chapter
47 Pages

SKETCH FOR A THEORY OF THE EMOTIONS

We all know the criticisms that have been urged against the peripheric theory of the emotions. How can it explain the subtler emotions? Or passive enjoyment? How can we admit that ordinary organic reactions suffice to render an account of distinct psychic states? How can quantitative and, by the same token, quasicontinuous modifications in the vegetative functions correspond to a qualitative series of states irreducible to one another? For example, the physiological modifications which correspond to anger differ only by their intensity from those that accompany joy (somewhat quicker respiratory rhythm, slight augmentation of muscular tone, increase of biochemical exchanges, of arterial tension, etc.). For all that, anger is not a greater intensity of joy; it is something else, at

least as it presents itself to consciousness. It would be useless to show that there is an excitation in joy which predisposes to anger, citing the cases of lunatics who are constantly passing from joy to anger (for instance, by rocking to and fro on a seat at an accelerating rhythm). The idiot who has become angry is not ‘ultra-joyful’. Even if he has passed from joy to anger (and there is nothing to justify our affirming that there has not been a number of psychic events meanwhile) anger is irreducible to joy.