Illusions eBook

James Sully
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 304 pages of information about Illusions.

CHAPTER IX.

OTHER QUASI-PRESENTATIVE ILLUSIONS:  ERRORS OF INSIGHT.

Besides the perception of external objects, and the inspection of our internal mental states, there are other forms of quasi-presentative cognition which need to be touched on here, inasmuch as they are sometimes erroneous and illusory.

In the last chapter I alluded to the fact that emotion may arise as the immediate accompaniment of a sense-impression.  When this is the case there is a disposition to read into the external object a quality answering to the emotion, just as there is a disposition to ascribe to objects qualities of heat and cold answering to the sensations thus called.  And such a reference of an emotional result to an external exciting cause approximates in character to an immediate intuition.  The cognition of the quality is instantaneous, and quite free from any admixture of conscious inference.  Accordingly, we have to inquire into the illusory forms of such intuition, if such there be.

AEsthetic Intuition.

Conspicuous among these quasi-presentative emotional cognitions is aesthetic intuition, that is to say, the perception of an object as beautiful.  It is not necessary here to raise the question whether there is, strictly speaking, any quality in things answering to the sentiment of beauty in our minds:  this is a philosophical and not a psychological question, and turns on the further question, what we mean by object.  All that we need to assume here is that there are certain aspects of external things, certain relations of form, together with a power of exciting certain pleasurable ideas in the spectator’s mind, which are commonly recognized as the cause of the emotion of beauty, and indeed regarded as constituting the embodiments of the objective quality, beauty.  AEsthetic intuition thus clearly implies the immediate assurance of the existence of a common source of aesthetic delight, a source bound up with an object of common sense-perception.  And so we may say that to call a thing beautiful is more or less distinctly to recognize it as a cause of a present emotion, and to attribute to it a power of raising a kindred emotion in other minds.

AEsthetic Illusion.

According to this view of the matter, an illusion of aesthetic intuition would arise whenever this power of affecting a number of minds pleasurably is wrongly attributed, by an act of “intuition,” to an object of sense-perception, on the ground of a present personal feeling.

Now, this error is by no means unfrequent.  Our delight in viewing external things, though agreeing up to a certain point, does not agree throughout.  It is a trite remark that there is a large individual factor, a considerable “personal equation,” in matters of taste, as in other matters.  Permanent differences of natural sensibility, of experience, of intellectual habits, and so on, make an object

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Illusions from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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