23 Jan 2009

Herbert Spencer's Trembling Terror and Darwin's Flush-Faced Love

by Corry Shores
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Bergson theorizes that
1) sensations are complex aggregates of thousands of constituent states,
2) most sensations are made-up of both internal psychic states as well as outer bodily states, and
3) the complex states change qualitatively, and one way they do so is when their constituent states change from inner to outer, and vice versa.

When explaining this theory, Bergson cites Herbert Spencer's description of fear. Spencer gives physiological symptoms, and Bergson says that if they are suppressed, then they are replaced by ideas of the feared object. Bergson then says that the inverse happens as well. Sometimes an idea causes physiological expressions. He cites Darwin's description of lovers meeting. Just the thought of the other lover causes their bodies to change drastically.

From Spencer's Principles of Psychology:
Fear, when strong, expresses itself in cries, in efforts to escape, in palpitations, in tremblings; and these are just the manifestations that go along with an actual suffering of the evil feared.

From Darwin's Expressions of the Emotions:
The love between the opposite sexes is widely different from maternal love; and when lovers meet, we know that their hearts beat quickly, their breathing is hurried, and their faces flush; for this love is not inactive like that of a mother for her infant.

Image from the Spencer text [click on image for an enlargement]:

Images from the Darwin text [click on image for an enlargement]:

Charles Darwin. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.
Available online at:

Herbert Spencer. Principles of Psychology.
Available online at:

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