Appreciation and Description and the Psychology of Values

Urban, Wilbur M. “Appreciation and Description and the Psychology of Values.” The Philosophical Review 14, no. 6 (1905): 645.


THE antithesis between appreciation and description has become sufficiently familiar and influential to make its discussion a necessary preliminary to any study of the worth consciousness. It is not difficult to understand the motives which led to this antithesis. On the one hand, the failure to distinguish the principles of the normative disciplines from those of descriptive psychology led to a confusion of method detrimental to both. On the other hand, the forms of so-called scientific description in vogue, the psycho-physical and biological, approaching as they did the problem of description from the outside and finding irrelevant all aspects of experience except those which could be connected with biological and physiological conceptions, soon showed their inadequacy as means of describing our worth experiences. The simplest solution of the problem seemed, therefore, to consist in looking upon values as merely appreciable and not communicable in terms of any objective description. Worth is always the meaning of an attitude of a subject, and attitude is not describable in terms of mental elements. An attitude can be merely appreciated.

I cannot but think that this antithesis is falsely conceived, and that it arises primarily from the fact that we have to do here with the false setting of the problem. Instead of going directly to experience, the point of view here disclosed starts with a wholly arbitrary and narrow conception of description. It assumes that there can be description without appreciation; and, since it then finds a mass of experience which escapes the categories of a description without any appreciative moments in it, the logic of the situation leads to the conclusion that there can also be appreciation without description. Both the assumption and the conclusion will, upon examination, prove themselves untenable. The source of the antithesis will be seen to lie in the failure to recognize that, while all description of subjective attitude through which it is communicated is indirect, through the medium of presentations, there may be more than one type of presentational equivalents for the same attitude, selected according to the motive that determines the description. Some of these equivalents will be seen to be appreciative in character. On the other hand, the erroneous character of the antithesis will appear from the fact that there can be no appreciation, continuous and progressive, without a corresponding differentiation, presentation, and description of our appreciative attitudes. The conclusion which follows is that this antithesis between appreciation and description really reduces itself, upon examination, to two types of description which we shall call 'appreciative' and 'scientific,' and our problem will be to determine the relations between the two.

In the first place, then, the assumption that there can be appreciation without description is untenable. It is in reality merely a less objectionable way of stating intuitionalism. Here, it is supposed, we have given a meaning which is not describable, and therefore, not subject to the limitations of description, more especially its abstract emptiness. Moreover, into it is read all the immediacy of feeling without its blindness and inadequacy. But as soon as we look closely at the situation, we find that the moment of appreciation without description is but an ideal and limiting case which has no existence in concrete experience. It is one of those infinitely little differences which are really negligible. As a preliminary distinction, the antithesis does well enough; but as soon as we begin to interrogate appreciation it shows its hybrid nature by becoming articulate. It seeks to communicate its distinctions by description. For a moment, perhaps, its distinctions seem to be its own 'incommunicable dream,' but the need to participate with other wills in the social concourse presses upon it the necessity of searching among its presentations for descriptive equivalents, for 'representation of the psychical.' Of these presentations thrown at the incommunicable psychical, some stick and some do not; but when they do, and the attitude becomes presentable to consciousness and communicable to others, behold appreciation has itself increased. With each new differentiation and representation new objects of appreciation are created. The very condition of continuous and progressive appreciation is some sort of description.

It is no less true that there can be no description, even the most scientific, without an appreciative element which, in the moment of scientific description, just misses a statement in its terms. Here, again, the ideal of a scientific description without the moment of appreciation is merely an ideal, a limiting term not realized in experience. It would not be difficult to show that, when we make abstractions in any science for the purposes of description, the direction, and extent of those abstractions is really determined by an act of appreciation. All abstraction is, in the last analysis, purposive. Whether the product of our abstractionism in any sense the concrete thing with which we started, is finally to be decided only by an act of appreciation. Be that as it may, this appreciative element cannot be eliminated from psychological description. When, in the interests of psychological description, I find points of similarity between the play and art impulses, in the last analysis, my acceptance of this partial identification must rest upon an appreciation of a common meaning which cannot be further described. And, as a matter of fact, historically this similarity was found appreciatively before it was accepted for scientific description. The truth of the matter seems to be that, while appreciation and description are never wholly identified, they constantly go hand in hand. Appreciation scarcely comes to itself before calling upon description for guidance, while description never stops serving appreciation until, in the stupidity of a garrulous old age, it loses its bearings.

But the general truth of this position being granted, the upholder of the dualism may still reply: Nevertheless, you have misconceived our position. We may admit that ultimately all description involves appreciation, and in so doing we admit the uses of philosophy, which tries to restore some relation between facts and worths, appreciation and description, but, in the meantime, the appreciative descriptions you have in mind which seek to express the meaning of experience, while they have their practical truth, are such that they can have no place in scientific description. For our special purposes it is better to use another vocabulary, one which has been determined by motives and assumptions so different from those which animate this appreciative description, that it is scarcely worth-while to attempt their translation. There is just enough truth in this contention to make necessary an analysis of the motives and assumptions of description in general, and especially of these two types. In the meantime, it should be observed, the antithesis has been reduced from an absolute and generic difference to one of species within the common genus description.


The function of description in general is, I suppose it will be admitted, two-fold. It seeks, on the one hand, terms, or media of communication for what is, in the first place, individual and unique experience. All description is therefore more or less symbolic in that it seeks in one order of experience equivalents for elements or aspects of another order. The unique experience is communicated or suggested through aspects of experience already held in common. A second function of description is found in what may be described as the facilitation and control of experience, consisting in the fixation of individual and fleeting experience in such a manner that it may be conserved and repeated as instrumental to further judgments and acts of will. Through a reconstruction of individual and immediate experience, discontinuous and unordered, we are enabled to make it continuous and ordered, and thus, facilitate and control future experience. Any real description must, accordingly, fulfill these two criteria which are ultimate and generic.

But these generic aspects being fixed, differentiae begin to appear. Communication of the subjective and individual is possible only through objects, that is, through experience already shared and stable, but the objects chosen may differ according to the purpose of the communication. Facilitation of experiences possible only through the introduction of order into the unordered or discontinuous, but the type of order may differ according to the purpose of the facilitation. Now our thesis, that there exists a distinct type of appreciative description, and that the problem of the relation of appreciation to description, in so far as psychology is concerned, is really the problem of the relation of these two types of description, involves the fixation in workable concepts of the differentiae of the two types. A brief and general statement of this difference in purpose will suffice at this point of the discussion, as the details will appear as the study proceeds. Appreciative description, then, has as its ideal the increase of appreciation, acquirement of meaning through the communication and ordering of experience. As such, the terms of this communication and order are selected for their intrinsic appreciative connotation. The individual experience can be communicated only through linkage with objects, but these over-individual objects are projected appreciations, and the linkage is not causal but volitional. The order established by such description, sometimes described as teleological or normative, is intrinsic ordering that the individual experience is inserted into a series of ideal meanings, each one of which is appreciative, and in which each stage of the ordering process contributes directly to appreciation. Such description, we shall find, individuates the experience.

Scientific description, on the other hand, although, as we have seen, it has in it always a moment of appreciation, communicates and orders individual experience ultimately for the purpose of control. The terms of communication and order need not, therefore, themselves be the object of intrinsic appreciation, but maybe meaningless except as instrumental to the moment of appreciation, which is the culminating moment of any descriptive construction. The linkage is therefore causal; and, since the objects most removed from immediate appreciation, and therefore most amenable to instrumental functions, are the physical objects, they are the favorite, but not necessarily the only objects for scientific description. The essence of scientific description lies in its instrumental character, not in the specific objects chosen as instruments.

If we apply this distinction between the two types of description to those psychical experiences which contain implicitly the worth moment, and ask what it is that appreciative description seeks to communicate, we find it to be a certain reference of the attitude, a certain direction upon objects, physical or psychical, a meaning which they have, a meaning acquired in an individual process. If we take any given appreciative attitude, transform it into the state or content of psychology (say feeling and organic muscular sensations), and ask what it is in the attitude which, as the worth moment or meaning, escapes statement in this transformation, we find that it is a certain transgredient or immanental reference of the state which goes beyond it to something presupposed. The transgredient reference, as expressed in such appreciative categories as obligation and desert, is a present feeling, but includes a reference beyond the present state. The immanental reference, the worth suggestion of aesthetic states, is a present feeling, but includes a reference not beyond the state, but to something more deeply implicit, presupposed in it. These references are acquired affective-volitional meanings which must in some way find description, and this is possible only by the discovery of ideal equivalents.

That there is appreciative communication of these moments as certain. We shall find it to consist in the connection of the individual experience with ideal psychical objects, already shared and over-individual, projected affective-volitional meanings embodied in ideal persons and states, through identification or contrast with which the individual experience, both in character and degree, is communicated. Whether there are scientific equivalents for these references or not, depends upon what conception of scientific, psychological description shall be developed.


If, now, the motive of appreciative description is to make appreciable the transgredient (or immanental) moment in psychical attitudes as aspects of individual processes of acquirement of meaning, how is it possible that the uniformity of description which makes communication possible, communication being the criterion of all true description, can ever be attained? Are not the terms 'individual process' and 'uniformity of description ‘incompatible? In this question is clearly contained the root of the antithesis between appreciation and description. The meaning acquired by individual processes of feeling and will remains, we are told, an individual meaning, unique in its immediacy. Any such description as we have described as appreciative is significant only in the service of further appreciations, but lacks that element of uniformity which would give to the object of the description, the attitude, that degree of objectivity which is required for communication. It is precisely the separation or abstraction of the attitude from the individual process of acquirement of meaning, its translation into a 'state,' which is the condition of its being communicated. More than this, it can be fixated for objective description only through connection with on-psychical objects.

This is, of course, the contention of Munsterberg, and he maintains it by contrasting the appreciative descriptions of the artist and the biographer with the scientific descriptions of psychology. The descriptions of the former are always concerned with grasping in their descriptive terms the totality of significant attitudes; and, when they make use of these descriptive terms to paint a given attitude or psychical situation, the result is not that each concept is concerned with the fixation of a single part of the content of consciousness, but rather that each new concept added brings the total attitude under a new point of view in such way as to make more definite the place of the attitude as awhile in the scale of human Gemuthsbeweguungen; by this complicated communication the hearer is put in a position to experience this attitude, but not to reconstruct it out of its psychical elements. This description, therefore, has not contributed in the least to the communication of the fundamental characteristic of the effect with which science is concerned. This can be done only through the connection of the single parts of the content with the objectively communicable physical objects.

In this thesis of Munsterberg’s, the negative aspect, the denial of the significance of appreciative description for scientific, is the most important feature, but it should not be permitted to obscure the positive admission of the existence of communicative description of the appreciative type. With the precise relation of the two types we are not now concerned. That is a question which must be raised in its proper place; here it is important to note merely this recognition of a type of appreciative description which does communicate its object at least for appreciation, if not for knowledge (whatever that may be), and does have uniformity of a kind sufficient to enable us gewissermassen to define the place of the attitude as a whole in the scale of human affective volitional meanings. Meaning acquired in an individual process is not then excluded from all description, but merely, perhaps, from one type. If, by this appreciative description, the attitude is so fixated that another can, to a degree at least, relive it, some of the unique individuality of the experience has yielded to generality and uniformity. Moreover, if merely in a way (gewissermassen, to use Munsterberg's term) a type of order is introduced which enables us to define more precisely, for the facilitation of appreciation, the place of the attitude in a general scale of affective volitional meanings, we have in this fact, together with the fact of uniformity, the two requirements of description fully met. In this case, however, the description is intrinsic, each added attribute individuates the object for appreciation, while in the other type it is instrumental, the terms of the description being non-appreciative and the moment of appreciation entering only at the end of the series. If we choose to call the last type knowledge, we have then the further question of the relation of the two. Before an answer to this question is possible, it is necessary to study both types in more detail.


A concrete starting point for our study is furnished by a class of appreciative descriptions which disclose markedly the characteristics we have attributed to this type, and which have the added value of having furnished the material for important psychological reconstructions, whether properly or not, is a question which awaits determination. I refer to the autobiographical and questionnaire material of religious experience. That these descriptions are appreciative throughout, in the sense of our definition, cannot be doubted. One need only run hastily through a few of the replies to Starbuck's questionnaire or glance at the autobiographical material which James has so skillfully selected and reconstructed to be assured on that point. Each subject is describing total attitude and is interested only in its significance for life. Moreover, that uniformities tend to establish themselves in these descriptions soon becomes apparent, uniformities in the equivalents taken from other regions of experience already objectified and communicable for these more individual and less communicable aspects, equivalents, in other words, for the transgredient and immanental references of affective attitudes which we have seen to be the essence of the worth experience. What, then, are these equivalents?

They are, in the first place, physical qualities. Appreciative description has recourse to the qualitative differences, more particularly the qualitative oppositions and contrasts, of the objectified perceptual world to describe the oppositions and resolutions of these oppositions in the inner world of feeling and will. Light and darkness, cold and warmth, sweet and bitter, hardness and softness, such are the ever-recurrent symbols through which this specification of inner states takes place. Recourse is had, in the second place, to quantitative equivalents, more particularly to the spatial meanings of the external world, in the effort to describe the transgredient reference of the feeling attitude. Feelings are described as high, deep, and broad in order to indicate their significance for the personality, the extent of their reference. They are full and rich, well up from the depths of the soul, or come powerfully from without. Finally, typical movement forms from the perceptual world symbolize the significance of the experience. Thus, transitions from one worth attitude to another find symbolic equivalents in transitions in the physical world. The transformations in conversion and mystical elation are uniformly described in this way. If we examine these terms of appreciative description, which may be subsumed under the abstract principle of analogous stimuli, it is clear that, while they communicate individual meanings through experience more objectified, in this case physical objects, it is a communication which has no instrumental significance but is merely appreciative, and the connection with these objects is not causal. In so far as uniformities in this description appear, they form the basis for differentiation and classification of types of religious experience.

But these are not the only objects which serve as vehicles of communication or the only types of uniformities established. The feeling has indeed its qualitative and quantitative phases to be suggested, but it has also the objects toward which it is directed, its presuppositions. The disparity between the causes, in the sense of scientific description, and the objects which the feeling intends, is an ever-present fact for the psychologist. While it reaches its limit in abnormal phenomena where the object upon which the feeling is directed may have but little connection with the cause, the disparity runs through all experience. Now the feeling is communicated appreciatively through the object upon which it is directed. This object may be a physical object of common experience or it may be a psychical object shared by a less extensive social consciousness, but if it is an object at all it may be the bearer of appreciative communication. In this case the media of communication are not the so-called primary and secondary qualities which constitute physical objects, but what have been aptly described as 'tertiary ‘qualities, aspects of feeling and will, first projected into things and persons, and ultimately abstracted from these, reconstructed and identified with ideally conceived forces and persons. In the case of the appreciative description of the individual's religious experience under discussion, the fact itself of communication through these projected psychical objects, as well as the uniformities in these descriptions, are constantly in evidence. All communications of these experiences presuppose as their necessary conditions the existence of these over-individual psychical objects. Gods, souls, persons, wills, virtues, sins, etc., are necessary media. And it is the uniformity with which these projected forces are described, their action upon consciousness in bringing about transitions from one attitude to another, which is significant. The individual within a given milieu has, of course, at hand certain ready-made psychical objects, ideal, social, religious constructs, in terms of which he may communicate the transgredient over-individual reference of his individual experience, and thus appear the uniformities in his descriptions, but it must be remembered that these psychical objects have themselves had their genesis in attempts to describe and account for worth experiences, working upon the postulate that description increases appreciation. Mythical constructionism itself a product of appreciative description, the primitive man’s way of projecting his worth constructions and, in giving them the ontological predicate, he makes them the objects of new worth feelings and thus increases appreciation.

What has been said concerning the uniformities of appreciative description of religious experiences holds for other types of worth experience, i.e. ethical and aesthetic. Our interest in the special class of religious experiences, and the uniformities in their descriptions, arises from the recency of their utilization as psychological material. To this utilization and its method, we must now pass; but, before considering this problem, a word should be said concerning the type of order introduced by appreciative description.

That a certain type of order is thus established we have seen admitted, even when all significance for scientific description was denied it. The point to be emphasized here is, that the same appreciative description which creates the projected psychical objects, through connection with which communication of the individual religious experience alone is possible, also establishes the intrinsic order. No communication of the individual experiences possible except in terms which presuppose this order. This appears especially in the communication of the degree of the experience. This communication is always in normative terms, that is, the 'depth and breadth ' of the experience in the individual, the degree of transgredient or immanental reference, indescribable only by the insertion of the individual experience in the ideally projected order. Should, then, psychology (for instance of the religious experience) be able to translate these degrees of appreciative description into its own abstract terms(say intensities of feeling), it must, nevertheless, be a translation, its material must be first appreciative description and its intrinsic order.

The significance of these uniformities of appreciative description(in the connection of the subjective state with over-individual objects, physical and psychical, and the intrinsic order introduced, through the teleological normative ordering of the psychical objects into our discontinuous experiences of feeling and will), i. e., their meaning for psychological description, begins to appear. If we confine our attention to the religious experience which we have taken as illustrative, in practice the value of these descriptions seems to be, first of all, that they individuate the experience for further study. The religious psychosis is differentiated from other emotional psychoses and, within the general field of religious experience, types are established.

But the psychological interest does not stop here. Actually, whether with theoretical justification or not remains to be determined, these appreciative descriptions are the key to further psychological analysis. The psychical objects, through connection with which the modifications of feelings are communicated, their meaning and validity have as such no interest to the psychologist, but the attitude, the type of the direction of the feeling upon these objects has. The objects themselves are the products of worth construction, involving psychical functions of conation, imagination, judgment, assumption, etc.; and, in connecting his individual feeling with these over-individual objects, the subject discloses the functional presuppositions of the feeling. Every characteristic feeling attitude has certain systematizations and arrests of organic and conative tendency as its presuppositions, of which the subject immediately appreciating and unreflective is unaware; these vital functional changes can be inferred only retrospectively by the psychologist from the symbolic terms in which the subject reconstructs these presuppositions and changes in presuppositions. What for the psychologist are changes within, are, for the subject, referred to forces and objects projected beyond the self. But the subject could not communicate these internal changes except in terms of the objective projections and his relations to them.

V. The actual existence of a distinct type of appreciative description of individual experience, one which discloses uniformities in the communication of transgredient and immanental reference of attitudes and introduces intrinsic order among discontinuous appreciations has now been established. An illustration has been given of how practically it affords the pre-scientific data for scientific reconstruction in psychology. The way now appears open for a theoretical statement of this practical relation, for an answer to the question of the relation of appreciative to scientific description. A further fixation of the concept of scientific description is, nevertheless, still necessary. If we take our departure from Munsterberg's contrast of the two types of description, the point of difference appears immediately. While appreciative description individuates the experience for the purpose of increase of appreciation and establishes an intrinsic order to facilitate it, scientific description, as abstractly and theoretically conceived, seeks rather to break up this individuality, that the parts thus analyzed out may show uniform laws of connection inapplicable to the experience as a whole, to establish an instrumental order without intrinsic meaning. And, finally, since this instrumental order can become instrumental only on the assumption that it exists as part of an objective system of nature independently of its meaning for the appreciating subject, the concepts formed for the construction of this order are, by processes of abstraction, removed as far as possible from the intrinsic appreciations of the individual. In physical science discontinuous perceptual experience is reconstructed by the filling of the perceptual gaps with conceptual constructions that the laws of motion may be applied without remainder. In psychological science, mutatis mutandis, the same method holds. Discrete immediate experience (in the first instance appreciations) is to be so reconstructed conceptually that a continuity is presented to which psychical laws may be applied without remainder. To accomplish these certain abstractions are necessary, and the nature and extent of these abstractions is the whole question at issue.

If, now, the only type of description which merits the term scientific is that which connects the psychical with physical objects, then, in the reconstruction of our immediate appreciations, abstraction must be made from all appreciative moments in the psychical, and the immediate experience must be broken up into non-appreciative elements, preferably sensations which may be connected with the non-appreciative elements of the physical construction. What this means for the psychology of those aspects of the psychical which form the basis of worth experiences is evident. Feeling and will, the basis of this experience, intend their transgredient and immanental reference psychical as well as physical objects, and can communicate their intentions, their acquired meaning, only through connection with these psychical objects. These objects, however, are always projected will and feeling which the immediate experience, as affective -volitional, presupposes. Scientific description, if it is of the nature assumed above, can make no use of these psychical objects, and therefore can make no use of the concepts of feeling and will in its abstract reconstructions. Such continuity as it may establish is not psychical but must be in terms of physiological dispositions. If this view of scientific description in psychology is justified, Munsterberg has drawn the only logical conclusion possible, that there is no psychology of the worth experience, and therefore no relation between appreciative and scientific description. The postulate of the worth consciousness and of its appreciative descriptions, indefinite acquirement of meaning through presentation and description, and with it of energy of valuation, is in direct contradiction to the postulate of scientific description of the physical world order, in which now the psychical is included, that of mere transformation of energy.

And yet a so-called scientific psychology of the worth experience exists. Either, then, it is pseudo-science, with no right to its pretensions, or else, if it attains an ordered system of experience which may justly be called scientific, its reconstructions must be actually untrammeled by the a priori considerations advanced in the preceding paragraph, and consequently this limitation of the concept of psychological description must be denied.

Let us begin by considering a region of worth feelings where the feeling is primarily directed upon physical objects and for which we have the corresponding concrete science of economics. Now the science of economics is primarily concerned with the reconstruction of an instrumental order whereby the laws of objective production and distribution of goods may be inferred from the subjective laws of feeling and desire in the individual. It therefore appeals to psychology for general laws which may be applied, without remainder, to valuation in general, with the object ultimately of controlling these processes. To secure these general laws the situation is conceived as simply and abstractly as possible. Worth is identified with pleasure causation and the laws of valuation with the laws of pleasure causation. Further, all appreciative differences in feeling are disregarded and this is conceived of only in terms of intensity and duration. Laws connecting changes in feeling with the changes of the bodily organism (the laws of dulling of sensitivity, satiety, etc.), are established for the sensation feelings, i. e., for the cases where the physical objects are directly connected with the physiological. Now these, it should be observed, would be psychological laws, even on the basis of the narrow conception of psychology already considered. To make these laws universal, as the means of predicting and controlling economic worth experience, it then becomes necessary to conceive the whole of worth experience so abstractly that it may be viewed as a continuum to which these laws apply without remainder, so that all value movements, all worth readaptations, may be conceived as having their genesis in these laws. To do this it would be necessary to abstract from all (appreciative) differences as determined by the psychical presuppositions of the feeling, i.e., the types of direction of the feeling toward the objects (physical and psychical), and to reduce the psychical objects to sensation elements so that they may be directly connected with the physiological organism and thus included in the continua of physical science. Feeling alone, abstracted from conation and judgment, has no meaning, and therefore affords a suitable continuum to be connected with the other continua of science.

Now that such a reconstruction of our total worth experience is artificial and cannot be taken as an intrinsic description, that these simple laws of pleasure causation do not apply without remainder, is clear. As instrumental descriptions for a very limited field they have their use, but it is the intrinsic remainder that seems to stand in the way of any real psychology of the worth experience. And here we might be led to subscribe to the negative position of Munsterberg were it not for other facts fully as significant as these, namely, the actual widening of the psychological foundations of worth theory in the present practice of economics and allied worth sciences. Economic motives are complicated with other motives, ethical and aesthetic. Upon the physical objects, in direct relation to physiological process, are superadded psychical objects, ideal reconstructions of the physical, the significance of which fort worth feeling lies not in their direct relation to the physiological organism, but in the processes of conation, judgment, and assumption, involved in their construction, and which constitute the presuppositions of the feeling. The laws of value for these different types of worth feeling must be studied empirically, for themselves, and not all worth feelings can be reduced to the abstract terms which enable feeling to be connected directly with the physical.

Moreover, with this recognition of the close relation of economic objects with the other psychical worth objects, comes the recognition that the psychology of worths is concerned with the interpretation of individual and social worth processes, and only to a limited degree with their control. With this recognition of the interpretative function, comes the necessity of the use of terms which may be instrumental in interpretation, terms with appreciative connotation. The importance of all this is simply that the psychological worth analysis which is at present developing is not developing upon the basis of the narrow conception of psychological method which we have been considering. And this would suggest that the distinction between appreciative and scientific description, as it applies to the psychical, is not properly placed.


What, then, is the relation of these two types of description, the motives, and assumptions of which we have been studying? Upon this question, as it relates to psychology as a whole, there is a multitude of counsel at the present time. There are those who see in psychology and its descriptions largely a propaedeutic to the interpretation and appreciation of actual psychical reality, the categories of which are teleological. It is upon the basis of such a conception of psychological purpose and method alone, that Wundt is enabled in his Logic to ascribe to psychology the role of the science of abstract mental laws which shall make possible the interpretation of concrete mental reality, with which the sciences of ethics, aesthetics, etc., are concerned. In direct opposition to this view, both historically and logically, is the view of Munsterberg which we have been examining, which denies the possibility of description except through connection of the psychical with physical objects, and therefore denies its function as the interpreter of the psychical objects of aesthetics, ethics, etc. Finally, there are those who, while perhaps not sure as to the precise logical basis for the recognition of two distinct types of method within the same science, are yet forced by a broad view of the facts to recognize two distinct purposes in the reconstructions of psychology, the one having as its function the construction of abstract concepts which will aid in the interpretation of actual historical psychical reality as a process of acquirement of meaning, the other the control of the psychical through its connection with mechanical process.

Whether this double standpoint in psychology can ultimately maintain itself or not, is a question for experience not logic to determine. Certainly, the zealous logic of Munsterberg has proved too much. It has left wholly without foundations an entire system of constructions that shows all the vitality and coherence of a science, but which employs neither the methods of the normative sciences, nor those of psychology, as thus narrowly defined. Whatever then, the silent logic of experience may have to say of the double standpoint, this much at least may be said theoretically: If our initial assumption is valid, that appreciation without description and description without appreciation are but abstractions and ideal limits, that all real concrete thought activities contain indifferent degrees both moments, then there may be scientific constructions making use of terms in which the process of abstraction of appreciative connotation shows different stages of completeness, according as the purposes of the reconstruction require. The initial assumption of the narrow conception of scientific method, the assumption that its terms are absolutely without appreciative connotation being thus fallacious, it follows that the absolute contrast between appreciative and scientific description disappears, and we have left merely the practical problem of the degree to which appreciative differences shall be retained in our constructions.

Historically, and in present practice in so far as it is fruitful, the motive of psychology is primarily one of interpretation. The region of possible control of mind through its connections with the body, although we cannot limit it a priori, is small indeed in comparison with the regions of possible interpretation through psychical conceptions. It is impossible to ignore this larger region. But these concepts, in order to be instrumental in interpretation, must implicitly contain the acquired meaning which they seek to describe. The explanation must be functional, and functional terms are in the last analysis but refinements of appreciative description. The question whether there is any relation between appreciative and scientific psychological description is then fundamentally the better-known problem whether psychology should be 'a content or a functional psychology.' For the former, a psychology of worths is impossible; for the latter, it is possible and, what is more, a present fact.

When, therefore, we narrow this general problem of method, of the relation of appreciative to scientific description, to the particular question of the psychological reconstruction of worth experiences, it is possible to draw certain inferences as to methods which find substantiation in the actual procedure of psychology. In the first place, since worth experience is primarily isolated appreciations, there can be no scientific description of this experience without a preliminary isolation or demarcation through appreciative description. This description is possible only through connection with the psychical objects towards which the transgredient (and immanental) reference, which is the characteristic of the worth psychosis, is directed. This, we have seen, constitutes the first stage in the scientific reconstruction of the religious consciousness. And it may be added, as a significant point, that in a recent work upon the psychology of aesthetics, written in general from Munsterberg's point of view, the first stage of the work consists in a demarcation of the aesthetic experience which is throughout appreciative, in our sense of the word. And if all description of worth experience is in the first place appreciative, it is equally true that all the worth modifications disclosed by appreciative description must find their corresponding equivalents in the abstract reconstructions of psychology. If an abstract reconstruction fails to describe, fails to give real equivalents for distinguishable differences in our experience, then it has been motivated by purposes foreign to the problem and to that degree extra-psychological.

If this general principle in its two aspects, a necessary consequence of our development of the relation of appreciation to description, be granted, it is clear at what point the over abstract and artificial type of description which has claimed for itself the exclusive right to the term psychological must be modified. In order to reconstruct the worth experience in such a manner as to secure abstract general principles which shall be instrumental in the interpretation of the concrete products of appreciative activities, ethical and aesthetic psychical objects, psychology must retain the concepts of feeling and will in its constructions, functional terms which have still enough of appreciative connotation in them to be instrumental in the interpretation of appreciations. If any worth attitude, when viewed psychologically, is a state of feeling plus the acquired meaning which we have described as the transgredient or immanental reference of the attitude, then this reference, which is for immediate appreciation the sign of worth continuity, must find its abstract psychological equivalent in terms of conative and judgmental presuppositions of the immediate feeling. The continuity must be psychical and not established indirectly through physical objects.

Here then, finally, we see the relation of appreciative to scientific psychological description. Appreciative description communicates the acquired meaning of feelings through connection with psychical objects toward which the feeling is directed. These objects, as such, are not the material of psychology any more than the physical objects are. Their meanings and their interpretation are the concern of the concrete normative sciences. But while these psychical objects, the reals of the ethical, aesthetic, and religious consciousness, are, as such, not the material of psychology, precisely because they are projections beyond the individual, the processes by which they have been projected and the processes by which the individual, when once they have become psychical objects, participates in them, the presuppositions, conative, judgmental, etc., which determine his feeling attitudes toward them, are distinctly the objects of psychological study. Such uniformities in the modifications of feeling as may be discovered to follow upon changes in these presuppositions, constitute the laws of value. This is in principle the basis of the psychological worth analyses which are being made at the present time. The significance of the recent differentiation of worth feeling from simple pleasure causation, by defining the former as conation feelings (Kruger) and judgment feelings (Minong) for judgment is only a development of conation lies, therefore, precisely in this fact, that the ultimate of worth analysis being taken as the feeling with its presupposition, the psychology of worth experience becomes the reconstruction of the psychological presuppositions of the modifications of worth feeling, the explanation of these modifications in terms of systematization and arrest of conative tendency.

And upon this view of method, it should be observed, the question whether conation is a third and independent element for an introspection which is not appreciative, is irrelevant. Quite frankly we may say that this reconstruction of the presuppositions of worth feeling in terms of conative tendency is conceptual, precisely as a reconstruction in terms of the hypothetical feeling continuum is conceptual. Immediate experience gives us merely the appreciative differences. The preference of one construction over another is determined solely by its adequacy for the task of providing equivalents for the differences of appreciative description. And, as a matter of fact, practically, it is impossible to find really distinguishing (psychological) equivalents for different worth attitudes without including the concept of conative tendency in our reconstructions. To return to those studies of religious worth experience which we have already used as illustrations of appreciative description, one sees immediately that the psychological description consists in establishing inductively, on the basis of the subject's appreciative account of the presuppositions of his emotional experience, uniformities of systematization and arrest of conative tendency which he describes in his symbolic way. To see the irreducible and fundamental character of this concept, one has only to eliminate from these studies the idea of the self as a conative continuity and observe how the descriptive uniformities then become meaningless.

The method of psychological worth analysis is then what may be described as the 'Presuppositional Method.' It follows immediately and necessarily from our two principles of method, that scientific description of worths must be developed from appreciative, and that the continuity established by that description must be psychical and conative. The differences in worth feeling(transgredient and immanental) expressed by appreciative description are differences of acquired meaning, the ground of which does not lie in the objects of the feeling as such or in their direct relation to the physiological organism, but which refer to interpolated and presupposed psychical processes. The presuppositional method lies midway, so to speak, between the teleological analysis of the normative sciences (which assumes an end or ends as instruments of analysis of the stages of meaning and the ordering of the psychical objects), and the causal method, which abstracts from all meaning and may thus break up the concrete whole, including the functional presuppositions, into as many parts as it finds convenient in the working out of the relation of mind and body. The presuppositional method assumes no specific end for psychical process. It contents itself with carrying over from the sphere of appreciation the merely functional concept of the acquirement of meaning. But assuming conative continuity in which meaning is acquired, it takes the differences in meaning distinguished by appreciative description (and which would be ignored in the merely causal analysis) and asks what functional adaptation is presupposed by this difference. And, since all adaptation which is psychical consists in conation and judgment, its problem is to analyze the conative and judgmental presuppositions of worth feelings.

The point, finally, at which this principle of method (that scientific description presupposes appreciative and that reconstruction of appreciative description involves the development of the conative and judgmental presuppositions of feeling) gets its most important application is in the description of what may be called the laws of value or 'value movements,' those uniformities of process by which worth, transgredient and immanental reference, is acquired. Here, again, it is only appreciatively that these trends or value movements can be distinguished. The isolation or demarcation of a process of acquirement of meaning, as well as of an attitude with meaning, involves its appreciation as an intrinsic order. If we take such typical value movements as those by which an instrumental worth acquires intrinsic worth or the reverse, by which a mere feeling state as a 'condition worth' of the organism acquires personal or over-individual reference, by which an attitude acquires the transgredient reference which we appreciatively describe as obligation, or those aspects which we describes aesthetic, we find that in every case we have to do with a process which is characterized by continuity of feeling attitude amid change. This emotional continuity is distinguishable as a trend or law only appreciatively. The psychological reconstruction of these value movements is then possible only through the analysis of the uniformities of change in the presuppositions of the feeling which condition the change in attitude.

And it is precisely in the concepts necessary for the psychological reconstructions of these 'value movements ‘by which new meaning is acquired, that we find the strongest argument for our general position and method. A personal worth is psychologically state of feeling which has acquired a new transgredient reference in some psychical process. The same may be said of asocial over-individual worth viewed as an experience of the individual. The psychology of that process by which a mere conditioner state of the organism acquires this personal or over-individual reference, includes of necessity psychological equivalents for social participation, the concepts of 'Einfuhlung,' affective projection. This is not the place to show in detail the significance of the concept of 'Einfuhlung' for the psychology of worths. Its practical usefulness has already been demonstrated, and in another connection I shall seek to show that the process of 'Einfuhlung ‘involves certain typical changes in the presuppositions of the individual’s feeling which account for the modifications of the feeling acquired in the process. It is rather with the concept as such that we are here concerned; and, as a conceptual instrument of psychological reconstruction, the significant thing about it is that it is a term from which the appreciative moment cannot possibly be eliminated. If we are to use it at all, it must be with its conative, functional meaning. Although necessary for interpretation, it is, nevertheless, from its very nature useless, if not impossible, from the standpoint of the narrower definition of psychology. But upon the view that psychology is concerned with the processes by which objects, physical and psychical, are grasped, created, projected, and appreciated, 'Einfuhlung,' defined as feeling with typical functional presuppositions, has a place.

We may in conclusion, therefore, risk the following general statement of the principals involved in the entire preceding discussion. Since appreciation and description represent merely ideal limits of an antithesis which is never complete, since, moreover, all description involves some element of appreciation, the degree to which appreciative differences shall be taken into accounting scientific reconstruction is wholly a practical question to be determined by the purpose of the reconstruction. The purpose of the psychology of the worth consciousness is primarily interpretation. It cannot dispense with functional categories, which, in the last analysis, are refinements of appreciative description. An introspective analysis which is not appreciative is, consequently, wholly secondary to functional description, which is equivalent to saying that, while it may be used as an objective instrument of control, its elements can never be taken as reality. The realities are the feeling continuities with meaning.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All