Bavinck on why “feeling” should not be considered a separate faculty

This source is difficult to find because it is an unpublished translation of Herman Bavinck’s Beginselen der Psychologie (1897), translated by Jack Vanden Born as a MA thesis in 1981. But, this is important to me because these arguments seem like they might be roughly against what I am trying to propose. I put it this way because I am not sure I completely understand what the “feeling faculty” is for Bavinck. The book is frustratingly short and hasty where more development might have been wished for. My question is, what is the relationship between this “feeling faculty” and what post-Reformation Reformed Dogmaticians would have called “sense appetite”? It’s not easy to understand all of his criticisms here, much less evaluate them. My initial sense is that Schleiermacher is very much in the background here, and he might have fewer critical things to say about “sense appetite.”

Implications of Feeling

Now it may seem that differences regarding a feeling faculty have no signi- ficance and that we should be indifferent to the question about whether there are two or three faculties of the soul. This is by no means the case.

1. The presumed independence of the feeling faculty forces the knowing and desiring faculties to release a portion of their domain. The integrity of the knowing and desiring faculties are then endangered. The subsequent limitation leaves them as only the higher abilities of understanding and willing. Such a limitation introduces either rationalism or moralism (pelagianism).8 [here Vanden Born omits without explanation: ‘The essence of man in these cases is no longer in the soul but in the spirit.’]  The higher life of man is cut off from its rootedness in lower sensory life. Understanding and will become autonomous; the ethical is ripped from its connections to the physical, the soul from the body, the kingdom of God from the world, grace from nature. Man as spirit is an angel, as body he is an animal, and thus he’ loses his own unique place in creation as man.

2. If feeling is positioned next to understanding and will, it must assert its rights and strongly compete with both. The harmony of psychic-life is re- placed with a struggle for power. Released from the discipline of knowing and desiring faculties, feeling becomes an independent source of knowledge. The balance of life is destroyed.

3. Recent psychologies make feeling entirely passive. Man endures his feelings; he can do nothing to his emotions; and he is powerless, held by and led by them. Thus feelings fall outside the control of human understanding and will and, consequently, outside human responsibility. And then, in the name  of original, immediate feeling, frightful errors can be presented as truth and crude misdeeds prized as heroic acts. Genius is no longer bound by rule or law. Goethe’s Werther and Schlegel’s Lucinde are made examples of virtue. feeling need pay no attention to logic or ethics and it succeeds in working away the boundaries separating truth and untruth, good and evil, beautiful and ugly.

4. Psychology has much significance for the other sciences, especially for philosophy and theology. Ethics, aesthetics, pedagogy, homiletics, catechetics and the main divisions of dogmatics: the doctrine of God, the trinity, man, sin, grace, all presuppose psychology and cannot be built up without psychology. Therefore every error of psychology clangs with repercussions in the other sciences. Perhaps a sufficient demonstration lies in present-day theology and its dependence on Schleiermacher’s teachings on feeling. The dualism of theology and science, of belief and history, of ethical and physical, grace and nature, religion and politics, God’s kingdom and the world can also be imputed to a psychology that raised feeling to an independent source and granted it a domain of its own between the knowing and desiring faculties.

EDIT: 4/29/16, 11:15 AM
This beings to answer my question.

It must never be forgotten that those things analyzed, dissected and described by science, are actually held together in tight relationships. Vegetative, sensitive and intellectual life, while distinguishable in human life, always work together and in to each other. Similarly, we distinguish components of knowing, willing or locomotion in events. And those distinctions tell us there are faculties behind the activities. But it is always the same subject that is active in the events. The faculties are never disunited, their activities always go together.

Thus sensations and feeling are closely related. Every sensation brings along a feeling and, through this, awakens attention causing it to place the perceiving process more strongly in consciousness. As soon as we meet a stranger, for example, a feeling of sympathy or antipathy immediately accompanies the perception. But feeling is passive; it resonates only when something strikes it. Feelings presuppose sensations. Nearly all sensations, representations, etc. awaken a certain feeling of appetite or non-appetite, inclination or dis-inclination. In turn, feelings have a strong influence on the sensations and representations. Moods, inclinations and passions influence our judgment. Psychical causality functions not first of all in apperception, but already in the simplest sensation.

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