Quotable: Serene Jones

“The question that drives these essays was formulated in those early days of reading trauma theory, and it has remained with me throughout the ten years it took to finish this book. It is simple in form but complex in content: How do people, whose hearts and minds have been wounded by violence, come to feel and know the redeeming power of God’s graceAt the heart of this question sits a vexing problem: When people are traumatized, a kind of cognitive/psychic overwhelming breakdown can occur. When this happens, it becomes difficult for victims to experience the healing power of God’s grace because their internal capacities (where one knows and feels) have been broken. It is hard to know God when your knowing faculties have been disabled. It is hard to feel divine love when your capacity to feel anything at all has been shut down. Addressing this vexing challenge is the core aim of the book.”

Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured Word (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), ix.

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This source is difficult to find because it is an unpublished translation of Herman Bavinck’s Beginselen der Psychologie (1897), translated by Jack Vanden Born as a MA thesis in 1981.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.

Jesse Prinz on Emotions as Modular [Percepts]

It doesn’t seem like Prinz has much familiarity with the history of emotion before Descartes, but this is really interesting in light of it. [for what he means by “modular”]

“Examples are easy to multiply. They strongly suggest that emotions are modular in the Fodorian sense. Once an emotion is triggered, judgments and other higher cognitive states are relatively ineffective in making it go away. Of course, judgments can exert some influence. Judgments can cause emotions, and judgment can change emotions. When a judgment causes an emotion, it is not directly interacting with the emotional response system. It is only triggering bodily changes that set the response in motion. Judgments may change emotions in the same way. They may trigger a change from one pattern of bodily responses to an- other. In both cases, the effects are indirect. The efficacy of our judgments is further delimited by a second fact. Calibration files can include perceptual triggers that operate at a fairly low level of processing. A person with a fear of flying may have a link between visual representations of airplanes and the amygdala. Be- cause this link operates from within the visual system, judgments about the safety of air travel cannot preempt the fear response. In other words, initiation pathways may contain informationally encapsulated links between perceptual representations of emotion elicitors and the mechanisms that orchestrate bodily response. This makes emotions doubly impervious to direct higher cognitive control.

“As Griffiths (1997) points out, the modularity of emotions offers a good ex- planation of their passivity. We do not seem to be in control of our emotions. They just happen to us. This common observation is etymologically enshrined in the term “passion.” A comparable kind of passivity can be found in paradigm cases of perception. When we look at a ripe tomato, we cannot help but see red. No judgment or desire can block the path from retina to redness, just as no judgment or desire can block the path from body to affect. In both cases, passivity owes to modularity.

“Some authors have argued that emotions are less passive than they may appear. Solomon (1976), for example, argues that emotions can be chosen. A similar theme appears in Aristotle (1985), who stresses emotional training. There is no conflict between the claim that emotions are passive and the claim that they can be controlled. Emotions are voluntary in a double sense. Thinking about some- thing in the right way can certainly influence our emotions, and calibration files can be modified through education and experience. We exert control over emotions by choosing what to think about, and by cultivating calibration files. But emotions are also involuntary in a double sense. First, the thoughts and images contained in an established calibration file may set off emotions automatically. If one happens, by choice or accident, to activate a representation in a calibration file, an emotion will ensue. Second, once an emotion has been initiated, we can- not alter it by direct intervention. Initiation pathways and response pathways both operate without the luxury of control.”

Jesse Prinz, Gut Reactions, 236