Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

is a fact that we do regard some of those qualities as assuredly innate, and others as purely associated; and it is both convenient and correct to observe this difference even in disquisitions professedly scientific, since any departure from it would have the appearance of affectation and the effect of general confusion.

The psychology of ugliness has been impliedly explained in treating of beauty, and need not now be investigated afresh. External qualities in objects cause sensations in the mind, which sensations beget certain thoughts and associations, and those thoughts and associations cause emotions; so that ugliness, like every æsthetic qualitysublimity, meanness, beauty-has its external basis in suggestiveness. Disgust, the appropriate emotion for ugliness, is not mere thought; it is a veritable feeling, consequent on a state of the intellect which leads us to dislike an object with an emotion stronger than contempt and weaker than hatred. Disgust, like admiration, is a delicate and refined emotion, and, like admiration also, is rather evoked by a variety of latent suggestions and incipient thoughts than by any intelligible proposition presented to the understanding. It is as incorrect to speak of an emotion of ugliness as to speak of an emotion of meanness, of beauty, or of sublimity.

Ugliness attaches only to inutility. There is, perhaps, nothing in the world that is absolutely useless; for when a thing ceases to be of direct service to us and becomes what is termed rubbish, it goes to form part of the dust of the earth on which we tread, or part of the vegetation which grows around us. Such utility, however, is not recognised, and we are unwilling to give anything credit for such indirect serviceableness. Inutility, like utility, is two-sided, and consists in what denies us pleasure or what causes us pain. Nothing, therefore, that is positively useful can be actually ugly. We saw in the foregoing chapter that the most useful things had the least amount of beauty, but that, forasmuch as we cannot despise or

be disgusted with such things, they cannot be ugly or mean.

Disgust, like admiration, is generated by suggestion and increases with suggestiveness. A thing may have a pleasant colour, a pleasant shape, and a grateful motion, and yet suggestion may say that the thing is ugly, and beget the disagreeable emotion of disgust in spite of the grateful sensations. A thing may have an unpleasant colour, an unpleasant shape, and an unpleasant motion, and suggestion may say that the thing is ugly, and beget the disagreeable emotion coincident with the unpleasant sensations; and we also saw in a former chapter, when considering beauty, that the agreeable emotion of admiration caused by suggested qualities often' overrides the unpleasant sensations caused by innate qualities. In establishing the proposition that ugliness attaches to inutility, let a negative test suffice. Can we loathe or despise a thing that is useful ? Can we contemplate it with disgust or contempt? If not—and I think the question must needs be answered in the negative—there is nothing left to loathe or despise but what is useless or injurious. Disgust (the antithesis of admiration) must not be confounded with contempt (the antithesis of awe). The former is a stronger and more unfavourable form of emotion; it leads to aversion and hatred, and here we are out of æsthetical and in ethical territory. Contempt stops short of anger, and is the appropriate emotion for meanness, the antithesis of sublimity, as will presently appear. As in beauty, there is an animal appetite coexistent with admiration, so in ugliness there is an animalaversion coexistentwith disgust. In other words, as we always to some extent desire what we admire, so we always to some extent dislike what disgusts us. There are many nice shades of these emotions—admiration and disgust. But the difference in those shades in both cases is one of degree only, the difference in the cause being the thoughts and suggestions which occupy the intellect.

C'gliness has an empire as extensive as that of beauty, but it is evidently unnecessary to travel over the whole of it, since much that has been said concerning the psychology and conditions of beauty may, by a slight alteration of terms, be made applicable to ugliness. Unpleasant colours, shapes, and movements have been already explained, or attempted to be explained, as being the contrary of pleasant ones. It will therefore be unnecessary to inquire why they are disliked or disapproved, remembering only that the sensations are never in themselves ugly any more than they are beautiful. That mere colour is not ugly per se is evident from this, that many muchadmired birds, and moths, and other insects are of a colour with mice, and lice, and other vermin; that mere shape is not ugly is evident from this, that diamonds, crystals, and ice are still beautiful though shaped like broken bottles or other fractured articles; that mere motion is not ugly is evident from this, that we cannot but regard the flight of a butterfly as beautiful or graceful, though its movements be confined to sharp angles and abrupt turnings.

To come, then, to some illustrations of the proposition that ugliness varies inversely with innate and directly with suggested inutility, we may with profit turn our attention first to such acts, conduct, or behaviour in our fellow-creatures as would probably be designated ugly rather than wrong, disgusting rather than hateful ; let the following facts, therefore, be taken into account. Acts which other persons perform are much more suggestive, and fill us with anticipations, and consequently with emotions, much more readily than actions we perform ourselves. The acts of another are an index to his character; they are visible signs of the quality of the mind which suffers or dictates them. With those acts we connect a long list of other and similar acts; on them we construct a whole lifetime of conduct and behaviour. We have, indeed, no other evidence to reason from. We cannot get behind men's words and acts except by their words and

acts; we cannot read men's thoughts or feelings except through their words and acts. Our whole knowledge of another's mind is therefore inferential. We can only judge of a tree by its fruit; and as we are all very prone to judge, we never fail to form an estimate when there is the least datum from which to start. If our datum be propitious, our estimate will be favourable and our emotion agreeable ; if unpropitious, our estimate will be unfavourable and our emotion disagreeable. The majority of suggestions which co-operate in producing the emotion of disgust are, as in the case of admiration, latent; we do not word them, we do not discern them, we do not recognise them, but beyond a doubt we feel their conjoint effect. Now we have no such unfavourable suggestions connected with our own acts; we know that these will always be subservient to our personal good according to the light that is in us; we are never apprehensive of becoming hostile, treacherous, or indifferent to ourselves; hence, although we may regret having made mistakes and be sorry for our want of wisdom, our own behaviour, whatever it may be, never inspires us with the disgust which the conduct of others often does. Thus may be explained the disagreeable emotion with which we regard an ugly act in another person, and the absence of that emotion with which we reflect on the same act in ourselves. Hence, too, the ridicule we are inclined to heap on another when he has made a blunder or mistake, been the cause of an awkward accident or fallen into a trap.

We must not get involved in ethics, but shall have to confine ourselves as far as possible to such behaviour in others as we are disgusted with but do not hate. Observe now the difference with which we contemplate an ugly grimace, a foolish habit, a useless trick, an absurd eccentricity, a superstitious ceremony, or any other meaningless and unprofitable piece of conduct, when appearing in another person and when occurring in ourselves. Our reason often tells us, when we ourselves are the authors of such acts, that they are foolish and useless, but because we have not the requisite associations connected with them, they never fill us with disgust. When, on the contrary, we see another person poke the fire badly, or let an article fall and be smashed, or shuffle about in an awkward and graceless manner, or utter unpleasant sounds by humming, whistling, shouting, croaking, or cause unpleasant noises by creaking, scratching, scraping, rapping, rasping, hammering, &c., we are invariably affected with a certain disgust which often ripens into hatred or into anger; whereas, when we ourselves are the actors, we invariably feel that there is no harm done, or that all will be well forthwith. Dirt or dust upon another person's garment calls up our disgust at the wearer; upon our own apparel it does not. A weakness or failing in another is often truly contemptible; it is a very different matter in ourselves. Personal deformity is subject to precisely the same rule; and the principle embodied in these coincidences is, mutatis mutandis, applicable to beautiful action, graceful conduct, or admirable behaviour.

If, however, any of the above-mentioned acts or circumstances be connected with utility as a basis, the whole aspect of affairs is changed, and with it our emotions also. If the shouting be that of a sergeant drilling a company of soldiers, if the rapping be for telegraphic purposes, if the humming be an exercise in music, if the scratching be for some secret signalling, if the rasping and hammering be the sound of carpentering, and so on, we are no longer disgusted. Thus utility disarms disgust and cuts the ground from under it.

In running over specimens of ugly objects, we shall find that all of them are useless, or appear to be so; that while they so appear they occasion disgust, and that when they cease so to appear their ugliness vanishes. What objects can be more decidedly mean or ugly than the following:Worn-out boots and hats, rotten eggs, refuse eggshells, skins of fruit, withered flowers, decayed leaves and sticks,

« ПредишнаНапред »