation ol 
value. f In jreligion we can be content with a 
mediate or future value, so that we may accept or 
even welcome pain and suffering, in the belief that 
it will in the end' result in value. The sense of 
beauty is a perception of value, but a~~pj;esent or 
immediate value, which art attempts to register and 
so preserve ; it is not primarily concerned with any 
value which may be suggested by the meaning con- 
veyed. If we attribute pleasure in beauty to the 
meaning i.e. a remote value we trespass upon 
moral values rather than aesthetic. What religion 
requires in order to exert its power in the*fullest 
degree is a belief in the remoter value as strongly 
as in the immediate perception, for then we can 
perceive at once suffering and pain*as a value i.e. 
they are the means to a desired end, and so become 
in themselves desirable. Here art comes to help, 
and by appealing directly to the sense of beauty it 
gives the feeling of immediate pleasure (sense of 
value), and so is able to suggest the double idea of 
mediate and immediate value. 

In this lies the explanation of much of the con- 
fusion into which questions of art have fallen ; to 



286 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

one the whole meaning of art is in the meaning 
or expression, in the thought conveyed, to another 
it is concerned with nothing but the immediate 
pleasure produced. To Ruskin, art, religion, and 
morality were inextricably confused together ; every 
beautiful thing was a tribute to God. " Art perfects 
morality," he points out, and again : 

" No art can be noble which is incapable of expressing 
thought, and the nobler the thought the nobler the art." 

Other writers again indignantly discla\jn that ques- 
tions of morality have anything to do with art. 
We have tried to avoid this ambiguity as far as 
possible by keeping clearly in view the distinc- 
tion between the instantaneous appreciation of the 
beauty of an object with the emotion thereby 
aroused and the intellectual process, by which, as 
the meaning is seized, all the ideas set in motion by 
the associations that are so rapidly brought into 
play come in to swell the total feeling ; drawing 
attention to the fact that the rapid rise, and often 
far greater effect of the latter, tends to submerge, 
and so very frequently to hide altogether, the ori- 
ginal simple sensuous pleasure. 
x The forms of fine art being aimed at, the excite- 
ment of the emotions is naturally utilised by any 
one who is capable of doing so, in order to drive 
home an idea, and so to make the person whom 
it is desired to impress, feel it, as well as under- 
stand it, and this is equally the case whether the 
idea lies in the aesthetic, moral, ethical, or religious 
field, ba_us_e .the_stinpjjl^^ the 

surest way to a 




ART AND LIFE 287 

Beauty touches the world most profoundly wheit 
it is^fnost clearly able to suggest a real harmony 
between the conception of some ultimate good and 
the immediate pleasure to which it gives rise. If 
then, rational happiness were made the test of all 
pursuits and institutions, the more beautiful they 
would be, the more numerous and the more pro- 
found the points of fusion with the mind and the 
ideal feelings. It would the'n happen that the crea- 
tion and discovery of beauty would no longer be 
the task of a few, dealing with a visionary world, 
but beauty would be, so to speak, the test of effi- 
ciency, and would be an inseparable part of every- 
thing, f For all things would be viewed npt only in 
the light of their ultimate value, but of their capacity 
to give rational pleasure, and this pleasure being 
the gratification of the tendencies of human nature, 
it would be at once expressed in a perceptible 
beauty. 

The function of art is to mould the formless, to 
give a more excellent shape to some existing, mate- 
rial, to find or make a harmony between the real 
that is, and the ideal that reason craves. Thus, were 
it openly recognised that happiness is the proper 
aim of life, we should see the Tine arts restored again 
to their ancient glory, again they would touch life 
at every point ; for not only would they produce 
harmonies and beauties and tell of glorious ideas, 
but they would at the same time be expressive of 
the real and felt aspirations of humanity, and thus 
would strike home to emotions that were sincere 
because natural. 



288 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

In a sense, no doubt, ultimate happiness is the 
avowed object of our institutions, our religious 
beliefs, and theories of life ; but we fail so often 
to see, or refuse to recognise, the direction in 
which it lies, we have so long been taught to 
consider our instincts as* animal and therefore 
despicable, that we cling to the belief that moral 
advance, and with it true happiness, must lie in 
crushing- and thwarting them; though it is still 
the case that one or other of these ^despised in- 
stincts is the cause of the pleasure that is ap- 
parently gained by subduing them all. We are, 
however, beginning now to realise more clearly 
that to these physical instinctive desires and im- 
pulses is due not only all the value and good in 
life, but equally the highest and noblest aspira- 
tions of which the human mind is capable. So 
far from real progress being in the direction of 
banishing them from all influence upon our life, 
until we reach the stage of the sexless, emotion- 
less, icjeal of the ascetic, we shall gain most by 
the widest appeal to all those of the instinctive 
desires that can subserve the higher functions of 
the mind, not* by stamping them out, and thus 
destroying all that gives value to the world, but 
realising that it is the abuse, not the use, of a 
function that is harmful. The natural impulse 
is raised by the mind and the imaginative faculty 
into the regions of the ideal, producing pleasures 
more airy and delightful, more elevating and last- 
ing, than those of sense alone, the physical pleasure 
becoming a psychical delight. 



ART AND LIFE 289 

"The fact that everything which we admire as true, 
beautiful, and good has been evolved under natural con- 
ditions gives a religious character even to the idea of 
.nature,. It contains the motive of the idea of an ethical 
order of the universe, in consequence of which the inner- 
most essence of reality, the innermost force of natural 
evolution, cannot be foreign to that which works out in 
human ideals." l 

In this lies the true line Of advance, so that we 
can realise clearly that, so far from its being dero- 
gatory to some ideal delight to have its basis or 
origin in an animal instinct, it is a tribute to the 
mind of man, and a guarantee of the permanence 
and depth of the feeling. An eminent physiolo- 
gist 2 has pointed out : 

" The greatest happiness in life can only be obtained if 
all the instincts that of workmanship included can be 
maintained at a certain optimal intensity. But while it is 
certain that the individual can ruin or diminish the value 
of its life by a one-sided development of its instincts e.g. 
dissipation it is at the same time true that the economic 
and social conditions can ruin or diminish the value of life 
for a great number of individuals." 

No one would, of course, take this to imply 
that progress or happiness lay in the unrestrained 
indulgence of any instinct to which the inclina- 
tion of the moment was strongest, but to the 
rational acceptance of the fact that our natural 
feelings and inclinations are the source of our 
pleasure, and that thus they should be guided, 

1 "Outlines of Psychology," p. 262. H. Hoffding, 1904. (Trans.) 
8 Professor Laeb, '* Comparative Physiology of the Brain." (1900.) 



2 9 o ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

controlled, and elevated, not looked upon as 
something base to be ashamed of. The idea that 
any display of emotion is bad form, with the 
artificial restrictions that are put upon th r e ex- 
pression of feeling, has undoubtedly reacted 
unfavourably upon art. r 

It is impossible not to feel that the arts are, at 
the present time, somehow impotent ; inspiration 
is sought in copying ancient models; in unidealised 
realism ; we seem to be in a stage 

" When the great thought that slips the bound of earth and sky 
Gives way to craftsmanship of hand and eye." 

Technical skill is undoubtedly great ; vast numbers 
of works of art are produced, but somehow the 
effect produced is small. Art plays an unimportant 
part in the life of the generality of men. Some- 
thing of the same inability to touch life is to be 
seen in religious affairs. Religion, ignoring the 
very tolerable heaven which a sufficient moral 
advance would produce on earth, bids us disregard 
the world and its delights, and look to a greater 
and eternal delight hereafter. This has but little 
appeal to the ordinary man full of longings and 
desires, crying out for satisfaction here and now 
longings and desires for the things that are in this 
world, and due to the conditions of this world. 
Schools of art and museums are instituted in 
order to fan the flame of artistic appreciation that 
is suffering principally from the aloofness from 
life that this treatment does so much to foster. 
Art must be native, genuine, inevitable ; but to be 
so it must be expressive of real and genuinely felt 



ART AND LIFE 291 

emotions. Unfortunately, we have become accus- 
tomed to look upon art as something far removed 
from the sober business of life, as some pleasant 
by-pith ; and the more removed it is from reality 
and everyday life, the more those who practise it 
and enjoy it plume themselves upon being idealists. 
So tender a plant must be preserved from the rough 
contact of the world. 

Art has suffered incalculable damage from this 
idea of sepaiation from practical life : so strong 
indeed is the feeling, that we feel it to be in some 
way suitable that an artist should be a dreamer ; 
unbusinesslike ; standing aloof from everyday 
affairs. (Thus the spirit and the only force^that can 
make art live have been stolen away from it, and 
art, instead of being an influence irradiating life, 
tends more and more to become the plaything of 
our leisure hours. In the golden age of an art it 
is all pervasive ; even the homely utensil of the 
kitchen will have its subtle appeal to the eye, 
because, where the artistic spirit is present* it is 
not sufficient that a thing should just do it must 
look well ; every product of the workman who 
loves his work, as an artist must, carries some 
indefinable but easily perceived suggestion of his 
feeling. The products of an artistic nation like the 
Japanese, even the cheapest and simplest things, 
have a character, a quaint or pretty turn, an in- 
describable something that pleases the eye and 
tickles the fancy. To Leonardo da Vinci per- 
haps the most artistic artist that the world has 
seen art touched everything ; nothing lay outside 



292 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

the domain of the artist. In his note-books we 
find, on the same page perhaps, a mathematical 
calculation, a diagram of some ingenious piece of 
apparatus, and a beautiful drawing of some object, 
such as a spiral shell, with a note upon some 
peculiar effect of light and r shade. All nature held 
the potentiality of beauty : he could dissect a body, 
and feel a thrill of emotion at the beauty of nature's 
methods ; he was an engineer of wide reputation ; 
and he created the subtle and marvellous beauty 
of the Mona Lisa. In him the spirit of art showed 
itself in the never-resting desire to improve upon 
everything, to know more about all phenomena, 
to see beauty in everything. Technical djexterity 
and the mastery of material were necessary in 
order to convey the most delicate differences, to 
catch and fix some fleeting beauty, some subtle 
play of light and shade, and to interpret more 
fully the meaning that he had found in nature ; 
they were still only the means, and as such of the 
greatest importance, but kept in due subordination 
to the real ends of art. At the present day art 
has become so confused with skill in drawing and 
painting that a moderate degree of dexterity in 
either is popularly supposed to make the possessor, 
ipso facto, an artist ; ^ve cannot even teach drawing 
in a school without its being called art teaching ; 
although such drawing is in reality a simple and 
useful piece of technical skill, having the same rela- 
tion to art as reading and writing to literature. 
So accustomed have we become to this feeling that 
there is some quality peculiar to painting and 



ART AND LIFE 293 

drawing, that many people, when they find them- 
selves looking at a picture, at once put on a special 
attitude, not unlike that which they put on with 
their Sunday clothes in going to church ; the 
result is an unnatural state of mind, and they are 
reduced to an effort te judge intellectually what 
fails to move them emotionally, and fails largely, 
because of the training and habit of mind which 
has taught them to dissociate what they call V works 
of art" from $ny sort of natural feeling and everyday 
life. ""Perfectly natural expression of feeling would 
no doubt do something to improve art ; and if people 
would say at once what they felt, instead of stop- 
ping to think whether they ought or ought not to 
admire, there would be some chance of art at least 
being expressive of the general feeling. 

Art, as we have seen, is in its early stage skill 
devoted to improvement of environment, in provid- 
ing a source of gratification for some need, or 
pleasure, in response to desire ; and it is its power 
of making progress possible by perpetuating, and 
registering, each step made, that rational action and 
imaginative creation are thus able to leave its trace 
in nature. For until art arises all advance must be 
internal in the^brain, and so die with the individual ; 
art has established and provided instruments by 
which the outer material is moulded into sympathy 
with inner values, and the idea is registered in some 
corporeal sign that will remain, and so become a 
starting point for future advance ; it is this function 
of art that has led to the suggestive expression that 
art is "reason propagating itself." 



294 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

-' The fruits of experience stored up in an improved 
environment make life easier for the oncoming gene- 
ration, enriching it on all sides ; thus the arts touch 
life at all points as they subserve all parts of the 
human ideal, to increase man's comfort, knowledge, 
and ideal delight. Beauty then arose, as far as it 
was produced artificially, as an incident ; art, in its 
useful and practical attempts at progress, occasion- 
ally produced some result, or incidentally furnished 
some effect, that gave an unexpected, delight and 
pleasure to the beholder that stimulated his 
emotion and aroused his feelings, setting his 
imaginative faculties irr train with the accompani- 
ment of ideal pleasures. A chance rhythm, some 
combination of colour or sound, some suggestive 
effect of form, touched off the obscure feeling 
which the mind, unconscious of the source, natu- 
rally attributed to the object, and this intuition of 
value in the object gave rise to the feeling of the 
beautiful. -'The aesthetic value is thus inextricably 
mixed" up with the practical and moral in actual 
fact, so that, however we may recognise theoretical 
distinctions between them, it is impossible to sepa- 
rate them practically ; and when we do so, the 
result is apt to be misleading. If a certain part of 
a piece of work is described as fine art, it gene- 
rally involves an abstraction from the object which 
has many other non-aesthetic functions. The man 
of an artistic nature does what he has to do fitly, 
lovingly, and therefore very often whether he 
means it or no beautifully, i Anything that in 
appealing to a man's senses by its appearance 



ART AND 

rouses an emotion of pleasure, and touches thereby 
his imaginative faculties, has aesthetic value -J but 
to attempt a delimitation of the exact qualities to 
which this is due, apart from the occasion, the use, 
and all tfie circumstances of the object, is an im- 
possible task ; we can only regard them as an 
appeal to man's inmost being, to his deep-seated 
sympathy and emotional response to nature, the 
cause of which we have already discussed aHength. 
This is the ^reason that we have, in the foregoing 
pages, gone at perhaps too great a length into the 
growth and origin of the instinctive desires, in 
which it is possible to see, >r at least to conjecture, 
how the mere vital necessity of conformity with 
environment may be conceived to lead to the 
curious aptitude with which man's heart goes out, 
as it were, to nature ; and as this instinct is early, 
so it is deep-seated. There is little doubt that, 
were it given freer play and more suitable en- 
couragement, it would show a far stronger and 
more definite reaction ; for such is the elasticity 
and adaptability of human nature that not only can 
an instinct become highly specialised,' but there is 
hardly a natural desire that may ncft be stifled, and 
as organs and muscles weaken by disuse, so may 
an instinctive tendency become dull for want ot 
exercise. 

Just as the other instincts and emotions are raised 
either to serve the highest aspirations of man, or tc 
srve for simple sensual gratification, so will the 
aesthetic sense be what it is made. We may use 
ft emotional resnonse to beautv of colour anc 



296 ORIGIN OF THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

sound merely as an added relish to the enjoyments 
of the lower senses, or we may add its stimulating 
suggestiveness to help the soul forward on its 
highest flights, to find the intellectual harmony 
that can satisfy the human ideal. 

If there is a purpose in the universe, and we could 
understand it and live in conformity with it, we 
should have attained perfect happiness. Religions 
have always offered this explanation, and have for 
ages been the acknowledged source <of such in- 
formation, and no doubt the absolute whole-hearted 
believer may find complete intellectual rest in a 
perfect harmony betwfcen himself and his God, 
But we no longer go to religion for actual know- 
ledge. As Mr. Haldane, in "The Pathway to 
Reality/' points out : 

"The immediate inspirations of Art and Religion give 
exquisite hints of the truth to all, but it is only the iron 
logic of philosophy that can, after long striving, break 
through the bewildering incrustations of existence, and 
give some direct justification of the spiritual life." 

Through all religion runs, as a main current, the 
idea of perfect harmony between man and his 
environment. Particular religions come to an end 
when they fail to meet the highest aspirations oi 
their followers, but only to be revived in others 
more fitted to the growing intellect and knowledge, 
for the instinct is not weakened, whether it be 
expressed in the subtle metaphysics of the Oriental, 
the ethical system of the agnostic, or the Utopian 
dream of the social reformer. 



ART AND LIFE 297 

"Rien n'est beau que le vrai," says Boileau. 
Beauty has often been defined as truth, and this 
much, at least, is certain that nothing can appear 
beantiful to any one to whom it is not truthful as 
far as hois capable of appreciating the fact. The 
essence of truth is harmony, perfect correspondence 
between the idea and the reality, and any artist 
aiming at beauty cannot help also aiming at truth. 

We may say then, that of all the various impulses 
to art, as indeed of science, the greatest and the 
most directly responsible for the highest and best 
production is the craving to understand self in 
nature, to know the truth, 4o see the path that the 
human being is to tread, and how to Jj:eep in it. 
As Hegel has put it : we start with man's universal 
need to set the seal of his inner being on the world 
without in order to recognise himself therein. 

We may, for a time, be overwhelmed and stunned 
by the greatness of the task ; we may give up the 
quest, and try to find rest for our soul in some 
emotionally satisfying religion, or passively* accept 
the verdict of " ignorabimus " to let our art suggest 
to us only the mystery and glamour of the world, 
to accept the mystical suggestion *in the place of 
intellectual effort. But this does not last ; the old 
instinct reasserts itself, we see with ever renewed 
force that our evils are due to disharmonies ; we 
turn to science to help us, but her aid, though 
it may be sure, is slow. Religion, metaphysics, 
philosophy, each offers us a solution, and some 
find peace there. To all, art, with her power of 
creating beauty, offers her solace ; she is nature's 



298 ORIGIN OF< THE SENSE OF BEAUTY 

spokesman and interpreter, and so we send the 
artist back and back to nature. If he cannot tell 
us the way, he can at least create an ideal world 
for us, in which we may catch a glimpse of a pure 
and perfect harmony, a momentary resting-place 
in the never-ending struggle to realise, with full 
understanding, " Nature's unchanging harmony." 



INDEX 



ABNORMAL, the, usually the ugly, 

134 

Absolute beauty, 21 
^Esthetic theory, 32 
emotion, 9^, 106 

feeling and primitive in- 
stincts, 131 

feeling in animals, 188 

judgments, 6 

pleasure, 108 

pleasure and utility, 24 

pleasure not disinterested, 

10 

Allen, Grant, 19, 25, 140 
Analogy, thinking by, 233 

of sensations, 73 

Appreciation of beauty, 3, 155, 

285 

Aristotle, 7 
Art and beauty, 287, 294 

and happiness, 288 

and imitation, 13 

and life, 279, 290 

and nature, 7 

and play, 31, 164 

and progress, 293 

and religion, 283 

and sex emotion, 160 

and skill, 155 

and utility, 157 

disinterested, 31 

impulse, the, 158, 170 

primitive, 29, 184 

production, 175 

the spirit of, 291 

Artist, the, 155 seq. 

the, and beauty, 204, 222 

the, and nature, 281 

the, and the workman, 156, 

280 



BALANCE, 58 
Baldwin, J. M., 164 
Balfour, A. J., 21 
Beautiful, the, and the* good, 6 

meaning of the, 23 

Beauty, I 

absolute, 2 1 

and art, 287, 294 

and pleasure, 9 

* as pleasure objectified, 17 

ana truth, 297 

and utility, 2^-27 

appreciation of, 3, 7 

definitions of, 15 

dependent upon the senses, 

21 

feeling for, and primitive 

instincts, 131 

feeling for, non- rational, 5 

natural, 9 

relativity of, 14 

universality of, 14 

Berenson, B., 165 * 
Bethe, A., 120 
Bosanquet, B., 7, 32 

CENTRAL tiervous system, m- 

"3 
Choice, 142 

impulsive, 143 

instinctive, 143 

Colour, 52, 91, 138 

and birds, 141 

and insects, 140 

and sound, 52 

harmonies in, 145 

in flowers, 140 

Concepts, 195 
Consciousness, 1 19 seq* 
Creative instinct, 171 



300 INDEX 



Curiosity, 98 

Curves, appreciation of, 58 

DA VINCI, L., 291 
Darwin, F., 119 

Definite, the, and the indefinite 
in art, 208 

ECCENTRICITY and genius, 253 
Eliot, George, 281 
Emotion, 86 stq. 

aesthetic, 94 

and feeling, 93 

and imagination, 235 

motor elements in, 90 

of sex and art, 101 

Emotional consciousness and life, 

2 
Environment, need for conformity 

with, 132 

recognition of suitable, 132 

Expectancy, a pause of decorative 

art, 1 80 
Eye, stimulus to the, 49 

FAMILIAR, the, pleasure in, 98 
Feeling, 6 1 set/. 

and ideation, 69 

and imagination, 234 

and sensation, 64, 68 

and will, 70 

earliest form of, 68 

inertra of, 69 

tone, of sensations, 65 

value of, 4 - 

Fere, Ch., 66 
Forel, A., 140 
Form, 213 

and colour, 219 

determinate and indeter- 
minate, 213 
visual perception of, 53 

GANGLION, the, 1.12 
Genius, 252, 270 

and insanity, 247 

Goethe, 46, 61, 62, 63 

Good, the, and the beautiful, 6 

Groos, K M 28 

Grosse, .,25, 26 

Guyau, T. M., 26 



HALDANE, R. B., 296 
Hamerton, P. G., 60 
Happiness and art, 285 
Harmony, 279, 282 

instincts of, 136 

of nature, 298 

Heliotropism, 126, 129 

Hennequin, E., 25 ' 

Higher and lower senses, 10, 

48 

Him, Y., 26, 157, 167, 184 
Hobhouse, L., 231 
Hoffding, H., 46, 72, 285, 289 
Hypermnesia, 260 
Hypnotism, 261; 

IDEATION and feeling, 69 
Imagination, 230 seq. 

and emotion, 235 

and feeling, 234 

and myth, 227 

and superstition, 228 

and will, 228 

creative, 232 

in animals, 230 

mystical, 238 

Images, 80 
Indefinite, the, 209 
Insanity and genius, 247 
Insects, consciousness in, 120 
Inspiration, 244 scq. 

and organic conditions, 249 

and the subconscious mind, 

245 

sudden, 255 

Instinct, 86 seq. 

and reflex action, 114 

of harmony, 1 36 

of recognition, 97 

Instinctive pleasure and utility, 30 

tendencies, survival of, 93 

Intuitions, 261 

JAMES, W., 216, 245, 248, 251, 

257, 267 
Jennings, H. J., 121 

KANT, L, 25 

Kinsesthetic sensations, 50 
Knight, W., 206 



INDEX 



301 



LANGUAGE and thought, 197 

Lapsed intelligence theory of in- 
stincts, 114 

Lee and Thompson, 151 

Light, influence of, 62 

Llo$d Morgan, .,190, 192, 193, 
201 t 

Loeb, J., 112, 113, 117, 123, 128, 
148, 174, 289 

Lombroso, C., 247 

Longinus, 8 

Lotze, 55 

Ludicrous, the, 22 

MACDOUGALL, 39, 42, 56, 153 
Magic and art,* 1 83 
Marginal sensations, 83 
Marshall, R., 163 
Memory, 119 
MetchnikofT, E., 282 
Moll, A., 265, 267, 268 
Moral judgments, 6 
Moreau, P., 247 
Mosso, A., 66, 67 
Mttller, M^ 197 
Muscular sensations, 59 
Music, 73, 206 

primitive, 28, 29 

Mysticism, 238, 241 

NATURAL beauty, 9 
Nature and art, 7, 9 
Nervous system, the, 37 
Nordau, M., 161, 247, 251 

ORGANIC sensations, 50 
Organs of sensation, 48 
Origin no criterion of value, 250 

PAI N and pleasure, 75 
Peckham, G. W. and E. G., 123, 

172 

Perception, 83 
Perceptual systems, 84 
Plants, memory in, 119 
Plateau, F., 140 
Play instinct and the origin of art, 

164 
Pleasure, 74 seq. 

a feeling not a sensation, 75 

and emotion^ 90 



Pleasure and pain, 75 
Preferences, instinctive origin of, 

110 

Primitive art, 29 
Profundity, illusions of, 216 
Psychology, 35 

RAYMOND, G. L., 18 
Reason in animals, 194 
Recognition, instinctive pleasure 

in, 97, 133 

Reflex action, 36, 1 1 1 
t Relations, perception of, 189^ 
Relationship, spatial v 54| 
Rhythm, 147 sey. 

auditory, 152 

in rrjusic, 151 

in ornament, 150 

mechanical, 147 

nervous, 149 

organic, 147 

Ribot, T., 24, 22& 237, 240 
Romanes, G. J., 231 
Ruskin, J., 19, 225, 286 

SANTEYANA, G., 4, 17, 216,^222, 

242, 280 
Schiller, 25, 28 
Seneca and art, 8 
Self-assertion, 103 
Self-expression, 169 
Self-realisation, 104 
Sensations, 35 seq. 

analysis of, 47 

andfeeling, 64 

and perception, 43 

as pjychical elements, 42 

double aspect of, 74 

feeling tone of, 65 

kinresthetic, 50 

marginal, 83 

organic, 50 

qualitative character of, 69 

relativity of, 80 

simple, 42 

tactual, 60 

visual, 51 

Senses, higher and lower, 10, 49 

and art, 51 

Sex feeling and art, 101 
Sound and colour, 52 



302 



INDEX 



Space, perception of, 54, 57 
Spatial relationship, 54 
Spencer, H., 25, 28, 160, 161, 

275, 278 

Stereotropism, 127 
Stumpf, 57 
Subconsious, the, mind, 44 

the, and inspiration, 245 

sensations, 68 

Suitability to environment, 132 
Sully, J., 181, 197 
Symbolism, 239 
Symmetry, 182 
Sympathy, i>2 

TASTE, 18 

formation of, 106 



Tropisms, 116 
Types, 219 

UNITY in variety, 95 
Utility and beauty, 24 
- the basis of types, 1 78 



, made by feeling, 
mediate and immediate, 235 



WALLASCHKK, R,, 29, 151 
Wash burn, M. F., 122 
Will and feeling, 70 
- and imagination, 228 
Workmanship, instinct of, 174 
Wundt, W., 73, 114 



THE END 



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